It's nice to finally have something to contribute to this fandom. Loved this f*cking series.
[i own neither Bebop nor any of her crew, and i especially don't own the George Bernard Shaw quote* i shamelessly pilfered for the fic.]
ceasar and cleopatra
This is their dance now, and it's nothing like the one before.
Jet's posted in a shadow-darkened nook at the corner of the room, keeping an eye out for trouble.
Faye's swinging from partner to partner, flashing brazen smiles and coy jade eyes, and her mind is everywhere but what this means (what she'd never spared a thought for in the past, before she had one, before the future that was just beginning to grow up around it –one with a strange little girl and an oddly-keen canine and a mothering ex-cop and an enigmatic, aloof, annoying guy in a suit—had started to take shape), because if she's anywhere but in the moment, in the job, then it's all over, and she and Jet need to eat, after all, if they're gonna keep mucking their way through This Thing called Life.
The lights're dimming and a singer waltzes onto the stage, voice deep and sensual and like layers of satin over hard earth, and everyone's clapping as the spotlight hits her, reveals this ebon-goddess in ivory silk –a stunning, likely-deliberate dichotomy, a breath-taking juxtaposition. And the dance floor's dark and this's where the plan's set to take off, and her eyes pan from the swaying dancers to the door where Jet's waiting, she's looking for his signal –and then there's a hand at her waist, another one (large and foreign and vaguely warm, in the nondescript sort of way that puts you immediately on your guard because there's something—) threading familiarly through the fingers of her right hand (her gun hand), and then she's being spun in the darkness, and the body behind her is almost –but not quite—touching her, and electricity's pounding through her and she's still trying to get a good angle to see Jet, to warn him that All's Gone to Hell, the Jig's Up, and then there's a voice in her ear, like honey and leather and gravel and Something Else, something spooky-dark and dangerous.
"Lookin' for me?" And then there's no breath left in her entire, trembling frame, no strength left in her weak limbs, no way in hell this's possible—
She's flush against him now, and hard, lean, lanky, dead-so-dead pings around in her skull like a bullet set to Ricochet, and she realizes she'd be on her knees if he wasn't suddenly supporting her, one long, (not-so-very) surprisingly strong arm wrapped –now fully—around her waist, holding her against him, the other still attached to the hand locked around her fingers, keeping the itching digits away from weapons or hairpins or his face, and she doesn't dare to turn back and look at him, because she-knows-she-knows-she-knows, the moment she does, he'll disappear forever.
'Cause this (can't be) real.
'Cause godfuckingdammit, Faye, Spike Spiegel's dead.
"Who says I'm looking for anyone?" She breathes in lieu of speaking his name, because he isn't really here and she'd have to be loony-crazy-mad to believe otherwise.
"Oh, c'mon now, a gussied-up dame like yourself, all alone at this big, fancy party, and not lookin' for company? Just how gullible d'you think I am?" It must look absurd, she muses abstractedly, this lanky idiot rocking gently in place to the velvet jazz with a stiff broad hanging limp in his grasp, facing the wrong damn direction for any manner o' waltzing.
"I've always been kind of a loner." She argues in defense of herself, numbly slipping into automatic pilot, barely conscious of the darkness wrapping around them, obscuring the glittery-splendid twirl of bodies gliding about the dance floor, muting the soft murmur-taps of their fine shoes, the sibilant hum of a dozen of hushed, individual conversations.
"I don't believe that, little girl, not one bit." She wants to lash out, angry at the deliberate way he delivers the title. (But she doesn't. There're more important things on the agenda.)
"Well, believe it, buddy. 'Cause I do just fine by myself, and I don't need anybody, now or ever." She feels the iniquitous grin sliding across his face in the way his fingers curl over her knuckles.
"Surely ya' got someone you can rely on. Someone...special." The word hits her like a knife to the gut, sickly twisting and echoing the wrenching ache in her chest.
"I thought I did." Her tone is heavy, bitter, the words like ash in her mouth. "Or anyway, somethin' like." She says, more faintly now. Then, with renewed force, "Turned out he was a lunkhead with nothin' to lose." She's not going to cry over this fool –she swore to herself she'd be dead herself before she ever allowed herself to mourn an idiot who couldn't be bothered to spare her so much as smile or a cigarette the entire time she'd known him. "Nothin' but his life, anyhow, but what'd that matter when he had nothin' to live for?" She's furious enough at the thick, tingling silence that she starts to turn to face him, but the instant she makes the decision he's holding her fast, specious-warm fingers locked in a vise grip at her chin.
"Maybe he had plenty to live for. Maybe everything. But maybe his plenty needed protecting, and maybe he didn't have anything to give but his life to do it. So maybe he didn't have a choice."
"That's bullshit. He's a selfish shit with meat for brains. He was so obsessed with his past he couldn't wait to become a part of it." (She bounces whimsical from past to present tense; she can't decide which is more appropriate for this psychotic episode.) "He was a coward, dammit; he cut tail and ran at the first sign he might have to start fresh, move forward, move on; he didn't-" her voice breaks, she bites back acid rancor, "he didn't even bother to try. No, sorry, he does one better: he goes and gets himself killed to save himself the trouble altogether. Nevermind there're maybe a couple weirdos and a stinky mutt who have a vested interest in this guy's continued, hare-brained existence, nevermind he owes a pretty lady 8800 woolong—"
"Well then, little girl, what do you live for?" She finds herself abruptly speechless.
"I-" She rankles, ire pulling her fingers into crude fists over his big hands. "This isn't about me."
"Yeah?" He tugs one hand free of her suddenly painful grip, but she's too distracted by the way those big, warm digits splay over her belly to use this new emancipation to her advantage. "I kinda think it is." Fury rips into her, hot and tight.
"You don't know anything –about me or anything else. And you don't have the right to talk to me about living, you lanky bastard." Sharp nails bite into his flesh, and she pretends (for the sake of any vestiges of her sanity possibly lingering in the vicinity) that she doesn't feel the slippery-thick liquid warmth creeping over her fingertips, sliding viscous across her palm. "I—" Her breath shakes violently, "I told you it was suicide. You knew it was, you knew it and you went anyway, and you could've stayed. I should've freaking shot you, I should've fucking killed you –at least then I wouldn't have had to put up with weeks of Jet bitching about your sorry ass, at least I wouldn't have run into Ed and had to deal with her freakish affections, at least…at least…damn it, how did you think it'd be fair that I have to live with this and not you? Why should she matter more than me?" The music is smooth and eerily sumptuous, fitting itself impeccably well into the lengthy-tangible silence while she waits, uncomfortable and anxious, for him to fight back, for him to call her out on her own hypocrisies, on her selfishness and her shaking insecurities and her secret cowardice, huddled and poorly hidden beneath all the crumbling-thin layers of self-defensive antagonism.
Instead, the hand on her stomach slides to her hip, settling there (almost) tenderly, and he tucks himself against her, the whisper of his breath stirring her hair.
"Lemme tell you a little somethin' about life, little girl. It ain't a storybook, and anybody tells you different or tries to pretend it is, they're lying. But it doesn't mean you can't be a princess, kid. It doesn't mean you don't deserve the world." His lips are warm at her ear, which for the last time, is impossible—
"I didn't want the fucking world, I just wanted y—" She chokes on a sob and screws her eyes shut nice and tight when he presses his mouth to her neck, right there against her pulse point, the faltering rhythm echoing the beat of her heart, slamming frantically in her chest: the villainous throb of life, conspicuously absent of the ghost curled so intimately around her.
But it's the texture of his hair that does it: coarse, wiry, somehow smooth; it's just as she always secretly imagined it would feel, and it's how she knows (with swift, intractable certainty) it's all an elaborate production in the theatre of her mind (because this is all playing out according to her fantasy idyll, except his words are what she needs to hear instead of what she wants), and then it's simply too late to hide the evidence of her despair –the sorrow stings at her eyes before it slips free and tears across her face and plummets to the ground, crashing to its death at her feet.
"We both belong to a past that refused to have us. And we neither one of us ever get what we want –not really, not for long. And," he takes a long breath that's punctuated by his chin falling flat against her shoulder, and for no reason she can articulate, her eyes seek out Jet in the darkness, "we get a whole hell of a lotta shit from some people for complainin' about it." He chuckles, a low resonance that vibrates to her toes.
"I do not complain." She mutters, annoyed.
"Right, you bitch and nag and run away. Usually with our money and food." This time his humor has a malicious aspect. "Or anyway," he begins, and she's troubled that she can sense his expression gentling, "you used to." She feels the weight of each finger pressing into her skin. "Haven't done that in a while. All that extra room now in the old space boat for your useless junk and Jet's tiny little trees; I can definitely see the appeal."
"—why you stay? Surely it's ain't for the old man's cooking. And certainly not cause you want to." She bites her lip.
"I don't have anywhere else to go." She says finally, closing her eyes.
"You don't have anywhere else you want to go, Faye." The sound of her name is accompanied by the sort of pain that goes mercifully beyond her powers of feeling.* "The difference between you and me, Valentine, is that you've got eyes for tomorrow, and I couldn't see past yesterday. Well, that, and you're irritating. And fuckin' loud. And probably the craziest damn broad I've ever met." In spite of herself, her mouth wedges into a smirk.
"Sure know how to charm a girl." She settles her free hand over his, gingerly hesitant. "And so I've got better eyesight. So what?"
"Better eyesight, stronger stomach, thicker head –all amounts to one thing—"
"—choose your words carefully, lunkhead." He steps away from her, just so, removing the (unreal) warm press of his body against hers, and she feels at once forsaken and serene and curiously reconciled to the combination.
"It means you're gonna be alright, Faye." His voice seems as though it's coming from miles away even as his hand squeezes once, comfortingly into her hip. "So stop being a damn drama queen and live your life." It's completely quiet for precisely one half of one instant, where it's just the two of them, connected by the unexpectedly casual ease of his touch, and she breathes him in, gunpowder and smoke and old-ship and utter-lack-of-basic-hygiene still clinging faithfully to his person, and even if it's just a memory, even if it's not real, she's no less desperate to memorize the cadence of his voice, the spicy-bitter scent of his skin, the phantom warmth of him.
She exhales just as she's being twirled away again, just as the song ends and the house lights go up again, just as the light smatterings of applause ripple across the room, and there's Jet, leaning against the grandly-gilded double doors near the entrance, looking right at her and probably wondering why she's frozen stiff, why the hell she looks like she's seen a damn ghost, why she's botched another mission, and she smiles at him (it's an elegant, simple curve of the lips, and it's understated enough that he gets it even though no one else will), turning abruptly to confirm what she already knows is true –Spike isn't there.
But their bounty is.
Her pistol's in her hand in one deft sweep, and she zeroes in and fires and the fabulous people arrayed around her start shrieking and ducking for cover and throwing each other out of the way to be the first ones out the door as Faye's bullet misses her target by a mile and ricochets off the punch bowl and flies with lethal precision into a very expensive-looking light fixture.
She hears Jet's palm smacking into his forehead over every last bit of the commotion, and she swears creatively when their mark bolts and tries to lose himself in the crowd, rolling her eyes at the freaking predictability of it all .
"Always were a wicked shot." Comes the snark from somewhere to her left, but she's got a job to do, dammit, and she doesn't pause an instant, doesn't even blink; she's got to focus on her fleeing bounty, winding like a giant chartreuse beacon of criminally tacky attire through the otherwise dazzling revelers.
She does, however, spare a thought to tell the lunkhead to shut the fuck up.
This is their dance now, and it hasn't changed one damn bit.
Yes, the title is from a GBS play by the same name, which incidentally I have never seen/read. But I have read a large enough selection of his other works that I think I can safely say that he's god.
Was this fic s'pposed to be read as a dream? A hallucination? Should there be a more literal interpretation? Is Spike actually making a cameo appearance as a snarky ghost? Has Faye completely lost her mind? Hell if I know. 'S up to you, I guess. I'm just the messenger.