Disclaimer: All I own are my own original characters, this particular story, and as of now, all of your souls. -.-

Warnings: Violence, minor OCs, and spoilerific...stuff.

A/N: In case you didn't see it above, SPOILERS. Unless you have seen the last two episodes of Cowboy Bebop, begone! Nothing personal, I just don't wanna ruin it for you, ne?




The day was entirely still, the sky a pale vanilla and the air calm, with an occasional chilling breeze. The birds had yet to make a sound, though they flew through the overcast sky restlessly. The only sounds to drift upon the infrequent gusts of icy wind were the whispers of feathers rustling, and the approaching roar of an engine as a spacecraft rapidly shot through the streets, towards an inconspicuous building surrounded by a rusting metal fence. Flocks of crows fled from the trees at the obtrusive noise, and the trees themselves seemed to shudder as the craft slowed to a stop near the building's entrance.

All remained quiet as the ship's door lowered into a ramp, upsetting the once-motionless dust on the ground. The silence gave way to an uneven clanking as large metal boots and the foot of a crutch made contact with the older metal of the ramp. The owner of the boots hurriedly sent the command to close the door, but then stopped to stare at the building's filthy double-doors hesitantly.

Yet another cold br eeze blew, and the man's fists clenched, one flesh and one metal.

"...Damnit, Spike..." he murmured, eying the fresh corpses of two men that were slumped at either side of the doorway. Splatters of blood stained their clothes and the brick of the walls behind them. Jet closed his eyes a moment, then reopened them and frowned with anxious concern. "...what have you gotten yourself into now?"

With that, he approached the doors as quickly as he was able and crept through them, gun at ready.

Immediately upon entering, the strong odor of blood and bodily fluids attacked Jet's senses, making him wince slightly. There wasn't a single inch of the lower level of the building that didn't reek of death, not a corner without a body strewn across it.

After a quick scan to make sure none of the corpses belonged to Spike, Jet started to ascend the stairs. He couldn't help but glance down as he did so, and he instantly regretted it; there was a tremendous pool of blood slicked upon the steps around the middle. For some reason a chill ran down Jet's spine as he imagined some poor fool collapsing in that very spot; and in his mind's eye, that poor fool appeared identical to Spike. Don't think that, Jet told himself. There are still plenty of floors to search...whoever died here is gone. Stop distracting yourself. He could be re-enacting that somewhere right now. That thought returned Jet to reality, and he finished awkwardly climbing the stairway, cursing the bullet-wound in his leg.

The upper levels of the building weren't quite as crowed with the dead and hopelessly wounded as the lower levels. From the smeared red on various sections of the railings, Jet could guess that any of the others who had been up there had met their death not only from bullet wounds, but from the impact of falling over the railing from the top floor. It made Jet shudder just to imagine all the lives that had been destroyed in this very building, such a short time ago.

The sound of his boots clanking against the floor was all that interrupted the silence of the dead. He paid no mind to the sound as he slowly searched the perimeter of the room for even a hint of his comrade, but Spike was nowhere to be found. As he neared the middle of the room, checking bodies briefly before moving on, a thought popped into his head, a longshot of a hope: maybe Spike got away. Maybe he'd managed to kill Vicious and just walk away from it all, maybe...Vicious.

Jet stopped abruptly, nea rly tripping over the familiar body sprawled on the floor before him. "Speak of the devil," he muttered, hesitantly and painfully squatting on his heels next to the corpse that had once been Vicious. Something wasn't right. He looked dead. He truly did; but something, something was wrong. Death had not left its mark on him, it seemed. The younger man was wearing all black, so it was hard to tell where the cloth was soaked in blood. A disturbing idea forming in Jet's mind, he subtly held his breath for a brief moment. ...Whoever's out there, if this is your way of trying to teach me something, your sense of humor is worse than...oh God.

Sure enough, over the pounding of his own heart Jet could hear the faint, weak sound of breathing. It was coming from none other than the young man that lay incapacitated before him. Playing dead. By the sound of his breathing he was still conscious, but very weak. Without immediate medical attention, he would die, no question.

His mind racing, Jet took a deep breath. "...You can stop pretending any time now." Vicious didn't respond to the somewhat lame statement. He's either hurt too badly to respond, or he's as stubborn as Spike, Jet mused grimly. "Fine then, keep pretending. All I need to know is whether Spike is alive. I figure you would know, of all people." Jet's voice was cold and closed off; he had no intention of showing this man any more kindness than he deserved. He waited, praying silently that Vicious would know; he was someone, and he was very likely the only other living thing in the building.

He got no answer, no reaction whatsoever. He waited a few moments longer with rapidly sinking hopes, then finally let out his breath with chagrin and stood back up to look over the place again, in case he'd missed Spike somewhere. However, once he'd turned his back, he felt an odd chill rattle his spine. He could almost feel the cold eyes that opened into slits and stared after him.

Unable to ignore the feeling, Jet stopped, then turned half around. Just as he'd expected, he found himself staring right back into open eyes, so icy that he almost shuddered. For a moment, time seemed to freeze as the two men stared each other down; then, Vicious' gaze left Jet's, and slowly moved towards the series of staircases that Jet had just ascended.

Jet recognized the almost reluctant gesture at once and immediately felt his heart drop into his stomach. The blood on the stairs...Spike's blood...oh God.

There was a moment of complete silence, tainted only by two barely audible heartbeats, one strong and racing, the other faint and lethargic. Then, very near, there was a sudden crash. It shattered the silence like a stone shatters the finest glass, and nearly made Jet jump out of his skin. Before that could happen, however, he was already facing the sound, gun cocked and ready, mind alert, muscles tense as the...cat?...showed itself from behind the bullet-shredded suitcase it had k nocked over. The cat, a golden orange with faint gray stripes running through its fur, froze for a moment, looking at Jet with wide auburn eyes; then it leapt through a broken window and bolted off.

Jet let out his breath slowly, feeling another chill run through him. Returning to the matter at hand, he glanced back down at where Vicious lay, the dark pool of blood beneath him still spreading at an agonizingly slow pace. Vicious had closed his eyes again, and even as Jet eyed him guardedly, the younger man's lungs heaved, making him cough violently. Blood splattered on the floor in the direction in which he'd turned his head.

Jet found himself torn. This man was dangerous, unstable; he had tried to kill Spike, and nearly succeeded more than once; everything about him seemed to scream of certain death. Yet...he was alive, barely alive, helpless right now, and Jet was a man who placed honor above all else. If he left Vicious here to die, knowing that he could have saved him, Jet knew he would never be able to sleep at night because of it. Furthermore, if Vicious had been lying there this whole time, he might have seen what happened to Spike. His common sense frantically screamed otherwise, momentarily locking him in a minor internal battle, but in the end his conscience won over.

"...Shit," Jet finally exhaled, then turned the rest of the way around and knelt next to Vicious again. Not wanting to even touch the guy, but choking down his reluctance, Jet carefully picked him up. Immediately Vicious' face contorted in obvious agony from the movement; then his eyes opened slightly and he looked at Jet with suspicion, as though he expected to be thrown down the stairs, rather than saved.

"You aren't getting any special treatment," Jet warned. "I'd leave you here to die if it weren't for Spike. Know that." It was only a half-truth, but it was well put. Vicious just barely managed to meet his eyes in acknowledgment before his body gave a violent shudder and he lost consciousness.

As satisfied as he could be, given the situation, Jet took Vicious out to the Hammerhead and lay him down in the backseat, then revved up the motor and rocketed away from the death-reeking building as fast as he could go.

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