Spike's com device lay in the alley, the case dented by the large caliber slug. Electrical bolts and a plume of smoke announced the death of the device with a final squeal from the speaker. He glanced down at the make-shift shield he'd flung in the path of the bullet by sheer instinct.
"Well kid, that's just great. Jet's gonna be pissed about that. Now, put the heat away before you end up actually hitting something with a pulse." He offered a hand to the teenager. As much as he hated kids, he just couldn't bring himself to strike. Besides, the Colt Commander's recoil had already deposited his insufficient mass up against the wall. By the glazed look in his eyes he seemed to have some sense knocked into him. Probably the first time he'd even fired a gun. Spike levered him up to his feet and checked to make sure he could stand.
The teenager wobbled a bit before running a hand through his black hair and coughing. Belatedly he glanced up at Spike, the daze instantly banished in a blaze of anger. He gripped Spike's jacket and tried unsuccessfully to haul him off his feet.
Spike chuckled, he had at least a foot over the kid and more than a handful of pounds. "Small-fry, this isn't gonna work for you. Now, tell me what you're doing with a piece?"
"None of your business! Jerk!"
"Jerk?" He pried the fingers from his jacket and brushed the wrinkles from his clothes. "I'm not the trigger-happy one—for once."
Thrusting a finger at Spike, the teen yelled, "You screwed it all up. I had him until you busted through the damn door. That dick was mine!"
"Derik?" Spike took out a cigarette and lit it. "Kid, you gotta be kidding me if you think I'll believe for a second that you cornered a drug racketeer on your own." Appraising the teen's street thread attire, Spike inclined his chin. "You're nothing but some wanna-be street thug."
He brandished his fists. "Oh yeah? You won't say that after I kick your ass … you … you … suit!"
"Tsh! Is that your best shot?"
The guy with the ball-cap staggered out with his head back, hand still gripping his bleeding nose. Already the swelling showed and his speech distorted. "Taveon! Stop wasting time!"
"Shit!" Taveon scooped up his gun and dashed toward the alley's entrance.
Spike grabbed his arm and watched his feet fly up into the air with the momentum. "Not so fast. You think I'm gonna let you shoot and run, you little punk?"
"Don't even think about calling the cops!" He twisted in the firm grip, for a second Spike thought he might try and bite.
Around his cigarette Spike snorted, "Please. I don't need to call those incompetent morons to handle a micro-thug like you. Now, stop struggling and I'll put you down. I just want to talk."
Taveon thrashed in the air for a bit longer before at last hanging limp with a scowl on his face, the gun in his seized hand.
Spike set him down and pocketed the Colt, despite his protest. "You don't need this at the moment. Not until you tell me why you were trying to let the daylight into Derik's brains."
"Dickhead doesn't have brains."
"Debatable." Spike shrugged. Something about the teen's stance and tone bugged him. Not that he liked kids to begin with, but the whole tough front scribbled mental notes. Dang his sense of profiling, an old habit from before that he couldn't shut off. "You ever tried asking a corpse questions?"
"Don't need to." Taveon folded his arms across his chest. "Just need to sink a slug between his eyes."
"Eh heh. Well, sorry kid. Can't let you do that. I need him alive."
"You?" Jerking his head back, Taveon narrowed his eyes. "Who the fuck do you think you are?"
Spike leaned over him and half-lidded his eyes. "Someone you are dangerously close to pissing off. Go home. Leave Derik Hedges to me."
The wind stirred Taveon's hair over his eyes. He stomped a foot in the grimy street. "You owe me!"
Turning away, Spike put his hands in his pockets and slouched on his way out of the alley. "Try another spin on the wheel of fate, kiddo. Cause this one isn't on me. Tired of carrying everyone else's failures."
"It's your fault he got away." The slap of his shoes followed.
Teenagers. What is it with them never taking responsibility for shit going wrong? Spike's hand rested against the apprehended gun. He whistled a tune padding toward the docks where the Bebop floated. The big hulk of the re-purposed fishing vessel a site that Spike no longer took for granted. This ship and the crew members had somehow become his home and family, all while he hadn't realized it. Not until it had been torn away. The top of the tower, the near death victory over Vicious, the ISSP forcing his imprisonment in Quidlivun Cavus Prison on Pluto … those endless frigid months crystallized how much he craved a place, a sense of purpose. Before that rude wake-up call, he'd been too numbed to let himself feel any attachment.
A shadow fell across the dock. Spike watched out of the corner of his eye as Taveon tailed him. The soft patter of his shoes slapping the deck echoed off the waterfront along with every snuffled inhale. He didn't have to follow the pillar of shadow weaving in his periphery. Hell, it didn't even take his cybernetic eye to catch it. Sad, really. If this kid thought his tactic was effective, he had another thing coming. And a lot of learning to do.
Faye and Jet converged on the dock. The moment they glimpsed Spike their eyes lit up, quickly followed by a barrage of yelling. The shadow vanished, melding into the dockside crates. Spike waved lazily at the pair. "Yo."
"What the hell? You owe us an explanation!"
"You're supposed to be my partner, and yet you run off and then just let the line go dead!"
Spike tossed the slugged com device. "By the way, these are kinda bulletproof. Neat huh?"
"Damn." Jet's jaw hung open. "Is that a forty-five? … Hey! Are you gonna replace this?"
Recovering from the shock, Faye turned her fury on him. "Where do you get off going into the line of fire like that? Spike, you idiot! Did you at least get something on the guy?"
"Yeah, he socked me in the chest. He's got a solid hook on him."
She grabbed Spike's collar. "You let him get away?"
"I didn't let him do anything. Circumstances allowed him an opening."
Jet ground his teeth. "Circumstances? We need to bag this guy if we're going to get the ship off Ganymede again. And you're telling me this dirt-bag gave you the slip? What circumstances?"
Spike leaned against a crate and picked up a river stone giving it a toss in his hand before he chucked it hard, skipping it across the dock beside the stacks. The teenager yelped and stumbled out into the open, the dying daylight washing over his pale complexion. "The circumstance's name is Taveon."
Heat flared on the teen's cheeks before he shoved his hands in his pockets and looked away.
Jet thundered with laughter. "This … this is what happened? Oh Spike-o, you've really lost your touch!"
"You think so, old man?" Spike offered him a half-lidded glare.
Faye glanced their way and instantly took a step back, hugging into her winter jacket. Creases of worry lined her face as Jet continued to guffaw.
The round house took him by surprise. With a yelp Jet tumbled into the water only to come up bobbing and spitting. Clouds of his breath formed as he bellowed, "Spike! You jack-ass!"
Yup, everything is back to normal.
See you, Space Cowboy!