"Spike, quit squirming. You'll only make it worse." Xander put his hands firmly on Spike's shoulders. "Now stand still and let me tie this thing properly."
"If you don't get it tied, will they call the whole thing off?"
"No, you'll just look silly with your bow-tie dangling around your neck." Xander paused. "Do you *want* them to call the whole thing off?"
"Er, can we still go on the honeymoon if they do?" Spike was carefully not meeting Xander's eyes.
"Yeah, I guess." It was hard to keep the pout out of his voice. So hard, in fact, that he didn't bother. "But if you just wanted to go somewhere and have sex, why did you ask me to marry you in the first place?" The fact that *he* had been the one to convince *Spike* to go somewhere else to have sex hadn't escaped his memory-- he was just studiously ignoring it in favor of putting his lover on the spot.
"Didn't say that I didn't wanna *marry* you. Just...do we have to have the whole bleedin' ceremony? Can't we just sneak into the bar and let him say 'I now pronounce you hitched' and be done?" Spike was fidgeting, tugging at his jacket, interfering with Xander's tying of the bowtie, and slipping his fingers under Xander's cummerbund.
Xander sighed patiently. "No. Three months ago, we could have done that. *Before* we told Cordelia. Now.... Do you remember what she did when you forgot to order the caviar for that Easter party she threw?"
"Nope, can't say as I do." Spike looked mildly confused. "Must be the lingering effects of the concussion from the bottle of wine she threw at me."
"That was the first thing she did. If you really don't remember what came next, I'm not gonna be mean enough to remind you. My point being, if you ruin *this* party, I'll be a widower before you can carry me over the threshold."
Spike sighed, just hard enough that Xander knew it was purely for effect without being obvious about being for effect. He was tempted not to ask what Spike was up to, and just finish tying his mirror-deprived fiance's tie.
Most of the time, after all, he enjoyed the things that Spike got up to. Most of the time Spike made sure they were enjoyable. But this was niggling at him. There was mischief in the air, and while he loved mischief as much as the next good-guy-in-love-with-a-kinda-evil-guy, there wasn't just Cordelia out there to fear. There was an army of women out there waiting for them. All of whom had planned this thing down to the last detail, and wisely shared as little as possible of it with the two of them. And if Spike blew it...
"Okay, what are you thinking," he finally asked, with much trepidation, as he pulled the silk ribbon just tight enough to not-quite-choke his vampire.
"Ack! Careful, there." Spike reached up to pull at the tie, and got his hand batted away. Which made him pout. "S'not fair, you beating on me when we can't have a quick shag." There was a pause. "Er, can--"
"We've already done it three times in the last two hours!"
Spike blinked at him. "So? You're gonna say we've never done it more'n four times in two hours? Because you'd be lying...." Spike smiled. "And then I'd have to spank somebody for being naughty."
"No." Xander firmly squelched his desire to be that somebody. "I'm saying we already have our pants -- if you want to call them that -- on, and it took a damn shoe horn to get us into them in the first place."
Spike looked down at Xander's pants, and for some reason just the looking made Xander squirm and think that a shoe horn really wasn't all that difficult to use. Practice made perfect, and all that. "Shoulda got *you* a pair of those blue and white striped swim shorts," Spike said casually.
Xander faked left, faked right, faked a pout. "You don't think I look better in black?"
"Yeah, I'm just saying. Love a little white stripe, right about--" And he put his finger right where one of the stripes would have been, and traced its imaginary path.
"Ssssssspi--ike!" Xander hissed. "I love you. Very, very much. But if you make me walk out in front of my *grandparents* with a boner, I'm going to...have *Cordelia* help me think up something mean for me to do to you."
Spike dropped his hand, but looked up at him. "You wouldn't."
"He would. I would. Are you two *ever* going to be ready?" Cordelia stood in the doorway.
"Almost," Xander promised. "Just let me fix Spike's hair."
Not that he'd saved this until last because he wanted something really distracting to do before walking out there. Not that he was remotely nervous. He just wanted to be the one who got to run his fingers through that grown-out honey-colored mop, and if he'd let that be part of the pre-wedding preparations, it would've been Cordelia doing it.
"You're gonna fix Spike?" Cordelia was asking, but the edge to her teasing was missing. She walked into the room and gave them both measuring looks. Then she smiled. "You two look good."
Spike preened. Well, he had reason to, not that he'd ever needed it. The whole undead Chippendale thing worked for him. The tailcoat over the red silk cummerbund, no shirt in sight, and the black swim trunks.... When Cordelia had said trunks, Xander had thought she meant trunks, the kind that were really glorified boxer shorts. Not these lycra-spandex-painted-on-vinyl things. Not that Spike didn't look good in them, but they showed off *everything*. And of course, 'everything' was showing off. On both of them, which was the point of yelling at Spike and his wandering hands.
"Thanks. We'll be ready in a minute-- really."
"Oh, I know." Cordelia came closer and reached up to run her fingers through Spike's grown-out hair. Spike pulled his head out of her reach and glared at her. She stuck her tongue out, then said, "Because you're not getting left alone again until you're husband and husband."
Xander was actually thankful for the distraction from Spike's distractions, although he really couldn't afford to let her know it, or she might think he owed her something. "Fine. Whatever." He picked up the comb from a nearby table and began to draw it lightly through Spike's hair.
He had to stop, once, and glare at Spike when he realized the vampire was subvocalizing. At least that's what Spike insisted it should be called, when anyone not-Spike would just call it purring. Spike looked back at him as though he had no idea why Xander could possibly be chastising him *this* time. "You're making me wanna kiss you, dammit!" Wide, utterly innocent blue eyes stared back at him. "If I kiss you, then I'll wanna do other things!" Eyes stayed wide and innocent.
"And if you try to do other things, while I'm standing here to make sure you two don't mess up this wedding, I'm going to tell everyone that you don't really like each other, and you're only getting married because Drusilla told you to." Cordelia glared at them both, arms folded across her chest.
She was helping, of course, but Xander felt duty-bound to point out the flaw in her logic. "Um.. Cordy, sweet light of my life and controller of my destiny... Don't you think anybody *looking* at us can tell that we like each other?"
"For sex, sure. Who wouldn't?"
"She's got you there, mate," Spike said, still looking too innocent to have been trying to seduce anyone in the dressing room in front of said anyone's ex-girlfriend right before their wedding.
Xander sighed. "Well, you wouldn't," he said to Cordelia, "In high school. Which is utterly beside the point. I mean, don't you think anybody looking at Spike can see that he's totally smitten with me?" He ignored the snort that came from the direction of the hallway. He didn't even want to know who else was out there waiting to take a crack at them.
"Smitten? Hell, I just wanna get those trunks off you." Spike's fingers strayed dangerously near bits of Xander that had finally begun forgetting that Spike was nearby, wearing almost nothing.
"Cordelia? Need any help?" Angel stuck his head through the doorway.
"Would you like to beat up your son for me?"
Angel cocked his head to one side. "Is that a trick question?"
Xander sighed again, this time in relief, and tied Spike's hair back with a piece of red ribbon. "Won't be necessary, but thanks for the offer." And it was always nice to know that Spike was more interested in the contents of his swim trunks than the guy attached to them. Not that Spike *wasn't* interested in him. It was just helpful to be reminded of his fiance's priorities every so often.
"Does this mean I can't beat him up?" Angel sounded disappointed, like he'd been told he didn't get to sneak off and brood in a corner, either.
"Like you *could*," Spike began, and when Angel gave him a fierce look, ducked behind Xander. "Not afraid of you...so long as Xander'll help me hold you down. Er, and Cordelia, too."
"I won't help you hold Cordelia down," Xander warned him. He loved Spike, but he wanted to *live* with him after they got married. At least until he stopped living, then he wanted to unlive with him.
"No, she'll get to help us hold Angel down." Spike nudged him with his elbow. "Pay attention."
"I knew this was a bad idea," Cordelia sighed. "We should have made them get dressed in separate rooms. In separate hotels."
Spike looked at Xander. "Ever notice how sometimes, very rarely, like once or twice an hour, they talk about us like we're not even here?"
"Yeah. Ever noticed how they treat us like overgrown five-year-olds? I wonder why that is." Perhaps because Spike *was*, and Xander was morally required to play along on the grounds that Spike would feel stupid if he were the only one acting like an idiot? That was, at least, the excuse Xander planned to give if anyone ever bothered to actually ask them why they didn't act their age. Hadn't had to use it yet.
"Ever notice how they only seem to really get annoyed if we try to start stripping each other in front of them, if they've got other plans for us?" Spike's fingers hooked into Xander's cummerbund again. "Ow!" He turned and glared at Cordelia. "Remind me why I didn't bite you years ago?"
"Because the only two chances you had, Buffy and Angel kicked your tight little ass?" she said with a cheery smile.
"They did *not*." He hesitated, and added, "And I had three chances."
She frowned, while Xander suppressed a smirk. Spike couldn't *possibly* be talking about the last time Willow messed around with his chip and let him wander around the hotel for an hour with the *ability* to bite anybody he damn well pleased, just to make him happy. Nobody was supposed to know about that.
"You're lying," Cordelia finally said.
"Oh, the horror. Me, lying? When the truth is much more fun?" Spike winked at Xander. "Now she's not gonna sleep for two weeks, trying to remember." He suddenly had a dainty, delicate hand around his throat. "Er, help?"
"You'll wrinkle his bow-tie," Xander reminded her. Though it wasn't as if Spike really *needed* help, him not having to breathe and all.
Cordelia carefully let go of Spike, and sniffed. "As if. Trust me, there's a wrinkle-proof spell on everything you're wearing."
There was a moment of silence, with Spike and Xander casting glances to each other. Then Spike said, "Um, Princess...."
"Yes, we have a de-lusting spell, too." She grinned.
"And you haven't used it yet because?" Xander asked, dreading the answer.
"Because no one asked?" Cordelia said, looking innocent as Spike.
"She's gonna make us beg," Spike stage-whispered.
Xander was *not* going to beg. He was *not*. He looked at Spike. "You wanna elope?"
Cordelia just laughed. She knew damn well that he wouldn't dare. Spike didn't even bother answering. Xander sighed, for the umpteenth time so far today. Looked at Spike again. Looked down at himself. Thought about fried Spam and pickle sandwiches. Looked at Spike. Looked down at himself. Looked at Cordelia.
She raised her hand, then stopped. Looked at Angel. "I'm not sure I have any left, after dusting you three." Angel shrugged, a 'what can you do?' expression on his face.
"She's making us beg," Spike said.
"I don't see you begging," Xander objected, glaring at his gleeful fiance.
Spike looked surprised. "Why would she wanna see *me* begging? I haven't the knack for it -- all gangly, and my posture's bad."
"Look, if you make either of us go down on our knees before you de-lust us, you won't like the results," Xander said to Cordelia after whapping Spike firmly on the head with the comb.
"Man's got a point," Angel put in.
"Why? If they're *both* on their knees, they can't do anything obscene."
"Think about who you've just said that about," Angel told her.
Spike was leering at Xander. "I wanna see Xander beg," he piped up.
Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Which is reason enough for me not to make him." She reached into the pocket of her bathrobe and pulled out a small phial of glittery dust. When Spike pulled his best 'I'm the cutest vampire on the planet, don't you want to make me happy' pout, she smacked him, right on the tails of his tailcoat.
"Oo! Do that again?" He wriggled his bum -- then froze. "Oi! Fuck all, that stuff works fast." He pouted at Xander, then stopped. He got a funny look on his face.
Xander raised an eyebrow. What now? "Yes?"
"I feel the same." His voice was soft, and his cockney accent had vanished entirely.
Xander wasn't entirely sure what he was supposed to say to that. Mostly because the English language had completely deserted him. "Oh." He tried for a smile, and wasn't quite sure what he got, because he was too busy looking at Spike to look in the mirror. It was really all he ever needed to know.
"Can you grab them both? Or should we just bring everyone into the hallway?" Cordelia asked.
"Shh. I'm feeling mushy," Angel answered.
"Oh, God, not you, too?" Cordelia put her hands on her hips. "People, this is a wedding! You can get mushy later-- we've got a show to put on!"
But Xander was too busy kissing Spike to pay much attention to her, and Angel was kind of sniffing in the background, sounding like big giant vampires were allowed to brood, but not actually *cry* at weddings.
"Oh, come on, you can do that later. In front of *everybody*." Cordelia tugged on Xander's arm. She sounded suspiciously...mushy, herself. Xander finally let go of Spike -- his lips, at least, and turned to her. She smiled, happily. Then whapped their arms. "We're almost out of all the allotted 'groping in the dressing room' time."
"Well, since you de-lusted Spike, I think we're about done groping," Xander pointed out. Cordelia smiled, and pointed downwards. Xander obligingly looked down-- and realized that sometime while he'd been kissing, she'd dusted him, too. Either that, or the fried Spam and pickle sandwiches were finally having an effect. "Oh."
"The de-lusting of the wedding party has been completed. And I still have some left for any of the guests who are still in need of it."
"Who--no, don't tell me," Angel corrected himself.
"Well, everybody's wearing swimsuits of one kind or another." She made a face. "Some more fashionable than others."
A nasty thought suddenly flittered through Xander's head, and his brain ran after it, trying to catch it with a butterfly net. "Um... Cordy, you didn't by any chance get this spell from Ethan, did you?"
She grinned, evilly. When Xander groaned, she laughed. "Relax. I got it from Wesley and Willow. Although...no. Never mind."
Spike looked at Xander. "I bet I could bite her -- ow! Dammit."
"Bite her what?" Xander supplied, since they'd flipped for it a few hours ago, and it was his turn to be the straight man. So to speak. Of course, they'd flipped *Xander* for it, and he'd called heads knowing full well that he'd end up face down, so the whole thing was pretty much voluntary on his part.
"Bite her *anything*," Spike complained. "All I asked was that on my wedding day, I get to bite people. Is that so much to ask?"
The frightening part was that Xander almost thought he sounded reasonable. "You can bite me. Later," he promised with a smile. "Come on, she's right. It's time to go face the roaring crowds."
"Nobody's roaring, yet," Cordelia corrected. "We locked up the liquor with chains, padlocks, *and* a newt-spell."
"And that's stopping them how?" Spike asked.
"OK, it's time," Cordelia announced, without even looking at a watch. "Angel?"
Angel nodded, and headed for Spike. "Excuse me, where are you taking my vampire?" Xander more or less politely asked as Angel disentangled Spike from his arms.
"Don't worry, you'll get him back," Angel assured him. Spike gave Xander a panicked look, as if he wasn't sure Angel was telling the truth.
"Oh, relax! You guys have to enter from opposite sides of the room," Cordelia said, guiding Xander towards the door as well. "Giles!" she shouted down the hall. "I've got yours, if you're ready to come and get him."
Spike looked at Angel again, then back at Xander. He mouthed the words 'meet you in the car!' before Angel dragged him out of the room.
"He'll be fine. *You'll* be fine," Cordelia reassured Xander. Then Giles appeared in the doorway behind her. "Oh, good. He's all yours. For five minutes." She gave Xander a kiss on the cheek. "Good luck!" she said, then she left the room.
Xander shot a nervous smile at Giles, who looked just as nervous. "Um...you're not gonna give me the speech about the birds and the bees, are you?"
"Do you need one?" Giles asked, semi-seriously.
Xander shook his head. "I think I've got it covered. Also the one where the little boy birds who hang out with the little boy bees miraculously don't make any tiny little bee-birds."
Giles nodded. "Good. Then we'll skip that talk." He fell silent and for a moment just looked at Xander with a quiet, restrained smile of pride.
"And you're not gonna give me the 'if he ever cheats on you I'll stake him for you' speech, are you?" Xander asked when the silence got to be just a little too mushy. "Because I've already had that speech from at least five different people. And I mean *today*-- I'd run out of digits if I tried to count anything earlier."
Instead of answering, Giles just walked over. He reached up and cupped Xander's cheek. "If you had been my own," he began. Then he stopped, and placed a kiss on Xander's forehead. "I couldn't be more proud. Um, except for the bit about my car."
"I bought you a new one, didn't I?" Xander protested, still feeling the spot on his forehead as if he'd been burnt. Wondering if Giles would spontaneously combust if he told him it would be okay to kiss him on the lips. Spike, among other people, wouldn't mind.
"I *meant* that one."
Which he wasn't supposed to have found out about. Spike had *assured* Xander that the demons they'd hired had exactly replicated the car down to the molecule. "Um..."
"It didn't have that new car smell."
"Ah." Or possibly Giles was lying, and he had better connections with that particular clan than Spike did. You never knew, with Giles. "Next time, I'll be sure to remember to have them include that. Unless you'd rather it smelled like movie theatre butter?"
"Er, no, thank you. Not unless there's real popcorn attached to the smell." They fell silent again. Right before the silence could grow awkward, Giles said, "I'm supposed to be saying something meaningful and poignant. But I've been unable to think of anything. I've been working on my speech ever since you asked me if you were living under a curse."
"The day Spike proposed to me? Or the first time, when I banged down your door and told you I'd kissed him and could you please check me for signs of possession or early senility?"
"The first time, actually. I wasn't going to admit to it, though. I have, however, thought of something I should give you. Not a speech, as such, because I think you've had plenty of chances to benefit from my wisdom--"
Xander gave him the most innocent look he could possibly contrive, and didn't say anything, because he knew it would drive Giles bonkers.
"Anyhow, I've your wedding present. Won't be able to give it to you until you get back from your honeymoon. Just wanted you to know, when you get to the reception and there's nothing there from me."
"Ooh! What is it? New car?"
"Hardly. As if you needed one. No, this is something...different." Giles smiled a more wicked smile than before. "Shall I give you a hint?"
Was he kidding? "Tell me tell me tell me tell me...." Xander only refrained from bouncing because, de-lusting spell or no, the swim trunks were tight enough that things would still bounce along with him.
"I thought so. Remember, you asked." He waited until Xander nodded, still eagerly. Then, first, Giles leaned forward again. Kissed him again. On the mouth. Xander was still processing that -- Giles lips! On mine! Kissed me! Who-hoo! -- when Giles turned him around.
And spanked him, hard.
"Ow!" The reaction was automatic. It took a few seconds for the little birdies to stop flying around Xander's head, so he could *consciously* realize that A) Giles had spanked him, and B) it had *hurt*. "What was *that* for?"
Giles blinked at him in surprise. "Oh, for god's sake, Xander. Has getting married killed your brain cells? Oh -- you've been de-lusted, haven't you. I should have thought of that...." He glanced away, shook himself, then said, "Well, let's get going, shall we? We've an aisle to walk down." He sounded like nothing had happened.
Xander was still blinking. Well, if he'd needed anything to distract him from being nervous about walking down the aisle with Spike... "Oh God. I'm about to walk down the aisle with Spike," he gulped.
Giles eyed him. "Yes, well, I'd say you're up to it. One foot in front of the other?"
"Um. Yeah." He looked down. "Which one goes first, again?"
"Start with the left. Always the left." He frowned. "Or is it the right?" He smiled at Xander, more sympathetically this time. "Come on, take my arm."
Xander was *still* blinking, as he wrapped his hand around Giles' arm. "This is all really silly, isn't it. I mean, the wedding thing. The swimsuits. The, you know. Us in general."
"Nonsense. It isn't silly. It's an affirmation of the most important thing in your life. A celebration with friends and family of the most binding commitment two living - or unliving - people could make. Besides which, Spike is as nervous as you are about making a fool of himself *and* there's free cake." Giles gave him a serious look. "Unless you meant the little bowties that your fish are wearing, then, yes, that part is silly."
"Oh god, he didn't put them in the pool, did he? I've told him over and over again about the chlorine, but sometimes he forgets, or at least he pretends he forgets, and I don't know if they put regular water or chlorinated water in this time...""
"Sorry. Left foot first?"
"Left foot first."
Angel dragged him down the hallway, away from Xander. Spike tried to dig his heels in and get out of Angel's grip -- today was his wedding, and he was marrying *Xander*, not Angel. So why would he want to sneak off with his Sire?
Not that they seemed to be sneaking. Everyone they passed just smiled and waved. Or tittered. Spike frowned. They were out of hearing range, now -- he couldn't overhear what Giles was saying to Xander.
Angel finally pulled him into a room.
"Look, you know I don't like you that way anymore, right? If this is some last-ditch attempt to add me to your stable, the answer's no." Not that he'd necessarily say no to the idea of he and Xander playing about with the Sire sometime, but he didn't think Wes and Gunn would go for it. On the other hand, all *five* of them in one room...
"What are you talking about, Spike?" Angel was looking at him, confused.
"I don't know what I'm talking about! Christ, Angel, I'm about to get married!"
A peculiar smile appeared on Angel's face. It wasn't the 'Spike, you're a complete moron and I'm so glad everyone else knows too' smile. It wasn't the 'Spike, you've done something clever and I'm proud of you' smile. There *was* one of those, believe it or not, though it had been so long that Spike sometimes wondered if he'd imagined it. This was something in between, or maybe none of those at all.
"What?" he growled. Or possibly squeaked.
"It looks good on you." Angel reached out and touched Spike's hair. But Spike didn't think he was talking about the long, brown strands he'd grown out for Xander's benefit. "I'm glad you're...well, settling down is the wrong phrase. I'm glad you're happy."
Oh. That. "Yeah. I am." And he was. So why did it irk him that Angel was glad he was? Because he'd been waiting to hear something else, he wasn't sure what? "And Dru's happy, and she's not causing any trouble, so you can cross her off your list too."
Was that what he'd meant to say? He wasn't sure. Angel was trying to be nice, really he was, and Spike could see it. Maybe it was him, Spike, and his all-fired urge to dig at his Sire. Couldn't he leave things alone, even *today*?
But Angel was just looking at him like he hadn't done anything annoying. "You're not on that list, Spike. Haven't been since you started living with Xander." His tone changed. "I think you're on *his* list, though."
"His list of people he thinks he has to be responsible for even though they're grown-up type people who can take care of themselves?" Spike was a bit confused.
"His list of people to be worried about."
Spike thought about that for a second, instead of just blurting out the first answer that came into his head. Amazing what a good de-lusting could do for you. "Yeah. Maybe. We do that. Worry about each other."
Angel was nodding, like he knew exactly what Spike was talking about -- even though he hadn't ever been married, himself. Hadn't made a real commitment to anyone that didn't involve worlds ending and chaos. Although Spike had *seen* Morrie's, after that video came out....
But Angel was still looking at him like he thought Spike was...was...Spike didn't know.
He felt that little growl building in his chest. The kind of helpless one that you had to throw out at the world when you weren't quite sure what was going on, but you had to say *something* or they'd *know* you didn't have enough brains not to try to beat a squirrel in a tree-climbing competition. Which they already knew, but there were certain things everybody just pretended about, and Spike growled, just a little. "What?"
"I wish I could tell you what I really feel. But I'm not sure you'll believe me." Again with the peculiar look, only this time when Angel shrugged, the look segued into a more recognizable controlled nonchalance. He'd always done the vampire brood look better than any vamp Spike had known.
Spike nodded. "Prob'ly won't. Tell me anyway. S'my wedding, I should get what I want." Which was the sort of spoiled-little-kid thing he'd used to say once, a long time ago, and it wasn't doing much for his claim to be a grown-up type person, but sod it. How often did Angel even hint that he might share something of what was going on in that great empty noggin of his?
Angel raised an eyebrow at him, which probably said all it needed to about what he really felt. Then he sighed. Again, telling it all. Then he went and bollocksed it up by saying, "I wish I could take credit for any of this. I wish I could claim the right to be proud of you. All I can do is be glad for you."
Spike wasn't sure what that meant. He *thought* it meant that Angel *was* proud of him, and was being a gigantic soppy Irish wanker about the whole thing, but he couldn't be sure. He *thought* Angel was saying something nice about Xander, too. But Spike couldn't really put the whole thing together, so he was mostly confused, and there was a funny feeling in his chest that wasn't quite like he was going to growl again, and he wasn't sure what that was, either.
He essayed a tentative sound, and yep, that was definitely a squeak, so he shut his mouth and just stood there, being generally discombobulated. There was a twitch on the corner of Angel's mouth, and Spike decided easily that if he smiled, Spike was going to hit him. Willow hadn't fixed his chip so that he couldn't hit Angel -- he hadn't actually ever asked why, figuring it had something to do with the curse, back before it became moot.
Then the great sop grabbed Spike by the back of the neck, pulled him closer and kissed him on the forehead. When he let Spike go, he said, "You'll do fine."
Spike fixed him with a stern glare. "Daft bugger. You've mussed up your hair, you know." He hadn't, but now he'd spend the entire ceremony trying to figure out if it was or not, and everyone would think he was crazy, which was fine, because he deserved it.
Bad enough Spike had to go out there and pretend not to be nervous, and pretend he knew what the hell he was not being nervous about, he had to deal with sire-mush on top of it?
Angel just smiled, calmly. "That's OK. No one will be looking at my hair, anyhow." Which told Spike that Angel was just trying to drive *him* nuts.
"Yeah, they'll all be lookin' at Wesley's swimsuit," he said as quickly as he could, then raced for the door. He'd just reached the doorway when he felt himself being lifted by his jacket. "Careful! You wrinkle me and you'll have Princess to answer to!"
He was turned around, and glowered back at Angel, who was glowering at him. "Don't make me slay you."
"You couldn't slay me if you wanted to -- you'd piss off too many people in line ahead of you," Spike pointed out logically. "Now are you gonna put me down and walk me out there in style, or what?"
A second later Spike found himself dangling over Angel's shoulder. Angel's *bony* shoulder which was digging into his stomach. His hand was on Spike's arse, and he knew that if he said anything, he'd get pinched. He didn't know why Angel thought that would stop him.
"You do realize I'm in a perfect position to bite you on the arse," he inquired.
"You do realize that if my swimsuit has fang marks in it...." Angel trailed off, as if realizing that with regard to *anyone* out waiting by the pool, Angel would be in more trouble than Spike.
"Right," Spike said smugly. "Just so we know where we stand. Giddyup, then." There was a sigh such as one would expect from one suffering the flames of hell for a thousand years, give or take a weekend. Then Angel set Spike down on his feet. Spike rolled his eyes. Couldn't the git decide, already? He held out his arm. "Left bloody foot first, Angel. Then the right one. Lather, rinse, repeat."
"I'm not inviting you to my wedding, Spike. Just so you know." But Angel took his arm.
They were halfway down the hall before it really filtered into Spike's brain, and he turned his head so fast it gave him an ice-cream headache. "*Your* wedding?"
Angel just kept walking towards the pool room.
The music began playing as each pair stepped up to the doorways. On either side of the pool room, not-quite facing each other -- as if they could have seen each other through the crowd in the room.
The crowd was busy staring at the new arrivals -- some whispering, most just staring and smiling. There was a bit more whispering and some laughter when the singer burst into 'If ya want my body, and ya think I'm sexy, come on, baby, let me know...' but a pointed glare from Cordelia in the direction of the curtained sound booth silenced *that* song in a hurry.
It was followed in short order by a riff from 'Rawhide,' the opening to 'Rhapsody in Blue,' three bars of 'Hungry Like The Wolf,' and something that sounded suspiciously like the theme from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, all of which were immediately quashed by increasingly sharp glares from Cordelia Finally the processional began -- for real -- and everyone calmed down in the moment of silence before the music started playing.
As a familiar voice began to sing, Spike, Angel, Xander and Giles began walking down the aisles created by the dark red carpets.
"Now when he was a young man, he thought he'd never see..." By the time the chorus sang the first 'King Tut', everyone in the wedding party was giggling. Well, everyone who wasn't singing along with the doo-whoppy background vocals, or waving surreptitiously at their favorite Dingo. It was probably a good thing that the Host, in complete King Tut regalia, was singing from an elevated choir loft *behind* the spectators. or no one would have been looking at Xander and Spike.
Angel was obviously calling on every bit of patience he possessed, merely stopping and smiling each time Spike did the Walk Like An Egyptian move, which was about every third line, and never ceased to get a chuckle from the audience.
Giles and Xander were having an easier time proceeding, though they had to walk slower, in order not to reach the head of the aisle before Angel and Spike. The only moment of difficulty came when Xander spotted his parents in the crowd -- he gripped Giles' arm noticeably tighter and turned his head back to see Spike through the crowd, dancing again. As if he knew -- but there was no way he could have -- Spike stopped what he was doing, and looked up. Across the room. A second or two of stillness, then he proceeded the rest of the way with Angel, not stopping to dance again.
When they reached the end of the aisles, though still two steps short of where they were intended to leave their sires behind and take each other's hands, Spike let go of Angel and walked over to Xander, taking Giles' place without fuss. They exchanged a smile, then walked the last few feet and stopped.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, to bear witness to the union of these two men," Ethan Rayne intoned. "And the rest of you can watch, as well."
Spike nudged Xander. "He doesn't mean *that* kind of union, does he? Cos I don't mind, but your granddad might have that heart attack if he had to bear witness."
Xander whapped Spike gently on the back of the head and pointed to the table behind Ethan. "Behave. Your children are watching." The three Piranha, complete with illusionary bow-ties courtesy of Willow, were watching the goings-on with apparently avid interest.
Spike shrugged. "Like *they* haven't seen it all before?"
"Just behave," Xander said again, and turned to face Ethan -- who was waiting quietly.
"If there is anyone who has reason that these two should not be married, chuck 'em in the pool now." There was a pause, and Ethan looked around the room. Raised an eyebrow. "No one? Aw, come on."
From Wesley's mouth came the unbelievable words, "Well, it still isn't actually legal in California..." He glared at Ethan, who looked completely innocent. Then a small ball of green fire shot out of Wesley's hand, heading straight for Ethan's behind. A jump and a yip later, the ceremony was back on schedule, with no objections. And no sopping wet Wesley in the pool.
"All right, spoil my fun. See if you get to play with their wedding present," Ethan hissed at him, before turning back to the couple. "It's a really great thing these two are doing. Really. All right, time for the ritualistic murder of the English language. Also known as your wedding vows." Xander and Spike looked at him expectantly. "Repeat after me," Ethan began. "You have the right to remain silent."
"You have the right to do this right or face the wrath of Cordelia Chase..." came the hiss from somewhere behind Spike.
Spike shook his head. "No, these're the right vows."
Xander repeated Ethan's line, with a bigger grin than ever.
"You have the right to an attorney..." There was loud booing and hissing from the audience. "Not one of those attorneys," Ethan said sharply, giving the audience a look. "Anything you say, can, and will, be used against you, whether you said it or not," continued Ethan, glancing down at the book in his hands. "If you cannot afford a lawyer, Xander will retain one for you." He looked up, then, at Spike.
Spike just looked earnestly back at Xander. Xander repeated the line, dutifully.
"You have the right to bother Xander when he's trying to do something serious, as long as you look extremely cute."
Xander frowned. "I didn't write that one." Spike looked extremely cute. Xander sighed, and said, "You have the right to bother me as long as you look extremely cute and give me chocolate first."
"You have the right to snog whenever and wherever you like, as long as Cordelia has given you written permission."
Xander glanced at Cordelia, who looked back innocently. He stuck his tongue out at her, and didn't repeat the line.
Ethan shrugged, then read, "You have the right to stay out of your Sire's rooms." Spike and Xander both glanced at Angel, who was standing nearby in his tails and skin-tight swim trunks and flexing his buttocks whenever one of his lovers' gazes wandered away from his backside. As Xander repeated the line, he tried to peek over the top edge of Ethan's book. Ethan pulled it towards himself and continued, calmly, "You have the right to one bottle of Batham's, as long as you return the filched copy of Powerpuff Girls Hit Mid-High School."
A smattering of giggles broke out across the audience, and wasn't remotely quelled by Spike's fierce glare. It was, however, silenced by a loud 'Shhh!' from Joyce Summers, in the front row. Xander again repeated his vow to Spike, managing to keep a semi-straight face.
Ethan glanced down, smirked, and intoned, "You have the right to never fill anybody's truck bed with cranberry Jell-O and/or have sex in, on, or near it again unless you want somebody to get medieval upside your head."
"How'd he know it was cranberry, I wanna know? Less he tasted it, after," Spike said.
Xander just repeated the vow. Finally, Ethan poked Spike on the shoulder. "Your turn, now."
Spike smirked, and asked, "Xander, do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so long as it gets you shagged?"
Xander nodded fast. "I swear!"
"May we have the rings, please?" Ethan asked.
At that cue, Willow stepped forward, holding out a small pillow with a single golden ring in the center of it. Xander gave a grin to his lifelong friend, before turning back to face Spike.
Behind Spike, Buffy was whispering, "Now, Dru. The ring."
"I think a golden fish jumped up and snatched it from my hand," Drusilla whispered back.
Buffy peered suspiciously at the piranha tank, but all three fish were behaving themselves, and watching the ceremony. "Dru, are you sure you don't have it? Did you check everywhere?"
Drusilla smiled broadly, then frowned, then reached down her red bikini top, pulling out a leather ring with an elastic fastening, and holding it up so Buffy -- and the entire front row -- could see it. "Here it is!"
Buffy hissed. "That is *not* the ring, and I so don't want to know where you got that."
Drusilla looked hurt, but reached down her top once more, and this time came up with a matching gold band. "That one's Spike's. So this must be my puppy-boy's ring."
She held the ring out, and Ethan smiled. "Very good, Drusilla." Dru beamed at him.
Spike took the golden ring and Xander held out his hand. As he slipped the ring onto Xander's finger, Spike echoed Ethan: "With this ring I tell everyone to back off unless they go through me first."
Then Xander accepted the ring from Willow, and spoke the same words as he put it onto Spike's hand.
Ethan turned to Spike. "Do you, William Abelard, take Alexander LaVelle to be your unlawfully wedded husband, in sickness, health, blah, blah, bollocks, utter rot, et cetera, so long as you're not dust yet?"
Spike nodded. "Yeah." Then he growled. "S'not Abelard!"
"Do you, William Heloise..." Ethan began again.
Spike growled again. "All right, it's Abelard. I do, so shut the hell up."
"Do you, Alexander Lavelle Marion, take William Abelard to be your undead, unlawfully wedded husband, in wealth and poverty, and all that same other stuff, so long as you can?"
Xander blinked. "How the *hell* did you find out about 'Marion'? It isn't even on my birth certificate!" Ethan just smiled. "Er, yeah, I do."
"You may now kiss, but only--" Ethan stopped as Spike and Xander grabbed each other. "Briefly," Ethan finished, though neither Spike nor Xander made any sign that they'd heard. Or cared. Or were going to stop, ever.
Until Xander thumped Spike on the arm and everyone heard "Air! Need air!" Spike straightened up and removed his mouth from Xander's, but his arm was still around Xander's waist.
"Then, by the power vested in me as the bloke with the snazziest robes around, and no, don't even try to say otherwise, David, I now pronounce you husband and husband."
Spike looked up at him. "Ain't we supposed to kiss *now* ?"
Ethan shook his head. "You're married now. Married people don't do that sort of thing. So I hear."
Spike and Xander both flipped Ethan the bird. Ethan shrugged. He stepped forward and turned Spike and Xander towards the audience -- having to spin them around as a pair, since they wouldn't let go of each other.
"Ladies, gentlemen, ducks, demons, and fish. May I present to you Spike William Abelard Bloody Harris Wyndham-Pryce Gunn Chase Summers Rosenberg Jones Giles and Alexander Lavelle Harris Bloody Wyndham-Pryce Gunn Chase Summers Rosenberg Jones Giles."
There was total silence in the room.
"They did *what*?"
The band kicked into a smooth-jazz rendition of "On Top Of Spaghetti," the Host crooning the melody line in eerie duet with Oz' electric bass, and the grooms walked down the center aisle. Together, arm in arm.
Directly behind them, Giles accompanied Joyce Summers, followed by Angel escorting a beaming Drusilla. Then there were three women in red bikinis: Cordelia, Willow, and Buffy. Whenever Cordelia noticed anyone looking at her impalement scar, she pointed ahead at the grooms and whispered 'They did it.' After them came four more, in black tank suits: Tara, Anya, Harmony, and Dawn. Bringing up the rear were Wesley and Gunn, looking somewhat unused to not having to make room beside them for Angel's wide-shouldered body.
Spike and Xander led the line around the back of the audience, along the edge of the pool towards the lobby-side doors. Before they reach the doors, when the entire wedding party was spread out behind them, along the pool -- Spike and Xander ripped off their tailcoats, then jumped.
After they surfaced, and the applause died down, the wedding party followed suit, then the assembled guests, and the splashing soon drowned out the band's reggae version of 'How Dry I Am': at least the first few measures, before the band joined everyone else in the pool.
The appetizers were a bit soggy, but that was to be expected, considering the theme of the reception. It was also why they were mostly fruits and veggies that could handle getting wet. Much like the wedding party, Cordelia thought. She hadn't tried to steer anyone into the dining hall, where the rest of the reception was set up, until at least a third of the guests were sitting on the edge of the pool, rather that trying to keep cheating at splash-tag. She'd noticed a certain vampire and his two lovers in a corner of the pool, trying to pretend they were alone, but hadn't had to go annoy them.
Dawn had done that, in her stead. Done a rather nice job of it, too. Bouncing the beach ball off Angel's head was a wonderful touch. Bouncing the beach ball off Angel's head for ten minutes straight was just evil enough to make Cordelia glad that Dawn was on *her* team. And Dawn was the perfect team-member for the job, since no one was going to mess with the Slayer's little sister, even if she wasn't all that little anymore.
Cordelia had noticed right away that Justin hadn't shown up at the wedding with Dawn, but no one had offered Cordelia any gossip as to why. That meant it was either a touchy subject, or utterly trivial. As guests began responding to her directives to head in for the reception, Cordelia grabbed Dawn by the arm.
"So! Where's Justin?"
Dawn made a face. "Flu. Didn't want to make anybody sick. I pointed out that half the people who'd be here are immune anyway, but I guess he has a point."
"Well, kinda... duh." She knocked lightly on Dawn's head with her knuckles. "Like this place isn't gonna be loony enough without everybody yakking up the canapes into the pool?"
"Oh, I know. Just... kinda feel like I'm the only one here without a date, y'know?" Dawn glanced over her shoulder. She quickly composed her face. "I think weddings are supposed to be like that -- either you propose to your boyfriend, or you get morose because you can't." She grinned.
Cordelia's nose pricked. It always did, when there was gossip in the air. She couldn't help it. It was like passing a White Castle and not getting sucked in by The Crave. Or like passing Xander and Spike's suite and not being able to tell when they'd spilled the strawberry lube all over the living room floor. Again. "Do I detect a hint of non-moroseness, Dawn Aileen Summers? Like, if he'd been here, you might..." Dawn just gave her that mysterious half-smile that Cordelia had spent *years* teaching her. Cordelia was torn between pride and frustration. "You *will* talk, eventually."
Dawn raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really?" Then she grinned again. "Well, you know about Angel and Wes and Gunn, right? I mean, I don't think he's actually asked yet, but--"
Cordelia's hand tightened on Dawn's arm. "You are kidding me." She had to be -- this was the sort of thing that *she* would know, first. Possibly second, after Spike. But Spike would never be able to keep it a secret, unless...unless he were immediately distracted. By, say, getting married. Her eyes narrowed at the younger Summers. "You just said that so I wouldn't make you confess about Justin." Dawn blinked big blue eyes at her. Cordelia shook her head. "Doesn't work for Spike, ain't gonna work for you, chickie-baby."
"I'll tell my sister on you, and she'll beat you up," Dawn said, on hand on her hip, for all the world as if she were a snotty fourteen year old again, instead of just about to graduate from college a year early.
"Um, yeah, you'll tell your sister about how I forced you to give me the scoop on her ex-boyfriend and his boyfriends? Or, alternatively, her little sister's impending somethingorother?"
Dawn bit her lip for a moment, as if weighing the options, then grinned. "Okay, you got me. I know nothing. I don't really think Angel's romantic enough to do something like that, anyway. Only girls get all soppy and hormonal at weddings, right?"
"And your somethingorother?" Cordelia asked, as she and Dawn trailed the last of the guests towards the dining room. She had faith in Spike and Xander to handle things properly from this point -- food, and opening presents. Even if they did everything in the wrong order, they could wave it off as part of the New Wedding. It was almost over, anyhow, and *this* was important. Dawn looked innocent. "I suppose I could call Justin. See how he's feeling, poor boy -- home alone with the flu."
"Don't you dare!"
"Aha! So there *is* something!"
Dawn gave her the big blues again, but this time they were the 'You're my friend and mentor, and you wouldn't want to make me cry, would you?' eyes. "Maybe. But I'm not at liberty to say, until... Well, until I know I won't make a fool of myself, you know?"
Cordelia stuck out her tongue. "Oh, like he'd say no. Child, he played strip lasertag with Spike and Xander to make you happy."
"Yeah, and managed to come out of it still wearing boxer shorts and a t-shirt because the dork-boys were too busy aiming at each other." Dawn rolled her eyes.
"Well, we *did* tell him it wouldn't be too painful, didn't we?"
"Yeah, then when he asked why no one *else* wanted to play, he almost left for Barbados."
"Barbados is nice." Cordelia looked through the crowd gathering around Spike and Xander. "Come on! We're going to miss the best part."
"What, where they smear each other with cake?" Dawn sounded like she'd just as soon miss what would, no doubt, be turned into an excuse for Spike to lick Xander in front of everyone. 'Cleaning him up for the photos'.
She let Cordelia drag her towards the table, though. "No! The part where they hand out pieces of chocolate cake. Duh!" Sure enough, there were plates of incredibly moist devil's food cake being passed around the room as the two women took their seats at the head table. Also, sure enough, both grooms' faces were suspiciously clean, and still shining.
What ended up on the plate in front of Cordelia was not, of course, cut from the wedding cake. *That* was still safely displayed on a lower table in front, where everyone could see it, and safely protected by a shield-spell, so that no one, meaning Xander and Spike, could actually touch it.
Four-tiered, chocolate from top-to-bottom, it was a masterpiece of Spike and Xander's personal brand of insanity. A sort of curvy slide thingy that looked like one of the chutes from a chutes-and-ladders game, made of carved Swiss chocolate, ran around and down from the top of the cake to the bottom, flowing with melted fudge sauce that filled up the surrounding moat. In that circle of sauce bobbed about twenty miniature yellow bath ducks, and a little boat containing seated Spike and Xander figures. The boat would bump its way through the ducks, get pulled into a little central elevator thing, lifted to the top of the cake, then sail happily down the fudgy waterslide again.
Spike swore the figures weren't wearing any pants, and that they were anatomically correct -- to scale, of course. Cordelia was willing to take his word for it. They'd had to order other cakes, because the baker swore that once he finished with his creation, anyone who so much as licked a fingerful of frosting would get turned into a newt. Spike had wondered how that was going to stop him, until Xander had whispered into his ear. Cordelia hadn't wanted to know what he'd said, she was just happy no one seemed to be trying to subvert the shield-spell.
She had noticed earlier that one of the ducks looked exactly like Morrie -- and that another looked exactly like Gunn, were he turned into a duck. She'd been afraid to look closely at the others, to see if she recognized anyone else.
"So," she said after licking chocolate frosting off her fork. "How much time are you giving him?"
Dawn looked carefully at her plate. "Uh... you mean, after I get up the nerve to ask him? Or before? 'Cause I really don't think it would be fair of me to count before."
"Do I have to repeat the thing about 'do you really think he'd say no?' "
Dawn looked up, with a strange, sly little grin on her face. "Okay, you got me." She leaned over and whispered into Cordelia's ear. "We got married four months ago, right before we got the new apartment. I mean, knowing how weddings in this family tend to go, I thought sneaking off to Reno was the best idea since Xander came up with holy-water-filled-Super-Soakers."
"And you aren't wearing a ring because...?" Cordelia countered. If this little girl thought she was going to get the better of Cordelia Chase! She hadn't been hard at work as a private eye -- or at least a private eye's personal Vision Girl -- for nothing, all these years.
Dawn looked down at her hand. "I didn't want everyone to know, yet."
"Because...?" Cordelia finished her cake, and eyed the table. She really shouldn't.
"Dawn, do you know what Xander does to Spike when he catches him in a lie?"
Dawn raised an eyebrow. "Blinks and waits another thirty seconds for the next one?" It was Cordelia's turn to lean over and whisper in Dawn's ear. "You *wouldn't* !" Dawn looked at her with as much shock and moral outrage as a twenty year old version of Cordelia Chase might have, and it was just as fake. Cordelia buffed her nails with a napkin, and blew on them. "I'll tell on you." Dawn threatened.
Cordelia just raised an eyebrow at her -- doing it with much more poise as Dawn had, if she had to say so, herself. "Like anyone *here* would stop me?"
Dawn looked around the room. "Giles might. If I tell him you're being mean to me, he'll stop you."
"Uh-huh. Then after *I* tell him it's because you don't want anyone to know you're already," she mouthed the word 'married'.
"But I'm not!" Dawn protested. Then she stopped, and glared at Cordelia, who was laughing. "You did that on purpose."
"Who da woman?" Cordelia asked, not lowering her eyebrow.
"Yourawofuzicta..." Dawn mumbled.
"Oh, Giles," Cordelia called down the table.
"You da woman. Geez! Shut up! Please!"
"Yes, Cordelia?" Giles looked up from where he was trying, unsuccessfully, to stop Spike from dripping fudge sauce down the back of Xander's neck. The de-lusting spells were still going strong, but there was only so much of an effect they could have on *those* two.
"Cordy...." Dawn whined.
"Could you pass me another piece of cake?"
"Er, yes, of course-- Spike, do you *want* to try opening your presents, as a newt? Because no one here will turn you *back*, until three days into your honeymoon." Spike was looking thoughtful, as Giles moved away to get a piece of cake. He brought it over, and gave the two girls a smile. "Seems like only yesterday they were trying to kill each other, doesn't it?" His eyes were shiny.
"Um, it *was* just yesterday. The hose and the elevator?" Cordelia accepted the plate, and scooted a little to make room for Giles, as he pulled up a chair.
"Ah, yes, well. I doubt either of them *meant* it, yesterday."
"What about the thing with the pocketbook and those four wrenches?" Dawn asked.
Giles looked thoughtful. "That one, I'm not so sure about."
"*I* am," Cordelia said. "I distinctly heard Xander say 'Ah, English pig-dog. Now you die the little death, immediately followed by the big death.' I'm just guessing the little death was so good Xander forgot about the other one." Dawn looked at her, then at the cake, as if wondering whether there was something besides fudge in it. "Well, they were role-playing. They're *always* roleplaying. Last Monday they came into the lobby -- with a client there, mind you -- dressed as the Blues Brothers."
"At least they'll never be bored," Giles observed, sounding as though he were trying not to say anything that might be construed as any sort of comment at all. Cordelia happened to know -- though she really wished she didn't -- why there was a sombrero in Giles' closet.
"Yeah, but what about a hundred years from now? Won't they run out of people to pretend to be?" Cordelia asked, trying to think of all the movies, video games, and books the two of them actually enjoyed. One would think the entire series of Bugs Bunny cartoons would be safe, but she knew better. She still shuddered whenever she heard someone say "kill da wabbit".
"A hundred years?" Dawn asked, and Cordelia found Dawn looking at her, with her eyes wide. "Won't...I mean...he...is?"
Cordelia blinked. "Well, no, not *now*, no, but... You didn't know? Spike popped *that* question years ago."
Dawn swallowed hard, like she'd taken too big of a bite of cake. "Um... no. I didn't know that. I kind of thought maybe nobody ever said anything because-- Well, Spike would do that. Stay with him until he got old and..."
"Wrinkly and prunefaced like Giles." Cordelia smiled brightly at the aggrieved look she got from the Watcher-turned-bookstore-owner. "That's a direct quote, don't glare at me."
"I realize it's a direct quote. That doesn't mean you can't paraphrase it."
"So, when...I mean, how long are they gonna wait?" Dawn shot a look over at Spike, who was busy picking up wrapped packages and shaking them.
Cordelia glanced over, as well. "I'm not sure. All Xander ever says is that Spike's waiting until he looks old enough to buy beer."
"That could take another decade," Giles said. They all watched, thoughtfully, as Xander whapped Spike in the back of the head as the vampire tried to peek through the taped edges of one package. "I'd best go back up there and tell them they can actually *open* the things now," Giles added, beginning to stand. Cordelia pulled him back down.
"You'll have a better view from here. Just pass it down the table. Hey, Harmony, tell Spike that he and Xander can open their presents now. Pass it on."
The blonde looked over from where she was sticking her tongue in Buffy's ear, nodded, and returned to what she was doing. Buffy gave her a funny look, then leaned over to Willow, repeating the gesture, without tongue. The motion went down the table, until finally Anya walked over and whispered in Spike' ear. He looked up, surprised, but happy, and shouted back towards Cordelia.
"I can open Xander now?"
Five or a dozen people shouted back, "Newt!!"
Spike blinked at them all, and they could hear him saying something about Monty Python's grail. Cordelia didn't want to know -- not after she'd found Spike in full armor, wandering the corridors of the hotel. They could see Spike pout, though, and Xander laughed once before reaching into the huge pile of presents. That seemed to cheer Spike up sufficiently to get him to let go of Xander's jacket lapel.
Xander made Spike sit down, then he sat down on Spike's lap. Spike peered over Xander's arm and watched as Xander began opening the present. "Who's it from?"
"Ooo, that's from me! Open it, open it," Anya encouraged. Xander gave her a somewhat fearful look, and pulled the wrapping off.
"It's..." he studied it carefully. "Ah... very nice, Anya. Very..."
Spike held up the object. "What the hell is it?"
Anya frowned. "Honestly, Spike. I would have thought you of all people would recognize it!"
"Well, it can't possibly be what it *looks* like!"
"If one of them doesn't figure out what it is soon, they're gonna have pissed-off Anya on their case for a month," Cordelia whispered.
"No, they'll be gone. *I'll* have pissed-off Anya on my case," Giles replied.
As the grooms looked back an forth at each other, Wesley finally sighed in frustration. "It's a Lexmark 2500 auto-optimized, self-cleaning, self-recharging, artificially-intelligent bread-baking device."
Spike looked at him dubiously. "It's a toaster?"
"I also do bagels," the thing in Xander's hand said. Xander looked startled, and for a moment he juggled the thing in his hands so he wouldn't drop it.
"It's scary, please put it away now," Xander said, handing it to Spike.
"Crumpets? Scones? Waffles?" it said forlornly. Spike growled at it and placed it in a large Tupperware-type thingy set aside for Presents Not To Be Taken On The Honeymoon. "I can provide you with nicely warmed donuts," it continued as Xander reached for another present.
Spike growled at it again, more forcefully. There was silence, then, and Spike nodded, satisfied, before turning to watch Xander again.
Xander ignored it, and unwrapped the next present. And blinked. "Bread mix?"
"All I need now is some water," the toaster said happily.
"There'd better be something with a gift-tag from Morrie's in this pile, or I'm gonna throw a tantrum. Just warning you lot," Spike said to the room at large.
"No, you're not, you're gonna be nice and behave. It's not like I can't buy you anything you want at Morrie's anyway," Xander said, reaching for another gift, and handing it to Spike this time.
"S'not the same. If other people buy it, I know they had to actually picture us using it."
"You love me."
"Don't say it so loud. People might hear."
Spike leaned over and kissed Xander on the forehead, to assorted awwws from the assembled multitudes, then pulled the paper off the gift in one quick, obviously-satisfying rip. "All right! The whole set!" Spike held up a large boxed-set of videotapes with, indeed, a gift tag from Morrie's hanging from them. "It's even got the one with Angel in the cowboy hat!"
"What?!" The shocked exclamation was *not* from Angel, but from Buffy. Cordelia looked over, and saw that Angel was trying to pretend he hadn't heard, didn't know, and was only interested in the way Gunn was looking at him. Which would have been convincing if Gunn hadn't been smirking.
"Do these go in the 'taking with' stack?" Xander asked, cheerfully. Extra-loudly, in case Angel was succeeding in his 'pretending not to hear'.
"Hm, can't, love, no VCRs. No television."
Xander turned to Spike and pouted. Cordelia was impressed -- she could see Spike, and everyone else except herself, Giles, and Harmony, melting into a rush of 'must fix'. She still wasn't sure who had learned it from who. She never used to fall for Xander's version of The Pout in high school. Well, almost never. Mostly. But if he'd perfected his technique from watching Spike, he was about even with the master, these days. And only Wesley showed any signs of coming in at a distant third.
"I promise, I'll keep you entertained."
Xander wasn't impressed, or was pretending not to be. "No TV?"
Spike grinned. "They have *big* bathtubs. Bigger than ours. Bigger than the Watcher's. "
Xander appeared to be thinking about it, but shot back a final, soft, "No tv?"
"Books. All kinds of books. I'll read you a bedtime story every night. I'll even bring the pop-up books..." Spike leered.
"All right, that's enough..." Wesley snatched the gift-set away and placed it on top of the toaster, which was still mumbling something about popovers and Yorkshire puddings.
"Pop-up books?" Dawn asked, and everyone around her seemed too pre-occupied to respond. Her eyes narrowed. "I'm not too young to know about such things, you know," she addressed the table at large.
"Yes, but these are pop-up books that *Spike* and *Xander* enjoy. Hell, *I'm* too young to know!" Cordelia told her. They both looked at Giles, who was watching Spike pick out another gift from the table. He was blushing, slightly. "Giles?"
"The first one was supposed to be a gag-gift. I swear, I had no idea they'd...."
"Convince Morrie to start carrying a new line of life-size pop-ups?" Cordelia glared at him. "And the most obnoxious thing is that they have the real children's books too, so every time I go to steal one for some client's kid to read, I have to open it to check and see which kind it is."
"I take it back," Dawn said quietly. "I *am* too young to know."
"Let's just say that 'Pat the Butt' is the most *innocent* one they have from the Morrie's line, and they store it right next to 'Mike Mulligan's Steam Shovel.'"
"I *said* I was too young to know," Dawn reminded her.
"Sorry," Cordelia smiled, sincerely. "But now you know why I told you never to go into their suite?"
Dawn nodded. "I'm thinking I can't wait to get home to a nice, normal, slightly-geeky human boyfriend. The weirdest thing he does is-- um. Oh, look, someone gave them a robe." Dawn blinked. "Someone gave them a robe?"
Spike and Xander were chortling with glee, unfolding the garment and looking it over. Giles groaned. "It's from Ethan, it has to be. I'll kill him. Angel will kill him. Cordelia, I dare say you shall want to kill him as well."
Spike slipped it on over his... well, not much, since his tuxedo jacket was still lying out by the pool the last time Cordelia had looked. He grinned and looked around. Everyone stared at him expectantly. Waiting to see what was so special about a red silk robe, aside from it admittedly looking very attractive on him. He frowned. "Right, what do I have to do to turn this gizmo on?"
"Dance for it? Always works for me," Xander suggested unhelpfully.
"Tie the belt," Ethan said with a dangerous smile. Spike quickly tied the belt...and vanished from sight.
There were three immediate reactions -- that Cordelia noticed. One, Angel, Gunn, and a handful of others yelled at Ethan. Two, Spike's voice was heard shouting gleefully. Three, Giles muttered something under his breath and Spike reappeared.
Ethan glared at Giles. Giles glared back. Spike, however, didn't look remotely upset. He started tiptoeing up behind people and making faces. Tapping them on the shoulder, then skipping out of the way when they turned around. Finally he 'sneaked' up behind Xander and goosed him. Cordelia made a note to ask Wesley where he got the de-lusting spell-- hopefully it *hadn't* been from Ethan. Xander turned around and gave Spike a very, very kind look.
"Um... oh vampire love-bunny of mine?"
"I know. I can hear them giggling. But I got to pinch Anya without getting slapped; it was worth it."
"You didn't get slapped because she thinks she's supposed to get pinched at a wedding reception. Don't ask -- it wasn't me." Xander shook his head, and pulled Spike towards him.
Spike happily let himself land on Xander's lap, and began kissing Xander's neck. Cordelia threw a cup at him.
"Ow! Hey... Hey! She hit me! Is she allowed to do that? It's my wedding day!" Spike pouted at her. Even from across the room, she could tell. Pout number 4. She shivered, and glared back.
"Yeah, but it's *her* wedding," Xander pointed out. "And stop pouting. Especially that one."
Spike turned the only pout of his that Cordelia had ever once fallen for, on his husband, something for which she was supremely grateful. Xander sighed, and kissed the top of Spike's head where the cup had hit. "Here. Open a present."
Spike gleefully unwrapped the next box. Which contained another wrapped box. Which contained another... After the fourth one, Spike growled. "Right, much as I like destroying the paper, there'd better be a pressie in here somewhere...."
He growled again as he unwrapped the fifth box, and merely looked annoyed as he unwrapped the sixth. Cordelia was certain that his mood wasn't being improved by the fact that Xander was giggling at him. Finally, as he unwrapped the seventh tiny box, he simply held it out to Xander. Xander took it, kissed Spike's finger, which made Spike smile again, and unwrapped it. Inside the seventh box were two small gold chains. Xander pulled them out, and looked at the tiny keys dangling from each chain.
"What are--" Xander began to ask. Then he shut his mouth quickly. Spike looked at him as Xander began to blush.
"Oi, are these extra keys to the handcuffs?" Spike exclaimed, happily. He examined the chains that they were hanging from. "Oo, and it's a two-in-one gift! Should we try 'em on, make sure they fit?"
Cordelia shot Glare #26 --and yes, there *were* that many in her repertoire, thank you very much-- at Spike, who shut his mouth and looked totally innocent. "No, you should *not*. I bought them at Morrie's and your sizes are on file. As *well* as whether you wanted the pierced or the clip-on, which, you know, I did *not* need to know, thank you. You could have just listed a model number. And for the record, Gunn, I *have* been to Morrie's mother's place. She makes a mean tuna casserole."
Gunn snapped his mouth shut.
Dawn was looking at Cordelia quizzically. Cordelia wasn't sure which question she was going to ask first. Cordelia just kept glaring at Spike until he put the chains back in their box. Xander set them aside, into the 'take with' stack. Another thing she didn't really need to know. Even if she was glad they liked her gift. But still, eew. Just on principle.
"Cordelia?" Dawn finally asked, as Xander was now reading the gift cards *before* selecting the next gift to open. Cordelia looked over, not needing Giles look of warning not to tell her anything she really *was* too young to know. "What *were* those?"
"Extra keys to the handcuffs," she said, quite honestly.
"Um, yeah, but..." Dawn frowned. "Those chains would break way too easy if they stuck them on a keyring. And why would you want pier..." She looked down at her plate. "Oh. Could I have another piece of cake, please?"
Giles passed her one, without comment.
"Oh! Wow! Joyce, thanks!" Xander tried to jump up, noticed he had a vampire in his lap, and settled for smiling broadly across at Buffy and Dawn's mother. "We've been wanting these forever!" He held up the items so they could all see -- a black model Trans Am, and an orange Dodge Charger with a confederate flag painted on the top.
"You're welcome. It was the only thing I could get without going into Morrie's. Not that I minded, but Buffy kept refusing to tell me where the store is." Joyce smiled misleadingly-kindly at her daughter.
"It's on 15th street," Spike began. He stopped when Buffy took aim with her fork. "You know that thing's not made of wood," he told her.
"But if I hit your tongue, it won't matter."
Xander was still looking at the model cars, looking for all the world like he was going to open the boxes now and start putting them together. Cordelia had to blink at the sudden transition she still had never gotten used to. One second Xander was lecherous, kinky purveyor of smut and sex. The next minute he was four years old. It didn't help that he'd been that way since he was twelve. It should have, but it didn't.
"Next present!" Spike sang, tapping Xander on the arm. "From Wesley. Which means boring, but probably good. Since I didn't piss him off much recently. I think."
"Define recently," Xander said, taking the box.
"Define much, " Wesley muttered.
But Spike took the present back out of Xander's hands, and opened it. Everyone stared, as Spike found himself holding a few slim books. Spike turned them on the side, reading the titles. When his expression exploded into gleeful leering, the stares turned towards Wesley.
"What are they?" Xander asked, trying to turn his head so he could read the titles, himself. "The Cloud Messenger?" Giles' look of confusion turned to understanding, as did Angel's. Everyone else kept shooting confused looks from Wesley to Spike.
"Want me to read a bit?" Spike offered.
"Um... Is everybody in the room old enough to hear it?" Xander looked around. "Wait, what am I saying; it's from Wesley. Sure. Go ahead."
There was a bit of a commotion among the WesGunnAngel trio, then Wesley hopped up and plucked the book from Spike's hands. "Perhaps not."
Xander looked mystified, then began examining the other volumes. "Silk Orchids, the Poetry of Robert Danning... um, okay... Drink the Ocean..." he didn't sound any less confused as he read the titles off.
Spike took one of the books and opened it, flipping to a page and reading, "My heart and loins burn--" The book was snatched from his hands. Spike looked at Xander, bewildered.
"Thankswe'llreadthislater." Xander set the books aside -- take with stack -- and grabbed another present.
"Erotic poetry?" Gunn was asking Wesley.
"Seemed appropriate," Wesley answered mildly. Cordelia watched as Gunn kept looking at Wesley. For the moment, it was more entertaining than Spike and Xander about to discover they'd been given towels. Towels with pictures of a variety of naked demons, true, but still - towels. Wesley noticed that Gunn was still looking at him. "What?"
"You bought erotic poetry and gave it to the Newt Twins?"
"Is there something wrong with them having erotic poetry? They do read, you know. Besides the pop-up books, I mean."
"Yeah, but what I wanna know is why you didn't buy erotic poetry for *us* ?" Gunn was giving Wesley an...interesting... look. Cordelia wasn't quite sure if she'd ever seen it before.
Wesley looked innocent. "Well, for one thing, I already *own* all of these volumes. They're in the bookshelf next to the fireplace."
Gunn's eyes narrowed. "And the reason you never saw fit to mention this before now?"
Wesley looked slightly guilty, at that. "Er, well, for one, most of them aren't in English."
"And the ones that *are* and let's ignore for a minute the whole 'teach me Sanskrit if you want to' thing?"
"Um." Wesley squirmed in his chair. Cordelia was sure it was not due to the soaking wet pair of knee-length swim trunks he was wearing. They'd put towels down on all the chairs, for just that reason. Angel was looking at him now, as well. "I didn't think you liked poetry?" Wesley finally offered, and Cordelia could tell he'd just failed to help his case, big time.
Gunn glared. "Do *you* like the erotic poetry, Wesley?"
She hadn't known Wesley could make the eep noise. Cordelia had been positive that the ability to make the eep noise was limited to Xander, Spike, and Willow. Huh.
"Yes?" Which seemed more like 'Is that the answer you were looking for' than 'I'm unsure of my opinion on the matter.'
"Would you like us to *read* you some, tonight?" Gunn said, suspiciously pleasantly.
Wesley gulped. "Er... yes?"
"Would you like that before, or after we deal with the fact that you didn't tell us you liked it?"
Cordelia had to admit, she was impressed by the man's bravery. Gunn leaned closer to Wesley, but didn't say a word.
"Wow. He really *is* back on the bottom, isn't he? I mean, for real this time." This was whispered from Dawn. Cordelia shushed her, listening for more.
"I thought you'd say 'no'," Wesley said quickly.
"But you don't mind giving them to Newt Boy One?"
"Well, I don't care if *Spike* gets laughed at," Wesley said, with a hint of a snap in his voice.
Dawn leaned over to Cordelia, again, and whispered more quietly, "We need more popcorn."
"Eat your cake, little girl."
"Wesley, we read you classics of children's literature," Angel said to him. "What makes you think we would laugh at the Cloud Messenger?" Wesley seemed stumped for an answer on that one.
"There was a young man from Nantucket-- that, I might laugh at," Gunn offered.
"Who kept all his cash in a bucket," Wesley said brightly, obviously hoping to distract them.
"He met up with a queen," called out Spike. He was stifled by Xander, before he could say anything more. Stifled, then distracted by something Xander had unwrapped, and caused Spike to say, "All right!"
Cordelia wanted to look over and see what it was, but Wesley was being glared at again by Gunn and Angel, and was trying to look cute his way out of it. There was a time when that would have worked instantly, but lately, Cordelia had noticed it didn't work as often. She was eager to know if it would, this time.
"Five bucks Angel caves first," Giles whispered, pulling out a five dollar bill and setting it on the table.
Dawn pulled some coins out, and set them down. "My money's on Wesley."
"Er...I had the books on the shelf for a long time, and I honestly didn't think about it until I bought copies for Spike and Xander. And I was going to ask you to read some tonight, after the Enfants Terrible were safely packed off to England 17B, and couldn't pop in to make fun of us?" Wesley tried.
"You just said you didn't think we liked poetry. Which, as a matter of fact, you know Angel does, so that was a pretty lame try to begin with," Gunn pointed out.
"Er..." said Wesley, again, and Cordelia noticed that he was keeping his spellcasting hand free and at the ready, even as he speared a piece of wedding cake with the fork in the other one.
She risked a quick glance around the room -- Spike and Xander had stopped unwrapping their gifts, and were watching. Spike was feeding Xander wedding cake, or possibly trying to smear Xander's face with icing, which was stage one of SpikeAndXanderHavingSex, which was going to call for a bucket of ice in another few minutes. But not yet. She turned her attention back to Wesley, who was just squirming.
"When was the last time we refused to do something you asked us to do, Wes?" Angel asked in a deceptively calm and conciliatory tone. Cordelia saw Giles glance down at his five dollar bill with a doubtful expression.
Wesley looked up, smiling. "The gilded pipe or--" There was a black hand over his mouth.
Gunn glared at Wesley, then he surveyed the interested crowd. "Don't you folks have something else to do?"
"Wait about for *your* wedding?" Ethan called out from one of the tables in the back.
Gunn gave him a dangerous look, and addressed the crowd in general. "Anybody wanna kill him for me?"
Giles was half out of his seat before Cordelia managed to grab the tail of his tux jacket and yank him back down. He gave her a half-hearted glare, but he knew damn well he was no match for her, so he started shoving cake into his mouth again.
"You know, there's an old quote about somebody who protests too much," she said to him, raising an eyebrow.
"Mrrhp mpph mrmmpmf?" he replied, looking away.
"Just saying. Anya says Ethan keeps popping up in Sunnydale these days. With or without Dru." Giles' eyebrows went up in an expression that was almost wholly innocently confused. Cordelia snorted. "Thought so."
"Excuse me, thought *what*?" Giles asked, sounding even more innocently confused and honestly perplexed. Except he didn't *quite* meet her eyes, right off. Glanced instead someplace over to his left -- with Anya sitting up ahead of him and slightly to the right. Uh-huh, Cordelia said to herself. She shoots, she scores.
"You're still sleeping with Ethan?" Dawn asked, surprised. Cordelia laughed as Giles choked on a bit of cake.
She grinned, then picked up another cup. Time was up. "Hey!" she shouted, then threw the cup at Spike's head. It bounced off, and Spike looked up from where he'd been cleaning the icing off his husband's face.
"Hey!" he protested.
Xander just grinned back at her. "It's only fair, Spike. We got our free seven minutes of snogging. And my tonsils are clean, now, so we can do the toasting."
"Toast?" piped a happy voice from the not-going-with pile. Spike threw the cup at it.
"Is it me? My turn now?" Drusilla was asking Buffy. Buffy pried herself away from Harmony, and nodded. The vampiress stood up proudly and swayed her way over to the two grooms. Xander and Spike both looked at her expectantly, if a little warily as well. There was no telling what might come out of Drusilla's mouth, after all.
She raised a plastic cup of champagne -- Cordelia had figured, rightly, that food and drink would end up flying, and had planned accordingly-- and smiled.
"To my two boys, who always make me feel like I'm still part of the family. May you be happy forever." She kissed them each on the top of the head, then sat down, while those in the crowd who knew her sat in stunned silence, and the rest of the guests clapped, the raised their glasses.
Dawn leaned over to Cordelia, who was just as surprised as anyone. "How many years of therapy did she have to go through to get *that* speech out?" Dawn whispered. "I mean... it made *sense*."
Cordelia caught Xander's sideways glance to Spike. "Does this mean I have to start calling her 'mum'?" He still looked a little shocked around the edges.
Spike started to shake his head, and Cordelia saw Drusilla pout. So *that* was where he'd learned it! Spike quickly said, "Can if you want to." Then he leaned over and whispered something in Xander's ear, which made Xander grin, and glance over at Angel and his Zoobilee Zoo. (The Host had made them t-shirts, and Gunn had voted for wearing them at the wedding. Cordelia had voted him down.)
Xander giggled. Angel growled, softly, and Drusilla beamed at her boys. Cordelia reached over and grabbed another glass of champagne.
"Ahem," Willow interrupted, trying for a serious expression. She was giggling, though, and trying to ignore what was being whispered up to her from those sitting near her. "Spike and Xander..." she giggled again. "No, I am *not* drunk, Biffy. I mean, Buffy." She tried again, and got her giggles under control. "In case anybody wonders, no, I'm *not* drunk. I just tend to babble a little on special occasions."
"Like when she's awake," Spike put in.
"Shut up, or I won't say nice things about you. And I'll take back the spell I did for your wedding night." Spike shut up, and Cordelia grinned. She had been the one who suggested the spell in the first place. Spike hadn't even been told what it was, but if Willow had set it up, he knew it had to be good. And it was.
Willow started again. "I've known Xander since we were..um... Baby Girl Rosenberg and Baby Boy Harris, and he's been my best friend for almost that long. I've known Spike... since the first time he tried to kill us all, but really, he's changed since then. He only does it every other month or so."
Somewhere out in the sea of tables, Cordelia saw Xander's mother sit up straight, and look worriedly up at the head table. When nobody in the audience seemed at all surprised by the statement, and most chuckled, she seemed to relax.
Spike stuck his tongue out. "I haven't tried to kill you since...hell, I can't even *remember* the last time."
"I *am* counting the barbecue last Easter, Spike," Willow said primly. "Anyway, here's to my best friend, and his best friend. And their weird fish kids. And everybody up here tonight," she added, sweeping a gesture that took in the whole wedding party. "Here's to our family, kooky as they might be."
"Who is she calling 'kooky'?" muttered Buffy, and someone, somewhere in the room, sang, "Duh duh duh duh," then snapped their fingers.
Cordelia checked her watch. A little late; she'd figured on chaos erupting at least two minutes ago. She watched, unalarmed, as a glassful of champagne -- minus the glass -- flew through the air towards the person singing "they're creepy and they're kooky."
"So," she asked Dawn, cheerfully. "What are you going to do with your ill-gotten gains? You know you shouldn't be gambling young lady."
Giles muttered something as he stood up, carrying his empty plate and glass towards Anya. Dawn laughed, and looked over her shoulder to where Wesley was sitting quietly.
Angel and Gunn were looking entirely too self-satisfied. Cordelia wondered if Wesley was gonna have to clean the suite and offices, by himself, for a week. Naked. Like the last two times. Not that Angel and Gunn really let anybody get a good look at him doing the naked-cleaning. It was kind of funny. They'd stand outside the doors, looking like Secret Service guys, and whenever anybody came near, they'd say "No entry. Naked cleaning," and growl if you tried to peek. She'd stopped trying to figure out the logic of it, since that meant *they* didn't get to peek either. She'd just chalked it up to "Hmph, men," and gone about her business. Besides, Spike had the place plastered with cameras anyway. Angel never did manage to get *all* of them, try as he might.
Dawn was still grinning. "Hmm. A whole five bucks. What'll I ever spend it on?"
Cordelia smiled back at her. "You could throw it in the dollar dance bin and dance with Spike and Xander five times."
Dawn frowned. "Then I'd have to pick which one I wanted to dance with twice, and which one three times, and one of them would pout at me."
"Nope. When the sign says 'dance with Spike and Xander' it means 'with Spike and Xander'. At least, that's what Spike says."
"Oh!" Dawn perked up. "That, I can do!" Then she frowned. "Um, what exactly is the money going towards, anyway? I asked Spike, and he said 'charity'. But...couldn't Xander already...you know, give more than twenty dollars or so?"
"Oh, they're matching it, don't worry." Then she rolled her eyes. "He didn't tell you which charity, did he?"
Dawn slowly shook her head, casting doubtful glances towards Spike and Xander. "Does it involve sex toys, and third world countries?"
"Close. Sex toys and down-trodden demons. Spike says he wants to give the homeless and poor, free sex toys." She leaned over and whispered, "But don't believe him. They're really giving it to Dem-Fam." Dem-Fam was the demonic version of OX-Fam, and one of the organizations Spike loudly and vehemently denied knowing anything about. Which didn't explain the address labels they kept sending to Mr. The Bloody.
Dawn nodded. And quickly reached into her little changepurse to pull out another five dollar bill, laying it atop Giles'.
"You want *ten* dances with them?" Cordelia asked her. "You're a braver woman than me."
"Actually, I was planing on donating it in your name," Dawn said sweetly, standing up to lean over and drop the bills into the box in front of the head table.
There were a few drawbacks to training someone up in one's own image, Cordelia decided, as she surreptitiously slipped a piece of wedding cake onto Dawn's chair. Which she was expecting, and picked up before sitting down, but it was the thought that counted, after all.
Nowadays, it was futile to deny that he felt some sense of pride in the children whose growing up he'd been a part of. He'd done so for years, mostly to deny that he *was* old enough to be their parent, and partly because it made them squirm. But watching Spike and Xander -- and lord help him, that sounded *natural*, now -- mingling among the crowd, holding hands even when they were facing opposite directions and talking with completely different groups of people, Rupert could not help but feel proud.
It would be silly to think he hadn't had a role in bringing them to this point. Not in getting them together, nor even convincing them it would be all right to attempt a life together. But there had been dozens, perhaps hundreds of opportunities to slay either one. And he hadn't ever taken any. Anyone who knew Spike or Xander, would know just how much fortitude that showed of Rupert's character.
Right now, for instance, Xander was chatting good-naturedly with a large blue Narlithian demon, while Spike attempted to slip his hand into the back pocket of Xander's swim trunks. Except the trunks didn't have back pockets. Wesley's de-lusting spell was slowly wearing off-- as, of course, it was intended to. Though they wouldn't *really* end up tearing each other's clothes off on the dance floor, Rupert hoped. After all, Xander's grandparents were here.
"They look so sweet together," Mrs. LaVelle said to him. He was standing next to their table, mingling as well. One of the sworn duties of the wedding party, according to Cordelia -- who was fulfilling her sworn duty by mingling with the Host. In a cha-cha. Or possibly the Lambada.
"Oh, they are sweet," he assured Xander's grandmother. "Especially when covered with honey and tied to an anthill. Which is one of the many things Cordelia threatened to do to them if they misbehaved during the wedding."
"Oh, don't be silly," the elderly lady lightly tapped Rupert's arm. "They wouldn't misbehave. Xander was *always* a darling...." She trailed off, and Rupert glanced over to where she was looking. Xander was wriggling so that Spike's hand could slip farther into his swim trunks.
"Er, perhaps--" Rupert began, taking Mrs. LaVelle's arm, intending to turn her around so she wouldn't have to see.
Her doubtful expression grew thoughtful. "I suppose...one couldn't actually *blame* him. Why, I remember Maurice had his hand slipped inside the bodice of my-- Mr. Giles? Are you all right?"
He managed to nod, despite choking on the champagne he'd taken a sip of.
"Where are my great-grandchildren, by the way? I noticed someone moved them away from the pool when people started actually swimming."
"I took them up to Xander and Spike's rooms. Drusilla will be watching them while the...er...boys, are gone, I believe." And God help poor Gunn, who was still trying to deal with Drusilla suddenly calling him 'Daddy,' having apparently decided that Angel's Sire-ship extended to all of his mates, as well.
"Quite a lovely girl. I'm not entirely sure how she's related to Spike, though. I seem to hear something different from everyone I ask."
He blinked. "Well, Drusilla is that, indeed. Something different."
"Oh, yes. A sweet girl -- I invited her to stop by whenever she's in Fresno." she'd had too much already. Or perhaps she didn't realize....
"Um, that's not--"
"Oh, and she's offered to take me shopping, tomorrow," the lady continued, apparently oblivious.
"I don't think that's entirely a good idea," Rupert tried again. He couldn't recall if anyone had told Xander's grandparents that Drusilla was a vampire -- that she *wasn't* a vampire like Spike and Angel, i.e. , muzzled. He knew no one had bothered to tell Xander's parents -- he'd been enjoying watching *their* reactions to the various un-human guests. But Rupert -- and Xander -- *liked* Xander's grandparents.
"Why ever not? She told me about this little store-- Larry's? No, Morrie's. It sounds very interesting."
Rupert was quite glad he hadn't taken another swallow of champagne. "Er..." When he looked down at her, he suddenly realized from whom Xander had inherited every bit of the impish wickedness they'd all thought he'd merely absorbed from Spike via osmosis. He bowed his head. "I should quit while I'm ahead, shouldn't I?" The twinkle in her eye was answer enough.
"It might be best. Then again, we wouldn't have nearly as much fun." Her expression grew curious for a moment as she peered into the distance behind Xander and Spike. "There's someone coming in late, it looks like. At least, I didn't see him at the ceremony."
Rupert followed her gaze, to see a large man, about Xander's age, walking through the dining room doors. When he spotted Xander in the crowd, a grin broke out on his face. He made his way, only somewhat like a bull in a china shop, to where the couple was standing, and tapped Xander on the shoulder from behind.
Xander glanced over his shoulder, then froze. Spike was instantly facing the newcomer, and Rupert didn't have to be within earshot to know the vampire was growling. He, himself, was moving forward a step -- stopping as he recognized the young man one second before Xander had flung his arms around Larry's neck. Now Spike looked confused, and Rupert continued forward, gaping in disbelief. He could hear, now, Xander babbling into Larry's shoulder. Rupert didn't blame him -- eight years ago, Larry had been declared dead.
Rupert reached them, and saw Spike tug on Xander's arm, asking, "Xan? Er, who is he?" He repeated his question, then when it got no response, Spike asked, "Can I eat him?"
Xander raised his head long enough to say "Later."
Spike looked confused. "I can eat him later? Are we bringin' him along on the honeymoon, for a midnight snack, or something?"
Larry laughed, loudly. "If a big-ass snake couldn't eat me, I don't think you two could. Ah, unless that wasn't what you meant by 'eat', in which case, I think Xander should introduce us first, at least."
Xander stood back, finally, and glared sternly at Spike. For about two seconds. "I *meant* I'd explain who he is, later, but I should have known you wouldn't shut up until you got your way. This is Larry Blaisdell. He was Captain of the football team at Sunnydale High. He beat me up at every available opportunity."
Spike grinned at the newcomer. "Good on ya, mate."
Xander whapped him on the head. "I learned everything I know from him," he said mock-sweetly. Spike growled, loudly this time, and even Rupert took a step back. Xander just whapped Spike on the head again. "Not *that* everything I know. Just the part about abusing defenseless, dumb creatures. Larry, this defenseless dumb creature is my husband, Spike. Um, Spike William Abelard..." Another growl. "Harris Bloody... y'know, I can't remember. It ends in Giles, though."
Rupert wondered how long it would be before he stopped feeling that little pang in his chest every time he was reminded of that fact. Then again, perhaps he was just having a heart attack. Always look on the bright side of life, his mother had told him.
Larry gave Xander an arch look, which was truly frightening on his somewhat Neolithic face. "Yeah? I thought you were supposed to be straight?"
Xander crossed his arms. "I thought you were supposed to be dead! I think mine wins!"
"You're dead?" Spike asked, casually. Then he frowned. "You're not dead. Can hear your heartbeat."
"Yeah. Sorry; didn't realize you thought I'd died. Right after we toasted the Mayor I figured it was time to get out of town. I've been traveling, hanging out. The last three years I've been living in this little place called Droitwich. Hey -- my roommate's name was Giles."
Rupert decided he needed more champagne.
Larry grinned. "Just kidding, Mr. Giles. Willow found me in the lobby, and told me to say that."
"Yes, thank you. Now that my heart has stopped, I'm just going to go over here and sit down. You all carry on, pay me no mind." Why was *he* the one everyone delighted in toying with? Was he particularly susceptible? Or was this just karmic retribution for having shagged Ethan regularly for two years? And irregularly for... No, he would *not* descend to Xander-humour.
"Hey, you can't sit down, Giles," Xander said, and he looked quite serious, suddenly. Rupert blinked at him.
"Why ever not? Has someone put cake on my chair? Again?"
Xander hemmed and hawed a bit. "No. Well, probably. But that's not what I meant. It's just... We were gonna head over to my parents' table, next." The growl that came from Spike this time was something entirely different from the possessive one he'd just let out at Larry. This was quiet, and very low, and made the hairs on the back of Rupert's neck stand up.
Xander made a shushing noise at him. "We have to. Well, I have to. You don't have to, if you don't want to, Spike."
"You don't have to. Don't have to ever go near 'em again. We can leave for the honeymoon right now. I'm sure Wesley wouldn't mind gettin' away from the boytoys for a few minutes."
The 'boytoys' , as far as Rupert knew, had been taking turns dunking Wesley in the pool for the erotic poetry incident, for the last half hour.
Xander's voice was quiet. "Spike, I have to."
"It's all right, Xander. I'll come along." Rupert reached out and gave the young man's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "I'll even hold them down while Spike has a go at them." Xander turned to him, his 'Spike be reasonable' face threatening to slip into a pout. "Xander, that isn't necessary," Rupert began, gently. It wasn't like he hadn't been falling for that pout for almost eleven years.
"But I *have* to go--"
"I mean, it isn't necessary to guilt us out of threatening them with bodily harm."
Xander blinked. "Um, because you won't, or because I have you thoroughly under my power?"
"I wanna go find Wesley, and make him send us to Disney World. We can offer to take him halfway, get him out of the pool for a bit." Spike frowned, cutely, at his husband.
"You need help beating up his folks?" Larry was asking Rupert. "I'm a bit outta practice, but I can probably take his mom. She doesn't look too tough."
Rupert blinked at him, and blinked again when he saw where Larry was looking. "That's not Xander's mother, it's Carla, Xander's administrative assistant. And no, you could *not* take her."
"Hell, Xander can't even take her," Spike put in. "She makes him eat brussels sprouts with lunch when he's in the office."
Rupert was about to top Spike's Carla-story with one of his own, when he noticed that Xander was quietly trying to wriggle out of Spike's grasp and head for his parents' table alone. Spike noticed at about the same time, because he latched onto Xander's arm like a short vampiric limpet.
"Right, then, we'll get this over quickly," Rupert said, taking Xander's *other* arm.
"Can I help?" Larry asked, sounding a bit doubtful as he glanced towards Carla again.
"Help what?" Buffy asked, appearing with Slayer-stealth at Rupert's side. "Hey! Alive Larry. Not dead?"
"We're beating up Xander's folks," Larry explained. "And not dead."
"Oh! Cool. Count me in!" Buffy smiled.
Xander held up his Spike-encased-hand. "Um, guys? Not really making this easier."
"You're not going over there alone," Spike said firmly.
"That's fine. But could we keep it down to you and Giles, please? Just... I don't want a scene, okay? I know you guys mean well, and I know just about every person in this room would be happy to do something nasty to one or both of my parents, but let's not, and say we didn't?"
Buffy cast a doubtful look at Spike, who looked like he wanted to argue, then nodded. Rupert did, as well. "Yes, perhaps that would be best. It's *not* a production, and this is not their night. It's Xander's and Spike's. We shouldn't let them take up any more of it than necessary."
Buffy finally nodded back, and pulled Larry away. "So, you with the not-deadness. How's that working out for you?"
Rupert couldn't hear what the young man answered, but Buffy's laughter followed them as they moved towards the table where Xander's parents were sitting, looking not one whit more comfortable than they had at the first moment he saw them in the audience during the ceremony.
Xander's mother caught sight of them heading over, and she nudged her husband. Neither of them looked entirely thrilled to see them heading over. No one said anything as they approached, and came to a halt beside the table. Mr. and Mrs. Harris looked up at Xander, expectantly.
Xander didn't say anything, either. Rupert looked over, wondering if he ought to think of something polite to say, but despite all his good English breeding, all he could think of was 'Glad you didn't say anything annoying about Xander while you've been here.'
Spike finally broke the silence. "So. The certificate was from you, right? Thanks."
Rupert looked over at him. Perhaps they'd grabbed the wrong blonde vampire. "Certificate?" he repeated. Hopefully Spike didn't mean the one *he'd* slipped into Xander's tux jacket pocket, which was spelled not to open until they were safely on the honeymoon.
"From Home Depot." Xander still wasn't saying anything, and both his parents were looking at him. Spike cleared his throat. "I hope the traffic wasn't too bad, coming down here from Sunnydale."
Mrs. Harris turned her head to look at Spike, for the first time, and said, somewhat stiffly, "Ah, no. Not until we hit Ventura Boulevard. We somehow got caught in the middle of a parade."
Rupert stifled a grin as he realized which parade they'd probably gotten caught in. It had been organized by the staff of Scooby Inc. He rather hoped they'd gotten an eyeful of Miss February from the _Demon Lovers_ calendar. She would be enough to put anyone off their wedding cake, if he recalled correctly. Anyone not used to ogling Morfosiuf demons, that is.
"Ah, yes. Sorry, we should have warned you. If we'd known you were coming to the wedding," Spike continued. Xander seemed willing to let him, and Rupert kept silent if only to hear what was no doubt a once in a lifetime event. Polite Spike. What next - Buffy doing as Rupert asked, without comment?
"Uh, yeah, we woulda RSVP'ed, I guess," Mr. Harris began, glancing over at his wife. "Our invitation arrived late." There was another glance at Xander, at that, which made Rupert want to rip the man's tongue out. He wasn't even exactly sure why.
"That's perfectly all right," Spike said smoothly, as if the man had implied no fault on the part of anyone but himself. "Cordelia planned for quite a few extra guests."
Xander's mother glanced over at Cordelia, who was still dancing with the Host, and appeared to be having a fine old time. Only Rupert knew that it had required his express assurances that he would personally separate Thomas Harris' head from his body if he even looked like he was going to say anything that would hurt Xander, before she had even allowed the invitation to be dropped into the mail.
"I can't believe that's Cordelia Chase," Mrs. Harris said. "Her family was so well-respected in Sunnydale. Xander used to date her, you know," she said to Spike, as if he, and everybody else in the room, weren't aware of that.
"Yes, she's grown up quite a bit, hasn't she?" Spike said, looking over at her. His tone somehow conveyed that her growing up did not reflect on her choice of Xander-as-boyfriend. Rupert had no clue how he'd managed it. Xander looked appreciative, though, since he was still making no effort -- or at least not succeeding at his effort -- to speak to his parents.
"What is that thing she's dancing with?" Mr. Harris asked. Obviously the man had forgotten what he was in a room full of.
Rupert gave the Host a measuring look. "I believe he's a baritone." The unamused look he got from Mr. Harris in reply, made Rupert want to think of something else annoying to say. But hadn't Xander asked them to be polite? No, Xander had only asked that they not do physical harm. "Spike, aren't you a baritone, as well?" Rupert asked the vampire.
"Nope, tenor. I can fake a baritone, though. Don't ask me to sing bass."
"I'll keep it in mind, if the Host actually goes through on his threat to drag out the karaoke machine from behind the front desk." Not that there really was one-- Cordelia had extracted a solemn oath from everyone involved in the wedding plans, not to let Angel near a microphone for the entire night. But he was rather hoping the mere mention of the k-word would lead the Harrises to summarily excuse themselves, and flee in terror.
No such luck, of course. "Karaoke?" Thomas perked up. He gave his wife a grin which made Rupert want to go wash up. "Here that, Helen? Maybe I'll get a chance to strut my stuff!"
Rupert didn't have to look over to know what Xander's expression was. He could imagine those brown eyes pleading - 'Please, kill me. I don't care if I never get to shag Spike again. Don't let me suffer.'
Helen smiled, indulgently. "Yes, dear. That would be such fun."
"You're a singer, as well?" Spike asked, once again sounding polite and friendly. It was unnatural -- if he kept this up, Rupert wouldn't be able to stifle the urge to slay him.
"Oh, I never sang for a crowd before," Thomas replied, boastfully. "But only because I never had the chance. Inherited my talent from my uncle. Only one in the family besides him with a real talent."
Yes, aside from the son who was now running an extremely successful publishing business, and had managed to do what no one else in the history of history had ever accomplished-- getting Spike to be polite. Then again, perhaps it was a good thing that Xander didn't seem to have inherited any of his father's obvious talent for making a complete ass of himself. Rupert gave a momentary shudder for the poor Host, should Mr. Harris actually manage to procure a mic and some accompaniment.
Spike didn't even miss a beat, Rupert noted, before replying, "It's always good to be aware of the blessings one has in life." His tone was so neutral that even Rupert had a hard time, for a moment, figuring out what he meant. But Rupert at least had the advantage of being able to see behind Xander's back, where Spike had one arm firmly wrapped-- and two fingers pointed up at the Harrises.
"Yes, isn't it?" Helen smiled at him, in that bright fake smile mothers always gave the monsters that were marrying their children. Spike smiled back.
"So, are you enjoying yourselves?" Rupert asked, feeling beholden to carry on part of the conversation, himself.
"It's a weird place for a wedding," Thomas answered, looking around. "Thought if anyone ever married my boy, it'd be in front of the JP." Hr grinned. "With her daddy standing behind him with a shotgun."
"Oh, we've a shotgun somewhere," Rupert answered smoothly. More or less. "If it'd make you feel more at home." He felt Xander step on his foot, and smiled, politely.
Xander's father let out a loud guffaw. "Oh, hey, that's good. I like a man with a sense of humor."
If he followed that phrase with 'Did you ever hear the one about the...' all bets were off. Spike could remain as polite as he pleased; Rupert would bite him.
Instead it was, "Guess you have to have one, to go along with all this." He waved a hand around at the room, the guests, the decorations. At some point the gesture swept past Spike and Xander, and only the pressure of Xander's foot on the toe of Rupert's already-uncomfortable formal shoe stopped him from doing something he really wouldn't regret at all.
"Actually, Cordelia's the one who decorated the place. That's why all the photographers." Spike nodded towards the edge of the room where the photographers from a variety of human and demon magazines were mingling and jostling for shots.
Mr. Harris' expression faltered slightly, but unfortunately he rallied almost immediately. "Noticed them." His voice dropped to a stage whisper. "Heard one of 'em say he worked for a nudie mag. Don't worry, boy, we won't tell your grandparents. It'll be our secret."
There was a flash of a dark look on Xander's face. Right. Well, now the only question was - should Rupert just give them a bit of verbal hell which would be more civilized, but would almost certainly go over their heads and do no good? Or should he and Spike toss the man into the pool? More satisfying, but more likely to have Xander look at them like a whipped puppy, for not doing as he'd asked.
"I imagine they already know," Spike said easily. "Since your father-in-law was having quite the time talking to Fred Keffler about how artistic the camerawork was on his last centerfold." Spike turned to Xander, and said conversationally, "What was all that guff Fred was giving me earlier about not drinking champagne on the job, by the way? Innit his day off?"
"Yeah," Xander said quietly, to Spike, and only to Spike. "But Fred won't go anywhere without that damn camera, and he's the best shooter I have. I wasn't gonna have him spending his own time giving us free museum-quality wedding pictures, so I told him if he showed up, he was on the clock. He doesn't drink, anyway; he was just giving you a line."
"Couldn't afford a real wedding photographer, huh?" Xander's father said, with a knowing grin. He chugged his own glass of champagne as if it were a mug of Budweiser, then added, "Yeah, neither could we, when we got married. At least, that was what we told people, since your mom didn't want anybody takin' pictures of her when she was big as a house."
"Tom..." his wife said quietly. Rupert wished, for Xander's sake, that he could detect a hint of apology to her son in the tone of that single word, but all he heard was her own embarrassment.
"Ah, don't worry, honey," Thomas said, in a clear tone of faked conciliation. "Ain't like he doesn't know he was accidental." He winked at Xander. "Never was sure you didn't belong to Ricky, but Helen wanted me. So I did the right thing."
"Xander, please, may I cease being polite?" Rupert knew he sounded like Spike -- but he didn't care. He was reasonably certain any damage he inflicted would heal. Didn't really matter, since Spike was giving Xander his own pleading, please may I kill him, eyes.
"At least that's one thing he won't have to worry about," Helen was saying with a nervous laugh.
"That's it. I can't listen to this anymore."
They turned, startled, as Angel walked over. Angel, who had not made any promises about bodily harm. Or politeness. And who didn't have a chip in his head.
"Oh, you're his..." Thomas pointed at Spike, then looked confused. "Actually, I'm not sure what you are."
"I'm Angel," he said. "Spike and Xander are my family. This is my home. I think you should leave it, now."
"Just a minute, here." Xander's father stood up, trying to come eye-to-eye with Angel. He was tall enough, but the look that the vampire gave him assured that the eye contact lasted only a second, before the human's gaze dropped.
Angel nodded. "Okay. You have a minute. I think you should be able to make it to your car in that amount of time." What he was planning on doing if they *didn't* manage to leave in sixty seconds, was left unsaid.
"Alexander," Helen began, giving Xander a disapproving look. 'Can't you control your friends?' was what she didn't quite say aloud.
"Fifty six." Angel sounded calm.
"You have fifty six -- fifty four seconds left."
"Oh, come on now! This is--" Thomas glared at Angel, then Xander, then Rupert.
"Don't look at me. I wouldn't have given you a running start."
Xander -- finally -- moved. Took a step away from his parents, tugging Spike after him. He took another step, and stopped when his mother said his name again. "Just go," was all he said, before he took Spike back to the dance floor.
Rupert stepped forward, and looked down at Thomas. "Please refuse."
The man looked as if he were thinking about it, for a moment, then turned to his wife. "Come on, Helen. I've got to work tomorrow."
Tomorrow was Sunday, and Xander's father, according to Mrs. LaVelle, was retired. But Rupert didn't feel it was worth pointing out. They were leaving, that was all that mattered. As they walked out the dining room doors, Mrs. Harris looked back, and said to Rupert, as if it were something very, very important she was imparting, "We came, didn't we?"
It took Angel's hand almost crushing his shoulder, for Rupert not to follow them out the door. "Please, let me. I've been wanting to for *years*, god knows why I haven't before now."
Angel didn't let go of his shoulder. "Because Xander would pout at you if you hurt them?"
Rupert forced himself to laugh. "As if he doesn't already, for the tiniest things." He let himself be distracted, pulled away from following those poor excuses for human beings and explaining to them what they'd missed.
"Yeah, where did he learn that, by the way?" Angel's voice sounded accusatory.
"Don't look at me, I only met him when he was fifteen. Ask Willow."
"Nuh-uh," Willow said, as she danced by, holding on to her wife. "I didn't do it. He's had that pout down since he was Baby Boy Harris. He used to get extra bottles of formula in the maternity ward, 'cause he'd pout at the nurses. "
"I guess that settles the question of which came first, the Xanderpout, or the Spikepout," Rupert said as he rubbed some feeling back into his shoulder.
"Nope." Angel shook his head. "I can personally vouch for the Spikepout having been around since at least eighteen eighty." He got a faraway look in his eye, for a moment. "He might have learned it from Dru."
"Learned it from Dru, my ass," Gunn snorted, slipping up behind Angel and pinching an arse that was, technically, his, though it wasn't attached to him. "You ever see this guy when he's tryin' to get you to go to a Manilow concert?"
Everyone stared at Angel, who looked sheepish. Willow narrowed her eyes at him. "Did you sneak into Sunnydale General and teach Xander, too?"
Angel looked at her, eyes wide. "No!"
Willow just kept starting at him. Then she said to Tara, "I think he did. He's just a dork and won't admit it."
"Watch whom you are calling a dork, Miss Rosenberg," Wesley said, from behind her.
She blinked at him. "Are you trying to say Angel's *not* a dork?" she asked incredulously.
"No, I'm merely telling you to watch him. He can't dance worth a damn, and he's about to step on your wife's foot."
Tara quickly moved her foot out of Angel's stomping range, Rupert noticed. Angel loomed impressively over Wesley, who did a much better job of cute-looking his way out of this encounter than he had earlier tonight. "Can't dance worth a damn?"
"Would you like to prove me wrong?" Wesley asked, holding out his hand.
Rupert smiled as Gunn mirrored Wesley's movement. Watching the three of them slow-dance was definitely an interesting experience.
In the center of the dance floor, in a space cleared of friends, relatives, furniture and loquacious wedding gifts, Xander and Spike were dancing, as well. Pressed close together, Xander's head on his husband's shoulder, slowly turning around and around, barely in time to the music.
Rupert smiled at Anya, whose hand had just slipped into his. She smiled back. "I believe it is customary to sway rhythmically to express our enthusiasm for their marriage."
"Right you are, Anya." He glanced out onto the dance floor again - - everyone was dancing with his or her partner of choice -- or partners, Angel and his two not being the only group swaying rhythmically together. There would be a great deal more rhythmic swaying, later, upstairs.
Anya was watching the newlyweds, as were many of the dancers, and those still seated, but Rupert thought he saw something there, for a moment. "Lost opportunities?" he asked quietly as she looked away and settled her head against his chest.
"No. Just thinking that they look right, together. I didn't see a lot of that, when I was in the vengeance business. Now I'm seeing it all the time." When the music had turned them around, and he was able to see the two of them over Anya's shoulder, he had to agree. Xander had both arms around Spike's waist, and the vampire's hands were on his husband's shoulders. Xander had lifted his head, and they were staring into each other's eyes. It would be at least an hour before they got the chance to slip away with Wesley and get sent packing on their extradimensional honeymoon, but it didn't look as if they cared. They were already off in some world of their own making.
"Lost opportunities?" Anya repeated, even more quietly, not even looking up to see what he was seeing.
He watched Spike and Xander for another moment, then looked at her. Slowly, he smiled again. "Not anymore."