Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to Cowboy Bebop (besides the DVD series of course)…

Precious Things – Chapter One

"Spike! Ten's making a break for it! He's headed towards the front exit!"

Faye Valentine's shrill voice ringing in his earpiece was doing nothing to ease the splitting, hangover-induced headache that was plaguing Spike Spiegel. "You let him get away?"

Her response was little more than an irritated growl. "Just shut up and head him off, God damn it!"

Scowling to himself over the way his shrewish comrade was ordering him around, Spike quickened his pace as he rounded a bank of slot machines, currently manned by a rather dull looking quartet of jockeys sporting an impressive array of five o'clock shadows and bad comb-overs. The main entrance to the Casino was still thirty meters away, with a fair amount of guests milling about in between. He bulled straight ahead, unapologetically bumping into more then a few patrons along the way. Fifteen seconds later, he found himself standing in the shadow of the entryway.

"Where is he?" he asked.

"I don't know... I lost sight…" her voice cut away abruptly, and was replaced with the sound of scuffling for a moment, followed by her voice again, much louder this time. "No! Why don't you watch it, asshole!"

Spike winced and rolled his eyes as he quickly imagined the scene, with Faye giving her usual bitchy stare straight into the face of whomever she'd just bowled into. Of course, he couldn't picture the victim as anything other than a doughy, greasy Italian in a cheap suit. The vision brought the slightest of smiles to his lips.

"This place is such a fucking zoo!" ranted Faye, which Spike tried his best to ignore on behalf of the pounding in his temples. He was intently eyeballing the large Saturday evening crowd of people before him, trying to get a visual on their bounty, even resorting to a few quick hops to try and spot him over the heads of the others obstructing his view.

"I still don't see him!"

"He'll be there any second, trust me!"

Spike pulled his Jericho from its holster, keeping it hidden behind his blue suit jacket. Just as he was about to ready himself for the impending confrontation, something in the crowd caught his attention. It was a familiar face, pale and pretty, with blue eyes framed by long locks of blonde hair.

Julia…

His pulse quickened, and a cold sweat broke out over his entire body, as scattered images of his fallen love shattered his train of thought in an instant. His mind was suddenly transported back to the rainy rooftop where her life had so violently ended before his eyes. Her final words echoed in his head.

"This is… a dream…"

Yeah… Just a bad dream.

His tortured reverie was broken as quickly as it had started by a heavy impact on his left side. He found himself face down on the worn granite tile, as screams and shouts echoed throughout the area around him.

"Spike… Spike! What the hell's going on over there?"

Faye's shouts emanating from his transceiver instantly brought the bounty hunter back to reality. He quickly jumped to his feet and turned to face the doorway, only to find himself staring down the barrels of two pistols, both held by the diminutive Chen Li Ten, their bounty, who was far more dangerous than his short stature let on. The weapon in his right hand was a Beretta Model 84, and in his left was a Jericho 941, a most familiar sight to Spike Spiegel.

Suddenly, he realized that it was a little too familiar.

"Hey, that's my gun!" He said, extending his index finger towards the weapon in Ten's left hand. It occurred to him that he'd never looked more stupid than at that very moment.

"No shit!" spat the small man, followed by something unintelligible to Spike's ear. "Stand back!" Ten jerked the guns toward the bounty hunter, and he slowly complied, and then raised his hands into the air slightly.

Spike locked onto the Asian man with a cold, hard stare. "You're going to give me my gun back, Chen."

"I don't think so, Cowboy!" replied the now crazed looking bounty head. "But I'll be nice and let you keep a bullet as a memento!"

Before Spike could react, Ten aimed the Jericho towards the floor and pulled the trigger, discharging a single .45 caliber round straight into the bounty hunter's right foot. The immediate rush of pain caused Spike to stumble and by the time he regained his balance, Ten was gone, along with his precious 941.

Hobbling, Spike made his way to a fake looking marble column and leaned against it to get all weight off of his injured foot. He leaned his head back, closed his eyes, and let out a long, frustrated sigh. When he opened his eyes again, he found himself staring at a well dressed Faye Valentine.

She raised her palms and gave him an incredulous, questioning look. Spike merely closed his eyes again. He knew he was never going to live this one down. He could only hope that she had been too late to physically witness the definitive low point of his bounty hunting career.

"What the hell happened?" She finally asked.

"He got away from me."

"Obviously!" replied Faye. "Jesus Christ, Spike!"

Spike kept his eyes shut, hoping it really was all just a bad dream.

"Well?" continued Faye. "How in the hell did you let our four million woolongs get away?"

He still didn't answer, and she let out her own discontented sigh. "Sit down" she said, but predictably, the man ignored her. "Come on, Spike. I need to look at that foot."

Opened his eyes slightly, Spike pulled out a cigarette and immediately lit up. Once his raging nicotine craving was momentarily sated, he slowly removed his overly warm suit jacket and took a seat on the floor with his back to the pillar behind him.

Faye knelt before him and began digging through her compact but well stocked purse, removing gauze and a tiny pair of scissors, as well as a small packet of antibiotic ointment. She looked at the neat bullet hole in center of his shoe and thought to herself that he had definitely gone back into action too soon. Glancing up at his face, she was somewhat taken aback by the miserably dejected look he wore. She quickly turned her attention back to his foot.

"Take your shoe off."

"Huh?"

"Take your shoe off." She repeated. "I'm not going to do it for you."

Spike groaned and did as she commanded. Upon removing his footwear, he found his dark blue sock was soaked in blood, which was dripping onto the gaudy red carpet below. Once that was out of the way, he looked up at Faye, and quickly noticed that she was staring at his chest. Specifically, she was eyeing the empty shoulder holster that normally housed his Jericho. He immediately regretted the fact that he'd taken off his coat.

"Spike…" Here it comes… "Where's your gun?" She gave him the most quizzical of stares as she poured some of the liquid from a bottle of drinking water onto the wound. He said nothing.

"What, did you forget it or something?" she said with a chuckle, which she knew wasn't possible, as she and Spike had readied their weapons together back on the Bebop, as had become a sort of tradition prior to a hunt.

"Not exactly…" was Spike's reply, his eyes traveling down towards his injured foot as his cheeks became uncharacteristically pink.

"Don't tell me that Ten took it…" said Faye. Spike kept his gaze averted. His silence only confirmed her suspicion.

"Oh my god."

Faye couldn't help but laugh at how far the mighty Spike Spiegel had fallen. "Let me guess… Ten took your gun, and then shot you with it."

Spike continued to look away, and she noticed that his face was now burning crimson, which was a site to behold in and of it self.

"Jesus…" said Faye in astonishment, and then she began to laugh again, much harder then before. "…the great Bounty Hunter, Spike Spiegel, shot by his own pistol… Christ… Jet's gonna shit when he hears this!"

She was beginning to tear up as Spike looked away in disgust. He'd never seen her laugh like that before, and of course, it was all at his expense.

This is no dream… it's a God damned nightmare.

"Hurry up with the bandage…" He growled. It took another ten seconds before Faye could gather herself enough to continue.

"Hey, look on the bright side..." said Faye as she began spreading triple-antibiotic on the entry wound.

"The bright side?"

"Yeah." she replied. Her application of ointment switched to the exit wound. "At least you didn't shoot yourself in the foot."

More laughter.

Spike rolled his eyes again and began staring into the crowd. Suddenly he spotted the haunting blonde woman from before, who was now giving an almost teary-eyed account to one of the Casino's security personnel. He began to study her face, and he found that any resemblance to the enigmatic woman from his tortured past was fleeting at best. Letting out a deep breath, he closed his eyes once again and leaned his head back against the marble.

Julia was much more beautiful…