"I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride."

The bride looked deep into the eyes of her husband of only a few moments, all the joy and pride and love she felt obvious in her sparkling green eyes as she faced him. His hands in hers were trembling with the release of the nerves he had been struggling with in spite of himself throughout the entire ceremony.

As he leaned in to kiss her, a sweet, chaste kiss that was nothing like the passionate, frenzied ones they usually shared, a sense of contentment and relief and right-ness came over him, and he knew that he had made the right decision. This was the person he wanted to be with for the rest of his life, without a doubt; he was absolutely sure.

This time.

It was an outdoor wedding, performed at dusk for the benefit of a certain member of the wedding party who had a "sun allergy" so to speak. The flowers and decorations and…well, everything…was just beautiful, much to the surprise of those familiar with the bride's unique taste in…well, everything.

Buffy glanced across the aisle at Spike, standing a little closer to the groom than she was standing to the bride, enjoying a rare chance to watch him when he didn't know she was doing it. Of all the beautiful things at the wedding, she was certain than none came close to her gorgeous, sexy mate, standing at the side of the young man who had become one of his closest friends over the past few months.

Well, truth be told, he was Spike's only male friend, really.

But it was not as if Xander had that many male friends of his own, either.

A year earlier, he would have rudely laughed in the face of anyone who had told him that one day Spike would end up being his best man in his wedding. But Xander's change after Dawn's fateful vengeance wish in his direction was much more than mere lip-service.

He had had a genuine change of heart, and that day in the training room at the Magic Box had been the starting point for a deep, lasting friendship between him and the blonde vampire who now stood at his side.

Buffy for her part was thrilled to finally see the end of the tension and outright hostility that had existed between her best friend and her lover for so long.

As she discreetly watched her gorgeous vampire out of hte corner of her eye, stunning as she had always found him, in black as usual, although a sleek black suit had temporarily replaced his usual jeans, t-shirt and duster. He had absolutely refused to wear a tux, and no amount of Anya's begging, pleading, and threatening to kick him out of her wedding had been able to change his mind. Even the suit had been a major compromise as far as Spike was concerned.

Compromise can be a very good thing, Buffy thought, admiring the effect appreciatively. Despite his protests, the sleek, dark suit complemented Spike's casual grace of movement and the smooth, hard lines of his body, accenting his every-strengthening confidence and security. It was a style she had never thought to see on him, but she found herself increasingly intrigued by it -- and wanting to get him out of that suit the very first chance she got!

Suddenly, piercing blue eyes met hers, and she looked down for a moment, inexplicably shy at being caught obviously ogling him. She glanced back up at him, a bit uncertainly, and found that he was smiling at her across the aisle, adoringly -- and lustfully.

Suddenly, she was very glad that the ceremony was almost over.

In another few minutes, they were filing off the lawn behind the happy newlyweds, into the house. Buffy's home really was the center of the universe for the Scoobies, and the largest of any of their homes. So it was that when Anya and Xander had opted -- wisely -- for a less complicated, less terrifying, small intimate ceremony with only their closest friends in attendance, Buffy's house had been the natural choice for the casual little party that would serve as their reception afterwards.

All of the living room furniture had been cleared out to leave a wide open space for dancing. The walls were lined with rented folding chairs for those who would rather sit and talk than dance. Twinkling white lights, candles, and gorgeous fresh flowers were everywhere. Buffy caught her breath as she entered the room, struck by the sight. It had been utterly transformed.

Dawn had taken her unexpected role as maid of honor very seriously from the moment Anya had asked her, and had gone to great lengths to do everything she could to make sure that there was no possible way that Anya's special day could be any more special. She had made the arrangements for all the flowers and decorations, much to the amazement of her sister, who wasn't sure that she could have pulled it off herself, and Dawn was still only seventeen.

Buffy took a seat by Willow, also a bridesmaid, who was sipping a glass of punch and watching the mingling group of about thirty people or so -- a far cry from the enormous affair that their last wedding had been -- or almost been.

"This is so beautiful!" Willow commented appreciatively as Buffy took a seat. "Dawnie really outdid herself!"

"Uh-huh," Buffy mumbled, her attention focused across the room, on Spike, who was looking especially suave and elegant, his eyes and smile equally dazzling as he charmed a couple of Anya's vengeance demon friends. "Gorgeous," Buffy breathed in supposed agreement to Willow's words. Then she glanced at her distractedly. "What about Dawnie?" she asked, trying to pay attention.

Willow saw what had her friend so distracted and gave her a knowing smile. "I should have warned you about the amazing power of formal wear," she said dryly.

"Huh?" Buffy managed to pull her gaze away from her man for long enough to give her friend a confused look. "Formal wear?"

"Um..." Willow said, her face flushing bright red as the happy couple made their way across the room toward them. " not a story I need to tell right now!"

Buffy shrugged, letting it go without much argument. She was much more interested in the smiling, swaggering form that had just excused himself from the conversation he was having and was heading in her direction.

Someone turned the music on, and Xander smiled warmly at Anya, taking her hand and lifting it high between them, leading her almost reverently out to the center of the floor, as the familiar strains of a romantic ballad filled the room -- "When a Man Loves a Woman".

For a moment, Buffy's attention was actually drawn from her lover's approach as she took in the impossibly sweet picture her friends made, melding together slowly into each other's embrace, utterly lost to the crowd around them, savoring the first few moments of their new life together.

The thought crossed her mind, If someone looked at me like Xander's looking at Anya, I think I'd be happy for the rest of my life...

Just then, a shadow fell across her, and she looked up into the open, adoring gaze of her vampire lover, standing over her and holding out his own hand to her in invitation.

Oh, yeah, she thought, a warm, dizzy feeling beginning to come over her as her hand slipped into his and she rose from her seat. Already there.

He was a master once again, powerful and commanding of respect, and she was his queen, as they wordlessly made their way out to the floor, choosing to linger near the edge of the dance floor, where they could enjoy a measure of privacy, and not distract attention from the first dance of the bride and groom.

With a gentle touch that belied the rampant desire in his eyes, Spike put his arms around her and drew her close to him, as her hands wrapped around him to softly stroke up and down his back as they swayed togehter in time with the music, lost in each other's eyes.

"You look amazing, love," he said softly, looking away from her eyes long enough to give her an appreciative up-and-down glance. "Bloody beautiful."

Buffy had to say, she much preferred Anya's choice this time around to her choice of bridesmaids' dresses the year before. She had gone with a deep red shade that highlighted Buffy's eyes and skin in contrast to it, in a soft, silky fabric that hugged her curves in all the right ways.

"You, too," she whispered, her eyes shining in the glow from the soft lights and candles that filled the room. "I mean, really, really incredible, Spike," she added sincerely, absolutely in awe of him, seeing him as she had never seen him before.

He smiled at the heart-felt compliment, before leaning down to whisper in her ear, "Thanks, love. But you…you look absolutely…delicious!"

The suggestion she heard in his tone, combined with her desperate need for him, made her have to fight not to take him then and there.

"Can't wait to taste you," he murmured next to her ear, and delightful shivers ran up and down her spine.

Instinctively her hands resting just below his waist pulled him closer to her, and he drew back a little to look at her, laughing softly in surprise at the urgency in her touch, which was a little stronger than she had intended it to be.

He leaned in close to whisper again as he pulled her even closer to him, "Can't wait, love? Patience. We've got guests. Gotta be polite," he teased her, one hand moving from her waist to trace slow circles with his thumb on her hip, driving her wild with his touch.

She glared at him for a moment in her frustration, aware that he knew exactly what he was doing, deliberately intensifying her desire while reminding her that she could not fulfill it just then. "You wanna play, Baby?" she whispered seductively, trailing one of her hands downward as well until it reached the back of his thigh, trying to decide just how far she dared take this game in front of all of their friends. No one was really paying them any attention, so she felt bold enough to raise the stakes a little.

His gleeful, smug smirk disappeared in a soft gasp at the sensation as she suddenly drew him nearer to her with her hand behind his thigh, at the same time, swiveling her hips to bring her into more intimate contact with his body.

She smirked herself as she felt the undeniable evidence of her effect on him. "Let's play?" she murmured.

"Careful, love," he replied, his composure somewhat recovered, enough to slide his thumb inward from her hip along the line of her thigh, toward her throbbing center. "Ain't hardly proper for the best man to be dirty dancing with a bridesmaid during the bride and groom's first dance, is it, pet?" he reminded her teasingly, his eyes dancing with the heady rush of the exciting little game they were playing – the game that he was determined to win. "Might draw a bit of attention."

She only pulled him closer as she ground against him a little less subtlely, her other hand moving up to pull his head down until their lips were mere inches apart. "I love attention!" she whispered, pressing her lips to his hard, her tongue darting out to seek entrance between his lips, parted in surprise at her boldness.

Which he was finding more irresistible with every moment.

When they parted, just as the song came to an end, and the focus shifted from Anya and Xander and their finished first dance, their eyes met and both realized immediately that the game was lost – to both of them.

"Let's go upstairs," Buffy suggested breathlessly.

"Right," he immediately replied in a shaky voice, his eyes wide.

Their desperate escape was cut off by the maid of honor, her arms cross emphatically over her chest at the foot of the stairs, blocking their path.

"Oh, no, you don't! You two can go shag like bunnies later!" she declared in a loud whisper – a little too loud, judging by Anya's startled gasp from ten feet away.

"No…actual…bunnies," Dawn assured her quickly, holding up her hand in a calming gesture, before returning her attention to them firmly. "I am the maid of honor and I am entitled to a dance with the best man."

"Maybe later, Bit," Spike said hurriedly, shaking his head, trying to move past her up the stairs. "I'm a bit busy at the moment."

"No, you just want to be," she corrected him, her eyebrows raised knowingly, her expression unrelenting as she quickly blocked him again. Her tone became softly pleading as she took his hands and turned around, tugging him insistently in the direction of the dance floor. "Come on, Spike. This kind of event only happens once in a while. You two have your whole lives to screw each other senseless."

Buffy looked mildly appalled by the words of her little sister. "I don't know whether to be shocked by your language or totally relieved," she muttered.

"Huh?" Dawn was confused. "Relieved?"

"The fact that you have no idea what this is like for us proves beyond all doubt that you are most definitely still a virgin," Buffy shot back, her arms crossed in irritation.

"Who says I don't know?" Dawn said defensively. Then she gave her sister a mischievous wink. "Maybe I'm just sadistic."

As she watched her little sister drag her reluctant lover onto the dance floor, Buffy returned to her seat dejectedly, grumbling, "Damn right, she's sadistic!"

"What?" Willow asked, a little concerned.

"I just solved a mystery; the Key is definitely evil," Buffy announced resentfully.

Willow smiled. "One – we already solved that mystery, and no she's not. And two – chill, Buffy! Contrary to your opinion, Spike is not oxygen, and you will not cease to live and breathe if you go two minutes without kissing him."

"I know," Buffy pouted.

"Besides," Willow continued slyly. "You did that to yourself."

Buffy looked up at her sharply, surprised – and a little embarrassed – that Willow had noticed her and Spike and their little sexual game.

A slow smile spread across Willow's face, but she didn't look at Buffy, who returned her attention to her little sister and Spike, who was laughing politely but distractedly, and glancing in her direction every few seconds.

"Looked like fun, though," Willow admitted with a shrug.

"It was fun…now it's torture," Buffy whined.

The dance seemed to last forever. By the end of it, Spike's attention was, at least outwardly, focused on Dawn. He had drifted into big-brother mode, and was teasing her, complimenting her, just generally doing his best to make her feel grown-up and like a lady as they danced.

As the next song started to play, he attempted to gracefully make his escape, but the enthusiastic girl -- little sadist – cajoled and begged him for just one more dance – and he could not help but give in.

Buffy sighed and leaned heavily back in her chair. She was just going to have to be patient.

Why not? she thought, suddenly contented in spite of herself. No reason not to be.

Dawn was right.

They had the rest of their lives.

As Anya rested her head on her husband's – her husband! – shoulder, she could not remember ever feeling so happy, so contented. Everything she had ever wanted, everything she had thought she had lost, was right here in her arms at last.

Dawn's little venture into the world of vengeance, though it had been a dangerous one, had proven to be of the good for everyone in the end.

Xander had truly changed so much. She remembered how when they had been together before, she had been terrified constantly of doing something to remind him of her former non-human status, and somehow losing his love. His bias had been obvious to her at least on a subconscious level even then, and it had made her feel very insecure and struggle to win his approval – sometimes too hard.

Thus it was that when he had left her at the altar, she had blamed herself, feeling that it was because she was not good enough for him, because she had not always been human.

Now, the fact that she could really feel safe in his love, with no need to disguise the fact that she was not human anymore, spoke of how much he had truly changed. He loved her for who she was, not what she was, or was not…thanks to Dawn's wish.

Her other wish had had a dramatic impact as well. Understatement of the century, she thought with a smile. Since Arashmar had taken Warren away for good to be sold as a slave in another dimension, Spike's whole attitude, demeanor, had drastically changed.

The cries for vengeance that Anya had continued to hear from him throughout her extended stay in Sunnydale had stopped instantly in that moment, so suddenly that the silence had been deafening. But she had felt a peace, knowing that he had finally found the justice his wounded spirit had longed for.

Over the next few months, surrounded by love and support, with no threat of having it torn from him again, he had grown steadily stronger, both physically and emotionally, until now, one would hardly know it had ever happened.

Of course, none of them who knew what had happened would ever forget.

But it was good to be able to move on.

Anya watched with a smile as Buffy finally lost patience and insistently cut in on Dawn and Spike's fourth dance. She let out a sigh of relief and happiness as she sank into his arms again, and the contented look on his face at the renewed realization of how much she wanted him was touching to Anya as she looked on.

"Finally. I missed you," Buffy pouted playfully.

He leaned down and gave her a soft kiss before smiling into her eyes and murmuring softly, "Me, too."

"I wish we could always be together," Buffy sighed, leaning her head against his chest, contented just to be in his arms.

"We will," he assured her, resting his chin on the top of her head and closing his eyes as they moved together in a steady, smooth rhythm.

Neither of them noticed Anya watching them with an affectionate smile, or saw or heard the whispered words as they left her lips.

"Wish granted."