You know...I don't really know what to do. There have been times in my life where I knew what to feel but chose not to feel it. There were times when I knew what to feel and found I couldn't feel it. And there have been times where I knew exactly what I shouldn't feel and went right ahead and felt it anyway. This is different though. I just don't know what to do with myself.

I kinda batted around the tree thing. I thought that might be something I would do. It is my hobby. People tend to loose themselves in their hobbies in moments of crisis. So I locked the door to my room and set about becoming feverishly engrossed in my Bonsai. Faye knocked on my door and I snapped at her. I said, "I'm busy."

She said the shower was broken again. In a way, that kind of cheered me up. So we meet again, shower. My archenemy. How good of him to break down when I am in such dire need of distraction. But it felt wrong of me somehow to do something as mundane as fix a shower. I was working through issues, dammit. I was being complex. Or...something. So I told her I'd fix it later and it was back to the tree.

But I couldn't do it. I couldn't work on it. I snipped at some stray branches here and there. But nothing inspired me. That's the thing with Bonsai I don't think people realize. It's not a matter of simply cultivating plants. You need to have a plan. You need to know ahead of time what that tree is supposed to look like. It's destiny, I guess, if you want to get flowery about it. But when I looked at those trees I just couldn't help thinking they looked OK the way they were. Nothing about them screamed change to me. Nothing seemed really all that out of place. So I went to fix the shower.

The odd thing through all of this is that I can't even say I'm depressed. It wasn't as if I would go to do something but felt so bogged down by grief that it seemed pointless. It's not as if I was haunted constantly by memories or woulda, coulda, shouldas. I wasn't haunted by anything. I was empty.

Any memories I dug up were deliberate and laborious. Like, maybe I should be thinking about him now and then I was. But it didn't feel real. It didn't feel genuine. And that made me feel guilty. You know what I think it is? You know why I can't figure out how to handle this properly?

I don't know the next step. I think that's it. See, in the past, I have always gotten through these sorts of things by focusing on what I have to do next. I set little deadlines for myself. I have this amount of time until Plan B. I was lucky enough to run into Spike soon after the watch stopped. I don't know what it was about him but I have to tell you, it was like Plan B at first sight. Maybe it was because we both happened to be looking for it at the same time. It was great.

And although I always half expected him to die, there was never a set date. So now he's gone and done it and I'm left hanging. I have no plan. I don't have another project lined up. So now I don't know what to do.

The aggravating thing about people dying is that it's so final. I know that is pretty obvious, but I was always the sort of person who likes to leave my options open. Always have an escape plan. I've kicked Spike out a bazillion times but always with the option to renew. I don't have that now. That's it. I burned a bridge. I shuddered a bit at that thought, because it reminded me of my father.

"Don't burn your bridges, son."

It was good advice. I don't know what I would have done without a lot of my old contacts. It's great to have allies scattered through out the universe. It's great to have people owe you favors. And the one guy who owed me the most went out and burned the fucking bridge to a smoldering heap. And I let him.

See, that's when I start to think I have survivor's guilt. I picked up this book Faye was reading. It was a 12-step program for grief. If she knew I knew she had it I think she would actually die of embarrassment. She would actually blush so red her head would catch fire and she would spontaneously combust right there on the couch. All that would be left of her would be a greenish sort of stain. But I knew she had it. And it mentioned something about survivor's guilt. So sometimes when I think about the day he left, I start to say, "Yeah. That's it. Survivor's guilt." And then I'm happy because I have a fixable problem. Damn survivor's guilt. I gotta pull myself together and beat this thing. Work through the tunnel o' healing or whatever the hell that book prattles on about. I don't think Faye buys it either. But it's a goal. It's a deadline. It's exactly 12 steps.

But you know what? I don't have survivor's guilt. Do you know what I feel guilty about? I feel guilty that I never told him my deepest darkest secret. I feel guilty that I never revealed my one and only weakness to him out of fear I would lose my leverage. See, in all the years I've known him, in all the years we fought over the same stupid bullshit over and over again I never told him the truth. I never told him...I understood.

I didn't stop him because I understood. I let him back on the ship again and again because I understood. I told him over and over how screwed up he was. I told him over and over he was a stupid, selfish prick and I didn't care and blah blah blah. But I understood. I got it, Spike. And it wasn't stupid and it wasn't bullshit and it wasn't pig headed.

I think he went on this whole time thinking that he was an island unto himself, that he was some strange enigmatic creature with a set of values all his own. I think he believed that maybe he was a little crazy and that maybe a guy like him was doomed to die. I sort of made him believe that because I thought maybe, just maybe, it would stop him. It stopped me. For awhile anyway. But not for long.

Because you know what? I got the call and I went. I went on that stupid ship with one good arm and one gun against a dozen guys all completely out of my league. And I didn't tell anyone where I was going, and I didn't expect to come back. When someone calls you out, you gotta fucking answer.

And that's the one thing that gives me hope. I came back that night. Maybe a part of me was even a little disappointed that I did. But I came back. And Spike was waiting for me. He was sitting up on the couch watching television. I froze when I saw him there like he was my goddamn father. Like I was just caught sneaking in from a date or something. Me. Who's like 900 years old. I kind of expected him to gloat a little. Have some sort of smart remark that for all my talk, I went out and did something incredibly stupid anyway. I would have.

But he just nodded. He just nodded his head and then got up to go to bed. We never mentioned it again. Ever. But I think maybe in that moment he understood. He knew that I knew. I hope so. Man, I really hope so.

Do you know what else I did for awhile? I cut out the newspaper clippings about the Syndicate. About the "incident" at their head quarters and about the civil gang war that the press had a field day over. I did that cause a lot of the guys on the force did that when their partners died. So I assumed that if people did that, then it must fix things. It must make it better. Or why else would you do it?

It didn't make me feel better. I threw ‘em out in a few days. It struck me as kind of creepy and almost embarrassing. That's why we didn't bother with a grave marker for him. Or a funeral or any sort of tripe like that. We just knew it would embarrass him somehow. But there was one article I kept. Just one. I got it stapled up in my room. Not in any particular spot, just where there was space. But it's there. I don't read it anymore because I know what it says. But it's there to remind me just the same.

The article talks about the "grisly scene" at the Dragons HQ. They go into terrific detail. The media loves that kind of thing. People disemboweled and blown to bits. They eat that up with a spoon. And this time it was even better because it was the mob. These were all bad people, so there was no need to display any sort of tact. But the thing that had caught my interest wasn't so much the article as it was the photograph accompanying it.

Two chalk outlines of bodies drawn neatly on the Red Dragon's roof. One splayed out violently on the top of this long staircase, the other at the bottom of it. Facing in the complete opposite direction. Facing home. Guess who that one was?

I almost laughed when I saw it because it was so typical. He wasn't content to just lay down and die. He wasn't gonna keel over at the end of a job well done. That son of a bitch was gonna walk his way all the way to the Swordfish with his damn spleen hanging out if he could. He was gonna keep walking until he couldn't possibly walk another step.

So I have that article hung up on my wall so I know to keep walking. I may not have the foggiest idea of where I'm walking to for the first time in my whole life, but I'll keep going. I mean, as long as you're moving you have to get somewhere eventually.

"Faye?"

"Yeah?" she looked up from some picture she was studying.

"What are you going to do? I mean...we really haven't discussed it. Do you want to stay on or are you going to leave or...or what."

Faye kinda smiled a bit and then slid the picture she was looking at across the table. "We got that in the mail today from that Doohan guy. That fixed Spike's ship," she held a note up. "He said he was a good kid and he thought you should have that."

It was the picture they took after Spike landed the Swordtail after about 19 near misses that one time. Him and Doohan and that goofy kid in front of Spike's ship. It was the only picture we would have of him cause we sure as hell never took any. I smiled a bit at seeing it too. "So?" I asked her. "Are you staying or not?"

Faye suddenly glanced over at the trash can. Sticking out of it was her copy of the Handling Grief book. She then shrugged and said, "I dunno. Let's just take it one step at a time, all right?"

I nodded. "Sounds like a plan."

WALK ON



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