I don't own Cowboy Bebop…
Precious Things – Chapter Six
The sound of Faye's o2 gear hitting the metal floor echoed loudly in the cavernous hanger of the Bebop.
Spike and Jet immediately went to work, disassembling and inspecting the rig piece by piece to try to find the culprit that had led to the empty tanks - and nearly to Faye's demise.
The first suspect was the main valve. Jet separated it from the rest of the gear and began a thorough inspection with a set of magnification goggles. Spike sat across from him, his long legs folded Indian-style beneath him. He puffed away on a cigarette while failing miserably at feigning disinterest or even patience.
Jet sighed as he pulled his goggles from his eyes. "Seems fine to me; no serious cracks or wear that I can see."
Without replying, Spike leaned over and he hastily snatched the valve from Jet's hands so as to conduct his own naked-eye inspection. Having already given up on on it as a contributing factor, Jet began disassembling the second suspect - the emergency release valve.
Meanwhile, the man across from him painstakingly eyeballed every inch of the main valve. His vague understanding of its mechanics certainly did not aid him in his endeavor, but nonetheless, he failed to spot anything amiss with it.
Jet let out a deep "oh…" of discovery, which got Spike's attention.
"Here it is…" said Jet as he held a small chunk of rubber between his left thumb and forefinger while simultaneously removing his goggles with the other hand. "It's the o-ring from the emergency valve. You don't need magnification to see that this thing is done for."
Spike examined the small rubber ring, which certainly looked worse for wear. Tiny chunks were missing, and there was a significant tear on one side. "Slow leak through the emergency valve… that answers one question. Didn't she ever get that thing inspected?"
"Knowing her… doubtful" replied Jet.
"Okay… the second question is this: how the hell did she fail to notice that her tanks were empty?"
Jet held up the small LCD gauge that had been on the sleeve of Faye's suit. "This might have something to do with it." He tossed the device into his partner's lap. After retrieving it, Spike visually scanned the tiny screen. He nearly spit out his cigarette when he saw the readout indicating that the tanks were full.
"What the hell…?"
He began pushing the buttons adjacent to the screen, but nothing changed on the readout.
"Have you figured it out yet?" asked Jet knowingly.
"It's not reading right… doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that"
"It's not even connected right now" said Jet. "It shouldn't be reading anything."
"It's like its frozen or something..." Spike continued to push buttons in an attempt to reset the obviously faulty gauge, but to no avail. Finally, he yanked the cover off the back, scattering its small batteries onto the floor. The screen and its horrible lie immediately fell dim forever. "So let me get this straight: her emergency valve fails, slow-leaking all of her oxygen and at the same time, her gauge goes tits on her in a big way, keeping her in the dark about the whole thing until it's too late."
"That about sums it up, I guess."
"Un-fucking-believable" Spike sighed as he exhaled a cloud of smoke.
"That's usually the story" said Jet. "I've seen it a thousand times… things rarely go to shit from one thing only; it's usually a series of failures at the wrong time that sends you to St. Peter."
The fact that Faye had been left high and dry by Spike was one of those failures, Jet knew, but he wasn't going to rub salt into the wound this time. He watched his fluffy-haired comrade, now flopped onto his back, puffing on the remainder of his smoke. He looked as miserable he'd ever been. There was no need to exacerbate things; Spike was feeling guilty enough already, and that was unusual in and of itself.
"It definitely was careless on her part" said Jet, breaking the silence. "You always test your gauge before every trip - that's spacewalking 101. And I don't even wanna hazard a guess as to why she went with such a cheap piece of crap for an o2 gauge. I don't think the manufacturer is even in business anymore."
"I doubt she knew how to really operate it" said Spike.
"I don't buy that" replied Jet. "You and I have both seen her fly and fight. She's a crazy bitch in the air and on the ground, but there's some serious skill there. I don't see her being that incompetent."
"It's not that much of a stretch" countered Spike. "She's been alone since they pulled her from the cooler. I doubt there was anyone there to hold her hand and show her the ropes along the way. That slob she bagged a while back, the ex-boyfriend, was obviously useless."
Spike sat up and faced Jet. "Imagine being frozen and then defrosted a half-century later. You know nothing about this new world; everyone and everything you knew before is gone. Then some slimy asshole dumps his skeletons on you and makes them stick. You're on your own, on the run, with no one there to save you. You have to learn a new set of rules and skills all on your own just to stay alive and free. Even you'd be scared shitless, Jet."
The ex-cop was completely and utterly speechless. Spike showing empathy? Toward Faye? It was almost too much for Jet to take. His lanky partner clearly harbored some level of respect for their intrepid female comrade that had been kept well hidden… until now.
"I would go as far as saying that she's been winging it all along with a lot of stuff we take for granted" continued Spike. "Of course, she'd never ask for any help at this point. I guess her luck just ran out."
"Well, not totally…" said Jet. "She had a knight in shabby purple armor there to save the day."
"Yeah…" said Spike, standing up. He tossed the LCD gauge into the air…
…and with blinding speed he drew his CZ and shattered the offending hunk of plastic into a thousand shards with a single bullet.
That same 'knight' is the one who pushed her to the brink in the first place...
The sharp crack of Spike's pistol rang harshly through the metal corridors of the Bebop, causing the unconscious woman lying on the old yellow sofa to stir.
Moments later, Faye's eyelashes fluttered a bit before cracking open ever so slightly. The room was its usual dimly lit self, sparing her sensitive eyes from any painful light adjustments. Of course, the intense rush of pain that wracked her entire body was another matter. She felt like she'd been broadsided by a meteor. Every breath sent a wave of intense pain rocketing through her midsection. Panic was starting to set in; the extreme difficulty in breathing was causing her head to spin. Tears quickly formed in the corners of her eyes.
Another sharp bolt of pain sent her rolling off the couch, knocking over the I.V. pump that had been steadily beeping for the last few hours. The needle in her right arm ripped loose, and blood began to seep from the wound left behind. Lying face down on the floor, Faye managed to find a breathing rhythm that she could sustain without causing intense pain. The cold steel floor felt wonderful against her burning skin.
She attempted to gain her bearings. The yellow couch and metal floor answered one question, that of her location - she was obviously back aboard the Bebop. But why did she feel like she'd been run over by a steamroller? She decided to worry about that later. Her only concern now was to find something, anything to ease the pain; pills, booze, whatever she could get her hands on. A bullet to the brain might even do the trick… if she could only find her pistol.
As her shaky arms struggled to prop herself back up into a sitting position, her two male comrades entered the room. They immediately froze at the sight of Faye, sprawled on the floor, agony etched across her pale, sweaty brow.
"Faye?" said the two in unison.
She collapsed back onto the floor, panting harshly. "Pain… need… something… for… pain"
"Well don't just stand there, help her!" boomed Jet as he gave Spike a shove in her direction.
Once at her side, Spike attempted to help her up onto the sofa. Faye let out a piercing shriek; her helper was being just a tad too rough.
"Jeez, Spike. She's not a sack of potatoes. Be careful!"
"No shit!" Spike shot back as he cradled her beneath his arms and gingerly lifted her back onto the couch. Once she was situated, he sat down on the table.
At the same time, Jet was assessing the damage to the I.V. pump. There was a large crack in the faceplate that was particularly disconcerting. He then took notice of the empty morphine syringe within it, a sight that made his blood pressure skyrocket.
"God damn it, Spike!" he barked. "Her drip was bone dry!"
"How is that my fault?" replied Spike as he dampened a white cloth with a bottle of drinking water.
"It was your turn to change the damn thing!"
"No it wasn't! It was your turn!"
"Bullshit! I had the evens, and you had the odds!" Jet pointed at his watch. "It's almost 8pm. I'd wager to say that this thing has been dry since at least five!"
"You're the one who insisted on such a rapid drip, Dr. Black!" Spike turned toward their patient and began to wipe up the blood on her arm. "Are you trying to turn her into an addict or something? That's just what we need."
Jet sighed heavily to calm himself. "Have you ever had CPR done on you?"
"No... at least not that I'm aware of."Spike twisted around and reached into the medical kit on the table. "Have you?"
A low growl was heard from the younger man as he fumbled with the wrapper of an adhesive bandage. "What's your point, Jet?"
"CPR is brutal, my friend. It may save lives, but it's roughly akin to getting bricks dropped on your chest for ten minutes."
Flashing back to the cramped crew capsule aboard the Swordfish, Spike recalled the struggle to save his comrade. He replayed the chest compressions in his mind. It had been intensely fatiguing for him; his arms and shoulders were still sore. Of course, all that energy had been directed into Faye's upper torso. The realization of what she was struggling to endure only added to the burgeoning guilt within him.
"Fuck!" shouted Jet. Spike took notice, as it was rare for the older man to drop the F-Bomb.
"What's the problem now?"
"This pump is wasted. Do you have any idea how much these things cost?"
"More than we have right now, I'm sure."
"That's right." Jet sighed once again, and then he glanced at Faye. She looked like utter hell. "Those morphine syringes are designed for this pump. It's gonna be hell to get the juice into a regular needle syringe."
"Are those all we have?" asked Spike.
"Shit…" muttered Spike, then a thought hit him. "Wait! I should still have some pills left over from before… you know…"
Jet was on the same page immediately. "What were those again?"
"Percocets… made me higher than Jesus. They should still be in my room."
"Gotcha." Jet quickly left to go search Spike's rarely utilized quarters.
Spike tossed the stained cloth onto the table and then looked down at Faye. Her eyes were closed, and she was breathing very gingerly through clenched teeth. The palm of her left hand rested against her damp forehead.
"How ya doin' Faye?" said Spike.
Her only response was a brief groan.
"I hear ya. Hang in there."
Hours later, Faye was sound asleep on the sofa. Spike sat in the chair across from her, chain smoking his way through a long, self imposed vigil. Jet was out in the Hammerhead attempting to haul the remains of the Redtail back home.
Shortly after two in the morning, Faye awoke. The pain was still strong, but not as debilitating is it was earlier. She sat up on the couch and then leaned over to pinch a cigarette from Spike's pack lying on the table. The first few drags burned within her lungs, but it was a good kind of burn, one that distracted her from her overall soreness.
Spike had dozed off, but the stirring across from him was enough to get his attention. Opening his eyes, he was surprised to find Faye sitting upright and smoking.
Faye pulled the cigarette from her lips. "Hey…" she said with a weak smile.
"Well hello there... How are you feeling?"
"Like death on toast." She took another drag, wincing in the process. "God… I could use some drugs. What, was Jet too cheap to hook up the morphine pump?"
Spike chuckled slightly. "No. Actually we burned through a half dozen syringes before you destroyed the pump."
"Huh? I destroyed the pump?"
"Yeah, don't you remember? You belly-flopped off the couch and knocked it over."
"No… wait… oh... I remember pain and the floor, that's about it." Faye grabbed the bottle of water off the table and took a huge swig, ignoring the fact that it was room temperature. Anything wet was welcome at the moment, as her raw throat was making it somewhat difficult to talk. Of course, it would take more than a sore throat to silence Faye Valentine, even if she wasn't pissed off at the moment. "Oh yeah, and you guys were arguing about… CPR?"
"Yeah, sort of…"
Faye paused for a moment, staring at the bottle in her hand. The puzzle began to come together in her mind. Pain in her chest… CPR…
She suddenly remembered being in the Redtail, the smoke filling the cabin, the sounds of her dying ship, the desperation… She remembered donning her space suit, and then… nothing.
More memories began flooding back, but from not from her final moments in the Redtail. They were strange memories: a bright light… going through a tunnel… her entire life flashing before her eyes like some crazy movie… These memories made no sense; they were fragmented visions outside of any conceivable timeline.
As Spike watched Faye nervously chew her thumbnail while staring off into space, his concern grew. "Faye?"
There was no response. He reached into her general line of sight with his right hand and waved. "Hello... Over here..." Still nothing. Impatience began to set in. "Faye!" he shouted, louder than intended.
The pale woman looked up, startled. "Huh?"
"You're doing the space cadet routine again. What's the matter with you? "
Faye began to wince noticably as she breathed. She looked absolutely miserable; the pain had obviously returned full bore. "Here" said Spike as he grabbed the bottle of Percocets off the table and tossed it into Faye's lap. "It should be safe to take another one now." After pouring one of the circular blue pills into her hand, she popped it into her mouth and washed it down with more warm water. She then put out her unfinished cigarette and laid back down on the sofa, gingerly easing hersulf under the flimsy covers.
"Did I… die?"
The question was unexpected. Spike thought about his answer for a brief moment. "Yes… and no."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you're obviously not dead now."
"That's good to know."
There was an alarming sincerety in her voice.
"So what happened?" she asked.
"You passed out in the Redtail" he answered. "You had no oxygen and… your heart stopped."
An audible gasp was heard from Faye. "What happened after that?"
"Well… you needed CPR obviously. You should be glad that Jet insisted on getting those auto-defibrillators…"
"Was it you?" she interrupted.
"Were you the one that revived me?"
A tear trickled from her left eye, which did not go unnoticed by her companion. He felt his own heart begin to flicker with emotion as well, an unusual occurance for him.
"So I guess that means you came back for me after all…" said Faye.
"I almost had him too. The prick was dead in my sights"
Faye chuckled lightly in response. "What made you turn around?"
Spike let out a deep breath as he settled into the back of his chair. "Jiminy Cricket."
"My conscience. You know, that little voice inside your head?"
Stunned by his unusually honest answer, Faye let our a brief, hearty laugh. "So even the big bad Spike Spiegel has a conscience. Who'd have thunk?"
This response seemed more like something from the shrew woman of old, which brought a small bit of relief for the man sitting across from her.
The interrogation continued.
"So how long was I down?"
"Not long enough…"
Faye's partially full water bottle smacked off the side of Spike's head. "Ow! I'm kidding, damnit!"
She attempted to feign a look of anger, but that was quickly broken as a smirk twisted its way across her lips. "Did you have to give me mouth to mouth?"
"Yeah… sort of…" Spike nervously rubbed the side of his head where the bottle had struck moments before.
"Let's put it this way. I discovered that the only thing that tastes worse than one's own puke is someone else's puke."
"Huh?" Faye thought about it for a second before adding "Eww…"
Silence fell upon the two haggard bounty hunters as Spike lit up his umpteenth cigarette. After watching him take two long drags, Faye spoke once again.
"I'm sorry for puking on you."
Spike laughed. "You didn't just puke on me. It was far worse - you puked right in my God damned-"
Faye interrupted. "Save the gory details, okay?"
Another brief pause descended upon the two. However, it would be Spike who broke the silence this time.
"I'm sorry for leaving you there."
Once again she was surprised by his candor. Studying his features, she could see the guilt in his eyes. Forcing a smile, she tried to lighten the mood. "Hey… I made it, didn't I? No harm done, right?"
Spike snorted. "It's was a friggin' miracle…" He took another drag. "I shouldn't have left you there, simple as that."
There was an unusual intensity in his voice which caught Faye off guard. "Jeez, Spike, you're starting to scare me with all of this apologizing crap."
Silence was his reply. He was obviously brooding about the whole thing, which Faye found both amusing and sad at the same time.
"Okay, fine." she said. "If you can be sorry about leaving, then I can be sorry for trying to beat you in capturing Ten."
He laughed, to her relief. "That's pretty rich coming from you. It's not fair either - you already apologized for the puking incident."
"Well... in my defense, I was kind of unconscious for that one." she pouted. "Besides, you'll probably never see that gun of yours again thanks to this whole mess."
"I'll get over the gun."
"Hey, it's my final offer. Take it or leave it."
"Okay, fine." His cigarette dangled precariously between his lips as he spoke. "You're forgiven."
After stubbing out his cancer stick, Spike leaned back and watched the relentless fan whirling above him. It was slowly pulling the remaining smoke toward the ceiling and into a small ventilation shaft, which would carry it to the main air scrubber in the rear of the ship to get lodged in some filter that Jet probably hadn't changed in ages.
Faye's voice was tiny, but was enough to break his reverie. "Yeah, Faye?"
There was a brief pause as she mentally grasped for the right expression of gratitude. This was new territory for the both of them, after all.
She opted for simplicity.
Letting the two simple words sink in, Spike suddenly found himself lost in her shimmering emerald eyes. He took a deep breath before answering. "You're welcome."
More silence. Then Faye yawned - the painkiller was taking effect.
"Get some rest. I'm gonna check on Jet."
"Roger that…" said Faye as she closed her weary eyes. Many thoughts stirred within her head, but she was far too exhausted and in way too much pain to give them any proper consideration at the moment. She soon fell back into a deep slumber.
Well there you have it. Another update.
I'm trying to take the wall around Spike's heart down piece by piece. Trying to do so without making him act totally OOC is a real chore. And then there's Faye...
Man, this is gonna take a lot of work.
Wish me luck!
- Help Computah