Cowboy Bebop and all its contents are the copyright of Shinichiro Watanabe and Bandai.

Cowboy Bebop: Live and Learn

Prelude: Blue

"But, the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it."

It was the pounding on the door that interrupted his dinner. Quickly, the old doctor shoved aside his bowl of soup and hurried down the stairs, struggling with one of the sleeves of his white overcoat. The pounding was stronger the nearer he came and he frowned as he opened his clinic door. Spike brushed past him, an unconscious woman in his arms. Gently he laid her down on the examination table, her long blonde hair spilling over the edge. The doctor closed the door and came to him in a hurry, questions on the tip of his tongue.

"... couldn't leave her out there for the others to find." Spike stated, breathless from his hurried rush over. The doctor took one look at Julia and knew that she was dead. Her skin was already taking on a chalky, blue tone.

" What happened?" He asked quietly.

For a long moment Spike remained silent. Out of pity for him the doctor pressed two fingers against her carota artery before announcing the sad truth.

" I'm sorry, but there' s nothing more I can do..."

" There is." Spike countered.

The old man looked at him inquiringly. Spike rose to his feet and turned away, stepping over to a window to peek through the blinds. " Make sure she gets a proper burial."

" Spike... what happened?"

" They got Annie too."

The old man's eyes bulged at the news. Spike continued, more to himself than to the doctor. " They'll never stop as long as Vicious is alive. Killing Julia was just the beginning. They'll keep on killing until there's no one left but me." Quietly he returned to Julia's side and gently smoothed back her hair, pressing a soft kiss to her forehead.

The doctor rested a steadying hand on Spike's shoulder. " I'm sorry." He whispered. " But now that you know Vicious is after you, wouldn't it be better to run?"

" That's what I did the first time... and it didn't work." Spike replied walking to the door and taking hold of the doorknob. " There isn't any other way."

" Wait."

Spike's hand tightened on the doorknob as he looked over his shoulder. The doctor scooted into a small walk-in closet only to emerge a moment later with a fine bottle of wine. " Here. Take this." He handed the bottle over to Spike who raised an eyebrow at him.

" Clinic funds are low so I get anesthetics anyway I can... some fellow I helped works at one of the mafia's restaurants." Spike blinked in surprise as the doctor raised his hand in a dismissive gesture. " But that doesn't matter right now. Take this one... for your success."

Spike nodded, glancing at the date on the bottle. " This is a good year."

" You bet it is." The doctor agreed. Spike became very still for a moment, gathering himself together for what he had to do.

" Thanks, doc." He finally replied.

" Put it to good use, you hear me?" The old man instructed. Spike gave him a firm nod and opened the door, hurrying out into the rain. The doctor shook his head sadly as he watched Spike dash across the street and disappear into an alleyway.

Four hours later

" My memories came back... but... nothing good came of it. There was no place to return to. This was the only place I could go. And now you're leaving just like that!..."

Her words... her eyes... it was the first time he saw Faye so vulnerable... and it had taken his breath away. He had always suspected she felt something for him but now there was no doubt in his mind. And if she hadn't given him Julia's message he doubted he would have ever found the elusive beauty before she died.

As he neared the steps to the Red Dragon headquarters he remembered his last meal... Jet's bell peppers and beef. He remembered how it had been prepared with an unspoken understanding and he realized that their friendship had been made in the same way.

A strong breeze forced him to turn up the collar of his trench coat. And suddenly, he remembered the pinning wheel. Ed had given it to him... the only souvenir he had ever seen her take great pains to keep safe. He still had it safely stored in the only drawer of his bedside table... back on the Bebop.

Family... that's what each of them meant to him... Faye, Jet, Ed... even the mutt. And he could feel them with him... hear their prayers, sense their hopes walking beside him.

He climbed the stairs, no hesitations, no second thoughts... the dream was about to end...

And as he closed his eyes, feeling the grenades in his pockets, he remembered the most important question of his life.

" What are you going to do? Just throw your life away like it was nothing?"

Jet sat silently in the navigator chair of the Bebop with a can of beer in one hand and his communicator in the other. Occasionally his eyes would scan the horizon. How he hoped to see the familiar form of the Swordfish II. But as the evening waned into night he began to suspect the worst. With a weary sigh Jet turned on the monitor and brought up news coverage on the Red Dragons. His grip on the communicator tightened. What good could possibly come out of Spike's dying? What if Spike failed and the mafia was still coming for them? And Jet found himself wondering about Ed and Ein. Did they find their way back to Earth?

He shook his head wearily. Taking another swig of beer he turned down the volume on the monitor. " Nothing but doom and destruction." He muttered to himself. " Don't matter if I worry or not… can't stop what's meant to be."

And even though he knew the words were true he refused to believe them… couldn't bring himself to accept them. Loneliness he could deal with but grief in loneliness… that was a whole other level of suffering. And as he sat slumped in the chair staring out at the darkening sky his vision grew fuzzy. His head felt heavy and he finally had to close his eyes.

" ... just for a few moments." He thought to himself.

Faye entered the common room and flopped down on the yellow chair. The ship was quiet except for the rhythmic whir of the fan up above. Faye stared for a long moment at the yellow couch, remembering how Spike used to recline on it and effectively prevent anyone else from sharing space with him. She nervously chewed on a nail as her gaze shifted from the couch to the monitor. Part of her didn't want to know what was going on but the other part…

Faye leaned forward and turned on the monitor, quickly finding a newscast that showed footage of the chaos at Red Dragon headquarters. As she watched the screen she saw bodies being taken out and a crowd of concerned onlookers gathering around barricades of yellow tape. The reporter, a man in his early thirties, turned back to the camera.

" It looks like there has been a large number of casualties within the building! Just a few moments earlier I had tried to get more information about whether-or-not there were any survivors but as you can see," the reporter waved a hand in the general direction of the chaos, " ISSP have their hands full at the moment. But perhaps we can get a few words from one of them closer to the barricade." Faye suddenly felt restless and began to tap her heel on the floor while she watched the reporter hone in on an unsuspecting ISSP officer.

" Excuse me, sir! Excuse me! I'm Ryan Galt from Tharsis 8 News. I just have a quick question."

" No questions." The officer replied brusquely and began to turn away. But Ryan was undeterred.

" People want to know… are there any survivors?"

Faye stilled and held her breath, waiting for a reply.

The officer looked back at Ryan with an annoyed glare. " It doesn't look like it. Now please get back behind the yellow tape."

Faye felt goose bumps run up and down her arms. With a sudden rush of adrenalin she bolted for the hangar of the Bebop.

A sudden, loud clank jarred Jet out of his slumber. Surprised and momentarily bewildered he sat up in the navigator chair trying to remember why he was sitting there. Glancing down he picked up his communicator, which had slipped from his grasp while he dozed. He had just set it down when a new sound alarmed him. Quickly rising from his chair Jet hurried over to one of the windows.

" Damn it!" He cursed as his suspicion was affirmed. The beat up Red Tail was making a quick exit. Alarmed, he reached for his communicator.

" Faye? Faye! What do you think you're doing? The Red Tail isn't safe to fly yet!"

His warning was met with static. Jet snarled and threw the communicator on the chair, turning his back to the windows. That stupid woman! I should just let her go. Fine with me if she gets herself killed flying in a bummed aircraft!

Jet picked up his communicator and walked out of the navigation deck, slowly descending the stairs into the common room where his gaze fell on the yellow couch. Silence met his ears. He stood still, blinking at the sight in front of him. A moment later his eyes shifted to the monitor still displaying news coverage on the Red Dragon Headquarters. With a deep sigh he closed his eyes and saw the Swordfish II fly off Bebop's deck that last time.

With growing resolve he opened his eyes and hurried as best he could to the Hammerhead. I'll be damned to lose two shipmates on the same day!

Faye gripped the controls tightly, her knuckles nearly white. She zipped through the air as her engines allowed, cursing every time they stalled in mid-flight. Her vision was blurred as her eyes filled with tears and she angrily wiped at them with the back of her hand. " I'm sorry… I'm sorry." She murmured quietly, realizing that she should have told Jet she was leaving… realizing that she should have told Spike she would go to him if he needed her. Was it too late for him to know? Faye frowned, her eyes scanning the horizon. Smoke could be seen rising high into the sky and she felt a hitch in her breath as she realized it was the Red Dragon headquarters.

" … Spike…"

Suddenly the Red Tail's communicator squawked to life, static giving way to an urgent command. " Faye! Set the Red Tail down before you fall apart!"

Faye frowned at the communicator screen as Jet's face floated into view. She quickly flicked off the video feed and blew her dark curls out of her eyes with an impatient puff of air.

Jet frowned as Faye's face vanished from his video screen. Looking up he saw the Red Tail falter in mid-flight yet again. She was in trouble.

" Damn woman!" Jet shouted and maneuvered the Hammerhead directly over her. He hailed her again. " Faye, listen. I know… I know what's being said in the news right now. I know you want to help Spike but we can't! And he wouldn't want us interfering with the mafia."

Faye scrunched her nose in disgust.

" Spike was our friend! We owe it to him to try and help! What if he's bleeding... what if he's dying somewhere all by himself?"

Jet was silent for a moment as her words sank in. He understood how desperate the situation had become. He too worried about Spike… more than he cared to admit. But something in the tone of Faye's voice had an extra edge… a rawness that he never heard before. And suddenly he knew what it was. He had always suspected that she and Spike had feelings for each other beyond comrades-in-arms but he had never been more certain until this moment.

" Faye… "

Even through the static of the communicator Faye could hear his voice take on a softer tone.

"… it's too dangerous to get any closer right now."

Angry at his response Faye abruptly cut off communication and cursed when the Red Tail shuddered, the engines nearly failing all together. She felt the burn of tears again and closed her eyes. And as she did an image of Spike's face coalesced in the forefront of her mind and she saw him walking away… down the hall...

Damn it Spike! " Why?"

" Faye, set down now!"

Jet was growing weary of her stubbornness and nearly gawked when she suddenly tried to evade him.

" Faye! Stop it! Are you nuts? Your ship can't handle it!"

But it was obvious to Jet that she wasn't listening and had no intention of doing so. Taking matters into his own hands he carefully lowered the Hammerhead down on top of the Red Tail, forcing her to lower her ship.

The Red Tail shot out from under him and attempted to loop over the Hammerhead, intent on righting itself behind him. But Jet knew Faye's maneuvers and was ready. He didn't give her enough room to begin the upward ascent and was soon on top of the Red Tail again. But this time he cut off his engines for a moment so that the weight of the Hammerhead forced the Red Tail further down.

" Come on Faye! Don't make me ground you! I know what you're trying to do but don't underestimate me. I will force you down if I have to."

But Faye didn't respond and Jet repeated his trick again forcing the Red Tail to finally hit dirt just outside the city limits.

Looping back around Jet saw Faye hop out of the Red Tail and start moving on foot. " Damn. She just won't quit!" He muttered to himself as he quickly set the Hammerhead down as close to the direction she was headed as possible.

Opening the hatch he leaned out and yelled at her. " Faye! Faye! Damn it, don't make me run with this bummed leg!"

But she didn't listen, much to his frustration. With a growl and a grunt he hopped down and chased after her. The ground was dry and dirt blew in his face. The pain in his leg was fire hot and he briefly considered letting her go but his momentum gave him a few seconds to reconsider. And as he covered the distance between them he leaped and tackled her to the ground.

They landed in a dusty heap and he was surprised by how ferociously she fought against him. " Ugh! Faye! Faye… stop… stop it!" He clasped her in his arms as tightly as he dared. She struggled for several moments but soon realized that she couldn't escape his hold. Jet felt her resistance lax and suddenly… she broke down. He cringed, never having enjoyed seeing a woman cry, and shifted his grasp on her so that he held her in an embrace.

" Shhh… shhhhh..." He cooed, rocking her back and forth like a father would his child. " Faye, don't... don't run anymore..."

Faye cried harder but managed to gasp out a few words. " Its... its not... fair..."

" I know..."

" I should have never... told him about Julia... "

Jet squeezed her tighter.

" I let him... down..." Faye stuttered, gasping for breath between her sobs.

" No. You did right... you respected his wishes. You let him go. That spoke louder than anything you could have said or done."

Faye slumped against him in sudden exhaustion. Jet could feel her tears soaking through his shirt and was keenly aware of the burning pain in his leg. He wouldn't be surprised if he tore open the wound again. But for the moment he didn't want to move, didn't want to break the spell of the twisted dream they were stuck in.

He looked up at the city skyline as smoke still billowed into the background of a clear, blue sky. The sun shone brightly and birds flew overhead. It was setting up to be a beautiful day and Jet closed his eyes against the atrocity.

Faye stared at the smoke rising up into the clouds and squeezed her eyes shut, burrowing her face against Jet's chest. He glanced down at her for a moment before scowling back up at the city skyline. How could anything good ever come from acts so violent and final?

Opening Quote: Thucydides, Greek historian