Author's note at end of chapter if you haven't read my other works.
Alley Cat Shuffle
Spike flipped the top card over and barely glanced at the Queen of Hearts. With a quick flick of his wrist he dropped it onto the King of Hearts and moved on to the next card in the deck. Hardly a high stakes game of Solitaire, after all he'd already cleared the deck three times today. No complaints on his end, he'd firmly planted himself on the couch for the past month and a half they'd been floating on Ganymede. The boredom remained a welcome change from their last misadventure. It still boggled his mind what kind of a lunatic would plunk a bunch of robotic dinosaurs on a jungle terraformed asteroid and have the gall to call the damn thing an 'amusement park'. At least no one would ever inadvertently end up getting chewed to bits on there again. Faye's missile assured that.
He glanced at the next card, but it didn't have time to register. A startled yell shot Spike to his feet. He drew his gun, racing down the hallway towards Jet's Bonsai room. Rounding the corner he prepared himself for some invasion, even though that seemed unlikely that deep in the bowels of the ship. Ein should have barked at an intruder … right? Ehh, maybe not. That mutt would be more likely to offer a squeaky ball for a game of a fetch. Still, everyone was a bit on edge after the park fiasco, and though he was loath to admit it, he was no exception. Spike wasn't at all prepared for what he spied at the end of the Jericho's gun sight.
Jet leaned back against the far wall, his work glove on, the clippers on the floor. He panted each breath. Locked in Spike's gun sight a pair of tiny robotic eyes blinked at him. Red streaks on its metallic feather plates as it peered through the miniature trees. The diminutive robotic compsognathus crouched in the mico-forest on the shelves. Humorously it looked close to the proper scale if the thing where an allosaurus. It delivered a little chirrup. And in succession five more of the now color coded little monsters emerged from the trees.
Spike lowered the gun and tucked it away with a barely suppressed laugh. "Well, what do you know. She figured it out."
Jet, now beet red, thrust a finger at the invaders. "Get out of there before you break something."
They followed the motion of his finger, the chicken sized constructs chirping and squeaking in excitement. But none of them left.
Leaning against the door frame, Spike snickered. "You know, you did this to yourself."
"I did not." Jet bent down and picked up the clippers. One of the compys used Jet's back as a platform to get down to the ground. "Hey!" But it was too fast for Jet to catch it as it scampered out of the room. A moment later the full series of five skittered out of the miniature foliage and dropped to dart down the hall.
Spike watched the last one leave before he remarked dryly, "Not the way I remember it. First you let Ed keep them. Yesterday you asked her what she was going to do once we leave Ganymede and her little pack can't charge their solar cells on the flight deck without floating off into space, since the bridge won't work because windows block too much." He raised a shoulder. "Looks like she found a solution in your growth lights, pard."
Jet made a fist and grunted before dropping his face into a palm with a groan.
"Come on, it's not like they're stealing. And they do fit on the shelves."
Jet tossed his glove on the table and joined Spike in the hall. The two wandered toward the living room. "I really should stop letting things stay here."
Spike whistled an idle tune, hands in his pockets.
Ein padded on by with his food dish hanging from his mouth.
Jet sighed, "Spike, did you feed him?"
"Nope. Ed was supposed to, but something tells me she's distracted."
They entered the living room where Ed sat on the floor now surrounded by the six hacked compys, all of them lined in front of her making a ruckus. Spike resumed his place on the couch and kicked his feet up onto the table.
Jet folded his arms and eyed Ed. "You forgot something."
She glanced up, Ein danced in a circle and dropped his dish with a CLACK. Immediately she darted into the kitchen and returned with a can, turning the opener on her way back. She upended the can and emptied it into his dish with a plop.
Ein didn't even sniff, he just dug right in, plowing through the feast with satisfied growls.
Meanwhile Ed turned back to little compys. "Huŏ." The red streaked one perked up. "Up." She pointed on the table. The compy hissed at her, Ed pointed again, a bit firmer. The compy grumbled and then leapt up, perched on the edge like a robotic reptilian bird. Ed cheered and clapped her hands.
Jet cocked his head. "Are you … training them?"
Spike chuckled and cupped his hands behind his head. "Someone hasn't been paying attention."
Raising an eyebrow, Jet scratched his chin. "They're trainable?"
"Very." Spike's grin widened. He glanced at the one marked with black stripes. "Yo, Shuĭ." In a couple leaps the compy perched on the arm of the couch and cocked its head. "Fetch me a beer."
Shuĭ hopped down and darted into the kitchen. Less than a minute later he came back with a cold beer bottle gripped in his jaws and held it out to Spike. He took the bottle and held out the top. Shuĭ's teeth hooked the cap.
Spike gave it a twist, popping the cap off with a hiss and held the bottle up. "Thanks." The compy headbutted the bottle with a little ting, like one might a toast, then hopped up on the couch and perched on the back, right over Spike's shoulder. Shuĭ never made a peep.
Jet's jaw hung a touch loose. "They have names … and you taught one to fetch you beer."
He gestured at Shuĭ, "You want one?"
Jet muttered into his hand. "I don't believe this. Do they all have names?"
In a handstand, Ed pointed to each one with her toes. "Qi, Shuĭ, Mù, Huŏ, Jīn, and Tŭ." As their names were called out they chirruped in order; gold, black, blue, red, white, and yellow.
It took a moment, Jet murmuring the names as they indeed sounded familiar. Like terms, like elements. Like water, wood, fire, metal, earth … he fixed Spike with a stare. "What have you been teaching her?"
Spike rested an elbow on the back of the couch, Shuĭ climbed up to perch on his bare forearm. "Relax Jet, it's just—"
"Ninja stuff!" Ed struck a pose, only it wasn't anything combative.
Jet recognized it right away as part of the many meditative routines he'd see Spike perform—particularly when he was stressed and didn't want to talk about why. He shifted his gaze to his partner. Spike gave a little grin and took a sip. Jet grumbled, "As if I don't have enough damage to deal with, now you wanna teach the kid to break shit?"
"Yeeesss!" Ed slipped into another non-combat pose. "Hyaaaaawww! Ninja cow-girl!"
Spike almost spit his beer.
"I'm warning you, Spike. I don't like you teaching her."
At his feet Jīn, the white spotted one, crept around the table. His eyes focused on the dented beer cap. In one swift dash Jīn covered the distance and swiped it from the floor. But he wasn't unimpeded, the moment that Huŏ closed in and tried to grab it a noisy tug of war errupted. With a savage kick Jīn knocked his opponent over and hissed carting the cap over toward Ein's empty food dish. The compy squatted in the dish and too a swipe at Ein, claiming a defensible position.
Confused, Ein backed up. Before offering a yawn and padding away.
Shuĭ watched the action from the perch on Spike's arm, still crocked on the back of the couch.
Jet's eyebrows rode high. "What just happened?"
Spike pointed with the bottle. "You'll wanna watch your stuff around that white speckled one, he's more of a clepto than Faye."
As if Spike spoke of the devil, Faye rolled back the main door and entered with a couple of bags in her arms. She discarded them on the landing and sauntered right past the fiasco on the floor. Untying the sleeves of her over-shirt she deposited it on the chair on her way across the room towards Jet. "Am I interrupting?"
Jet offered her a noncommittal shrug.
She held out her hand to him. "Good, then we need to get back to practicing. Ed … " Faye did a double-take at the compys, staring at each one as they bobbed their now marked heads up at her. "Ed, are they wearing my nail-polish?"
One bottle after the next popped up into the air and Faye caught them. "Ed borrowed these. Now the peep-peeps are pretty and we can tell them apart."
Faye silently fumed, evidence by her hands closing on the six bottles. She set them on the table and a little too congenially addressed the oblivious Ed. "Some of these are limited edition, like this gold fleck, that you just glopped on your little mons... errr friends. These are for nails, human nails. I thought we covered that the last time you used them on Ein."
A soft dog-whine echoed through the corridor. Ed just continued to grin.
After a long, pointless stare, Faye set the polish on the table. "Never mind, just cue the music."
With her toe, Ed clicked the button on her computer and jazz music filled the Bebop. Jet took Faye's hand in an awkward grip and pensively placed a hand on her back.
She reached down and moved it. "Here. Alright … no, wrong foot. Jet, the other foot. Not there!"
Through half-lidded eyes, Spike watched as the most physically mismatched couple in the history of humanity painfully murdered the art of swing dance. Poor Jet second-guessed every movement which led to him stepping on Faye's feet more than once in the midst of her frustrated directions. It was embarrassing, and a little unnerving to see Jet so uncertain of himself. Besides, the guy had next to no rhythm.
Shuĭ glanced at Spike. He plucked the little creature off his arm, set the bottle in the Shuĭ's grasp, "hold my beer," and crossed the room.
When Jet attempted to swing Faye out, Spike grabbed her out-flung wrist and in a neat flick spun her into a hip-to-hip embrace. Their faces ended up inches from one another, she stared up as he asked, "Mind if I cut in?"
The shock of Faye's face thrilled him. She looked as if to speak, but before she could, Spike launched into a rapid swing step pattern. Using momentum he spun Faye around the room fast enough her headband flew off, leaving her hair free-flying as he wiped her into a Lindy-hop in just a small taste of what he could really do. Flipping her legs up into the air just shy of a hand-stand stall, he dropped her down in a guided angle that swept underneath him. He neatly hopped from one leg to the other as she passed through like a human jump rope. He brought her upright and ended with a back dip so deep, Faye's short hair brushed the deck.
Not even winded, Spike stared down into her wide-eyes. Her fingers gripped his shoulder as if afraid of falling. She bleated, "Spike—you know how dance?"
He brought her fully upright and released her. Sitting back on the arm of the couch, he lit a cigarette before he answered. "Yeah. Dancing is all about rhythm. It's a lot like fighting, only you're not supposed to hit stuff. Really, it was just good practice."
Faye glanced back at Jet, who looked equally stunned. However he just shrugged, another section of Spike's past he hadn't bothered to share. Faye gasped, "When?"
Spike took a good long drag, letting the smoke linger in the air. "One of my favorite haunts during my syndicate days was the Skeleton Key, an old jazz bar. My buddy Dizzy was the piano player and singer for an eight piece band. I had quite the rep as an alley cat down at that club."
Faye tapped her chin in clear confusion.
"Stray dancer. In other words I didn't come attached. The kittens tended to fight over me for their dance partner. Man, those girls could get possessive." He chuckled. "Started more than one fight from a jealous boyfriend. I always got my workout, one way or another."
Nibbling on her lip, Faye's eyes hardened. "Change of plans, Jet. Looks like I'll be taking Spike instead."
Spike sat up a little straighter. "Say what?" She hadn't insulted him, she was using his name. What was she up to?
Jet drew a hand across his sweaty forehead. "Thank heavens. I was getting really worried about pulling this gig off."
"What gig?" Spike had a terrible feeling. He eyed Faye as she hunted down her headband.
She made a flourish of putting it back on before fixing him with what should have been a provocative look over her shoulder. To the suspicious Spike it was nothing more than another of her empty postures intended to bend a man to her will. "We have a bounty to flush."
Jet made a gun with his fingers and fired it off at Spike, "Hey, pard, that's what you get for showing off."
Spike folded his arms across his chest. "I'm not going anywhere."
Ed killed the music and punched up the files on the screen. Two very familiar faces popped up. Ivanhoe and Uhrikha Bruusikhov, a husband and wife team wanted as hackers and info-brokers.
Spike's glare traveled up to Jet, who evaded the accusation. "That's the lead I handed off to you cause you know I hate lame chases involving hackers."
Jet rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, considering that lead came from the plastic surgeon's assistant, I mean, I did a bit of looking. Before they left his office they murdered the surgeon and deleted the files so no one knows their new faces. The assistant was desperate to find the schmucks who killed his boss."
"That's not the issue. Why does she have it?"
Jet evaded again, "Ehhh... well … because... "
Faye stepped in front of Spike and grinned at him. A grin he did not like. Was that a scheme brewing behind her eyes? "I think you might be interested in this after all."
He narrowed his eyes. "Nothing could interest me in abandoning my quality time with this couch."
"You remember that tidbit in the tip? The assistant over heard their next gig was the Ihy and the Golden Calf? Well, turns out the Golden Calf is a first class private star cruise ship."
Spike didn't even blink.
Faye leaned forward. "The Ihy happens to be the Ihy Intergalactic Dance Competition to be held on board that very ship. Word is the marks are going to use the competition as cover. But I'm going to need a dance partner good enough to keep me in the contest."
Spike still didn't blink.
Faye's coy grin increased, she was inches from his ear as she whispered, "It will be catered by a galaxy class chef with all the finest food and a fully stocked exclusive open bar, all covered by the entry fee. Which means—you will have full access to cuisine you've—Never. Even. Heard. Of."
The cigarette quivered between Spike's lips. He swallowed, composure loosening. His eyebrow twitched before he locked eyes with her. When would he ever get this opportunity again? If all he had to do was a bit of dancing … after all this was Faye's gig. The true legwork would be hers. How bad could this get? And then there was all that exclusive food.
So, she needed his help. Well then, there was going to be price. After all, he knew what that damn bottle she'd hocked on the auction block had sold for. She still owed Spike back from a previous un-requested loan. "Fine. I'll do it. But, you're paying—for everything!"
With a victorious smile, Faye adjusted his tie. "Deal."
Spike suddenly regretted agreeing, that seemed too easy. He'd expected her to suggest they go dutch.
But she ignored him and leaned over Ed. "Ok Ed, time to work your magic and establish us a couple of aliases."
Ed started to chant, "Couple double, dancing pair, aliases hide in plain air."
Faye placed a finger to her lips. "And we'll need to come up with a convincing last name."
Spike abandoned the arm of the couch, one eyebrow raised. Wait a minute … last name? "You mean names, right?"
"Oh no," she mused. "Just one." She fixed him with a wink. "This competition is exclusively for elite married couples."
See You Space Cowboy
Author's Note: I tend to string all my fanfictions into a single 'verse, so this one references events in some of my previous Bebop misadventures. The six pack of robotic compys hail from the adventure Acid Rock Riot, which happened right before this. Spike's swing-dance history was established in Dragons of the Darkwave 1. Throughout my works I have fleshed out Spike's missing chapters from what little the show revealed. In this one I'll be giving the reawakened Faye a chance to examine her past. Hang with me here, this should be a crazy fun ride incorporating the Bebop crew's typical luck—and less … umm … physically shredding then the action adventure through the death trap that was the asteroid version of Jurassic Park. If you've ever wanted to read about Faye and Spike submerged neck-deep in the upper crust of society struggling to syncopate on a dance floor while trying to sniff out a pair of rats—this will be your jam.