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People don't tell the story of the man who was born a boulder in a flowing stream, filled with fish. It could be that, caught in the pull of their own lives, they only took him for a larger fish by their side before splitting off. Another person with his own path, his own heading, his own changes to find with the currents.

( All things considered, he never thinks to blame the world for that misconception. )

Maybe there isn't much of a story to tell. The water flows, and the boulder stays fixed.

Erosion softens his edges, but he can never swim. Birds touch down on his surface to rest, build a serviceable nest, then fly away again and again (and again). Fate's hand plucks a stone from the shoreline- smooth and round, rust-brown over grey- and skips it. The man watches as it travels, watches it barely hold to course until it stops . Until it sinks. It always would have found its way to the bottom of the river. But if he'd at least had a chance of catching it, even just to watch it fumble over the tips of his fingers--

What's gone is gone, he learns. Everything that he can't hold down is out of reach. The man exists as his own blessing and his own curse.

Time and life, their ebb and flow and quicksilver flashes, move on.

But Jet Black never does.

 


 

Jet has no tears to shed for Spike Spiegel, when all is said and done. Discrediting any notions he may have on the masculinity of it (or any lack thereof), something about forging the idea into an act still rubs him wrong.

It's not that it would be an insult to Spike, he thinks. Not to his memory or his new life or what he left behind, or whatever the hell he'd be insulting. Much as he wants to tell himself otherwise-- as much as he does, every time he lights a smoke or kicks the couch-- it's not that he hates the idea because he couldn't care less, either.

But doing nothing and saying nothing, remaining immobile with his hands still cupped after the water's drained away through the cracks in his fingers, has less of a sense of finality.

His old watch has been repaired, but for the second time in his life, clocks threaten to stop.

Jet waits two weeks before he watches a news broadcast.

 


 

The day they met, he'd said "I'm not looking to teach a rookie how to waste my time and get himself killed."

If he'd known that Spike was Spike back then, and known what being Spike meant, he'd have said something else to deter him. Would've welcomed him with open arms, maybe, so he could watch the man slink away to other pastures with clouded eyes and a firm no thanks. A stray cat doesn't like the person who picks it up and holds it. It likes a challenge. It wants to be unwanted.

All he'd done was fan a spark in Spike's eyes. Enough to make him sit up straighter, smile more widely. Not widely enough to make it reach his eyes by any means, but enough to make a predatory game from two glasses of shit beer and a set of scraped knuckles.

"Lucky for us that I'm no rookie, huh? And… even luckier that I've died once already."

Spike Spiegel, he'd decided in that moment, was an idiot. But a cop's intuition told him there was some kind of bigger picture.

"If you're running from something, it's not my problem."

"Nah. Not me."  Spike's eyes were different colors. He hadn't been telling the truth, but he hadn't been lying either. Always somewhere in-between, always filling a different container.  

Spike pulled out a lighter, but Jet threw a pointed look at the No Smoking sign before the cigarette even touched his lips. ( Cop's intuition told Jet that someone was thinking of him as a hardass. Good. )

Spike tucked the items away and held his hands up in a conciliatory gesture. First and only time he ever would, the little shit.

"Look, Jet, I'm not even running towards something. The way I figure it, I've either got eight lives left, or I'm gonna live forever. Whatever happens, happens."

 


 

The Bebop's a beautiful old girl, even rusted and battle-weary. She's never let him down. Every part of himself that he loses, he can rebuild in her familiar corridors. Every part that she loses, he can reattach. He still has a lot of bullet holes to weld up. Lot of scorching to scrub off.

She always was a fishing vessel first.

Jet sets her down somewhere on a planet with water, as far out from Mars as he can afford to go, and stares into the choppy waves. The more time that passes, the more he realizes that the quiet he used to prefer has been the worst part of living since Ed and Faye took off (and came back, and took off, and came back, and took off, and took off, and took off--).

There's a pain in his leg and bitterness rolling on his tongue. He dreams of caterpillars breaking through the shell of their cocoons too early, melting away into nothingness before the world knew they'd ever existed.

Whatever happens, happens.

Jet snorts, but there's no one there to hear it.

"Stupid bastard."

The words are dead as soon as they leave his mouth, absorbed by the soft sounds of water and the bleak silence only he seems to know is there. Gone without the hint of an echo.

He wonders if he even said them out loud in the first place.

Somewhere under her weathered surface, the ship creaks.