All About Spike
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Spiegel Im Spiegel
By Fallowdoe

Epilogue: Mirror in Mirror

The college bells were ringing, high in the clock tower. The world was alive with the sound.

They pealed through the air in rich and resonant gales, as Buffy walked through the iron gates of Mount Holyoke College, still standing strong in the nighttime world.

The wind swelled up, and she turned her face to it. It pulled her hair away from her neck, in long, loose locks. She never braided it anymore. It fluttered across her cheeks, on the warm current of the breeze that smelled like moss and water.

The spring trees were clustering with flowers, pale against the blue, diffuse light that was forever frozen in time-- that eternally promised morning, hanging just on the cusp of the horizon, hovering just out of reach forever.

Buffy stepped onto the worn pathways, as she entered the college gates-the warm, brownstone buildings rising tall and dignified around her. Staid Harvard ivy riddled over the stones, their leaves as plentiful as beads of dew on a spiderweb. And in these walls everywhere were the persistent signs of life. A laundry line tied between two apple trees. The barking of a dog in the distance. The bells themselves, ringing from a clock, carefully maintained, that still told the time even after time had ended.

People still lived here. People still learned here. And that is why she thought he might be in this place.

It was easy, once she'd discovered in which direction he had gone, to follow his trail. The stories moved like the currents of the running streams, all around her.

So many stories. She must have been blind that she hadn't seen before.

And the names had grown-- changed. Not just Slayer anymore, but also the Walker. The Shadow of the Passing.

The Pilgrim of the Green Saint. Who could heal in her name.

It had been easy, at first, to begin to catch his tracks. The stories were like footprints marked deep in the winter snow, showing his path to her. But just as the springtime rain washed the snowcover away, the stories dissolved and reformed themselves anew.

A shadowed, female figure invaded them, leaving the dust of her enemies on the ground and whispers of hope in her wake. And in the songs-- in the poetry she was described as a glorious queen of light.

And that was her. It was meant to be her.

The stories were becoming confused. Male or female, dark or light. No one knew which was which. Things that were once important no longer seemed so, and things that she had never noticed meant more than life itself. And the confusion in the tales reflected the paths that they had chosen.

For in the stories, they were the same person.

The Westminster chimes faded in their ringing clarity, leaving echoes in the air, and she stepped off the walkway, out onto the mossy, grassy ground. The stalks of soft clover pushed between her toes as she walked barefoot, her boots tied together, slung over the strap of her traveling bag, that hung on one shoulder. They rapped against her back gently with the rhythm of her footfalls. And in her traveling bag, folded there neatly, was a drawing of the one she sought, and next to this drawing, an embroidered sampler, starting to yellow with age, that she had gone back to retrieve. She didn't want to forget-not anymore. She didn't want to forget anyone.

She turned towards the college green, where tall oaks spread their branches wide, and the buds that promised leaves were pale, golden green, and delicate like flowers. In the predawn light, they glowed with soft, rainy dew.

As she turned the corner into the green expanse, she stopped dead in place.

He was sitting there, under a tall oak, an old leather book resting on his knee, absorbed and alone.

And when she saw him, she was glad it had been like this. She was sure it couldn't have been any other way. She wouldn't have been ready. She would have thrown him back, kicked him away, and never have accepted what she had seen in that snowy night at the elementary school. She couldn't just find him. She had needed to want to find him, first.

She didn't know what she would say. But she had been given a chance. A connection to her old world, in the least likely of places. And that was as it should have been. The things with the most permanent meaning are often what we least expect or wish for.

And for the first time in so long, seeing this connection sitting in front of her on the grass, she felt like she was a person. A person with a name, and a past, and a sister.

And she made to move forward, when she paused again. She squinted.

Was there something there-- flitting across his shoulder? Something green and brilliant. It flashed for a second in her mind, and was gone.

But she couldn't be certain. And she moved forward again. A thrill of fear raced through her as she walked, barefoot and silent on the grass, and approached him.

---

His fingertip trailed against the page, underlining the words in restless motion against the rough, yellowed paper.

He had saved these old pages, in the late, deep days of the winter, when it had grown so cold the people had burned their books to survive.

They had been making a bonfire, throwing in the ancient paper that took to the flames. Tearing the pages away from the tooled bindings, that fell in a pile in the darkness. One after another, the pages flew through the air like fluttering snow.

But not this one. Something in him just wouldn't let it go. Another book just couldn't burn, and he'd nearly met his own death struggling for it. But as he always seemed to, he had made it out once more. And he always would-- until that last time, that was waiting for him like a shadow among these humans.

Humans. His life revolved around them. He had needed them for blood and chase-- affection and grief. It always came back to them. He was vulnerable to them as he was to nothing else. And they would kill him one day, for all that.

But perhaps not for a long time, yet. He found he could fight with words instead of blades, when the situation called for their need.

And he turned a tired page of his book in the early morning gloom, and from it fell a pressed and dried flower, fluttering out into the breeze like it was weightless. He deftly caught it before it fell to the ground, and it did not crumble in his hand.

The colors were still vibrant, but it was old. It had known sunlight and grown long before all of this had happened. And he did nothing but watch it against his dust-covered palm. The veins in the petals, crushed flat, were tinted a soft yellow, stretching across and to the stalk, that still showed pale green in the night.

And he suddenly felt Dawn's brilliant light, that flowed still in his veins- - that rested there even after months had passed since the mountainside, begin to move again. It still, even now, filled him with uncertainty-- with a quiet fear. It was unpredictable, and he didn't understand its nature. It had great power, that he was only beginning to see and know. And as the small, crushed petals and leaves touched his hands, they began to grow stronger, unfurl themselves against the spring air. Moisture ran through the veins of the leaves, suddenly, and the colors became even richer than they were before. The small, delicate tendrils of its growing leaves wrapped around his fingertips gently, tracing the movement of the living light through his hand-- living light that moved where nothing alive should ever have been again.

And he felt his hand tremble slightly with the emotion that this always brought him. Fear of her-- not cold or apprehensive terror, but a quiet amazement that something so remarkable was moving before his eyes. Certainty that it should burn him to ash with its brilliance, but held this back.

That it wanted him to live, and knew who he was. That the flower in his hand was a gift of that light-that this was her language, and she was speaking to him.

Because of this, somehow, he began to realize something had changed. It didn't matter, looking at this flower in his hands-- it didn't matter if he didn't find her. He could look and search. But if Buffy didn't come, if he never saw her again-- that it was allright. There were other purposes, now, that by their diversity made the memory of her not less, but more-- infinitely more valuable.

And in the pale, new grass, he heard a sound as a pair of small, bare feet stepped there. They were covered with roadside dust.

When he looked up, his book slid from his hand to the ground. Its pages fluttered open, rustling back and forth in the wind.

And above them both, the morning doves scattered from their tower, as the bells suddenly rang out the half-hour in a violent rush of ringing sound. And they flew up and out-moving into the updrafts of warm air that hung over the college. And they spread out over the farmland, newly plowed, and the rolling, tree-covered mountainsides beyond it.

---

The End.

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