A/N: Thank you loverswalk89, Nat-Nat 360, Secret Slayer, and ObsessedwReading for reviewing, and thank you all for reading, reviewing, and putting up with my inconsistent posting schedule. Again, I thank Forever-Furuba for contributing to this story's original idea.
Unrelated note: "Five Words or Less" has just been nominated at the Sunnydale Memorial Fanfiction Awards. If you also enjoy that story and would like to vote for it, please do.
Some of Xander's vow is from the episode "Into the Woods", and some of Spike's toast is from "Beneath Me". The song at the end is 'That Kind of Love' by Alison Krauss, and plays at the end of "Entropy". I recommend it as background music. (:
Chapter 8: That Kind of Love
- - And that was the moment I knew - -
Xander and Spike stand on the right side of the minister, watching the flamboyantly green bridesmaids traverse the aisle, gowns rustling. Halfrek winks at Spike as she takes her seat beside D'Hoffryn, but the vampire only has eyes for Buffy, who remains standing with Dawn and Tara while Willow joins the men.
The string quartet strikes up the Wedding March, and all the guests – enmity forgotten – rise and face the foot of the aisle. With the scratches to her arm concealed by a hastily-applied bandage, Anya steps forward in a daze of joy and fulfillment, bouquet in hand. She meets Xander at the front of the aisle and hands her bouquet off to Buffy, and as the music fades, the bride and groom step forward to the edge of the dais.
The ceremony is short – neither of the couple being religious – and when the minister asks for the rings, Willow places the two gold bands into Xander's palm. Anya takes Xander's hand, looks him straight in the eyes – her own moist with tears of happiness – and begins her vows.
"I, Anya Christina Emmanuelle Jenkins, want to marry you, Xander, because I love you… and I'll always love you. Before I knew you, I was a completely different person, not even a person, really. And I'd seen what love could do to people… and it was hurt, and sadness. Alone was better. And then suddenly there was you, and you knew me. You make me feel safe, and warm. So… I get it now. I finally get love, Xander. I really do. I love you."
There's not a single dry eye in the building. Even Spike clears his throat gruffly and pats Xander on the back as the trembling carpenter accepts his ring. His voice scratchy and bashful, Xander begins his own vows, completely winging it, abandoning his previous ideas and just speaking from his heart.
"I… Alexander Lavelle H-Harris… love you, Anya. I love you so much, more every day. I love the way you see things… and how amazingly sweet and crazy you can be at the same time. I promise to grow old with you… and love you every little moment I'm breathing… and share as many waffles as you could ever want. I'll win the Guinness World Record for Most Waffle-Sharing Husband. 'Cause I don't know what I'd do without you, Babe. I can't imagine my days without you, and I wouldn't want to. I just want to be your husband… and your partner, and your sex poodle."
Anya's teary eyes brighten. "Sex poodle?"
"Uh-huh," Xander replies, then looks nervously at the minister. "Sh-should I not have said 'sex poodle'?"
"It's perfectly alright," he reassures him. Relieved, Xander slips his ring's counterpart onto Anya's slim finger, and the minister beams at them. "With the power vested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Xander, you may now kiss your bride."
Amidst the applause from the wedding attendees, he pulls Anya into his still slightly-damp arms and pressed his mouth to her coral-colored lips. Dawn cheers, Spike whoops, and Buffy chokes back happy tears, trying to keep them from dripping into Anya's bouquet. To the celebratory music of the quartet, Xander and Anya sweep back down the aisle and into the lobby of the Bison Lodge.
"My little Xander," a teary-eyed Willow whispers, linking her arm with Tara's. "Oh my gosh. He's married. He's actually married! He's a married man!"
The overjoyed witches glide down the aisle after the couple, and back at the dais Spike bows dramatically and offers one leather-clad arm to Buffy and the other to Dawn, both of them accept. Soon the bridesmaids, Spike, and the rest of the guests are congregated toward the back of the lobby, where the teenage bartender doubling as the DJ has filled several dozen glasses of bubbly.
"Ready for your speech, Wills?" Buffy smiles, reaching past Spike to take a champagne glass away from Dawn. Willow's eyes go wide.
"Oh. Speech. Me. As the bestest best man. Oh r-r-right."
A rosy tinge creeps up her neck, stage-fright staking its claim.
"Willow?" Tara asks fearfully, holding tight to her arm as the redhead starts to quake.
"Tummy butterflies," she grimaces.
"Need a spot of courage, pet?" grins Spike, drawing his little flask of Bourbon from a pocket of his duster. "Or shall I take the mic first, warm up the crowd?"
"What would you say? You don't even like Xander?" snorts Dawn, trying and failing to sneak another glass of sparkling wine without Buffy noticing.
"Well, s'pose that's true. But chasin' him down helped me suss some things out, an' if it'll help Little Red Ridin' Hood here, I'll speak my piece. That be a'right with you, luv?"
He turns to Buffy, who glances around at the milling crowd, the idleness taking its toll on the short-fused tempers of most of the guests.
"I guess so."
"Ta, pet. Be back in a mo'."
Slipping out from between the Summers girls and the witches, Spike swaggers over to the bar, picks up the microphone from where it'd been placed following the ceremony, and clears this throat.
" 'Lo all. Got a few words to say before the best man gets the floor, but so I'll be quick about it so we can all knock back the hard stuff an' that fine cake I've been sniffin' out."
Charmer, Buffy snickers inside her head as the guests chuckle and seem to relax, all eyes on Spike. It has to be the accent. Never knew he could be so winsome if he tried.
"Good of you all to show up, support Anya an' Harris. Could tell by lookin' at those two that they'd never be happy with another, so frankly, I'm surprised it took 'em this long to get hitched. Been moonin' over each other for a good two years, 'bout to make the rest of us nutty as fruitcakes."
More light laughs trace across the lobby, and Buffy glances at the couple. Xander's arms are around Anya, her intricately curled hair resting on his chest, his feet seemingly drowning in the fluffs of tulle at the bottom of her dress.
"At any rate," continues Spike, the joviality in his tone replaced by a gentle earnestness, "seein' these lovebirds makes a bloke think… 'bout the girl he loves… 'bout what he'd do to make sure his endin' is as good as theirs. Ways he'd prove that he's… worth her trust… that he'd do anythin' for her… that walkin' away from her would be givin' up the greatest chance of love he's ever had. Lookin' at those two… gives a man hope that he could do what he mustn't. For her. To be hers."
His eyes find Buffy's and lock on, sweet but intense, determined, turning his words into a promise. He swallows hard, and then blinks and peers around the crowd again, easing back on the tone of resolve he'd just been using. His words speeding up in what almost seems like embarrassment, he snags a champagne glass from the bar countertop and lifts it.
"Point bein', they're lucky little buggers an' we're all jealous. To Anya an' Xander. Cheers, ducks."
Spike tips back his glass and downs the champagne in one gulp, and Willow walks forward shakily and accepts the microphone. Oddly bashful now, the vampire shuffles back over to where Dawn, Tara, and Willow stand, his hands rifling through his pockets, eyes on the ground.
"Damn near lost my nerve. Gotta have a smoke left somewhere. Oh, bugger. They're all waterlogged…"
Smiling, Buffy lays her fingertips on his arm, and the stress fades from his face, a hesitant grin replacing it.
"What you said… that was really beautiful."
"Meant every word of it," he whispers solemnly, lowering his voice as Willow launches into what appears to be, 'Xander's Adventures as a Young Sunnydalian'.
"S-so, let's all h-have some cake!" Willow stammers at last, the green luster of her dress seeming to slink up the sides of her neck and onto her cheeks. She sinks down onto a stool and drops the microphone onto the bartop with a screeeech of feedback, and Tara hurries forward to hug her, affectionate tears glittering in her eyes.
Taking his cue from Halfrek, Clem wheels out the cake to thunderous applause. It's a chocoholic's dream come true, layer upon layer, a spire of icing drizzled in caramel and fudge. Soon guests are passing plates of the delicious confection around, no longer any antagonism between Xander's relatives and the demons here to celebrate with Anya. Even Mr. Harris is remaining civil enough to converse with Clem. Everyone laughs delightedly when Cousin Carol catches the bouquet and then the pimply demon Krevlin nabs the garter, then the tables and folding chairs are cleared from the center of the room and the DJ begins cycling through Anya's chosen music selections.
"I still think the burlap and blood larva would have been more flattering," giggles Willow, tipsy after a glass and a half of pink champagne, her nerves finally mollified.
"Baby, you look beautiful in green," Tara replies, slipping into the familiar term of endearment without realizing it.
Buffy contentedly sips at her glass, watching Xander wheel Dawn around the dance floor as a lively song ends. A more mellow tune plays through the sound speakers, and she feels rather than hears Spike move softly to stand at her side.
– – Who would sell their soul for love?
Or waste one tear on compromise
Should be easy enough
To know a heartache in disguise – –
"Will you dance with me, pet?"
"Spike..." Her voice epitomizes her mood, torn between longing and hesitation.
"Not gonna try anythin'. Just want a dance, is all."
– –But the heart rules the mind
And the going gets rough
Pride takes the fall
When you find that kind of love – –
"Alright," Buffy sighs, and his hand slips up to lift hers from the countertop, drawing her away from the bar and onto the dance floor. Spike turns her to face him, their hands intertwining, his other resting tenderly at her waist, hers on his shoulder.
Nearby, Willow twirls Tara in a leisurely pirouette, Dawn attempts to teach Clem the basic swing dance steps, and Xander and Anya are enfolded in each others arms, so tightly that not even Slayer strength could pull them apart.
– – I can't help feeling like a fool
Since I lost that place inside – –
The strongest thought crossing Buffy's mind as she sways slowly next to Spike is that this feels so vastly different from their moment on the balcony of the Bronze. There's no sense of foreboding, no fettered anger, no threats or shame or furtive quickie. He's making no attempt to draw her into the darkness; instead he's joining her in the light, openly.
– – Where my heart knew its way
And my soul was ever wise – –
"Are you really going to go try to get your soul back?" she whispers. They seem to be drawing infinitesimally closer, her head drifting down onto his shoulder, her right hand gliding to the back of his neck, his fingers clasping together at the small of her back.
"If that's what you want," Spike murmurs. "I'll leave at sunset, take my motorbike to the wharf, stowaway in a cargohold, an' float off to Africa. Sure the demon networks there would help point me in the right direction, pro'ly laughin' at me all the while. Vampire lookin' for a soul."
– –Once innocence was lost
There was not faith enough
Still my heart held on
When it found that kind of love – –
"Maybe… you don't have to leave right away."
His eyebrow quirks. "You certain of that, luv? I would've thought you'd be rarin' to get me out'a town."
"Well, you… I can't believe I'm saying this, but you saved the day, bringing Xander back."
"You callin' me the hero, Buffy?" he says with a smirk. "Big Bad me?"
"I guess so. Ugh. It's gonna go to your head now, isn't it?"
He chuckles, drawing her slightly closer until she rests against his chest, slow dancing serenely. "Only a bit."
– – Though beauty is rare enough
Still we trust
Somehow we'll find it there
With no guarantee
It seems to me
At least it should be fair – –
"I'm not going to sleep with you tonight, Spike."
"And if you suggested it, I'd refuse," he replies. "Laugh if you want, but I've scrounged up some dignity, Slayer. Seen that spark in your eyes, that crumb, that maybe. Gonna let you suss things out before there's any more of the rough an' tumble. Won't have you walkin' all over me in the meanwhile."
"I didn't –" I did. I used him, his body and his heart, and refused to believe I could ever feel anything for him. Until I realized that, all along, he really wanted my love more than anything physical between us. Just wanted to be loved.
– – But if it's only tears and pain
Isn't it still worth the cost?
Like some sweet saving grace
Or a river we must cross – –
"There… there is a maybe. It just… might take me a while to find it, you know?"
Nodding, he sighs against her ear, a low, contented sound. "I can live with that, luv. It'll be worth it."
– –If we don't understand
What this life is made of
We learn the truth
When we find that kind of love – –
"Besides," he murmurs, "when one of us does let the other back under the sheets, it'll be different… be love, not just bodies crashin', tryin' to find somethin' to feel. World of difference twixt the two, sweetheart. When you let me… I'm gonna worship you, whisper all those sweet nothin's you've been denyin' me…"
She arches slightly as he presses her closer, her eyes drifting shut, already imagining. Then Spike kisses the side of her neck, his voice a light tease.
"Maybe tomorrow night, eh?"
Rolling her eyes, Buffy smiles and leans fully against him, head resting comfortably – perfectly – against his hard, cool shoulder, his arms wrapped around her waist in a tender embrace.
– – 'Cause when innocence is lost
There is not faith enough
We learn the truth
When we find that kind of love – –
Author's Note: Thank you again for joining me in this happily-ever-after re-write. Please leave a review and let me know if you liked this story. (: