A/N: Summer classes finally ended. I finished the story a while ago, but Chapter 25 is undergoing a heavy rewrite to flesh out some details a bit more sufficiently! I shall try and update soon!
Chapter 24: Green Bird
This was getting old.
He was getting tired of dying.
Beyond his dark, cold prison of what was no doubt the end of a short coma, he could hear a woman humming.
Why were his deaths punctuated by singing women?
It was melancholy, hollow, and almost superficial. The voice was bright, but the tune was off.
Some blues with banged up piano keys.
It was comforting.
In all of his earthen and sunlit tones he had become so conformed to recently, a little chaos was welcome in his world.
Things had been planned too perfectly lately.
And so he called this song the moon. It was once a wholesome being, but was torn to pieces, scattered in directions from near and far, marred by humanity's selfish needs.
It was once bright and full, but was now some echoing memory of a world beyond him.
He blinked his eyes repeatedly.
He wanted to capture this voice.
Give it a name.
This Mezzo-Soprano of off-key demeanor.
It was splendid.
He blinked still and attempted to sit.
It hurt worse than the first time.
As though the fact that he was asleep rather than dead meant that he was still feeling.
He would have smirked.
His eyes finally flickered. He could see.
He rolled his head to his right where the sound was coming from.
He could see Mai lying on the bed next to his, her eyes closed lightly.
She was bandaged extensively.
Beyond her, he could see Roy sitting on a bed, fading in and out of consciousness.
Faye was hovering over Mai.
She was humming.
He coughed, a sputtered attempt at a greeting leaving his lips.
She turned around on the spot, and her song faded.
She was unscathed.
"You're awake," she noted.
Her tone was cold and icy, but her eyes were lit with relief.
He nodded, his throat still a cracked and dry mess.
She walked to a nearby sink and ran the water. She searched the cabinet above her head for a cup (she had to stand on the tips of her toes, and it stretched her legs in her tight pants nicely; Spike couldn't help by stare a bit) and filled it with water. She walked to him and slid a hand beneath his shoulder blades to help prop him to a half-sitting position. "Drink," she commanded.
He complied, content with this somewhat tolerable Faye as opposed to the normally antagonistic one.
He coughed and gagged.
"Watch it, tiger," she chastised.
He rolled his eyes but slowed his pace.
This all seemed so familiar.
She was still cold; Mai had been more welcoming than that.
He finished his drink and lied down again.
Satisfied with herself in her hospitality, Faye walked back to Mai's bed and resumed her tune.
"What's that song?" he managed to finally ask.
She turned around and blinked. "Why do you care? It's off-key."
She seemed hurt.
He had a flashback. "Sing for me. Just like that," he remembered saying.
That seemed like another life.
"You sing off-key."
And another Spike.
He could dig it. Off-key and wonky; full of life without care of judgment.
"I like it. Sing some more."
She blinked at him again. "Sing? I'm just humming."
"Just do it." He didn't feel like arguing. He wanted moonlight.
She shrugged, turned to Mai, and resumed. "Not because you asked me. Because I feel like it," she replied after a few seconds, her face never turning.
"Whatever helps you sleep at night."
Spike closed his eyes to hear again. Her humming soothed him, and his wounds felt better with each second.
"Mama Cass..." Roy noted from his bed quietly.
"Dream a little dream of me..." she sang softly. She leaned over and kissed Mai's forehead.
Mai stirred slightly, but did not wake.
"How are you feeling, Roy?" Spike called; his eyes stayed shut as Faye's song resounded in his head, ricocheting within the walls of his skull.
"Like shit, but you're worse off than me."
"Mai took the worst hit." Faye noted.
Spike could hear Roy's jar tighten; the man's body language was always clear as day.
"What happened, exactly?" Spike chanced.
"You managed to shield Faye. I tried to knock Mai out of the way, but I got hit in the process."
"Mai helped Roy to the Bebop, and then she came back to help me get your ass off the floor," Faye answered. She was smoking a joint as she recounted the tale.
Roy took over again. "They pulled you into the Bebop, and Ed managed to get the Rhythm, Blues, and Swordfish into the hangar. The Bebop was damaged from shrapnel in the docking bay. Mai had to manually shut the gate."
Faye inhaled deeply before exhaling sharply as she took her turn this time. "Victor planned things perfectly. A charge went off from inside the hangar. It didn't break the ship, but it almost broke her..."
"Her entire back is burned," Roy stated calmly.
"And she banged her head pretty hard. One of the pipes was hot..." Faye said sadly.
"It hit the side with the fake eye, at least." Roy was attempting to be positive.
"That bastard deserves a slow death."
Roy and Spike shivered slightly.
Faye had never sounded so deadly.
Spike sat up. "Yeah." He could tell now that they were in the Mezzo; he always assumed it was equipped with an infirmary, but he had hoped he wouldn't see it from the injured side of things.
Faye was healthy as always.
"Jet's talking with Doohan; you've been out two days," Roy informed him. "Doohan's seeing what he can do about that crack. Rose is still missing, and Flora's starting to get antsy."
"Ed and Ein can only keep her busy for so long," Faye concluded.
"Rose sent us a radio transmission with Victor's whereabouts, but we're still useless at the moment." Roy was frustrated.
"She's tough. She'll be up soon," Spike encouraged.
"You don't know her," Faye snapped.
"You're saying she's not?" he asked.
"No, that's not what I'm saying."
"Quit talking like you own her, Faye."
"I've got more right than you do!"
"Because you're bed buddies?"
"Sleeping on her couch is less a right than-"
"Enough," she sang. Her voice was weak and fragile. Its earthiness was eroding, and she seemed gone.
"You don't feel like interjecting, Roy?" she rasped.
Roy's attention turned to her. "Mai..."
"What the hell did Victor do to force you out for all this time," she asked.
Without care for her injuries and without recognition of her pain, she sat up. She shifted her legs to the edge of the table, the bandages around her pulling at her skin. They were soaked in blood and pus.
Burns never did fare well.
She started a slow trek to Roy; Faye winced as she saw the extent of Mai's injuries, and even Spike was beside himself at the sight of the burn and gash against the side of Mai's face.
How the woman was walking without crying in pain, no one knew.
Each of her steps was marked with a question. "What the hell was so terrible that you decided this course of action was best? Why is Victor so set on killing me, you, the rest of us, whatever is left of my father's legacy or whatever? What the fuck happened that all this pain and anguish and death was pleasanter than-"
"Mai, I hope you're feeling better," Rose's voice came through the doorway.
Mai turned on her heels to face the sound.
Sure enough, there the Desert Flower stood; her thick wavy hair was pulled into a sloppy ponytail. Flora was hugging her mother's long legs for dear life. Rose's eyes were tired, and her age was showing more than ever.
"Victor's still out there," was Rose's only response. Her gaze turned to Roy. "He told me."
Roy said nothing, but his pupils dilated.
"He asked that you stop trying to solve this on your own and stated that Mai was better equipped for what needs to be done."
Roy grit his teeth. "None of us are equipped well enough right now to do anything."
"He said he knew that; he also said it was your fault." Rose let out a deep sigh. "He knows where Rin is and not to push him any further. He grows tired of chases."
"Rin?" the other three asked in unison.
Jet walked into the room, Ed and Ein close behind him. "Rin has the means to deconstruct the gem."
"Who the hell is Rin?" Mai asked. Her cybernetic eye was zooming in and out at a rapid rate.
"We don't know," Jet answered.
"Roy knows something, though," Rose finished. "Victor assured me of that."
Mai turned to face Roy again.
"Wait, you talked to Victor?" Faye asked Rose.
Rose knelt to Flora. "You and Papa Jet go start up lunch. Mama will be there shortly."
"I promise, little one."
Flora nodded vigorously; Jet took her hand, and the two departed. As the door slid shut behind them, Rose faced the group again. "Yes. I did. He's agreeable enough to me."
No one said a word. Spike was suddenly questioning whether or not Rose had ever intended to kill him in the casino in the first place.
"He didn't try and kill you?" Faye questioned.
Rose shook her head.
"But your father-"
"He's trying to wipe all remnants of the Syndicate, but even Victor won't leave his daughter without a mother," Mai concluded. "I am curious as to why you didn't end him yourself, though, Rose."
Rose chuckled somberly. "One on one, I can't bring myself to kill him. I did feel something for him once, you know. Flora is beautiful proof of that."
Mai's eye began whirring.
She fell to her knees and grasped her face, her real eye widening as her mouth fell open. "Proof..." She winced as her eye whirred faster.
Roy shot from his bed and was kneeling in front of her in a blink. His hand went to her waist, the other to her face. He cupped her cheek to pull her gaze upward from the floor. "Mai. Stay with me, Mai," he spoke. His voice was firm, but the rest of the room could sense his urgency.
"Proof..." she whispered. "Rin..."
"Mai. Snap out of it," he spoke again.
"Mai!" Faye screamed.
Spike's sudden flashback to the two days before brought the event full circle. "A dragon's gem is none for hoarding," he spoke.
Only this time, everyone heard him.
Not just Mai.
She snapped to and looked up at Spike. She panted in pain.
Roy and Faye lifted her from the ground to lay her upon the bed once more.
"Rin..." she whispered. Her eyes fluttered shut.
Faye turned to look at Spike immediately. "The hell was that about?"
"You promised you wouldn't," Roy chastised.
"I promised I would keep my mouth shut," Spike corrected. "I didn't promise to not interfere," he seethed.
Both Spiegels were livid.
Both for entirely opposite reasons.
"Well, an explanation. One of you," Rose pleaded.
"Out with it, lunkheads," Faye commanded.
"This isn't your business, Faye," Spike yelled.
"Damn if it isn't!"
"It's not your place," Roy tried this time.
"Enough!" Rose growled.
The trio went silent; Mai slept peacefully still.
"From what I can tell, the tigress has more a right than any of you! At least she cares; the two of you don't act like you even give a damn about Mai as a person. She's all "Syndicate" and "Dragon" and business to you."
"She's my soulmate."
"And you've done a hell of a job acting like it," Faye argued.
"Mommy, why is everyone so angry?" Flora asked from the doorway.
"We were just in a shouting match, sweetheart. We'll let them settle it. Let's go finish lunch."
Flora nodded happily and took her mother's hand to lead her down the hallway.
"I'll tell you, Faye," Roy concluded.
She crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow at him.
"Take a seat and light up a joint. This is going to take a while...