Disclaimer: Sadly, I lost the poker game. Including all rights to Cowboy Bebop. Darn.
A/N: Well, I guess this is my first time writing a multi-chapter story. It could be because I'm not a real stickler. :) But I'll try to finish it, I promise. Cross my heart and hope to... er... live.
Sixty Frames Per Second
Prologue: Opening Night
Faye had almost passed him by the first time; he blended so well against the backdrop of glitter and glam that her gaze had rolled right over him… and arrowed straight back once she'd processed the fleeting image of moss green and brown. And then she'd had no doubt it was him.
He had that certain flair she'd always lacked for fitting in, and even with his mussed hair and tangled suit, he seemed at home behind the blackjack table, dealing cards left and right, flashing the occasional smile at a patron. He'd changed, filled out more, but there was no mistaking the familiar lines of his figure, the tall form. And that smile.
Dammit, she remembered that smile. Hot and sly and positively predatory.
It was, she mused, one of the things that had always attracted her to him, in the second before he'd looked up, and their eyes had met.
Panic swelled, immediate and unsettling.
It was all too much like a fairytale gone insane. Once upon a time in a casino.
She couldn't really remember when she'd taken the first step, but she knew when she'd taken the second, and then the third, and then she lost count as she sprinted for the door, heart beating a violent tattoo against her ribcage. When she'd tripped, staggered, fear wobbled through her veins stead of blood. And then she'd picked herself up and ran again, out through the gold-lined double doors and into the shimmering night.
She ran, blindly, while behind her, Spike did the only thing he could: he vaulted over the table, and ran after her.
Dammit. She hated fairytales.
"Jet-person's mad… Did Faye-Faye make him mad?"
"Not really. Leave me alone, Ed."
"Is Faye-Faye mad, too?"
"No. It's not that."
"Why did Spike-person leave?"
When Spike Spiegel burst into the autumn night, the fresh air he gulped in went straight to his lungs and made him dizzy, disoriented, for the few precious minutes it took for the thought to register. Faye. The world spun on its axis as he processed the last few seconds, as he bent over and panted, propping his hands on his knees for support.
He hadn't expected her to be there. In truth, he hadn't expected to see her ever again. But those unmistakable green eyes… He swore into the crisp night air, made a mental note not to drink ever again; as it was, the alcohol was blocking both his brain and motor functions when he needed it the least. He tried to think, looked up and saw nothing but the dimming rays of sunset in the distant lines of the city.
It was already too dark to see properly, even by the garish glow of neon lights painted above his head. He squinted, trying to ignore the hammering in his head, his heart.
I need to find Faye. I need to see Faye. If not for a previous memory… then for a new one, he told himself.
He pricked up when he heard the sudden stumble, the curse and the clack of heels, and saw the familiar form running awkwardly across the parking lot, lit by the light of one malfunctioning street lamp. He darted after it, felt excitement dull fatigue, surprise, and alcohol, made his failing muscles work together in a frantic attempt to run.
There was no answer now, not even the staccato footsteps. He stopped, gasping for breath, and brushed the sweat from his forehead. He tried to listen over the pound, the throb of a starting headache stultified by fading adrenaline, and felt defeated, anxious. Faye was gone.
Then the rumble of a starting motor cut through the thick air, the belch of smoke and oil. His eyes traveled towards the sound, upward… and met Faye's.
Desperate, stormy green. She was hovering over him, staring, pale and wan, as if trying to prove something to herself. She lingered on his face, touched the windshield for one breathless, desperate second, before she gunned the engine, flicked the throttle wide, and was gone. Left him in a cloud of swirling dust and smoke.
Spike looked around, frantically. The Swordfish was a few lots away… he could make it. As he ran in the direction of his ship, he chanced another glance at the sky. The Redtail was almost a speck now, heading west. He marked the direction and looked back, concentrating on running as fast as his legs could take him without tearing a muscle.
He wasn't about to leave Faye Valentine alone. Not just yet.
"There was a woman… she's gone now."
Faye was taking the speed meter to new heights, her stiletto heel jamming the accelerator down to the floor so hard that it lay almost parallel to the ground. Frustrated, she tore the chiffon wrap from her shoulders and pushed sweaty tendrils of hair from her neck. She felt almost giddy with exertion, the churning feeling in her stomach reminding her that it had all been too true.
Spike had been there.
The Redtail dipped, dangerously, as her vision wavered.
Spike died, she reminded herself, as calmly as she could. Spike died, three years ago. Jet had said it himself. Jet had gone to the hospital and identified the remains. She hadn't wanted to. Couldn't. She'd locked herself in her room until Jet went on without her, nearly hoarse from shouting at her through the door.
There had been an obituary in the newspaper the next morning.
How could it be?
How could he be back?
No. It was a dream. Spike couldn't be alive.
She felt the nausea grow when she landed, taste the bitterness of the bile that hit her throat. As soon as she stumbled through the threshold of her own apartment, she vomited. It was only hours later that she finally got into bed, her head spinning and her eyes wet. And, for the first time in years, Faye Valentine cried herself to sleep.
What was it about his smile? Oh, yes. She'd never, ever seen anything like it.
No. Fairytales were almost too sickeningly perfect.