A/N: Thank you for your reviews, and also thanks for your patience! In the midst of my hectic semester, I've managed to keep up with "Five Words Or Less" and "Take It All Away", but my smaller stories have slid to the back burner. Definitely haven't been able to update once a week like I originally thought. Sorry! Hopefully this chapter somewhat makes up for that!

Shout out to Forever-Furuba for that message a while back, encouraging this story idea!

Chapter 5: The Spark

- - You should have been there, should have burst through the door with that 'Baby, I'm right here' smile and it would have felt like a million little shining stars had just aligned, and I would have been so happy - -

Tara stares up at Anya, her mind racing to find something positive to say about the last segment of revised vows the bride-to-be had just recited.

"Uh, sex poodle?"

"Yeah," replies Anya brightly. "Why?"

"Um… I'm n-not sure you should say 'sex poodle' in your v-vows."

"Huh," Anya shrugs, adjusting her silver necklace as the sounds of a string quartet sound from the lobby. "Music! They're playing the music! This is it!"

She practically hops up and down with excitement, and the door to the bridal suit opens, revealing Buffy in the hallway.

"Are you ready to go?" she asks, a smile on her face but not in her heart. This is it. This is what life should be like – happy… for them, for my friends. But am I happy? Do I even know what happy is anymore?

Before Anya or Tara can answer, Buffy feels her arm tugged backwards and turns, pulling the door shut and facing a frantic-looking Willow.

"He's gone!" the redhead gasps. "Xander's disappeared!"

"What? Xander's gone?"

Willow nods and bats her hands at her eyes, trying to both fight tears and dry the ones that have already seeped to the surface.

"He… I should have realized! Buffy, he seemed so scared, but I just assumed it was cold feet, you know? I didn't think he would actually get cold feet and leave!"

"What should we do?" Buffy demands.

Both of the green-clad girls suddenly jump at the sound of a slamming door off to their right, and a whirlwind of black and blond charges toward them. Spike comes to a panting halt about two feet away from Buffy and Willow, his chest heaving in that realistic human way that sets him apart from all other vampires. He's dripping wet, his platinum hair unslicked and beautifully chaotic, his black shirt plastered to his perfect body.


Buffy's voice squeaks from her throat in a stifled whisper, internally fighting how pleased she is to see him back here. Looking utterly anguished, Spike lifts his arms in desperation.

"I'm a lousy prat!" he shouts, his hands swinging back down and slapping his soaked sides. "I'm sorry, a'right? I shouldn't… shouldn't have let you walk out on me. Too proud, I s'pose, just watchin' you walk away and pretendin' I could forget and move on. Well, that's not gonna happen. I'm a goner, luv. Can't move on. Can't get over you. Be stuck cravin' you for the rest of my dearly-soddin'-departed days."

Buffy just gapes, completely forgetting about Willow's presence, totally absorbed in the frantic, sopping wet vampire, the anguish in his eyes, and the words flowing messily and freely from his full, coral-colored lips.

"Said som'it like this to you once before, pet, but in the terror of that night, you might've forgotten. But even if you haven't, I'm sayin' it again. I know you'll never love me. Know it now more than ever. 'Cause I'm a monster… but there's a bit of man left in me, and he's not ever givin' up on you. An' there's nothin' you or I can do about it, not one bleedin' thing. I'll be in love with you 'till it kills me."

"Uh…" says Willow nervously, glancing between Spike and Buffy, and noticing tears sparkling in the eyes of the later. "Should I, uh, go? Or just…"

"Tried to give you up, brought that ear-yankin' tattooed bitch here to make you jealous," Spike continues as though Willow hasn't spoken at all. He takes another small step closer to Buffy, who just gazes at him, nonplussed. "An' I took one look at you, Buffy, and I knew I couldn't do it. That little glimpse of the hurt in your eyes, the hurt I put there… God, luv, it ripped me apart. But seein' that look… well, it's given me all the hope I need. That crumb. You may be willin' to give up on us, but I'm not. And I'll do anythin', even if that means denyin' what I am, findin' the spark, gettin' what you deserve."

"Spike…" Buffy attempts to find her voice, but she's not even sure his enhanced ears can pick up her whisper this time.

"Timin's up to you, pet, but I'll do it. Have a jaunt over to the other side of the world, some place in Africa last I heard. I'll go… see a man about a demon… an' a demon about a soul. Want me to stay 'round here for a few hours first, assumin' I'm still invited, or head off sharpish?"

Soul. The word rings in her ears, undeniable. He said 'soul'… the spark… get what I deserve… what he thinks would make the difference… what would let me love him… but would it? Or is that the excuse I keep building up, the wall I've erected as my own excuse for what I feel? 'You can make me feel…'

"Spike," she breathes, this time putting the barest amount of volume behind his name. But just then Tara opens the door and slips out into the hallway, looking nervously at Buffy and Willow.

"I just wondered w-what was… going… on…"

Her words fade away as she stares at Buffy, recognizing a light in her eyes that hasn't been there for months… a light she'd only briefly glimpsed during that one odd evening of memory loss, and before then, perhaps not for a year, certainly not since Joyce had passed away… a light that Tara knows only glows in her own eyes when she looks at Willow. Love.

"Um, close the door," says Willow, hesitant to interrupt the fervent moment between Spike and the Slayer. Tara complies, and Willow pulls on her arm until she can whisper in her ear. "It's Xander. He's… missing. I can't find him. I was about to go look some more. You and Buffy need to stall, keep Anya from knowing –"

"I'll go! I'll find Harris!"

Willow, Buffy, and Tara turn to Spike with astonishment, and he nods urgently. "Yeah! I'll track him down. So long as you witchy types keep the sun hidden away. Can't have gone too far. Yeah, I'll go find him and set him straight. Show him he's a daft fool for skippin' out on the woman he loves. Know the feelin'."

His gaze rests on Buffy again, and his eyes soften sadly. "An'… then I'll go… get the spark. Not sure how long it'll take, or to be honest what shape I'll be in when I get it. But I'll come back, someday I'll come back to you, luv."

It takes all her Slayer focus to turn her quivering jaw into an actual shake of her head.

"No… Spike, please. Come back... now… f-for the wedding. Please…"

His eyes flare with hope. Before Tara and Willow can do anything but gasp, Spike hurls himself on Buffy, claiming her mouth with his cool lips, and her hesitancy shatters. Her hands wrest up into his damp hair, further rumpling the already mussed white curls, and she moans as he tilts back her head with the desperation of his glorious kiss, their lips and tongues tangling. She grips his duster collar, pulling him closer until she's squeezed in his arms, plundering his mouth and – for the first time – giving as much affection as she receives.

Though their eyes remain on the enraptured blond couple, Willow and Tara slowly find each other's fingers, weaving them together like they'd done when lacing up Anya's dress.

"Spike!" Buffy gasps in longing when he draws back and merely leans his forehead against hers. His hand traces up her neck and brushes over her hair bun and the white flower by her ear.

"I'll be back, luv," he whispers hoarsely, his breathing coming in heavy swells of his chest. "Hell, after that, nothin' in this world got the power to keep me away."

He presses his lips to her forehead with a throaty groan, then releases her and blinks, noticing Tara and Willow.

"I'll, uh, be quick as I can, but the guests in there look right antsy. Keep Demon Girl in the dark as long as you're able."

Giving Buffy one last glowing smile, he rushes toward the door of the Bison Lodge lobby and hurtles into the rainy outdoors. Buffy pants as she watches him depart, her body racing from the few seconds of contact with Spike's hard wet one, and turns guiltily to Willow – who just stares at her with tilted eyebrows – and Tara, whose face beams. At last she knows. She didn't come back wrong... just went about finding love the wrong way.

"Um… yeah, so, um…"

"I'm just going to go out on a really far-reaching limb here and guess that wasn't the first time you've kissed Spike," Willow mumbles. "I mean, aside from that completely accidental engaged afternoon that I'm still really sorry about and will totally bake you more cookies once I'm not wearing a lot of expensive, ugly-as-hell chiffon."

"Oh… oops." Buffy glances down at the huge watermark down the front of her dress, where Spike had pressed against her.

"Wh-what are we gonna tell Anya?" asks Tara, redirecting their attention to the immediate problem.

Buffy nods and uneasily opens the door back into the bridal suite, poking just her head in so that Anya can't see her half-soaked dress.

"Uh, hey, sorry about that," she flounders, her enormous smile only partly forced, mainly brought on by the head-spinning kiss. "There's… gonna be a bit of a delay."

"Why? What's wrong?"

"Nothing!" Buffy replies immediately, allowing Tara to slip past her into the suite. "Nothing's wrong. It's just, um, it, the, the minister! He had, uh… to go… and perform an emergency C-section."

"A C-section?" Anya gapes, while Tara gives her a dubious 'That's all you could come up with?' look over the bride's shoulder.

"Yeah. You know he's… uh, not just a minister. He's also a… a doctor! You know, he's half-minister, half-doctor. He's a mini-tor… not, of course, to be confused with a minotaur. Because he's all, you know, man. Doctor-minister-man, no bull parts whatsoever."

Anya seems to ponder this phenomenon for a moment, then turns away towards the mirror and adjusts her curls. "Uh-huh."

"So, it should be just a couple of minutes," says Buffy, nibbling her lip. Or as long as it takes Spike to chase Xander down and get him to come back. For love. For us.

"Okay," says Anya, preoccupied with her hair and the folds of the veil over her shoulders.

Nodding to Tara, Buffy scrambles back out into the hall, closes it, and sighs in relief, staring at Willow.

"Well, that could have been worse."

To be continued…