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Then...Red Dragon Syndicate building.

"Julia is dead,"

Spike Spiegel's words echoed with cobra like venom around the silent hall.

The katana hilt of his mortal enemy felt cold in Spike's hand. But then, everything about Vicious felt cold, dead. Like Spike, everywhere vicious went, death would inevitably follow. That was why only one of them would survive this duel. This time there was no Gren or Lin to get between them. It was just the two of them, locked in the duel that fate had planned long ago. There was no church window to fall out of and no Faye Valentine to rescue.

You never told me anything about yourself so don't start now. The last words of Faye rung out in his mind, why was he thinking of that? The only thing that mattered now was vicious' death.

Spike tightened his grip around the sword, wanting to break it like a twig, instead he could only say, "Lets finish this," the words sounded stupid, like something Jet might say when he tried to sound like a tough guy. What was that story Jet had told him? Something about climbing a mountain and futility and someone freezing to death.

"As you wish," Vicious spoke this time, his voice cold and dark like it came from the end of a long stone passageway.

He wondered, for a moment, as his eyes locked with Vicious, waiting for the tell-tale sign of movement. What were his options here. Vicious had Spikes Jericho pistol clamped beneath his boot but the shining silver blade was quick. Killing vicious with his own sword would be a sweet victory. What would Jet do--honour, maybe. What would Faye do--shoot them before they shoot you.

A Jericho nine four one pistol was suddenly hurtling in his direction. Vicious granite cut face behind it with eyes secretly expecting Spike to return his sword. He did. The katana whipped toward Vicious as Spike instinctively went for the gun.

An arc of silver, glinting in the half-light. A manmade thunder clap and the fiery tongue of an angered god.

Spike Spiegel felt the warmth. Felt it in his gut, neither pleasant nor painful. The feeling of his own life, seeping out and adding to the bloodstains on his scruffy suit and trench coat. He smirked, seeing the look of pain shatter Vicious normally emotionless façade. His eyes twitching and pulled back with mouth, slightly drawn, teeth gritted. He suddenly appeared darker than usual, like he was falling into a pit with no hope of climbing back up.

Vicious plummeted forward, his black trench coat fluttering behind him. His face smashed to the carpet at the same time as his katana sword clattered at his side. A cloud of blood was the only thing to cushion his fall.

Spike stood up straight, looking out toward the fading moon through the blasted apart ceiling. A woman's face was there, white as the milky surface, blonde hair like an angels, silky and smooth washed around her pallid face. Sweat peppered her cheeks and the colour, slowly drained from her lips. "Its all a…dream," she had murmured.

"Yeah," Spike replied, "just a dream," seeing his reflection in her crystal blue eyes. Dead eyes. She was at peace then. Julia.

The first footstep way from this was the hardest. To leave it all behind. To kill the killer of your love and just walk away. It brought Spike nothing, no sense of vengeance or justice. But this had been about so much more. And was he truly alive? That was the question.

The second step was hard, pain in his open wound cause him to wrap his arm tightly around himself. The next few steps were a blur as pain and a white light, seeming to come from no where strangled his vision. It was hard, painful and utterly soul wrenching. But he was alive. Truly he was.

He was halfway down now. Halfway down from the stairway to heaven when it all began to make sense. Over a dozen men, Vicious' men, waited for him below. Their bodies bathed in the serene milky light that seeped in at the corner of spikes eyes, making everything look beautiful. Even in this destroyed throne room that smelled of nothing but scorched blood and powder smoke.

The men's faces, all pulled up toward their eyes in disbelief as they held weapons loosely. The tangy taste of blood as it leaked onto spikes lips reminded him: You are alive. And he was. But for how much longer? If he made it out of the building and back to the Bebop, then what. The Red Dragons wouldn't be happy and as long as he was with Jet and Faye, they were a target as big as he was.

Slowly, like some old mechanical clock, Spike raised his head to look them in the eyes, each and every one of them as they waited to kill him. Spike let them see a smile. A last smile, one for the road; as he raised his hand weakly toward them in the imitation of a gun.

Faye and Jet would be safe. He would not burden them anymore. That was the parting gift he could leave them. The way out of the dark tunnel he was in sealed itself up. The end was here and it was the only way it could have ended. He'd known it all along. So had Faye when she tried to stop him leaving. Poor Faye. Poor Jet. They were so special, so important. Why was he thinking that now. Jet Black, the best friend he could ever want, and Faye Valentine…Faye Valentine…

Everything is clearer now. Spike Spiegel had the last laugh as he gave up, "Bang." Imitation recoil.

Then the carpeted steps rushed up to meet his face with a welcoming hug of red.

White birds fluttering over head as dawn finally broke.

Blue sky, peaceful as the calm ocean.

Life is just a dream…that's never ending.

Red star to the north, simmering out amongst countless others.

Never ending. Free. Ascending.