Chapter 1/7 Written by: Shawn
Summary: Life is so crazy sometimes.
Category: Romance/Humor Rated: R
Timeline/Spoilers: Everything up to the BtVS series finale "Chosen" is canon except Xander losing his eye. Outside of that it's my AU. Everything's explained in the story.
My personal archive: http/groups. Joss owns it all. I just let them out to play once in a while.
Email: Notes 1: Willow, Buffy, Xander, Faith, and Dawn live in Cleveland, watching over the as-of-yet unopened Hellmouth. They are currently retired and living normal lives for once. Of course every now and then a vamp sighting might spur a patrol, but for the most part they're fighting the same every day struggles and frustrations as you or I.
Authors Notes 2: This story is for fun and laughs. Taking it any deeper will detract from enjoying it. In other words, read it when you're in a good mood or if you need to be put in one.
Love involves a peculiar unfathomable combination of understanding and misunderstanding. --Diane Arbus
Buffy's Apartment 321 Winchester Dr
Monday, September 17, 2005 1:35 AM Cleveland, Ohio
There's nothing better in the entire world than a good night's sleep.
Liek when you find that perfect soft spot on your bed, or the cool side of your pillow, you feel like you've won the lottery. When the worlds quiet, and you're comfortable and warm as a hug from your Mom when you just got home from school. Attaining a good nights sleep was something people would do anything for, even going so far as to purchase very expensive beds that adjust positions and heating, as well as over the counter drugs that aided in providing a sound sleep.
Buffy Summers reveled in that she was always a sound sleeper. Once her head hit the pillow she was out like a light until morning. Her mom used to joke that she slept the sleep of the dead. The irony wasn't lost on her once she began fighting them. At the moment though, she's resting so deeply, curled on her side without a care in the world.
All except for the constant pounding on her front door. That potential murder victim had better cease trying to get her attention before she gave it to him or her courtesy of being thrown from the nearest window. "Go away," she slurred into her pillow, effectively pulling it over her head as she tried to mentally will the late night visitor from her front door.
No such luck.
Ten straight minutes of continuous knocking enraged her to the point of sleepily searching for a weapon to maim the person with. She rose from her bed slowly, blinking her eyes to focus in the darkness. She groaned loudly and swore under her breath as she begrudgingly left her bed behind, exited her bedroom, and stalked toward her front door. She managed to flip a light switch on the way. "Whoever you are, you had better be near death or when I open this door you're going to be."
Xander's grinning face and waving hand greeted her. His hair looked unruly, as did his clothes. He had some stubble working too.
Buffy slammed the door in his face.
Xander wasn't even surprised. "Hello to you too."
"Do you know it's," she glanced at her wall clock, "1:35 AM in the morning?"
"Yeah, I know it's a sucky hour to be stopping by, but I really need to talk to you. My plane landed a little less than an hour ago and I'm hyper on coffee. Can I come in?"
Damn him! Buffy sighed, having missed the big lug who's been in San Diego on business for the last two weeks. Seeing him wasn't a bad thing. Seeing him at this late hour was. Why couldn't he ever be normal? Then again, she wondered if she even knew what normal looked like anymore. "Xander, why not stop by in the morning when you could at least take me out for breakfast?"
Her whining softened his mood. "Uhm, Buff. I'm still out here in the hallway. It's kinda dark and creepy. I think I saw a stray cat stroll by."
"Well, with all the banging on the door I've already done and the talking to your front door I'm doing now, your neighbors might think you have a stalker. You know how those laundry room gossipmongers can be. With all their gossip mongering and such." Smiling to himself, he could practically hear the wheels turning in her mind. Ever since he got on his flight, through the flight and the second he got off he just had to get here, to her, as fast as he could. Finally, he heard the doorknob turn.
"You are so lucky I like you and know that you're insane, but only a little."
"I tell myself that all the time," he replied, shutting the door behind him. Okay, the moment of truth was here. First, he couldn't help but to be charmed by her cute mismatched sleeping attire of a white "Free Winona" t-shirt and plaid pajama pants. Secondly, the scowl she wore, solely directed his way, and told him he better tread carefully. A sleepy Buffy tended to be a dangerous one. "You look beautiful," he complimented, grinning wide.
"Reaaallly?" Buffy questioned him, hands on her hips, brow arched. "Is it my pancaked bed hair, or my lack of makeup that makes me so lovely this early in the morning? Perhaps it's this pizza stain on my PJ's? Or this little hole on the underarm of my t-shirt?" She fingered it for effect. "Come on, tell me, Xander? Why do I look so beautiful, hmmm?"
She wasn't going to make this easy, but then she never did. He wouldn't like her half as much as he did if she was any different. "I think you're beautiful because you're so short, and it's commonly known short women tend to be far lovelier than taller women. And I must say your ears are just phenomenal. I adore your ears. They turn kinda pink when you get mad. They're kinda pink right now."
Buffy fixed him with a glare that over a short period of time evolved into something of a smirk. Despite waking her from a deep sleep, she did miss him after all. Missed him every day he was gone. He didn't deserve to hear that at the moment. "Why are you here? I want answers now? They had better be good answers too." With her arms crossed, she watched him shuffle his feet a little, then take a long deep breath.
"Buffy, please sit down." Xander led her over to the couch. Thankfully, she complied, taking a seat. The pacing back and forth began soon afterwards. Wherever will he begin? He knew what he was going to do was crazy, but he had to try.
"Xander, so help me God if you don't start talking quick I am going to rip your eye brows off."
Not a pretty mental image. "Okay, alright. Enough with the violence and murder talk." He braced himself, looking her way. "My grandparents on my fathers side died when I was very young, but my moms father was alive until three days ago. He passed away and I was notified while I was in San Diego."
"I'm sorry," Buffy offered her sympathy.
Xander nodded his thanks. "Anyway, the last time I saw him was during our last year in Sunnydale. I haven't seen him since then, but I have written him a few letters. Back then, I visited him at the nursing home and we ended up talking for a couple of hours. I told him all about my job and how I had my own place and almost got married. He was proud of me. He truly loved my grandmother and told me things about their marriage I never knew. They had a pretty good one for thirty-something years. He also gave me a lot of insight on my parents and the problems they had. We never really got to know each other all that well, but we did make a connection that day. He told me I was the only grandchild that had visited him in almost two years. My mom hadn't been in five."
Buffy shook her head. "That's so sad."
"My family sucks, Buff. I've accepted that for a while now." She waited for him to continue. "But apparently good ole Grandpa Ron doesn't suck. See, he left a will behind."
"The plot thickens."
'You have no idea, but you will soon,' Xander thought to himself. "Yeah, see he had a will set up years ago, but I found out from his lawyer he had it changed a few days after I visited him that last time. It turns out he left every single member of his family off except me. He felt abandoned by them."
Having woken up fully, Buffy had to admit she was intrigued. Xander's pacing still had her a bit on edge. He looked far too nervous for the story he was telling. And the way he kept looking at her...
"Grandpa Ron knew about my moms troubles with alcohol and my dads. He tried to help both of them more than a few times, but they never listened. They thought he was trying to meddle in their lives rather than help them. When he got sick they just forgot about him all together. He was a pretty lonely guy for a lot of years."
"His kids sound a lot like my dad. I just never understood how anyone could act as if their loved ones didn't exist."
"Okay, so you get all his stuff, right?"
"Yeeaahh," Xander stretched that word a long way as he drew closer to the real reason he stopped by. "It turns out that when he turned eighty-five, one of his life insurance policies kicked in automatically. He received one hundred thousand dollars. He never told anyone, but had a few younger friends at the home that helped him invest his money. Two men who were in their late sixties that were former bankers. When my grandfather died a few days ago he was ninety one."
"Ninety one?" Buffy exclaimed. "Wow. He really drank his milk, didn't he?"
The first of his two major revelations couldn't be withheld any longer. "His net worth upon his death, due to what his lawyer called a windfall of good moves and accumulation over the last six years, was five million dollars."
As if the whole world slowed down almost to the point of stopping, Buffy heard what he said... heard the words... thought about them and what they meant... and then finally she leapt from the couch into his arms, rocking him her strong embrace. "YOU'RE RICH! OH MY GOD, YOU'RE RICH! NOW THAT WAS NEWS WORTH WAKING ME UP FOR! AND YOU BETTER NOT FORGET YOUR BEST PAL, BUFFY! THAT'S ME, YOU KNOW!"
He wheezed and coughed a bit.
"YOU'RE GONNA LOVE BEING RICH! I JUST KNOW IT!"
"Your Aunt Eve? I didn't know you have an Aunt Eve. Do you have to share the money?"
"Oh, my bad." Buffy released him, but held his hands, overjoyed for his good news and that he just had to see and tell her first. It made her and their friendship feel special. He slowly regained his normal breathing. "You okay?"
"I don't think there's any internal bleeding, so I'm good." She was smiling, so that was a good sign. Now he just had to deliver the big news. "Okay, Buff. Hold on a sec. I'm not rich... yet."
"But you said he left you everything, right?" He nodded. "Then what's the catch?"
"It's... it's funny you should mention that," he laughed nervously, pulling away from her so that he could pace the room again while she looked on. His hands raking through his hair now. "My grandfathers lawyer, Mr. Kyle Penis..."
"Penis? His last name is Penis?"
"Yes, it was even on the door plaque to his office."
"I pity him. I truly do."
"As do I. School had to have been horrible."
"Okay, on with the money talk."
"Mr. Penis..." they laughed again, and just had to take a moment and laugh again. "Mr. Penis read the will and it stated how proud my grandfather was of me and how impressed he was by me when we met. He said the three letters I wrote him meant the world to him and that he wanted me to have the life my parents never did. He wanted me to accomplish great things and be happy. He left me the money, but with one final stipulation."
"And that was?"
Suddenly, Xander sorely needed a drink. Buffy expectant face didn't have a clue what she was about to hear. "My grandfather truly loved his wife, and their relationship brought him more joy than anything else in his entire life. My grandmother meant the world to him. She died when he was seventy-eight, and he's missed her every day. He wants me to truly be in love when I take the inheritance so that I can have the best of both worlds. The stipulation in the will is that I will inherit the five million dollars after I have been married six full months and it is proven that me and my wife are truly in love."
Buffy stared directly into his brown eyes, and then burst out laughing. "Oh give me a break, Xander. Forgive me, but that sounds so stupid. What is this, a bad eighties movie plot? Tell me the truth."
"I just did," he said without a hint of joking. "Buffy, as soon as I'm married for six months, I get all the money at one time. It's no joke." Mustering up all of his courage and a little more he wasn't even sure he had, he walked over to Buffy, took her small right hand into his, and fell down to one knee. "I know this is crazy and wild and out of the blue, but this is the Looney Tunes hand life has dealt me. I know we're doing okay financially these days, but five million dollars is a ton of money. So here goes. Will you marry me for six months, and then when I get the inheritance I'll split it with you right down the middle? You'll get a cool 2.5 million for wearing a little gold band for six months. What do you say?"
She couldn't say anything because she was laughing so hard she had to sit down on the floor where he kneeled. She wrapped her arms around herself; her howling laughter went on and on.
She collected herself and sat up next to him, smiling as she calmed down. She ran her hand along the side of his face, caressing his cheek. "Just before you left we both admitted something new was happening between us. Well that hasn't changed," she assured him with a tender gaze. "I want to take things really slow and at least have a first date and kiss with you. So you didn't have to create this elaborate story just to see if I was still interested or had changed my mind. Now I must admit this is all very sweet. You couldn't even wait until the morning to see me and I like that a lot." She sighed. "I like you a lot, Xander. So let the crazy story business go and lets talk in the morning about going on a real first date."
He's equal parts overjoyed and frightened. "I agree with everything you said and I really want to run around your living room, pumping my fist as if I just won the Super Bowl. But..." he trailed off. "My story is real."
"So you really will inherit five million dollars as soon as you are married six months?" Buffy sarcastically asked.
"From your deceased grandfather that no one knew was worth a couple of million for a while now?"
"And his lawyer, Mr. Penis, is handling all the arrangements?"
"Buffy, you came back from the dead twice. Is it so hard to believe I could inherit five million dollars?"
After a moments thought, she said, "Yes." Xander rolled his eyes. "Xander, this is insane, and you know it. Who places stipulations like that in their will? It's like a romance novel or something."
"I know, I know. Believe me, it's blowing my mind too. But think about it. We could split the five million dollars and do anything we wanted to do. Neither of us come from rich backgrounds. Things aren't getting cheaper. I know money isn't everything, but I believe that you have to snatch every opportunity that comes your way immediately." He took her hand again, and for the first time tonight, she seemed to be quietly contemplating if he was telling the truth. She knew he liked to joke and tease, but also when he was being serious. "Will you marry me?"
"Are you nuts?"
"That's not a yes."
"This can't be real."
"Call Mr. Penis in the morning. He's expecting your call. I told him you and I were engaged."
Buffy's mouth dropped open. "Hey, you assumed I would say yes!"
"I... I hoped."
It was kind of sweet and strange at the same time. And all too insane. "There's really a lawyer named Mr. Penis?"
As if her life would ever be normal. Still, Xander wasn't one to wake people up in the middle of the night with wild lies. Buffy had to give him the benefit of the doubt. "Okay, I'll talk to this lawyer in the morning. In the meantime why don't you crash on my couch tonight. You look exhausted."
Xander exhaled, sitting on the couch now. "Thank you." Buffy stared at him, nodded, and then walked towards her bedroom. She turned on her heel at the last moment.
Her question was the one and only he didn't have a prepared answer for. "I don't... I don't know."
He did. So did she. But this was all too soon and odd and just flat out madness. For now, Buffy had to admit that for him to think of her first did matter to her on some level. "Goodnight."
"Night, Buff." She disappeared into her bedroom while Xander collapsed back on the couch. Would their world ever be the same again? And why was he smiling as he fell asleep?
8:00 AM the next morning.
"Yes, Ms Summers. The will clearly states that after a six month period has passed, and it has been verified by a private investigator that the marriage is valid, Alexander Lavelle Harris will inherit the entire five million dollar estate."
Buffy listened intently as she typed in the name of the law firm Mr. Penis said he was a partner of. Sure enough, the firm had a website and was stationed in San Diego. More and more she found herself forced to accept that this was real, as insane as that was. "How exactly will the private investigator know if the marriage is real or not?"
"Ronald Styles had already chosen a firm he knew to be reputable. The kind that usually was hired by wives who suspected their husbands of cheating. The investigator will do what he does within the realm of the law. Alexander and his wife will be followed and there whereabouts monitored, but not in a truly invasive sort of way. No one will bug his home or plant video cameras or anything like that. He or she will simply insure that the stipulations of Ronald Styles will be met in full, and that his final wishes be carried out. As a matter of fact, if Alexander had already been married for six months, he'd have the entire inheritance in his hands today. But the will clearly states that if he marries after he is made aware of the will an investigator will be hired for the duration of the six months to insure Alexander's marriage is real."
Still clad in her sleeping attire, Buffy crossed her legs at her computer desk. "Doesn't that strike you as a odd request in this day and age?" The lawyer's Irish accent was prevalent even when he laughed softly.
"Ms. Summers, I have had far more odd requests than this. Things you could not imagine a sane, normal, mentally healthy adult would ask of another. It seems Mr. Styles simply wants his grandson to be happily married before inheriting the money. He's an old romantic, you see. A very good man who had a very old school outlook on life."
"Ms. Summers, I hate to cut this call short, but I have other matters to attend to this morning. I hope I answered all of your questions to your satisfaction."
Buffy reclined at her computer desk, relieved, as she was genuinely surprised. However did situation come about? And could she actually marry her best friend? "Yes, you have. Thank you very much, Mr. Penis." She couldn't even muster up the amusement to chuckle. This was all so surreal, and that was saying plenty for the girl who once halted apocalypses on a regular basis.
"It was no problem at all, Ms. Summers. Mr. Harris indicated to me that you are a very close, personal friend of his who would need to speak to me personally. He didn't allude any further."
The assumption was on the tip of his tongue. Buffy knew that for sure, but didn't take the bait. "Thank you."
"It was my pleasure, Ms. Summers. If you have any further questions feel free to contact me at any time. Good day."
A soft click finished the call. Buffy pressed end, then sat her phone down next to the keyboard. All the while she was talking to Mr. Penis, and that in itself was just so strange to be conversing with a man whose last name was penis, she checked up on his law firm, it's address, his name, and their record with the Better Business Bureau. P.G.& R Law existed, all right. They'd been around for going on twenty years. Mr. Penis's picture was even on the website and matched Xander's description to a tee.
She shut her eyes and tried to think. On one hand, Xander didn't lie. Well, there was that one time with Angel, but that was for her own good. In the long run she'd come to understand that. Two, they haven't even had a date or a first kiss, and now they're expected to get married and live together and do the whole 'till death do us part until we're rich' bit. She loves him, but this is far above friendship.
Then again, he offered to split the money with her. Two and a half million dollars. A huge sum a money. More than she ever needed or thought would come her way. She could insure her and Dawn's future with that kind of money. She could quit her job working at the Youth Counseling Center and her part-time weekend gig teaching ladies self-defense. She could go back to college, or start a business, or anything else she wanted to try. Could she really pass up an opportunity like this?
"So what do you think?"
The familiar voice that came from behind her was a bit startling. It shook her from her inner thoughts. "I spoke to the lawyer. I can't find anything with his story or yours, or anything online about his firm that's not on the up and up," she had no choice but to face. "This is like a episode of the Twilight Zone."
"That's what I was thinking over the whole time I was in his office, on my way to the airport, and throughout my whole flight. I've been in some wacky situations before, and I'm used to my dates attempting to murder me, but nothing like this." Pulling up another chair, Xander sat alongside her.
Buffy meant to speak, but was shaken by the sight of a shirtless Xander, fresh from the shower and smelling so good, sitting beside her in only a pair of old faded jeans. His short dark hair looked damp, and was sticking up in places that made her want to affectionately brush it down. His appeal startled her, and she had to swallow a few times. "Yeah," she managed to say as she struggled to not follow that little bead of water cascading down his neck into the short, wiry hairs sprinkled about his broad chest. When did he develop this affect on her? He didn't seem to even realize it at all.
"Look, Buff," Xander began, shifting sideways to face her. "I know this is asking a lot of you."
"I never envisioned my first marriage proposal coming because of a big, fat inheritance."
"I certainly never thought I'd ask you under these circumstances."
She turned to him, curious. "So what circumstances did you imagine?"
"Well, I at least thought about a fancy restur..." He caught her eyeing him with a smirk that borderlined on naughty. Luckily, he caught himself just in time. "Funny, Buff. Real funny."
She shrugged. "I thought so."
"I don't believe money makes you happy. I get that. But money matters. This is the real world and if an opportunity like this comes your way to gotta Krazy-Glue yourself to it and not let go. I grew up poor as you could get without sleeping outside. I just can't let an opportunity like this get past me. I want it now so that I can help myself and my friends get the life we deserve. I'm not talking about fancy cars and big houses. I'm talking about choices. I can give us all choices with this money. Anything you've ever been interested in looking into, we'll have the money to try it. College, no problem. A business, why not? A strip club, who would blame me?" She laughed at that one. God, how he loves her laugh. At a little after 8:00 AM in the morning and still needing a shower, having not even run a brush through her hair yet, she was still captivating. "Look, I know we're not in love with each other right now?"
"We haven't even had a first kiss."
"But we'll get there," he offered with a longing he couldn't deny. For a moment he thought he saw the same in her eyes, then she quickly looked away. "Whatever's slowly developing between us doesn't have to end. But in the meantime we'll be selfish for the first time in a long time and take something for ourselves. Think of it as life granting us a reward for all our pain and suffering and world saving over the years."
She had to admit that sounded nice. "What if it ruins our friendship?"
"Then we'll be rich enemies." She kicked him, but not to hard, still hard enough to hurt. "Ouch times ten."
"I would love to stop mooching off Giles every now and then," Buffy considered with a nod. "Dawn needs a new car and so do I. Working two jobs isn't of the good either," she admitted. "It would be nice to get ahead for once."
"Wills wants to start her own business and Oz wants to record a full studio album with his band. They have a little buzz, but a little money would go a long way. And I wouldn't mind giving Faith that vacation she's always talking about. Plus, we could all surprise Giles one day in London."
"Now that would be fun." Her hands were soon enveloped in his, held between them, and the moment became real and... heartfelt.
"It's not like I don't love you," Xander confessed somewhat nervously, leaving his true meaning up for Interpretation. "I always have and I always will."
They're quite a pair, Buffy surmised, her eyes focused on their hands. The differences of size and shape. Of muscle and tone. He's so dear to her and the thought of somehow messing that up was terrifying. Then again, after almost ten years, was it even valid anymore to fear losing him? Was it even possible? And why did he look at her the way he did? A way that spoke of emotions far deeper than friendship. "I love you too."
"Then marry me?" he asked her again, grinning. "Marry me and let me make you filthy rich in six short months."
She smiled. "Then what?"
"What do you mean?"
"After six months, then what? We're rich, but we're still married. Then what?"
Deer in headlights expression. He hadn't honestly thought of that. Of course, that evil little voice in the back of his mind shouted things he wasn't quite capable of admitting just yet. "Then... you know... we can... or maybe we'd... see, I figured by then... uhm, it's possible that..."
Buffy found herself laughing at his discomfort. "It's okay. I haven't even said yes yet, so we're jumping the gun."
"Sooooo?" She squeezed his hands, and then stood to her feet.
"You're taking me out to breakfast. I want the very best breakfast ever. After I eat I'll make my decision." Neither moved right away, choosing the path of the unknown. The unpredictable pull that's only growing stronger.
With a last smile, Buffy let go of his hands and left the room.
Much later that day.
Willow's apartment 1700 Clairmont
Monday, September 17, 2005 7:30 PM Cleveland, Ohio
"That's a curious turn of events."
"Damn, B! You sure move fast."
"So help me God if either of you are messing with my fragile emotional emotions I will resort to shoe throwing."
"Willow, wha is not a word. The T in what isn't silent. Not that it matters a great deal to you right now."
"You two have been banging behind our backs, haven't you? Damn, I usually can pick up on these things."
"Is it possible my sister finally wised up to what's been in front of her for years? And why do I suddenly want to make sure you aren't a shape-shifter? What's my middle name?"
"Married? You're... you're getting married?"
"They said it three times so far. I do get the feeling that they're serious."
"Getting hitched is some kind of crazy. Why not shack up for a couple of months and see what's what?"
"I WANT THE FAIRY TALE!" Dawn shouted loudly for no real reason other than it bubbled right out of her mouth. All eyes in the room turned on her as she shrank back into the couch, folding her legs beneath her. "Carry on," she delivered in a meek tone and a wave. Holding hands as they had planned to do on the ride over, Xander and Buffy sat very close on the love seat, smiling as they detailed with the eloquence and confidence of a CIA agent captured by the enemy and interrogated under duress, how they had dated secretly for the last month, and that the week they spent apart underscored how they simply could not wait. Going back and forth, they talked about how last night, when Xander simply had to see Buffy as soon as he was back in Cleveland, and the subsequent day spent together made them realize that they didn't need a long courtship or engagement.
They're in love and getting married.
Not surprisingly, Dawn's pretty damn ecstatic about it, to the point of pacing the room with a silly grin on her face. Faith's eying the betrothed duo with a curious smirk, but seemed cool to the idea. The most interesting reaction so far of all came from Willow, who was flat out somber and quiet, answering only when asked or spoken too. Typically, Oz was nonchalant as ever, though on the inside Willow's behavior was bothering him. He just couldn't put his finger on why yet.
As the others all absorbed the announcement in, Buffy and Xander were mentally back flipping over how well things had gone so far.
Over a magnificent breakfast this morning, one that set Xander back thirty bucks, Buffy agreed to marry him. Said it while he had a mouth full of bacon. Oh happy day, indeed. She told him she made the decision while in the shower because the opportunity was simply too great to pass up and that they needed a plan. She called in to her job and took the day off work, as did he, and they brainstormed. First off, in the event that the private investigator followed or investigated Buffy's sister or their closest friends, the fear that one of them might accidentally slip up was too great a risk to take. So the decision was made to keep everything a secret from everyone for the duration of the six months. They'd understand afterwards when the checks were handed out and the cash-spending fun began. For now, they would be allowed to bask in the Xander-Buffy love fest and see it for the epic romance that it was.
As quirky as ever, they have dubbed their fraudulent union "Operation Lindsey Lohan." Named after the not so talented, but oh so well endowed actress whose boobs were as fake as their marriage will be. "Operation Lindsey Lohan" has begun.
"I know this is all pretty sudden, and will take some getting used too," Xander said with his arm draped over Buffy's shoulder. "But we're very happy and we just want all of you to be happy for us. Joyful, even. Full of the wonder and excitement and pageantry of the fantastic journey we're about to undertake. We want to share the fullness of our love with..." The elbow gently prodded into his side courtesy of his fiancée stalled his rambling.
"Believe me, I didn't see this coming," Buffy offered truthfully, turning to Xander with a little grin and a wink. "But trust me. Getting married is the right and best thing to do for all of us."
"Don't you mean you and Xander?" Faith corrected, eyeing her closely... and curiously.
"Oh, yeah," the blonde Slayer laughed it off. "I don't know where my head was at. I must be overwhelmed with love." It sounded sappy, but that's usually how people are when they get engaged. She just hoped everyone bought it.
As sickeningly sweet as the scene was, Dawn had to admit she'd hoped for it for a long time now. From the moment she noticed the spark between them she wanted it to lead somewhere. She had no idea it would lead here. "I can't wait to help you guys plan for the wedding. Sis, we are going to have so much fun."
"I will insure we do not where sucky bridesmaids dresses."
"I will use style that will rival Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Just watch me mix and match colors and fabrics."
"Dawn, listen." Buffy painted on her most apologetic expression. She didn't like disappointing her sister, but in this case it was unavoidable. "There's not going to be any planning for a wedding." Suddenly, a hush fell over the room. "Xander and I are getting married at City Hall tomorrow."
You could hear a pin drop in the living room. Literally.
"Tomorrow?" Willow simply could not believe with such emotion that it surprised her as well as everyone else in the room. She looked instantly crestfallen. "You have got to be kidding me?"
"Sorry, Wills. Buff and I were ripping and running around all day to get things together for tomorrow's happy day. We want to get it done quick and painless. No pomp and circumstance, not that I know what that is," he shrugged. So did Faith. "We're doing this for us and we want it done. So tomorrow, if you can all schedule to go into work late, you can be with us to share our momentous occasion."
Faith stretched her arms out, then behind her head. "What about the G-man, B? If you ever got hitched, and all bets in this group was that it wasn't gonna ever happen..."
"WHO BETTED!" Buffy shouted, gazing around the room with accusation in her eyes. Dawn looked away. Willow looked away. Oz looked at her and shrugged. Faith smirked. Xander was looked far away. He got another elbow for that one. "Look, I'll call Giles tonight and talk with him. I know he'll be shocked, but we'll make it up to him. For now, Xander and I need to do this for us. I hope you all support us."
The next twenty minutes of teasing and joking were lost on Willow. She wasn't sure why the news of her best friends impending nuptials were wrecking havoc with her emotions the way that they were. It just felt wrong, somehow? Out of place. Or maybe deep down she felt out of place. She couldn't make heads or tails of what was going on with her, but she did feel Oz's questioning stare find her ever so often. When he relocated to Cleveland six months ago they slowly rediscovered their friendship and maybe even a little more than that. A slow build for sure, but her current Bi status allowed it.
And now this.
She felt guilty for not feeling overwhelmed with joy over her friend's good news. She felt guiltier for giving Oz the wrong idea, or some form of it at least. It's just that every time Buffy and Xander looked at each other and smiled, or kissed the other on the cheek she felt... uneasy. Almost a little angry. Watching them flirt in recent weeks was cool, as it was taking a long time and she was sure by the time they realized they were perfect for each other she'd be cool with it. But this...
"Okay guy and sexy gals," Xander addressed the room, rising to his feet. "I shall order dinner for all of us and pay. We shall celebrate with a high fat, high cholesterol, and good tasting meal. Cheesy fries will be a part of said meal." He looked to his oldest friend, wanting a moment alone with her. "Wills, care to go over some menus in your kitchen?"
That was their secret signal for wanting to talk to the other without anyone else around. She gave a nod, and followed him into the kitchen. A passing glance at Buffy could have almost been described as a glare, though the Slayer didn't seem to notice.
Soon, Buffy found herself being hugged tight by her sister, complete with the arms wrapped around her neck. "Hey, what's with the affection?"
"I'm happy for you. I mean it's not every day you actually go for the guy with a pulse."
"Hey! Riley had a pulse," Buffy defended herself.
"Riley left you for a jungle, B. You ran after his helicopter like you were on crack," Faith pointed out. "You set feminism back a hundred years. And I don't even know what feminism is exactly."
Dawn thoroughly enjoyed the playful taunting sent her sister's way. "Yeah, you played yourself on that one, sis." She sat up straight, looked towards the ceiling and chanted, "Riiillleeeyyyy!"
At that moment Buffy realized she hadn't given Dawn a good choking in quite a while. "It wasn't like that at all. I still had my dignity and my pride. And I didn't run after Riley's helicopter. I jogged briskly."
Eyes rolled all around the room.
A man of few words, Oz enjoyed his old friends more than he ever told them. He felt a part of their family again, and that meant a great deal to him. Added to that was the newness brewing between him and Willow. Something intricately sweet as their high school romance, yet tinged with the years past and the people they were now.
And in the span of one heartbeat and the next, Oz saw that special perfect gleam in her eyes fade away into nothing over the announcement of her friend's marriage. That didn't set well with him at all. In fact, it felt all too familiar.
Leaning his back to the sink, Xander considered his oldest, dearest friend. Beautiful, brilliant, and older in a way that only appealed to him more. Her auburn hair worn longer than he'd seen her wear it before. In truth, she was who she had always been. His rock. His confidant. His most reliable and needed support system. And the first person he ever loved, and still did so much today. But something's off here. Something out of rhythm with her.
Willow sat at the kitchen table glossing over a stack of restaurant menus. She looked none to pleased, and he knew it didn't have anything to do with their possible choices for dinner. "You think I'm making a huge mistake, don't you?"
Looking up, she bit her tongue on the quick, biting first reply that threatened to slip out. Instead, she thought over her words. "You haven't dated Buffy for very long. And you know good and well sex doesn't equal love."
She meant well and was right. Only, she didn't have the five millions reasons for marrying Buffy that he did. Then again, that was somewhat a lie in itself. It wasn't just the money that had him giddy today. He just hid it well. "I've known Buffy for almost ten years now. I know everything about her. I just don't see the reason for a long engagement."
"But why so soon? That's what doesn't make sense to me."
How to answer that? Xander ran his fingers through his hair. "It's complicated."
"I'm pretty smart, you know."
The first time he saw her smile all evening long. Xander walked over and sat across from her at the table, his hands in his lap. "I love her." Something flickered behind the eyes of his best friend, and then she sighed. That left him with an uneasy feeling. He again pledged to make this all up to her big time once the money came. "Do you remember when we were ten years old and I had that blue and silver bike with the lightening bolt on it?"
Of course she did, and the memory of days on end riding with him and Jesse from sun up to sun down came back to her. "You thought that was the greatest bike of all time."
"Becasue it was," he pointed out, grinning. "Anyway, do you remember we rode up to Millers Meadow, and I never wanted to ride through the trail?"
Her mood softened as they were taken back to yesteryear when it was only them and Jesse. "That bike path wasn't scary at all."
"It looked like the woods to me, and I always thought if I got lost or seperated from you guys I'd be stuck there and no one would find me. It took two whole months for you to get me to ride that path." They shared a laugh and the memory. "And do you know why I finally did it?"
"Because Jesse threatened to tell everyone in our class how much of a scaredy cat you were?"
"Because you couldn't take being afraid to do something a girl wasn't afraid to do?"
"Because Jesse promised to give you that Playboy magazine he stole from his father's drawer if you did it?" She watched him mull it over. Her same ole Xander. He shook his head. "I give. What made you do it?"
Leaning over the table, he said with an unmistakable affection for her alone, "You told me to trust you."
Of course it all made sense to her now. The story and the memory. He was asking her to trust him now. And even though the circumstances were night and day apart, as well as many years of serious, he's only asking for her trust. Sighing, she still didn't feel right about things, but she could at least give him this. At least until she fully understood what it was she was feeling herself. "Can I be your best woman?"
"I wouldn't have it any other way." Both looked up when Oz peeked inside the kitchen. He looked a bit disturbed.
"The girls are discussing tampons. I felt it was time to exit the room."
"Say no more, my friend. There will be no tampon discussion here," Xander assured him.
Willow rose from her chair, walked around and placed a kiss on Xander's cheek. "I'm gonna go talk tampons. You guys order dinner. And don't forget the cheesy fries."
"One hips widening dinner coming right up."
Just as Willow graced past him, Oz whispered, "Are you alright?"
"I suppose," was her only answer with a timid smile. She exited the kitchen.
Oz didn't know if he should feel better or worse.
Two and a half hours later
As the elevator doors shut Buffy hi-fived Xander so hard his hand reeled back in slight pain. She watched him try to massage feeling back into it. "My bad."
"It's cool. The important thing is they all bought it hook, line, and sinker." Another gentler hi-five, followed by a tender hug. They were excited and more as the reality of what they were about to undertake managed to sink in. Tomorrow they were getting married, and in six months they'd split five million dollars. As the day wore on the thoughts of being rich began to look better and better and better...
"They are all going to go stark raving nuts when they learn the truth"
"That's why we should tell them at the Mercedes Benz dealership. I feel that while buying them new cars they will forgive our deception faster and easier."
The elevator doors opened as Xander stepped aside, extending his hand. "You first, oh wonderful fiancée."
Buffy strolled by almost doing a little dance. How bad could it be to live with Xander for six months and then become rich? Not bad at all, she surmised. Plus, he offered to cook dinner and take out the trash. A small part of her considered keeping him after the six months. The juries still out on that one. "Let's go home, Xan."
He'd be lying through his teeth if he said that hearing her refer to her apartment as their home didn't have him floating on air. Operation Lindsey Lohan was set to begin, and he wondered if he was so lucky as to have life reward him not once, but twice.
Being rich would be fantastic. But what if they fell in love? He had to admit he liked the idea and more than a little looked forward to the possibilities.
The End of Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Nuptials, domestic life, and that first crazy month.