Chapter Twenty:

Across the Universe

Words are flying out like
endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow waves of joy
are drifting thorough my open mind
Possessing and caressing me

Jai guru deva om
Nothing's gonna change my world

Faye tightened her grip on the Glock in her hand and relished the feeling of the cool metal against her hot palms.

She loved this—the feeling she got right before firing off a round. The calm. The silence. The sound of her pulse thrumming in her ears, letting her know she was still alive. She'd loved it as long as she could remember—since she was a child and had learned how to fire her Red Ryder.

A slender finger squeezed the trigger, the bullet leaving the barrel amidst a brief flash of flame and sound before burying itself within the trunk of a nearby tree with a heavy thunk.

She remembered this. Firing round after round off into the trunks of palm trees in her back yard. Only these days her weapon of choice happened to be a Glock 9 millimeter rather than a toy BB gun. She squeezed off another round, the bullet making a perfect hole in the trunk of the tree in her back yard. She smirked. Her mother had always hated it when she shot at the trees.

The memory had come back to her when she'd drawn her gun on Spike in their hotel room. She knew because she felt something eerily familiar grip her heart as she looked into his eyes while her fingers tightened around the handgrip. Not the usual calm she'd grown accustomed to, but something unsettling and wild. It was the same feeling she'd had as a girl when her first crush, Frankie McCallister, had dared her to shoot at her brother's pet gecko.

She had never liked geckos. They seemed to run rampant in Singapore, and a few days before Frankie had come to her house after school for the first time, her brother Sam had managed to catch one. He kept it in a shoe box beneath his bed, and he tortured her with it every chance he got. The thought of getting even with him thrilled her, and she remembered the way her small hands shook as she lifted the lid off the shoebox.

She stared down at the lizard for a long moment, and it stared back at her, blinked, and then licked its eye before fixing its gaze on a dead fly resting on a tissue in the corner of the box. Faye grimaced.

"This is going to be so awesome," Frankie said as he snatched the gecko up in his hands awkwardly.

Faye stared after Frankie as he scampered down the hall and out the large sliding glass doors of the living room and into the back yard. She rose to her feet slowly and followed him, picking up her gun from where it rested against a large palm tree.

Freddy placed the lizard on a fence post and kept it in place by weighing its tail down with a large rock. The gecko twisted uncomfortably.

"Bet 'cha can't hit it on the first shot," he said.

Faye lifted her nose in the air. "Bet I can."

"Prove it."

She raised the gun to her shoulder, curling her finger around the trigger as she focused on the gecko. Again it stared back at her, blinking slowly, and she felt her hands begin to tremble and her heart race.

"Don't you think that this is kinda a dumb idea?" she asked, lowering the gun. "He'll be just as upset if we just set it free, and there are plenty of cans to shoot at."

"Sounds to me like you're chicken."

"I'm not chicken. It could be messy."


"And it's—"

"You know, Faye, you are really starting to sound like such a girl. If I wanted to spend time with someone prissy I could just walk home with Sally Henderson."

Faye's eyes narrowed. "I'm nothing like Sally Henderson."

Freddy smiled. "Prove it."

She felt her throat tighten as she lined up the lizard in her sights again. Her hands were clammy and her finger slipped against the trigger as she accidentally squeezed off a round.

She heard the explosion of the gunshot. She'd squeezed her eyes closed as she fired, and through the static in her head she heard Frankie yell, "Hey, nice shot!"

She opened her eyes and found the lizard laying on its back, its tail still pinned beneath the rock. The small BB had ripped a hole through the right side of its belly. Faye felt her throat tighten and tears began to burn in her eyes.

Frankie laughed and slapped her on the back. "Remind me never to get on your bad side, killer," he said.

Faye quickly fired three more rounds into the base of the tree. Why Spike had suddenly reminded her of a gecko she'd accidentally killed when she was eleven was lost on her. Well, aside from the glaringly obvious reasons, anyway—he was slimy, coldblooded…and she assumed that with enough practice he could learn to lick his eyeballs…

Another bullet slammed into the tree trunk.

She'd never forgotten the first time she took a life. Hadn't forgotten the look on her brother's face when he found out. Hadn't forgotten crying herself to sleep for weeks afterward wishing she could undo what she'd done. She really hadn't meant to kill the little animal—she'd only wanted to get back at Sam for being such a jerk to her. To impress Frankie. To prove she was more than just a little girl.

Faye sighed and tucked the gun back into her holster. Whether she was seeking revenge or trying to impress them, she never could seem to get things right with men. Not that she'd ever tried to impress Spike, of all people. That was just about revenge—which, of course, she had managed to royally fuck up. Just like always.

She took a breath and smoothed her hands over the ratty sweatpants she was wearing--the ones she'd found stashed under the seat of the red tail. She left the hotel with nothing but the clothes on her back. All her bags, all her makeup, all her clothes, everything had been left behind—which presented a problem. Spike was right about at least one thing; she knew she couldn't go back to Luke. Telling him she'd decided to fuck Spike rather than kill him certainly wouldn't go over well. And it wasn't as though she could just show up on the Bebop as though nothing had happened.

She walked through the ruins of her childhood home and found a crumbling wall on the south side of the lot. She turned and leaned her back against it as she slid to a sitting position on the ground. She was stuck here. Between past and present, gawking awkwardly before an uncertain future—somewhere strange and in-between. Somewhere she barely existed. Clinging to an illusory past, and horrified by a contrived future.

Faye closed her eyes and let the breeze brush her tangled hair across her cheeks. And Spike was right about something else—there was little doubt in her mind that once Luke did find her, she'd be finished. Gunned down by one of his syndicate grunts in an alley. Poisoned by her next meal at a four star restaurant. Asphyxiated by the motel clerk on whatever planet she decided to call home for the next few days. Luke had his hands in everyone's business.

Spike had been wrong about one thing, though. He assumed she didn't love her husband. That she'd latched onto Lucas Kennedy merely because he'd presented her with an opportunity she'd wanted to take. As if she were no better than one of his low-level syndicate grunts. The only difference being the glittering rock on her left hand.

But she wasn't one of his henchmen, and he had never treated her that way. There was something different between them. Something that extended beyond a mere partnership of convenience.

They'd needed one another; in a very deep, and visceral sort of way, they'd needed one another. Like a fucked up symbiosis. They fed off their mutual need for revenge. Off of one another. Off their need for some kind of human connection, however base or fleeting. Did that mean she loved him? She wasn't sure. She didn't pretend to understand what that meant, and she didn't care. But she knew that what she felt for him—whatever it was—was something new. Something foreign. He'd given her something she could hold onto. Something solid. And for that, she'd be forever grateful. He had provided her with security and stability when she'd needed it most, and she'd given him—everything. Her body. Her freedom. Her loyalty.


The one thing she'd been sure would be the easiest to give up. The one person she thought she'd be willing to offer up on a silver platter, had been the hardest to part with. Even harder realizing he'd never been hers to give up in the first place. Had never belonged to her in the sense she'd believed be had.

She thought he'd belonged to her in the way that Jet and the Bebop belonged to her. As a part of her past. A part of her future. A part of Faye Valentine—whoever the hell that was.

But in the end she'd realized he'd never been hers in the first place. Never hers to give up, or even lose.

She felt her shoulders sag against the dilapidated wall of her childhood home. She was so tired. So tired of smiling—of crying. Tired of running. So tired of playing all the right cards and always losing. She felt as though the universe had begun slowly folding in on her. As if time itself was winding down around her. Sliding over her shoulders, pooling at her feet. Drawing her close as it spun into a single point, threatening to blink her into oblivion.

The feeling was nothing new. Before she'd abhorred it. She'd found so many ways to keep it from nipping at her heels. Alcohol. Sex. The rush of pain she felt as her fists connected with human flesh. Now she welcomed the emptiness. She could no longer fear the loss of a woman she didn't know. Someone she hadn't been. She felt an odd sort of peace in accepting that.

Tomorrow she'd be back on her feet. She'd acquire a few money cards—enough so that her movements couldn't be tracked when they were reported stolen—and find a new bounty. One she could manage on her own, but worth enough to tide her over until she could disappear again. Another planet. Another life. Lather, rinse, repeat.

She harbored no illusions of her situation. She knew she couldn't just fall off the Dragons' radar—not forever, anyway. Not even Spike had managed that one. Though, she supposed in a large way that was mostly her fault. She knew, too, that Luke would find her. And when he did, he'd kill her.

And for now, sick as it was, she was okay with that. She'd ride this out as long as it lasted and then... Well, she did say "'Till death do us part." She smirked at the revelation and settled her head back against the crumbling wall.

Imagine that. She'd finally made a promise she could keep.

A/N: So, I'm going to apologize again. My life has been crazy busy lately with work and school and, as usual, my writing has fallen by the wayside. Honestly, I had been away from it for so long that I had almost forgotten how much I missed it! Apologies and excuses aside, I am going to confirm again that I will NOT be giving up on this fic. Even though I had put this story on the backburner in part because of my busy schedule, another huge problem was the fact that I had sort of hit a dead end plot wise. But I'm happy to report that, after many late night chats with my homegirl animecatdragon, I am ready to take the next step with this fic—and I'm crazy excited about it! Also I need to send out a huuuuge thank you to everyone who is STILL reading and reviewing. I had thought eventually people would give up on this fic and forget about it, but I was wrong. You guys aren't letting me off the hook, and I love you for it! You're the reason I was inspired to start writing again, and for that I'm very thankful.

So, with that off my chest, look forward to more updates in the near future! I know this chapter was sort of transitional, but things should be picking up soon.

Until next time,