A/N: Happy September! I tried to post yesterday, but had login issues... Anyway, this is the last part of the story! I enjoyed writing it, and I hope everyone enjoyed the journey to get here as much as I did.


Part 5: In Which Spike and Buffy Get Married (And Have a Long Bloody Time)

About a week later, they came back to their room after a night sparring session. Spike had his arm slung over her shoulders, and they were chuckling as they recounted the good points of their sparring, but as they approached the room, Buffy fell silent. He could feel her anxiety. He tried asking about it, but she didn't answer. Once in their room, she directed him to sit on the bed while she paced nervously.

"What is it, luv?" he asked.

"I have a couple things of yours," she suddenly announced. "I've had them since Sunnydale, and I'm ready to give them back to you. But I want one of them back. But only if you want to give it back. I don't want to pressure you into anything you don't want." She was working herself into a frenzy.

"Easy now," he cautioned her. "Whatever is mine you can have if you want it that bad."

"No!" she exclaimed. "It isn't like that. You have to give it to me."

She took a deep breath and nodded, clearly steeling herself. She went to the drawer in her vanity that he avoided because of all the vampire unfriendly equipment there. When she came back, each fist was clenched. Whatever she had of his, neither was very large. She stood between his knees, but she didn't open her hands right away. She took several more breaths, so tense he could feel her muscles quivering.

Finally, she brought her hands together and opened them up. He started at the two items, suddenly understanding her nerves. He felt them himself, because if he wasn't much mistaken, he had just received a marriage proposal. He picked up his lighter and his skull ring. He flicked on the lighter out of habit. The flame that came out was bright and cheerful. For a moment he wanted a cigarette, but it was easy to push the desire aside. For a vampire, it was a habit, not an addiction, and he wasn't about to do anything to endanger his Slayer's lungs with second-hand smoke. Especially when it looked like she was inviting him to stay around for a long, long time.

The lighter slipped into his pocket, and he studied the skull ring. He remembered the last time he'd seen it, about four years ago during a spell gone wrong. Well, wrong back then, but somehow incredibly right at this moment. He'd wondered where the ring had gone to after that spell, but hadn't been able to ask for it without bringing up that incident. Now he was glad he hadn't asked.

He stood from the bed, Buffy backing up to give him room. He took her left hand in his. It trembled, but her fingers clutched his. He could hear her breath shaking in and out, feel her pulse racing. If his heart could beat it would have matched hers. Slowly, he knelt on one knee before her. He met her eyes for a long moment, making sure he'd read her right, that this was what she wanted. He saw nothing but anticipation and love in her gaze, so he looked back at their hands and continued.

He stretched out her fingers, taking the ring and putting it on her index finger to the first joint. The vows were rusty in his head, but he still remembered them.

"This ring I give thee as a token of my love and devotion to thee."

He moved the ring to the first joint of her middle finger.

"I pledge to thee all that I am and all that I will ever be as thine."

He moved it to the first joint of her ring finger.

"With this ring, I thee wed and join my life to thine."

He slid it fully onto her finger. Only then did he stand and look at her again. "Is that okay?" he asked nervously.

"It was perfect," she flung her arms around him and kissed him soundly. "It's all I ever wanted," she whispered when she came up for air.

"Are you sure?" he asked, "'Cos if you want more of a ceremony, I'm willing to do that too—"

She silenced him with another kiss. "No," she said when they parted again. "This is enough for me." She gave him another kiss, sweet and lingering. When she pulled back, she tilted her head to the side, exposing her neck to him. He saw the scars left by the Master, Angel, and Dracula. He pressed his lips to them; she shivered and leaned closer to him.

"Please," she said, her throat vibrating with her words. He started to pull back, but she laced her fingers behind his head and held him to her.

"I want this," she insisted. "You swore yourself to me, and I want to do this for you."

Maybe he should have protested more, but he couldn't find it in his will to resist her. He slipped into demon face and bit into her neck. She gasped and arched into him. He took a couple sips, Slayer ambrosia flooding into his mouth. It was better than anything he'd tasted before, even the first Slayer he killed. That one had tasted of death and defeat, but Buffy, she tasted of love and acceptance. He became aware of her pushing at him. He withdrew from her and laved the small wound shut with his tongue. He released her, not knowing why she'd pushed him away. Had she changed her mind?

She seized his wrist and brought it to her mouth. Her blunt teeth caused pain when she nipped into him, but he groaned in ecstasy when he realized what she was doing. She drew on his blood, only a few drops, but enough to make all the difference in the world to him. They were already bonded, as evidenced by the pining, but the exchange of blood made it deeper and stronger. He kissed her fervently as he pushed her backwards, both of them stumbling into her vanity. He fumbled into the drawer she'd left open, singed his fingers on a cross, and pulled out a vial of holy water. He splashed it liberally onto his wrist, biting back a shout of pain.

"Spike!" Buffy cried out, slapping the holy water away from him. "What are you doing?"

"Cauterizing," he gritted out. "Want that one to leave a scar."

Sure enough, under his sizzling flesh, Buffy's bite mark had closed over into a prominent scar. He couldn't be more proud of it.

"Idiot," she muttered, pulling him into the bathroom to cleanse the last of the holy water from his skin. He let her take care of him, nuzzling her hair the entire time.

"Don't do that next time," she grumbled at him, but she put her arms around him once she was finished. They kissed tenderly, taking the time to explore each other. They ended up on the bed again. When it came to the point that they would normally stop, they looked at each other for a long moment, silently asking what the other wanted. This time, they didn't stop. They were already bound together as much as possible without sharing the same skin. There was nothing left between them.

They consummated their union that night, and in the morning, Buffy held Spike while she showered him with warmth and compassion he'd never felt before. It wasn't merely the physical. It was knowing he was accepted, that she loved him, that she wasn't going to push him away or punish him for loving her. Finally, they were together as they were meant to be.

Buffy asked if he wanted a ring himself. He tried to pretend he was fine either way, but his old human soul longed for more than a scar to commemorate their bond. She saw through him, and gave him one more kiss before bidding him to stay in bed while she went out. He didn't have much to do given that it was daytime, and tried not to fidget too bad while he waited for her to return. He found a pad of paper and a pen, and began to amuse himself by scribbling down partial lines of poetry and prose, trying to capture the peace in his heart on paper.

He looked up when she came in an hour later. He was sprawled in her recliner, and without hesitation she sat in his lap and made herself comfortable. After a very thorough hello kiss, she held out a small bag to him. Inside it was a black box, the perfect size for a ring.

"Why Slayer, I think you're asking me to marry you," he smirked.

"We already are, dolt," she answered fondly, and covered his hand with hers when he would have opened the box. "I saw this a few months ago," she explained. "Before I knew you were alive. I looked at it, and I thought it would be perfect for you. I wanted it then, but it was too painful, knowing that you'd never wear it. Now that we're together, I finally have a reason to give it to you. I had them make a little alteration at the store, and well, look at it." She removed her hand.

Now thoroughly curious as to what Buffy thought was an appropriate wedding ring for a vampire, he opened the box and peered inside. He worked his throat when he saw it, and then chuckled. "Reckon you got me dead to rights, luv," he said, pulling it out. It was a thick silver ring, satisfyingly heavy in his hand. The outside was inscribed with a skull and bones motif that circled the band. Bright marks on the surface showed the fresh alterations that would eventually dull in time. She had added fangs to the skulls. He moved to put it on, but she took it from his hand.

Holding his fingers in hers, she repeated the same vows he had made to her the day before, and slid it firmly into place. It was a perfect fit. He hadn't thought one piece of jewelry would make that much of a difference to him, but it did. He kissed her helplessly, pausing only to admire his ring.

She held her hand over his. "Now we match," she said pertly, laughing at the skull rings superimposed over each other.

"That we do," he agreed proudly, but felt compelled to offer, "If you don't like that big clunky ring, I can get you another."

"Don't you dare!" she fisted her hand, making it impossible to get the ring off her finger. "This is mine." Then she softened. "But if you want, the place where I got your ring does custom jobs. You can get me a chain to wear your ring around my neck, because it is a little large to wear when I'm fighting. You can get a smaller ring to match yours."

"Hmm," he agreed, "With stakes instead of bones behind the skulls."

"Make it one stake, and one railroad spike. I'd wear that."

He laughed, ridiculously happy at that moment.

There was very little fanfare from the Scoobies when they found out Buffy and Spike were together. It happened the next night. Xander was due to fly out the following day, so they had arranged to have dinner together before he left. It was held at a local club that was not entirely unlike the Bronze. The atmosphere was already half-familiar to them, and it was good to get off the Council campus for once. It was held after dark on purpose, so Spike could come.

He and Buffy arrived separately. She decided to shower and change before going to dinner, and had banished him on the grounds that he was far too likely to distract her and make them late. He agreed heartily with her statement, but she still told him to go. He found the club to be very crowded, but managed to save a table for the group. Dawn, Willow and Xander trickled in and joined him. He got into a good natured argument with Xander over the merits of onion blossoms versus onion rings, with an occasional addition from Dawn, while Willow pretended to be above it all.

Buffy arrived a few minutes later, and even though there was a chair for her—Spike practically had to threaten the bouncers to keep it—she plopped down into his lap. The argument was effectively halted by the enthusiastic kiss she gave him. It was more than a happy-to-see-you kiss he realized as soon as her lips touched his. It was possessive. She was making a statement, and even though he appreciated it, he couldn't help but to tense under her. Historically the Scoobies had never been fond of him, especially when it came to his feelings for Buffy. It had gotten better recently, but she was now flaunting their status in front of her friends. It seemed she was begging them to make an issue of it.

They parted after an indecently long time. Both of them were panting as she leaned her forehead on his, her hands absently kneading his shoulder, his hands securing her waist.

"So, Buff," Xander began with aplomb, "Have something you'd like to tell us?"

Spike braced himself for the fallout.

Buffy twisted to glance at her friends, their faces a mixture of surprise and embarrassment. "Not really," she shrugged. "Oh, except that it's none of your business, you have nothing to say about it, and Spike is mine." She grabbed his left hand with hers, and displayed their matching rings, giving each of the Scoobies a hard look. There was silence for a few minutes as no one dared to challenge Buffy. He had to admit, she had quite effectively cut off their protests before they began. Dawn was the first one to speak.

"Can I say something?" she asked.

"At your own risk," Buffy warned.

Suddenly Dawn squealed at a volume that made Spike wince, and almost leapt across the table to reach them. She gave both of them a hug and kiss on the cheek.

"I'm so happy for you!" she exclaimed, taking her seat again.

That seemed to thaw the ice, and Willow nodded. "Yeah, you guys deserve it," she said. "Good for you."

Spike eyed Xander warily, but he was also smiling.

"Ditto," he said with a small wave.

Spike began to relax at last. "Better watch out, Whelp, I might be starting to grow on you," he drawled.

"Like fungus," Xander agreed.

"Blossoms are still better."

"No way. All the best foods are round. Onion rings, donuts, pizza, pies, those calamari things—"

"Eww, Xander you eat those?" Dawn exclaimed in horror.

"Right tasty they are, Niblet," Spike said, while she shuddered theatrically.

Xander shot her an offended look. "I can't eat calamari but you put anchovies on pizza?"

"That's completely different!"

"Is not!"

"Spike, help me."

"Sorry mate, got to agree with the Bit on this one."

They fell to bickering again. Buffy and Willow exchanged a look, and began to laugh. Spike paused just to hear Buffy laugh, carefree and happy. He thought it was the best sound in the world.

Willow left a week after Xander. They went out to the club again, but it already wasn't the same without Xander. Spike would never admit it, but he missed the man, a little. Then it was simply Dawn, Buffy and Giles left at the Council campus. The older man hadn't been part of the big relationship reveal, but the first time he saw Spike and Buffy together, he knew. Buffy gave him a hard look, and that was all that was needed. He didn't even give one "Good Lord," or polish his glasses. In fact, it was Giles who discovered something rather vital to their relationship.

A few weeks had passed since Willow left. Buffy had resumed her teaching at last, with Spike as a partner. They were walking across campus to their class when Giles called out to them. He was walking toward them with a black woman in tow.

"New Slayer," Spike commented under his breath. Buffy automatically shifted so her body was between the new Slayer and his vulnerable heart. Sometimes the new arrivals didn't take well to finding out a vampire was one of their teachers. While Spike felt himself in no danger from the untrained Slayers, he appreciated the way she stepped up for him. She protected him from being staked, and he shielded her back. It worked out well for them.

"Buffy, there's something I wanted to talk to you and Spike about," Giles said as he caught up to them.

"Will it take long, we have class in a few minutes," Buffy said, watching the new Slayer. The black woman took in Spike's appearance and his proximity to Buffy. He moved his hand to his Slayer's arm. The woman blinked, but seemed to take it in stride. Both Buffy and Spike relaxed minutely.

"Not too long, but you should know about Margaret here," he introduced the black Slayer.

"Just call me Margie, dears," she said in a southern drawl that sounded like it should belong to a grandmother instead of a young woman Buffy's age.

"Nice to meet you, pet," Spike said, followed by Buffy.

"Now what's this about?" Buffy asked Giles.

"I've been doing more research about Slayers, specifically about how they're made and their lifespans. As you know, Slayers are basically imbued with the essence of a demon, somewhat similar to vampires, absent the bloodlust, the full transformation into a demon, the loss of soul, and uh, complete loss of mores leading to the vampire being evil—"

Spike snorted, "Yeah, save for those, Watcher."

"Uh, I may have been able to phrase that better, yes. But the point is, Buffy, when you were ill, your Slayer essence shut down, leading to the rapid aging of your body. But when it was returned—"

"Thanks to Spike," Buffy interrupted.

"Yes, thank you, Spike," Giles agreed absently, too excited to be annoyed. "What I'm trying to say is that your Slayer healing reversed your aging process, which led me to speculate about a Slayer's lifespan. I had only suppositions, and ultimately time will tell, but then I met Margaret, who has gone a long way toward confirming my conjecture." He gestured grandly to the black Slayer. Buffy stared blankly at her Watcher, but Spike eyed Margie. There was something about her…

"Giles. English please?" Buffy asked impatiently.

"Buffy," Giles sighed. "Ask her how old she is."

"Well, that's not very polite," she complained.

Margie grinned. "Oh no, I don't mind dearie. When you get to my age, you get quite proud when someone asks you that."

Spike's eyes widened. His hand tightened on Buffy's arm. He understood what Giles had been trying to say. "Ask her, luv," he urged. If it was possible…

"Um, how old are you?" Buffy asked awkwardly.

"Ninety-three last month," Margie declared without hesitation.

Buffy's mouth dropped open. "H-how?"

"It's what the Watcher was saying," Spike murmured, too stunned to take it in. "You're Slayer side acts like a vampire's demon. It heals you, keeps you from aging."

"Past the mid-twenties, yes," Giles agreed. "Historically Slayers have had short lives, so there never has been a study on Slayer aging. But with Potentials all over the world turned into full Slayers, it was inevitable that some of them would be older, past the age where normally they would be Called. In the case of those who are older, their Slayer side had been healing their bodies of everything. Diseases, ones that would normally be incurable, and even reversing the process of aging."

Buffy was still too stunned to speak, but Spike wasn't.

"How long, Rupert?" he demanded hoarsely. "How long is she going to live?" How long was he going to have her? He'd been picturing life fifty or sixty years from now, and having to lay his Slayer in the ground again. But if Giles was right…

The Watcher removed his glasses. "I don't rightly know," he said softly. "But based on this," he gestured at Margie, and smiled. "I imagine a long time."

Margie grinned cheekily. "You're welcome, dears. Come talk to me whenever, I'll be around."

With that, Giles and the other Slayer left. Buffy turned to face Spike. He put his hands on her shoulders, and she held his waist. They stared at each other, trying to fully comprehend the information.

"A long time, luv," he said quietly. "A long bloody time." A bubbling sensation was rising inside him, and he let it out in a shout of laughter. Without warning he picked her up and threw her over his shoulder, racing back to their room.

"Spike!" she gasped in surprise. "We have class!"

"Not tonight," he yelled. "Class is canceled! We have a long bloody time, and we're starting now!"

And finally, she joined him in laughter.