The water beating down on my neck and back was ice cold, but my skin still felt overly hot. I knew that I should have turned the shower off long before the hot water ran out, but I hadn't. The cold felt good. And I halfheartedly hoped that if I stood here long enough, it would leave me numb.
God, what would it be like? To not feel anything, I mean. I thought it might be like a little slice of heaven. Though that kind of numbness was undoubtedly just as impossible to reach as the Pearly Gates, at least it would be for someone like me. But I wanted it. I craved it. The nothingness that came with being numb. I didn't want to care about anybody. Caring about people just got you hurt. And God only knows I'd learned that lesson the hard way, time and again.
An image flashed through my mind. A memory of blonde hair spread across my pillow, sliding through my fingers like silk. And her tiny hands lightly touching my face, my neck, my back. Happiness so perfect that it almost didn't seem real...
There was a knock on the bathroom door, distracting me from the memories.
"Spike? You've been in there a long time. Everything alright?"
Jet. Checking up on me.
I sighed and closed my eyes, resting my forehead against the cool, damp tiles on the shower wall in front of me. I wasn't ready to go out there and pretend that I was okay. I didn't know if I'd ever be ready, to tell the truth. Katerina's death had really gotten to me. Something in her face, in the way she moved her hands, in the simple grace she possessed... Something about her had reminded me of Julia.
Hell, who was I kidding? Anything could remind me of Julia, from a pretty stranger with eyes that spoke of an age beyond her years... to the fucking color of the bathroom tiles. Looking at that blasted stain on the couch in the living area of the Bebop could most likely make me think of Julia, if I let it. Just breathing and living and going about my daily routine felt like it was only an act until I could find her and hold her in my arms again. I felt like I was in some kind of holding pattern. Like nothing was real. My entire fucking life now was just a dream that I wanted to wake up from.
I chuckled dryly, trying not to shiver from the cold water pelting against my back. "Well, now. You are some piece of work, aren't you, Spike Spiegel?" I muttered, with more than a little bit of self-loathing present in my voice.
"Spike? Buddy? You okay in there?"
Damn it. Now Jet was sounding really, genuinely worried about me. As if I didn't feel like enough of an asshole already, now I had gone and upset the one friend I still had.
"I'm fine, Jet," I called out, pitching my voice so it was loud enough to be heard over the running water. "Just give me a minute, alright?"
"Fine then," came the reply. Jet didn't sound convinced that I was okay, but at least he wasn't pushing the issue. "I'm starting dinner. I'll tell you when it's ready."
I could hear the heavy thud of his footsteps as he walked away down the hall, even over the sound of the water.
Sighing, I reached out and turned off the shower. Time to go act like the tough guy who didn't give a damn about anything.
After toweling off, I grabbed my pants and pulled them on before opening the bathroom door. Even though the water had turned cold long ago, a hefty amount of steam still poured out into the hallway with me, making my clothing stick to my skin in a way that was decidedly uncomfortable. My hair clung to my forehead in damp, messy curls, reminding me of the fact that I desperately needed a haircut. Not that I could afford one.
I could hear Jet puttering around in the kitchen, but I still wasn't up to engaging in an actual conversation right now. Maybe later, when I'd had a chance to sort things out in my own mind... and when I had some food in my stomach.
Turning in the opposite direction from the kitchen, I headed for the punching bag I had strung up near my quarters. It was time to vent some of my frustrations.
Soon the sounds of my fists slamming into the bag could be heard across the ship, blending in with the bang of pots and pans in the kitchen.
Was this normal? Was this what my life was now? Was this all that was left?
My fists flew faster and faster, rattling the bag loudly on its chain.
I'd have bet money that Jet's holler could've been heard across the entire ship.
What're we having?"
"Special. Bell peppers and beef."
I sighed, dropping my hands to my sides. The punching bag continued to sway, its inertia pulling it back and forth even after I'd stopped hitting it.
"I'll be right there, Jet!"
Yeah. This was normal.
I felt a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth at the mental image of Jet standing over the stove, wearing that silly apron of his.
And maybe, at least for the moment, I didn't mind so much.
See you Space Cowboy...