DISCLAIMER:  I do not own Cowboy Bebop, it belongs to Bandai/Sunrise. . . . oh well sucks to be me. . . . nobody sue me, cause I'm well and truly BROKE!!!!!


"Don't trust that woman," the words grated like broken glass through his memory.  The town clock struck six thirty.  It was cold and it was raining and she was late.  The roses lay next to him on the mourners' bench in a soggy heap.  The butts of at least two ashtrays worth of half smoked cigarettes littered the ground around his feet.  It was hard to smoke in a downpour.

He stood to leave; he had stayed in this one place too long as it was.  But - no buts, if he were seen, everything that he had done up to this point would have been in vain.  But – he looked around the cemetery one last time.  And there she was, her long blond hair pulled up into a high ponytail, wearing sunglasses despite the rain.  She seemed to float like a ghost out of the rising mists.  He blinked raindrops from his eyelashes, wondering if she were real or a phantom conjured up by his imagination.  He noticed the gun that she wore in her shoulder holster and decided that she was real after all; the Julia of his imagination would never need to wear a gun.

"Spike, I knew you would wait," she said in her low, purr-like voice as she stopped in front of him.  He wanted to take her in his arms, swing her around, never let her go, but he didn't.  Julia hated that sort of thing.

"Did you have any trouble?  Were you followed?" he asked instead.  She shook her head slightly, but her body language was tense.

"No, I didn't have any. . .trouble."  He noticed the pause, but chose to ignore it.

"Let's go then," he said as he took her hand.  "I have a place for us. . ." she pulled her hand from his, freezing the rest of his sentence in his throat.

"Spike, Vicious knows what you are planning," she said quietly.  He turned to her, stunned.  "He came by the apartment this afternoon, that's why I was late."  She turned away, walked to the bench and began to slowly gather up the wet roses.

"You told him?" he asked the back of her head.  She didn't look up.

"No, I didn't tell him.  I didn't need to, Spike.  He knows you better than anyone.  He figured it out himself."  She pricked her thumb on a thorn and cursed, dropping the offending flower.

"What did he say?" Spike asked as his heart constricted.  He didn't really want to know what Vicious had said; he had the feeling that he already knew.  Julia sighed as she sat on the wet bench and watched her thumb bleed.

"He said that I was dreaming if I thought that we could get away," she looked up at him through her shades.


"And he gave me two choices:  I could die right then, or I could kill you and live."  Spike nodded to himself, that was definitely Vicious.

"That gun is his, isn't it?" he asked rhetorically as he joined her on the bench.  She nodded.  "There are always other choices, Julia.  Do you really think that he would let you live after you killed me?"  Her pale eyebrows came together in hard thought.

"We could go back.  The line hasn't been irrevocably crossed yet.  We could go back and everything could return to the way it used to be," she said hopefully.  Spike swallowed hard and felt like shit for what he was about to say.

"Julia, you know that's not possible," he sighed.  "And even if it were possible, would you really want to go back?"  She flinched slightly but squared her shoulders, staring straight ahead.

"Our lives weren't so bad," she started.  Spike cut her off.

"Before I met you, I wasn't afraid of anything.  Nothing really mattered to me.  I'd seen comrades and enemies die; and I had been nearly killed several times.  It was a rush."  The words tumbled out of him and he didn't know if he were making sense.  "You changed that.  I can't be careless with my life anymore, because that would hurt you.  I can't be ruthless with the lives of others because I care now.  I can't be that person I was before, Julia.  So there would be no point in going back and trying to live that life.  Do you understand?"

"So it's my fault," she snorted softly.  "I do understand Spike, but," she bit her bottom lip, "I won't go with you."  Spike felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him, that there wasn't enough air to breathe.  She pushed the shades up on her head and looked directly at him for the first time.  "Don't misunderstand me.  I love you, but I know you.  You live for that 'rush'.  If you left everything behind:  Mao, Annie, Lin. . .Vicious, 'the rush,' if you left your life because of me, you would eventually hate me.  And that's something that I couldn't bear."

"Julia, I could never. . ." she placed her fingertips on his lips to stop his protest.

"Yes you would," she smiled ruefully.  "And what's more, I would eventually hate you for the same reason."  Spike hung his head, knowing that what she said made sense.

"What do we do now?  Where do we go from here?" he asked.  Julia plucked out a few wilted leaves.

"I'll tell Vicious that I missed," she laughed.  "His gun isn't as familiar as mine, and everyone knows that I'm a terrible shot."  Spike felt a little smile try to tug at the corner of his mouth. That was definitely true, she really was a terrible shot.  He sobered quickly, though.

"You know I won't let you go back by yourself, Julia.  If you won't come with me, then I guess I won't go.  We'll just have to figure something else out."  He stood and offered her his hand.  She smiled up at him as she gathered the roses to her chest and accepted his help to stand. 

They walked slowly, hand in hand, from the cemetery, back into the world of the living.  Spike glanced back over his shoulder, noticing the rose that Julia had dropped, laying abandoned in a puddle, a forlorn symbol of his dreams.

There are always other choices, he said silently to that flower.  He had to make himself believe that.