A/N : I had a little extra writing time for my Buffy fic this week, since I finished my latest VMars fic last week, so here it is, Part 3 of the Sweet Child Of Mine Trilogy. This will have an eventual happy ending, but its going to take a little while to fix everything! Hope you enjoy the ride :-)
Title : Arms Around A Memory - Sweet Child Of Mine, Book 3
Rating : PG-13
Summary : AU BtVS S6 / AtS S3. With Annaliese and Connor apparently lost forever to Quor'toth, their families and friends have had to learn to cope without them. Buffy & Spike have grown closer than ever, but the story's not over yet...
Disclaimer : All recognisable characters from Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel the Series belong to Joss Whedon, and not to me. Annaliese is my own invention and therefore belongs to me.
"Look at you, all puffed up and manly" Spike smirked as Xander heard him and jumped half a mile in the air, yelping like a girl.
"Spike!" he snapped as he turned from the mirror to look at the vampire who had not been in evidence in the glass, "You diabolical fiend" he said, eyes narrowing at the bleached blond, who continued to smirk in annoying fashion.
"What did you do now?" Buffy asked from the doorway, catching both their attention.
She stood with her hands on her hips, a vision as always, in spite of her ghastly green bridesmaid's dress.
"Just havin' a joke with the groom, luv" her boyfriend told her, trying to look all innocent but not pulling it off too well, "Calm his nerves and all, y'know"
"Calm my nerves?" Xander echoed, his voice high-pitched and squeaky, "By killing me via a heart-attack? Is that how you were gonna calm my nerves, Spike?" he checked, as the vampire rolled his eyes.
"Bloody hell" he cursed, "There's just no helpin' some people" he complained as he moved across the room, slumping down into a chair as Buffy hurried over to Xander and did a much better job of making him calm.
"We don't have time for all this" she told him, reaching up to his bow tie and helping him tie it correctly, "It's a big day, Mr Harris" she told him with a smile, "Gotta look your best"
"Yeah, big day" he echoed, "Guess I have to start being like a real grown-up now I'm doing the whole marriage and a kid thing"
"Good luck with that" Spike muttered, as if to imply the boy had no idea how to cope.
In reality he knew better than to think Xander was incapable, and the look that passed between the two 'friends' proved the point. They didn't hate each other like they appeared to, they couldn't, not anymore. Having seen Spike go through all that he had with Annaliese, first getting the chance to be a father then having that chance cruelly snatched away, Xander had to have at least a little respect for the vampire.
In the same way, Spike had watched as the boy finally became a man, learnt to be the adult he'd need to be if he was to be a proper husband to Anya and a good father to their child when he or she was born.
"I'm going to have to have a serious talk with your best... best-woman" Buffy amended when she realised she'd almost said the wrong word, after all Xander had balked tradition somewhat by choosing Willow rather than a male friend to stand beside him at the ceremony. It made sense though, they'd been best friends since they were in footy-pyjamas
"Yeah, I think she's a little too busy yelling about her dress to worry about me" Xander smiled, "She wanted to do the sexy lady-tux thing but Ahn was determined all you girls had to match and not outshine her. Not that anybody could for me" he sighed.
"Oh please" Spike rolled his eyes, "Some of us have recently eaten" he complained.
"Like you don't love the Buffster just as much as I love Anya?" Xander challenged him as the blonde turned to look at her man.
"S'pose I do at that" Spike admitted with a smirk as she beamed back at him.
"Hey" Willow grinned as he came in the door, "I left Tara listening to Anya practise her vows for the forty-seventh time" she joked, "I finally escaped by telling her I had to go make sure Xander hadn't run away whilst we weren't looking" she giggled, as Buffy took hold of Spike's hand and led him to the door, leaving the two old friends alone.
"Like I'd run out on her... again, today of all days..." Xander was saying as they left the room, closing the door behind them.
"So, did I ever actually get around to telling you how very handsome you look today?" Buffy asked as she slid her arms up around Spike's neck.
"You did" he told her, "but feel free to show your appreciation for my efforts as many times as you like, pet" he said with a smirk as his hands went to her waist and he pulled her closer, into a kiss.
"I'll forgive you for not returning the favour and telling me how perfect I look in my dress" Buffy rolled her eyes, knowing they all looked equally frightful in the luminous green monstrosities into which Anya had forced them.
"You could be head to toe in scales, luv, you'd still be the most gorgeous woman I know" Spike promised her, "Inside and out"
She didn't have a verbal answer to give to that, but he didn't object to the alternative response he got as her lips locked onto his once again.
They were quite lost in each other, to the point where they barely noticed Giles appear beside them, not until he coughed for a fourth time, almost choking himself in the process of claiming their attention.
"My, my Rupert" Spike said, head tilting to one side as he stared at the Watcher, "Ought to do somethin' about that cough, y'know, sounds like you might be comin' down with something nasty"
"Yes, Spike, very droll, I'm sure" Giles dead-panned, "Now if the two of you have quite disentangled yourselves, do you think we might get on with this wedding for which we are assembled?"
"I think we might" Buffy agreed with a nod as they moved along the corridor towards the main hall where the ceremony would take place.
Giles took a detour to the room where the bride was preparing herself, tapping on the door before entering. In the absence of any real family, Anya had asked her employer and friend to give her away at the wedding, something that had annoyed D'Hoffryn at first, but then he had realised that wanting to be part of such a ridiculous human ritual would be against his nature anyway. He attended as nothing more than a guest, along with Halfrek, and various other demons with whom Anyanka had once been close friends.
Xander soon appeared with Willow, passing by Buffy and Spike who both wished the young man luck. Mostly of course it was the Slayer that said the words, but her vampire love nodded along as if it counted for him as well.
"Looks like we're just about ready" Buffy sighed as she looked at the highly decorated room with all it's flowers and trimmings, the seats all full of family, friends, and demons, "Everybody's here" she said, turning to glance at Spike, "Well, almost" she added sadly, going into his arms for a hug.
"Got you thinking too, has it, pet?" he said softly, kissing the top of her head, "Happy occasion, family and friends all gathered..."
"Dawn and Annaliese should be here" she said what they both already felt as they held each other in comfort.
"Come on, luv, chin up" he told her after a moment as he heard rustling behind the door down the corridor and knew the bride was getting ready to make her big entrance, "Gotta do this right for your mates, haven't we? Can't dwell too long on the past"
Buffy nodded that he was right as she pulled out of his arms and readied herself for walking down the aisle. She fixed on the appropriate smile just as Anya emerged, and Spike hurried to take his seat towards the front of the crowd.
"Oh my God" Anya giggled as she reached where Buffy stood, Tara to her other side, "I'm getting married!" she grinned, "Isn't it just the happiest day?"
"It really is" Buffy forced a brighter smile back at her friend as they made their entrance to the string quartet that played in the corner.
As she walked along down the aisle, Buffy couldn't help but let her thoughts linger on what she and Spike had been talking about. There should be two more bridesmaids; the girl that no-one remembered, and the other who would be headed towards her first birthday were she still here. Heaven only knew where either of them were now, if they were anywhere, and Buffy's heart ached to think of them.
Spike was smiling at her when she tuned back into the world and it gave her a little strength. She managed a smile back at him, as she completed her trip down the aisle and the bride and groom stood beside each other looking towards the minister who would make them a married couple.
"'S always been your problem, Slayer" Spike sighed as he and Buffy swayed together to the music at the reception after Xander and Anya's wedding ceremony.
"Problem?" the Slayer echoed with a frown, not understanding what he meant.
"You think too bloody much" he told her, "Too much about stuff you can't change, and that you can't get back. Past is gone, luv, let it be" he urged her, though he knew he too had problems with it. He thought of his little baby girl every day, and more than once too. She'd been gone weeks, even months now, but she would always be his precious daughter, and a part of him would always be hoping against hope he'd get Annaliese back one day.
"I can't help wishing" Buffy told him, resting her head on his chest as they continued to dance.
"I know, pet" Spike admitted, "Me too, but this is s'posed to be a celebration, for your mates and all" he reminded her, "Ought to turn the frown upside down, just a while longer"
"Better?" she asked, faux smile back in place and he smirked.
"It'll do, I s'pose" he told her, giving her a brief kiss.
There was a weird look on his face when he pulled away and his eyes went towards the door.
"What is it?" Buffy asked, smile dissolving again into a concerned expression.
"Don't you feel it?" he checked, eyes trained on a spot just past the doors to the hall.
"Not really" the blonde admitted, "What exactly am I supposed to be..."
"Ssh" he hushed her as he grabbed her hand and they hurried towards the doors, almost knocking a few people flying on the way through.
The pair stood in the small foyer before the doors that led outside, looking around at the nothingness that filled the space.
"Somethin' here, Slayer" Spike told her, "Somethin' bad"
"Actually here or...?" Buffy started to ask, but he shook his head, "Spike I don't understand" she admitted, wondering what he was getting at.
Before he had a chance to explain, Willow appeared, asking them why they were hanging around out here when they should be inside, since Anya was about to toss the bouquet and then the happy couple would be headed off on their honeymoon.
"Sorry, Red" Spike smiled amiably at the witch with whom he got along reasonably well these days, "Fancied a spot of alone time with the Slayer here" he told her, "Reckon I ought to try and contain myself til we get back home, right?"
Willow giggled at that, ushering the couple back into the hall. Buffy turned to Spike and opened her mouth to ask for an explanation but he shook his head, the look on his face telling her it was in fact this which they would contain until they got home. Something bad was happening somewhere, something was coming, and if it was bothering Spike as much as it seemed to, Buffy wasn't looking forward to whatever it was.
To Be Continued...