"What time is your dad getting here?"
"Around six," Buffy answered. She glanced at the clock on the library wall as she added the stake she'd been sharpening to the pile on the table. "Which means I should be heading home."
"Did you know that after tomorrow, when you say 'home,' you're going to be talking about Spike's apartment?" Willow said with a grin.
Buffy returned the smile. "Oh yeah."
Time had passed rapidly for the Slayer. Just yesterday it had seemed like she was introducing Spike to her dad. Now, in less than twenty-five hours, she was getting married.
She couldn't wait.
Between slaying, finishing school and preparing for the wedding, the past few months had flown by. She had earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in May, and would be starting her graduate studies in the fall... as a married woman.
She was the first Slayer to ever marry, finish both high school and college, and was rapidly approaching the magical age of twenty-four, which would put her in the running for the oldest Slayer in history. Giles was ecstatic, according to Willow. The redhead had told Buffy that Giles couldn't stop bragging to his friends and to the Watcher's Council, who'd said he wouldn't make it as a Watcher.
"Well, I should go," Buffy said, rising from her seat. "I'll see you at seven for the rehearsal--"
The two girls' eyes shot to the library office at the loud exclamation, then they looked at each other. Buffy felt a knot form in her stomach. "Why am I getting a really bad feeling?"
"Probably because Giles rarely yells like that," Willow said nervously. "Maybe he dropped his teacup."
But both girls knew that was wishful thinking.
Giles came out of his office, with an open book in one hand and his glasses in the other. His brow was furrowed in an unhappy frown and, when he raised his gaze to Buffy, a look of sorrow flashed across his features.
Buffy sighed and collapsed back into her chair. It never failed, she thought. "So, Giles, tell me, how is this special occasion going to be ruined by the Hellmouth?"
"Why the soddin' hell am I doing this again?" Spike asked as he came out of the bedroom, tucking his shirt in his dress slacks.
"Because you're whipped," Angel replied, not looking up from the magazine he was flipping through. He was seated on Spike's couch, which was doubling as the dark-haired vampire's bed for the night because Hank Summers was in town, and was awaiting to leave with Spike for the wedding rehearsal.
"I am not," Spike grumbled. He sat down beside his sire and began to put on his shoes.
Spike scowled at him. "Shut up."
Angel smirked in amusement. "What's the matter, Spike? Nervous?"
"No," Spike yanked on his Doc with more force than necessary, "I'm annoyed."
"Annoyed? With what?"
"With you," Spike said.
Angel arched his brow. "Why?"
"Because you exist."
"Spike, I'll only be here tonight," Angel said with a sigh.
"I don't see why you have to be here at all." Spike leaned back on the couch and closed his eyes.
"Because Hank is sleeping in my bed--"
"Mate, I know you're boning Joyce--"
"If you want to live to marry Buffy, you'd better not finish that sentence," Angel interrupted with a growl.
Spike cracked an eye open and looked at Angel. "Oh, come on, you sod. You've been living there since Christmas, and the Slayer's not home all the time. And Joyce is quite the looker..."
"Joyce and I are just friends, Spike," Angel insisted. "We're just good friends."
Spike grinned. "Right."
"We are." Angel glared at Spike, then looked back down at the magazine in his lap. He began to snap the pages as he turned them. "We're nothing more than friends."
"Ah, I see," Spike said. "Either you're worried about what the Slayer would think, or Joyce doesn't want your fat arse."
"Drop it, Spike."
Spike sat up and rubbed his hands together. "Looks like I hit a sore spot..."
Angel slapped the magazine shut and abruptly stood. "It's time to go. Now."
The blond vampire chuckled and rose. "What's wrong, peaches? Does Joyce want a personality along with her side of beef?"
"'Along with her side of beef'?" Angel gave Spike a look.
"If the cowhide fits." Spike shrugged, a devilish smirk on his lips. "Unless, of course, Joyce has become a vegetarian."
Angel shook his head. "You've lost me. What do Joyce's eating habits have to do with anything?"
Spike let out a long-suffering sigh. "Angel, Angel, Angel. And I thought you were the smart one."
"Let's just go." Angel headed for the door. "And I don't want to hear another word about Joyce's and my relationship."
"I won't say another word to you, pet," Spike said, smiling at his sire's back.
But Spike didn't promise not to say another word to the others. Plus, if he thought about Joyce and Angel, he wouldn't have to think about the fact that he was marrying Buffy tomorrow.
Because, contrary to what he'd said earlier, he was nervous as hell.
He was getting married. To the Slayer.
Spike knew he was seriously off his rocker. Vampires were supposed to kill Slayers, or turn them. Vampires weren't supposed to fall in love with or marry them.
Spike wondered if it was too late to high-tail it out of Sunnydale.
Angel suddenly clamped a hand on his shoulder, and he jumped. "Crap, you pillock, you startled me," he growled.
Angel's smile gleamed white in the darkness of the night. "You looked like you were about to bolt. Getting cold feet?"
"I'm dead. My feet are always cold."
Buffy hurried to Spike and Angel when the two vampires arrived at the Country Club for the rehearsal. Her jaw was set and her eyes were narrowed in anger. Spike took a step back, prepared to defend himself, and wondered what he'd done now. It seemed that the closer the wedding got, the shorter Buffy's temper was. And her temper grew in equal proportion to his nervousness.
"Angel, call Giles, then tell my mother what you think she should know," Buffy ordered. She pointed at Spike. "You. Follow me."
The Slayer continued past the two vampires and out the door. Spike gave Angel a worried look. "If I'm not back in an hour, send out a search party, okay?"
Angel nodded, then went in search of a phone, while Spike went after Buffy.
Spike found Buffy pacing -- a habit she'd picked up from him -- and her heels sharply clicked on the pavement in front of the Country Club. She was dressed nicely for the rehearsal in a light green sundress and white sweater. If she wasn't so obviously angry, Spike knew he'd be trying to ditch the rehearsal for a quick shag on the golf course.
"Slayer?" Spike said tentatively, keeping some distance between them. "What's wrong, luv?"
"Oh, not much," Buffy said with false chipperness. "Just another run-of-the-mill prophecy about a big evil coming."
"Let me guess," Spike said. "This big evil is arriving about the same time I make a fool of myself just for you."
"And give a prize to the bleached vampire." Buffy stopped pacing, raised her head and let out a frustrated, "Aaargh!"
Spike tried to keep the hopefulness from his voice when he asked, "Does this mean the wedding's off?"
Spike's shoulders slumped.
"I have the dress, I have the Country Club, and I have the seating arrangements done -- which, let me tell you, was no picnic," Buffy ranted. "I've been waiting forever for my wedding day to get here, and there's no way I'm letting some stupid demon ruin things."
Buffy stalked over to Spike, grabbed the front of his dark-grey pullover, and yanked him down to her level. "We are going to get married tomorrow night at precisely 7:30 p.m., understand?" she hissed.
Spike nodded rapidly. "Perfectly. 7:30 tomorrow. Me, you, marriage, got it."
"Good." Buffy released him, took a step back and smoothed down her dress. She breathed deeply, plastered a smile on her face and said calmly, "Now, let's go inside, practice for tomorrow, eat, and then discuss evisceration plans."
Spike watched in awe as Buffy walked back into the Country Club as if she hadn't just had a hissy-fit.
He wouldn't want to be the fool arriving via prophecy tomorrow for all the power in the world.
The bride was grinding her brightly smiling teeth. The groom was fidgeting and looked ready to run. The brother of the groom was having an intense conversation with the mother of the bride. The best man was playing with his dayglo gameboy. The maid of honor was conspicuously absent, as were all the ushers.
Only the father of the bride looked attentive to what Judge Turner, who was to marry Buffy and Spike, was saying.
"...I will ask 'who gives this woman away'?" the Judge was saying. He nodded to Hank. "And that's when you say..."
"Her mother and I do," Hank said.
Spike sighed and looked at his watch. Buffy glared at him, a happy smile still plastered on her face.
"Correct," Judge Turner said. "Then you kiss Buffy's cheek, put her hand in William's, and take your seat."
Hank kissed Buffy's cheek, put her hand in Spike's, and went to sit down beside Joyce. Joyce and Angel immediately straightened in their seats, falling silent. Buffy clenched Spike's hand in a punishing grip. The blond vampire swore silently.
Judge Turner continued. "Next, I will ask if anyone opposes this marriage, which, hopefully, no one will, right?" The Judge chuckled.
Buffy continued to smile.
Spike continued to fidget.
Angel and Joyce continued to sit stiff as boards.
Billy continued to play with his gameboy.
"Dude, I reached level six!" Billy exclaimed, leaning over to show Spike.
"That's swell, mate," Spike said, barely glancing at the gameboy. He really wanted a cigarette. He really really wanted to be in Spain, or somewhere equally European... or Asian... or just not here.
Coward, thy name is Spike.
"If no one opposes, I will first ask Buffy if she'll take William as her husband, and then vice versa," the Judge said, deciding he'd better finish soon before the blond girl's teeth cracked or the blond man ran away screaming. "After that is the exchange of vows and rings. Then, I pronounce you Husband and Wife, you kiss, and you two are married."
"That's it?" Spike asked.
Judge Turner nodded. "That's it."
"Right," Spike extracted his hand from Buffy's, "I'm going to grab a fag, luv. Meet you out front."
Buffy smiled brighter and said through her clenched teeth, "Okay, dear."
Joyce joined Buffy with the Judge as Spike practically sprinted from the room. "Will there be anything that needs to be signed after the ceremony?" she asked.
"Only by me," Judge Turner replied. "The bride and groom and witnesses will sign everything before hand."
"So, if the bride and groom suddenly had to leave--"
"Mom," Buffy hissed.
"That would be understandable," the Judge said with a wink.
Joyce smiled pleasantly at him, then turned to Buffy. "Honey, why don't you go with Angel and Spike and get the others? Your dad and I will bring Billy, and meet you all at the restaurant."
Buffy saw what her mom was doing and her false smile melted into a real one. "Thanks, Mom," she kissed Joyce's cheek, "I'll see you there."
Joyce gave her a tender smile in return.
The Slayer nodded goodbye to the Judge, collected Angel, and made her way out of the Country Club. She found Spike pacing out front, puffing away on a cigarette. Her heart constricted when she realized that, by this time tomorrow, she'd be married to the chain-smoking vampire.
Spike stopped short, turned his head and met Buffy's eyes. Her breath caught at the intensity of his electric blue stare.
And then she was kissing him. It was disgusting and it was wonderful. It made her toes tingle and her heart sing. And she wanted nothing else other than to be right where she was right then.
Angel cleared his throat loudly. "Um, guys? We have a gathering to get to, and a rehearsal dinner to attend..."
Spike pulled away and, as Buffy panted for breath, he smirked at Angel. "You just don't want to leave Joyce alone with her ex for too long."
Buffy's gaze whipped to Angel to see his reaction. The dark-haired vampire was glowering at Spike. "Angel! Don't you dare be thinking about my mother in other than friends ways!"
"I'm don't... I'm not..." Angel sighed heavily. "Can we just go?"
"Mom, you're amazing," Buffy said, looking at herself in the full-length mirror in her mom's bedroom. She turned from side to side, eyeing the back. "Absolutely amazing."
Joyce blushed. "It was nothing, Buffy."
"Nothing?" Buffy eyed her mom incredulously. "You altered my wedding dress eight hours before my wedding and it still looks spectacular, and you call it nothing?"
Joyce made herself busy with her sewing things. "So, um," she cleared her throat, "do you have something old, new, borrowed and blue?"
"Got it covered," Buffy said as she began to remove her dress. "Old is Gram's earrings, new is my underwear, borrowed is your necklace, and the garter Willow got me is blue."
"I can't believe my little girl is getting married today." Joyce blinked rapidly against her tears.
"Mom, please don't cry," Buffy said as she sat down next to Joyce. "If you do, then I'm going to."
"I'm sorry," Joyce said. "It's just that it's going to be so quiet here with you gone."
"Angel's still going to be living here," Buffy pointed out. Her brow furrowed when she realized who she was talking about, and she added dryly, "And we all know what a wild and crazy guy he is."
Joyce laughed. "True. He's more Mozart than Motorhead."
Buffy stared at her mom. "Motorhead? I fear you."
"Speaking of fearing your parent," Joyce began.
"Nice segue," Buffy commented.
"Thank you. I do try." Joyce smiled and patted Buffy's knee. "Seriously. Have you decided whether or not to tell your father about what may happen tonight?"
Buffy sighed. "I didn't want to, but I have no choice. We may need his help in making excuses as to why the bridal party suddenly disappears."
"Well, you go ahead downstairs to Angel's room and tell him. If he doesn't believe you, have him see me," Joyce instructed.
Buffy leaned over and gave Joyce a hug. "You're a great mom, did you know that?"
"Yes, I know," Joyce said. "But it's nice to hear it every once in awhile."
"I've changed my mind," Spike pulled the blanket over his head, "I'm not going."
Angel sighed and yanked the cover off of Spike. "Get up. Xander will be here with the video camera soon."
"Xander can shove the camera up his--"
"Spike," Angel warned.
Billy poked his head around the corner of the doorway to Spike's bedroom. "Dude, you ain't up yet?"
Spike sat up with a growl. "Why can't you lot leave me in peace?"
Billy wandered into the room and sat down on the bed. "Come on, man. In a few hours, you'll be back in this bed," he began to bounce up and down, "making the springs squeak with your woman."
Spike scowled at Billy. "Don't talk about Buffy like that."
Angel shook his head and started out of the room. "Spike, you have five minutes to get out of that bed and into the shower."
Spike gestured rudely at Angel's back and Billy chuckled. The sixteen year old stood. "Want me to leave, man?"
"Nah," Spike swung his legs over the edge of the bed, "you can stay."
Billy plopped back down, uncaring of how he was wrinkling his tuxedo pants. "So, you scared?"
"Out of my soddin' mind," Spike replied truthfully. He'd promised himself long ago that he'd never lie to Billy. "What the bloody hell was I thinking? Marrying the Slayer."
"You were thinking with your dick," Billy said.
"How's that?" Spike frowned.
"If your woman's happy, you get laid more," Billy said. "Marriage makes women really happy, which is why there's something called a honeymoon right after the wedding."
"You're a regular smartass, aren't you?" Spike reached over and smacked Billy on the back of his head.
Billy grinned. "That's why I keep getting detention, according to the teachers."
Spike stood. "Go pester Angel. I want to take a shower and get into that idiotic penguin suit before Xander arrives."
"Okay, dude." Billy stood and headed for the door.
Spike gave the teen a half-smile. "If I look like I'm going to flee in terror when we get to the Country Club, remind me about the honeymoon part again, eh?"
Billy gave him a thumbs up. "You got it, man."
"Have you got everything?" Willow asked Buffy.
"Yep," Buffy replied. She took a deep breath and blew it out quickly. "Except my nerves seem to be missing."
Willow smiled at the blond. "You'll be fine. Spike will be speechless, for once, when he sees you."
There was a light knock on the door to the private room and Willow answered it. "Hi, Mr. Summers."
"Are we all ready?" Hank asked, looking none the worse for wear after finding out his daughter was the Chosen One earlier that day. Willow opened the door wider, and he smiled when he saw Buffy. "You look beautiful."
"Thanks, Dad," Buffy smiled nervously, "I take it it's time?"
Hank nodded. "Billy just escorted your mother to her seat, and your intended looks like he's about to wet himself."
"Dad!" Buffy laughed.
"I'll see you up front, soon-to-be Mrs. Suffolk," Willow said. The redhead left with a smile.
Hank held out his arm. "You ready, princess?"
"Yes," Buffy replied, taking his arm. "I'm more than ready. For anything."
It's not too late to run!, the demon part of Spike exclaimed in his mind, as the processional music came over the speakers.
The approximately thirty-five guests were seated on plush folding chairs in one of the Country Club's banquet rooms. A white runner lined the center aisle, and small flower baskets ran up either side of it. The Judge stood in front in his black robe, and Spike stood to his left, with Billy standing beside the nervous blond vampire.
Spike tugged on the collar of his tuxedo shirt and earned a glare from Angel, who was seated in the front row less than five feet from him. Spike scowled back and shifted on his feet.
Billy leaned close and whispered, "Honeymoon, bro. Think honeymoon."
And then Buffy stepped through the entryway, and Spike forgot he didn't need to breathe.
The white wedding dress was simple, unadorned, and molded to her small curves. It fanned behind her into a short train. A crown made of white flowers adorned her straight, unbound hair. A bouquet of roses and baby's breath was in her hands.
Buffy couldn't take her eyes off of the gorgeous vampire standing next to the Judge. She had never seen Spike in a tuxedo before, and he looked devastating. In fact, he looked so edible, she wanted to skip the wedding and go right onto the honeymoon.
It needn't have mattered if the ceremony actually took place, because neither Buffy nor Spike could take their eyes off one another. They responded to the Judge almost on automation... with a bit of prompting from the maid of honor and the best man when necessary.
"...And by the power vested in my by the State of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife." Judge Turner closed his book and smiled at Spike. "You may now kiss your--"
Buffy, Spike and guests turned at the loud bellow. A giant red and green demon, complete with four arms and horns, charged into the banquet hall. Its bright yellow eyes scanned the room and it let out another roar.
A winded Giles suddenly burst from another doorway and ran up to Buffy. "My apologies," he panted. "I didn't mean to lead it here."
"That's okay, Giles," Buffy said. "I was prepared for something like this. Besides, it wouldn't be a special occasion if there wasn't a big bad present."
The blond Slayer quickly gave Spike a hard kiss. "Love you," she told him.
"Love you back, Mrs. Suffolk," Spike said with a grin. "Now, go kick some demon arse."
Buffy winked at him, reached behind her and drew the sword from the sheath strapped to her back under her altered wedding dress. She then instructed in a no-nonsense tone, "Willow, bustle me."
Buffy bit down hard on her lower lip, and tears filled her eyes. She didn't know if she'd be able to keep control of herself as she watched the dark wood lid of the coffin raise. The dark-suited attendant stepped back, affording her a clear view of the unmoving body lying within. She bit down harder on her lip, and the tears began to flow down her cheeks.
The attendant signaled to another attendant, and Buffy stood by with barely restrained patience as they did their job. She wanted to be on her way before she was overcome by her reaction to the situation. She felt like she was in a waking nightmare with a macabre twist.
Finally, the two attendants finished their jobs, and they were about to close the coffin lid when Buffy lost her stoic composure.
"HAROLD!" Buffy screamed as she ran for the coffin. She threw her arms over the prone male lying in the coffin and put her blond head on his unmoving chest. "No! You promised you won't leave me! Harold! Why did you do this?! Why?!"
"Miss," the attendant said, pulling lightly on her shoulders. "Miss, you need to let us close the coffin."
"No! Harold!" Buffy screeched. "Don't leave me!"
The attendant looked to his coworker for help, and, therefore, missed Buffy's quick groping of the coffin occupant's crotch. Nor did he hear her whisper almost inaudibly, "The stiff's got a stiffy."
The bleached-blond stiff growled softly under Buffy's ear.
"Oh, my sweet Harold," Buffy sniffed loudly as she 'allowed' the attendant to pull her back.
The second attendant closed the coffin lid and wheeled the long wooden object out of Customs. Buffy watched until he was gone, then turned to the attendant with his arm around her shoulders. She gave him a shaky smile. "I'm sorry, it's just..."
"Don't worry, Mrs. Suffolk," the attendant said with sympathy. "I understand."
Buffy nodded, gathered her bags and walked slowly out of the room. She managed to make it all the way to her terminal before she burst out laughing. Her false tears of sorrow, caused by biting her lip until it hurt, turned into tears of mirth.
"Harold" was going to kill her when they arrived in France for their honeymoon.
"May I have your attention, please. Air France, flight number 1523 bound for Paris, is now boarding. Please have your tickets ready for the gate attendant. Thank you."