This is the end of the longest, and possibly the last, of the Peacemaker Books. I always say that 'this book is the last' and I always start again. But my life has taken such turns that I don't know when or how to come back.
What I do know is that I've loved the trip. I've read every comment. Every email. Every word of every note you've sent and to know that I've inspired such response is... incredible to me. That you've cared enough about this story to read for, wow, two years now, is incredible. I am honoured.
I am blessed.
Many thanks go out with this story. I wish I could name you all, but, alas, that would require a chapter unto itself. But thank you to those of you who have been there for me through it all. To Bittn, and SpikesWillingSlave, to Kay (who actually outlined the story from which this book grew), and to Theresa, who's constant "what will I do without this story?" 's made me keep going. To Dusty and to Crystal and Dave, as well as to Sylvia and Redd and MaryAnne and, gosh, so many of you who have been there all along.
And to three women without which I'd be a paltry excuse for a writer, my incredible betas, Melissa, Pat and Linds. These girls take what rolls out of my mind and make it readable. They edit on one to two day's notice and turn my stories into something worth reading. They give it to me straight. They give me support. They make me ... not embarrassing to every English professor I've ever known. Without them, this story is NOTHING. Without their support, it wouldn't exist. Without their encouragement, it wouldn't have been completed. Without their friendship and loyalty, it would never have been.
And to everyone who has read this – one chapter or seven books – thank you. It's you for whom I've written. You for whom I hope to write again. And you that inspire me every day of my life.
Again, who knows where the tide may take me. I hope that I will at least revisit this world in short story format. But, for now, I lay this epic to rest with many tears, much love, and fond memories. I dedicate it to you. All of you reading this now.
I hope I have done well for you.
A million thanks....
"Though she be but little, she is fierce." William Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night's Dream
www.livejournal (dot) com/users/nimuetucker/
Title: A Garden Full of Roses- Epilogue – Meant to Be
Pairing: Spike/Buffy (Most major characters included)
Feedback: Yes, please NimueofAvalon71 (at)
Disclaimer: All characters belong to someone other than me; they belong to Mutant Enemy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel the Series, Fox, UPN, WB, their affiliates, lawyers and all sorts of other folks that aren't me. :::sigh::::
Summary: One more blessed event for the clan. One more moment where the apocalypse isn't near. One garden full of roses.
A Garden Full of Roses
Thousands of roses: reds and pinks and creams, dotted the fence line of the large yard, all in bloom as if they were an orchestra of colour and the conductor had led them to a crescendo. It was Anya who had pulled that off. It seems that vengeance has a side effect: the ability to coerce beauty into existence even before or after its time.
The house was... amazing. There was really no other word for what Xander and his crew had done. A monument to death and foreboding had been transformed into the home of peace. Stained glass and polished railings, marble and brass and intricate stone work had turned it into not only a fortress fit for the army of the One, but a place where all were welcome, and none, save for the evil, were turned away.
In nine short months, everything had changed.
It was twilight and random conversations dotted the yard.
"Dawn's family must be very rich...."
"Why choose night-time? It just seems so... gloomy."
"You'd think with a place like this, they could have at least bought Dom."
"Do you think that those flowers are real?"
"I heard that Dawn's sister and her husband are in law enforcement."
Buffy stood at the window of one of the second floor guest rooms and watched the crowd mill about her yard. "Is his family really that big, Dawnie?"
"I tried to get you to meet them," Dawn answered as Tara fussed with her dress, buttoning and snapping and trussing. "He's one of seven. The youngest. All married."
"Gah," Buffy answered, shuddering and adjusting Emma's garland of roses. "You had to go big. Please don't tell me you plan on adding seven more to the crowd."
"Like sister, like..." Dawn began, the thought fading into giggles.
Buffy returned the giggle, watching Spike talking to Xander and Giles by a fountain in the yard. He was in a tux and animatedly explaining some manly manner of business. What made it amusing was the tiny girl wrapped in a white blanket, tucked into his arm as he spoke. Their third. Their last.
Their own army.
After the events of her early pregnancy, it had all been rather quiet and uneventful. For once, there was no horrible morning sickness. No hellgods trying to take her unborn child. No spells or incantations to keep her alive through the birth. No incubators or prayers or truly tense moments.
Just a few more months, a belly that wouldn't quit growing, a normal trip to the hospital, less than three hours of labour, thanks to Slayer muscles, and a perfect, full term, daughter.
A daughter they'd named Crescent. An honouring of the soul's love of the sky, without the painful reminders of what had happened to her former shell.
The army grew.
It seemed that would be a never-ending cycle with their clan. By Valentine's Day, both Anya and Takina had announced their own additions to come. Two more into this insane, wonderful world. And Willow and Tara were rethinking their one time stints with motherhood.
The army would grow some more.
Soft lights flickered on in the yard below and Tara finished affixing the veil to Dawn's shining hair. Spike looked up to the second floor window and nodded. The men went about seating guests.
"I think that's our cue, Dawnie," Buffy said, softly smiling and crouching down in a swish of pale pink satin to make sure Will still clung to the miniature satin pillow and hadn't completely destroyed the small tuxedo he had wrapped around his little body.
The bride took a deep breath and smiled. "Just another day."
"Yeah, right," Anya snarked, her swollen belly much larger the second time around. She had backed out of being a bridesmaid after realizing that she'd look like a large, pink, whale in a sheer satin dress at eight months. But still, she was as involved as ever, taking over the planning duties and trying not to complain about the gymnast residing in her abdomen.
"What? I mean, we've lived together for a year..." Dawn argued, stepping down from the platform and gathering her nerve. "Can't be all that different."
A chuckle from Buffy and Anya laid that to rest. "Yeah. Okay."
"Well, it hasn't stopped you guys from..."
"Kids in the room," Willow chided, taking a last look in the mirror. "Dawnie, I think you've actually picked the first bridesmaid dress ever that I may actually wear again."
Anya shot her a pointed glance, after visibly shifting her entire body to be able to look at Willow. "I'll try not to resent that remark."
Willow shrugged, a guilty look on her face. "Sorry."
A soft knock came at the door of the room. "Decent?" A familiar British accent asked, forcing Buffy to smile. She always smiled when she heard that voice.
"As we'll ever be," Buffy responded, watching the doorknob turn and Spike appear, looking dashing in a black Armani tux.
"Likes of you, I doubt it," he answered, smiling sneakily and planting a hard kiss on his lover's mouth.
"Would you cut it out?" Dawn whined, pushing the two apart. "MY day. Mine. Mine. You make out later. After everyone leaves. Or at least takes pepto."
Buffy rolled her eyes. Spike kissed her once more to annoy his kid sis-in-law. "So easy to get under her skin sometimes, Pet."
"Be nice," Buffy answered, patting Spike's butt and pulling away. "Crescent?"
"Takina's got her," Spike answered, a soft smile on his face. He loved his children, almost to a fault.
"Holy guy?" Anya asked.
"Looking stuffy and hot at the altar," Spike answered.
"Groom?" Dawn asked.
"Jetted for Paris 'bout an hour ago," Spike chided, walking towards Dawn and taking her hand. She sighed dejectedly. "Looking like a ghost and pacing up and down in the corner of the yard," he finally answered, kissing her cheek.
"Better be," Dawn answered.
"Or he'd have me to deal with," Spike quipped, winking at Buffy and coercing Dawn out the door.
"I thought you didn't want me to get married?"
"I don't, Pet. Think you should stay a vestal virgin forever."
"Uh, a little late for the vir..."
"I honestly don't want to hear that, Niblet."
"So why would you beat him up if he didn't marry me?" Dawn asked as they reached the staircase.
Spike leaned down and scooped her up, carrying her down the long stone stairs, not wanting to chance her falling or dirtying the dress he'd been forced to hear about for months.
"Because you want it, Love. What my girls want, they get," Spike answered, setting her down at the bottom of the steps and turning to make sure the rest were in tow.
"Aw, you're so sweet," Dawn giggled, kissing his cheek.
Spike shuddered. "Leave me a little dignity, yeah?"
"Fine," she answered, hands dropping to her sides. Buffy, Willow and Tara all appeared in front of her, Emma and Will standing at the very front of the line, extremely patiently, waiting for their cue. Anya trundled outside to oversee the festivities. And probably to collapse for a while.
Music began to play, drifting in from the garden. "Ready, Love?" Spike asked, taking Dawn's hand.
Dawn shook once like a dog, and then straightened her spine, standing tall and looking like a princess. "Ready."
The kids walked out to much 'ooh'ing and 'ahh'ing, a chorus of 'Aren't they cute?'s in their wake. The girls began to file out one by one.
"Am I ready?" Dawn asked, looking at Spike in a moment of sheer panic.
Spike smiled, raising an eyebrow and hooking her arm in his. He never answered. Only winked.
She spun around the custom made dance floor like a music box ballerina, white satin and pearls glimmering in the soft glow of the outdoor lighting. Her smile was the size of the full moon above, her glow nearly as radiant. Guests milled around, talking about the breathtaking beauty of the ceremony, the bride, the yard, the mansion, the couple. Everything.
It had worked. They'd done something without an apocalyptic interruption.
It helped that Tara and Willow had spent a month reinforcing the wards outside the mansion's perimeter. And that the LA crew had spent all week cleaning out the smaller nests to give the Sunnydale's time to pay attention to the last minute details.
Weddings at the Hellmouth took a little more planning than the normal.
Buffy sat at a table near the dance floor, sipping a diet coke and holding her newest daughter in her arms. Watching. Relieved that her little sister had pulled it off. That things were... right now. Crescent had made it in one piece with very little drama. The wedding had no growling demons or fire and brimstone interruptions.
This must be what it's like to be a regular girl, Buffy mused, caressing the side of her daughter's face with a soft hand.
"May I have a dance?" A familiar voice asked from just above her. But not the normal familiar voice. Buffy looked up to see Angel standing over her, smiling down at the little girl in her arms.
Buffy looked around to see if there was anyone else he could be asking. Spike had gone inside to prepare their gift to the happy couple.
"Uh, sure," Buffy answered, standing up. "Kinda have Crescent, though," she answered, holding the baby instinctively closer.
"I can take her," another voice answered quietly. "I mean... if you trust me." Buffy spun to see Cordelia standing there in a pale blue dress, looking beautiful in the moonlight. She hadn't been back to Sunnydale since... According to their conversations with Wesley and Gunn, she hadn't been out anywhere since they'd got back to LA. She just hid in the darkness and... come to terms with it. Angel was nearly as scarce, never leaving her side except to battle some demon or another.
But somehow, they'd got her here.
"Of course," Buffy answered, looking to Angel for confirmation. Angel nodded and Buffy bundled the child and settled her in Cordelia's arms.
It was as if a weight lifted from the woman's shoulders as the child cooed up at her, giggling. Tears began to fall down Cordelia's face, watching the little girl. "You sure you don't mind?"
Buffy felt like crying herself, watching the relief that flooded her high school friend just at being trusted with something so precious. "Uh, Cordy, her daddy's a Vampire, remember?"
Cordelia chuckled, a tear escaping. "She's really pretty. How'd that happen?"
Buffy rolled her eyes and allowed Angel to lead her to the dance floor.
"She okay?" Buffy asked, as Angel led her in a slow dance.
He nodded solemnly. "It's been hard. I mean, adjusting."
Buffy returned the nod. "Wesley said she wasn't around much. Don't tell me you're teaching her to brood."
A chuckle from the Vampire. "No. I mean, she's down sometimes. It's hard. She'll never have... this."
"This?" The Slayer asked, squinching her nose.
"A family. Kids. Big wedding."
"I see the kids, but there's no reason you can't make an honest... Vampiress out of her."
Angel cocked his head. "Buffy, you know that I can't... finish it."
A shocked look came across Buffy's face. He didn't... he hadn't figured out that Willow and Tara had... In all of the fuss when Cordy had been turned, no one had told him about the rest of the spell. The shock gave way to amusement. "Angel?"
"Yeah." He looked as confused as she was amused.
Spike took that moment to interrupt. "Leave you alone for ten minutes and you're after my old man," he joked good-naturedly.
Buffy turned to her mate and giggled as the song stopped. "Spike, we didn't tell him."
"Tell him what, Pet?" Spike asked, wrapping his arm around Buffy's slim waist in a not-so-discreet gesture of possession.
"About the spell. When Cordy was turned?"
Spike furrowed his brow a moment, trying to figure out what his girl was talking about, until it dawned on him in an instant. An enormous guffaw escaped the blond Vampire's lips. "You mean, the poof hasn't..."
Buffy shook her head, trying to control a giggle.
"It would be nice if you'd let me in on the joke that I'm apparently the cause of," Angel snarked, annoyed.
Spike tried to choke down the giggles. "Mate, you haven't tried to... You've spent all this time alone with Cordelia doing exactly what?"
"Teaching her to survive. Showing her how to fight. Trying to cheer her up a little," he answered, offended by the inquisition.
Buffy giggled. "I'm thinking you could really cheer her up."
Spike shook his head, tears streaming down his face. "You stupid ponce! The Witches bound your soul."
Angel cocked his head, trying to figure out what his Childe was babbling about through fits of laughter. "What?"
"Angel," Buffy breathed between laughs. "Willow... and Tara.... When they gave Cordelia back her soul.... It was sort of a twofer. They kind of fixed it so yours wouldn't go... poof... when you... have a happy."
For a moment, the elder Vampire looked stunned. Then the anger seeped in. "And you didn't tell me?"
"Thought you'd have figured it out by now, mate," Spike responded, pulling Buffy closer and trying to keep himself from falling to the floor laughing.
"Not something you should have kept..." Angel began.
"There was so much going on... what with the baby and with Cordelia and..." Buffy justified, still giggling.
Angel crossed his arms. "So I can? No. You wouldn't have... I'd have known...."
"'Pparently not, Peaches," Spike snarked.
"There will be no bloodshed at my wedding," Dawn joked coming up to the laughing crowd. "And no funnies without me knowing. What's up?"
"Nothing, Nibs," Spike choked out.
"Angel didn't know that Willow fixed his soul," Buffy giggled.
Dawn looked at Angel, then across at Cordelia, who was completely oblivious and cooing happily at the small girl in her arms. "You're kidding?"
Spike and Buffy shook their heads, watching Dawn try to suppress giggles of her own. "Um, oops?"
Angel turned, stalking over to Cordelia, whispering something into her ear. The Vampiress's eyes became huge as she looked at the three spectators, then back at Angel, her face a priceless mix of shock and ire. With long, graceful strides, she strode to Buffy, gently placing the child back into her arms and scowling.
"You're so gonna need new sheets," she commented, then spun on a strappy heel and strode into the mansion, Angel at her heels.
The crowd began to wane as the night advanced. Spike wanted to wait until just before the couple left to present his gift, but he didn't want to lose any of the crowd of well-wishers either. Buffy knew. They'd discussed it ad infinitum. Xander knew as he... well, he had to help them. But most of the rest of the crowd had no idea.
The music stopped and Spike strode to the center of the garden, Crescent in the crook of his arm, Buffy at his side, holding Will and towing Emma just behind.
"If I could have everyone's attention," the Vampire announced, without aid of a microphone.
The crowd spun towards the melodic voice and watched as Dawn and her new husband approached.
Buffy nodded. "First of all, thank you for coming to our home and sharing in this with us," she began. "I mean, you only get to marry your little sister off once."
"I hope," Spike grunted, under his breath.
Buffy elbowed him gently. "Stop that."
"Right, right," he conceded. "Before this boy takes off with my Niblet and prays he never hurts her..."
Brian and Dawn rolled their eyes simultaneously and Buffy nudged Spike once again. "Spike, they're already married."
"Doesn't mean I won't rip his head off and feed it to Pony if he steps out of line," Spike stage-whispered so that Dawn and Brian could hear it as well. Addressing the crowd once again, he continued. "We decided to give them a gift. Been lucky enough, of late, to have relocated into this humble abode..."The crowd looked at the renovated modern palace behind them and groaned, "... so we'd thought we'd share our good fortune a bit. Buffy?"
Buffy whispered something to Will and he reached small hands into the breast pocket of his tuxedo. A ring emerged, with a key dangling from the end.
Dawn stepped forward, cocking her head and taking the key from her nephew. "What's this?"
Spike looked at her for a moment. "Fixed it up a bit."
Brian searched them both for an answer. "Buffy?"
"Revello," she answered, smiling softly. "Yours."
Dawn's face displayed every emotion known to man in an instant. Her lips opened and shut. Opened and shut. She swallowed. "Mom's?"
"Paid it off a while back. Transferred the deed last week," Spike answered.
"You gave us a house?" Brian asked, complete shock gripping him.
Buffy nodded, watching Dawn's eyes tear up. "You gave us a house," Dawn repeated, quietly, studying her sister and the man who had all but raised her after her mother's death. "You gave us our house."
In a fluid movement, Dawn spun, facing the crowd, and dangling the key. "They gave us a house!"
A roar came up from the crowd, the core of them, those who had been there all along, huddled just at the side of the stage. Xander. Willow. Tara. Anya. Giles. The newer members. The LA crew. All of them. Together. In one place.
In a whirlwind of tears and hugs, Dawn attacked them all, gushing and glowing and babbling her thanks and her love and her joy. Brian watched her, smiling, and walked quietly to Spike.
"Do me a favour?" The boy asked, looking Spike right in the eye.
Spike nodded, studying the boy's face.
"Rip my head off and feed it to Pony if I ever hurt her."
The crowd was gone. Staff hired for the event cleaned the yard quietly as the overnight guests began to wander off to their rooms. It was nice to finally have the space to put up Wesley and Gunn and Fred, and even Angel, without offering air mattresses and sleeping bags.
The kids were asleep, tucked in their beds. The band was packed and gone.
All that was left was them, and a garden full of roses.
"Well, that went well," Buffy whispered, padding barefoot to where Spike stood on the wooden dance floor that Xander had made just for the event.
Spike nodded, staring at the moon. "Not too traumatic."
"Oh, stop," she chided, curling herself into his arms and snaking hers around his back.
He looked down at her beautiful face. "You sad it wasn't like this for us?"
Buffy sighed, laying her head against his chest and feeling him begin to sway, holding her body close. "I guess this is every little girl's princess dream."
Spike nodded, kissing the top of her head. "We should have done more then."
Buffy thought for a moment before looking up at his handsome face. "You know? It wouldn't have been right."
He cocked an eyebrow. "Why not?"
"Because I'm not a princess. And you're not a prince. We're.... I'm the Slayer and you're a Vampire and what we have is..."
"Different," Spike answered.
"Sacred," she agreed. "It's not about little girl dreams. It hasn't been for ... ever."
"Should still have them, you know. Dreams," Spike answered. "And I should be making them come true."
Buffy smiled. "I wouldn't give back any of it for this," she commented. "Spike, we were joined. No one was there to see it because no one can see us. Not really. Since that moment, none of this mattered anymore because I knew what it meant to be..."
"One," Spike finished, swaying her to music only they could hear.
"One," she repeated. "And I don't regret anything."
"Do you love me, Buffy?" Spike asked, smiling because he knew. He knew every moment of every day in every pore of his being.
"Always, baby," she answered, pushing up on her bare toes to press her lips to his. "Always."
He held her tight, feeling her. Knowing her.
"I'll love you every day, Buffy. From now until the end of time."