Disclaimer: nothing nothing nothing is mine mine mine

this is only a one-shot here, but i can make it at least a two-parter if anyone wants. i do have a potential second half, so let me know.

Elusive Dreams

There was that unmistakable scent in the air, that faint smell that wasn't really a smell at all. It was more an absence of smell, kind of like an echo, a shadow, a memory carried on the breeze. It drifted through the lifeless, twisted branches of the trees, caressing the crooked limbs, leaving just a small bit of its essence before it moved on, passing through the tall, chain-link fence, and up the steep, rutted, grassy hill to the worn-down brick building at the top, there to join with the pungent swirls of Faye Valentine's cigarette smoke. It fluttered her violet locks, moving the strands restlessly over her expressionless face, and with an almost apathetic gesture, she brushed the strands from her pensive jade eyes, her gaze not straying from an imaginary point somewhere in the stagnant sea of gray clouds.

Faye leaned her crossed, slender forearms on the concrete sill, which was chill to the touch, but she did not flinch or move away. She lifted two slim fingers to her crimson lips, pinching the cigarette gently, and she lowered her arm again, resting it on the sill, the dangling cigarette still glowing as she exhaled the smoke slowly, her eyes drifting up slightly, as if she were searching the skies for something that she could not find. She let out a soft sigh, bringing the cigarette back to her mouth, letting it hang limply from her lower lip, watching the acrid smoke curling upwards, stolen by that haunting breeze and carried away over the shingled rooftop, floating over the slumbering city, mixing with exhaust from cars and chimneys and other cigarettes. As she followed the smoke's ghostly trail, she felt that she was following her life—ephemeral, unaffecting, condemned to drifting, condemned to always look and never find. And if something were found, condemned to lose.

Faye's jade eyes settled on the gate in the chain-link fence, wondering, as she did every time she looked at it, what lay beyond. She could see the forest, cold and dead in the grasp of late autumn, but she was not really looking beyond that fence. There were other fences in her life, fences that she could not find the gate that led through them, fences that kept her a prisoner of her memory, in her memory. Her life had degraded to this, this existence that could hardly be called a life at all. She ate—occasionally. She slept—occasionally. She smoked—occasionally. But she always stood at the window, leaning on its sill, staring out at the world and wondering what it was like to live. She had lived, once or twice. But now she could not remember what it was like, what it had entailed at all. It had been a year, and already the memories were dim and hard to recall. She could remember that Ed had been their hacker, that she had named her computer Tomato, but she could not recall what color the girl's eyes had been, or what her smile had looked like, or what her voice had sounded like. She could remember that Jet Black had been the pilot and the cook, but she could not remember what he had cooked or the way his face had formed expressions or what those trees he always trimmed and tended to were called. She knew that Ein was the name of the dog, but the dog's coloring and size had drifted out of her memory, lost to the wind like her cigarette smoke.

Faye sighed again, taking a last drag on her cigarette before she scrunched it out on the sill, dropping it absently on the pile in the patch of dirt two stories below. She pulled her shirt closer for warmth, a yellow shirt that smelled like cigarettes and alcohol, but she had not put those scents there. He had. He, with his careless smirk, mismatched brown eyes, fluffy dark green hair, lanky, muscular frame, and that trademark gait, his hands always stuck deep within his pockets, a cigarette hanging nonchalantly from his bottom lip. He, whose memory had lost nothing to the slow progression of time. He, Spike Spiegel.

Faye walked to the fridge in her small, dark, one-room apartment, heaving on the handle and glancing inside, finding only half a six-pack of beer. She closed the door again, wondering vaguely why she had opened it in the first place, and turned around, surveying the dingy place, looking again for something that was not there. She slumped down on the edge of her ancient double bed, the mattress creaking complainingly, the rumpled sheets chilled from the cold breeze drifting through the open window. Lying down, she gathered her squashed pillow in her arms, resting her cheek on it, her slender fingers closing about the precious treasure hiding beneath. The metal rectangle was freezing, but she closed her hand on it anyway, its edges pressing into her palm. To anyone else, it was just a lighter. But to Faye, it was so much more than a lighter. It was a memory of him in itself, just like the pale yellow shirt draped loosely about her small frame. A few months ago, holding it would have made her cry. But she could not cry anymore; she could not even remember how. She was lost and drifting, dead but unable to claim her peace. She was trapped in her own circle of hell, forced each and every day to recall that her chance had slipped by her and she had failed to grasp it in time. Forced to recall that he was dead and that was why she was here, existing as she was. She was trapped in her miserable, pointless existence, doomed day after day to dwell in the past, staring out the window at the fence; and day after day she searched for the gate in her own fence, hoping that maybe tomorrow she would find it and be set free.