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fukufics: Wait For Sleep
Filth
kurushi_ficage
Title:  Wait for sleep

Length: 4061 (full fic length 1300ish)

Rating:  PG

Summary:  Response to a challenge on fukufics.com in 2005.  Challenge:  Cross another series into the usual Sailor Moon/Ranma mixup.  My choice:  Cowboy Bebop/Ranma/Sailor Moon.  This isn't a particularly great fic, but it was my first published fic in quite some time, and due to its length and the proccesses I used, a formative work in my life as a writer.

 

As Faye lay on her bed, passively watching the ceiling, The Bebop cycled through its regular mechanical actions.  It was as if nothing at all had changed, and as if everything had changed, all at once.  The same old sounds, the same old setting, but somehow it all seemed quiet and surreal compared to the days before.

She didn’t want to sleep.

The past was the past, and that was the way that was best.  For heaven’s sake, if there was a heaven, she had better things to do with her life than sit sulking over what she had lost during a dream.

But every night, without fail, that dream came back to her.  Places and people she had lost and regained; faces she had loved once, and now felt detached from.  Life in the present, her current needs and relationships, wasn’t that enough?

It was, she decided, and reached for a cigarette.  Spike had never let his past go, or perhaps it had never let him go; the end result was the same.  He became another memory, weighing down the walls of The Bebop and haunting the crew in memories.

 

The ship was empty.  Faye stepped cautiously down the echoing corridors, sliding softly onto the couch.  Why was she so scared?  Who could she disturb if she made enough noise to shake the foundations of Mars itself?  If Jet was woken up, he’d just go tinker with the (name Hammerhead?) or water his bonsai.  There was no-one else to disturb, and even if there was, she wouldn’t have cared.  She never had in the past, after all.  She lay back, and reached out with a toe for the videoscreen, and her leg arched out over the empty bench.  Sighing, she sat up, leant over, and retrieved it from a drawer in the bench.  It must’ve been put away after everything that had happened.  It wasn’t as if they’d wanted to use it or anything.  She settled back down, and flicked through the channels.  Brainless, empty garbage.

She shook her head, and turned it off again.  It was all pointless.

 

Jet walked into the room in the morning to find Faye lying on the couch.  She was frowning, and shifting in a restless manner.

“…no…”

Jet leant over her, and rested a hand on her shoulder.

“Hey, Faye…”

She kept fidgeting, and appeared more agitated.  He gently shook her, and when she still didn’t wake, he shook her harder.

“What the HELL do you think you’re DOING?!”

She glared at Jet, and he backed off, hands raised in surrender.

“Don’t blame me, you were the one with the nightmare.”

She seemed to calm down, and the tension drained from her body as she slumped back down.  To Jet, she looked exhausted and strangely sad.

“I’ve just been having rough dreams lately.  Sorry.”

“Sorry?”

Jet shook his head.  The reason he’d searched out Faye was to discuss other matters.  They’d drifted in space for a while now, and while he’d rather not have to return to Mars so soon, without any information they’d have to head over there.  No other way to find a bounty to hunt.  When he mentioned it to her, she closed her eyes for a long moment.

 

When Faye opened her eyes, she found that she could not say exactly what feelings were stirring inside her heart, but also that the same confusion and distress was apparent in Jet’s own eyes.

“I suppose we have to eat sometime.  Let’s go.”

 

***

 

Ranma sat on the roof of one of the less refined buildings of Earth, if there was anything that resembled “refined” on that junkyard of a planet.  She sighed, and rested her head in her hands.  Memories were plaguing her, which was quite unusual.  As far back as she could recall, she hadn’t had many memories.  That strange doctor had revived her, and her oldest memory was that of the sensation of cold water sliding off of her body, and the bright lights that lit the room.  She had woken from, they told her, a very long sleep.  All data lost except for her name; Ranma Saotome.  She had sat in the hospital for months, coming to terms with herself and her body.  That had been the hardest part, admittedly.  She had ventured to take a calming shower on her first night in her hospital room, only to discover a terrible secret.

When she was touched by hot, sometimes even just warm water, she became a man.  She had screamed at first, and crumpled into a small ball.  Was this all due to the freezing process?  Had the doctor changed her DNA for some perverted reason?

If she hadn’t calmed down and washed her face with cold water, she might have never regained her sense of self.  The change was triggered again, and she found herself in her normal form.

What the hell had happened to her?  Who the hell had she been?

After a few long months had passed, a young girl had come to the hospital, carrying her pet cat.

Great gods, that cat.  When it entered the room, it had exclaimed in a loud voice, and ran straight for her.  Ranma began to shiver and twitch, and she screamed for the girl to take the cat away.  She didn’t, though.  She just smiled, and tilted her head to get a better view of the horrific creature.

“Is this her, Luna?”

Then, Ranma had blacked out.  When she woke again, she was far from the hospital.  A room that was covered in pink and shiny things, full of lacy pillows and feminine effects, and a small door that bore no semblance to the rest of it all.  As she moved to investigate, the door hissed open and the girl entered.  She had long blonde hair, tied up in two small buns that trailed much longer hair to the ground.  Her blue eyes glared accusingly at Ranma.

“You might be one of the Senshi, but I don’t recall you from our past lives, and you attacked Luna!  What sort of person are you?”

“I don’t know, really… do you?”

 

Thank whatever gods still existed that she’d gotten away from them, and their stupid cat.  The reincarnations of what once were royalty, reduced to parading in dark alleyways with lycra costumes and verbose catch-phrases.  But now she was stranded on Earth and had no official identity.  No money, no food, no job.  She was only about seventeen, and she had nowhere to go.  That pack of ditsy love-and-peace whackos had dragged her from Mars, center of the commercial galaxy, to Earth.  Home of their idealised self-centric universe.  Tsukino Usagi, the blonde princess of the lot, had broken down in tears.  Apparently, the health of the Earth was in direct relation to that of her beloved.  Ramna had been a bit skeptical about it all.  After all, if she really was the moon princess, then why was she still around?  Even just a few weeks had educated Ranma about the hyperspace gates, and the tragedy that surrounded their first activation.  By all rights, that girl should be in an iron lung.  Of course, it was always possible that her erratic and selfish behaviour, and utterly dull wits were all due to the catastrophe.  Ranma had seen stranger things in her know existence than that, after all.

She lay down on the roof, and looked up at the sky.  At least one thing in this world seemed relatively familiar.  When she had been sitting up, all the rubble and detritus around her had overwhelmed her.  It stretched in a grey, ragged line to the blue ocean in one direction, and the flat red deserts in the other.  In her left hand rested a headest; a connection to all the computers in the universe.  At the moment, it was a dull grey lump of plastic that was indistinguishable from the Ranma’s surroundings, and would easily be lost among them if it was dropped.  But once Ranma turned it on and started browsing the net, it would open up behind the lenses into an infinitely huge horizon.  She’d bought it for an exorbitant price when she’d still been with the Senshi, and had been practicing with it; she was hoping to find some hint of herself among the endless data that spewed forth from humanity.

There really was nothing better to do on Earth, anyway.  Just read the electronic words the rest of the universe fed you, and avoid the meteor showers.  Not much else to do with the day, really.

Ranma watched the blue luminescence float behind iconic avatars for businesses, personal data, television stations and countless other things.  She ducked and weaved through them with her visual interface, until she reached the search engine she had grown accustomed to using.  She typed, in lowercase romanised letters, ranma saotome, and sat back.  It took a few seconds for it to respond with the same words every day; subject not found.  Please check that your entry was spelt correctly.

But this time, a soft chirrup from the speaker announced that something had been found.  A page from someone’s personal site, with an image of her, and a paragraph that had Ranma immediately interested.

 

We, the Sailor Senshi, have placed a bounty on this individual.  For details on how to redeem the reward, please contact the Mars Police.  For information on our organisation or our members, please return to the homepage and select what you need from our menu.  Thank you for visiting us!

 

“The idiots!”  She exclaimed, and removed her headset.  A large, wide grin with flaming orange-red hair assaulted her, and proclaimed with delight,

“Found!  Cowgirl Ed and Cow-woof-woof Ein have success!”

A light brown corgi barked, and jumped onto Ranma’s lap. Ranma shuddered with shock, and leant away from the face.

“What?  Get offa me!”

“Okay!” Ed amiably agreed, and slid off of Ranma’s chest.

Sitting up, Ranma assessed the situation.  Who else would be looking for her now?

“Are you a bounty hunter?”

The girl, if it was a girl, tilted her head and looked quizzically at Ranma.

“Ed is Ed.  Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky the 4th!  But you can call me Ed.  Ein is a cow-woof-woof, right Ein?”

The dog, Ein, barked in agreement.

“Riight… so what are you doing here?”

Ed sat and thought for a minute, scratching her head.

“Papa was chasing rocks, and I was busy crashing planes, so I got left behind.  Ein and Ed want to be Cowboys again, but we can’t.  Ed’s a cowgirl, and Ein’s…”

“A cow-woof-woof?”

“Exactly!  We just have to find Faye-Faye and Spike-Spike, and The Bebop, then we’ll be cow-everyones!”

She paused, and looked at Ranma again.

“Who are you?”

“I’m… Ranma Saotome…”

Ed grinned, and held out her hand.

“You can be a cowgirl, too!”

“Uh, okay… what does a cowgirl do, exactly?”

“Bounty Hunter!”

Ranma frowned.

“You do Bounty Hunters?”

“No, are Bounty Hunters, silly.”

Ranma let go of her hand, and backed off a little.

“I’d rather not, really…”

Ed grabbed her hand again.

“No, you would.  Ed knows you have a Bounty of your own.  But Ed doesn’t care, because Cowgirl Ed and Cow-woof-woof Ein can get a lot more for other people.  You’re only worth half as much as Tomato.”

She held up a computer she had had strapped to her back, and placed it on top of her head.  It had the word “tomato” written in red along one side.

“Yep, you’re better of being a cow-girl!”

 

Faye rolled the door open, and stepped inside the main room.  It was empty, as usual.  Even so, she sat down on the couch and sighed.

“That was completely pointless.  I spent more money on fuel than the payout was.”

She was answered by silence.  What was the point in talking, anyway?

The pneumatic hiss of the door from the cockpit opening made her look up.  Jet was standing in the doorway, rubbing his neck.

“What did you get from him?”

She hung her head and put a small pile of notes onto the table.

“This is your share, before expenses.”

Jet leant forward, peering at the small amount of money.

“And… after expenses?”

She sat back in the chair and forced a laugh.

“You owe me 100.”

“What?!”

She smiled at his outrage, and crossed her legs elegantly.

“Well, if I’d had good enough information, or you’d even dropped me off close to where you thought the guy’d be, I’d have more than a quarter of a tank left.  It’s just enough money to refuel the Redtail enough for next time.”

Jet fell silent, and sat down on the smaller seat.

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

They both sat there, hearts heavy with thought.  They had barely pulled through some months when there had been four to share the workload.  The Hammerhead was not suited to fast chases, but only one ship out there resulted in, ultimately, failure.  Or success that cost more than it was worth.  What they really needed was some more crewmembers, but that wasn’t going to happen soon.

“We need cash.” Faye said, more to break the silence than anything else.

“Wait!”  Jet held up his hand, and looked her in the eyes.  “Do you still have that BETA VCR Spike and I got?  It’d be worth heaps at the right place!”

She wrung her hands together, and shook her head.  Even if she could never go home, even if she had to move on, to lose those images from her past would be too much.

“Sorry,” he said, reading the emotions on her face, “But I’ve got another idea.”

She pushed her hair back behind her ears, and looked up at him.

“What now?”

“Well, it’s pretty messy, but I know a place we could get some stuff worth just as much.”

Faye smiled, and clapped her hands.

“Now, that’s more like it.”

 

***

 

Ed lay on her back, Ein on her lap.  Ranma sat a few metres behind her, holding a satellite dish above her head.  At least, the red-head reflected, Ed had promised to feed her after another hour.  But it didn’t take that long; within a few seconds of logging on, Ed smiled widely and kicked her legs with pleasure.

“Bebop!  They came, they came!  Welcome back!”

 

***

 

They passed the Gate easily enough, though their pockets and hearts felt the fees as almost a tangible thing, rather than the electronic numbers they truly were.

They landed in the water, spraying warm foam onto the nearby rubble as their hull cooled down from entry.  Earth was, as usual, silent compared to other planets.  No other ships were in the area, and there were no human forms on the horizon.

Jet checked the rope he was packing a second time, and grunted with morose satisfaction.  He’d never thought that he’d have to traipse through that dank, waterlogged, rusting scrapheap again, but that old electronics museum was full of antique electronics; easy money compared to the luck they’d had with bounty-hunting recently.

Faye groaned, and kicked her own pack with disgust.

“When you said we’d be going underground, I didn’t think you meant it literally.  What the hell is this?  How can this be ‘easy money’?”

“Well, if you’d stop making your ship such a financial liability to The Bebop, I’d be perfectly happy to hunt another bounty.  However, I have something better to do with my time than patch your garbage up.  And this way, we get money while your machine is safely locked up.  We’re taking the Hammerhead, to carry all the stuff.”

“Yeah?  Well, I’m going for a walk.”  She pouted, and kicked the bag another time for emphasis.

As the door slid shut behind her, Jet swore under his breath.

“Women.”

 

Faye left The Bebop and sat on the edge of the rubble, kicking her legs in the water.  Her boots rested beside her, and her hands were clasped in her lap.

What had been her childhood home was halfway around the world, a bare patch of brown earth with the occasional pile of stones that bore witness to what was once a wall or doorway.  She could never go back there, she realised.  It would be too hard to face the memories, especially in light of her dreams.  Each one ended in the shuttle she had taken, except that all of the passengers were her family and friends.  She would see the gravity fail, and their cups float into the air; she saw their smiles and heard their laughter.  It was incredible, to experience such a thing as riding in a space shuttle.  But then the glass cracked, and her head was full of the screams of her loved ones.  She saw the window crack, making the Earth appear to be broken in half, and as the other passengers choked and gagged in the vacuum behind her, their blood floated around the morbid omen in the window.

She felt herself growing short of breath, and then she felt a cold hand on her shoulder.  Clammy, wet, and cold.  Stiff and lifeless.  She turned, eyes widened in fear, to be confronted with the worm-eaten face of Spike Speigel.

Screaming, she woke; panting for breath and losing her identity for a few moments.  Where was she?  Was she still in the hospital?

No, she was always back on The Bebop.  And every time she tried to banish the dream from her mind, it came back full force.

She shivered as she unwillingly recalled the feel of that cold, dead hand on her shoulder, and then jumped in shock as she heard a voice.

“Faye-Faye!”

 

***

 

Ed held tight to Ranma’s hand as she dragged her through the rubble.  What had happened to her meal?  Why were they running so goddamn fast?  In the distance, the blue expanse of ocean was growing larger, taking up all of the horizon as they moved towards it.  A large brown ship slid into the water, clumsy from its size, but smooth and elegant with its movements.  Someone very accomplished was its pilot.  Warm water was pushed up into the air by its hull, and light, lukewarm droplets fell onto Ranma’s face and arms as she followed Ed.  Luckily, they had cooled enough by the time they touched her, and she didn’t change.  The huge ship settled next to the shore of rubble, then sat for a long time in silence.  As they came within sight of the actual shoreline, Ranma could see a young woman sitting on the shore, with her legs in the water.  A sad look of regret was on her face, but that disappeared into shock as Ed shouted out,

“Faye-Faye!”

 

***

 

Faye looked up to see Ed running, with one hand holding her computer on her head; the other grasped the wrist of another, older girl.  The older girl was carrying a frazzled looking Ein under her free arm.

“Ed?  Ed!”

The girls met Faye in front of The Bebop, as she was pulling her boots back on.

“What are you doing here?”

“Papa ran away again.  Ed wants to be Cowgirl!  This is Ranma!”

The girl behind Ed shifted uncomfortably, and smiled.

“Hi…”

Faye frowned.  The girl was suspiciously familiar, somehow.

“Hi, I’m Faye Valentine.  Are you a friend of Ed’s?”

Ranma scratched the ground nervously with one foot.

“You could say that…”

“We are COWGIRLS!  Bang!  Eh-heh!”

Ed ran, scrambling up the side of the Bebop.  Faye turned to Ranma, and rested a hand on her shoulder.

“So, where are you from, exactly?”

Ranma wanted to speak, but something stole her voice from her.  She followed Faye towards the access ladder that Ed had ignored, and tried to figure out what to say.  Truth was best, wasn’t it?  After all, if there was a best way to leave the Senshi behind, fading into another group would make her stand out a lot less than she would on her own.  And for that, they needed to trust her; yes, truth was best.

“I, er… I was… defrosted.”

Faye stopped near the top of the ladder, shaking slightly.

“You mean, cryogenically frozen?” She recovered herself, and continued climbing.  “Was it Dr. Baccus?”

Ranma then paused, and looked at Faye with disbelief.

“Were you?”

The older woman nodded, and turned to give Ranma a hand up, smiling.

“Welcome to the Bebop.

 

“Jet!”

Jet looked up from packing to see a young, red-headed girl cannonball towards him from the catwalk above.

“Oomph!”  He grunted, as Ed landed on his chest.  “Ed?  Is that you, Ed?”

“The prodigal returns!”  She exclaimed, and wrapped her arms around his neck, rubbing her cheek against his.  Unconsciously, Jet began to blush.

The door slid shut, and multiple feet echoed on the metal-mesh catwalk.  Looking up again, Jet saw Faye’s legs, some stranger’s legs, and another old friend.

“Ein!”

Ein barked, and ran down the stairs towards Jet.  Faye followed with Ranma in a slower fashion, unable to keep herself from smiling.

“This is Ranma, Ed’s new friend.”  She said, waving at the girl.  “Ranma, Jet owns the Bebop, and prefers the company of plants to that of humans.”

Ed jumped off of Jet, and ran off to plug Tomato in, so Jet stood and offered Ranma his hand to shake.

“Hi.  Nice to meet you.  I’m Jet Black.”

Jet turned to Faye, and lowered his voice.

“So, what happened to… ‘Papa’?”

She shrugged.  “Went chasing more flying rocks, I expect.  Anyway, at least someone who can operate a computer is here now.”

“Hey, I’m just as talented as Ed.  I just haven’t spent years online honing my skill.”

Faye rolled her eyes, and walked off to her room.

“Sure, but she’s still better than you.  Are you coming, Ranma?”

 

Faye’s room was small, and Ranma noticed a TV and VCR at the end of her bed.

“It’s good to see that someone still has a TV.  I still have trouble figuring out the new system.  What sort of shows do you get on this one?”

Faye sighed, and sat down on her bed, motioning for Ranma to do the same.

“Sit down.  I just have a question for you, first.”

“Sure.  What?”

Faye took a deep breath, and looked Ranma in the eyes.

“When you woke up, could you remember anything?”

“Er… no.”

Faye’s face relaxed somewhat.  She leant over, and turned the TV on, then pressed “play” on the tape player.  A light blue sky filled the screen, and with shaky camerawork it showed views of a beachside town, then of a young girl with her friends.  Faye took a deep breath, then spoke.

“I didn’t, either.  I spent years trying to regain my past; to find somewhere I could return to.  And when I found it, when I saw this tape and when I finally went home to Earth, I realised the one truth.  Everything from my past, my regained memories, had disappeared sometime during the fifty years I’d spent asleep.  My home is a flat piece of dirt.  Everyone I know is dead, or… or dying.”

She waited until Ranma was facing her, and then she held the girl’s shoulders in both her hands, firmly.

“The past will bring you nothing.  Whoever you are now, whatever you do, nothing from then can bring you anything but pain.  Trust me, trust someone who knows.  Spare yourself the pain.”

 

Ranma stared at her, shocked, and Faye fell back onto her bed.  Why had she said that?  True, the girl was in a similar situation, but it felt… alien.  As if the scared girl from her dreams was permeating her waking mind.

“Never mind that,” she said, and stood up.  “Let’s go and see what our plans are now.”