"Marking Time"

by Chris Sweeters

a Cowboy Bebop fanfic

Rating: R

= = = = = = = = = =

"Two more hours."

The chill of space was felt in all corners of the Bebop as it

continued to mark time. Jet drummed his fingers on the tabletop for a moment,

then resumed his absent-minded typing. He was on the lookout for bounties,

but he did so half-heartedly. Every once in a while he would pause to dig

deeper into one that piqued his curiosity, but he never dwelled on any one

for long, regardless of the reward. There was no method to his madness, he

was merely killing time, much like his ship. Every few minutes, a wave of

depression would wash over him, but he pushed it away. He refused to give

into those kinds of feelings.

Not too far away, the other remaining member comrade was passing time

by sitting in the bath tub. She was only dimly aware of her surroundings,

lost in the preoccupations of her mind. Unlike the more collected Jet, Faye

found herself unable to cope. Perhaps if her current situation had been

different, she would have found a way to forge ahead. But too many pieces of

herself had been either lost or compromised, and she found herself completely

unable to bear the loss of another one. "Spike." Upon muttering the name,

Faye slid lower, until she felt her head dip below the level of the water.

Futilely attempting to get the soap out of her eyes, Faye shot upward with a

yelp. The unexpected interruption cleared the haze in her mind, somewhat, and

she now looked around the bathroom in wonder-why did such a familiar place

suddenly seem so foreign?

= = = = = = = = = =

Faye walked into the common room wearing her usual attire. As she had

expected, Jet was still picking over the various names and faces that

scrolled past his screen. "Find a good one?" she asked.

"Hmpf." Jet took the cue of the broken silence to stand up. Faye

sighed.

"It's been two hours."

"Has it?"

"How much longer?"

It was now Jet's turn to sigh, as he began to go into a seemingly

agonizing decision-making progress. "Two more hours." He said at length, then

abruptly walked out the door and disappeared down one of the Bebop's several

corridors. Faye did not follow, or even call after him. Instead, she took up

the seat that he had vacated and began searching through the computer

herself. But unlike Jet, Faye wasn't searching for bounties. She instead

peeked around until she found the budget that Jet was so fond of keeping

track of. She promptly found that Jet didn't exaggerate anything when it came

to the finances. As a team, they all consistently failed to bring any bounty

money in. Even as creative as Jet was with food, they couldn't make it last

forever.

How stupid. It was all so mind-numbingly insipid. What did any of it

matter now? Their comradeship had been broken. Ed had left. And Spike was

dead, she was certain of it. And so, there was no point in her staying here.

But there was no where else for her to go, either. After she had gotten her

memory back, she had searched herself to find her place. She had even

discovered the place that she once called home. But alas, there is nothing

that can stand against the appetite of time. The Bebop was the only place she

had left. It was not ideal, but it was the only place she thought she could

go home. Her relationships with the others aboard it were sketchy and

undefined. They were an undefined collective, travelling to different planets

in search of that elusive big score. Two hundred years earlier, gold

prospectors had toiled their whole lives away in search of that one big cache

that would allow them to live like kings for the remainder of their days. And

looking at her experiences in the mirror of her mind, she now failed to see

how her life was much different. Shovels and picks had been replaced with

guns and tracking equipment. But the concept unfortunately remained the same.

She was tired. Tired of the whole game. Tired of people leaving her.

Tired of trying to justify her own existence. Ed and Spike were already gone.

How much longer until Jet ditched her? What possible use could she be to him?

She wasn't useless, but she was no Spike. She couldn't deliver the way he

could. He probably wouldn't even want her to stay. Maybe this would be it for

him after all. Maybe he would just call it quits and retire somewhere to

forget about everything. She knew all to well that if one wanted to forget

something, it could be done. What would Jet be like without Spike around?

Even Ein wasn't here. The more Faye thought about it, the more the Bebop

seemed like a home with all the children gone.

Foolish. She slammed her fist down on the table. How foolish she had

been! To think that she could ever compete with Julia. She never had any

chance. She didn't know what was worse, the fact that she thought that she

could compete, or that she did it for her own selfish reasons. That left an

ache in her heart. How could she ever think of this place as home again? And

that horrible look on Spike's face when he left......he was just dying to get

his ass shot off. By now, he had already gotten his wish. Perhaps this very

moment, he could say that he had found his home. The foolishness of men! No,

that wasn't right. She clutched herself to stop the shaking. Women were

little better. Irrationality was the curse of being human.

What bothered her the most was that she had no tears left to cry. Not

for Spike, not for herself, not for anyone. That was a tragedy in and of

itself. Was she even human? Or had she just seen death and suffering so many

times that she had become numb to even the tragedy that was her existence.

She felt completely drained of fuel, coasting through life with little regard

for herself or anyone else. After she had found her roots, she thought that

she might be able to carry on a relationship with these people. Be an asset

instead of a deliberate nuisance. But that was not to be. She was finally

willing to stay, but now everyone else was in a hurry to bolt. She

desperately wanted to be more than a pretty face and a nice set of legs. But

she had trouble being noticed as even that around here. She didn't have to

have a fairy tale ending. All she wanted out of life was a break. Was that

too much to ask? Nothing ever went her way. Bad luck followed her around like

a member of the crew. She felt weak enough to pray. Pray that everything

would just go back to the way it was. That Spike would walk through the door,

and Ed would pop in from overhead and start tearing around.

Was this her punishment? Was she supposed to be dead? It had been so

long since she felt like she belonged anywhere. Maybe her survival had been

some sort of mistake, and powers that be were punishing her for it. If she

had been alone on the ship, she would have screamed. Instead she inhaled

deeply, letting the air out of her lungs very slowly. She would never be able

to find her peace. Her lot was to suffer. Was that true? Did she deserve

better? She wanted better for herself. She really did. But she knew in her

heart that it wasn't meant to be. This was all that she was entitled to.

Faye's head fell to the table and she closed her eyes. She wanted to

weep. She tried so hard. The fact that she couldn't would have moved her to

tears; if she could only find the saline to produce them with. She wasn't

even sure how long she remained in that position, only that at length, Jet

came into the room. He blew the smoke from the drag of his cigarette out of

his mouth, then extinguished it in a nearby ashtray. Faye gave him a fake

smile.

"Goddamn it." Jet mused. "One more hour, and that's it!"

Something inside of Faye broke, and she nearly jumped out of the

chair. She flung the ashtray across the room and into a wall, where it

shattered with a satisfyingly loud sound. "He's never coming back, you fool!"

she screamed. "Stop talking about it like everything is going to be okay,

because it's not! He went down there to get his ass shot off by some other

bunch of fools!"

Jet backed up for a moment, throwing his hands up in a surrendering

gesture. He sighed deeply. "I know. I know that. But still, it is Spike. You

haven't known him for as long as I have. I've seen him come back from worse."

"That may be, but did he still have a reason for living those times? A

reason to come back? Because Spike went down there this time, and I don't

think he intended to come back."

"Maybe not."

"Don't you even care."

"Don't try to understand him! Or me! It's his business!"

Faye turned her back to him, and Jet did the same to her. It was

childish, stupid, but he couldn't think of anything else to do. Foolish

woman! But damn her, she had tried. He had known that his own appeal to

Spike's better judgment was a lost cause. He had had no choice but to place

his hope in Faye. And damn her, she had done her best. Her plea had impressed

even him, he had not thought her capable of something that emotional. He had

forgotten never to underestimate a woman. She had at least been able to

invoke a serious response from him, revealing something about himself. It had

scared the hell out of her. It would have scared the hell out of him, too. He

couldn't blame her, in that regard. There was a part of him that wanted to

offer this woman some ounce of comfort, in spite of all her faults. But he

fell short. He didn't know where to begin. What was he supposed to tell her?

That he understood? He didn't want to be guilty of a lie that grandiose. How

could he possibly understand her situation? He didn't even have a firm grasp

of his own, as of yet. But perhaps he could reach out in his own way.

Everything had to start somewhere. "We're broke." He stated flatly.

Faye whirled around, caught off-guard by this most unexpected of

comments. "I know." She responded in as straight a voice as possible. "I

looked."

Jet grimaced, then smiled slightly. "What should we do about it?"

"Make some money."

Jet sighed. "We're low on talent. Any ideas?"

Silence.

"Not really." Faye chimed. "You're in charge, you figure it out."

"I don't really want to.....but, we could try to retrieve Spike's ship

and sell it."

"No!" Faye shouted.

"Fine then, what's your bright idea?!"

"I just don't want to get Spike's ship. It's better if we leave him

behind here. All of him. You can sell my ship."

"Are you sure you're feeling all right?"

"We need the damned woolongs if we want to eat, right?! Maybe we

aren't strong enough for hunting bounties on our own, but we can trade,

right? We've got to get by somehow."

"So, you are going to stay after all."

"I have nowhere else to go."

"All right. We'll do it your way."

"Plot us on a course out of here. I just want to leave this place."

"Where should we go?"

"Someplace nice."

"I'll think of something."

"Thanks. I'm going to go see to some stuff. I'll be in touch." She

made her exit before Jet had any chance to stop her.

"Strange woman." He muttered, then headed for the navigation room.

= = = = = = = = = =

Faye was forever thankful to feel the stream of tears as she tore

through the bowels of the Bebop, heading towards the hangar. She skidded to a

halt once arriving there, jumping into the cockpit of her baby and rummaging

in the back of it. It didn't take her long to find what she was looking for,

a small cardboard box, not much larger than a shoebox. It had been awhile

since she'd used the contents, but everyone had known better, so she saw

little use in trying anymore. She climbed out momentarily to leave the box

outside her ship, then she pulled herself back inside, content to look out

the windshield. The answer was so simple, why hadn't she thought of it

before. It involved a little deception, but now she would be free. She

wouldn't have to be a burden anymore, and Jet would be free to do what he

liked. She wondered, absent-mindedly, if she would ever find her way home

again.

She felt in her pocket for the protection she had learned never to be

without. She pulled the gun out, and cocked it in her hand. Faye Valentine,

fearless bounty hunter. Sure, sometimes she got into trouble, but that was

all part of the game. The timing was perfect, this was how she wanted it to

be.

Faye felt the lurch of the ship powering up, and she pushed a switch

on the com panel to contact Jet. "What's going on?" she asked him.

"The ship's powering up. We're taking off."

"Where're we going?"

"I'll surprise you."

"Do you think you can come down here and help? There's a big mess in

here that needs your attention."

"On my way." Jet broke the connection and slowly made his way to the

hangar.

Faye sighed, and looked at her reflection shining back at her in the

windshield. She closed her eyes, pointed the gun at her head, and pulled the

trigger.

= = = = = = = = = =

Jet Black strolled into the hangar of the Bebop expecting to find the

woman half-heartedly pulling stuff out of the back of her ship. Instead, he

was greeted with the gruesome sight that lay stretched out in the cockpit.

The hatch was still open, and small trickles of blood ran down the side from

where Faye's head had slumped to the edge. But despite the shock, he did not

feel grief, or even sorrow. He took no pleasure in the departure of Faye, but

as it was with Spike, he realized the futility and inevitability of it all.

His eyes fell to the box that had obviously been deliberately left to him by

Faye. Cautiously, he bent over to pick it up. The lid opened cleanly and

without hesitation. Inside, were two items that meant more to him than he

would ever have expected. "Just like Spike." He whispered. "I never

understood you either, even to the very end. Good luck, Faye. I hope you

haven't left all of it to me." Jet fingered the ankle bracelet and the two

trick dice in his left palm, then placed them back in the box. In the

background, when he strained his ears, he thought he could almost hear the

voice of a child.......

"Go! Go!

Me, me me!

Do your best, do your best!

Me, me, me!

Don't lose, don't lose!

Me, me, me!

I am no longer here.....but I am here today, and I'll always be

cheering for you right here.......cheering for you, my only self........"

= = = = = = = = = =

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= AUTHOR'S NOTES =

==================

This "Cowboy Bebop" fanfic was entirely a creation of my imaginative

little mind. I've been meaning to write this fic for some time now, but I've

always ended up giving something else priority. But I no longer feel that I

can continue writing without getting this one out there. This fic is

strikingly different for me, I think. I leave the final verdict as to whether

I succeeded or not to you, the reader. I was rather pleased with the way this

fic ended up coming out, but I can all but guarantee that sooner or later

you'll be seeing an "Author's Preferred Version" of this story. Perhaps next

time I'll see my fans for something a bit more upbeat, but I refuse to

apologize for the darker nature of this story, folks. I constantly feel the

need to challenge myself as a writer, so I like to experiment with new

things. I promise not to "experiment" on my opus, "Round Perdition's Flames,"

though, so nobody get panicky! Until next time, just remember to send the

usual questions, comments, compliments, complaints, love letters, death

threats, marriage proposals, and ransom demands to ranger_writer@yahoo.com

The characters in this fic are all copyrighted by such monstrous

entities as Bandai and Sunrise. The author of the story claims no ownership,

real or implied, to these characters. Support your favorite anime(s) by

buying them today! If you already own it, buy it again!

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= This has been an official Swead Entertainment fanfic! =

= Visit Swead Entertainment @ http://www.intcon.net/~sonny/se =

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