Buffy stormed through the club towards the locker room with blood in her eye and murder on her mind, if you could justifiably call it murder. The jerk deserved anything that came his way, especially if what came his way was sharp and stake shaped. She couldn't believe that this was happening, couldn't believe that she had let herself…

Skirting past a sticky, tentacled demon wearing coke-bottle glasses, she found her locker and wrenched the door open, pulling her things from the little metal cubby and slamming it shut before re-emerging into the hallway and throwing her key viciously at the red-headed vampire still manning the front desk. She was sure there was another way out of the club, an exit separate from the entrance that she was meant to take but she couldn't care, dashing out into the dark and shouldering roughly through the throng of demons still waiting to get inside. She got a mild shock when she elbowed a tiny vampire out of her way, a male smaller than she was who visibly shrank back from her, but she just kept going, honing in on the deSoto across the parking lot.

She was breathing hard when she reached the car, her body flushed hot with anger, and suddenly she found herself desperate to have her stakes in her hands. She was only just contemplating putting her elbow through the front window to retrieve them when strong fingers gripped her arm firmly, twisted her round and tossed her back against the vehicle roughly.

"Get off me!" she snarled, her lips curled back over blunt human teeth. Never before in her life had she ever wished for her own set of fangs, but in that moment nothing would have pleased her more. "You keep your frickin' hands off me!"

"Fine!" Spike snarled back, lifting his hands and taking a single step away in a gesture of surrender. "But you're gonna tell me what the soddin' hell got you all bent out of sorts in there!"

"Gonna play stupid then Spike?" she asked, "Because it doesn't suit you. I know you're dumb but you're not that dumb! You knew what those meant," she snapped, gesturing wildly at the bright pink handprints on his chest. "You knew what they'd all think, you knew!"

"I…"

For a second he couldn't seem to find the words and he just stood there, looking small and chilled and vulnerable in the cool night air without his duster.

"I did know," he finally murmured, dropping his eyes to the ground and rubbing at the back of his neck before bringing his gaze back up to meet hers. "I did, ok? But hell Slayer, what was I supposed to do? Tell you?"

He scoffed, looked away towards the front of the club where the bouncer was keeping a careful eye on them from across the lot. When he looked back, spoke again he was harder, annoyance driving his confidence and the bite in his voice, the flare of gold in his eyes.

"You would've turned tail and run," he sneered.

"I…"

A heavy growl rolled up from his chest and he took a strong step forward, forcing her back against the car where the sharp metal dug into her back. Ducking his head down toward her neck, he smirked when she flinched away, drew her into his lungs.

"You blink twice before you lie," he rumbled around a mouthful of sharp teeth. "Smells like tequila. Lime and salt."

Turning hard on his heel, he made as if to walk away but didn't make it far, swinging back around toward her with a hard, slashing movement of his hand through the air.

"And what the bloody hell does it matter anyway?" he snarled. " 'S not a claim! It didn't mean anything to you! Didn't… didn't mean anything to me. So why does it matter what they think?"

"Careful Spike," she said coldly, leaning forward on the balls of her feet. "You've got a tell of your own."

"Yeah, but you didn't answer my question Slayer," he murmured in a deadly tone, shifting on his feet as his shoulders dropped and his hands fisted at his sides, classic Spike fighting stance. "Jesus, we were havin' fu…"

"Fun?!" she spat, uncaring that she was creating a scene in the lot, that the patrons waiting in line were pressing themselves back against the wall of the building, staring warily with wide, numberless eyes. "Oh, you were having fun?! Is that all this was to you? Some kind of sick joke? Waltzing me around through there with a frickin' target on my back, strutting around in front of your friends like you finally got your third Slayer? Huh?!"

"What?!" he yelped, "No! Bloody hell, I…"

"Oh, shut up Spike," she snapped. "If you're gonna stand there and bitch about lies, the least you could do is save yours."

Spike's eye flared like twin matches in the dark, his teeth glinting as he stalked back towards her, crowding into her space and forcing her to lean back, stare up at him with a sharp inhale and a hitch in her chest.

"Fine!" he snarled viciously. "You want the truth; here it is. I. Love you."

"You…"

Spike snarled, shaking his head in vicious anger. "NO! You wanted to hear this, so you're gonna shut that pretty mouth of yours and listen! I love you. You're in my gut. In my throat. I'm drowning in you Summers, I'm drowning in you. You're all I bloody think about. Dream about. I love you!"

"You think I want to hear that you love me," she breathed coldly, and only just managed to hide her own surprise at the words coming out of her mouth. She couldn't stop the flicker of moments behind her eyes; the tips of his fangs flashing as he grinned at her, the way he fit beside her as they ran and leapt and rolled through the arena, the way his mouth felt on the side of her throat as he ducked into her neck on the dance floor and breathed her in like air. Lifting her hands, she placed them flat on his chest and shoved him roughly away, sick in her stomach when her fingers fit perfectly against the pink outlines on his shirt.

Spike let her toss him back, chuckled darkly, resignedly.

"The day you suss out what you do want," he sighed, "There'll probably be a parade. Seventy-six bloody trombones."

"What I want?" she sneered icily, pushing away everything she felt and forcing herself to be empty. "What I want? I know exactly what I want. Same thing I always wanted! I want you out. I want you out of this town, I want you out of my life! You don't come near me my friends or my family ever again, ever, understand?"

Turning on her heel, she ignored the pain she'd seen flash across his face and disappeared into the dark.

Buffy woke up with a hard gasp, her body covered in a fine sheen of sweat. Her legs were tangled in the twisted sheets, making her feel trapped, bound, and she kicked them off the bed viciously before falling back on the mattress with a thump. Dragging her fingers through her hair she tried to breath, tried to bring herself back down.

She'd had this nightmare every night since she'd left Spike standing in the parking lot of Tantric, stalked up to the road and hailed a cab home. Eight nights where she relived the fight, the emotions that had roiled in her stomach. It had been long enough, unnumbered hours filled with a strange, lingering guilt nipping at the edges of her stomach that she could admit, if only to herself, that she had probably over-reacted. He hadn't tricked her into anything, hadn't taken advantage of it, and she…

She felt sick.

She'd panicked, freaked out, lashed out, and some of the things she'd said…

They felt like things a bad guy would say, not a good guy.

And she was supposed to be a good guy.

Suddenly disgusted with the sour smell of her own adrenaline on her skin, with herself, she rolled out of bed and headed for the bathroom, scrubbing down roughly with her mother's lilac-scented soap before getting out and dressing in a pair of loose, grey cut-off sweats and a t-shirt. Refusing to acknowledge that she was dressed for moping, she trudged down the stairs into the kitchen and poured herself a bowl of cornflakes. She had no appetite, hadn't for a while, and so for a while she just poked at the bowl, remembering.

She startled when Dawn flounced in and thunked a bowl down on the counter, poured her own breakfast.

"Ok," the girl demanded around a huge spoonful, her face frighteningly determined. "Talk."

"About what?" she mumbled sullenly, stirring her soggy cereal with nonchalance even though her heart picked up in her chest.

"About the date," she replied flatly. "Duh. You've been grumping around ever since and me an' Clem haven't even seen Spike."

Suddenly Dawn froze, spoon halfway to her mouth, her eyes going wide and round and scared. "You didn't stake him did you?"

"What?" Buffy yelped. "No! God, Dawn! I didn't stake him. Jeez."

"Well then what? Nobody… I mean… nobody got hurt did they?"

Buffy bit her lip, looked down at the counter as her eyes started to sting. "Dawn, I… I don't know."

It was quiet a minute, and then Dawn reached out a tentative hand and touched her wrist. "Buffy, Spike didn't…"

Buffy shook her head, not only because she could hear how hard it was for Dawn to ask, to consider that the vampire she looked at as some kind of weird idol might have done something to hurt her, but because it was the truth.

"No."

"Well then what? I mean, didn't you have any fun?"

"Yeah," Buffy admitted, and it was easier than she would've imagined it to be. "I guess I did. I mean, I don't… know how. We went to this club, and we played laser tag and danced and it was weird, and not like Spike, and not like me, but… I had fun. It was the first time I've let go in a long time, and I… I actually laughed, and danced and played, and it was good, but… But it was a demon bar, full of vamps and nothing like I thought it'd be, down on the docks and…"

"So?"

"So what?" Buffy asked, finally looking up at her little sister who seemed simply, innocently curious, who'd interrupted the shockingly endless flow of babble that had come tumbling out of her mouth in a confused, bubbly mess.

"So what," she stated back. "I mean, I can see you thinking from here. Why are you trying so hard to pick this apart? A date's not about where you go or what you do Buffy, it's about the person you're with. The… feelings. Knowing the other person wants to do something for you… sharing an experience. At least…"

The teenager blushed, looked away shyly.

"At least that's what I'd want out of a date. It sounds… nice. And definitely like something you and Spike would do. Cool lasers, crazy dancing, competition… what's not to love?"

Buffy swallowed around the knot in her throat, thrown back into the memories, the little bursts of heat that had sparked between them all night long until she'd gone and doused them both with gasoline.

"You're smarter than you look, you know that?" she murmured with a sinking feeling in her stomach. "Dawn, I… I think Spike might've won our bet."

Dawn cocked an eyebrow but apparently decided not to splash around in that particular mud puddle.

"So what changed a fun night into the "Buffy mopes and Spike disappears" show?"

"I told you," Buffy muttered miserably. "I ruined it. I made a big deal out of something and I picked a fight and… some of the things I said…"

"But it sounds like you feel bad for saying them though, right?" Dawn ventured.

"Yeah. God, I really messed this up, didn't I?"

Dawn shrugged. "Hey, it's Spike," she replied flippantly. "He's like, totally in love with you. Just apologize. And if that doesn't work, you can always just plant one on him."

Buffy's head snapped up as her sister dropped her empty bowl in the sink, smirked, and sent her a wink over her shoulder as she bounced out of the kitchen, slamming the back screen behind her. Buffy stared after her, dumbly, blankly as her mind turned over the words, pictured an apology

Could it really be that easy? Just tell him she was sorry.

And if that didn't work…

An image sprang to the fore of her musings, an infuriating mouth that curved with laughter, smirked and smiled, sharp white teeth testing a full lower lip.

Buffy swallowed hard.

If that didn't work, was she brave enough to try something more?


Ugh. Was literally in the process of pasting this chapter onto and Word freaked out and then everything was gone. It was a great chapter you guys. Beautiful. And it was gone. Hopefully you guys will like this second draft just as well. ( I hate it. I resent it. Bad. Bad computer.)