Chapter 6: The Edge of Seventeen

And then suddenly there was no-one left standing in the hall
With a flood of tears that no one really ever heard fall
Well I went searchin' for an answer, up the stairs and down the hall
Not to find an answer...just to hear the call

 

Spike discovered his new living arrangements were going to be about as paltry as his old ones. Morris and Caleb both had apartments somewhere in town, and Noah lived in a room above the office. As for Ravi, she lived in the office itself. There was nothing much. A cot, an old brownish couch with some holes in it, a cracked full-length mirror and a mini-fridge under Noah's desk. The fridge contained half a six pack of beer, a Snickers bar and a bottle of black nail polish. Well, right off the bat the food situation was an improvement over the Bebop, so he decided to crash there as well. Ravi did not voice her disgust exactly, she just sort of made disapproving grunting sounds. It was the first time in two years she had a roommate.

Spike could care less. He examined his new bruises gingerly in the mirror, oblivious to the activities of the other tenant. He realized for the first time in his life that he was getting old. Pushing 30. The big three-oh. He remembered a time where reaching thirty seemed to be an impossibility. That time was probably yesterday. He sighed, though he didn't really know what he was sighing at. At the very least, he should consider taking it a little easier on his body. You know. Pay attention in knife fights and things like that.

"So the great Spike Spiegel has come back to Venus," Ravi suddenly spoke up. She spoke loudly, as if she was announcing her entrance into the room.

Spike seemed nonplussed by this unexpected identification. "My God. It speaks," he said through a yawn. He rolled down his T-shirt.

"When it feels like it," Ravi admitted.

"So what do you know about The Great Spike Spiegel anyway?" he asked, leaning idly against the mirror.

Ravi tossed a magazine in his direction.

The wayward periodical hit the floor in front of his bare feet. Spike tilted his head sideways so he could read the upside down text. Big Shot Monthly. "Hey, I didn't know Big Shot had its own magazine," he mused as he picked it up and flipped absently through the pages.

"Page 56," she said.

He looked at her strangely and then turned to the corresponding page. It was the obituaries. And there was his name, right next to a little photograph of himself. "Hmmm," he shrugged. "I didn't realize we had such a well known operation."

"Are you kidding? You guys are a bit of a joke," Ravi smiled. It was the first time Spike had ever seen the girl express something other than disdain. "Always get your man but never the cash. You're like an on-going sitcom."

Spike swatted the magazine back in her arms. "We aim to please," he sighed as he made himself comfortable on the couch.

"You are avoiding the fact that you're reported dead," she pointed out.

"Obviously, reports have been greatly exaggerated."

"Is this a plan of yours? Are you on some case? Or is this just a good old fashioned fuck up?" she sat on the arm of the couch in a scolding manner. "It's not that I'm interested as much as I'm covering my own ass. I don't need to get involved in a Bebop fiasco."

"Fiasco?" Spike asked, but he was close to laughing. Fiasco was a pretty good word for the outcome of most of their cases. "Well, first off, any fiascoes that go down are my personal fiascoes. I am no longer affiliated with the Bebop."

Ravi raised an eyebrow. "You quit? Or they don't know you're alive?"

"Covering your ass again?"

"No, just interested."

"The latter. Which I am only telling you to cover my ass. I'm in no rush to get back there," Spike said quickly, closing his eyes in order to mask the doubt inside them.

Ravi just shook her head. "So what is this, a midlife crisis?"

"Maybe."

"How old are you?"

"27."

The young girl snorted. "Christ. How long did you plan on living?"

"According to my own calculations, I should have been dead over a month ago. So I bought an impractical sports car and had a tawdry affair with a cocktail waitress when I was 13. Good times."

Ravi cocked her head in curiosity at this creature in front of her. He was just so...well...odd. She couldn't tell if she could believe a single thing that he told her. "But you're not dead," she observed.

Spike made a clicking sound with his tongue as he pointed his finger at her. "You're quick on the uptake."

Ravi glowered at him. "You know...I think you're kind of an idiot," she confessed. "I've only just met you but I'm pretty sure of it."

"I think I have a pretty solid first impression of you too," he grumbled.

"Oh dear," she said in an exaggerated demure tone of voice. "I sure do hope it's complimentary. I would sooo hate it if we couldn't get along," she threw her head back, with her hand resting dramatically on her forehead. She waited a second for a reaction, and she when she received none, she went to the fridge and grabbed a beer.

"Hey, are you old enough to drink beer?" Spike called after her, just to be annoying.

"I'm 17. I think I'm going to have a mid-life crisis of my own," she said over her shoulder as she shut the door to the back lot behind her.

Spike smiled. Weren't woman supposed to be gentile and eager to please? He was like some sort of shrew magnet.

***

"Hey, John?"

Spike grumbled some response from under the pillow he had over his face. Spike did not get up before noon. And even then, the actual getting up was just a formality. He'd just put on his clothes and then go right back to sleep on the couch. But when you were in a suit, you were napping. It appeared as if you did something with your day. Spike generally opted to do very little with his day unless they were on some sort of case. This whole daily grind thing was new to him.

"Ya think you might wanna join the world of the living?"

He responded with some other unintelligible muttering.

"Cause besides the fact that I ain't payin' ya while yer on the couch, we just got a new ship that needs work. Swordfish II. Haven't seen a one of them in..." But Spike had already rocketed off the couch and into the back lot. Noah scratched his head. Damn weirdo.

***

They sold my ship.

This was the phrase that Spike was repeating over and over in his head. With those four simple words came a slew of complex emotions. There was anger. They didn't even have the decency to sell it back to Doohan. Just dumped it off with these degenerates. There was a bit of territoriality. He didn't will that ship to anyone. It was still technically part of his, er, estate. It probably was the estate. But the gut reaction, the first feeling that came charging into his head when he saw the ship in the junkyard, was hurt. Hurt. He couldn't believe it. It hurt his feelings.

That ship was a part of him. You could never tell that from the way he treated it. But anyone who was close to Spike knew he didn't treat himself with anymore care. Spike and that ship were one and the same. And they sold it.

"Do they even make those anymore?" Caleb asked.

Spike shook his head.

"Shit, man. Do you know the money we can get for this baby?"

"It's not for sale," Spike said quickly.

"Yeah, fuck you, it isn't!" Noah yelled from the office. He was filing the paperwork on the purchase, and by filing he meant putting it under a rock on his desk.

"It's my ship," Spike did not relent. He scrambled into the cockpit and popped open the glove compartment. He hung half his body over the side. "See?" he waved a document around.

Caleb snatched it from him. "Spike Spiegel."

"That's me."

"You said you were John."

Spike huffed. "Yeah, Doe is a family name," he said with as much sarcasm that can be squeezed into one sentence. "It's a picture ID."

"Then why did that chick have your ship?"

That chick. Faye. Grrrrrr. "That chick probably stole it," he snapped.

"They were his partners," Ravi spoke up, startling everyone. It seemed she only really spoke around Spike. Spike had to wonder why he was bestowed the pleasure. "They think he's dead."

"You owe ‘em money?" Caleb asked.

Spike nodded. "Yeah, that's it. So can we keep this between us?"

"Yeah, man. On the DL. I got you."

Spike rolled his eyes.

"But we're still selling it," Caleb added.

"Ugh. Fine. I'll buy it back."

"How the hell are you gonna do that?" Noah emerged from the office. "I know you ain't got no money, cause I ain't paid you a dime."

"I'll work for nothing," Spike offered.

Noah scoffed at the suggestion. "As opposed to what?"

"Right now I am doing nothing for nothing. Now, I'll do something for nothing," Spike shrugged.

"This is so stupid, man," Caleb chimed in. "This is a sneaky business. Plus, you got some secret identity or some shit. You just can't be zipping around in that big pink thing."

"It's red," Spike narrowed his eyes.

"Dude, it's pink."

"Pussy," Morris agreed.

Spike sighed. "Whatever color it is, it could kick your ass."

"Don't change the fact you can't be flying one of those things, man," Caleb protested. "What are you gonna do with it?"

An evil grin suddenly crept its way across Spike's face. "Oh...I have an idea. Is there anyway we can make a trace on a ship?"

CHAPTER 7: I PLEAD INSANITY



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