Smoke

The smoke curled above her face like a serpent, writhing in the warm air, twisting and coiling as it rose higher and higher, eventually dissipating and her emerald gaze fell back to the cigarette in her hand, half-dangling from between her index and middle finger.  The acerbic smoke was hypnotic, a living thing existing as vapor, created from the burning tip of the cigarette in her hand.  She closed her eyes and brought the cigarette to her mouth, inhaling deeply and with relish.  She let the ticklish smoke linger in her lungs and throat for a time before exhaling and resting her arm on the edge of the sink again, letting the cigarette hang once more.  She wouldn't be like Spike, always with a cigarette partially connected to his lips, no, she didn't smoke that way.  The thought of the lean, lanky young man brought stinging tears to her eyes but she blinked them away and blamed the hurt on the smoke, ever rising from the end of the cigarette.

                She wouldn't think about him, no, she refused to be trapped in a moment, stuck living in the past and worrying herself to death about what might have been done.  It had been his choice to leave, his choice to face his destiny and, inevitably, his own death.  Oh, she had heard that Spike and Vicious were fated to die at each other's hands, but that didn't change the fact that it wasn't fair.  Oh, damn fate, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit!  Something wet was on her cheek and a salty tear fell upon her lips, her taste buds recoiling from the bitter drop.  What in the …?  Tears?  She was crying?  No!  She wasn't supposed to cry, she had promised herself that she wouldn't mourn that lunkhead …and yet, here she was, sobbing quietly in the toilet room over the sink.  Choking back the noise made her throat raw and brought more tears to her eyes.  No, she wouldn't cry, she wouldn't!  But …Jet was elsewhere, gone from the ship on some errand and Edward …oh, never mind, Ed and Ein had left as well, but they wouldn't be coming back.  No, that had all been a sign of the terrible things to come, when they started by canceling Big Shot, and then when Ed and Ein took off …and now with Spike …with Spike dead.

                She screamed in fury and lashed out with her free hand, smashing the mirror and wincing as slivers and shards of glass caught in her tender skin, but she was still so angry, so angry and sad …with a hard sob, she put out her cigarette beneath her high-heeled boot and stumbled backwards, hitting the wall with more force than she had expected.  Bawling uncontrollably now, she wrapped her arms about herself and slid to the floor, trembling as she gave up repressing her grief and wailed aloud, punching the floor with an ineffective fist, ignoring the sharp pains from the glass embedded in her hand.  She wasn't supposed to care this much, she wasn't supposed to be such a wreck just because everything was falling apart, because her private little dream world was closing in on itself and leaving her alone again.

                Oh, damn that lunkhead, and damn the stupid dog and Edward too for leaving!  Damn Vicious and that wench, Julia …damn them all, and damn Jet too and herself most of all.  They weren't supposed to leave her all alone again, they weren't supposed to abandon her like this …it wasn't supposed to work like this.  And yet, somehow she knew that this was the only way.  Spike had his vendetta against Vicious and death for both was the only eternal exit.  Spike had been lost between the past, present and future and he had been haunted day in, day out by the pieces of his past that held the key to his future.  He had said he wasn't going out to die …he was going out to see if he was alive …and just for a moment, Faye wondered if he had been alive before his death …she hoped so.  Oh, how ungrateful the gods would have to be to take him from this world if he had not had a chance to live once more …but, somehow she was sure that he had been alive, if only for a few moments at the end.  It made her better to think this and her sobs quieted into hiccups as the memories tore at her heart, not memories of her life before the cryogenic chamber however, memories of the time she had spent off and on the Bebop with the rest of the crew, memories of waking up after that whole Scratch ordeal to see Spike smiling down upon her, smoking as always.  An unsteady smile dawned on her face as she remembered eating Ein's dog food right in front of him, and holding Ed's head still to read a message from Tongpu to the Bebop – or more specifically, Spike – and of seeing Jet in his ridiculous hippy garb.  The last image in her mind even made her laugh a little as she reached for her pack of cigarettes beside the toilet and drew one out.

                Her hands shook as she fumbled to light a new one up and she took a deep drag after managing to get the lighter to light up.  She closed her eyes as a few more silent tears made their way down her face and rose shakily, tiny points of crimson dew on her hands from where the broken mirror had cut through her skin and she frowned at her hands.  Jet wouldn't be happy, not only had she shattered the mirror, but also she had hurt herself in the process.  She smiled a little stronger then, her breath catching in her throat as she envisioned Spike, battered and bloody, holding his hand like a gun and whispering, "Bang," before dying at last.  Her breath fled her lungs in a warbling gasp as she shook her head to clear it and sat heavily upon the toilet seat.  It was over, her secret world was crushed and now she had to move out into the real world again …only, now there would be less people to watch her butt when she was getting in over her head, no Ein to torment and no Ed to holler at …well, some things she wouldn't miss too much just yet …

                She grinned as she glanced up at the cracked remains of the mirror still in place and watched the smoke curling up from cigarette.  From the back of her mind, from some hazy memory of her childhood came a familiar little tune, made sorrowful by her recent life experiences, but somehow very special to her all at once.  The smoke formed a stream in the air, rippling like water as a solitary tear blurred her vision and she hummed absent-mindedly …

Row, row, row your boat …

Gently down the stream …

Merrily …merrily …merrily …merrily…

Life is but a dream …

Well, she would show him, she would show them all.  Just because Spike was dead was no reason for her to give up on herself, after all, Spike had been the one to lecture her about living in the past.  It was time to prove that she had dutifully learned her lessons …she would make it in this world, even without the poofy-haired bounty hunter faced with the present in one eye and the past in the other.  It would be hard, but Jet was still here and who knew …maybe someday Ed and Ein would return as well …for now though, it was time to separate her fallen fantasyland from reality.  Besides, she thought, smirking, who was she to turn down a challenge from Spike?  Sure, this would probably be the toughest thing she would have to do to prove it to him, but she was going to make sure that he knew she was his better …just wait until I die, Spike, you haven't escaped me for good!

Sayonara, Space Cowboy.