The screen on the Bebop's coffee table lit up with the broadcast. Flashing diamonds of light fluttered on the screen as the music blared. The logo for the Ihy Intergalactic Dancing Competition glittered in gold.
All around the living room, the six pack of compys chased one another, engaged in a wild game of tag. Qi paused in the middle of the couch, noted the program and peeped at the screen. A moment later, Shuĭ hopped up on the back of the couch and looked around, a bottle cap clasped in his jaws. On the floor in front of the couch a ruckus arose between Huŏ and Jīn, hissing as they tugged a large cooking spoon between them. Mù shifted back and forth fascinated by his distorted reflection in the perforated object. He stuck his claw through the hole and peeped, cocking his head. Tŭ peeped first at one, then the other. Getting nowhere with the ornery pair, he turned up to Qi. And squawked loudly.
Grabbing the bottle cap from Shuĭ, Qi threw it hard. The cap tinked off Huŏ and Jīn's muzzles, an instant disruption to their argument. They looked up only to find Qi pointing a metal claw at the screen. At that, the six pack settled onto the couch, beady eyes fixed on the program.
A man in a tuxedo waved. "Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the conclusion of the Ihy Intergalactic Dancing Competition. I'm your co-host Derrick Louis."
A lady in a sparkling dress appeared next to him. "And I'm your co-host Veronica McNeil. This is quite an evening for us. After all, this year's competition was quite … unexpected."
"Indeed. We had upsets and events that blindsided everyone. In fact, as I have heard, the Tutfords spent a long time in private discussion with judges trying to resolve a number of issues."
"The largest of which was the horrific behavior of Phillip and Eliza Dunningham in what appeared to have been a display of poor sportsmanship. In the final round they rushed and tackled the current competing couple, Spike and Faye Sterling, ruining what would have been an award winning performance."
"Of course the strangeness doesn't stop there. We'll start with the fact that the Dunninghams were not in fact who they claimed to be, right Veronica?"
Mug shots of the two superimposed over the formal contest photos. The evidence of their cosmetic surgeries highly evident, they'd had complete facial reconstruction.
"Nope, they were really Ivanhoe and Uhrikha Bruusikhov, two hackers with bounties on their heads. Their plan exposed, they proceeded to the bridge and hijacked the Golden Calf. Of course to everyone's shock the current leading couple, Spike and Faye immediately chased them down, broke onto the bridge, and apprehended them."
The screen flashed up photos of Spike and Faye at the contest.
"Sadly during this event it was revealed that Spike and Faye were also aboard the ship on false pretenses. They were in fact not married, and are actually Spike Spiegel and Faye Valentine, two bounty hunters from the ship Bebop. This meant their immediate disqualification despite what would have been a winning combination score."
"The rules are the rules. There are no exceptions, remains the final decision of the panel. Though it is with deep regrets. However, since two finalist couples were disqualified, with one responsible for saving the ship, the Tutfords have decided that this year there will be no winner declared. The remaining legitimate couples in the final round will receive automatic entry into next year's competition, and no one will have the title of Returning Champions. Sorry Espositios."
"Join us for the final night! For more dancing and interviews with the contestants. Even the crew of the now famous Bebop. Right Derrick? As I heard all of them are aboard. The Tutfords extended a grateful invitation to the full crew for a ride back to the Ganymede, as apparently their ship sustained damage during a firefight. That was a nail-biting experience. So join us for the most unusual closing night … "
The compys hopped up and down. Well, not every one of the crew had been invited on the Golden Calf.
The orchestra played their souls out, Spike approved of the current swing jazz selection. So did most of the crowd, as the dance floor was packed. Dressed in the black tux, he'd transferred the bejeweled stylized S lapel pin. After all, that had never been a lie, it truly was his initial. He intended to keep the bauble. Jet wore his cream colored suit with a long tie. It fit him well. But clearly he still looked imposing to the rest of crowd. Maybe it was the hardware as most of the folk here appeared au naturale. Well, Spike found a greater amount of elbow room since the final round anyway. No surprise there, the moment they learned he wasn't some blue blood rich boy the expected result happened. The elite kept their distance from the riffraff.
That's gratitude for ya. Never mind that the Bebop crew had come together and saved all of their swanky asses while they stood frozen in shock, thank you very much. Just another day.
Faye, attired to the nines in a halter dress and a fur stole, brazenly sported the sapphire hair comb along with the diamond tiara. Cygne and Maxine had repaired the comb, minus the micro-drive. At least they'd have one souvenir. Ein padded around the deck on freshly pedicured paws with a black bow tie above his collar. That certainly drew glances, no other pets had been permitted. But the frosting on the cake … Ed pranced around the dance floor spinning pirouettes on her bare feet. Cygne had convinced the hyperactive teen to at least wear a dress. It was a simple t-shirt style with a waistline and full skirt that flared when she spun. Colorful panels in bright swirls formed the skirt, befitting her wild personality. How Cygne had tossed it together in such short notice, no one knew. But at least Ed wasn't in shorts and a loose t-shirt.
She laughed, running at Spike full force, arms forward. "Swing! Ed wants to fly!"
He caught her hands and spun her in a circle, letting her go in a high-swing toss. Both smiled broadly as she came back down into his waiting hands in time with the music.
"Weeeee! Ed wants it again! Swingswingswing!"
Rolling his eyes, Spike repeated it. Of course this was the fifth time in this song alone. "I never should have started this."
"Hehehe hehe! Ed is flying! Weeee!" Her arms stretched out as she screamed with delight.
Polite company did not seem to be amused. The exuberant display drew quite a pronounced response from the people throwing disgusted looks at the jubilant child. Spike ignored them, giving Ed another flight, while Jet and Faye tapped along with the music.
As the piece ended, Ed's feet landed on the floor and she giggled. "Spike had fun playing double-O-Spike."
He ruffled her hair. "Yeah, a bit. But frankly, I'm glad it's over. I prefer just being plain old me."
"Spike person looks hot in a tuxedo. Faye-Faye says so." She pointed.
Faye fwapped her stole over Ed's eyes and huffed.
Lighting a cigarette, Spike chuckled. "Well, nobody get used to it. I got my own style, and this dapper shit ain't it."
Jet squinted an eye. "Don't think I could used to you like that, pard."
"Me neither. Too expensive for my taste. You know how often I get shredded."
Faye rolled her eyes. "There is no way Spike could maintain the cost of such a wardrobe. Suits like that are hardly the cheep stuff he lives in."
Spike lifted a shoulder and chuckled. "It's called a timeless classic."
"It's called lazy." She challenged. "After everything I tried to teach you, you still have no sense of fashion."
Casting a glance around the room at all the excessive finery, he smirked. "Eh, I can live without it."
Carlos and Roberta Esposito sauntered by, a sour expression on their faces. Roberta flashed a fan as if to push away the air they breathed. "Look dear, it's that non-couple that spoiled everything."
Faye waved a few fingers through her stole and smiled a little too friendly. "Look, it's the poor-sport-previous-champions. So sorry you lost the title this year."
Carlos narrowed his eyes. "It's all your fault."
"Really?It's not like we rushed another couple mid-routine and tackled them. I think you mean those jerks who got hauled off for theft, illegal hacking, and hijacking the ship. We're the ones who actually stopped them."
Spike laid a hand on Faye's shoulder and added, "Good thing we never officially finished, our combined score would have buried yours."
Carlos wrinkled his nose at Spike. "How can you seriously address me now that you've been exposed as a fraud? Lower class piece of space trash."
Quick on the draw, Faye folded her arms, "You two came over here. There is a huge dance floor. Why don't you go find somewhere you are welcome?"
Ed climbed up Spike's back and clung over his shoulder, adding, "That'll be a long search. No one likes them."
That was the final clincher, they moved off with their noses in the air.
"Too bad we can't come back and beat them next year." Faye pouted for a moment. "Well, we could. All we'd have to do is … "
"Forget it, Faye." Spike wriggled his ring-free fingers in the air. "I'm not marrying you for real. There are other contests, if you really want. I might consider it, so long as we can just be ourselves."
"Be serious, who would want to marry you for real?" Faye groused.
Ed hugged Spike from behind. "Ed would marry Spike-person."
He blanched and pried her off. "Uhhh, no. No one is marrying Spike—erf me. Ok? I'm not interested." When Ed pouted he shook his head. "No offense, but you're too young kiddo."
"When Ed is older?"
Spike palmed his face. "Let's just drop this, alright? I'm a bachelor for life, is that so wrong?"
Jet guffawed and threw an arm over Spike's shoulder. "Now that is a picture—you in some domestic lifestyle. Spike Spiegel, ex-bounty hunter, now homemaker. He cooks, he cleans, he even folds the linens! Hahaha!"
"Linens? What are those?" He gawked. "Wait a minute, Jet. What's that supposed to mean?"
"You can borrow my apron, which you constantly poke fun at."
Even Ein got into it, dashing around his legs and yapping.
Spike glanced up. "Oh great, don't look now, here come those announcers."
Sure enough Derrick and Veronica sauntered up with camera and sound staff in tow. Derrick smiled too wide. "And look who have here, the unexpected guests of the Golden Calf. The crew of the Bebop. Now, you are actually all full time bounty hunters, is that correct?"
Faye leaned toward the mic and smiled into the camera. "That's correct. We had truly hoped to end this one a little more undercover, but circumstances didn't permit us any subtleties."
Jet rumbled, "They rarely do."
Both Spike and Ed snickered.
Veronica piped in, "It seems like such an odd career for anyone of a refined nature. How does one get into bounty hunting?"
Jet blurted out waving his cybernetic hand, "Career change due to injury. Had ship, will chase bounties. Seemed to work."
Spike added around his cigarette, "Needed something to occupy my time other than crash at bars."
Ed waved a hand in the air excitedly. "Edward wanted to leave Earth and get souvenirs!"
Ein hopped up and down on the floor barking until Ed lifted him up. He grinned and licked the camera lens, to the dismay of the cameraman who had to clean it with his shirt.
Meanwhile Faye twitched at all of their responses. At last she glared them into silence before turning to the camera with a smug smile. "Saving others from less-desirable creeps is the noble thing to do."
Spike and Jet burst into laughter, slapping eachothers backs. "That's a good one, Faye!" Jet managed to choke out, "She does it for the money!"
Faye blushed bright red and glared at them. "Living with these two is not for the fainthearted!"
Derrick blinked. "So, it must be hard being in charge."
"Faye." Jet stepped forward, arms folded. "The fibbing stops here." He stared at the camera and pointed a thumb at himself. "I'm the captain of the ship and the leader of this crew."
Veronica looked at her notes. "And according to a witness, Doctor Adenine, there was a dog who was instrumental in breaking the code and getting the bridge controls back?"
Ein wriggled in Ed's hands, panting with a smile. "Bark bark!"
Spike scratched his hair. "Uhhh yeah. About that … you see the doc was a bit stressed out. So he didn't really know what he was seeing. Ed's our computer master."
Ed blinked. "Ed wasn't—"
Jet clamped a hand over her mouth and grinned. "A lot happened in a very short time. Chaos as usual."
Fortunately the interview dwindled swiftly. The co-hosts excused themselves and wandered off to more well-spoken couples.
The crew lingered by a table, drinking and idling away the time. Not very often that they got to savor the finery in life. While most of the personal servants were not allowed, it couldn't be overlooked that Fernando and Cygne were gracing the dance floor. When the couple glanced their way, Spike and Faye both raised their glasses in a toast.
In a brief pause of the music, a whisper rolled through the crowd as Morella came to the microphone placed at the front of the orchestra. She waved out to everyone. "I've been granted the privilege to sing for you once again, to reprise the song that had been previously interrupted. Not only that, but would you all please clear the dance floor?" She waited as everyone moved to the sides.
Morella smiled. "For the few years I have been married it was requested that I fill a role expected of me. Thanks to two very special people I found the courage to step back into the limelight again. Now with Jim's blessing." She gestured towards him. "I have always loved to sing. And I didn't realize how much I missed it until Spike and Faye made their daring request."
A spotlight fell on them. They blinked up into it. Spike had not expected anything more, considering how busted they were. After all, the bill for the door had yet to be settled.
"Even though they have been technically disqualified, it does nothing to eclipse their skills as gifted dancers. This was my request to the Tutfords as a thank you to those who risked their lives to save all of ours. Please welcome to the floor, the couple that changed everything this year, Spike Spiegel and Faye Valentine." Morella held her hand out.
Spike turned to Faye and with a little flourished bow held out his own hand. "May I have this dance?"
Discarding her stole in Ed's waiting hands, Faye took Spike's and let him lead her to the center. There the music began. A reprise of Never Enough with Morella's voice soaring to the heavens with the swell of the orchestra. Spike and Faye didn't reprise their routine. They simply danced. Comfortable in one another's embrace, they danced. Soft smiles on both their faces, they had the floor to themselves while everyone else watched with a mixture of expressions from gratitude to disdain. Spike stared through them all, let them think what they wanted, not like he could alter their opinions. Not even saving their lives was enough to change some of their minds.
"Spike?" Faye rested her head under his chin. The scent of her orchid perfume filled the air.
"Why are you such a jerk when you can be such a gentleman?"
He chuckled. "It's the greatest con of my life, Faye. You really don't want to know why. Just enjoy it while it lasts … dancing queen."
Faye lounged in the poolside chair, a mango margarita in hand. She could not ignore all the wayward glances her way. Well, she had taken quite some time to select her smokey rose purple strapless bikini. It fit like a glove, covering precisely what needed to be covered for modesty and not too much beyond that.
With the festivities over, many enjoyed the leisure time on the long trip back to Ganymede via non-hyperspace. The pool had become popular, either for simply lounging poolside or enjoying the water. After a rather insane morning in their suite, not at all to be unexpected as the guys had repeatedly attempted to disrupt her bathroom time, she was relieved at the suggestion for this activity. It left her the chance to stretch out and relax while the rest of those lunkheads splashed in the pool.
There they were. Spike in a pair of blue and neon green board shorts diving into the deep end. Jet bobbed around in a pair of red tropical printed swim trunks, she had to wonder if that arm of his would rust, while Ed sat on his shoulders laughing. She had on a brightly striped one piece. The child's ruckus was enough to draw attention, however Ein paddling around in the pool drew outright scorn.
Faye watched through half-hooded eyes as the Vanderleer's tried to summon security to remove the "Flea-bitten mongrel" from the pool. She smiled the moment the security guard replied, "What flea-bitten mongrel? All I see is the Tutfords' honored guests."
She muttered to herself before taking a sip, "A little dog hair never hurt anyone."
She glanced up to find Jim smiling at her, gesturing to the lounge chair at her side. "May I join you?"
He sat down, a frosty beer in his hand. "Rather surprised you're not out there with them."
Faye watched as Jet bobbed in the water with Ed's feet in his hands. He launched her into the air with a tremendous splash just as Spike resurfaced. He sputtered and gave her a smirk before swimming after her in an impromptu game of water tag. It forced a smile on Faye's face. "A refined lady such as me."
" … is an odd fit on that ship." Jim raised a shoulder. "Seriously, having met the rest of them, I am confused. I could tell you weren't acting." He gestured to the people on the sides of the pool. "This is a society you were raised in. Unlike … your partner?"
"Spike? Yeah, well, you have no idea what I went through trying to teach that clueless ass to blend in."
Jim cocked his head. "I take it that unlike you he isn't from … uhhh … our class?"
She took a sip of her drink and sighed. "None of them are. We're just the result of one collision after another. Somehow … we became …" her voice faded for a moment as she searched for the word, it came slowly " … family."
Out in the pool, Ed balanced on Spike's shoulders before leaping into a cannon ball. It left both Spike and Jet in a scramble to cover their faces from the resulting wave. A moment later Ein paddled into Ed's arms barking excitedly. She flung him into the air and the little sausage dog's paws flailed before he tipped nose down, plummeting like a missile. All of them, were laughing. At ease for once. Given how often they'd been just barely scraping by, it was a sight to see. Not a care and enjoying each others company.
"The girl, whose kid is she?"
"None of ours, if that's what you're wondering. The little imp conned her way onto the ship. I shudder to think of either Jet or Spike ever having a child."
Jim blinked, obviously struggling to find a reply and failing.
Faye's voice trembled a bit as spoke, "It's odd. But there are times when I'm with them that I can't stand how crass those morons can be. But … when I left, all I wanted to do was come back. Back to their chaos, their adventure, … back to the place we call our home."
Jim looked toward where the ship rode in tow alongside the Golden Calf, visible through the large glass windows. "I can't picture actually living on such a small ship. I mean, all four of you?"
"Five." She pointed at Ein. "Bebop's our whole world. And even after this reminder of what my life used to be … I wouldn't want it any other way."
Raising his beer glass, Jim smiled. "Well, thanks to you guys I don't have to look for another way. Dad never need know that prototype went missing." He nodded toward President Brookridge lounging by the side of the pool. "Kind of surprised he didn't go back to Europa on that transport with Dr. Adenine."
Faye glanced and snorted a laugh. "Oh, be serious. A plague is running rampant, you think an official is going to be there? Bet he's got another trip booked after this to stay as far away as possible. Sadly, I have to admit Spike was right, in that regard. But then, I guess a guy like him would know."
Jim blinked. "Was he in government?"
Realizing her near slip, Faye shrugged a shoulder. "Not directly. But he used to have some influence there, in a round-about way."
A staff member came up beside Faye, "Pardon me, Ms. Valentine, but there seems to be something wrong with your account."
She waved him off. "There should be plenty."
"It was declined." He handed her a pad with a rather long list of charges. From the contest entry fee, their lodgings and those of Fernando Cygne and Maxine plus their costume and make-up fees billed to them, the room service charges, spa treatments, the charges for the extra large suite for the remainder of the voyage, the fee to repair the bridge door …
Faye's teeth ground.
The reaction had attracted the attention of the guys. Clinging to the edge of the pool near-by, Jet clicked his tongue and remarked to Spike, "Just how much did you treat yourself out of her account?"
"Not as much as I could have." Spike rubbed his chin. "Which means she pretty much blew that fortune herself."
Jet glanced at Spike. "How much was all that clothing worth?"
Flipping around with his back against the side of the pool, Spike rested his elbows on the edge of the pool and laughed. "That was a lot of costume changes, come to think of it. Wouldn't it be funny if the mutt's bow tie broke the bank?"
Faye glanced through the list, and sure enough—the charge for Ein's special bow tie was the first to bounce. "Come on, guys. The bounty was my idea in the first place! And you'd never have been aboard if it weren't for me."
Jet and Spike exchanged glances, Spike gave a small nod prompting Jet to met the servant's gaze. "We'll get it covered soon as we're back in the room."
"Very good, Sir." The man smartly moved off.
Spike closed his eyes. "Ok Jet, pay up."
"I admit, you were right when you bet she'd blow the whole wad on this escapade."
Faye sat upright. "You bet on me?"
Spike grinned over his shoulder. "Hey, you know me, when I see a sure bet … "
Ein padded up beside Faye's chair and shook off a spray of water. "Woof!"
Author's Note: Thanks for reading. Though this swinging adventure is at an end, I'm not! Join me for the next chaos ridden adventure of the crew in Bebop Redemption. This one started a broader story arc. Hope you were paying attention to the details.
See You Space Cowboy