Forever Rules : Book One
Written by: Joanne W
Summary: Just as Buffy and Xander start a new chapter in their lives, issues from the past arise that threaten to put an end to everything.
Sequel to: 'Aspects of Love', 'Mirror Mirror' and 'Breaking the Rules' (All to be found at FFnet)
Rating: R for violence, language and sexual situations.
Disclaimer: Anything or anyone you know to be from Buffy belongs to Joss Whedon and all his little friends. Anything or anyone else that I've blatantly made up belongs to me.
Author's Notes: (1). This fic starts eighteen months after 'Aspects of Love' ended and continues with the AU from the previous stories 'Mirror Mirror' and 'Breaking the Rules' which started in Season 4 - set after 'The Initiative' but before 'Pangs'. 'Fear Itself' never happened. (2). And, although BtVS in my little world went off at a tangent, 'Angel' on the other hand stayed pretty much the same, except no one went to Pylea (so no Fred) and they're pretty much carrying on as they were during Season 2. (3). Also notes for British spelling, *'s indicate word emphasis and //'s indicate direct character thoughts.
(Some time between 11pm and 12am on the 12th July 2002)
"For Goddesses sake," Willow scolded as she batted away Xander's hand. "Stop fidgeting."
"It's too tight," Xander complained, his hand reaching up again to join Willow's as she was adjusting his collar. "I want to be able to breathe."
"You seem to be managing to speak well enough."
Xander gave Willow a withering look. "Y'know, I'm having second thoughts about asking *you* to do this."
Willow just grinned back at him. She batted his hand away again, finally loosening his collar a just little and then straightening his tie. "There," she said, brushing non-existent lint off his shoulders. "Perfect."
"Really?" Xander looked at her apprehensively. "I don't look like an idiot?"
Willow laid a hand gently on his shoulder. "Xander, you look fine." She reached up and brushed away some of his hair that fell across his forehead. Willow took a step back and admired the dark-haired young man in bare feet infront of her. Xander wore a dark charcoal grey suit over a midnight blue shirt and a tie and he wore a cream carnation in his breast pocket. Willow smiled warmly. "Very handsome."
Xander shifted awkwardly and then smiled back at Willow. "Well… you don't look so bad yourself."
Willow was wearing a long red gown, the top half was a satin bodice decorated liberally with red sequins and the bottom half was plain satin that flared out a little at the waist and just brushed the ground around her bare feet. Her hair was piled up on her head in a mass of loose curls with a few tendrils escaping deliberately.
Xander took one of her hands and brought it to his lips, gently kissing the back of it. "You look beautiful."
Willow smiled and put her other hand to her chest. "Why Xander," she said in a Texan drawl, fluttering her eyelashes. "Whatever would your intended say?"
"She'd probably tell me to stop flirting with the best man," Xander grinned. He let go of Willow's hand and looped his arm through hers instead as they made their way outside, heading towards the near beach. "And I bet not every groom gets that said to him."
"I feel a little weird being the best man…woman or whatever" Willow glanced sideways at him as the walked. "Do you really think I can do it?"
"My Willow can do anything," Xander replied, smiling reassuringly at her.
"Sweet talker," Willow grinned. "Y'know, I've been thinking about my speech at the reception." She grinned when Xander gave her a dubious look. "I've thought of some really *interesting* stories to tell…"
Xander didn't like the teasing tone that her last sentence was laced with. "Uh, interesting how?" he asked hesitantly, stopping and turning to face her.
Willow stopped too and looked back at him innocently. "I'm sure Buffy would *love* to hear about the time when we were seven and we went skinny dipping and you-"
"OhmyGoddon'tyouevendare," Xander stopped her mid-flow. "You wouldn't…"
"La la la-la la," Willow began to sing. "I can't hear you." She began to walk away. "Just going in one ear and out the other. La-la la."
Xander started after her but Willow sidestepped him and he fell on his butt. Willow laughed, but it turned to a shriek when Xander pulled her down in the sand beside him.
"OK, OK" Willow laughed, "I won't say. Promise." She smiled at Xander before looking down at herself. "Oh no, this is ruining my dress."
Xander got to his feet. "S'your own fault," he grinned as he offered his hand to her.
Willow stuck her tongue out at him as he helped her to her feet. She brushed sand from the bottom of her dress, twisting around to see if she'd got it all. It seemed fine. "How's your suit?" she asked.
Xander was brushing himself down too. "Good as new." He took her arm again. "C'mon. Tara's probably wondering where we are."
Tara sat on a blanket on the sand, surveying all that was around her. //It really does look beautiful//. She looked up at the night sky that was cloudless and twinkling with thousands of stars. //Just how Buffy wanted it//.
They were using a private beach out front of an exclusive ocean front hotel. Tara sat on a small dune just by the deck that led from the hotel to the beach and that overlooked the area that was going to be used for the main part of the ceremony. The biggest structure was an altar that stood underneath a pergola, which had pink roses running over it. In fact that was the only structure. In front of the altar was an area about four metres square from which ran an aisle about three metres in width and was outlined by lit candles that floated in small bowls of water. For seats Buffy had made a small compromise and there were actual chairs instead of just blankets. Around the edge of the whole area were small groups of candles around vases of beautifully arranged flowers and to give even more light, Giles had provided some ornate oil burning garden lamps.
Buffy and Joyce were inside the hotel, occupying rooms that had been put aside for the pre-wedding preparations. Willow was with Xander and Giles and Ren were running some last minute errands. Tara had just finished putting the last touches to the flowers so now she was left to her own devices.
Tara sat savouring the moment for a little while longer and then she heard voices coming from behind her. She saw Willow and Xander making their way up the small dune towards her. Xander's trouser legs were turned up so they didn't brush along the sand as his feet sank into it. Willow followed up behind him, putting her own bare feet in the impressions Xander's left and she had hitched up her dress to her knees, lifting it off the sand.
Tara smiled warmly at them both as they closed the distance between her and themselves. "You two both look fabulous," she smiled warmly.
"You're looking pretty fabulous yourself Tara," Xander said, taking in Tara's turquoise gown, similar in style to Willow's, only Tara had a cream chiffon scarf draped over her shoulders and covering most of her upper chest. Tara wore her hair down, parted in the middle with one side held just back off her face with a diamante studded barrette.
Tara blushed and ducked her head briefly until she felt most of the redness had gone. She looked back at them both as they stood looking over the prepared-for-wedding beach infront of them. "Have Ren and Giles got back yet?" Tara asked, scooting over on the blanket she was sitting on.
"Haven't seen them," Xander replied, sitting down in the space Tara had vacated. "But they've got a little while yet anyway." Xander turned his gaze to what lay before him. "It all looks beautiful Tara." he said. "You and Willow did a great job"
Tara blushed again. "We just went with what Buffy wanted."
Willow smiled at Xander. "Although I found out some of it was your idea."
Xander smiled sheepishly back then looked out at the beach again. Willow rolled her eyes and laughed softly when she saw Xander's eyes become a little more fixed and day dreamy on the scene laid out before him. She looked back to Tara and saw that her girlfriend had noticed the faraway look in his eyes too.
Tara nodded her back towards the hotel. Willow smiled and nodded in agreement. Willow got up, placing a hand gently on Xander's shoulder as she did so.
Xander glanced at her and Willow smiled. "Just thought we'd give you a little alone time" she said, "Tara and I probably need to check in with Buffy and her mom anyway."
"And we can talk about you behind your back," Tara added.
Xander rolled his eyes and smiled at them both. "Go on go." He waved them off playfully. "Leave me to get all sappy and retrospective."
Willow laughed as she ruffled his hair and joined Tara, both women hitching up their skirts as they began the short trek down back towards the hotel.
"Oh my God," Joyce remarked breathlessly. She'd just left the room to go to the bathroom and had just returned to find that Buffy had finally changed into her dress. "Buffy you look beautiful."
Buffy beamed and unconsciously smoothed down the skirt of her gown. "D'ya think Xander will like it?"
"I think he'll fall at your feet sweetheart," Joyce smiled. She gazed at her daughter happily. "Oh my, you really do look amazing."
Buffy adjusted the bodice of her gown. "I feel amazing. I can't believe…" Buffy trailed off, feeling tears well up. "Mom," she sniffed "I'm getting married."
"I know sweetie." Joyce pulled her daughter into a hug. "My baby girl. It's so good I know I'm not losing my you."
"No, I'm just gaining a Xander."
Buffy laughed and broke away gently from her mother's embrace. "Would you want anyone else?"
"Heavens no," Joyce chuckled. She grabbed a tissue from a box on a nearby table. "Here." She handed it to Buffy just as there was a knock at the door. "Come in unless you're the groom" Joyce called out.
Buffy wiped the few tears from her eyes. "I just can't believe that we haven't had any prob-"
"Don't say it!" Willow exclaimed, hearing Buffy's words the moment she entered the room with Tara. "Don't you *dare* say anything jinxy."
Joyce rolled her eyes. "Willow, I don't think-"
"No jinxing!" Willow repeated. "Doesn't anybody know the rules?"
Tara laid a hand on her girlfriend's shoulder. "Willow, did you have coffee?"
"I just had one," Willow admitted, making forgive-me eyes at Tara. "A little tiny espresso."
"Is this a dig at me having my wedding at midnight?" Buffy teased.
"Totally," Willow replied, grinning. "And can I just say that you look wonderful?"
"Completely," Tara agreed, nodding. "Xander's gonna be-" she smiled, "Even more in love with you."
Buffy blushed a little. "Thanks. So? Where did you leave him?"
Willow grinned. "Oh, getting all gooey eyed outside."
"Actually I think he said sappy and retrospective," Tara smiled.
"Mmm," Buffy sighed happily, "He always looks cute like that."
"Buffy sweetie," Joyce said, "You always think he looks cute. Even in that blue shirt with unidentifiable animals on it. But can we think about getting you ready, hmm?"
Tara looked at her watch. "Oh wow, there's only, like, ten minutes before guests start getting here."
"Ten minutes?" Buffy sounded anxious as she let Joyce usher her into a chair. "But Giles isn't even back yet."
"He'll *be* here Buffy." Joyce placed her hands on Buffy's shoulders and gently turned her around so she was facing the mirror. She met Buffy's reflected gaze. "Unlike your shiftless father," Joyce added tersely. She picked a up hair brush and began brushing through the ends of Buffy's hair. "I don't see-"
"Mom, can we not talk about dad, OK?" Buffy pleaded. "I just want to think happy thoughts. Happy day remember?"
Joyce sighed and smiled apologetically at her daughter. "I'm sorry sweetie. Guess I'll always be a little irked that's all. Anyway, I know Rupert will do a wonderful job."
"Why don't I go and look for Mr Giles and Ren?" Tara suggested.
"Yeah, and I can stay here and help with the bride's getting ready." Willow added. "Or just get under everyone's feet until my coffee high fades."
"That sounds like a good idea girls. And you're fine here Willow," Joyce replied. "Tara, if you do see any guests here early, can you sort them out?"
"Sure Mrs Summers." Tara smiled and gave Willow a quick peck on the cheek before she left.
Joyce continued to brush through Buffy's long blonde hair as Willow pulled up a chair near Buffy and sat down. Buffy smiled at Willow's reflection and caught her friend's eye in the mirror. "Y'know you look great Will," Buffy said warmly.
Willow looked down at herself and then into the mirror at Buffy. "Pretty nifty for a best man, huh?"
Buffy chuckled. "Do I want to know where you're hiding the rings?"
Willow rolled her eyes and then grinned. She reached towards the top of her bodice and began fiddling for something just inside of it. Buffy raised an eyebrow and Joyce slowed in her brushing until they saw that Willow now had hold of a piece of red ribbon, the top end of which had been sewn to the bodice. Willow pulled up the ribbon from inside her bodice and the others saw that tied at the end were two gold bands.
"I figured I'd probably lose a purse," Willow explained. She held up the rings so she could look at them properly. "They're beautiful."
"I know," Buffy said softly. She exchanged a quiet smile with Willow. "It's all going to be beautiful."
"OK, are you *sure* there's nothing else?" Ren asked Giles as she closed her car door and set the alarm.
"Um, no. I think that was the last…" Giles trailed off for a moment, looking thoughtful. "Yes, definitely the last of it."
Ren sighed thankfully. "Good." She grabbed the boxes she'd set on the roof of the car and began following after Giles as he headed towards the hotel. "We're late enough as it is." Ren glanced down at herself. "I don't think Xander and Buffy would appreciate me gracing their wedding in jeans and one of your shirts." She yawned. "At least you had the common sense to get changed first before we volunteered for the present run."
"Are you going to have enough time?" Giles stopped and faced her. He staggered a little, trying not to lose his hold of the stack of prettily wrapped boxes he carried, finally steadying them by jamming his chin on the top box. "And are you sure you can manage those?"
Ren blinked then looked down at the two shoebox-sized presents she carried and then back at Giles. "Rupert, I'm pregnant. That doesn't mean my muscles have suddenly atrophied." Ren then smiled. "Your face is doing a thing."
"My face is not doing a thing." Giles paused. "What thing?"
"You got this cute little dimple-" Ren managed to juggle her boxes in one arm as she reached across to touch a spot just above the left corner of Giles' mouth, "Right here," she smiled, "When I said…" Ren broke off and looked around then continued in a stage whisper, "When I said the P word."
"Oh, that thing." Giles smiled back at Ren. "Cute, you say?"
"Yup." Ren pushed his glasses back up his nose as they began to slide down. "Come on, I bet everyone's wondering where we are."
"Well if that is indeed Tara I see coming of the hotel lobby, then I'd say good bet."
"Hey guys!" Tara called out, waving at them. "You're cutting it fine aren't you?"
"But we're here and bearing gifts," Ren replied with a smile, heading over to the blonde witch. "How's everything going?"
"Well Buffy almost jinxed us a little while ago," Tara admitted, grinning. "But Willow put her straight."
"I should think so," Ren replied, grinning back. "After all the trouble it was to get this place."
"Yes, how convenient it was that Buffy was here to stop that Frevlor demon that was terrorising the place." Giles raised an eyebrow at both women.
Tara blinked innocently. "I thought it was really nice of the owner to offer Buffy the place for the wedding for all her trouble."
Ren mirrored Tara's expression. "And for free," she added.
"Quite," Giles replied dryly. "Of course how the naturally peace loving Frevlor demon suddenly decided to go on a rampage…"
"Complete mystery," Ren finished, hiding her smirk.
Giles rolled his eyes and headed past both women into the hotel lobby. Ren and Tara turned to each other and grinned before following after Giles.
Giles was thankful he'd deposited his cargo before he came back with Tara or he felt he would have been paying for a lot of damaged and broken presents having dropped them on the floor once he'd set eyes on Buffy.
"Oh my." Giles beamed and adjusted his glasses. "Buffy you look simply beautiful."
Buffy blushed. "Thanks," she said, smiling softly.
"And Giles…" Willow grinned, "Looking good too."
Giles glanced down at his suit; it was dark charcoal grey like Xander's except his tie and shirt were a deep burgundy. "You know," he looked up at grinned at everyone, "I think we should all admit we look pretty damn good"
Laughing, Willow grabbed Tara's hand. "Then as beautiful people, I think Tara and I should go and greet the guests."
"Where's Ren?" Buffy asked as the witches left.
"Getting changed," Giles replied. "Said she wouldn't be long."
"You know we're taking bets don't you?" Buffy said, smiling as she sat back down infront of the mirror.
"I'd heard a rumour." Giles sounded amused as he sat on the small couch in the corner of the room.
"So am I gonna win?" Buffy grinned at him.
"I think that all depends on who you bet on Buffy," Joyce remarked. "And sit properly or you'll crease."
"And who did you bet on Joyce?" Giles caught the older woman's eye.
Joyce chuckled. "Now that would be telling."
Xander leant against the doorframe as he brushed the sand from his feet before he rolled his trousers back down. Dusting the sand from his hands, he ran one hand through his hair and took one last look outside.
This was truly the best day of his life. He was getting married. Better than that, he was getting married to Buffy Summers. The girl, now woman, who he'd fallen in love with at the tender age of sixteen, was going to stand with him at an altar and tell everyone that she wanted to be with him forever.
He'd be lying to himself if he said it hadn't been a struggle. The day he'd actually proposed to Buffy all of two years ago, had been a major event for more than one reason. It had also been the day that one woman, Tay, had decided to use Buffy and Xander as pawns in a game to get revenge on Ren. Xander had been hurt. Badly. His injuries meant that he'd ended up in a coma. When he'd woken up, he hadn't been, well, right. He'd taken his guilt for what had happened with Tay and had thrown it at the people he cared about, culminating in a breakdown that left him almost suicidal and sobbing out all his emotional confusion on the bathroom floor and then into Willow arms and then finally into Buffy's.
It took a while for everything to work out. It had taken some time for him to finally stop blaming himself. He'd attended counselling sessions to help him sort out his feelings for a while afterwards and Buffy had got him training with her to help with his aggression. Willow and Tara had helped him to concentrate his mind on other things, namely involving him in spells they incanted. Not the spells that he had hormone charged teenage fantasies about, but the kind that meant he could float a pencil with the best of them.
Xander smiled up at the night sky and the stars that shone down at him. But Xander wasn't struggling anymore. He hadn't been for a long while. No, things were good now.
He'd also gotten a job working construction and was earning good money and he and Buffy had moved out into their own place, it was small, but all they could afford as Buffy had gone back to college, only supplementing their income when she helped out Giles in the Magic box at the weekend. But it was *their* home.
Xander turned inside and sighed softly as he walked along the deserted corridors. He caught his reflection in a mirrored wall panel and stopped. Xander began to study himself in the mirror. //So this is what soon-to-be-married guy looks like?//.
And, he admitted to himself, he made a pretty good groom. His hair was shorter than it had been for a while, but still long enough for Buffy to tangle her fingers into, which was her request. He was healthier than he'd ever been due to Buffy's rigorous training schedule and his body had filled out with muscles, which Buffy also seemed to like.
Xander straightened his tie and then smoothed down his the jacket of his suit. Then he felt a draft of cold air waft over his toes. He looked down "I guess shoes would be good."
Xander turned to see Ren standing two feet away holding a pair of black shoes in one hand and a pair of black socks in the other.
"Ren you look stunning." Xander grinned as he took the proffered items her.
Ren glanced at her reflection in the mirror. "I think my hair clashes with the dress." She shook out her mane of ruby red hair and smoothed down the skirt of the turquoise gown she wore that was identical to Tara's. Ren looked down at Xander as he had sat on the floor to put on his shoes and socks. "And I thought you might like to know that your parents are here."
"Where are they now?" Xander asked, getting up. "Or do I just take a wild guess and say 'free bar'?"
"Your dad, yeah. But Tara's keeping an eye on him. Your mum's upstairs with Buffy and Joyce and would you stop fiddling with your bloody tie?" Ren swatted his hands away from his neck. "You look gorgeous, OK?" Then she smiled, "But then, of course, Rupert has the exact same suit…"
"Yeah yeah" Xander rolled his eyes.
"So…?" Ren glanced across at him as they began to walk side by side, "Who'd you bet on?"
Xander pretended to look confused, but then gave in. "Am I getting insider information here?" he grinned.
Ren grinned back. "Oh no," she gave a slight shake of her head. "And anyway, even if there was anything to say, Rupert and I wouldn't want to steal your limelight." Ren nudged him gently with her elbow. "It's *your* day, OK?"
"Uh huh." There was a knowing tone to Xander's voice. "So, you're telling me," he continued, "That you two haven't even talked about it?"
Ren just grinned and then turned away from him as she continued to walk with him.
After a few moments, realising that Ren wasn't going to say anymore, Xander sighed in defeat and offered his arm to her. "Come on. Escort me to my guests?" Xander smiled when Ren looped her arm through his. "Or any Frevlor demons that might be on the loose…"
Ren snickered. "His name is Max. And he only cost a hundred bucks and a bag of jelly babies. He wished you luck by the way."
"Cool." Xander paused. "Did he get us a present?"
(A short while later)
"*Xander*" Willow murmured out of the corner of her mouth, "I can *feel* you shaking and I'm not even touching you."
Xander glanced at Willow as she sat beside him just infront of the altar. "But not nervous shaking," he assured her. "Happy shaking. If I'm not careful, I think I might explode with sheer joy."
"Nice Xan. Are you gonna need a tissue for that?" Willow grinned as Xander gave her a pained look. "Seriously though," she continued, taking his hand that was nearest to her, "Glad it's not nervous shaking."
"Got nothing to be nervous about," Xander replied, smiling easily and he squeezed Willow's hand. He glanced around quickly at the congregation, momentarily catching Joyce's eye and returned her smile. Xander looked back to Willow. "You think your little 'awake' spell is gonna hold through the reception? I don't want anyone falling asleep in their hors d'oeuvres."
Willow looked a little indignant. "Of course it will." If she could have tossed her hair over her shoulder she would have. "I am Willow the Wonder Wicca," now there was a trace of a smile on her lips, "You doubt my powers?"
"Never Willow." Xander smiled back. "Never."
"Are you ready to go?" Giles stood behind Buffy as she looked at herself in the mirror.
Buffy caught his eye in the reflection. "Yeah," she said softly, smiling. "Just taking one last moment to look at Buffy Summers."
Giles smiled and placed his hands on her shoulders. "Somehow how I don't think Buffy Harris is going to be all that different."
Giles shook his head gently. "I have it on good authority."
Buffy grinned a little. "Not gonna reveal you sources huh?"
"Certainly not." Giles pretended to look affronted. "Come on," he then said with a smile, offering her his arm. "Your groom is waiting."
"My groom," Buffy sighed dreamily and Giles rolled his eyes but smiled. Buffy sighed again and looped her arm through his. "Giles?" she said as they began to head out.
"Hmm?" Giles glanced down at her. Meeting her eyes, he was a little surprised at the seriousness behind them. "What?"
Buffy smiled. "Thanks. It means a lot that you're doing this for me, for us both."
Giles gave her an embarrassed smile and pushed his glasses back up his nose as he cleared his throat. "It's my pleasure."
"You know I-I don't think I should be the one with butterflies," Tara remarked, turning to Ren who stood beside her, both of them waiting for Giles and Buffy by the doors that led outside. "My stomach's all flip-floppy."
"Tara, what have you got to be nervous about?" Ren reasoned. "Come to think of it, I should be the one that feels weird," Ren continued, "Y'know, seeing as how I've licked chocolate off the stomach of the Groom."
Tara blinked at Ren, then said after a moment, "Dark, milk or white?"
"Well, it's really the only way to go."
"Hey guys," another female voice called out.
Both Tara and Ren turned to see Buffy and Giles heading towards them, Buffy beaming happily on Giles' arm. "You ready?" the blonde Slayer asked brightly.
"If you are," Ren replied. "You look gorgeous."
"Thanks," Buffy smiled.
"I was talking to Rupert."
Buffy rolled her eyes as Ren blew Giles a kiss. "Oh for…" Buffy groaned and started to head out of the door, tugging Giles along with her. "I wanna get married already."
"Hey, I think we're on," Willow whispered softly in Xander's ear as she peered over his shoulder.
"We are?" Xander turned his head, trying to see through the guests. "Really?"
Willow chuckled. "A little more nervous now are we?" Willow placed a hand on his arm and then kissed him on the cheek. "Good luck."
Xander turned back to her and smiled. "Thanks," he said, standing as the music began to play. He took a couple of deep breaths before he turned to look around again, but everyone else had stood too, so all Xander could see was the top of Giles' head. Xander took a step towards the altar and then suddenly found himself dumbstruck when he finally saw Buffy.
Buffy was beautiful; she looked like the most perfect bride he'd ever seen in his life. She wore a long white gown, similar in style to Willow, Tara and Ren's. A white, Jacquard weave bodice fed down into long, white skirts of satin that trailed along behind her up the aisle. Buffy wore a thin, white satin choker around her neck with a small diamond cross hanging from it. Her long hair fell over her shoulders and down her back and woven into her blonde locks were a few small pink flowers.
"Oh my God," Xander murmured under his breath when he finally found his voice. He stared at Buffy, as she seemed to glide towards him, bathed in the light from the candles that lines the aisle. "I'm in heaven."
Buffy smiled shyly at him as she caught him staring, but kept her gaze locked with his as she made her way towards him. "Love you," she mouthed silently.
"Love you too," Xander mouthed back as she finally joined him.
As Giles, Tara and Ren tailed off to the side, and once the guests had re-seated themselves, the Minister started to speak.
"We are gathered here tonight," he began, "To witness the joining in marriage between these two persons stood here before us; Alexander Lavelle Harris and Buffy Anne Summers."
As the Minister continued to speak, Willow found it hard to focus on anything but her two friends standing in front of the altar. The love and happiness that emanated from the both of them was overwhelming.
For a brief moment she managed to catch her girlfriend's eye as she stood on the opposite side of the happy couple and Tara smiled back. Willow quickly blew a kiss at the blonde witch and a blush to match Ren's hair crept up from Tara's neck, but there was a wide smile to accompany it.
Buffy felt like she was flying; everything around her was so unbelievably perfect. The man she loved was currently standing right beside her and pledging his life to her and to her only. Forever.
Buffy glanced across at Xander. Catching his eye, they exchanged smiles as the Minister began speaking to Buffy.
"… do you take this man, Alexander Lavelle Harris, to be your lawful wedded husband?"
Buffy smiled and cast yet another look at Xander. "I do."
Willow handed the rings over to the Minister when he asked for them, drawing a few raised eyebrows from those people who saw where she had produced them from.
After a few words from the Minister, Xander took one of the rings and then Buffy's left hand before reciting the words they'd both practised over the past weeks. Xander took a deep breath and looked deep into Buffy's eyes as she stood facing him.
"I, Alexander Lavelle Harris, take thee, Buffy Anne Summers, to be my lawful wedded wife. To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, and I promise my love to you for as long as we both shall live." Xander looked down briefly to see to place the ring on to Buffy's finger and gently pushed it all the way to the base. He looked back up to her and smiled. "I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have."
"Buffy Anne Summers," he continued, "You mean more to me than anything else in this world. You're my heart, my soul, my every fibre of being." Xander gently brushed his thumb over the back of Buffy hand. "You're my saviour, the one who rescued me. I promise that I will never forget that and that I'll show you everyday of my life just how much I love you. I promise that I will do everything in my power to be the husband that you deserve."
Buffy blinked back tears and she could have sworn that Xander was doing the same. Buffy flashed him a loving smile before she took the other ring and placed it on the tip of Xander's finger. "I, Buffy Anne Summers, take thee, Alexander Lavelle Harris to be my husband. To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, and I promise my love to you for as long as we both shall live."
Buffy blinked back another tear. "I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have." She pushed it the entire length before she looked up into his eyes, holding his gaze for a moment before continuing. "I love you Xander Harris and I want to be with you for the rest of my life. You've always been there for me, always by my side no matter what has been happening. I don't think I could live without your smile. You're my everything too," she added softly. "And I'll rescue you when ever you want," Buffy smiled, "So long as you promise to stay being my White Knight too."
"I promise," Xander whispered reverently.
The Minister smiled at the couple as they continued to be enthralled by each other. He coughed quietly and drew their attention. "Now that Alexander and Buffy have given themselves to each other by solemn vows," he recited, "With the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of a ring," he exchanged a look with the couple. "I now pronounce that they are husband and wife."
Both Buffy and Xander turned to each other; stupid, happy grins on both their faces, and although they heard the Minister speaking the words, not one of them needed any instruction as their arms found themselves around each other and lips locked together.
Both Buffy and Xander were aware of clapping as they embraced, but they were both too wrapped in each other for the moment and when Xander dipped Buffy as they kissed; there were catcalls from the congregation.
Buffy giggled when they drew apart a moment later and they both gave everyone embarrassed smiles. Buffy caught her mother's eye and just gave her the stupid grin that she just knew she was going to be wearing for the rest of the celebration. Then Buffy looked back at Xander, who still had his arms wrapped loosely around her. //Make that a smile for the rest of my life//.
Xander grinned back at her. "Guess you finally answered the first question I asked you."
Buffy settled her hands on his waist. "Oh yeah, you have me Xander Harris," she said softly. "You have me for good."
A little over an hour later, the two witches stood at the edge of the dance floor in the ballroom where the reception was being held. There were tables all around the edges of the room, leaving a dance floor in the middle. The head table was at the centre back of the room infront of the large windows that stood floor to ceiling and looked out towards the beach. All the speeches had been made and most of the food had been eaten; now everyone was either chatting, dancing or enjoying themselves in their own way.
"Look at those two," Tara said quietly as Willow wrapped her arms around her from behind.
Willow rested her chin on her girlfriend's shoulder as she saw where Tara was looking. "If those two get any cuter," the red head said as she watched Buffy feed Xander something with her fingers as the happy couple sat at the head table, "I may hurl all the nice food I've just eaten."
"Eww." Tara giggled and gently nudged her girlfriend away. "Not over me you aren't."
"I said if they get any cuter!" Willow laughed, turning the blonde witch around and draping her arms over her shoulders.
"Yeah and knowing them, they will," Tara shot back, grinning as she wrapped her arms around Willow's waist.
"In that case, I guess we'll just have to do as they do." Willow grinned before pulling her girlfriend closer for a kiss.
Buffy giggled as she let Xander lick the traces of frosting off her fingers. "You're a messy eater, y'know that?"
"Mmm, I know..." Xander replied as he cupped one side of Buffy's face before darting in and kissing her full on the lips.
//Oh and there's still frosting// Buffy realised as she kept her lips against his as she moved from her seat and into his lap, draping one arm over his shoulder and resting the other against his chest.
Xander moaned softly in appreciation as Buffy began to kiss him back harder. He slipped an arm around her waist and ran the other down her side, finally resting his hand on her thigh.
"Oh please," another voice then interrupted them. "Can't you two save it for the honeymoon?"
Buffy pulled back from Xander to see Cordelia standing behind them. She blinked in surprise. "Cordy? I thought you couldn't make it."
"Huge emergency not so huge?" Xander asked as Buffy got up from his lap and hugged the brunette woman. Which didn't seem so weird as it once would have, but over the last year there'd been exchanges of help on occasion between the Sunnydale and LA crew and everyone was on good terms. Well, Angel and Xander weren't glaring at each other as much as they used to so everybody took it as good.
"Nope," Cordelia replied. "Just a couple of vamps with a Pinky and the Brain 'tude. Angel and the guys are dealing. They wished good luck." She looked between the two of them and sighed a little wistfully. "Look at you two," Cordelia sighed again. "I wish I could have made it for the ceremony. You two look great." There was a hint of genuine smile before something flashed in Cordelia's eyes. "Not sure about the flowers myself Buffy, but still, kitsch enough to work for you. And Xander, very nice. Finally you had someone dress you."
"And yet you couldn't find time to get changed yourself," Buffy replied, still smiling and not wasting a second as she gave Cordelia's, obviously new, outfit a once over.
Cordelia conceded the point. "Just be lucky it's late." Cordelia glared half-heartedly at them, before her face broke out into a big smile. "Is there still food left?"
"I'm sure there's something around," Xander replied, shaking his head as Cordelia headed off. He grinned at Buffy. "Nice shot honey."
"I think she's still up by three though," Buffy replied, pouting a little. She brushed her fingers through his hair before they traced a line down the side of his face down to his lips. "Wanna dance again?"
Xander smiled and took her hand, kissing her fingertips. "Come on then." He stood up and led her out onto the dancefloor. The music was slightly upbeat but it didn't stop Buffy laying her head against Xander's chest as they danced slowly to the music.
"Buff?" Xander uttered softly after a little while, reaching up to toy with a lock of her hair. Buffy looked up at him a silently urged him to continue with a look and a smile. Xander kissed her softly on the forehead. "I meant what I said," he continued, looking back into her eyes. "You're everything to me."
"I know." Buffy cupped his face with both her hands. "It's one of the reasons I married you." She smiled, looping her arms around his neck now as Xander settled his hands on her waist. "And I know you'll be a wonderful husband and I have no doubts that you'll be a wonderful father too."
"I see, is there something that you two aren’t telling me?" a smiling Joyce asked as she appeared beside the happy couple.
"Sorry mom, no grandkids just yet," Buffy replied, smiling back at her mother.
"But let me guess," Joyce gave them both a knowing smile, "You plan on trying a lot, don't you?" Joyce managed to about half-stifle her laugh when she saw them both redden. "Sorry. Couldn't help it," she apologised, then she looked at Xander. "So, how about a dance with your mother-in-law?"
"Sure." Xander offered Joyce his hand as Buffy stepped away graciously. "I can't promise I won’t stand on your toes though."
"I'm sure you'll do fine," Joyce replied, taking Xander's hand. "My daughter seems to think so anyway, so I’ll just have to have faith in her."
Buffy smiled at her mother and Xander before she began to weave her way through the other dancing couples, exchanging a few words with people before reaching where Willow and Tara were standing.
Willow smiled happily as Buffy joined them. "Hey, look Tara," Willow turned to her girlfriend, "It's Mrs Harris come to see us."
"Well I can't spend the entire evening with my husband can I?" Buffy grinned. "I can try, but…" she trailed off and glanced to where Xander was dancing with her mother, "I got my whole life for that." Buffy looked back to the two witches. "And how come you aren't dancing, huh? I want people to dance."
"We have," Willow insisted. "You didn't see us because you had Xander attached to your face."
"Plus we both have blisters," Tara added. "We're people watching now."
"Ooh, have you seen Giles?" Buffy asked. "Or Ren for that matter."
"Uh, Giles is trapped in conversation with the other Mrs Harris," Willow replied, nodding her head to where Giles was stood in a corner with Xander's mother. "We're gonna give him another couple of minutes before we go rescue him."
"And I haven't seen Ren for a while," Tara said, shrugging.
"Oh, well, I'm sure she's somewhere," Buffy guessed. "I suppose I could go and help Giles. After all, she is my mother-in-law." Buffy paused. "I have a mother-in-law." She shook her head as in disbelief and the two witches laughed as Buffy headed off.
Giles offered up a silent prayer of thanks as he tried not to hurry away to quickly from Rebecca Harris. It wasn't that she wasn't well meaning, it's just that once she got talking she wouldn't stop and everytime he tried to make his excuses, she'd grabbed hold of his arm and literally pulled him back into the conversation.
//Now if I can just find Ren…// Giles looked around the hall. Not spotting her immediately, he got his champagne glass filled en route as he started on his quest. Unfortunately he didn't get very far as another one of Xander's relatives grabbed hold of his arm.
"I see you talking to my wife," Mr Harris said gruffly. "What she say to you?"
Giles removed the other man's hand from his arm. "She was saying, at first anyway, about how nice the ceremony was and about how happy Xander and Buffy looked."
"Oh, yeah. Well I'm glad I didn't have to stump up to much for it." Mr Harris took another swig of his whiskey.
//You didn't stump up anything for it// Giles tried to keep the frown from his face. "You didn't think Xander looked happy?"
"Well I'd be happy if I had a looker like that." Mr Harris nudged Giles' arm and leered over at Buffy. "She's got an ass-"
"Mr Harris, I suggest you stop now before you find yourself hanging upside down by your ankles over the nearest balcony." Giles glared at the other man.
Mr Harris didn't seem to put off. "Like you can talk. I've seen you and that little firebird that hangs off your arm," he waved his glass in front of Giles. "She's gotta be half your age. What's your secret huh? Getting a chick like that?" Mr Harris laughed, unfazed by the cold glare Giles had aimed at him. "I betcha can't even keep up with her."
"I try." Giles said, trying to keep his tone even. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be off before I shove that glass of yours somewhere rather painful about your person." Giles shot the other man another dark look before walking away, feeling his fingernails digging into the palm of his hand as he made his way towards Willow and Tara.
Willow gave him a smile of sympathy. "What'd he say this time?"
"Just…" Giles trailed off and sighed. "It doesn't matter." He looked at the two witches, "Have you seen Ren?" Giles sighed when they both shook their heads. "Well, if you see her before I do, tell her I'm looking for her, would you?" Giles glanced back at Mr Harris briefly and frowned before heading away from the witches.
"Mmm," Buffy sighed happily as she snuggled into Xander's embrace as they danced slowly to the music after managing to get him back from her mother. "I think I could easily stay like this forever."
"We'd probably miss our plane though." Xander softly kissed the top of her head. "But I think we can easily stretch to another half an hour."
"Good." Buffy sighed happily again. "Just don't let me go."
"I was beginning to get worried about you."
Ren looked up at Giles as he came up behind her where she sat on the raised deck outside that led from the ballroom, her legs hanging over the edge of the decking, bare feet just barely touching the sand. "Sorry," she apologised, as Giles sat down beside her. "Guess I just lost track of time."
Giles took off his jacket and wrapped it around her shoulders when she shivered a little. "What's wrong?" he asked, brushing some of her hair back behind her ear.
"Nothing's wrong Rupert," Ren replied, smiling. She leant against him, a contented sigh escaping her lips when Giles put his arm around her. Ren reached across and took Giles' other arm and placed his hand over her lower stomach, resting her hand over his. "That's just it."
Giles closed his eyes and hugged Ren closer to him. "I still can't believe that we're going to be parents."
Ren took her hand off his and raised it so she cupped the side of his face. Giles opened his eyes to find himself looking into Ren's bright blue ones. She smiled and pressed her lips to his, kissing him softly. Giles closed his eyes again and kissed her back, bringing his hand up from her arm and tangling his fingers in her hair.
"We should be getting back inside," Ren said once they drew apart. "It's getting cold."
"Feel like dancing?" Giles murmured, stroking her hair.
Ren smiled. "Not just yet," she said and leant forward for another kiss.
"What are you looking at?" Xander asked Buffy as she realised his bride was trying peer around him.
"I just want to see something." Buffy tried to see over his shoulder to where Ren and Giles had just walked back in from outside.
"Huh?" Xander turned his head to where Buffy was looking. "See what? Giles and Ren? Buff, what are you looking for?"
"A ring." Buffy looked back to him and grinned. "I wanna know if we're gonna be at their wedding soon."
"Can you see one?"
Buffy looked back to the other couple again as they walked onto the dance floor. She frowned. "No."
"Well, maybe one of them'll ask later," Xander reasoned, shrugging a little. "Come on, stop staring at them and tell me you love me."
Buffy looked back to Xander and saw him grinning at her. She rolled her eyes and grinned back. Standing on tiptoe she quickly kissed him on the lips and then looked into his eyes. "I love you Mr Harris."
"Well, thank you Mrs Harris." Xander kissed her again. "And I love you too, Buffy."
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