Willow is watching Buffy.
Down by the shore, Buffy and Spike dig their bare feet into the wet sand, moonlight turning the dunes around them into silver-tinged purple shadows. Buffy smiles up at Spike, a loose bouquet of daisies in her hand; even though the two of them agreed to follow tradition and avoid each other before the ceremony, Willow should have known they’d give in. Spike and Buffy aren’t apart often or for very long.
The two of them seem unreal in this light—perfectly beautiful and perfectly happy, like the ending of a fairytale. Buffy tucks her head under Spike’s chin, and he laughs at something she says, the sound just audible over the low murmur of the sea. And while Willow watches, Buffy’s free hand trembles and clenches into a fist, the tendons in her wrist gone taut. Then her brow unfurrows, and she is happy again, and no one but Willow has noticed.
Underneath the canopy in the hotel courtyard, the violin quartet starts to play. The guests are few, just Buffy’s mom plus the Scoobies and Clem. Joyce is standing alone by the bar holding a glass of wine and also watching Buffy. She’s still wary of Spike, and Willow supposes she can’t blame her. No mom is thrilled when her daughter marries the man who tried to murder her and all her friends. Multiple times. Still, Joyce flew out here with the rest of them. She’s making an effort, but she looks very uncomfortable and very sad.
“Of course, Buffy just had to get married in Hawaii,” Xander says, bringing Willow’s attention back to the rest of the group. “Part of her is clearly hoping Spike will go up in flames.”
Anya rolls her eyes, grabs his elbow, and steers him towards their seats. “We talked about this, Xander. We’re supportive of the life decisions and interspecies relationships of others even when they make no sense and don’t benefit us in any way.”
“That’s my girl,” Xander says. “A true romantic at heart.”
When Willow looks back, Spike is standing under the arch next to the canopy and fidgeting with the daisy in his buttonhole. Buffy escorts her mother to her seat, and before she sits down, Joyce hugs Buffy so tightly that Willow doesn’t know how Buffy can breathe. Then Buffy hurries over to where Willow and Giles wait for the wedding to begin.
Buffy’s brilliant smile dims when she links arms with Giles. She says, “If only you could see me, Giles. If only you could see me on my wedding day.”
Willow looks away. She wishes the music was louder. She doesn’t want to hear this conversation.
“It’s alright, dear,” Giles says. “I can see you very clearly. And you’ve never been more beautiful.”
They walk down the aisle to “The Wedding March,” Spike waiting at the end with a look on his face Willow has never seen before. He seems vulnerable somehow, vulnerable and tense, like he wants to be angry but has forgotten how and can’t stop smiling instead.
Giles clings tightly to Buffy’s arm. He doesn’t move with that easy grace he used to have; he’s fumbling now, bumbling—more afraid of the darkness than Willow ever gave him credit for. Losing his sight has changed Giles in ways that surprise Willow, ways that make her wonder if he’s been robbed of more than his vision. Willow listens as Giles gives Buffy away to Spike, as he relinquishes his position as the most important man in Buffy’s life to someone he considered less than a man a year ago.
When Willow leads him back to his seat, Giles looks at her with unseeing eyes and squeezes her hand, hard. “Tell me,” Giles whispers, and his voice catches. “Tell me how beautiful she is.”
Willow can’t answer. She squeezes his hand back, takes her place again at Buffy’s side, and tries not to wonder what they’d all be doing today if she’d never started practicing magic.
D’Hoffryn sends her back into chaos and blood. Willow takes a deep breath and says, “Let the healing power begin. Let my will be safe again. As these words of peace are spoken, let this harmful spell be broken.”
And nothing happens.
“Willow!” Anya shouts. “Where did you come from?” She can barely be heard through the clamor of so many demons fighting their way into the crypt.
Willow says, “It’s a long story,” and then she doesn’t have time to say anything else for quite some time.
Everyone almost dies. Willow can barely think the words, but they’re true. Everyone almost dies, herself included. Later, when Giles’s couch is stained with blood, and Xander’s arm has been splinted, and she has warded the apartment to buy them some time, Willow says to everyone, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“Why?” says Giles. “You’re hardly responsible for the dangers of the Hellmouth.”
And Willow realizes they don’t know. No one knows what she’s done.
She repeats the words to the spell every morning when she wakes and every night before she falls asleep, but Buffy and Spike still insist they are in love. She searches Giles’s library for different words to say, different spells to cast; she calls his old Council contacts under different pretexts and tracks down the useless scrolls they suggest she find, and still Giles remains blind. She calls D’Hoffryn to her, and he laughs in her face, and Xander still can’t leave the wards surrounding Giles’s apartment without something green and scaly trying to disembowel him.
In the end, Xander is the only one Willow manages to help. She can’t lift the original spell, but she adds another, one designed to repel demons and keep Xander beneath their notice. The spell isn’t foolproof; Xander is attacked with more frequency than the rest of them, and the spell has to be renewed often so that it doesn’t lose its strength, but he can walk down the sidewalk now without attracting every demon in a seven-mile radius.
Giles is blind, and Spike and Buffy are in love, and Xander is as safe as he’s ever been. After awhile, Willow starts to forget that their lives haven’t always been just as they are.
Spike and Buffy are slow dancing to Joy Division, arms around each other, lost in their own little world. Clem has convinced Joyce to dance, too, and she finally seems to be enjoying herself. Into the warm, island night, Ian Curtis sings, “Love, love will tear us apart again,” as Xander twirls Anya out to the length of his arm and reels her back in again.
“It’s better this way,” Willow thinks and leans her head on Giles’s shoulder. Giles is her rock now in a way that he never was before. He needs her like no one has needed her since Oz left. Willow would give him back his sight if she could, but she wouldn’t change how close they’ve grown, how much his trust means to her. And Buffy is finally in love with someone who loves her back one hundred percent. Spike isn’t who Willow would have chosen for Buffy’s happily ever after, but she’s glad that Buffy isn’t alone anymore. It doesn’t hurt that Buffy and Spike are stronger as a team than they are separately; Spike works with them instead of against them now, and the Hellmouth is a heck of a lot safer than it was before.
On the dancefloor, Xander’s aura flickers. She’ll have to cast the protective spell on him again soon. She’d hate for Buffy’s reception to be overrun with demony types. The spell takes more and more out of her as time passes, and Willow’s not looking forward to two days of headache and nausea. Fortunately, everyone will assume she’s hungover rather than magically drained. Casting isn’t too much for her, not yet, but one day soon, Willow won’t have the power to keep Xander safe any longer. Willow won’t let Xander down, though. She’s got a plan. When they get back to Sunnydale, she’s looking up this guy named Rack. Apparently, he’s the go-to guy in the magic biz, and she’s heard he might be able to help.