Prepare for feels.

Dedicated to Rinso, Taste Like Special, and RAGAnne.

Chapter 21

The venue Anya had found for the wedding was full of Scooby women. Spike, Xand, Clem, and Faith were all at Giles'. Drinking scotch, if Buffy had to guess. Buffy was in one of the back rooms of the venue. Dawn, Joyce, Willow, Tara, and Anya were all running around like chickens sans heads. Buffy stared at the dress hanging from the full-length mirror, the white dress she'd purchased a month earlier. The door to the room opened and Joyce slipped in, closing it behind her.

"What's wrong?" Buffy asked, eyes wide. She'd spent her whole birthday wondering when the other shoe would drop.

"Nothing, sweetheart," Joyce said, laughing Buffy's concerns off. "I just wanted to let you know it's almost sundown. The others will probably be on their way soon."

"Oh. Good."

"Also..."

Buffy's breath caught in her throat, and her eyebrows raised.

"I have a gift for you."

"Mom, you didn't have to..."

Joyce pulled out a box wrapped in shiny blue paper from behind her back. "Oh, well, if you don't want it..." she teased, taking a step backward toward the door.

Buffy simply held out her hands, grasping. Joyce grinned and approached her daughter, handing over the gift. Buffy tore off the paper. She tried to push away some of the bad, emotional thoughts as she did this. She'd already cried seven times that day; it was verging on pathetic. Part of Spike's reasoning for doing the wedding so early—he was worried about her mom getting sick again, wanted her well for the ceremony before they had to worry about kicking more cancer ass. Buffy sniffed as she opened the box.

"I figured you had something old—the garnet necklace Spike gave you for your birthday last year. Your new—the headpiece from Dawn. Willow said she'd take care of something borrowed. I thought this could be your something blue."

"Mom." Buffy's mouth hung open as she gaped at the inside of the shoebox, the white tissue paper parted. Inside were a pair of way high-end satin blue heels with crystals on the toes that matched the waistline of Buffy's wedding dress. "This must've been a fortune."

"Well, I was owed a couple of favors. I know they're not exactly the color of Dawn's dress, but—" Joyce was cut off by Buffy throwing her arms around her shoulders. Joyce returned the embrace, stroking Buffy's back. "You deserve to be so, so happy. I'm glad you could find that with someone, Buffy."

"I love you, Mom." Buffy appreciated just getting to hold her mother. When they told Buffy her mom needed surgery a couple of months ago now, even knowing it from Spike and from Giles' fortune telling connections well ahead of time, the bottom of her entire world fell out. But she had her mom now.

"I love you, too, Buffy. So much."

The door to the room swung open and the Summers women pulled apart. Dawn, dressed in her dusty blue chiffon bridesmaid dress, stuck her head in. "Oh. Buffy. Hi!"

"What'd you do?" Buffy demanded. "And will it require fire extinguishers to fix?"

"God, I didn't do anything!"

Buffy and Joyce exchanged a knowing look.

Then Anya ran in from down the hall. "The cake is vertical again!" Dawn visibly sighed her relief.

"Is that some kind of code for something?" Joyce asked.

Dawn cringed. "No. The guy we got the cake from didn't layer it right or something."

"Last time I ever trust a demon baker, let me tell you," Anya said with a little wrinkle between her eyebrows. "When Xander and I get married, it'll be all boring human catering."

Buffy cracked a smile when she wondered if Xander knew that he and Anya apparently had plans to get married.

"But the good news is Tara and Willow used a quick spell and everything's fine!" Anya continued.

"Good to know," Joyce said.

"Hey, Anya," Buffy said. "Can you go grab them? It's probably about time for hair and makeup, don't you think?"

"Ooh, here! I'll get your hair accessory!" Dawn sprinted into the room and started rummaging around over by the wedding dress hanging on the mirror. Buffy and her mother watched Dawn in silence, Buffy taking a breath to appreciate all of this as she remembered Dawn's advice to take every chance to be happy.

XXXXX

Spike was going to heave.

He was standing at the top of the aisle in his tux. The processional music, some classical thing, chimed out of the CD player. To his right, Tara stood in a long pink dress, behind her a table decorated with all sorts of flowers and crystals and such. Harris and Demon Girl (wearing the Slayer's choice of apricot dress and carryin' some white flowers) were the first pair up the aisle. (Anya wouldn't let Red, who'd made out with Harris in high school, or the Dark Slayer, who'd done the nasty with him, walk at Xander's side.) Next up the way was Willow (also in apricot with the same flowers as Anya) and Faith (in a slinky black number). Finally, Dawn, arm linked in Clem's, glided up toward them, giggling. As each of them reached the end of the aisle, they split, the men and Faith lining up behind Spike, the ladies behind where the Slayer'd be standing.

Then she appeared: On the left, Joyce, in a long dark blue dress. On the right, Rupert, in the same style of tux as Spike, Xander, and Clem. And, in the center, walking toward him, was Buffy. She wore a one-shoulder, soft, floor-length white dress that made it seem like she was floating. She wore Dawn's gift in her hair, which was upswept save for a few blond curls framing her face. The bouquet of white flowers in her hands was bigger than the girl's head. And, around her neck, he found the bronze and garnet gift he'd given her just one year earlier.

Buffy reached him. Spike just let his mouth hang open as he looked his girl over. He'd dreamed it, sure, during the will be done spell. Nothin' he could dream up ever could've compared to the real thing. She passed the flowers off to Bit, who was grinnin' from ear to ear. Harris shuffled over to the CD player and killed the music.

Buffy was here. She was marrying him, with all her Scoobies offerin' full support. Spike wondered if, maybe, he was still in heaven. When his eyes started to well up, he cleared his throat, determined not to fall into being a full-on ponce if he could help it.

"Hi," Buffy whispered as though she'd only come down to the kitchen for breakfast.

Spike laughed, and he wasn't the only one. He took the Slayer's hands in his. Her tan fingers, his mother's pearl ring, against his pale ones, the garnet ring she'd gifted him. Their hands shook together. "You're a vision," he said.

Next to them, Tara shifted on her feet. Wills handed off a long white ribbon to her. "As your hands are joined," the brunette witch said, "so are your lives. I... I think Spike and Buffy have their own vows?"

Buffy nodded. She locked her gaze with Spike's, her green eyes shinin'. "Before Willow put that spell on us, I can honestly say I never once imagined this happening. But what you've done, for Dawn, for me, for all of us... You've made everything so much better. It doesn't matter if we have a demon to kill or Mom needs us to grab groceries or we just need a night to watch bad kung-fu movies. All of those things, from here on out, I imagine doing with you. You're my partner. You understand me, and love me. I want to spend the rest of our screwed-up hellmouth lives together, fighting the good fight. I love you Spike—William. All of you."

Talk about your unique vows. Spike brought her fingers to his lips for a quick kiss. He could hear the people around them snifflin'. For the sake of not doing the same, he tried to block 'em out. He wanted to get this right, remember the parts he wanted to use as exact as he could. "Slayer," Spike said, diggin' around in his future knowledge and hoping he'd keep this straight. "A hundred plus years, and there's only one thing I've ever been sure of: You." Once Spike accessed the memory, the words flowed from him as though he'd spent his whole un-life committing them to memory. "I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I've seen your kindness, and your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you and I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You're a hell of a woman. You're the one, Buffy." He grinned. "And I'll dedicate every last minute I got left in me to keepin' you safe an' happy an' loved. That's a promise, sunshine."

Buffy squeezed his fingers. Then Tara wrapped the white ribbon around Spike's right hand, binding it to Buffy's left.

"And so the binding is made," the witch said. Spike glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, saw her rubbing away tears. She smiled in spite of them. "Let the spirits bless this union. You may kiss."

Spike's free hand curled behind Buffy's head, and hers behind his. They kissed each other, chaste but lingering just beyond the point of decency. Everyone in attendance clapped. When Buffy and Spike pulled apart, they offered their bound hands over to Tara and she unknotted the ribbon. Buffy and Spike smiled at each other, the way they had when they'd had their false engagement. Giles and Harris started bringing around little clear plastic cups full of amber liquid. Once everyone had one, Rupert raised his glass.

"To Buffy and Spike."

Everyone raised their own. "Buffy and Spike!"

They each gulped down what Spike only then realized was apple cider.

That was when they heard heavy thuds against the front doors of the building.

The doors burst open. Every one of them moved at once, all in different directions. Buffy lunged for her mum. Spike went for Dawn, figurin' this might be Glory or her groupies. He shoved Dawn down into a crouch, dragging her with him around the table Tara'd been standing in front of. Tara and Clem were crouching back here, too.

"Stay with her," Spike said.

Tara nodded, jaw held tight. She laid a gentle hand on Dawn's shoulder. Without waiting for a response from Dawn, Spike leapt to his feet and started away from them, clearing the table just before a magic barrier surrounded the two ladies and his best man. Giles was using his body to cover Joyce. Anya was unzipping the Slayer's wedding dress like they'd planned for this or somethin'. Meanwhile, Faith and Harris were doing hand-to-hand with two... commandos. They looked like Initiative commandos, dressed in all black. Red was chanting at two more of them, then stamped her foot.

"Eh, screw it! Ignis!" The second Wills said it, the two commandos coming her way each had a flame combust on their sleeves.

That was when Spike sensed the one coming in from his right, toward Joyce. Spike ran, tackling the pillock to the ground and getting in a couple of good hits on his face. Once his body stilled with unconsciousness, Spike jumped to his feet again, shifting into game face. His girl stood at his side, barefoot and wearing a knee-length white silk slip.

"The door," she said, moving her head toward the front entrance.

Harris smacked to the ground just as the Dark Slayer hit her commando on the side of the head, knocking him out. Then she attacked Harris'. Spike and Buffy raced for the door just as a hulking figure in black walked in. Spike knew that scent. Buffy, clearly not mucking about on their wedding day, kicked the wanker at full force in the groin. He went down instantly, writhing on the floor but still very much conscious. Buffy and Spike looked back into the room. Faith was cracking her knuckles, Anya holding a smashed apple cider bottle in the air, and Willow still exuding some of that magic fire from her hands. Everyone else was on the floor, for one reason or another.

"Everyone important in one piece?" Spike shouted.

Clem stood from behind the table, and Spike noticed that Tara's barrier spell was down. Clem gave Spike the thumb's up.

"Alright, who wants to explain why ninjas just attacked my damn wedding?" Buffy demanded, a hand on her hip.

"Buffy?" the commando on the floor groaned, still in serious (well-deserved) pain.

Buffy squinted over at Spike. Spike rolled his eyes, yanking the commando from the floor. Since all the other commandos were currently incapacitated, Buffy stomped back over to where she'd abandoned her dress. She stepped into it as the Scoobies got to their feet. Wills helped zip Buffy back up. Tara held her arm around Dawn as they stood as one, and Rupes did the same with Joyce. Harris, meanwhile, looked worse for the wear as he held his arm on the floor.

"You know," Spike said, every baser instinct telling him to stick his fangs into the man he held and suck him dry, "I thought we told you lot that this was our territory and that you should shove off."

"Who the hell are these freaks?" Faith said.

"See for yourself," Spike answered, ripping off the mask of the man he was holding by the arm, the same way he had during the spell that made Sunnydale silent.

"Riley?" Buffy said, stepping back into her bright blue high heels.

"You gotta be kidding me!" Dawn squeaked.

"I say we send him to where Warren is," Willow suggested, darkness lacing her tone.

"All in favor?" Anya agreed. She seemed to be in serious want of some vengeance, if the glower she was directing at Finn was any indication. Before the poll could be taken, Finn began to speak.

"We tracked a Frovalox demon up here from Central America," Finn said. "We took care of it, but there's high HST spikes in energy and we were ordered to take the source of it out."

No one could help the quick peek at Dawn. Spike growled. They were after one of his girls. Captain Braindead had already hurt his Slayer before in lots of little ways. Had tried to let them bloody chop her up in the labs this time 'round. Same as they'd done to the sweet witch who'd just married 'em. Dawn came flying at Finn like a bat outta hell. She slapped White Bread so hard in the gob that Spike almost lost grip of him.

"How dare you," she said. None of her usual girlish shriekin'. Her voice was as low and serious as Red's had been, as much as it had when, in the previous timeline, Dawn'd threatened that Spike would wake up on fire if he hurt Buffy. "This is Spike and Buffy's wedding," Dawn continued. "And you crashed it because your machines are morons and you don't listen to the people who actually know how to, like, take care of the kinds of stuff on a hellmouth?"

"Dawnie..." Riley tried.

"Only her friends call her Dawnie."

Everyone turned to Tara, slightly shocked at the bluntness of her words. She glared straight at Finn, not even faltering for a second.

"So these are the government types, huh?" Faith said. She and Buffy approached Riley. Spike let him go because, between the Slayers and Bitty Buffy, the bastard was goin' nowhere.

"Yeah," Buffy said. "The 'we like to experiment on girls who we know nothing about' government boys."

Their exchange was familiar, practiced, level-headed. And Spike could smell the resulting fear sweating off the boy. When Finn squinted in Clem's direction, Faith took sharp hold of Soldier Boy's face, her dark red painted claws digging into his skin.

"Here's the deal, studly. You apparently don't listen to the well-founded threats of a hundred year old vamp and his wicked badass Slayer girlfriend. Oh." Faith turned to Buffy and smiled. "Sorry. Slayer wife." She turned her attention back to Finn. "So how's about this? You get out. You stay out. You come back, and we will have the Watcher's Council tie your boys up in so much paperwork you won't be able to take a piss for the next fifteen years without a permission slip to drop trow. You feelin' me?"

"I can't control where we're ordered to go."

"Oh." Buffy took a sharp inhale of breath. "Wrong, wrong answer. Now Faith's gonna get cranky."

Faith laughed. "B knows me well, what can I say?"

"Giles?" Buffy called, crossing her arms over her chest. "Call Travers. Tell him to do whatever he's gotta to make Riley and Riley's friends stay away. That if he doesn't, we're going to have to renegotiate the 'no killing humans' clause of the Slayer contract."

Spike knew his girl was playing with her food, bluffing to defend Dawn because she would defend the ones she loved to the death and back. That was when Finn passed out.

"Psh," Dawn said, sneering down at him. "What a girl."

"Alright," Joyce said. "Rupert, I think that phone call might be wise. In the meantime, do we want to do some pictures? You girls have that spell handy, right?"

"Ooh! And then cake?" Dawn shrieked, bouncing.

Spike took in the room again, the wannabe ninja bodies layin' everywhere, the Scoobies (even Harris, now) standing victorious. The Powers had a sick sense of humor, but they really couldn't keep this lot down, no matter how hard they tried. Willow, wearing an expression of pure annoyance, slipped a couple of quid to Rupert. If Spike had to guess, she'd lost the bet on whether or not this birthday'd go off without a hitch. Buffy came up to Spike , throwing her arms around him and kissing him. He was a part of them now, and he was gonna fight by their sides with everything he had.