Faye and Spike were walking very quickly down the street of the little town. "Now what?" she asked.
"I have no idea," Spike admitted. "How far do we have to this place?"
"I'm not sure. The directions are kind of sketchy."
Suddenly, both of them heard a train whistle. They looked up and saw a freight train chugging in the distance. "We're never going to make it," Spike observed.
"We can sure as hell try," Faye snapped and the two of them were off. The small town proved to be an obstacle course of sorts, and finding a straight route to where that train seemed to logically be heading proved difficult. They went running though people's houses and hitched rides on bumpers and at one point, actually jumped into a shopping cart but finally, they managed to cut it off. Spike ran hard along the outside, his long legs proving to be a considerable asset over Faye's. He made one flying leap and made a grab for the door, letting the train drag his boots along the gravel for a bit before he hoisted himself into it. He reached his hand out for Faye, knowing this was not going to go smoothly.
Faye herself was having trouble keeping up. She was just never built to be particularly fast. Her boots in the sand weren't helping things either. "Move it, Faye!" Spike shouted from the train.
Faye grumbled as she yanked off one of her boots and flung it at her partner. He ducked behind the door as it bounced off the boxcar where his head would have been. He waited until he saw the other one fly by and then stuck his head back out. Both the removal of the shoes and the release of some pent up aggression seemed to give her an extra burst of power. She made one quick jump and he grabbed her hand, yanking her in so hard they both toppled backwards. "That actually went better than anticipated," Spike remarked as the two of them sat up. They then turned their attention to the large group of unsavory men who had already staked claim to the cart, all of them wielding knives.
"Come on...where are they?" Jet thumped his fingers on the comm. Finally, someone picked it up but it was neither Spike nor Faye.
"Who are you?" the man bellowed.
"Who the hell are you?" Jet shot back.
"Do you know a guy named Emmanuel Agu?"
Jet sighed. It was well known on the Bebop that Emmanuel Agu was the name Spike gave when he did not want to leave his own. "Maybe," Jet muttered. "How the hell do you have his comm?"
"He left it on the dashboard of the wrecked and ravaged vehicle he rented from me, AND THEN LEFT ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!"
Yeah, that sounded like Mr. and Mrs. Agu all right. "How much do they owe you?" Jet grumbled.
"Owe?!? Well, take the cost of the car plus the reward I put out to find these guys..."
"Whoa, there's a bounty on them?"
"Well, how the hell else am I going to find them?"
"Thank you, bye!" Jet hung up. "Hey, Ed! Guess what?"
"Giant bunnies have taken over Mars and only those with carrots shall be spared?"
"No," Jet said flatly.
"Then Ed's second guess," she said dramatically, putting her fingers to her temples like a swami. "Is...there's a bounty on Spike and Faye-Faye!" she announced as she spun her computer around for Jet to see.
Jet just sighed. "Well...let's go."
"...So then it turned out the whole thing was all because I left this lobster in the refrigerator for like a year."
"No kidding?" one of the knife wielding maniacs remarked. They actually turned out to be quite nice once they gave them cigarettes and a joint Spike had in his pocket from the hippies.
"Hey. Hey, Spike," Faye poked him.
"I think that's the town. That's our stop," she checked her note to make sure. "That's our stop!"
"It might be your stop but it ain't the trains stop. You want out, you gotta jump," one of the guys spoke from experience. "The idea is to tuck and roll."
Spike and Faye looked over the edge of the speeding train. When they had jumped on, it wasn't at full speed. Trains never go full speed through a town. But this wasn't really a town in a residential sense. And the nearest building was at least two miles away. Faye gulped.
"You guys don't jump you're gonna miss it!"
"You jump first," Spike said. "Cause you look like you're gonna chicken out on me."
"I am not."
"Then jump." The knife-wielding maniacs cheered her on as she took a breath and leapt from the moving train. Tuck and roll! She thought to herself, but she wasn't exactly sure on what that meant. She was rolling at any rate. She smacked into the post of a road sign pretty hard, and barely took a breath before Spike barreled into her. They laid there dazed for a few minutes. "Uh...you all right?" Spike asked her.
"I think I am somewhere slightly to the left of all right," Faye groaned. "But I'm not critical."
They just lay there again for awhile Spike suggested, "I think we should make a move to get up now."
They staggered to their feet, brushed themselves off, and silently kept trucking on towards the address, which seemed to be in the middle of a junkyard. Faye went nervously inside. "Hi," she asked the proprietor. "My name's Faye? I think you have a..."
"Wow," the man cut her off. "I didn't think you'd show."
"Um, can I ask why is it you have this package? I mean, do I know you?"
The man shook his head. "I dunno. I just opened the shop one day and it was sitting there on my desk with a note saying it needed to go to you. I don't know who it was from or why the hell they chose me to do it. Only reason why I sent you the message was cause I was curious. That and it was too expensive to send the package, what with you being mobile and all. Do you know what this is all about?"
Faye shook her head. "I have no idea."
The man shrugged and slid a thin package across the table to her. "Well, here it is."
Faye took a breath before she carefully opened the package. She closed her eyes for a moment, nervous to actually gaze upon whatever it was that was worth all this trouble. She opened one eye slowly, and then the other. It was a book. A plain, totally ordinary looking red book with worn binding and yellow pages. And on the cover, written in simple gold foil lettering that was half rubbed off, was the title, Longmeadow High School, Class of '12.
She gasped a bit, as this was nothing that she had expected. It was a lot more. It was her adolescence. People who could remember theirs did nothing but pine away for the good old days, so her missing teenage years always held a bit of a romantic quality to them. But she never wanted to actually see it. She never imagined she would ever be holding in her hand the photographic evidence that she was once gangly and awkward and socially inept. It took years for adults to suppress those memories. How long would it take her now that she's just learning them at 23? She slowly turned and brushed by Spike, who had been staring at her all this time with obvious curiosity. "What is it?" he asked her.
She ignored him and sat down on an old tire. This was it. The closest thing she would ever get to her true self, since it was the latest documented bit of her life before the accident. Everything she was shaping up to be before she lost it all was scrawled in this book. She took a breath opened it. There was a name scribbled in magic marker on the inside cover: Faye Wriggly.
Wriggly. Her real name. She almost dropped the book. The odd thing was, all she could feel was relief that her name was still Faye. They had at least known that much when they defrosted her. She wouldn't be able to handle an entirely knew identity at his point. She drew in another breath and checked the index. To her great surprise she was on about a dozen pages. Well...this was it.
Spike had expected her to be tight lipped about this whole thing. But he didn't expect her to suddenly slam down the book, storm around in a circle for a bit and then collapse in a distressed huff a few feet away from a torn umbrella. "Uh...what did it say?" he asked.
She responded with a desolate howl, so Spike figured if he wanted to find out he would have to take matters into his own hands. He gazed cock eyed at the book for a moment. A yearbook. Holy shit. He never saw one up close. Suddenly excited though he didn't know why, he kicked it up with his foot and started thumbing through it anxiously. Let's see...Faye, Faye, Faye. Faye Wriggly. Certainly a better name than Valentine. And there she was. Spike scrunched up his nose at the picture. Well, that wasn't very embarrassing at all. He had expected her to be in some sort of horrendous hair cut with braces and acne all over the place. But it was just Faye. Thinner, smaller and dressing plainer, but still identifiably Faye. She even had the same haircut except it was less purple and she had bangs. He scanned down to the caption. Glee Club. Ok, maybe that was embarrassing but he didn't see why she had to go hysterical. He glanced at her briefly before continuing on through the book. She was all over the place. National Honors Society, Key Club, Theatre Guild, Eco Club, Yearbook Staff, School Newspaper. She was even on the cheerleading squad. There was a big picture of her at the top of a pyramid, smiling brighter than he had ever expected possible from Faye. "I don't get you," he called over to her. "What is your problem? This is great, isn't? You were a regular over achiever."
She sucked in a messy sob before yelling back, "Page 32."
Spike shook his head as he flipped to the page she instructed. Senior Superlatives. And there was Faye. She was all smiley and twinkle eyed with her bangs charmingly disheveled and a pencil tucked behind her ear. He scanned down a bit and saw what she had won.
Most Likely to Succeed.
"So?" he asked, his frustration showing in his voice.
"So, look at me! I'm not a born loser. I'm a Born Again loser. I would have rather found out I was a no good punk who smoked in the girls room and sucked off the basketball team. At least then I wouldn't have so far to fall. God, look at those other people in that book! They all ended up better than me."
Spike looked down at the other kids. Most Likely to Drop the Bomb. Class Clown. Fashion Victim. They were all little pimply freaks of nature. He thought briefly about what he looked like at 16, thought about what little caption they'd put under him and decided he could safely add high school to the list of things about childhood he was glad he missed. Then he looked back at Faye's picture. She was so sure of herself there. So comfortable in her own skin. He looked back up at the wreck in front of him and suddenly realized why this had her so upset. "You're not a failure," he said on an impulse.
She looked up at him with wet, doe eyes, then glanced around to the dump they were currently sitting in, the clothes she was currently wearing and the pair of old boots she was seriously considering stealing from a trash heap. Somehow Spike's declaration of her non-failure status fell a little short. Spike, realizing this, backtracked a little. "Ok...what I mean to say is success is relative."
Faye raised an eyebrow at him. "Stop helping, Spike. You're bad at it."
"Ok, fine!" he shouted. "I am going to take a nap. Wake me up when you are done wallowing in your infinite self-pity," he snapped as he made a particularly showy display of stretching out across a half broken card table.
"Dick," she muttered as she feebly reached out for her yearbook. She sat staring back into her own eyes, so familiar yet so alien to her. How could this person be her? How can someone with so much promise wake up one day and turn into this? The ugly duckling was supposed to turn into a swan, not an even uglier duck. She didn't feel like she could have ever done all these things. She never felt smart or clever or generous. Maybe she was never really given the opportunity but still. Shouldn't she have somehow known her own potential? How could she settle so easily when this girl obviously wouldn't have? She sat staring at the girl for a long time. She had no idea how much time had passed while she was sitting there, or how long Spike had been (pretending to be) asleep before she heard his tired, gravely voice drift across the junkyard.
"You done wallowing?" he asked her without getting up.
"Yeah...I'm wading now," she grumbled.
Spike groaned and trudged over to her. "Well, I'm cutting you off. I'd like to get home before my 40th birthday if you don't mind. You have the rest of your life to be miserable."
She sighed and pulled herself up. She walked in absolute silence for the rest of the way, head down and several steps behind Spike as they wandered into what little town there was to find a phone. At first he appreciated the quiet but then he started to get a little worried. This whole crusade Faye was on was unhealthy. He knew he wasn't one to be lecturing anyone about inner demons and what not, but he figured he was in better shape. His problems only had two possible endings. One was that he'd find Julia and they'd live happily ever after (yeah right) and the other was that he would end up dead. Those were the only possible alternatives. But with Faye...there was no ending here. She would just be walking around in depressing little circles her whole life, searching for things that don't even exist. Hell, at least Julia was real. This was ridiculous. The two of them were hardly best buddies but he wouldn't want to watch anyone slowly bleed to death, which is exactly what she was doing to herself. Something had to be done. He stopped suddenly and whirled around on his toes. Faye crashed into him, which was sort of silly considering she was about five steps behind and had to actually continue walking for several seconds before she hit him. She didn't even look up. She just mumbled some apology and shrunk back a few steps. "Faye..."
"Let's be honest here," he said firmly.
"Yes, since you usually sugar coat everything," she said wryly.
"Shut up," he said, holding up his hand while he reorganized his train of thought. He assumed that momentum was key when you were staging an intervention. "Faye...you are never going to be a successful business woman. You are never going to own nine SUV's and go to the county club on Sundays and have six children all named after presidents. You are not going to marry some doctor or live in a penthouse or own a yacht. You will never have a nice lawn or turkey with all the dressing or a set of crochet clubs. This is never going to happen for you."
"Thank you, Spike. I feel better already," she snapped as she peeled away from him.
"HOWEVER," he yelled sharply and she froze. "You are still here. You are still standing. And you are still capable of kicking ass. Considering everything that's happened to you, I would have to say that in itself measures up to a certain degree of success." He paused for a second and Faye turned to face him. Her expression was entirely unreadable. "So can you stop moping now and haul some ass? I'm freaking starving and it suddenly smells like a tire fire around here."
Faye shook her head in absolute astonishment. "Yeah...let's go," she said softly.