Title: Through the Glass, Darkly
Rating: R for language, violence and adult situations
Timeline: Directly following Session 26
Spoilers: The entire series (including the movie) and general Matrix info
Summary: Matrix x-over. Spike didn’t die; he was just unplugged. How will everyone’s favorite Bruce Lee-loving space cowboy deal when he is thrown into the "real world" without a net?
Disclaimer: There was once a girl who wrote a story about some characters and places that weren't hers. But she added this little disclaimer to make it a tad less illegal. (i.e. Cowboy Bebop isn't mine and never will be. Neither is The Matrix. As if you hadn't already figured that out.)
Feedback: Look! It's secret mail-mail from Mars-Mars! (i.e. I want any and all feedback. Good, bad, indifferent? Doesn't matter. Still want it. *g*)
Author's Note: And we're back! After a small break so I could go take my last few final exams of the semester, it's back to the Bebop for this happy author. :)
Bound at every limb by my shackles of fear
Sealed with lies through so many tears
Lost from within, pursuing the end
I fight for the chance to be lied to again
("Lies" - Evanscence)
Chapter 5: Lies
When she found him at last, Spike was hunched over a computer monitor, the green glow of the encoded Matrix flickering across his pale, drawn face. He knew she was there before she even said a word. He had a knack for doing that. She had quickly learned that one didn't sneak up on Spike Spiegel. He snuck up on you.
"How do you people see anything in all this mess?" he asked, his voice verging on whining but ending up just sounding grumpy. The code continued its vertical dance across the screen undaunted, despite his complaints, almost as if it were mocking the ex-bounty hunter's efforts.
Ginny shrugged. "It just takes time, I guess. Most of us are so used to it, we don't even see the code any more."
The Matrix had to be viewed encoded. There was simply too much information contained inside it for their computers to handle without some kind of buffer. Hence the scrolling green characters that Spike was currently glaring at.
He growled under his breath and pushed his chair away from the screen, one hand moving to run restlessly through his hair but quickly aborting its motion when it encountered the short stubble of newly grown hair instead of the thick, green mop he was used to. Sighing in obvious frustration, he slouched back in his chair and put his feet up on the counter in front of him.
Ginny watched all of this with a concerned eye. "Spike? Are you okay?" she asked softly, pulling up a nearby chair and gingerly taking a seat.
The ex-bounty hunter shrugged his shoulders carelessly. "Sure, why wouldn't I be?"
Ginny sighed. "I don't know, I just... I get the feeling that something's wrong." She met Spike's lazy brown gaze with her own worried blue one. "You know that I'm your friend, right? If something was wrong... you could tell me."
Spike laughed, but it wasn't a happy laugh. It sounded bitter. "Am I, Ginny? Am I really your friend? What do you even know about me? For all you know, I could have been a cold-blooded killer in my former life. I could have taken innocent little girls like you and destroyed them, just for the hell of it. I could have been a sociopath, a psychotic, or maybe even an assassin."
His eyes flashed with something that Ginny could only describe as dangerous. It unnerved her a bit. She'd seen Spike in many different moods before: casual and laidback, moody and depressed, excited and anxious... but never would she have pegged him as dangerous. Certain images flashed through her mind unbidden: the way he picked up on things faster than anybody she'd ever met, the smooth, almost feline grace of his movements, how he never sat with his back to a door, his lightning fast reflexes, the way he always knew if someone came up behind him without them having to say a word...
Ginny shook such thoughts out of her head, adamantly refusing to even consider them. "No, that's not possible. I know you, Spike. You're just not that kind of person."
He raised one eyebrow in an almost condescending fashion. "Is that right?"
Ginny nodded, trying not to look as nervous as she suddenly felt. "Y-yeah," she replied, her voice trembling slightly. "That's right."
Spike sighed and leaned forward, dropping his feet down to the floor, his elbows balancing lightly on the table and his chin resting on the palm of his hand as he studied her. "What if I told you that I spent almost two decades of my life as an assassin for the Red Dragon Syndicate?"
He stared at her face as he spoke, but it was almost as if he was looking right through her, looking into the past. "They found me when I was 9. I'd been wandering the streets on Mars for as long as I could remember. They took me in and gave me to a man named Mao Yenri, who raised me as if I was his own son. I killed a person for the first time when I was 15 years old." He blinked and suddenly it was as if he was back in the present. When he looked at her, Ginny felt like he actually saw her again. "So, you see, you don't know me at all."
Ginny frowned. She didn't like the way he looked at her, as if he was a condemned man waiting for the sentence to be handed down. In his eyes, it was as if he'd already lost. "Okay, so there are things about your past that I don't know about, granted. And some of them sound like they're pretty bad. But that's not who you are now, Spike. Don't you get it? This is like your second chance. You can be whoever you want to be here. And when I look at you, I get the feeling that there's something good inside of you. And *that* is why I'm your friend, Spike. Because I know that when you get your act together, you're gonna be a pretty great person to know."
Spike rolled his eyes, but Ginny could see the smile lurking underneath his 'I could care less' expression. "You should write these little speeches of yours down. They'd be great on greeting cards."
Ginny grinned. "You've found me out, Spike. In my old life, I worked for Hallmark."
Spike smirked. "Yeah, right. Like I believe that for a second."
Ginny shrugged and leaned back in her chair, glad to see that Spike seemed to have shaken off his self-destructive mood for the time being.
Ginny rolled her eyes. Only Spike would think to make up a nickname for a nickname. "What?"
"If I needed your help with something... but you couldn't tell Annie about it... would you do it?"
Ginny raised an eyebrow. "It would depend on what it was."
"Well... I want to send somebody a message..."
Faye Valentine had been many things throughout her long life, but up until now insane hadn't made the list.
She looked down at the series of messages that she'd gotten within the last few days. All from the same person... a person who, by all rights, should be six feet under and incapable of communicating with her. And yet, there they were. All lined up in a neat little row. Three messages from her ex-partner of sorts: Spike Spiegel.
The first one, with its cryptic message proclaiming that "Death is not the end," had been odd enough. But then it was followed with the even more cryptic message: "Life is only a dream." And now she sat staring at a new one that announced "The Matrix has you." Whatever that meant.
Honestly, of all the crazy things, Spike had apparently decided to become Cryptic Guy in the Afterlife. It was just absurd.
"God, I think I *am* going insane," Faye muttered, looking down at Ein, who lay curled up in a little doggie-shaped ball on her bed. The dog's ears twitched slightly but otherwise there was no response to her statement. Not that she'd really expected one.
"Great, even the mutt won't vouch for my sanity," she sighed, laying back on her bed and staring up at the stains that decorated the ceiling in her small room onboard the Bebop. "And, to top it all off, I'm talking to the dog again. That's not a good sign, Valentine. Definitely not a good sign."
The ship was quiet. Too quiet for Faye's tastes. Jet had shot off like a rocket after seeing that first message from Spike... or somebody who was claiming to be Spike, at any rate. The ex-cop had muttered something about his contacts, but Faye wasn't sure what he thought he was going to accomplish. Short from digging up their late friend's grave, there wasn't much they could do as far as she could see. Without Ed around, there was little chance of hacking their way into some info on the messages. Jet might be handy with a computer for the easy stuff, like searching for bounty heads, but he was no Radical Edward. And Faye was pretty much computer illiterate.
Faye sighed and couldn't help but make a face at the idea of digging up a three month old corpse to try and solve their current mystery. Ick. She was definitely glad she'd abstained from that task. Digging up graves sure as hell wasn't in her job description, something she'd made very clear to Jet before he left.
She hadn't even been laying down for more than a few seconds before her gaze was drawn back to the communicator with the three messages waiting there, all marked urgent. God, why was this happening now? She was finally starting to get her life back in order and then Mr. Fuzzy Hair had to find a way to wreck it all again. And Jet, what about him? He'd taken Spike's death pretty hard. He didn't talk about it much, but she could tell. Those messages had re-opened a lot of old wounds, for both of them. Leave it to Spike to throw their world into a tailspin with only three short sentences. The lunkhead.
Her communicator beeped, gaining her undivided attention instantly. A new message appeared on the screen, blinking steadily.
Faye watched it from her bed for a long moment before she slowly stood up and made her way warily over to her desk. When she saw the name of the sender, one almost as familiar to her as her own, she sighed loudly.
"Fuck, not another one."
Then she reached out and tapped a button, causing the message to scroll across her screen. There was no note. Just an address and a time.
Faye looked at her watch. She had one hour to get there. The question was: did she really want to go? Spike had done nothing but harass her almost the entire time she'd known him. He'd never liked her. Hell, he'd barely tolerated her presence onboard the ship.
Besides, this whole thing could be some kind of hoax. A ploy to lure her into a trap. She and Spike both had plenty of enemies to go around, after all. Bounty hunting didn't earn one any brownie points among the more shady elements of society, not to mention Spike's Syndicate enemies and her massive debts. Going to that address without any backup was stupid. Hell, it was more than stupid, it was downright moronic. And Faye Valentine was *not* a moron.
So that settled it then. She wasn't going. No way in hell was she going.
Faye went back to her bed and sat down on the edge, one hand absently reaching out to scratch Ein behind the ears. The little Welsh Corgi looked up at her, blinking sleepily. Faye met his gaze for a minute, her left foot tapping out an anxious rhythm on the floor.
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
"Don't look at me like that, I can't go," she told the dog, who continued to watch her, his ears twitching slightly. "I'd be an idiot to go."
The dog continued to stare at her, which caused her to growl in frustration. "Jet would have a hernia if I disappeared on him now, you *know* that."
Still, Ein stared at her, his head cocked to one side.
"Besides, I don't give a rat's ass, even if it *is* from Spike." The dog seemed to look doubtful, which made Faye gasp in indignation. "I don't!" she insisted adamantly.
Ein yawned and rolled over, snuggling up on her pillow, something she normally hated. Now she was so worked up that she hardly even noticed. She pounded her fists down on the bed. "I don't!" she exclaimed again, though it lacked conviction.
After a long moment of silence, broken only by the occasional snore from the dog, Faye stomped her foot angrily and jumped to her feet, grabbing her coat and her gun on her way out the door, a furious expression on her face.
"Aaaaaaargh, if it *is* that lunkhead, I'm damn well gonna kill him!!!"
Jet Black would have rather been anywhere than where he was right then.
He watched as three men slowly pulled a dirty coffin out of a just unearthed hole in the ground. The shovels they'd used to dig it up were laying off to one side. One of them began to dust the coffin off while the other two reached out for the lid.
"No," Jet said quickly, causing them all to freeze in surprise. "I'll open it. You three go occupy yourselves for a bit. I'll call you back when I'm done here."
They looked like they were about to protest, but Jet flashed his badge at them and instead they beat a hasty retreat over to a clearing a little ways down the hillside. Grinning, Jet pocketed the badge, leftover from his days in the ISSP. Stupid morons didn't even know an out of date badge when they saw one.
Jet looked at the familiar gravestone for a long time. It was surrounded by weeds and the small flower vase on top of it was empty. Spike Spiegel's grave didn't get very much traffic. Jet's friend Bob from the ISSP was the only person other than Jet and Faye who even knew who had been buried here. The grave marker was blank. They'd done that on purpose, just in case some of the surviving Syndicate goons got any funny ideas. Jet had enough experience with the Syndicates to know that you never took any chances where they were concerned, not even with somebody who was already dead.
Jet and Faye had petitioned for weeks before they'd been granted the right to bury their friend in peace. Apparently, the ISSP had been holding his body as "evidence" of some sort... or so they said. Bob had contacted them 16 days after the incident at the Red Dragon headquarters in Tharsis City and told them that the high-ups in the ISSP had handed over custody of the body to them for immediate burial. When Jet and Faye had arrived at Bob's office, not quite knowing what to expect, he'd brought them out here and shown the marker to them.
Jet still remembered his exact words on that day.
'Your partner was pretty bad off, Jet. Cut to ribbons. I didn't think you two should see him like that.'
Jet had wanted to protest, to insist that he see his friend's body with his own eyes. Nothing else could truly convince him that it was real, that Spike was actually gone. But then he'd looked at Faye's face. Bob was right. She shouldn't have to see the body. It would just make it harder for her. And so Jet had remained silent about his concerns, though they'd hovered at the back of his mind ever since... waiting.
Taking a deep breath, Jet walked up to the simple wooden coffin and reached out, placing one hand atop its rough surface. "Well, Spike 'ole buddy, I guess this is it, huh? Time to find out the truth."
It only took one hard shove to open the lid. He stared down inside the coffin for a long moment before he silently reached out and pulled the lid back down.
A wave of his hand brought the three workers back. "Did you find what you were looking for?" one of them asked.
Jet shrugged. "I suppose." He gestured at them to get back to work and they reluctantly began the process of getting the coffin situated back inside the hole in the ground, obviously wanting to know what was so important about the mystery grave but not wanting to upset the police officer any further. Soon the sound of shovels sending dirt falling down over the coffin could be heard. Nodding at them once in thanks, Jet turned and began making his way down the hillside and back to his Hammerhead, which was parked on the street outside the small cemetery.
And now, after all these months, he finally had his answer.
The coffin had been empty.
Coming Soon: Chapter 6. So... what will Jet do now that he knows that Spike's grave is empty? And who sent the message to Faye? Spike? Or someone else?