Acceptance

By Sweetprincipale

Author's Notes: This story follows after A Model Romance and Desire. It picks up immediately following the last chapter of Desire in an alternate Season Six where Spike and Buffy became an acknowledged couple, though they are still struggling to fully be part of one another's lives.

Dedicated to Hannah the Bloody, Lithium Reaper, Lexie Fang Makes Fexie, Dlillith21, and Ginar369.

Direct quotes from songs and shows are obviously not mine but belong to the enormously talented people who created them.

Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.

Part X

"Shouldn't you two start-"

"Where are my shoes!" Dawn's frantic voice cut Spike's query off.

"In the white bag!" Buffy shouted from the upstairs hall.

"Those are your shoes, you have tiny little freak feet!" Dawn rummaged in a white bag emblazoned "Bridesmaid" in glittery letters.

"Shouldn't you two start getting-"

"I found them!" Buffy pounded down the stairs two at a time. "Here! You left them on your bed, dummy."

"Shut up." Dawn panted, ripping open the box and checking on the dark green footwear. "God." She moaned. "These dyed shoes... my feet are going to turn green."

"I know." Buffy commiserated. "At least the dresses weren't dyed- I think." Her eyes widened in horror.

Dawn made a miserable squeak. "What if they were? We're going to look like martians by the end of the ceremony!"

Spike coughed pointedly as he leaned in the dining room doorway, the picture of devilish indifference, small smirk on his lips, bleached hair sleeked back and blue eyes half lidded as he surveyed the sisters in front of him. "Can a bloke ask a question?"

"What is it, Spike?" Buffy asked with a trace of impatience.

"Shouldn't you two start getting dressed for this gig?" Spike crossed his arms and tilted his head to the side.

Buffy and Dawn regarded him like he'd sprouted a second head. "Uh- no." Dawn cried in an extremely exasperated, annoyed voice. "We need to get our hair and make up done first, plus we can't drive to the banquet hall in the dresses because they'd wrinkle, plus we'd-"

"Alright, alright, alright!" Spike no longer looked cool and casual, he looked amused and a little scared. "I surrender" He held his hands at shoulder height. "I dunno a damn thing about gettin' ready for a weddin'." He reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out his lighter and a cigarette. "Bloody hell- if you two are this bad, I shudder to think what Demon Girl's goin' through."

"She was fine last night." Buffy joined Dawn in rooting around in the duffle bag, pulling out hair clips and eyeliner and then stuffing them back in. "I think we have everything."

"Yeah, Anya seems way less ballistic since they were able to put everyone up in hotels for the weekend." Dawn tossed her own assortment of accessories in the bag and stood back with a sigh. "Xander seems way less nervous, too."

"Calm down or I'll tranquilize you." Giles murmured into his coffee cup.

The pacing brunette groom-to-be flung himself back down on the couch. "Thanks for letting me escape here, G-Man."

"You're quite welcome." Giles rose from the dining room table and offered a mug to Xander. "How're you holding up? Nervous?"

"Not so much. This week was so much better. It was nice to just tell everyone to go to a hotel and leave us the hell alone. Politely, of course." Xander fidgeted.

"Cold feet?" Giles asked cautiously. Xander hesitated.

"Maybe a little. But... I guess I feel like it's time. Everyone's paired up, making the big leaps. Will and Tara moving in together and raising a cat, Buffy and Not-So-Evil-Undead shacking up and doing the whole responsible working together thing. I was the first one to propose something permanent and it scared me. Now it just seems like it's time to finish what I started. No one wants to be alone any-" Xander looked absolutely horrified with himself and began to babble and backpedal. "Except- you know- the guys who are waiting. The older, debonair lady killers who hide under tweed and oh! Crap! I- I have to go practice my vows." Xander bolted to the bathroom.

Giles grinned and shook his head as the young man raced off. "It's alright! I'm sure you meant some other middle aged man with a lot of tweed in his wardrobe." Giles called drily. But it's the truth. No one wants to be alone- not for this long. No one wants to end up making an arse out of himself, either.

"Oh my God... Anya. You look- gorgeous!" Buffy gasped appreciatively.

"You'd look better without the blue ice pack thing on your face." Dawn tried to reach up and remove it, but Anya swatted her fingers away.

"No! Leave it. It reduces under eye puffiness. And I keep crying! I'm crying too much. No, I'm crying just enough. I'm so happy."Anya stepped away from Tara who was making a last minute tuck to her train and threw her arms around Buffy and Dawn.

"Oooof!" Dawn and Buffy staggered back, and Anya's elaborate updo of ringlet curls tilted to the side. "Uh- Anya...?" Buffy bit her lip and gestured to the mirror. All three bridesmaids braced themselves.

"My haaaair!" Anya screeched.

"Go! Go find Willow and tell her to tell Xander there will be a little delay." Tara pulled Anya gently away from the mirror. "Dawnie... bobby pins and styling spray."

"I'm on it!" Buffy trotted away, wondering if the guests in the hall could handle even a "little delay". The Harris family wasn't exactly known for their quiet tolerance of things they found unusual. And Anya's guests were- well, unusual was putting it mildly. Even though most of the less humanoid demons had opted to cast human glamours on themselves to blend in better- there was only so much you could do with things like talons and tentacles.

Willow adjusted Xander's bow tie. ""I'll say this for the Y chromosome ... looks good in a tux."

Xander tried to smile through his own mounting nerves and tears. "Well, your double X's don't look too bad there, either."

Willow continued to make minor adjustments too her best friend's clothing, blinking hard. "You're getting married. My little Xander.

"All growed up." He tried to ease the tension.

"It's a good thing I realized I was gay, otherwise, hey, you, me and formal wear..."

"Oh, Will. Come here." Xander gave in and hugged her, not caring for either of their ensembles.

"Do you know how much I love you?" Willow demanded hoarsely.

Xander whispered into her hair "Mmm ... 'bout half as much as I love you."

"Don't make me cry- like really cry. I have mascara on. Raccoon eyes are not going to set off this lovely dress." Willow joked.

"Will..." Xander tried to control his emotions, his voice a little deeper and raspier. "I need a minute. I wanna practice my vows, okay?"

"Sure. Practice all you need. It's not like we can start this wedding without you." She kidded, and slipped from the room.

"Bloody. Hell." Spike assessed the situation in the hall as he and Giles entered.

"Oh, good Lord. D'Hoffryn isn't even remotely concealed!" Giles mumbled in exasperation. "I know Xander told his relatives that Anya's friends were circus folk but... a blue man with horns and a beard to his knees? What freakish condition is that supposed to be?"

"Apparently Mr. Harris is wondering the same thing." Spike pointed his chin towards a belligerent Mr. Harris who was swaying in front of Anya's former boss, a drink in his hand, obviously not his first one. "Where's the groom? Should we get him out here, or keep him with Willow?" Spike scanned the area and saw Willow and Buffy conversing urgently in a corner. "Uh- the boy is supposed to be with Willow, isn't he? The best man's job, well, the best person's job, is to keep the groom in order, isn't it?"

"Heavens. I'll take D'Hoffryn and Harris Sr. You find the groom." Giles strode forward purposefully. Spike slouched forward,hands jammed in his dark jeans and shoulders hunched in his dark button down shirt, much less enthusiastic than the Watcher.

"Hello, Luv. Red." Spike nodded to his beloved and their friend. "Wow. Green- suits you."

"Don't lie." Buffy huffed.

"You look beautiful, Sweetlet. And- uh- Willow- you look-"

"I have red hair and off green eye shadow. I look a overgrown lady leprechaun. Get to the point." Willow slunk further down into her dress as if she should shrink into it completely.

"Old Man Harris is about to incur the wrath of the lord of all vengeance, an' I think he's drunk already- an' uh- if I'm not mistaken, Xander's rather hefty aunt is makin' a play for a scavenger demon."

"That's all- bad." Buffy blinked, looking around with mounting dread. "But- what do you want us to do?"

"I don't want you to do anything but keep the groom out of the melee that's prolly gonna happen. Oh, bugger, Mrs. Harris just fell off her foldin' chair. She must be inhalin' the stuff to get drunk so fast." Spike winced.

"I'll keep Xander out of the way." Willow said quickly.

"There's going to be a little delay anyhow. Anya's hair kinda sorta- collapsed. But only one side." Buffy explained, patting her own shining arrangement nervously.

"Oh, marvelous. Bloody marvelous." Spike stalked off to handle the demon population, figuring Giles might tag team with him and sort the humans. "Tell the bird to hurry up, Buffy."

"I will!" Buffy trotted back to the bride and Willow swished uncomfortably back to the groom. Or at least where she'd left him.

"Settle down or I'll rip the third eye outa its socket." Spike was growling to one rowdy demon as Willow approached him, fear in her eyes.

"Have a seat! Have. A. Seat!" Giles was threateningly herding the Harris clan into chairs.

"Giles! Spike!" Willow hissed.

"What's wrong, dear?" Giles mopped his brow. Xander's Uncle Rory and Aunt Mavis had put up quite the struggle.

"I can't find Xander." Willow gasped out.

"What d'you mean, you can't find him? He's the soddin' groom, he's half of the top billin'." Spike cried in a fierce whisper.

"He's not in the little room where we were waiting! I- I just left him for a minute. Geez! I'm failing at the best man thing!"

"Maybe he just needed some air. He was looking a little pale." Giles soothed.

"Maybe he's in the loo. I'll check." Spike patted Willow's hand suddenly, surprising them both. Must be the claim, he thought as he stalked off, trying to look more menacing and bad tempered than he felt. No one had mentioned anything directly, and both Buffy and Spike assumed their friends thought it was the removal of the chip that had bolstered their relationship, but it was more. For the first time in either of their lives- they were content. Simply content. Not only would they never be left alone, broken hearted again, they would never lose track of each other.

"Why are you so calm? How are you so calm?" Dawn demanded of her sister in a hiss.

"I just- am." Buffy shrugged. It's easy to be calm- at least for myself. I'm not alone anymore, and I can't lose him. I can't be lost. I'm finally, finally found. She could feel a soft glow, like a single candle in a dim, warm room. Spike's presence inside her, connecting them. They could always sense each other, and it filled her with a warm, safe, loved feeling. Her heaven in semi-human form. Maybe that's why he doesn't have a soul, but he acts like he does. Souls are in heaven, and he is mine. It's there, but it's gone. It's not missing, it's just in me.

Buffy refocused on the beaming bride, her hair now in place, as she rattled off a series of joyful, if unorthodox vows. "Uh- Anya- could you maybe leave out the part about being Xander's 'sex poodle'?"

"Oh God, oh God." Dawn muttered. First these swamp thing dresses, and now a bride who's still writing her vows in her head ten minutes before we get started. "Anya- you need to stop pacing or you're going to fall off the -"

Anya stepped off the slightly raised platform in the bride's dressing room with a thud. "It's okay." She grinned. " I think I'm ready now. Make sure Xander's ready, and then let's go!"

"Aunt Carol, listen to me- I have to- oh sorry." Xander had only wanted to spend five minutes out of Willow's eyeline- she kept sniffling and they were both about to cry whenever they looked at each other. After the third time of having a sobbing "Lifetime movie event" moment, he decided enough was enough. He slipped out into the hallway behind the reception area as soon as Will left the room. Only to enter World War III, Drunkards vs. Demons.

Now, he was grappling with his Aunt Carol, a small boy whose name he forgot, and was bumping backward into a man who was probably his great uncle. My family has no business complaining about Anya's side of the guest list. "Aunt Carol! Oh God! Aunt Carol, your son is melting the wings off the ice sculpture with your lighter!"

"You have to listen to me!" His great uncle hissed, tugging his arm.

"Tell me about how you got your scar another time, okay, Uncle- um- Uncle." Xander made a generalized guess about the older man's motives as he fended off the child, and sent his Aunt and small cousin off with an exasperated push.

"This isn't about some old scar, boy! Listen to me!"

"Oh, fine, what?" Xander allowed himself to be led down a small hallway towards the kitchen.

"You can't get married today. It's a huge mistake."

"Yeah right, thanks for the advice, Uncle ... help me here?" There were too many uncles and aunts. And they just kept coming and coming and coming...

"Uncle? You don't recognize me, do you?"

"I'm sorry, I don't-" He trailed off, not remembering, and not really caring. Here was this old guy saying he shouldn't get married. As if he didn't already have overwhelming visual proof that the Harris clan should not perpetuate, but would serve the world better by withering and dying off before more drunks and shouters and bigots could manifest themselves. It was taking every ounce of his willpower to hold onto the thought that he- Xander Harris, aka "Mister Failure"- would somehow make things better, make things different than the rest of the herd in front of him.

"It sounds crazy, I know. But you have to believe me"

Xander looked at him puzzled. "Believe you about what? Not getting married?" Xander shook his head vehemently. "What are you talking about?"

" I'm Xander Harris. I'm you."

Xander stared at him. "What do you mean, 'You're me'?"

"I'm you. I'm you from the future."

"Oh, from the future! For a minute I thought you were a nutball, but now that you're from the future-" Xander rolled his eyes and led the older man towards the reception area, looking for a responsible relative to hand the man off to. Like he was gonna find that in this room.

But the older man only grew more agitated and insistent. "Please, listen to me. I found a way back to warn you. To tell you!"

"Hey, hey, easy, easy. Everything's going to be all right." Xander soothed, tugging him forward. Giles would be there. Giles could help him find out who was responsible for this old dude- no, no Giles needed to be with Anya, ready to give her away. Maybe his dad would know who-

"Toast!" Mr. Harris Sr. weaved to his feet, a stupid leer on his face and a glass in his hand.

Xander groaned. "I swear I told the bartender no drinks before the ceremony."

"Then you don't need to worry! There will be no ceremony if you listen to me! I can save you a lifetime of agony, spare you from the pain of failing as a husband, disappointing your wife, and visiting your own misfortune on your children." The older man hissed desperately.

Failing as a husband? Disappointing Anya- that sounded about right... But- no. No, it couldn't be like that. They might mess up all the time, drive each other crazy, but they loved each other. He was different from his father, he was not like his father. Hah- hadn't his father been bemoaning that fact for the last twenty one years? You're nothing like me and you'll never be a Harris man, his father often sneered, unknowing that Xander's silent reply was always "Can I have that in writing?"

"A toast! A toast! To the Harris clan." Mr. Harris' drunken shout shook Xander from his reverie. From the crowd, various cheers, groans, and taunts could be heard. The assembled guests were about to get ugly- an accomplishment for them.

Xander focused on his purported self, needing to get away from him and stop his dad and the fight he was starting. Angry words were flying now, demons versus Harris clan, and it was only a matter of time before it would get physical. "Listen, Mr. Delusional Time Traveler, I don't care who you are, but I-" Xander's words died away as his companion showed him a glowing purple sphere.

"I can show you. I can show you how-"

"Oi! Red's givin' herself palpitations lookin' for you!" Spike's voice seared through the conversation as he stumbled upon the pair.

"Spike." Xander said nervously.

"Can you go get in place, mate? Only so many times we can corral this lot, an' no offense, but it's your side of the aisle makin' the stink." He turned to the elderly Xander. "I don't have to tell you- lot of bigoted people out there. Nice glamour, by the way. The old man bit, no one ever really looks closely at that. More realistic than the 'young and beautiful' job. Some of this bunch... well, I s'pose even glamours can only hide so much, yeah?"

"Glamour?" Xander looked angrily at the man claiming to be his future self. "Oh. A glamour, huh? What kind of surprise is in the box of cracker jacks?" He demanded, shaking the old man roughly by the arm.

"Oh, tryin' to pull somethin' was he?" Spike caught on.

The being glowed and morphed, turning into a much taller, less stooped figure, gray skin, yellow eyes, covered in short spiked horns.

"Oh bloody hell." Spike muttered, fists balling.

"Party crasher." Xander whispered. Around him, he was dimly aware of the angry shouts turning into horrified shrieks. All the attention was shifting to this back corner by the doorway.

"Anyanka did this to me! See what kind of fate you have waiting for you?"

"It's Anya now, and she's retired, okay?" Xander pulled himself up to his full, angry height.

"Just shove off. No one likes exes at the wedding." Spike urged.

"You can't make me leave. I owe her pain, misery, torture- I-" The demonically altered being stopped speaking as Spike and Xander's eyes slitted and hardened, and Spike's game face suddenly appeared.

"I can make you leave. It's your choice of how many pieces you leave in." Spike snarled. Xander's fist slowly drew back, no words needed.

"You'll never know. You'll never know if I was telling the truth about what your life would have been like." He threatened. "She might be retired, but she is still the same woman who turned an innocent man- a harmless philanderer, into this demon beast, banished to a hell dimension to be tortured for some paltry flirting! You know you're scared of that kind of power. Of living life with a woman like that!" He crowed.

"Hey! She changed! She might have lost her powers, but she didn't have to stop wanting to be evil! There are a hundred ways to hurt people that don't require any magic, and Anya doesn't use any of them!" Xander countered furiously. "She changed. She isn't the woman you knew."

The demon paused and appraised the broad shouldered groom in front of him. "Alright then... are you the man I see in your future? Weak and unworthy? Maybe she changed- but have you?"

"Don't listen to him, he's lying." Spike snarled, internally worried. Just 'cause someone was playing for the evil team, didn't mean they weren't telling the truth. Now, this one smelled of revenge and rank dishonesty, but if there was any little seed of doubt in Harris's mind...

"I know he is." Xander replied through clenched teeth.

"Don't wonder about me, boy, wonder about yourself. Are you ready for this?" The beast oiled, clawed fingers caressing the orb he held, hinting at unrevealed events.

Xander swallowed hard. When confronted with a painful situation, even one he knew he couldn't handle- he always tried anyway. He might be afraid- but inside- he was as ready as he'd ever be. "Yeah, I am. I'm ready for this, for her. 'Cause do you know why she changed? For me! You can ask her, I've heard her. She wanted to be worthy of a man like me. 'Cause she sees what I'm worth." Xander swallowed again, this time a sharp ball of emotion lodged in his throat. He well remembered Anya's heartfelt, if not always traditional, confessions of love. She might know all his faults, but to her- he was it. The one. Worth turning her back on a thousand years of hating men, to love, and trust, and try one more time. "No more talking. You weren't invited." Xander rasped and delivered a punch fueled out of pure adrenaline.

It was hard to tell who looked more stunned. Xander, at his sudden prowess, Spike, for the same reason, the demon, because he realized before he blacked out, that he'd been knocked silly by a puny human, or any one of the dozens of guests who hadn't expected to see anything so remotely entertaining at a wedding.

"Good show!" Giles called enthusiastically.

"Nice." Spike hefted the demon from the floor. "I'll go put this out with the rest of the rubbish." He hauled him away.

Xander, with renewed confidence, marched to the front of the folding chairs and confronted the warring guests, the rowdiest of which were still the Harris family. members. "Everyone? I have an- uh- an announcement to make." Xander caught the flash of hope in his parents' eyes and it enraged him further. He lost any trace of politeness he had been saving. "Here it is: Sit down and shut up! You're the guests. You don't like it, you can leave, no one's forcing you to stay for this wedding!" He slammed the microphone he'd been using down with a jolt and a loud screech of feedback.

For the most part, the guest obeyed implicitly, cowed by his attitude or just sick of the shenanigans, he didn't care. Only one person was idiot enough to remain on his feet, and vocal.

"Now, just a minute, I'd like to-" Mr. Harris glared around the room.

"Shut up, Dad! If you're here just to drink, you can leave too." Xander marched down the center aisle, back to the cubby of a room the groom was supposed to wait in. "Giles? Check on Anya, okay? I'm ready whenever she is."

Giles watched him depart, a tear suddenly springing to his eye. "That's my boy." He whispered to himself, and hurried to collect the bride.

Spike, hands free of demon debris- wasn't his fault, he didn't know the ruddy orb was all that was tying uglypants to this dimension, and a trinket like that had to get smashed before it got used- watched Xander's impressive exit with a smile on his face. "Bollocks. Think I'm startin' to actually like that idiot boy." With a quiet sigh for all the bad that he'd miss and all the good that he'd do instead, he took a seat and waited to watch the wedding ceremony. At the moment, he honestly couldn't think of two people who deserved a happy ending more. Not even himself. Already have my happily ever after. An' she's about to walk down that aisle, lookin' like Birnam Wood come to life. He smirked and settled back in his chair.

"What are you still doing in that chair?" Dawn demanded, hands on her hips.

"Well, I- erm-" Giles tugged at his bow tie with a nervous gesture.

" 'Well, I erm' doesn't cut it. Move it, Mister." Dawn hauled the groaning former librarian out of his chair at the bridal party's table and onto the dance floor. "Everyone else is out there. You're my event buddy, and so help me God, you will dance."

"I suppose it's useless to argue?" Giles sighed, silently not too unhappy with the situation.

"Absolutely pointless." Dawn grinned at him, stepping a few paces away from him to dance to the fast, jazzy music filling the room. "Now, I know you're a stuffy old fart, but-"

"Shut your mouth." Giles grinned wickedly and grabbed her hand, twirling her and dipping her, refusing to be goaded. "You know, in my family, gentlemen had to learn to dance. Social class, etc. I'll foxtrot you to your knees."

Dawn shivered inside, but giggled externally. In no way should just dancing with him make me all giddy. Too bad it does...

"Alright, you two. Break it up." Spike spoke to Dawn as he and Buffy sashayed past, glued to one another. "Bit, take it easy on Rupes, yeah? Father of the bride can't afford to have a heart attack dancin' with the bridesmaid."

"Be good, Giles." Buffy caroled, patting his arm for the brief second she could bear to tear it away from Spike's muscular shoulders before they moved away.

Dawn watched them go, sighing with a smile. "They've been so close this week. I love it. It's like- like they crossed some big secret hurdle. Eventually, I'm gonna get sick of watching them be all snuggly and zen-like, but for right now, I'm lovin' it."

"Quite." Giles said shortly, a frown on his narrowed lips.

"Who died and made you King of the Buzz Kills?" Dawn looked at him and cut right to the point, something Giles found both endearing and irritating.

Giles shook his head once, an annoyed burst of air passing his lips before he spoke. "I do wish they wouldn't say things like that. I feel like a dirty old man."

"Huh?" Dawn's eyes widened.

"Oh, I know there's nothing to it, but you've no idea how often it was whispered behind my back. With Buffy and Willow, Faith and Cordelia, even now at the shop, to a lesser extent, with Anya and Tara. And it was never true."

"So ignore it. It's all crap." Dawn shrugged. "And you know they were just joking around. I mean- it's Spike. If he didn't joke or make some kind of snarky comment, his head might blow his tongue out of his mouth from the sheer build up of pressure." Dawn patted his shoulder kindly. His flecked hazel eyes remained steady, even though a small smile crossed his lips. "You're not buying it. That's your 'humor her' smile. You do that when Buffy wants to skip training and you tell her you'll think about it, or when Willow wants to do something stupid with magic and you tell her you'll get her the book right away. You don't do that to me. Not anymore." Dawn's brows drew together.

"No. I don't do that to you anymore." Giles conceded.

"What bit you?" Dawn murmured gently. Giles gave her a pointed stare, an "Oh, come now, surely you know." stare. His thin brows raised as he assessed her, and Dawn got it. "Ohhh. It matters. This time." She blushed slightly. This time, he does feel like a dirty old man, he does have some kind of feelings for one of the young women in his life. Me. Wow. Dawn felt like she could float away.

"Yes. Quite. This time." Giles agreed, not looking at her, looking into the distance past her head. Of all the stupid things to do, Rupert, and all the ones to find yourself admiring, you choose the youngest and most unavailable of them all. You stupid old idiot. Do you think she'll continue this wonderful blend of friendship and pseudo- dating partnership once she realizes just how wrong this is on your end, and just how unfair it'll be on her?

Dawn also made point of not looking her dance partner directly in the eye, looking just over his shoulder."You know, they couldn't say anything. Not for real. You're at least born in the same century as me. Plus, you know- alive, soul, have a reputation as one of the good guys..." She said with carefully contrived nonchalance.

Giles hissed out his reply in shock, not admitting to himself that some of those same justifications ran through his own head lately. "Dawn, honestly, don't think like that! All that aside- you're fifteen." He said the most shameful words out loud, words that plagued him whenever he caught himself thinking about her in a way that was more than friendly. How the bloody hell did this happen? Good Lord, it was only after Thanksgiving that I ever even spoke to her as more than a niece or even a daughter. It's March and all the sudden I'm thinking- no, dammit, no, that's the trouble, I'm not thinking at all.

Dawn continued to keep her voice light, wondering why and how they were suddenly having this discussion, really having this discussion. Why here, in the middle of a wedding reception, while Xander and Anya were swaying just a few feet away from them, while Spike and Buffy were dancing every dance together like they were the only two people in the room, while demons and some very unpleasant humans were arguing and dancing all around them. But still, she said what she wanted to say. "Sixteen in June. That's legal in England, right? And legal here, with parental consent."

"We're not in England and I honestly don't know because I've honestly never cared." He said in a ratty voice, which immediately softened when he saw the reproach in her eyes. "And then there's that issue of parental consent. I'm the parent figure."

"Sorry about that, but you only kinda are. You know, lots of girls like men that are older and mature. I don't feel at all like you're my dad. I kinda think my dad sucks and you so do not. Buffy feels that way about you, that you're her father figure. I get that."

"Are are you saying you don't feel that way? That I'm not some sort of father figure to you?" Giles knew he was heading into dangerous territory. More dangerous, at any rate. She'd changed so much in the last few months. She'd become a bright spot in his week, in his day, someone to banter with and spend time with. And yes, he did have a preference for brunettes with long legs, as Anya had once said, but he didn't even realize that Dawn had long legs or dark hair until after Christmas. She was simply Dawn. Suddenly Dawn. No longer Buffy's little sister, no longer a "key". Just Dawn. And it might be wonderful to spend time with her, but it was still wrong. Wrong, it had to be. Because the world said it was, and that little voice that said "Bugger off, world" had never been very reliable before.

Dawn watched the emotions skittering across the usually controlled visage. Her own face must reflect a roller coaster of thoughts as well as she really considered the question. Did she consider him a father figure? She had at one time, yeah. Recently. And then it-changed. She didn't even know how or why, or when. Now when she thought about it, she realized he might be old enough to be her dad- but he definitely wasn't. With a soft voice, Dawn spoke directly to him, finally making sure their eyes met. "I'm saying I don't get hung up like a lot of people would. Remember- I'm way older than you." A twisted smile played across her lips.

"You aren't!" Giles scoffed.

"I'm a million year old ball of energy wrapped in a kid package so Buffy would protect me. They made me little and helpless on purpose." Dawn said drily. Then, with a frown she added, "Bastards."

Giles couldn't keep from laughing at her sudden petulence. "You really aren't hung up on much. I suppose you don't have a reason to be." He concluded with a thoughtful expression. It certainly wasn't an orthodox existence she'd lived, the primordial force she had been, not just the young woman she'd become. When they considered that... Hmm. He never really had considered that. He would need to do so.

The song had changed, something slower, but they didn't notice. It seemed easy to just talk to one another, wherever they were, whatever they were doing.

Mom always said being able to have a good conversation was as important as anything a guy could do, Dawn recalled. "So, yeah. I'm just in this package. I don't even know if I have a soul. I feel like I do, but so does Spike." Giles began to assure her she had a soul, that she must have, but she cut him off. "Shh. How would you know I do, but Spike doesn't, huh? He and I get along really great." Dawn looked up wistfully at the older man who had relaxed enough to let her step close to him, actually hold her like they were dancing as friends, not polite strangers. "Ever think maybe there's a reason he and I are so comfortable together? Neither of us are exactly good, or exactly bad." Dawn's eyes crinkled up in a smile as she remembered how many conversations she and Spike had had over the course of their relationship about such things. "I had a crush on him, too, you know." She said, more to annoy her dance partner than anything else.

"I did know, and I wish I didn't." He replied crossly.

"He's more like my dad-slash- big brother figure now, though. Since he stepped in full time, and you could step back some. It's - it's nice, in a way. I see you more as a person. I already saw Spike as a person before." Dawn felt herself stumbling over her words, lost in hazel eyes and rhythm and a hellacious amount of confused, conflicted emotions. "Now it's nice to see you as a person, not just 'Buffy's Watcher.'" She concluded, trying to keep her smile steady.

"I suppose it is. And- you're right. You're an interesting young woman in your own right, not just 'Buffy's sister'." Giles thought quickly, feeling the need to make a comment, a joke, before he lost all light and humorous he'd learned bout her. "You're quite the card shark, I hear."

Dawn glared, knowing he'd just changed the mood on purpose. "I hear you used to be something a lot worse." She countered.

That didn't lighten the mood at all, he realized. He blushed. "Ah- yes. Maybe so." The glare did not diminish, and what's more, it was worse than Buffy's glare. With Buffy, they had this mutual respect, a hard earned relationship that needed them both to survive. In Dawn's eyes, there was challenge and spitfire fight, not the fight of having to save the world, of having to deal with the savior of it. Pure, unadulterated stubbornness, enough to match Buffy and Spike combined.

"What do you see me as then, this person you now get to know?" Giles asked softly, almost afraid to hear the answer.

Dawn didn't have to stop and think of an answer, she knew what she saw, because she'd so often considered it. "This smart, funny guy. Nice accent. Cute, but distinguished. A good singer and sweet on the acoustic."

"You didn't mention old." Giles quirked one graying brow.

"I wasn't going to. Why? Is that how you see me? By my age?"

"Partly." Giles confessed, marveling at how something true could nonetheless suddenly seem so shallow.

"Well that sucks. Nice to know I'm a number." Dawn spat, eyes hardening and drifting away again.

Hell. That wasn't how he'd meant to make her feel at all. "You aren't! You're- bright and engaging and a pain in the arse. Well read and far more manageable than your sister but quite prone to an entirely different sort of trouble making. You're not- purely good. Innocent but artful." He savored the thoughts it conjured up, and tried to ignore the honeyed tone his words suddenly took on. "Yes, like that. Sweet."

"You forgot pretty." Dawn grinned.

"You aren't pretty. You're lovely. There's a difference. Buffy is pretty. Anya is attractive. Willow and Tara are cute. You- are lovely." Giles spoke sincerely, finding her suddenly close, far too close, and yes, lovely and innocent but artful, and- and wrong. He took a hasty double step back. "And you're completely off limits, as am I." He said with gentle regret.

"You're gonna stop being my friend now, aren't you ? See me as some little girl with a crush?" Dawn whispered harshly.

"No! No of course not." He reassured urgently, in a low undertone. "But I can't see you as anything more than a friend."

She'd known that, she guessed. It didn't make her feel any better about it. "Okay. That's better than nothing." The dancers smiled ruefully together and unclasped hands as the current song ended.

"I guess I'll go see how-" Dawn looked aimlessly over her shoulder only to be snagged by a cool hand and whirled forward. "Spike!"

"You've been dancin' with the borin' old man all night. My go." Spike wrenched her away, both of them instantly laughing, their "partners in crime" bond evident in the way they moved and spoke, perfectly at ease.

Giles stared after them, but not for long. A sparkling pair of laughing eyes held his own. "You know you owe me some dances, or I'm going to think she's your favorite."

"As if I could pick." Giles grinned and took Buffy's proffered hands. They danced for a moment in smiling silence.

"So. What's going on?" Buffy asked innocently.

"Nothing! I swear-" Giles sought a way to finish his explanation even as he felt a guilty flush spring to his cheeks, in spite of the fact that he'd been a complete gentleman.

"Don't you break her heart." Buffy said conversationally, cutting him off in mid stammer.

"I have no intention of-" Giles stared at her, stunned, puzzled by the complete lack of venom or accusation in her voice. Not even a hint of warning, merely a casual comment. "Uhmm- could you clarify that request?" He removed his glasses in his consternation.

"She likes you. Is it just a crush?" Buffy asked, nodding to Dawn and Spike who were sweeping off in the opposite direction.

"I'm not sure." He replied uneasily.

"Is it mutual?" Buffy's tone remained non-threatening, but was serious and soft now.

" I would never touch your sister." Giles quickly vowed.

"I didn't ask that." Buffy held his eye and watched them close over, looking inside, not at her anymore. "Giles.I'm asking- I'm asking if you like her in a special way." Buffy said carefully, trying to get wigged that the thought had even crossed her mind. Dawn was almost sixteen and Giles had to be forty five at least. And Dawn was- annoying and little and bratty. But she was loving and smart and growing up. And Giles- well- Giles had spent his life standing still for her and the greater good, at a million sacrifices to himself and his own happiness. That's why she had to ask. She had to know, for both of them.

Giles answered with equal care."What would you say if I said I sometimes forget she's a teenager and just see her as someone I enjoy being with? That I like a lot of things about her, and yes that's including her appearance." It hurt to admit, and yet, it was a relief. He was no stranger to Buffy's romantic mores, and she was no stranger to his. He supposed if he was ever going to be weak, or strong, or anything again, she'd be the one to know.

Buffy regarded him, eyes softeneing. "I'd say be careful. She looks sweet, but she's a terror." She smiled at him.

"Are you saying you wouldn't kill me on sight if I ever expressed an interest?" Giles asked in open shock.

"I'm saying you have to move very slowly and she's young. But I'm not my mom. I'm not going to say she's too young and doesn't know what she wants." Buffy's eyes saddened, drifting back to a thousand tortured memories of arguments over Angel. "I think we always know. We may not want to, but we do." She whispered, eyes now straying to Spike who was leading Dawn in a complicated dance step that she was sure had been Dawn's idea, not his.

Giles cleared his throat, eyes following hers. He wouldn't bring up the painful past. "Well, I do think she's too young. Right now, certainly." He left anything more unsaid, unsure quite what he thought about moving slowly.

"Hmm. Good to know." They shared a mutually understanding smile, and Buffy put her head softly on his shoulder. "Wouldn't it be weird if you ended up as my brother-in-law?"

"BUFFY!" Giles gasped loudly in her ear.

Dawn panted as Spike finished her twirl with a flourish. "H-hey, you learned how to dance."

"Of course I bloody know how to dance. I just can't dance like this in a club. An' I'm not pawin' at you, like Rupert was." Spike smirked at her, cocking one eyebrow sharply.

"Giles was not pawing at me!" Dawn slapped his shoulder hard.

"He was dancin' bloody close." Spike gave her a dubious glare.

Dawn glared back. "No, he wasn't. I was."

"Oh honestly, Bit." Spike looked mildly sick

"Don't you say one word, Spike." Dawn threatened.

"I wouldn't, would I?" Spike laughed with a shrug. "May not be wild about it- not wild about you an' any bloke, but how can I judge? I'm a mass murderer an' undead, as well as about a century and a quarter older than the love of my life. Unlife. Both." Spike turned his eyes to lock even more deeply with hers. "You and Rupes are what- thirty years apart? Hell, that was the norm in my day. Older men and younger women, at least a bit older. Women wanted to be looked after and older men usually were established an' all that." Spike explained. His face was tight, but his eyes were understanding as he looked at the girl he loved like a sister, who was his best mate. She deserved to be happy. An' Rupes was a good bet- if that's the way things ended up.

Dawn wrapped her arms tightly around Spike's neck in a way that had nothing to do with the dance number that was playing and everything to do with hugging her thanks. "I thought you would go ballistic, I've been working up arguments for the last week. I should have just talked to you. I always can just talk to you, can't I?"

" Course you can, Sweet Bits." Spike hugged her back and they began circling the floor again. "So- when did this -er- thing- click?" He asked suspiciously.

"I don't know about 'clicking', but it if it did, I guess it clicked slowly over the last couple months. Since New Year's Eve, I think."

"Wait now, you've been spending the night with him a few times. On his couch, you said." Spike's eyes flickered dangerously, and even the warm kernel of Buffy's essence wrapped deep inside him couldn't prevent the blaze of yellow that suddenly showed under the blue. "You an' he never-"

"No! No, he didn't know I liked him!" Dawn hissed frantically, feeling her gut twist. Sex was something she wasn't ready for, with anyone. "Spike, even if I loved him like crazy -which I don't, at least not as more than a friend- yet-" Dawn babbled nervously, "I'm not old enough."

"Niblet, not to doubt you, but plenty of sixteen year olds-"

"Not just for me, Spike, for him. He could get prosecuted or something. 'Cause even though technically I shouldn't exist as a teenager, I do, and I'm underage. I wouldn't put him at risk any more than he'd put me at risk." Dawn said firmly.

Spike sighed in relief. " 'Cause if he takes advantage-" Spike trailed off and shrugged angrily, one hand leaving Dawn's arm and digging into his pocket in search of a smoke. "Sod it. I can't finish my speech. I trust him." Dawn's face lit up and he pointed a cigarette in her face. "Oh, not with me so much, but with you. I trust him."

"Thank you." Dawn said simply, plucking the cigarette from his hand. "Seriously, Spike."

Spike sighed and stroked her hair. A slow, smug smirk spread across his face. "It's you I should worry about. Don't give the old man a heart attack, alright? When you finally get your way with him. Remember he's old an' been knocked about a lot since meeting your sister."

"Spike! Sick! I'm not there yet. I'm not even at kissing him yet." Dawn winced.

"Well that's good, I s'pose." Spike tried not to sag in open relief.

"Thanks for not being mad."

"I love you too much. I couldn't be mad- unless you picked someone who'd treat you badly." Spike said softly. "But he won't. He'll treat you like a bloody princess."

"No. He'd treat me like Dawn. That's why I like him. That's why I like you."

Spike blinked back a sudden tear. "Must be a Summers' thing."

"What is?"

"You all fall for the older British types." He winked.

"We need to take a little break, you dancing fools." The smiling DJ ended one song and didn't begin the next. "It's time for the friends and family to offer their toasts. The groom's Uncle Rory would like to say a few words."

As Xander groaned and hid his face in a glowing Anya's shoulder, Dawn and Giles clapped politely and backed themselves against the buffet table. Uncle Rory stumbled up to the microphone with a raucous cheer.

Dawn spoke in a hush under the general laughter in the room. "No grilling?" Dawn asked, not looking at Giles as she referred to his dance with Buffy.

"Surprisingly, no. No protective big brother speech on your end?"

"As long as you keep your hands above the waist you should be fine." Dawn gave him a flash of a half smile.

Giles removed his glasses and polished them in his trademark avoidance or embarrassed gesture. "Hrm. W-well, I don't think that'll be an issue." He stammered.

Dawn's face fell. If she was flirting, she sucked at it. Or maybe- maybe she sucked at this whole thing, and she just didn't realize it. "Sorry. Maybe I'm not getting it. You do kinda see me as- well, not your 'type'." She shook her head and lowered it, cursing herself for being so stupid and deluded. He was just letting you down easy. He really is just a friend, and he didn't want to hurt your feelings, and sometimes, maybe things he said- well maybe I misunderstood them.

"I see you as someone I would like to get to know- and then I'll start deciding about 'types'." Giles said firmly. Then sighed. "You're still in high school, will be hundreds of young men lining up for you. Young men who could- er hrm, do below the waist type of things." Giles mumbled, blushing furiously.

"Hmm. I think I'm going to swear off of that kind of stuff for a little while." Dawn blushed and mumbled as well.

"Oh? Is it- did I say something that hurt you? That is- I didn't mean to. I certainly didn't mean to." Giles suddenly wondered why he'd ever found dealing with Buffy awkward and confusing, when Dawn was obviously far more tricky. Oh right, you fool. You didn't fancy the Slayer, you wanted to throttle her when you didn't want to hug her senseless after she survived something horrific.

Dawn swallowed her embarrassment and reassured her friend. "No! We're cool. I just think I'm interested in taking my time, getting to know people. Maybe I'll get back into it someday." She swallowed her own fear as well, time to make a hint he couldn't miss unless he really wanted to. "Someday... Say on my 18th birthday?" She looked at him sideways and watched his tie rise and fall with his Adam's apple.

"That sounds like a wise course of action." Giles agreed. After a pause, Dawn slipped easily under his arm and he allowed it, resting it lightly across her shoulders. Why not? It's been a couple years... What's a couple more- if it turns out to be right? Giles reached behind him and snagged a beer from the nearest ice bucket. Maybe there was more to celebrate than he thought.

"Stop scowling." Buffy nibbled Spike's ear and whispered at the same time.

"Done." Spike found it impossible to scowl when she lightly pulled at the sensitive skin of his lobe. "Jus' doin' it for appearance sake anyway. Don't really think it's so terrible if Giles puts his arm around her. If she didn't like it, he'd be on the floor with his bits in a bag. But still- she's my little sis, gotta act the part." Buffy nodded and wrapped her arm tighter around his neck. Spike's own arm was curled firmly around Buffy's waist, wishing the material of the dress wasn't of the noisy, flowy kind and was more clingy so he could get a better feel discreetly. "When do we get to leave this bleedin' reception?" Spike groused as Willow fumbled her way through a tearful best man toast.

"Aren't you having a good time?" Buffy asked in a wounded voice.

"The weddin' itself was lovely. Anya might not be the most poetic girl but she says beautiful things." Spike grinned fondly.

The bride's homemade vows had consisted of blunt, but meaningful lines that were sure to stick in everyone's mind: I, Anya Jenkins promise to love and honor and cherish you, Xander Harris, forever, and if I get mad at you, I'll just tell you and I won't resort to anything involving transforming you into a slug or something else icky. I'll love you always, even if you get old and fat and bald. Even if you have erectile dysfunction and need those little blue pills. Because you will always have the most beautiful heart in the universe, and I'm lucky you chose to give it to me.

"Not often you laugh an' cry in the same breath. Not durin' the vows, anyway." Spike chuckled softly.

"I'm glad she remembered to leave out the sex poodle part." Buffy muttered, leaning tiredly against her lover.

"What the bloody hell is a sex poodle?"

"I didn't ask but in version ninety five of the vows, it was one of the things Anya was promising always to be."

"I'm bettin' Xander had wished she left out the part about erectile dysfunction." Spike snickered. Buffy bit her lip hard to keep from bursting out in a laugh- or a moan- as she felt Spike's hardness against her leg. "Stop that." She hissed. "Is that why you want this to be over?" She demanded.

"Yes. Thought you told me you couldn't wait to be out of this dress." Spike reminded her with his best wide eyed innocent expression. Buffy rolled her eyes. "We could go home an' practice our own vows." He breathed against her neck.

"V-vows?" Buffy's stomach flip flopped, but to her surprise, not in a wigged out way.

"Yeah. 'Mine. Yours'. Simple but effective." He purred.

"Oh. Those vows." Buffy shivered pleasurably. "We can do that."

"Good. Think I fancy a simple, private ceremony." Spike nudged her leg with his erection again.

"With way less words than these two used." Buffy smiled indulgently as Anya and Xander hugged Willow as she finished her toast.

"Alright folks, that concludes the speeches- let's get to the fun stuff. The garter toss!" The DJ's voice rang through the applause as Willow shakily sat down next to Tara. Tara comfortingly patted her partner's shoulder and then handed her a full glass of champagne, which Willow downed in a single gulp.

Anya and Xander made their way to the center of the room as a brassy burlesque number played. "I'm almost afraid to watch this." Tara confessed nervously as Anya and Xander playfully hiked the flowing skirt of her bridal gown.

"It won't be bad. This is a wedding." Willow soothed.

"Um. Yeah. But Anya said it's traditional not to use your hands to remove the garter- and it is A-Anya."

"Good point." Willow held Tara's hand and they watched with smiles, and a little trepidation, as Xander ended up using his elbows and then his teeth to get the garter over Anya's shapely calf.

"Okay- all the single guys get in the middle of the room!" Xander shouted. "Hey- hey, I'm not single anymore. Wow." He stopped to beam at his new wife, who was radiantly glowing at him, positively incandescent.

"Why aren't you moving?" Buffy gave Spike a nudge.

"I'm not single." He said simply.

"Oh." Buffy blushed, and laced her fingers through his more possessively. "Guess I won't be going after the bouquet."

"You can if you want." Spike said quickly. "I know it's only an old tradition, doesn't mean anything."

"No- but I don't consider myself single anymore, either." Buffy replied softly, and had the pleasure of watching Spike's skin turn a pale cream instead of a dead white, the closest he could get to blushing.

"You better go or you won't get a spot." Dawn shoved Giles forward.

"It's so asinine." Giles grumbled, refusing to budge.

"You afraid of getting shown up? Can't hack it with all those young studs?" Dawn teased, gesturing to the crowd of rowdy males on the floor.

"You've seen me take on some fairly impressive creatures." Giles frowned at her. "You know I can hold my own against 'young studs', as you call them."

"Then why aren't you out there?"

"I'm in no rush. And he who catches the garter is the next to tie the knot, isn't that what they say?"

"Yeah, but no one believes that!"

"I'm not taking any risks, not around here. I'm quite content to wait, not rush things."

"Oh. Yeah. I guess- um- around here freaky stuff could happen." Dawn blushed. She and Giles remained where they were. Across the room Buffy and Spike stared at the pair with a knowing smile. Dawn stuck her tongue out at her sister, who stuck her tongue out in return.

"Bloody hell." Spike tugged Buffy's arm.

"Good Lord." Giles admonished Dawn. "I never thought I'd see the day when Spike was the mature one." He muttered

"Never thought I'd side with Rupert over Bit." Spike hissed at Buffy. "Now be a good girl and watch the fun."

Xander, now standing on the platform beside the DJ, turned around and tossed the garter with a flourish into the crowd of single men, human and otherwise, down below him.

"I got it! I got it! Get out of the way, you freaks! Get out of the way, you loudmouths." With much pushing and insulting, the crowd swarmed the lacy circle- only to find it had already been caught.

"I got it!" D'Hoffryn sounded shocked and curiously pleased. "I got the ceremonial garter!"

"That's not fair!" One of Xander's cousins shouted.

"Yes, it is!" The bride's side chorused. D'Hoffryn removed the article from one of his horns, where it handed landed in the melee.

"He caught it on one of his freaky horns!" Mr. Harris Sr. said angrily.

"The only stipulation was single 're a single male, Mr- Uh- D'Hoffryn?"

"At the moment." The impressive head of the vengeance demons cast an appreciative eye over his harem of demonic servants, lingering on Halfrek, who tittered like a school girl.

"He's single. Deal with it!" Xander a protest began to break out he crossed his arms and glared. "Deal with it, or I'm closing the bar." There was immediate silence.

"I love it when you're all- husbandly- like that." Anya gushed to her groom, mounting the stairs and brandishing her bouquet. "Alright, ladies! Single females, in the center! The one to catch the bouquet is the next one who gets married." Comprehending nods came from some of the non-human guests, and the girls piled into the space where the men had been standing.

"Here we go!" Anya laughed and tossed the bouquet of flowers wildly over her shoulder. Very wildly.

"Hey! Hey, I'm not- I wasn't even in the circle!" Willow gasped as the flowers smacked her on the head. She and Tara were sitting far away from the middle of the dance floor, at one of the tables for the bridal party and immediate family.

"You're not married, are you, Willow dear?" Mrs. Harris cocked her head.

"N-no." Willow had never felt comfortable with Xander's parents, and they'd never given her reason to. They ignored their son and his friends as much as possible. Now was not the time and place to announce and explain that she had a loving lifetime commitment with another woman. "Um- I- um. Here." Willow pulled half the flowers from the bouquet and handed them to Tara. "Tara's not married either. I'd like to share them with her. Since we're single- together." Tara blushed and her eyes positively shone as she took the flowers from Willow's hand.

"Well, that's lovely, Willow and Tara." Mrs. Harris slurred, suddenly regaining interest in her martini. Those who knew Willow and Tara understood what had just happened and were clapping loudly. Those who didn't, clapped for the heck of it.

Tara touched Willow's cheek and put one of the blossoms from her half of the bouquet behind her ear. Willow leaned forward and kissed her gently, not caring who was watching, or what anyone said.

No one said anything. Xander and Anya's threatening stares made sure of it.

"Well- what an action packed evening folks! But let's get back to the dancing, okay?" The DJ, who knew a crowd could only take so much tension, decided to reclaim the room. A loud, pounding fast song filled the room, and broke the crowd into dancing couples and chatting groups ringing the floor.

"That was really brave, Will, Tara." Buffy hugged the pair.

"Not so much. It's easy when you're in love." Willow took Tara's hand.

"Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is." Buffy looked across the room at Spike, who was chatting with Clem who had arrived late to pay his respects to the happy couple. "I guess when you love someone that much- you don't care who knows, or what they say."

"Nope. Just be happy and know the people who count are gonna accept you, 'cause they love you, too." Dawn joined her sister and friends.

"Stop, Dawnie, we're all gonna end up crying. And the four of us, in these dresses- crying? It's not a good picture." Willow laughed.

"Yeah. We should be out there, like the bride and groom. Dancing with 'the one'." Tara pulled Willow to the floor, leaving Dawn and Buffy smiling after them.

"So. Are you and Spike ever gonna be up there? Mr. and Mrs?" Dawn asked softly.

"I don't know. Probably. He's persistent." Buffy laughed.

"Thank God, 'cause you're stupid." Dawn mumbled.

"Hey!"

"It doesn't matter. He loves you anyway."

"And I love him. You should know, Dawn, even if we never get married, we're always going to be together. Just like Willow and Tara, we don't need a piece of paper to make a life together, okay?"

"Good." Dawn smiled. "You two deserve to be with someone you really love and who will stick with you."

"Thanks, Sweetie." Buffy pulled Dawn along the perimeter, making their way towards Spike and Clem. "So do you."

"I'll get someone like that." Dawn's eyes wandered until they rested on Giles. "Someday."

"Maybe sooner than you think." Buffy gave her a nudge towards the man. "But don't do anything stupid."

"I'm just going to be his friend for right now. I mean-"

"Dawnie- it's okay. Go. Dance. Be happy."

"You too, Buffy."

"This is the last dance, init?" Spike whispered an hour or so later as the lights were dimmed to a candle glow.

"Looks like." Buffy rested her head more deeply under his chin.

"You saved it for me?"

"All my dances are for you. Forever." Buffy looked up at him. "And you know I mean that literally now. If there's anyone who gets immortality and life and death- it's us."

"True, Precious." Spike caressed her cheek. "Never thought I'd see this day, Luv. You and me- we're claimed, we're permanent, and all your friends know, all my friends know. An' no one cares anymore. Most of 'em even like it now. Dawn's crazy about it."

"Things never turn out the way you plan." Buffy sighed.

"Not with us." Spike laughed drily.

"It's okay though. This time- they turned out better." Buffy kissed him lingeringly as they began their last dance.

"Better than better, Pet. Couldn't ask for anything more. I've got you. Really got you." Spike looked into her eyes, his own sapphires shining even in the darkness.

"You've got more than just me." Buffy smiled up at him. "You've got a whole life. You've got a family and a partner and a house..." She trailed off. "And I have those things, too. I have what I always wanted, a normal life- even though it isn't 'normal.'" She laughed and lay her head on his chest.

"You wouldn't change it, would you, Sweetlet?" He asked with a trace of concern in his husky voice.

"No, Baby. Because then I wouldn't have you." Buffy shook her head.

"Love you, Buffy."

"I love you, too." Buffy grinned and kissed him long and hard. All around them, their friends and family moved with their own partners, none of them in a pairing that could be called orthodox, but all of them completely, blissfully, unashamedly happy.

This concludes this portion of our saga. I hope you all enjoyed it. As always, I thank all of you who take the time to read, and especially those who take the time to review.