Chapter 1: Chops (Edward)
Edward listens, and Edward notices, and Edward knows things. Edward also keeps Bebop's secrets for her.
Technical ability, to execute music physically and to negotiate chord changes. Distinct from the capacity to have good ideas, to phrase effectively and build a solo.
Ed loves Bebop . She loves the way it looks; the way it feels. Sometimes she lays flat on her back, and just soaks up the thrum of her engine, the chords of her moving through space, feels every tiny inch of her.
When she does this she closes her eyes and listens - Bebop is big and filled with circuitry and pistons and wiring but Ed is good at listening when she wants to. She can hear Ein, whimpering in his sleep; his feet scratch along the floor, and Ed is certain he is dreaming of the lab again, and notes to take him on an adventure when he wakes up so that he forgets the bad dream.
Faye is somewhere, singing to herself, a note or two discordant, and one of her feet tapping idly, which probably means she’s doing laundry. Ed can hear a silky noise, and realises Faye is brushing her hair. The song Faye sings is long and low and it takes a few measures before Ed realises that it’s “My Funny Valentine” and Ed is still too young and sweet to realise why, but everytime Faye sings it she gets a sad look in her eyes, so Ed decides at some point to give Faye an adventure too.
Spike is sleeping. Ed can hear the growls of his stomach and his faint mumbles, but they ate just a few minutes ago, so both seem to be contented mumbles. Spike, she decrees, does not need an adventure. She then recants that: everybody , always needs an adventure.
Jet is loudest of all, because his footsteps are always loud and determined, not delicate like Faye’s or scuffed like Spike’s, and he’s walking toward her right now.
“What happened to you ?” he asks, and Ed opens her eyes to see him staring down at her, puzzled.
“Ed is listening to Bebop!” announces Ed cheerfully, “Ed is planning adventures!”
“Oh no,” he mutters, “ Please no.”
Ed grins up at him, and he can’t help but smile back.
Ed and Ein are searching for an adventure on the Bebop , which is hard going in deep space. Ed thinks that there might be food hidden somewhere, and Ein seems to agree (or, at least, not disagree too strongly), so the two are off.
Ed loves Ein with every fibre of her body, because he’s so smart and so clever, and so beautiful . When she cuddles up with him for sleep, she notices he doesn’t get the bad dreams, the dreams where he’s running and whimpering, so she tries to cuddle up with him often.
Ed also knows that the adults - despite their moaning - all love Ein too. She can see it in the way Spike slips Ein bits of his meal, even though Spike eats like a kid who’s used to treating each meal like his last; the way Faye never really yells at him; the way Jet plays with him when he thinks no one’s looking.
It’s okay. They’re all just new secrets for Ed - and Bebop - to keep.
In Ed’s brain, she has two fathers: her real father - who has a job to do, and is wonderful and kind, but forgetful and scatterbrained and that's okay, really (so she tells herself, anyway) - and Jet.
Jet doesn’t forget her. He always makes sure she gets fed, even if she doesn’t want to eat, or is busy. He doesn’t ever want to put her in danger, and gets angry at the thought of it. He’s protective, and fierce.
Ed repays that, the only way she knows how; hacks down the prices of their tolls, makes irritating police tickets go away, tries to smooth out the Bebop ’s trail. She thinks Jet knows - he’ll occasionally allude to it, with an eye on her - but she also think Jet knows that she can’t think of any other way to say “ Thank you .”
Ed paints Faye’s toenails in a rainbow of different colors. She practices so that she doesn’t get a single drop on Faye’s skin. When she gets better, she starts painting patterns - dots, hearts, stripes, chevrons. Faye smiles at her as she does this, a tiny quiet moment - Faye calls it “girl time”. Ed doesn’t think she’ll ever paint her own nails - they’re chipped, hard layers of keratin.
But when she paints Faye’s toenails, Faye smiles at her, and Ed smiles back, and Ed feels like, for a moment, the two understand each other.
Jet talks down to her a bit. Faye has a tendency to talk down to her a lot. Spike is the only one who doesn’t, and it’s something Ed noticed from the beginning. Spike - orphan, child soldier, whose syndicate files Ed has read and would never repeat - speaks to Ed as if she were an adult.
He sometimes speaks to her as if she were a fucking ridiculous adult, but that always makes Edward laugh. Because Edward knows the real secret - Spike likes it when the people around him are silly, and do things he doesn’t expect. Spike, who lives in the past, wants the unexpected in the present. Why else live with the people he lives with?
So Ed does the unexpected, and laughs when he swears.
Chapter 2: Moldy Fig (Jet)
Jet loves his crew. Really. Jet just mostly expresses himself through food. And barely-contained rage.
A term used by the Beboppers to deride players and fans of older styles, especially trad. Someone whose tastes are not up to date.
Jet still remembers the day he called her “Bebop” and painted the word on her hull.
It was hot on the docks of Ganymede, and he still wasn’t quite used to this robotic arm, but he doggedly painted it as well as he could, big round red “B”...and then realised the rest of “ebop” would have to go up near the top, and laughed and the wonderful, perfect image it made, a syncopated “bebop” on the side of his Bebop .
He’d be lying if he said it was easy. Out in the depths of space, there’s no family or purpose really; just feral cats, all of them, and he feeds them and keeps them and tricks himself into thinking they love him the same way he loves them. Spike runs off in search of Julia; Faye runs off with all their money; Ed and Ein hide away for weeks on end; and Jet sits there, telling himself he won’t accept it this time, he won’t let them back. But Spike comes back, covered in bruises, his eyes no longer cold and distant, but warm and mellow; Faye is silent and sad and pitiful; and Ed and Ein reappear, calling for food with huge eyes, and his heart melts.
Feral cats, eh? Well, maybe they can’t love him they way he loves them. But he watches Faye and Ed carefully repaint “Bebop” as he, Spike and Ein wash down the burns from the last job, and he realizes that maybe their love for Bebop is enough.
Jet rather likes dogs - certainly more than cats. It’s why he’s rather fond of his old police nickname, though a Welsh Corgi doesn’t really fit the mantle of the Black Dog. Still, his feet find themselves, shortly after a pay day, wandering the butcher yards, and it’s not much effort to coax a butcher into giving up leg of lamb (or something he claims is lamb - you can’t ask too many questions) as well as a few other choice cuts.
Spike gives him a hopeful look when he sees the leg, quashed when it’s dropped into Ein’s bowl, and the look Jet gives him says it all; touch it and die.
Sometimes, Jet gets angry, thinking of Ed. She can’t be more than thirteen at the oldest, and all alone as far as he can’t tell, and it just isn’t right. It’s the same sort of thinking that drove him to become a police officer and member of the ISSP - when you can’t bear how the world is, you try to change it.
But he’s not a police officer now, and is job isn’t to make the galaxy a better place. So he insists on seconds - thirds - fourths - at the dining table, even when the budget is sparse, sometimes going without so she’s fed and when Spike and Faye raise their eyebrows, he just snaps “She’s a growing kid, okay?”
Ed doesn’t do anything demonstrative (that he’s noticed) - but she does make life easier for him. And that assuages the darker, nastier, cynical side of him.
The more paternal side of him is assuaged by noticing that she’s finally starting to put on some healthy weight.
Jet never knows what to make of Faye. He always feels, intrinsically, that she’s just one bad day a few million woolong away from running off again, and it makes him edgy in a way he can’t describe. When she comes barging into his bonsai room, he gets tense, and anxious; part of him doesn’t want her to leave, feral cat she is, but part of him loathes her and her amorality.
Then he hears the story of her amnesia. At first, like Spike, he’s dismissive. Then Spike tells him what goes down between her and Whitney, out in the vacuum, where no one can hear.
After that, whenever she comes into the bonsai room to complain, Jet takes a deep breath, puts down what he’s doing, and tries to speak to her calmly. She’s lost so much time; he tries to give her his, when he can.
Jet’s friendship with Spike feels, often, like a broken music box; nothing fits right and the song doesn’t play. It’s all jangly and wrong and both of them try to act like they don’t care.
But when Spike comes back with a broken arm, it’s Jet who calls a doctor, Jet who reapplies the bandages, Jet who sets up an IV with painkillers, Jet who tries to ignore when he does too much too soon.
When Spike crashes the Swordfish - again - it’s Jet who fixes her up, good as new, pays for the parts, make sure she can fly.
And maybe the music box doesn’t play quite right - maybe the only music box in Spike’s head that plays is the one for Julia - but it plays well enough, and neither of them need to say a word.
Chapter 3: Broken Time (Faye)
Faye feels like a syncopated note, off by one, always giving the wrong response.
A way of playing in which the beat is not stated explicitly. Irregular, improvised syncopation. Especially applied to bass and drum playing.
To herself, in her own head, Faye has always privately thought that the Bebop was an ugly ship. An ugly vessel for an ugly crew, still faintly reeking of fish in some places.
But though she might not love Bebop as Jet does or talk to her in weird mumbles like Ed or sing to her like Spike, Faye has grown slowly to love her swoops and angles and juts. She’s a fierce, temperamental lady; Faye likes to think of her, in her more flighty moods, as being a fierce diva who lost her looks long ago; age has given her gravitas (a word Faye mispronounces) and changed the soft curves of beauty to the harsh angles of a handsome dame.
In her less flighty, more thoughtful moods, she thinks of Bebop as a mermaid, giving her voice away to dance in the stars and become a home for crooks. She imagines a beautiful young mermaid swimming up the ships in port, and wishing she was one, so she could touch the distant stars she only saw…
But then, at the end of the day, Faye always dismisses it with a cynical headshake. Stupid her, thinking in fairy tales again.
It doesn’t stop her, in her showers, amidst the water and steam, gently stroking the balustrade and whispering, so no one else can hear, “Look, girl, you made it.”
Faye pronounces, loudly, to anyone who will hear, a hatred for dogs, and that she’s really more of a cat person, don’tcha know cats and girls get along much better?
Ein growls at this, though whether he’s underscoring his opinion of cats or her is unclear.
Sometimes, though, when Faye can’t sleep, she’ll wander the ship, hoping Ein is up, and pet him and coo at him and shower him with adoration. It feels good, to unreservedly love something, even if it’s only at what passes for night, out here in the deeps of space. In return, Ein snuffles his nose over face and sometimes - when he smells that she hasn’t put any facial cream on - he’ll gently lick her, as if to tell her that he gets it, he does.
And sometimes, Faye will just hold Ein tight, something manifestly physical when her thoughts get too dark.
Ein’s fine with that too. Just so long as she doesn’t squeeze this time. Even if it does take him forever to wash her tears out.
Every now and then, when they don’t have anything to do, Faye will pronounce “girl time” and Jet and Spike will roll their eyes, but Ed will pounce up, kittenish.
Faye will wash Ed’s hair in the bath and comb it out smoothly, and then Ed will do Faye’s nails while Faye reads out and makes fun of the things in the fashion magazines, and the two will giggle and make fun of the boys.
Faye often makes a big deal out of being a girl, but honestly, her chances to connect with Ed as the two girls make her relax and feel slightly more real than normal. And when it’s all done, and Ed’s hair is relatively tidy and Faye’s feet are a bouquet of color, Ed will wrap her arms around Faye and nuzzle a cheek against her quickly, before running away to mess up her hair again, and Faye will try very hard to pretend she’s not touched.
Faye know she’s a pain to Jet. She knows it, the same way she knows the exact sound his robotic arm makes when he’s anxious (he grips it so tightly the bearings start to squeal), and every single one of his tells (lying: dissembles; bluffing at cards: blinks too much; thinks he has you stone dead: smug).
At the same time, she knows Jet also worries. He’s always nagging her to put money into her debt rather than waste it on gambling, and if she doesn’t eat for a while, he’ll come drag her bodily out of her room, sit her down and force feed her if he has to.
Sometimes she wishes he didn’t worry, that he didn’t care . That she didn’t care so much. But she does and it eats away at her, sometimes, boiling inside of her like a sickness.
And she doesn’t know why she does it. She can’t formulate words. She doesn’t even try to give an excuse as to why, one day, while out collecting a bounty, she buys Jet a new bonsai. She just storms in, sets it in his collection, along with some new wires, and then storms out before Spike can say something smart.
Jet says nothing. But the next time she goes to bother him, the bonsai he’s working on is hers, and she sees the care with which he’s handling it and stammers incoherently before fleeing.
Fucking Spike .
She wishes it was legal to just shoot him in the back of the head and leave him in the middle of space.
She wishes she wanted to.
Jet sometimes wryly accuses them of bitching like brother and sister. Other times he dryly comments they’re more like a newly divorced couple. Both comments get him glares.
But when he’s sick, she sits with him, even if she has to put up with all his antics and snide comments. When he’s in trouble, she’s the one calling the cavalry, and calling him out on his stupidity when Jet is so convinced of Spike’s fucking magnificence he won’t even try .
So she yells at him, calls him names, and Spike gently grabs her wrists, looks her in the eyes and says - something. The words aren’t important. The meaning is clear:
I know you’re worried. I’ll be fine .
He marches off to whatever, and Faye stomps the ground, then pauses, touches a balustrade.
“Sorry, girl,” she mutters, before turning in, frustrated.
She’s angry. At him, at herself. Just her luck she’s so broken - so messed up - so lost - she’s a syncopated note, off by one, always yelling when he’s soft, always serious when he’s snide and she almost can’t bear it. But at least he always knows what she means, and at least he knows there’s one person on this mermaid of a ship scared to death for him.
Maybe, this time, it will be enough for him to come back.
Chapter 4: Coda (Spike)
Spike isn't the sort of man to show his feelings, much anyway. He's also not the sort to make promises he can't keep - and in Spike's mind, that's all of them.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
(1) A portion of a tune which seems like a tail, or extra measures, added to the last A section. It is repeated for every chorus, however. (2) An ending for a tune, used only once after the final chorus.
Spike doesn’t think things like “Well, the ship’s a dame” or any bullshit like that, but he does kind of love the Bebop , faults and all. He loves women who can be feminine when you aren’t looking, or when you least expect it, and in surprising ways, and Bebop fits that to a tee, gracious and graceful and giving him views that Mars-born Spike thought he’d never live to see.
He doesn’t make a big deal of it - who’d listen? (he ignores the persistent voice that says “everyone”) - but managing to get off-planet and stay off-planet was amazing. He felt like he was free for once.
...Until Vicious came knocking, but even then, there’s a whole galaxy out there for them to crawl around in. It’ll be a while before he has to have the final stand. Until then, he’s just killing time, and the Bebop is as fine a home as he can think, carrying all of them, dust specks, through space.
He tries his best to treat her right; helps with the routine maintenance, the cleaning, puts some money towards repairs. He still always thinks there’s something more, something else…
“You need, like, a big bomber girl on the side.”
“ No , Spike.”
“Like, entwined with a serpent or something.”
“What, you spend too much time with those truckers? No .”
“Faye, get in on this, Bebop needs a bomber girl on the side.”
“No, she does not, she is beautiful just as she is.”
“I dunno, I think a mermaid would be pretty cool.”
“You are both tacky as hell. It is my ship, and I will say what goes on her.”
Spike laughs, because it’s kind of not true. In making a home for them there, Jet has made Bebop everyone’s ship, and that’s why he loves her.
Spike keeps saying he hates Ein, keeps grouching about pets and how much they suck. When Faye bitches about Ein, he joins in, and sometimes the conversation gets so ridiculous, Spike becomes uncomfortably aware from the stares they’re eliciting that they are fooling absolutely nobody .
He just hopes no one knows that, on more than one occasion (all right, every occasion), when he was cooking, he “accidentally” undercooked some of the meat and decided, rather than put it back in the pan, that it would just have to be Ein’s dinner.
See, Ein promised he wouldn’t tell, and it would suck to find out he’d been double-crossed by a dog.
One morning, Spike went out to do routine maintenance on the Swordfish, and found Ed there instead, crawling all over his ship.
“HEY ED!” he yelled, angrily, “GET DOWN FROM THERE!”
“Ed is curious!” said Ed brightly, “What does this do?”
“WHAT ARE YOU - GET OUT OF THERE!”
Spike bodily pulled her down, and was halfway through a scathing lecture on how badly she might have hurt herself when Ed found herself near tears. Spike abruptly cut himself short and said, instead -
“What do you want to know?”
After that, each time Spike did a routine maintenance, he would invite Ed up, and show her what he was doing, until one morning he got up to find Ed going through the full routine maintenance on her own, better and fast than him. But when she spotted him, she slowed down and pushed her goggles back up.
“...Edward needs help?” she said, in a performance that beat out some of Faye’s for Least Convincing Ever.
Now, he and Ed do Swordfish’s maintenance together. It’s their thing, and he likes it. She asks smart questions, and sometimes she asks silly questions, and he tries to keep her entertained and stop her getting into harm’s way, and it’s a time where he and Ed can just kind of relax. Part of him (part of him he tries to ignore) even wonders if this is what it would be like having a real kid.
But futures and Spike don’t mix.
Jet really dislikes that futures and Spike don’t mix. Spike still remembers how mad he’d been after Callisto, and Spike’s uncertainty that Jet would let him back with nothing to show.
Spike hasn’t really ever had anybody like Jet in his life. The closest would be Mao, but then Mao viewed Spike as somewhere between a son and a weapon whereas Jet just seems to view Spike as a pain in the ass.
At least, that’s what he says . Over time, Spike has started picking up on what Jet isn’t saying - the tones that mean he’s happy Spike is safe, the tones that mean he wants the conversation over, the tones that mean he wants Spike to be careful. Spike tries to listen to those tones, and promise without saying it - because a man like Spike should never make promises, he’s not worthy of them, not anymore - that he will be back, that Jet won’t have to fly alone.
Spike doesn’t like the thought of Jet alone. It makes him worried and anxious in the pit of his stomach. Maybe that’s why Spike didn’t throw Ed, Ein and Faye off.
Spike can’t have a future; all he wants now is for his friends to have one.
He keeps telling her that she has a future, that the past owes her nothing, and he’s not sure how much she listens.
He hears her, in the night, playing with Ein and crying sometimes, and he thinks about going to her and holding her and saying that it will be all right, that they’re friends, they can fix whatever it is has got her down, but Spike learned long ago not to make promises he can’t keep.
So he just keeps repeating, in words and in actions; you have a future. You have a chance. You have a life .
And sometimes he holds her wrists and looks in her angry eyes and says words that mean nothing, and just hopes she understands that really, he does get it, but he’s not a man who can say sweet nothings. Whatever she’s looking for, she won’t find with him.
That’s what he tells himself anyway.
(He says nothing about the bonsai, and instead just drops off a plush teddy bear in her room. She’ll probably think Ed bought it for her, but Spike thinks she might sleep better with something soft to cuddle; and if she thinks Ed bought it for her as a sisterly gift, that’s fine with him.)
Welp, that was that. Sorry, I had a rough weekend and wanted to hammer *something* creative out before I went slightly mad from stress. I may add prequels and sequels to this about the crew pre-Stray Dog Strut and post-Hard Luck Woman, but we'll see how things work out.