The Obscure Path

I've been waiting here a long time, centuries maybe, for someone to come and find me. The sun never rises here, the moon never goes down, and I've never seen another living thing. I stand here, still and silent, waiting for something, anything to change. When I first came here, there was nothing at all. I don't mean that that I couldn't see anything, I mean that there was nothing to see. A sea of nothing in every direction, so blank and fathomless that it hurt that eyes to look at for long. So I shut my eyes for a few years and when I opened them again, I saw that a forest had grown around me. I think they're poplar trees. Not that I think I ever saw a poplar tree when I was alive, but the name echoes in my head and it sounds right, so that's what I've decided to call them. Poplar trees. They look beautiful in the dark night, with the moonlight changing their leaves to something like spun silver. Really, there aren't words for it.

On the rare occasions that I look down, I'm always surprised anew that I'm wearing white. A wedding gown, something I never in a thousand years imagined that I would have a chance to wear. Its beautiful, the most beautiful thing I've ever worn. Silk as pale as the moon, embroidery the same silver as the leaves and something that might be raindrops, or maybe diamonds, sparkling in its many folds. It's so soft and light, it's like I'm wearing the mist, like I'm a creature of air and moonlight. I feel more beautiful here than I've ever felt anywhere. On my finger, I can feel a ring, the only solid thing I've felt in this world. The metal is like the moon, and the stone in it sparkles like the night sky; black and scattered with the fire of newborn stars. I've never seen this jewel before; I don't think it has a name. Sometimes, when I look deep into it's heart, I think that I can see galaxies spilling out across it darkness. Floating around my body, drifting softly with every move I make, is a veil so insubstantial, I know that if I take it off, I could run all of it through my ring, even though it's long enough to touch the ground. When I bother to think about it, I wonder when it was that I became a fairy princess.

Slowly, over the last several decades, a path has begun to form in front of me. Pure white stones grow like flowers, the paleness startling in this world of endless night. They're weaving through the trees, an uneven passage through this twilight forest, and I can't imagine where they go. Looking at them, I'm tempted to follow, to go somewhere the sun shines and the darkness is only in shadows. But I know that's not where this path goes. There's only darkness in this place and no amount of gleaming stepping stones as smooth as pearls will change that. Whatever waiting for me on the other side of the path, it's part and parcel with the darkness around me.

I'm starting to like the darkness, which is nothing like anything I felt when I was alive. The darkness was where demons hid; it was where I had to fight for my life and the lives of everyone I ever loved. Darkness was not my friend. It blinded me truths I should have seen, and kept me tired and wakeful, through till every sunrises. Like vampires, Slayers are made for the midnight hours. The day has no use for us. I used to hate that, and fought for every second of sun that I could find. Now I think I may burn if I see the sun again. What's the sun but another star? Maybe the sun is in my ring, just another blazing bit of glory trapped under its smooth polish.

Another twenty years pass, and I'm tired of waiting. If I strain my ears against the silence of this place, I think I can hear something at the end of the path. Whatever it is, it's calling my name. If I am a princess in this shadowy and strange place, then maybe whatever calls my name is my prince, a creature of shadows like me, something- someone- to keep me company in the comforting gloom of the forest. Pale as the reflection of the moonlight on my dress, I set trembling foot after trembling foot on the path. Each step becomes easier, until I'm running, almost dancing over the stones, which are as warm as my own blood. I know that I'm right, that someone who loves me waiting on the other hand, but the path grows longer with every step, and there's a river beside me now, I can hear it in the dark.

I know without looking that there's no water in the river; the copper tang of fresh spilled blood is heavy in the air. No matter to me, blood is a part of me. The currents of the river sound like my own heart beating, gentle and familiar. If I slipped a hand into that river, trail my fingers in its warmth, it would be like reaching inside my own skin. There's no fear in me here. I have never been afraid, or desperate, or hunted in this place. I have only been myself, and the feeling is amazing to behold, a strength like nothing I have ever felt.

The stars are brighter as I near the end of the path, and the trees are thinning out. There are shadows here, real ones, a layer of blackness over what I already thought was dark. But the voice is louder here, and it's starting to sound familiar. I'm not nervous, that's not the right word, but I slow myself down anyway, wanting to look perfect, wanting to look like the princess this place has made me. My gown is still as light as moonbeams over my body, and the light still sparkles deep in it. The veil is still gossamer light across my face and body, and the ring is as pure as it ever was. I am perfect here, I am the very essence of myself, and I am a bride.

A deep breath now. Had I been breathing before? I can't recall. A final step and then I'll be there, back where I belong. I think I see what's been calling me, a shadow, a silhouette against the light. Darker than any of the darkness I've been living in for so long, but that just makes me feel at home.

A pale man, all in black leather, a prince of the witching hour. Pale hair gleams in the light, and his smile is familiar and welcoming. I step forward in my gown of mist and I'm in his arms at last, the one I've been dreaming of, and I know my dreams have made him what he is. I know that the creature I have made my prince into needs me to live, has been lost when I was lost, and now we are both found again. He holds me strong against his body and it's like coming home, and then there is light everywhere, brighter than anything I have ever seen before, burning us both, but his voice is still calling my name...

"Buffy!"

A dazed look, lost in the glare of electricity, far away from the silent forest. "Spike?" Even my own voice sounds painfully loud.

His voice is broken, a whisper against my skin. "I've been calling you..." I never knew until now that vampires can cry, but his tears are like rain against my skin.

"I know. I came."

"You were dead." His voice is soft with wonder. How have I never understood him until now? We are the same, creatures of the dark.

"I was resting."

And then the darkness is back as I am held in his arms, lost in the black leather of his coat, held safe in the night that's now my home. And I think that this strange warmth inside me is happiness, and I whisper his name again. Home. I've finally come home.