Title: WELCOME WITH A KISS
Author: Ivytree
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, UPN, Mutant Enemy, etc.
Feedback: Please!
Summary: Answer to Lisa's "after Showtime" challenge, sort of (because I think Spike's gotta rest up). Part 2.
Setting: Spike comes home


Welcome With a Kiss


Part 2.


Approximately forty hours later, the potential slayers gathered in the basement to train. The room had been equipped with weapons, targets, athletic gear such as the punching bag and pommel horse rescued from the Magic Box, and an assortment of mats. Kennedy offered to give crossbow lessons, and Xander had put together a kind of scarecrow made from old, paint-stained sweats, stuffed with rags, tied to a makeshift stand, with a big, red "x" painted on its chest. Three or four girls lined up for target practice; two more juggled with stakes. Several others had arrived since the night of Spike's rescue, and they rummaged through Buffy's weapons chest, chattering as if they hadn't a care in the world.

One of the new girls, a slim Korean-American named Maxine, whirled a sword above her head, laughing.

"This is the weapon for me!" she exclaimed. "It's way cooler than a ratty old stake, any day – yeowwww!" She shrieked as an unseen hand snatched the sword from hers, but instinctively stood stock still when its point hovered near her throat. There was a moment of mass panic, and not a few screams, as the other girls fled to huddle together near Kennedy, still holding her crossbow.

Spike stood before them, sword in hand.

"Afternoon, ladies," he drawled. His face was still rainbow-hued, but the swelling over his eye had gone down. He wore jeans and a shirt, both black, and not a platinum hair was out of place. Dropping the sword point, he gestured for Maxine to join the other girls. As she scrambled across the room, he folded his arms and contemplated them. What he saw didn't seem to impress him.

"S-S-Spike?" Rona choked out. "You were hurt – you couldn't even move…"

He gave her a lazy smile. "One thing you should learn about vampires, pet," he said. "We heal fast."

"How did you get down those stairs?" Kennedy demanded. "We didn't hear anything."

"That's what you should expect to hear when a vampire stalks you," he replied. "You'd better learn that, too."

He set the sword in a corner, and stood for a few moments with his hands on his hips, regarding the frightened group of girls with some gravity.

"Right," he said, finally. "Lesson the third it is, then. Somebody stake me."

"W-What?" Maxine asked.

"Come on. You adorable moppets are all wanna-be slayers, aren't you? So slay."

"But you – you could…"

"I won't bleeding hurt you, if that's what you're afraid of. Come on. I won't move a step. Do your worst."

"We c-c-can't – we're not really…"

Suddenly Kennedy swung her crossbow up, and fired. The bolt whizzed through the air – and sailed harmlessly through the spot where Spike's chest had been.

"Quite a good shot, love," he said, rising from a crouch. Indeed, he hadn't moved a step – his feet were still in exactly the same position as before. "But vamps are fast, too. And, in general, they're not going to stand still and wait for you to dust 'em."

Deliberately, Spike began to prowl from one side of the improvised training room to the other, and as he paced, he lectured.

"A vamp is NOT just a human with funny teeth. He is not going to be distracted by your witty repartee or your fashion sense…"

As he spoke, Molly rushed him, axe upraised; Spike easily disarmed her and flipped her back to the others –

"He is strong, and he is motivated…"

With that, Maxine dashed forward, stake in hand, to find herself instantly propelled backward again on her backside –

"He sees, hears, and senses more than you can imagine…"

Chloe was spun sideways, her sword clattering on the floor –

"He only wants one thing. He wants to kill you…"

One by one, the potential slayers dashed at Spike, and one by one, they were neutralized and tossed aside almost negligently. Finally, he halted and faced the breathless girls piled on the floor, folding his arms across his chest.

"Right, then. Now you've got an idea what you're up against. You lot need work, I can see that."

"Are you going to train us?" Kennedy asked.

"That's right, love. It's your worst nightmare come true – a real, live vampire, just waiting to trounce the daylights out of each and every one of you. So pull yourselves together, watch Inu-Yasha, or whatever sweet sixteens are into nowadays, and have a good night's kip. We start tomorrow."

Silent and subdued, the girls clambered to their feet, put their weapons away, and trailed toward the stairs.

"Oh, and ladies – don't swan in here and think I'm going to go easy on you 'cause you're all cute and winsome. This is serious business. So be prepared to work your curvaceous little bums off."

Spike maintained his inflexible pose until the door to the kitchen shut behind the last girl. Then, with a gasp, he staggered backward until his back hit the pommel horse. Slowly, gripping its sides, he lowered himself to the floor, and sat breathing deeply for a few minutes, until he heard Buffy's footsteps on the stairs. He looked up expectantly.


* * * *


"Hi, there," Buffy said, leaning over the banister. "How are you holding up?"

To her eyes, Spike looked exhausted. He seemed so small, huddled there against the legs of the pommel horse. A wry smile twisted her lips. He'd never looked small to her before he got his soul. On the other hand, it seemed he was big enough to scare the bejesus out of the girls, which was all to the good.

He answered her inquiry with a grin, saying, "Fine, long as I don't actually have to walk anywhere. Or stand upright. Be right as rain in no time."

I bet, she thought. She moved toward him, down the remaining steps. "Those were some pretty thoughtful teenagers I just passed upstairs."

"Think I was too hard on 'em?" he asked.

She sat on the floor beside him. "Nope," she answered. "They needed a reality check. Anyway, they'll get over it as soon as they've scarfed down the dozen pizzas and about twenty gallons of soda Xander just brought over."

"Resilient."

"Boy, I'll say. Was I ever that perky?"

"You were. I remember." He gave her a particularly charming smile that warmed his blue eyes and lit his whole face. She looked at him in wonder; she had never seen him look like that before. There seemed to be no resentment, no anger, and no snarkiness in him at all. Then he added, "I used to particularly hate that about you."

Well, maybe some snarkiness remained.

"And you were all threats and blatant innuendos and swoopy black coat. Those were the good old days." Buffy laughed, and Spike laughed with her. Then she caught her breath. We shared a joke, she thought. That's never happened before, either. "God, we sound like old marrieds," she said. "I guess we've been through enough."

"I should say." There was a moment of silence, but it wasn't awkward. They both had so much to say that it was difficult to know where to begin. All at once, they spoke at the same time.

"Buffy…"

"Spike…"

"No, you first," he said, sounding almost shy.

She took his hand between both of hers, and looked down at it, tracing the cuts and bruises that marred the back with one finger.

"I just want to say thank you," she said softly.

"That's what I was going to say - thanks for the rescue, and all."

"No – I don't mean that. Not for any one thing." She looked up at him. "For everything. For becoming what you are."

"All because of you, Buffy."

"I know." She couldn't control her voice enough to speak above a whisper. "That makes me so proud. So, thank you."

He didn't seem able to find words to answer her, but his expressive features spoke for him. Savoring the moment of stillness, Buffy let her shoulders relax, and leaned back with a sigh. One bare light bulb lit the basement, and tranquil shadows crept toward them across the floor. She heard faint sounds from the kitchen of the girls chattering, probably bickering over pizza, and Xander's voice raised in what was, no doubt, a fruitless protest of some kind. Buffy stole a glance at Spike, and saw that his head was tilted back to rest against the horse, and his eyes were closed. The sharp lines and angles of his face seemed to have smoothed out. He'd probably fall asleep in a minute, if he hadn't already. All of a sudden, Buffy had to struggle to keep her heavy eyelids from dropping, too.

Well, this was one for the books. Giles would never believe it. Slayer and vampire, napping together in perfect trust and harmony, hand in hand, like little children. Buffy couldn't remember feeling so peaceful, despite the inevitable disaster looming right around the corner. In truth, she felt restored, somehow, and strengthened, with Spike at her side. She felt as though an emptiness within that she'd hardly been aware of had been filled.

She felt like she, too, had come home.


END


- - - - - - - - - - - -


"But him the maids of Paradise
Impatient to their halls invite,
And the dark Heaven of Houris' eyes
On him shall glance for ever bright;
They come---their kerchiefs green they wave,
And welcome with a kiss the brave!"

George Gordon, Lord Byron