"So what took you so long?"
"Hm?" Spike said lazily, his drifting mind not expecting that any words would be aimed in his direction.
"What took you so long?" Xander repeated his question, sitting beside Spike on a handy couch outside Buffy's room. Quickly noting that the vampire was still clueless to the meaning of his question, he explained. "To pop the question, I mean. It seemed to me like you guys were ready for this…" he paused, contemplating a timeframe. "Well, decades ago," he laughed good-heartedly. "Never actually thought that you of all people would be willing to wait this long."
Instead of retorting with some witty remark, Spike became thoughtful in response, letting out a long, contemplative sigh and sitting back in his seat. "Well," he said, tossing a fragmented glance in Xander's direction. "I suppose it just never seemed like the thing to do. Me bein' a vampire and all, the whole 'holy matrimony' bit might not've gone over too well, you know?" he half chuckled, staring off into space as if remembering long-ago memories with his ladylove. "And I suppose it just never seemed like we needed it… What we had was good enough for us… Didn't really matter if it was down on paper" he smiled with a shrug.
Behind Spike's eyes though was a shadow of unspoken truth; it wasn't that he and the Slayer didn't want to get married at all. The fact of the matter was that almost fifty years ago they had performed what Spike considered to be the vampire equivalent; blood exchange. That alone had been good enough for them, but only days ago Spike had realised that it was important for them to go through with the fancy human version; maybe it wouldn't be so bad to have some sort of material proof that yes, a Slayer could love a vampire with everything she had. And vice versa.
"Well that's a good enough excuse, I guess" Xander said, hiding the smile that pressed upon his cheeks.
"Excuse?" Spike immediately flamed. "What exactly do you mean by excuse, Harris?" he growled.
"Relax, relax" the retired carpenter chuckled good-heartedly, brown eyes glittering. "I was just playing around, Spike. I mean, the fact that we're practically gonna be family within the next hour or so doesn't stop me from yanking on your chain with every chance I get," he smiled.
"Christ…" the blonde shook his head. "You're lucky Buffy likes you so much, Harris… Or you know that I'd--"
"Yeah, yeah. Rip out my jugular, use it for Christmas tree decorations and such… Feast on my innards and all that jazz" Xander rolled his eyes somewhat jokingly. "You know, I hate to break it to you but that really gets old after sixty-some-odd years… It stopped being scary when they shoved that chip up your brain."
"Oi! It's my wedding day, man… Try to go a little easy on the old ego, would you?"
"Fine, fine" Xander held up his hands in surrender. "I'll give you the day off then. But you'd better bet that tomorrow--"
"I hear you, Harris. Chip-head, Big-Bad-wanna-be, Captain Peroxide… You know, those names really get old after six decades, sorry to say" Spike replied, mocking the carpenter's disregard for his threats.
It was then that the now grey-haired man fell silent, chocolate eyes studying Spike for a moment. "You've been really good to her, you know. I never really thought you guys would last this long, to be honest. I figured you'd move on after a couple of years or something, find yourself some other young girl. I hated having to imagine what it would be like the day you broke Buffy's heart and just ran out on her because she was getting a little too saggy around the eye region or something" when the vampire looked as if he was going to jump in at that second, Xander held up a pleading hand to just wait one more moment. "I'm just saying, thanks for proving me wrong, Spike. Thanks for showing Buffy that there was hope for her in the world after all, that being the Slayer didn't mean she had to live her life in loneliness" he smiled, holding out his hand. "Congratulations."
Spike reciprocated the action, something between shock and fear and happiness spilled across his chiselled features. "Uh, you're welcome…" he laughed nervously, a voice in his head screaming out the fact that if Xander was offering his blessings to them, he'd better have something just as courageous to say in return. "And thanks, Xander… I mean, it… It means a lot" he quirked a half smile, showing the carpenter that this was as far as he'd push his dignity.
"Yeah, well…" the carpenter slipped his hand away, the magical spell of his words gone now, making room for awkwardness to seep from his pores. "You know, it had to be said" he shrugged, looking around, head swivelling toward the door to Buffy's room. "Man, what's taking them so long?" he said, glancing at his watch. They'd been in there for nearly an hour now, which would be reasonable, except for the fact that Willow and the Bit's daughter should have been able to whip everything into shape within minutes by use of some friendly magic.
"Heh, as if we'll ever know," Spike chuckled, shaking his head. "Women."
"I can't believe it," Dawn squeaked. "My sister is getting married! My siiister is getting maaarried!" she laughed, jumping from one foot to the other as best she could for an elderly woman.
"God, you're such a teenager" Buffy smiled, shaking her head.
"Ah! Careful not to move your head too much, Buffy. I can make the bobby pins float, but I can't stop them from stabbing you," Willow said, concentrating all of her energy on making the tiny metallic objects pin her best friend's hair up in a most magnificent manner.
"So you want this one?" Brooke, Dawn's daughter asked her aunt, forcing the Slayer's attention to be redirected once again. Her index finger was currently hovering over one of the many gowns to be found in any bridal magazine.
"Yeah," Buffy said softly, an equally gentle smile unfolding upon her features. "That's the one… are you sure you can do it?"
"Aunt Buffy," Brooke chuckled. "If I can cook up dinner on my way home from work, I'm pretty sure that I can handle a measly bride's gown. Have a little more faith in your family members, will you?"
The Slayer nodded sheepishly, the smile not gone from her features. "Do you think he'll like it?"
All three women who were in the room with Buffy stopped what they were doing, their six eyes pinned upon the Slayer as if she'd just asked the most absurd question in history.
"What?" she asked, not understanding what the sudden silence was for.
"Buffy," Dawn said slowly. "What makes you think Spike will anything but love your dress?" she laughed. "I mean… for one thing it's beautiful, and for another thing, it's Spike we're talking about here."
"Okay, well… I was just asking," she laughed. "You know, casual butterflies-in-the-stomach questions."
"It's all right," Brooke laughed. "Just as long as you weren't seriously wondering about it," she said, setting the magazine down in front of her and beginning to concentrate.
"Yeah," Willow broke in just before the younger woman had fully begun her conjuring spell. "And besides, I bet Spike would think you were beautiful even if you were in one of those burlap sacks and blood larva or whatever it was that Anya used to talk about," she chuckled.
Buffy smiled, trying not to make a noise that would break her niece's concentration. The funny thing was, though, Willow didn't know just how right she really was.
Moonlight bathed the nearly deserted forest in a silver glow, giving every leaf and pine needle a strangely natural radioactive appearance. Droplets of crystal dew clung to each slice of vegetation that was to be found, giving the forest floor a somewhat slick texture to it. The air was crisp and refreshingly cool, making the slightly moistened atmosphere incredibly pleasant. Breathing it in was intoxicating enough to send shivers down one's spine, filling their lungs with an almost magical fluid.
Birds were nestled away in their homemade habitats. Squirrels slept pleasantly in some burrowed out part of a tree. Deer could be found pressed into the mouth of a cave, or behind a thick cover of underbrush. Needless to say, all life had fallen out of consciousness, tucked away in their animalistic beds until the sun decided to show its face once again. All life, that is, except for a pair of creatures whose trespassing on wilderness territory was made less severe only by the fact that an animal lived deep within them as well, its existence setting them apart from the rest of their species.
Buffy poured herself against the trunk of a tree for just a short moment's rest. Despite the pleasant autumn air that affectionately hugged her on all sides, her breathing had become slightly ragged, her muscles screaming for mercy. Beads of sweat seeped from her every pore, creating a silver sheen as the moonlight trickled across her visage. Strands of blonde hair were trapped against her now adhesively moistened and rosy cheeks, making it look as if she'd been running through the forest for an entire day, not just a mere hour.
From far off in the distance, the Slayer's superhuman sense of hearing picked up on the sound of a twig snapping. Gulping back one last full breath of air, she rushed off in the opposite direction, distantly pondering on the fact that Sunnydale's forest appeared to be a lot larger than she imagined it in these particular circumstances.
Spike silently cursed himself, shooting a lethal glare at the offending limb that had cracked beneath the pressure of his booted foot. He didn't know how far away Buffy was, or if her slightly enhanced hearing would be able to pick up on the minute sound, but in this sort of game, every movement, every sound, every breath could make or break one's stealthyness.
Don't worry about it, Spike… he thought with a self-satisfied leer. It's not like she can resist you fore--… What the Hell? A frown instantly marred the bleached blonde's marble-sculpted features, every fibre in his body hardening with enraged fear. Stepping forward, he tested the air a second time just to be sure that his animalistic sinuses were not fooling him, and again he was assaulted by that same horribly offensive scent.
Alarms were set off in his mind by the hundreds. Ones telling him to run after Buffy, others screaming about the fact that she was in danger, and still others saying that he had to do something to get her attention. And yet, there was one corner of his mind that refused to cooperate. It remained silent, except for the repeated statement that he had to be confused, or just plain wrong. What his nose was telling him couldn't possibly be true; at least, not on this particular night.
Halloween… For decades, perhaps even centuries it had been stipulated as the one evening of the year when demons didn't make it a priority to do, well, anything. So of course, by pure common sense, it was the night on which Buffy and Spike had scheduled to hold their game in which one hunted the other through the Sunnydale forest. It was supposed to be just the two of them, with no interloping vampires or humans to throw off the other's senses.
So of course, when Spike picked up on the presence of not one, but what he estimated to be twelve vampires in the nearby vicinity, the blood in his veins instantly froze. Under normal circumstances he wouldn't be worried. If Buffy could take on a Hell god and kick her sorry little ass, then a small pack of vamps would be no problem.
But by now there was no doubt that she'd be off her game. Her muscles would be turning to sludge minute by minute, her heart rate wishing that it could slow for just a quarter of an hour. Not only that, but she would be expecting the presence of a vampire, and in that case might not realise the danger until they were on her.
Translation? Spike had to haul ass.
"Buffy!" He roared out, lungs shoving air through his trachea with every ounce of power and pressure they possessed. Only milliseconds slipped by before he was in motion, ducking, weaving, slicing his way through the forest like an ebony arrow tipped with lightning. His eyes were miles ahead of his feet, navigating a comparably obstacle-free path to his lover, meaning that it was only up to his appendages to follow. Nature attempted to throw things in his way; trees, bushes, vines and stones, but they were no match for the determination of a vampire in love. He may as well have been made out of molten lava, because in this state of mind, nothing was going to stop him.
No, no, no… Oh, God please Buffy just hold on. I'll be there soon. I'm coming. Be smart… run away… No, wait; they're probably expecting that. Oh, God can't I run any faster than this? Spike conjured the array of thoughts as he continued to scramble through the woods, hands reaching out to brush leaves and branches away from his face.
Buffy's scent was getting stronger with every stride he took, telling the vampire that he was at least moving faster than she was. But as her scent strengthened, so did that of the dozen vampires just ahead of him, and by now he could tell that they were positioned randomly, ready to catch the Slayer from a number of directions and distances. Spike could think of nothing but finding her. His instincts locked on that powerful Slayer aroma, and the rest of his body drove on autopilot.
All he could do was hope it was fast enough.
After only two minutes of jogging away from what she guessed to be Spike's general position, Buffy decided it was time to give her body another rest. Her legs and lungs were screaming at her, complaining of fatigue, and she couldn't really argue with that. Not to mention the fact that she did want to be found at some point, something that was kind of impossible if she kept running away.
Walking at an only moderately brisk pace, the Slayer chose that point in time to re-do her hair. Running through the forest, she couldn't count the number of strands that had escaped the hold of her hair elastic, and it was becoming somewhat of a nuisance now. Pulling her hair through its final loop, Buffy snapped to attention when a rather disturbing sound ruffled her sense of hearing. It was the low, sensual sound of a vampire's growl.
Of course, the sound itself wasn't the thing that disturbed her. She was, after all, the Slayer. Not to mention the fact that her current boyfriend happened to be a 'creature of the night'. No, the disturbing thing was the fact that she'd picked the sound up from two different directions at once. Last time she checked, Spike wasn't the type to go teleporting himself.
Buffy's heart began racing at the realisation that she was probably being hunted by a small group of vampires. In the back of her mind she was whining something to the effect of Dammit! Can't I ever get one night away from my destiny? Quips and complaints aside though, she did have to admit that she was a little frightened. She wasn't sure when the last time was that she'd taken on more than two or three vampires by herself, and she could already feel her muscles beginning to ache from the demands she'd put on them.
So, she did what any Buffy Summers would do in a dangerous situation. Her number one tactic. Tease the vampires.
"Gee…" she started, hoping her voice didn't give away the fact that she was still trying to catch her breath. Not that it would make any difference to a vampire's visceral senses anyway. "Look at me. All helpless and alone in this big forest. I sure hope no one tries to attack me," she mock pouted, hands clutching her chest in an overly dramatic manner.
Despite her attempt to flush out her stalkers with crude jokes, no answer came. Which was odd, because even the smartest of the idiot vampires usually fell for that one, for some reason unable to resist an opportunity for idle banter. She frowned then, looking for any signs of movement amidst the trees.
"Hey, vampires!" she said into the trees, turning in a slow circle as she did. "The whole thing where you keep hiding even though I know you're there is kind of lame. That's like covering your eyes and saying 'if I can't see you, you can't see me!'" Buffy sighed, hands sitting firmly on her hips. "Besides, you're ruining my night. So just come on out and get staked already."
"Be careful what you wish for, girl," a young man's voice said from behind a tree. He stepped out at that queue, revealing a fairly tall, youthful male with sandy blonde hair, dressed in athletic wear. "Things might not turn out the way you plan for them to. You know, as far as the us-getting-staked part goes."
Buffy laughed dryly at that, crossing her arms. "Um, I'm not sure if you realised this, but… hello," she raised her hand "I'm the Slayer. And you are?" she said, head cocking in a self-assured manner, grinning at the vamp.
"Oh, I know who you are," the man nodded, walking a few languid paces to his right. "Being the longest-living Slayer in history, you're somewhat of a legend. Any vampire that's been around for more than five years has heard of you."
"So I guess you're one of the stupid ones who somehow managed to survive that long, huh? Self-preservation obviously isn't high on your list of priorities though, what with you looking for me and all."
"Oh no, staying undead is actually quite important to me," he paused then, making several pointed glances around the forest. "Which is exactly why I brought so many friends along," he said slowly, eyes locking with the Slayer's as he spoke.
Buffy listened and watched as one, two… eight, nine… twelve vampires stepped into view, game faces loaded and cocked. "Wow, gotta say… you guys are organized… it's been a long time since I was ambushed," she said calmly, her confidence refusing to waver despite the fear tickling at the base of her spine.
"Glad you're impressed, Slayer," the leader looked around at his gang members, making pointed eye contact with each of them. "Be sure to let us know what it feels like to have your neck ripped apart, too," he growled.
A split second later, the vampires converged on her, barely giving a moment's notice before fists began to fly, and fangs glinted in the moonlight. Buffy didn't know whether it was the knuckles in her jaw or the foot in her knee that hit first, but either way she was forced to the ground hard, mouth aching where it had just been clobbered. This wasn't good.
Knowing that she was done for if she stayed on the ground for more than a second, the Slayer forced every ounce of energy she had into propelling her body upward. She kicked her legs up, knocking a few of the bloodsuckers back as she jumped to her feet. Without even taking the time to aim properly, Buffy then threw her fists in random directions, getting lucky when she came into contact with cold, dead flesh a few times.
But when two were dispersed, another three jumped out at her. Two sets of strong arms wrapped around each of her elbows, one of the vampires who had a hold on her even bothering to sock her a good one in the face. Buffy's head whipped back with the force of the blow, a few stars twinkling before her eyes.
Lucky for her though, Buffy had been put in this same hold at least a hundred times over hear years as a Slayer, and was more than experienced when it came to breaking it. A monkey wrench hammered into her plans though when a third vampire sailed through the air at her, foot extended in a kick that crashed into her chest, knocking nearly every ounce of air from the Slayer's lungs.
Buffy doubled over with the force of the blow, her vision turning black and blue as she gasped desperately for air. In that moment of weakness, she was shoved harshly to the ground, a mixture of dirt and leaves gushing into her gaping mouth as she hit the forest floor. Four vampire lackeys instantly tackled her, rather strong men pinning her legs down, which combined with the force of the two at her arms kept her thoroughly glued down.
"Well, well, well, Slayer…" insano vamp's voice slid into her ears, the words slow, steady, and confident. "It would appear as if all the smart comments and quips in the world can't actually save you from a few well-prepared vampires," he drawled, grinning wickedly at the still gasping blonde girl. "I find this quite exciting, actually. I am about to turn the Slayer. Buffy Summers. Defeater of The Master, conqueror of giant snake beasts and unstoppable man-demon hybrids, the very annihilator of the feared Glorificus. God, I don't think any vampire has ever had it better."
By now, Buffy's breathing had returned to normal. The only downside was that she was now able to comprehend a totally different kind of pain. This is it, a small voice in the back of her head whispered. You're too weak to break their hold on you… and even if you do, there are five more vamps just waiting for you to try running away. Oh, God… God, Spike… where are you? She cried internally, any additional thoughts stopping dead as a steel-toed boot drove into her kidneys.
"Oh, God!" she managed to choke out, hands clenching into fists.
The lead vampire laughed at that. "Stupid girl. I hardly doubt He's the one you should be calling out to now."
Buffy rolled her eyes at that. "Geez, could you be any more clichéd?" she swallowed back a cough, blinking as she did so. "I can't tell you how many vampires have used that line on me… could you be any less original?"
A brief moment of insult flickered in the vampire's eyes, but he quickly shook it away. "Say whatever you wish, Slayer. By the end of tonight, you'll still be turned, and I will have won the battle of the century," he smirked, arms folded across his chest.
"Pssh," Buffy snarked, coughing a bit. "Don't be too modest or anything there, you might hurt yourself," she said sarcastically, still refusing to allow her concrete wall of strength to shatter.
"Again, talk all you want, Slayer. I am the one who has defeated you, not vice versa. Speaking of which," he paused. It was then that he finally shifted into game face, mildly handsome features melting and remoulding until he wore the mask of a killer. "Let's get this over with, hm?"
His knee had only just touched the ground, and only one stream of his cool breath had trickled across Buffy's exposed neck. Only one drop of salty fluid had escaped from Buffy's tear ducts. The Slayer's death had only just appeared to be inevitable when that comforting, powerful, and baritone voice broke through the suspended silence.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."
Vamp-in-charge spun at the voice's appearance, meeting the presence of an average-height, fairly lean man. His lack of heartbeat signified that he, too, was a creature of the night. "And why the fuck not?" he said with a boastful smile, eyebrow cocked.
"'Cause if you even try to hurt her, I guarantee that your head will be lopped from your shoulders before you even feel my hands on your cheeks," Spike growled through clenched teeth. For a moment he allowed the other vampire to lock gazes with him, cerulean blue orbs burning with absolute and undiluted rage, the look itself almost hot enough to incinerate the other one on the spot. His gaze softened as he looked to Buffy though, heart flooding with relief upon seeing that she was okay.
Despite the obvious danger that still surrounded her, the Slayer couldn't help it when every muscle in her body relaxed at the sight of her knight in shining armour. Spike had made it after all; he was here to save her. Everything was going to be okay. God, she loved him.
"Wait… you do know who this is, right?" the vampire, Buffy had decided to call him Chad by now, said, jerking his thumb in the Slayer's direction.
Spike nodded slowly, gaze still locked with that of his ladylove. "I do very well at that, mate," he paused, taking a few threatening steps toward Chad. "And what I also know is that no one. And I mean no one… touches my girl. So, prepare to meet an unpleasant and dusty ending."
Spike didn't even give Chad time to react. He lunged forward, grabbed the sandy-blonde man by the ears, and gave a violent twist, muscles exerting so much pressure that he was able to keep his promise to the younger vampire. William the Bloody ripped Chad the Idiot's head clear off his shoulders. That, combined with the still murderous glint in his eyes, was enough to send the other vampires scattering, forgetting all about the prized bounty they had intended to collect.
When the flurry of movement was over, Spike found himself looking down at a shocked and slightly trembling girl. "Buffy, luv," were the only two words he rushed out before diving to her side. Strong arms scooped the Slayer up, fingers lovingly rubbing off a few streaks of mud she'd collected during her brief struggle. "You okay?" he said gently, gazing into those beautiful emerald depths he always loved getting lost in.
For a moment Buffy was still unaware of what had just occurred. But as she realised whose eyes she was staring up into, a wave of relief crashed through her. "Spike," she mumbled into her lover's shoulder as she caught him up in a fierce hug. "You made it… You… saved me. God, I was so scared. There were so many of them."
"I know love…" Spike whimpered, squeezing his ladylove as if she might disappear out of his grasp. "But you're alive… You're okay," he sighed, eyes shut tight.
"I love you."
"I love you, Buffy," the peroxide fiend responded without hesitation. Their embrace loosened a bit, and Spike took that moment to snarl. "Bloody vampires going against the age-old tradition of laying about on Halloween."
Buffy couldn't help laughing at that, causing her companion to gain a slightly hurt look.
"What?" he said self-consciously.
"You," Buffy grinned. When he gave her an utterly puzzled look, she just rolled her eyes at his cluelessness. "Well, correct me if I'm wrong… But I seem to remember a certain English, bleached blonde vampire causing a bit of mayhem not too many years ago on Halloween…"
"Oi! It was the costume shop fella who stirred up all the trouble. My gang and I just revelled in the results…" Spike defended himself. "And I must say love, the gown you had on that night was really quite fetching".
"Did you really think so?" Buffy asked with a quirked head, surprised that Spike remembered the dress.
He nodded. "I may have wanted to kill you more than anything in the world, but I know a beautiful woman when I see one," Spike said with a grin, kissing his lover's shoulder affectionately. Both of them had already forgotten about the evening's ordeal.
Buffy pulled away slightly. "Sounds like someone's trying to bribe me into getting some tonight," she said, eyeing him mischievously.
"Don't need to bribe you, love" Spike countered, eyes challenging hers without fear.
"Oh really?" Buffy's eyebrows rose sceptically. Deciding she could still go for another hundred-yard run or so, she moved to spring up, feet instantly making an attempt to propel her away from the vampire and back into the forest.
Spike saw it coming though, and he hopped up as well, spinning to face the blonde beauty and tackling her to the ground before she covered five feet. Buffy attempted to roll him off her, but he held her steady. "C'mon love, if you keep up with the runnin' bit, you won't have any energy left by the end of the night". From where they were pinning her arms down, his thumbs began stroking the veins on her wrists, a calm smile accompanying the tender act. "We'd have come out here for nothin' then."
"Yeah, but… If we went home, some good would come of it," Buffy offered, shrugging as best she could beneath her lover's steel grip.
He cocked an eyebrow at her, not understanding what could be better than shagging like a pair of rabbits beneath a full moon.
She rolled her eyes at him, blowing away a piece of leaf-infested hair that hung over her eyes. "I could take a shower… get all un-gucky and stuff."
It took the act of the Slayer mentioning her dishevelled appearance for him to actually notice. Sitting back a bit so as to get a full view of her, Spike was finally able to see the sweat and mud smeared across her face, the tangled mess of vegetation in her hair, and the various dirt and grass stains covering her clothing.
She was stunning.
"Don't sweat it, Buffy… It's all part and parcel of the whole chasing-you-through-the-forest gig… And frankly, I think you look absolutely luscious," he stated simply, giving her a ravenous grin.
Buffy squirmed a bit in her greasy clothing, wrinkling her nose at what she must look like by now. "You… really don't mind?" she asked, eyeing the blonde vampire like he belonged in a mental institution.
"Not a bit," he agreed.
Deciding that the time for idle chitchat was over, he leaned in to give Buffy a gentle but searing kiss. His lips just hovered over hers, but it was enough to send electric shocks rolling through each of their bodies.
"You really are wonderful, Spike," Buffy whispered against him, eyes having fluttered shut long ago.
"My goddess," was all he said in reply, shuddering at how her hands felt running down his neck.
"Make love to me?" she pleaded softly, needing only to look into his eyes, and remember that he found her beautiful even now, to know that Spike was without a doubt the love of her life.
"And done," Brooke echoed Willow's words, each of the women moving back to get a good look at the bride-to be.
All three of them fell silent, stunned by how beautiful their eldest relative had become. Her grey-white locks were parted down the middle and pulled back, woven into tightly packed curls held together by Willow's bobby pins. She wore no makeup, but the sun shone upon her features in a most flattering manner, highlighting her shimmering eyes and pinkish cheeks.
Her gown was simple but exquisitely crafted, made out of a sheer material. The neckline was low-cut, exposing much of her upper chest. It was long-sleeved, partially because Buffy was self-conscious of her now aged skin, and also because she was simply too chilly to wear anything with more revealing shoulders. Around her legs there was not a hideous amount of fabric, but just enough that it created bridal gown effect.
"How do I look?" Buffy asked, hoping the look in her family's eyes wasn't any form of disgust.
"You're absolutely beautiful, Buffy," Dawn replied with a soft smile, one tiny tear running down her cheek.
"I'd say you're definitely ready for action," Willow agreed, having always had faith that the elderly Slayer could look good even at her ripe old age.
"Is the priest minister guy here yet?" the Slayer inquired, already feeling anxious to just get the event over with.
"I don't think so… Xander said he'd let us know when--"
"Hey guys," Xander interrupted them, perfectly on queue. "He's here… Mr. Varshin… whenever you're ready."
"Kay, Xand. Just give us a minute, okay? We'll call you in," Willow smiled, waving him out.
"No problem, captain," he grinned, refusing to look at Buffy out of respect for Spike. After all, the guy had been with her for over half a century… he deserved to be the first one to see her all dressed up and looking beautiful.
Brooke and Willow each turned to Buffy as Xander closed the door behind him. "All right," Brooke said, cracking a few of her knuckles. "Time to get you out of that bed."
Clasping each other's hands, Willow and Brooke began concentrating upon Buffy's form, focusing all of their energy into lifting her off the bed. It took only a few seconds for the spell to begin working, and before either of them knew it, the matriarch of all Slayers was standing at the foot of her hospital bed, bridal gown cascading from her waist and dangling just above her slightly exposed toes. "Dawn," Willow ordered gently, glancing over at the younger girl only briefly.
Knowing exactly what was being asked of her, Dawn grabbed the cane sitting against the wall beside her and carried it to Buffy as fast as her elderly limbs would allow. "Here you go Buffy," she said, offering up one of the few tools to remain simplified in the now high-tech medical world. As her older sister took the balancing stick, bite size Summers leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to her cheek. "I'm so happy for you," she smiled. "We're good to go, Will."
Brooke and the still slightly red-haired old woman breathed a sigh of relief at that, each of their taxed minds now finally able to take a break. "I'll go get the Bible thumper," Willow offered, giving her head a shake in an attempt to clear some of the straggling fuzziness.
Spike and Xander's heads whipped to the side as they heard Buffy's door open, though they instantly relaxed when they saw who was poking out. "Hey guys," Willow grinned. "Where's the reverend man?"
"Over yonder," Xander motioned to a middle-aged man on the other side of the corridor. "I think he sensed some unholy vibes from the Spike man here."
"Well then he's certainly not gonna be smilin' when he finds out who the groom is," Captain Peroxide chuckled.
Willow ignored both the older men. She saw the quiver in Spike's clasped hands though, and flashed a supportive smile in his direction even though she knew there was no reason for him to be nervous. "Um, Mister Varshin?" her intended target looked up, and she plastered on a smile. "We're ready for you now."