Across the smoky, dim interior of the bar, he found her. His steely blue eyes studied the woman long and hard, a lit cigarette dangling from his lips. Seven long years had passed since he’d last seen her. Seven years worth of trying to forget. And just when he finally thought that he could move on, he’d received the message that she needed to see him. That was the way that it was relayed to him. She NEEDED to see him. He couldn’t ever remember a time where she admitted willingly that she needed him. So he came. He would hear her out, then. . .he’d see. Sighing heavily, Spike crushed out his cigarette in an ashtray on the bar and started to make his way over to the woman who’s memory had plagued him for years.
She’d changed in the years since he’d left Sunnydale. Her hair was long again, the braid reaching to her waist. It was also no longer blonde. She’d let it go back to the natural chocolate brown of her pre Slayer days. Even from his distance away, he could see the age etched in her face, making her seem older than her twenty eight years. She was still too thin, and her clothes were ill fitting. She was nervously toying with the glass in front of her, her eyes looking down at the table. He knew she could feel him, could always feel him when he was near. But she was letting him come to her.
Sighing again, he pulled out another cigarette, lighting it as he quickly crossed the remaining distance between them. He made sure to keep his face stoic, allowing none of the emotions that were churning through him to show. Love, hate, anger, fear. All them equaled this tiny woman before him.
“Slayer,” he drawled, raising his cigarette to his lips. Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth Summers raised her hazel eyes to the pure blue fire of her former lover’s.
“Spike,” she waived a hand towards the chair across from hers. “I wasn’t sure you’d come.” She said when he was settled. A waitress appeared at their table, smiling sweetly at the blonde vampire. Returning her smile, he ordered a drink, his eyes lingering a little too long on her retreating form, before turning back to the Slayer. Anger flashed in her eyes so quickly, he almost thought he had imagined it. *This should be interesting,* he thought.
“Well, I must say I was intrigued. Never thought you’d try to find me. Me being chip free and evil, and all.”
“I need your help.” she replied, not rising to his bait. She toyed with the ring on her finger.
“I figured as much. That’s all I was ever good for.” Spike took a long drink off the beer the waitress had placed in front of him, this time ignoring her obvious charms, his blue eyes burning into the Slayers. She met his gaze steady on, searching for any semblance of the Spike that had left her all those years ago. Seeing nothing, she felt another piece of her heart break.
*Well, what did you expect, idiot? You treated him like shit,* she berated herself. How stupid she had been back then. How easily led by her friends opinions. And where were her friends now? Tara was dead. Anya was a vengeance demon again. Xander was dead by Willow’s hands. And Willow was dead by hers. She had gone against her calling by killing a human. A human who had been her friend. The day Willow died was the day she’d packed up Dawn and left Sunnydale. Walked away from the Hellmouth, the council, and her youth. She wasn’t Buffy anymore. Buffy died when the life slipped out of Willow. All that was left was Liz. And all Liz had left was Dawn.
So, it didn’t matter if Spike hated her. She deserved it. All that mattered was how he felt about Dawn.
“Well, Pet. What apocalypse do we have to avert now?” Spike asked, breaking into her revery. He was feeling a little unnerved by the way she was staring at him.
“No apocalypse,” she answered, taking a sip from her glass. She grimaced as the liquor burned down her throat. “It’s Dawn.” The tightening of his fingers around the beer bottle was the only outward emotion he showed, but it was enough. *Good,* she thought, *He still cares.*
“What’s happened to Nibblet?”
Throwing a couple of bills on the table, Liz stood, grabbing her jacket.
“Let’s get out of here. I don’t want to be overheard.” He studied her for a long minute, before making his decision. Draining the beer in front of him, he set the bottle down and rose to follow her.
The walk to her hotel was made in silence. Not the easy, comfortable silences that used to flow around them. But the tense, uneasy kind that only comes when ex-lovers’ meet again for the first time.
Shivering slightly in the chilly Los Angeles night, Liz huddled deeper into her coat. She felt a moments amusement that she was wearing a black leather duster. She’d bought it after she’d realized that she’d never be able to stake Spike and take his. Shaking off the thought, she climbed the stairs to her room, and unlocked the door.
Flipping on the light, she walked into the room, shrugged out of her coat, and threw it across the bed closest to the door.
The room was shabby, but clean. Threadbare grey carpet covered the floor, and faded blue curtains graced the window, under which sat a table and two chairs. The expected six drawer dresser and mirror combination stretched across the right wall, an old t.v. sitting on top. Two double beds covered with bedspreads in the same shade as the curtains rested across the opposite wall. Not the most comfortable, but it was cheap, and it suited her purposes.
Spike stepped in behind her and closed the door. Pulling off his own duster, he dug his cigarettes out of the pocket before throwing it next to hers. Lighting up, he sank into a chair by the table and waited for her to begin.
She stood before him, nervously twisting the ring once more. Her too big, grey t-shirt and sweat pants engulfed her slim frame. The harsh light from the hotel lamps giving her too pale skin an almost sickly look. Huge bags were under her eyes, and tiny lines were etched around her mouth.
“Slayer?” Spike prompted, casually smoking his cigarette.
“Don’t call me that,” she said quietly. His scarred brow raised at that.
“Well, I don’t exactly think that ‘Buffy’ is appropriate anymore.” Try as he might, he couldn’t keep the trace of bitterness from seeping into his voice.
“I go by Liz, now.” She told him, offering no further explanation.
“Alright then, ‘Liz’. Where’s Dawn?” Taking a deep breath, Liz settled down on the edge of the bed in front of him.
“Have you ever heard of the Underground?” she asked. He nodded once, indicating he had.
“It’s some sort of tournament for rich weirdos to watch blood and destruction, right.”
“Yeah. It’s an annual event.”
“What’s this got to do with Dawn? She didn’t enter the damn thing did she?” He crushed out his cigarette in the ashtray on the table, leaning forward to rest his forearms on his knees. He watched Buf. . er, Liz rub her hands against her pants, before she began again.
“No. A couple of years after we left Sunnydale, some guy shows up at my door. Tall, blonde, Armani suit. And the coldest grey eyes I’ve ever seen. Anyway. I had just gotten off work. I was tired, and so not in the mood for company. He introduces himself. Lucas Bent. I tell him I’m not buying anything and start to close the door. He tells me that’s not what he’s there for. Then he starts to tell me about this Underground. Tells me it’s a tournament for demons and humans to throw down and see who walks out. I asked him what this had to do with me. He looks me dead in the eye, this icy smile on his face, and says ‘You’re the Slayer.’ It wasn’t a question. He just knows. Said it would be ‘monetarily beneficial’ to me to participate. I told him no. He persisted. I told him if they wanted a Slayer they would have to wait for Faith to get paroled. Then I just closed the door in his face. He showed up every year at the same time for the next few years. Every time I told him to get lost.” She got up and started to pace, her eyes darting to his and away. “Until last year. He never showed up. I figured that he’d finally gotten the hint. Then I was watching the news one night,” taking a deep breath to fight back tears, she continued. “The body of a woman had been found in a dumpster behind a warehouse on the docks. It was Faith. She was beaten to death, her face nearly unrecognizable, her body completely broken. I later found out that she had been paroled a couple of months before she was found. Apparently they had gotten their Slayer.” And Liz had sent them straight to her. Add another life to list those that she had ended.
“And he came back.” Spike interrupted, not liking where her story was going.
“Yeah. A couple of weeks ago, he showed up again. I told him no again. Especially after what happened to Faith. He left. I thought that was it.” Liz sat back down on the bed, her shoulders slumped. “And then, three days ago, I got this.” Reaching behind her, she grabbed her coat and rummaged through the pockets. Puling out a long white envelope, she handed it to him.
Reaching out to take the envelope from her, their fingers brushed, sending familiar tingles up their arms. Both chose to ignore it.
Spike pulled out the letter and picture that accompanied it. The picture was of Dawn, seemingly asleep on a bed. He took a moment to study how beautiful she’d become, before putting it aside to read the letter.
I told you once it would be beneficial to you to participate in the games. Now I would say it is life or death.
“They’re going to kill her if I don’t cooperate. I got a video, too. Faith made it to the final round. She made them a lot of money. Now they want me.” Liz said quietly, staring down at her hands. A part of her was wishing desperately for him to wrap her in his cool, strong embrace and tell her it would be okay. The other, more realistic part of her was just glad that he was willing to hear her out.
“What do you want from me?” Spike asked. He wanted nothing more than to go to her, and take away her pain. But the sharp edge of her rejection hadn’t dulled in the time since he’d last seen her.
“I need somebody to help me train. I quit slaying after. . .Willow. . .” Liz bit back a sob at the memory of her friend. Spike grimaced himself, feeling a touch of sadness at the witch’s death. He’d always liked Red, but the trauma of losing Tara had been too much for her.
“I know, luv,” he told her quietly. She nodded mutely, relief at not having to explain washing over her.
“I also need somebody to get her out of there. I know they won’t let her go, even if I manage to make it all ten rounds. They’ll use her to keep me coming back. Or kill her if I die.”
“Buf. . .Liz. Why me? Why didn’t you ask Angel or Giles?” He scratched his thumb across his eyebrow, leaning back in the chair. Liz looked at him, her expression sad.
“They aren’t a part of my life anymore.”
“Neither am I,” he countered, lighting a cigarette. Liz flinched involuntarily at his words. If only he knew how wrong he was.
“There’s nobody else that I trust with her life.” Her words were quiet. So quiet, that if not for his vampiric hearing, he never would have heard her. Looking up at him timidly, he saw the truth of her words. She did trust him. Running a hand through his now shoulder length, bleach blonde hair Spike sighed heavily and dragged on his cigarette.
Liz studied him as he sat, silently smoking. He was still so very beautiful, and the added length to his hair did nothing to detract from his masculine sensuality. If anything, it enhanced it. It had been pulled back into a tie, but the agitated movement of his hand through the soft tresses dislodged it, causing it to frame the sharp plains of his face. His dress had changed also. The duster and black Doc Martins were still there, but the black jeans were replaced by well worn, blue ones. Gone, too, was the black t-shirt. In it’s place was a button down shirt in the same color as his eyes.
About a month after he’d left, and after countless hours of grieving for her friends, not to mention the endless hours of missing him, Liz had an epiphany. She realized that she had been wrong. She could love him, and did, with her whole heart. Too late, of course. It didn’t take her long to figure out that he wasn’t coming back. She’d left word with Willy where they were going when they left Sunnydale, hoping beyond hope that he would show up. It never happened. And Liz couldn’t blame him.
“So. Will you help me?” Spike looked back at her, his expression stoic. On the inside, he was a mess. Had been since he’d gotten her message. He still wasn’t sure how she had found him. But he figured Willy had something to do with it. Looking at her now, he didn’t know how he’d managed to fool himself into thinking that he was over her. He had taken other lovers over the years. All human. After all those months of being burned by her heat, he couldn’t stomach the idea of mating with a female vampire. Not even Dru when she had caught up with him in London.
But none of those other woman could compare to her. She had changed him, turned a soulless killer into someone that wanted to be good. Even without the chip, Spike had stopped feeding on innocents. His tastes now ran to the more despicable of the human race. And when he couldn’t find someone that went against his personal moral code, he bagged it.
And God help him, if that was possible, he still loved her. Even now, with all the changes, she was still the most beautiful woman in the world to him. He still felt pulled to her. He knew he’d still do anything for her. However, he wasn’t about to let her know that.
“Let’s get one thing straight, shall we, Pet?” He waited for her to nod before continuing. “I’m doing this for Dawn. Not you. When it’s over, and BOTH of you are out of there, I’m gone again,” his voice was cold, his face a hard mask.
“Back to the Big Bad?” she asked, a slight smile in her lips.
“Something like that. How long do we have?”
“Three weeks. I got another letter with the tape that said where and when to show up. It also said the rules would be explained once we get to the island.”
“I’m going to want to see both.” Spike stood, and reached past her to grab his duster. Sliding it on, he looked back down at her. “I have a few things to take care of, then I’ll be back tomorrow night.” Spike resisted the urge to reach out and touch her.
“Okay.” His eyes remained on hers for a moment more, then he turned to leave. “Spike.” His hand paused on the door knob.
“Yeah?” He didn’t turn back to look at her, afraid of what he might do.
“You’re welcome.” He answered. And then he was gone.