Chapter 11: Keeping the Faith
can get just so much from a good thing
The next morning, Spike was gone. Ravi woke up to find two small envelopes lying on the couch where Spike's head would normally be. She looked around at first to see if this was some sort of trap. When all appeared to be normal, she examined them. One was a thick envelope with the words Swordfish Payment scrawled on it in atrocious handwriting. So the little weasel had money after all. She wondered where he got it or where he would have been hiding it. She decided she didn't want to know as she opened the other one. It was addressed to her.
That was all it said. And in the corner there was a series of small blobs that Ravi recognized as Spike's attempt at drawing a paw print. She heard some cans clanging behind her and she turned to see a small black kitten tangled in an extension chord. She smiled and helped to free it. It mewed its gratitude and scampered off into the back lot. She still hated cats.
But she liked horses. There were no horses on Venus. She smiled at the note, and ran back to where he left the envelope. She crossed out where he had written her name and instead addressed it to Noah in her own purple lipstick. She stuck the same note back inside, grabbed 50 bucks from Spike's ship payment, and she was gone.
Spike did not go back to the Bebop right away. He wasn't sure it was even his intention to go back. He just knew that he could not wait out the rest of his existence being anonymous. So he paced the streets of Venus smoking cigarettes. Eventually he thought he might need a drink. He leaned against the window of a small bar for a second as he stuffed his smokes back in his pocket and sucked the last bit of tobacco out of the one he had.
Then Spike did something he would always pretend to regret. He turned. He turned and saw Faye crying softly to herself through the window, in such a way that a random passerby could never tell she was crying. But Spike knew. He could see it all over her whole body. The way she sat, the way she glanced occasionally sideways before staring back down at her beer. She was crying and she was entirely alone. Maybe more so than he was. He had always opted for a life of virtual solitude. One was just sort of bestowed upon Faye. He suddenly felt bad about that. He really didn't like this whole business of feeling bad. In fact, it was this feeling of feeling bad that made him decide once and for all that being dead was not all it was cracked up to be. He sighed. It was a deep sigh, like the sigh of someone taking a breath for the first time, and he made his way to the bar.
"You have a light?"
Spike had been mulling over his opening line to the world of the living for the good 20 seconds it took him to stroll over there. He thought about just saying, "Hi." There was nothing wrong with "Hi," as your first word back. Then he thought about making some smart remark. Then he thought briefly of turning back, and then in some wild moment of delusion thought he might blurt out a Bob Dylan lyric and then he decided he definitely needed another cigarette.
But he was out of matches. And so his first words to Faye were probably one of the top ten most sincere moments in Spike's life. He needed a light.
Faye sighed without turning around, and then rooted in her pocket for a match. She was surprised to find she was out as well. "Sorry, chief, I'm all..." she turned casually in her stool. "...out."
Again, Spike searched his brain for something appropriate to say but she had already established she didn't have a match. So they stared at each other. Faye seemed to be squinting at him, as if he was some Magic Eye poster at the mall, and her mouth opened and closed slightly several times, though no sound came out. Finally, she shook her head, slammed some money on the bar and stormed out of the building, practically knocking Spike over as she did so.
"Jesus," a neighboring bar patron whistled. "You sure have a way with women."
Spike smirked. "It's a gift," he said coolly, and then made his way out of the bar to search for Faye. He didn't have to look very far. She was pacing frantically underneath a street light, sucking on an unlit butt as if it was sustaining her very life.
He walked up to her and stuck a lighter underneath her outstretched smoke. She looked at him incredulously and he shrugged. "I found it," he said. "It was in my inside pocket. Kinda odd. I don't usually put it there." This was all true.
Faye stared long and hard at him some more, her eyes furious despite their red, puffy appearance and then shook her head as she accepted the light. "You're an asshole," she declared.
Spike, not knowing one thing he could possibly say in his defense, said nothing.
"Will you say something?!?" she yelled at him. "Like, something meaningful? Something that you wouldn't say to a stranger at a bus stop?"
"What do you want me to say?"
"I dunno!" she kicked the base of the streetlight. "How about an explanation? How about "I'm sorry that I was a dick and a half the last time we spoke and I'm sorry I don't have enough common sense, let alone decency, to inform my partners that I'm alive?" How about "Gee, Faye, it's nice to see you?"
"Gee, Faye, it's nice to see you," he said. He chose that particular option, because it was the only one that was true.
This gave her slight pause, and she seemed to relax slightly. "So what?" she said in her more casually bitchy tone. "You want back on the Bebop?"
"Is it still in business?"
"Like we ever had business. Yes, it's still floating around, hoping to fall ass backwards into money," she said with not nearly enough bitterness as the statement warranted.
"Then I want in."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that."
Faye huffed. She hated him. She hated him for a bunch of reasons, but she mostly hated him because...well...she didn't really hate him at all. "Who says we'll take you back?"
Spike flicked his butt on the ground. "Well...you do. It's more your ship than mine, now. It's your call as much as Jet's."
Faye closed her eyes and leaned back against the pole. "You really hurt us," she muttered. "Do you have any idea what it was like when we thought you were dead? Do you even care?"
Spike was kind of taken back by the question. "I didn't realize...I didn't realize it would bother you so much."
Faye raised an eyebrow.
"Oh yeah?" she said, her voice jumping two octaves.
"Well, yeah. I mean, everyone just came and went. Hell, at least I didn't take off in the middle of the night with the petty cash," he said in a mildly accusatory tone.
Faye glared at him and then leaned forward so their faces were uncomfortably close. "The day you left, you looked me in the eyes and decided death was the better alternative to another second on that ship with us," she said in a low voice that was practically a growl. She let that sink in for a moment, before leaning back against the lamppost. "You tell me. Would that bother you?"
Spike sighed as he was blindsided by a ten-ton wad of guilt, and wiped his nose in a self-conscious sort of gesture. "Faye," he said gently. "That wasn't what I meant at all."
"Then what did you mean?" Her snappish retort was in sharp contrast to his own befuddled tone of voice.
"I didn't...I didn't mean anything by it, really. There was no choice in anything I did that night."
"There is always a choice."
"When you get right down to it, sure. I could have technically stayed. And then what?"
"We could have gone on like always. The three of us and who knows? Maybe even Ed, eventually. There are worse things," her eyes suddenly became very dark as she looked away from him. "Believe me. I know."
"Listen," he said a little sadly, which threw Faye slightly. "I know I was never exactly an open book with you, Faye, but you knew enough. You knew enough to know Vicious and I...it wasn't some half-assed spontaneous thing. Choices were made long ago, long before I ever met any of you. Choices that I couldn't take back. I had to play the scene out to its logical conclusion. It was my plan, Faye. Probably the only real plan I ever made. But it didn't quite go off without a hitch. Cause Julia's gone. And I...well. I'm not."
Faye suddenly felt a need to both hug him and strangle him. It was a strange emotion that should be named after her partner. How are you feeling today? Oh, you know. A little spike. "Well," she sighed. "You know what they say about the best laid plans." She knew she had the right to be royally pissed at him. And she was. But at the same time, she knew fighting Spike's nature was about as futile as asking the sky to turn green. "Why didn't you contact us?" she asked him softly, not quite sure she wanted to hear the answer.
"I had to work out some things," he replied simply.
"Like...a new plan."
Faye looked up at him, and saw he was smiling. Not one of those awful, aren't I clever smiles, but a real smile. And she smiled back in spite of herself. "And do we have the pleasure of being included in this wondrous new plan?" she said coyly.
"Unfortunately, the Bebop is a key component. The lynchpin, if you will."
"Gee, Spike," she said in wryly. "It's nice to see you."