3002, present day

Silent as a cat, I pad to the front deck where I plan to wait for Spike to awaken. I can almost predict like clockwork how long he will take to regain consciousness and search for me. Sometimes he arrives half- or fully asleep as if some primal survival connection exists between us. Even now, I feel that link thrumming between us as if an inter-psychic cord is tied tight from him to me.

Although there is no overhead illumination, the deck is alive with the blinking lights of the control panels and soft clicks of the tracking device the Council had implanted in the ship to ensure accuracy of our trajectory. Two seats are stationed apart from one another in front of a large demon-safe window so that we may view space without fear of burning to a cinder. Using my fingertips as a sensitive guide, I slide onto one of the comfortable cushions that cover each chair. My legs automatically draw up to my body so that my knees form a cradle for my chin. My arms surround my legs, and my waist-length blond hair cascades over my body like a protective blanket.

Staring into the vastness of space isn't as soothing as looking into the sky. Somehow, space makes me feel more isolated, colder. Maybe that was the Council's intention. I attempt to draw my thoughts together to perhaps feel a sense of finality, of peace, but nothing seems to coalesce properly. On Earth, my questions seemed answered, and the future seemed certain and justifiable. Now. . .

I sense him behind me before he touches me, and like a small child, I instinctively hold my arms up for him to hold me. Needing no further suggestion, he slips beneath me with a light sigh, hugging me tightly to his body. Marveling at the solidness of his chest against my back, I realize that he won't always feel that way.

He sweeps my cloak of hair to one side and emits a quiet puff of cool air along my neck as he whispers, "Pet, are you okay?"

Continuing to gaze ahead, I respond more quietly than human ears can hear, "Yes, why?"

"You're quieter than normal. . . quieter than you've been since we left Earth."

Without prelude, I leap to my burning questions, "Was everything we did futile? What Richard said right before he died about other humans bringing back the demons. . . don't the Council members realize that might very well happen? Don't they realize there's more than one way for them to come back? Why so much fanfare for us? I don't understand."

Spike cradles both my hands in his. "Ahh, love, good questions. No, I don't believe everything we did was futile. If we saved one life, made things better for only a small amount of time, we succeeded."

"But what about the future?" I place my palms against his.

"That's not our affair, pet. We can't control decisions made by others, especially human others. Human beings are very irrational creatures. Sometimes they do things, make decisions that don't make sense for the long run, that satisfy only a very cursory desire. The majority of the Council wanted a breather from their main directive, and they saw a moment that would likely be the closest they ever come to that break, so they took it. It might not make sense in terms of the likelihood that all demons are banished from the Earth, but it makes sense for the time. . . to them. And for a time, they may be right. The power behind that spell sapped a great deal of mystical energy from this dimension; it will take a few years to build back up."

"I know. . . I guess that I just needed to hear it out loud." I turn sideways to curl up into the curve of his frame.

Spike's hand roves over the length of my hair and down my back. "As for the fanfare bit, they're using us as the symbolic end to demon-kind and the future of the world without demons. People seem to need a marker, a ceremony to denote big events. This time, we're the end note."

"That's not fair." I close my eyes, imagining a heart beat in his chest.

"It never is, love, it never is."

We say nothing for several minutes, listening to the hum of the computer system driving the ship.

Then, I hear Spike, "Do you remember the first time you knew you loved me?"

He's never asked me this question. "You know when. When I told you I loved you. That night before apocalypse number with the gang. . . I don't remember which apocalypse it was."

"No, not the first time you told me you loved me. When did you first realize that you did?"

I suppose that's a different question, but it's also one for which I have a definitive answer. Lifting my head to take in his full visage, I answer as honestly as I can, "The night you came over to proofread Dawn's undergraduate history thesis. You fell asleep in the chair with the paper half-read and marked up with corrections. You were there when Dawn and I got back from patrol."

"Really? That's when? Not after a major battle victory or after a round in the sack?"

"Nope. That's when."

A slow, satisfied smile spreads across his face. "Good."

My lover is happy; I'm happy. "My turn. You told me a long time ago that you didn't know why you loved me. So, now I'm asking again. Why do you love me, Spike?"

Placing his hand at the nape of my neck, he pulls me close, breathing cool air over my eyelids before sweeping his lips over mine. I can feel the words on my lips as he speaks them, "All those years ago, I didn't know what love was. I didn't understand the rush of feelings I had around you. Now, I know that those feelings weren't love.

"What I felt for you soon after that. . . what I feel for you now. . . that's love. It's the connection we share. . . the loneliness I feel when you're not there, the joy I have on your return, the mutual understanding we have that even if we have a horrendous fight you won't leave and neither will I, the happiness I feel when you're happy and when you've done something you feel proud of. It's the way I can talk with you about my true feelings. It's the way you don't run away from yours anymore. And there are so many other things I could add here. Should I go on, pet?"

I shake my head, letting him see the depth of my feelings for him in my face. I push my lips more fully into his, kissing him with an intensity and urgency I've never before felt. He returns my ardor with equal passion. I could lose myself forever in the feel of him against me. Maybe. . . maybe we could spend eternity suspended in space just like this.

I get my wish.

A shrill beeping noise disrupts our embrace like an angry authority figure. Startled, I jerk back, my eyes wide. Spike catches me before I lose my balance and fall from his lap. He seems to be frightfully calm in opposition to my flurry. The ship has ceased moving and is beginning to turn.

"Spike?" My voice betrays my fear. What's about to happen is a reality that I've been denying.

"Shouldn't you move to the other chair they've provided, love?" Spike's voice is scratchy with emotion despite his outward placidity.

For the second time today, I shake my head. "I'm staying here with you."

"Okay." He steadies me on his lap with his hands on my hips, and a single tear escapes from the corner of one eye.

A flood releases from my own eyes, and a tiny sob catches in my throat. "Do you think we'll go to heaven or hell?"

Spike emits a pure laugh that overcomes the sorrow. "How is it, pet, that even at the saddest times of my life, you make me laugh?" He lays a hand on my damp cheek.

I giggle through my tears, briefly snuggling my nose and mouth into his palm. "Hey, I thought that was your job. And you didn't answer my question."

"You never let me get away with anything, do you?"

"Nope." I must agree with that.

"No matter where we end up, we'll be together, love."

I need reassurance. "Are you sure?"

"I'm absolutely sure."

With a subtle change, the ship stops a second time. I don't have to turn around to know that the sun is warm at my back through the demon-safe window. With every fiber of my being, I sense the protective shield lifting, and I am keenly aware of every muscle movement and change in my lover's solid form beneath me. Soon the Council and the world will know that we are no more.

"I love you, Spike," I whisper across his mind.

"I love you, too, Buffy."

Time is suspended for the briefest of moments in honor of our passing. Even while our bodies are crumbling to dust around us, my emerald eyes never leave his sapphire ones as we confront the sun together.

The end.