Title: Rest in Peace - Answer to Lisa's fic challenge

Author: Nimue

Rating: PG - 13

Pairing: Buffy/Spike

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Fox, UPN and a host of lawyers do. Just borrowing and thanks guys for the loan.

Summary: In response to Lisa's BAPS fic challenge. What happens between the end of episode 11 and the beginning of episode 12? What are the SIT reactions to Spike? And Buffy's?

Rest in Peace

The door creaked open. Another thing to fix, Xander thought as he pushed himself upright on the couch. The girls were quiet tonight. They hadn't said much after the initial gushing about how Buffy killed the Vampire and how ugly it was and how ingenious the plan was. Once Dawn had mentioned that the Uber-Vamp was only the beginning, they had all become amazingly silent. Good for sleeping. Bad for morale.

"Buffy?" Xander called quietly, rubbing his eyes. The girls were still in sleeping bags on the floor, awake but silent, staring at the soft light from the porch.

"Yeah," Buffy answered, almost hearing the long sigh of relief from every member of the living room. "You going to make it?" She said more softly, her tone gentle.

"Going to make what?" Xander asked, standing and walking over to the door. His eyes flew open at the sight.

"Be fine, Pet," Spike answered his voice cracked and arid.

"Holy mother of." Xander winced, pushing himself under Spike's other arm, the one not currently around Buffy, and helping him through the door. "You look.."

"No need to gloat, Mate. Not often that you're the better looking of the two of us," Spike snarked, trying to smile. The damage to his face made it look more like a twisted grimace.

Buffy held onto him, afraid to let him go. Not sure why she couldn't let her arm slide down. He might be able to stand alone now. He'd walked all the way home. But she couldn't bring herself to drop her arm. To let Xander get Spike into the kitchen to get cleaned up. Instead, she stepped closer, taking more of his weight on her bruised shoulders.

It didn't occur to either Buffy or Xander, as they made their way towards the kitchen, that there was a gaggle of slayer trainees on the floor below them until one of them gasped. Spike turned his head slowly, trying to identify the sound. Buffy jumped a little. Xander groaned. "Think the skittish masses are awake, Buffy," Xander said as the light flipped on.

Several teenage slayers stared at three of them, eyes wide and confused. Buffy and Xander stopped, letting Spike half sit, half fall into the chair behind them. He was beaten. Couldn't have put on a show if he wanted to. His head lulled back into the headrest and he sighed, staring at the troops.

"These the birds?" Spike asked, shifting uncomfortably in the chair. His hand still rested on the small of Buffy's back. He was afraid of the moment that he couldn't touch her anymore. As long as he could touch her, she was real.

Buffy nodded, flashing a small fragile smile.

"The baby Slayers," Xander said quietly. "Chirping constantly."

The girls just sat on their bags, knees drawn to their chests, gaping wide- eyed at the battered blondes in front of them. "Is. is that. Is that Spike?" One of the girls asked, nodding at Buffy.

"Xander, could you go up in my room and get some medical supplies? Maybe rustle up some clothes?" Buffy asked, looking down at Spike, wincing at the patterns carved in his chest. Xander nodded, taking off up the stairs. She turned to the girls. "Yeah, this is Spike."

Spike smiled weakly. "Touched, Pet. Told them about me?"

Buffy shot a warning glance at the Vampire. "You're still alive, which means I can still hurt you." The tone wasn't there though. Spike chuckled at the idle threat. She had no intention of hurting him. Ever again.

"She said. she said we had to save you," the English girl said. "Well, that she did. Talked about all the time,"

Spike didn't say anything. Just felt the warmth of her skin against his hand. She didn't move away. She just sat on the arm of the chair, feeling his battered hand pressed gently to her skin. It occurred to her that she didn't want to move. As long as he was touching her, she knew he was there.

"She needs help defeating the First," Spike said, saving Buffy from answering. She turned, looking at him for a moment, studying his bruised and swollen face. Spike fell silent, not sure if he had overstepped his bounds.

"But you're a Vampire," the little dark haired girl said quietly. "Aren't.. I mean."

"Aren't we Vampire Slayers?" Rona completed, a little blunt, but accurate.

"That I am," Spike answered. "And that you are," he continued.

"I don't.." the English girl continued.

"Spike's. different," Buffy said, not looking at Spike, but not quite looking at her charges either. "He's. "

"He's got a soul," Dawn answered from the stairs, looking down on the scene. She eyed Spike warily, but with softness that hadn't been there before. Spike tried to smile at her, but could only muster a small nod.

"No," Buffy interrupted. Spike flinched a little, waiting for the response. His body hummed with pain and fatigue.

"No?" Dawn asked. "I mean, he lost it?"

"No," Buffy said again, turning towards Dawn. "'He was different before that. Different before the soul. You know that. You knew it then."

Dawn looked at her feet, and then descended the staircase slowly. "Yeah."

Spike was absolutely silent, not wanting to interrupt.

"He can help us," Buffy said, returning her attention to her troops. "He will help us."

"Why?" Rona asked. "I mean, how can you trust. he's a Vampire."

"Established that, Pet," Spike answered, as snarky as he could muster. Buffy smiled involuntarily. Snarky was good. She missed snarky.

"I mean, other than. "One of the little ones began.

"Other than what?" Buffy asked, an eyebrow quirked. She leaned back against the arm of the chair, her shoulder now even with his face. His hand still pressed into the small f her back.

"You saw the other Vampire," the English girl began. "The one you fought tonight, well, he."

"He was butt ugly," Rona continued.

"And that was the only Vampire I'd seen," the redheaded girl answered. "Other than in a picture. I thought... Well, I thought maybe that all Vampires . looked... Like that."

Spike chuckled. "They met Ubie, I take it," he groaned in the arid, choked voice.

"Yeah," Buffy answered, returning the smile.

"Good sodding thing we don't all look like that," Spike continued.

Buffy turned back to the troops. "Most look human," she answered. "I mean most of the time. Until the fangs and bumpies come out. :"

"But. he's." the English one stuttered.

"Hot?" Rona contributed, looking at the other girls. "I mean, once he's cleaned up." She shrugged. "Just calling 'em as I see 'em."

Buffy blushed a little. Spike tried to look cocky but only managed to grimace and settle back against the chair. "Thanks, Pet."

"And he has a nice voice," the small, dark haired girl said dreamily.

"We need his help," Buffy corrected, getting back on track. "He's got Vampire strength and a lot of. experience." Her mind flitted to more. intimate. times as it came out of her mouth. She shook her head slightly, banishing the thought. "So, I needed to get him back to help us in the fight."

"That all?" The redhead asked, a sly smile on her face.

Buffy furrowed her brow, staring at the girl. "That all what?"

"That the only reason you went to save him? You need his help?" The dark haired girl asked.

Buffy sighed, not sure of what to say. She knew the answer was a resounding 'Duh, no!', but she wasn't quite sure that that was an answer she needed to give the Slayerettes. "That's the main reason."

Spike nodded, accepting the answer. He wasn't sure what to think. He was just . glad. that she had come. And that she hadn't made him move his hand from her back. That was about the extent to which his addled mind could process the situation. "And I will help you, Slayer," Spike said, as nobly as he could as his body shook with a wave of pain.

A concerned look passed over Buffy's features and everything inside of her wanted to reach out and touch his face and ask him if he was okay and what she could do to help. But she held it in. He shook his head. She nodded.

"So why is your hand in his, then?" Rona asked simply.

Buffy looked down. Spike's eyes followed. Sometime while they were sitting there, her hand had slid inside his. The one not touching her back. She was clutching him, hanging on as if he were a life preserver. Spike noticed he'd been doing the same. Holding on to her for dear life. Her eyes shot open and she dropped his hand, turning back towards the Slayers and then back towards Spike. "Xander should be down any minute. Let's get you in the kitchen and clean you up."

Spike nodded not sure what to say. He hadn't noticed he had taken her hand. She hadn't noticed she had let him. But both of them were holding on. "A bit of help up, Love," Spike asked softly. "Think I've gotten a bit stiff."

An involuntary grin broke out on Buffy's face as she gave him her hands, pulling him slowly to his feet. He stopped, facing her, standing, feeling her breath blowing nervously against his chest. She was looking at him. Staring. Her green eyes sparkling with fear and wonder and relief. And something else. Something softer and wilder and more ancient than time.

She shook her head, turning sideways and helping him into the kitchen, the little Slayerlettes watching but not daring to follow. "Dawn, can you make sure Xander found everything okay?" Dawn nodded a reply. "And you," she continued, facing the girls, go to sleep. More meet the Vampire when he's up to it."

They nodded, still wide eyed. This put a new twist in their prophesied duty. They watched until she disappeared around the corner, her Vampire leaning against her shoulder. Their arms around each other's backs.

They sat in the basement.

Xander had brought down some blankets and a sleeping bag and promised to get a mattress tomorrow. Buffy had half a mind to let him sleep in her bed. Or at least on her carpeted floor where she could watch him. But the little Slayers were confused enough as it was. And so, in fact, was she.

They were alone now. Buffy had done all she could with the wounds on his chest and face. She gotten him changed into some dark blue sweatpants that Xander had rustled up and white T-shirt. He was lying quietly at her feet on the makeshift bed, too exhausted to move. Almost too exhausted to speak. She meant to leave. She really did. But he was looking at her still through the one eye that was too swollen to see.

Slowly, she dropped to her knees on the pile of blankets, and then slid down onto her backside. He looked at her, eyes full of wonder. He wanted to ask her what she was doing. Why? But the truth was he was gladder that she was there and that she wasn't going away yet than he was curious as to why.

Buffy looked at him closely for a minute, taking in the ragged, beautiful landscape of his face. She scooted closer; pulling his head into her lap and letting her fingers gently graze the torn and bruised skin.

He wasn't sure why she was there. Why she was staying there. Stroking his face. Letting him hold onto her calf that was stretched out next to his shoulder. He wanted to ask. Wanted to know. But he couldn't. The tears were coming.

She wasn't sure why she was there. Why she was staying. Why she was stroking his face. Letting him hold onto her. Wanting him to hold onto her. Wanting him to hold her. She had no one to ask. The tears were coming.

Buffy's eyes slid closed, a tear escaping and sliding from her cheek to his. Just one. Spike groaned, taking all of his effort to pull his arm up and touch her face, letting his thumb wipe away the trail of the tear. Her eyes opened, looking down into his beautiful, battered face.

"Spike, I."

He shook his head. "Buffy, don't."

"I couldn't . I was scared you were."

"I won't leave you, Pet," he answered softly.

She nodded another tear escaping. "I know."

Slowly, she lowered her face, pressing her lips softly to his. Spike tensed at first, not sure how he should react. His body wanting to pull her down next to him and hold her until the world devoured them whole. His heart wanting to wrap around her and protect her so the world couldn't take her away again. And his mind afraid of what might happen when she moved away. But he softened against her, losing himself in her.

Buffy pulled away with a sigh, her fingers resuming their gentle trails along his cheeks. She didn't run. She didn't leave. She just held him there in her lap, stroking his face. Making sure he knew she was there. Making sure he could rest in peace.