Vegas was one hell of a city.

Spike had spent a week's worth of nights chain smoking and binge drinking his way through half a dozen casinos, dominating the poker tables and raking in the chips. It was easy enough to win at cards when you were playing with humans; humans, whose hearts ticked when they bluffed and whose pulse beat hard through their veins when their blood was up.

Easy.

He'd come roaring onto the strip in the deSoto the night after Tantric, after he'd gone back to his crypt in a fury and smashed everything within reach, kicked a table to pieces and destroyed the lid of a stone sarcophagus before collapsing into his armchair and staring at the wall, words running through his head like water as they tormented his very soul. Well. If he had one. But the sadness? The bloody, crushing sadness was unacceptable. Ridiculous, really. Perfectly pathetic.

Anger? Now anger was acceptable.

So he left.

Got in the deSoto and left; stomped his boots down on the accelerator, cranked up the Sex Pistols, and hit the highway.

Left, because he couldn't take it a minute longer - this rending of the unbeating heart in his chest for the soddin' bloody Slayer.

No.

Not couldn't.

Wouldn't.

Dammit, wouldn't!

Chose. Decided that he didn't want to play her games anymore.

It was his right, his bloody damn prerogative to make that choice.

And so he spent a week, or at least, he thought it was a week, drinking and smoking and gambling his way through his nights, spending the day passed out in a luxury hotel room paid for with a credit card he'd lifted off some drunk jock wearing daddy's suit. It would've been nice to feed fresh; there were any number of skinny blondes waltzing around without a thought in their heads who would be perfectly willing to trip home with a high roller, but the soddin' chip put the kibosh on that.

Not that there weren't other things he could do with said blondes.

He thought about it.

Lots of different times; considered lots of different things with lots of different girls.

But something always stopped him.

Even when the young one with the gently waving curls and the little black dress dropped herself down into his lap and stuck her chest in his face and her tongue in his mouth after he'd pulled in four grand on a single hand of cards. Her mouth had tasted like the icy cherry vodka she'd been drinking and her hands had been curious and playful, far too light for his liking. He'd had the sudden, untamable urge for something rough, wrapped an arm around her waist to jerk her in closer to his side, and he'd known the tips of his fangs were showing when he'd bitten at her lower lip and gotten a zap for his troubles.

It was the zap that did it.

That little reprimand, that condescending smack on the wrist had his fury flaring up like a the strike of a match and in that moment it was all he could do to hold back his demon's face, to not let his lips wrinkle in a snarling mask of powerful hatred as he bared his fangs and snarled. The memories of his last year had all come down on him in that moment like a ton of bricks, the anger and the pain and the humiliation and the sick, churning heartache, sending him to his feet hard and fast and dumping his companion off his lap. She'd shrieked in drunken protest, only just barely catching herself on her mile-high heels but he hadn't spared her another thought, a different face superimposed over hers. Stuffing his chips into his pockets, he'd stopped just long enough to cash them in before heading to the lot where he'd stashed the car.

He was halfway back to Sunnydale when he realized he didn't have the least idea why he was going back.

He didn't know what he planned to do when he got there, what he planned to say. 'Course, he'd never been one for plans. They didn't tend to go the way he hoped they would. Case in point his little date with the Slayer.

Spike's hands tightened on the steering wheel.

God, it had been going so well.

He'd thought his dreams had come true as he watched her step out onto the floor of the club. She'd been a vision, life pumping in her blood along to the beat of the music, just like she'd been that very first night. It was only moments later that he learned how wrong he was, how much better things could be when she pulled him into the dance, pressed her body to his and accepted the grip of his fingers around her hips. He'd buried his face in her neck and breathed her in, certain of the rebuff to come, but she had only tilted her head for him, a move that was like a fist closing around his throat.

He'd been desperate to taste her in that moment, not her blood but her, desperate to mouth at her skin and suck a mark with blunt, human teeth.

And then everything had gone to holy hell.

Spike rumbled low in his chest, felt the hot wash of anger on his insides. Rolling down his window to let in the cool night air, he lit a fresh cigarette off the last, pulled the smoke deep into his lungs. Stupid habit really, but it kept his hands occupied, fed a certain addiction, a certain hunger. Calmed a bit of the twitchiness, the need to move and melt away into the dark. Stomping down on the gas pedal helped too. Shooting down the interstate, he passed a sign for the Sunnydale exit, only forty miles off, a green and white reminder of his destination and his intention.

Not that he knew exactly what that was.

He just wanted the rollercoaster inside his head to stop.

So he would go back, and he would hunt her down, and then he'd just… let instinct take it from there. Whether he chewed her out or chewed her up, she'd deserve it.

Soddin' harpy.

It was the deceit that bit at him. Her steadfast refusal to admit to the things she felt, the charcoal scent of her denial every time her heart tripped over a lie. It stoked the flame in his belly until his anger boiled in his blood like acid, stroked his frustration to greater and greater heights. It had been so long since he'd cared what others thought of him, lifetimes even, that he couldn't understand her unwillingness to cop to reality, couldn't understand why she would sacrifice something so simple because of what was 'right,' even though it made her happy.

And maybe that was a part of it.

That he wanted her to be happy, despite the fact that she could be a right pain in his ass. Despite her uncanny ability to sense a weakness and her total willingness to drive right at it, to hammer at it with words and fists until she had the upper hand back. Until she didn't feel vulnerable any more.

Not that that made things any easier.

Hell, she'd really gone for broke back in that damned parking lot. Made some pretty vicious accusations before soundly dismissing his feelings and telling him that she never wanted to see him again.

And he supposed, technically, that since she felt she'd won the bet she had the right to demand that from him. And he'd considered it. In his liquored up haze in the middle of those casinos, he considered it. Taking the cash he'd won and making for the border, move down through Mexico to Panama, or to the east coast where he could catch a plane for England. Anywhere to get away from her, and the bloody Tilt-a-Whirl that had set up shop in his chest.

But then the anger had flared up again, and he knew that there was no way he was running from this. No way he was running from a Slayer.

After all, they never got to finish their dance.


Buffy had her fair share of bad days. Bad nights too. Heck, she had had bad weeks.

But this?

This was hell.

After talking with Dawn she had actually been feeling better, shedding the grumpies that had been sticking to her like ticky-tape ever since her little fall-out with Spike. Running upstairs, she had shucked her sweats and put on some real clothes, ones she was willing to be seen in public in. As she was pulling a long-sleeved blouse from an open drawer, the inside-out t-shirt from Tantric fell to the floor from where she'd thrown it in a ball over the edge of the dresser. Picking it up, she righted it and smoothed it out on her coverlet, fingers tracing the letters and the streaks of paint, colors still bright even though she was out from the blacklights.

CHOSEN 1.

She remembered his hands on her as he painted the letters, remembered her hands on him as she shoved playfully at his chest. Looking at it now, she couldn't summon any of the anger that she'd felt that night when the beans had been spilled about the territorial nature of the marks. If she was honest with herself, totally honest, something she tried very hard not to be, her handprints had looked good on him, the strong, muscled planes of his pectorals solid beneath her palms. She had felt the flush of possession in that club, particularly when Spike had been eyed by the other vampire females there. She hadn't fully recognized or accepted the meaning of the power rush that flooded her knowing that he was there with her, but it had been there, and that had to mean something.

She just didn't know what it meant.

Folding the shirt neatly, she opened the false bottom of her weapons chest and tucked it inside, right next to the note he'd left what felt like a century ago. The feel of it in her hand, the crisp edges of the parchment, gave her a bit of courage, a bit more hope, and after locking the chest back up she grabbed a notebook and a pen off her desk before heading back down to the kitchen.

She spent the next two hours drafting a letter of her own, countless sheets of paper torn out and crumpled into balls before they were tossed in the general direction of the trash can. She went through three different pens too; the first ran out of ink and the second had snapped in half when she slashed out a particularly bad paragraph a little too hard, black ink splattering all over her fingers. Frankly it was a horrible process - she felt like she was writing a speech for class, and when the thought went through her brain that she should ask Willow for a poem about apologies she gave it up for a lost cause. When she saw him again, if she saw him again, she would just go with her gut, hopefully say what she needed to say.

Because she had the feeling that there was a lot she needed to say.

A lot she needed to make up for.

And really, there was no time like the present was there?

If what Dawn said was true and Spike had gone underground, it might take her a few nights to find him, and frankly, that was something she needed to do. She'd said some pretty vicious things, and she had no idea how he might react to that. How he might react to being told that no, he didn't really love her, wasn't capable of loving. She'd taken his autonomy, devalued his existence as an individual, and she could only pray that she hadn't sent him over the edge into a tailspin of crime and violence. She knew he still had the chip so the breadth of the potential damage was limited, but not nearly limited enough for her liking.

And all of this said nothing for any emotional pain or turmoil she'd put the vamp himself in.

Collecting her shoes and her keys, she'd dropped Dawn off at a friend's house before heading over to Willy's, well aware that the greasy little bartender was her best bet for a hot tip. Unfortunately he'd had nothing for her so she had headed home, bypassing his crypt because she knew he wasn't there. If neither Dawn nor Clem had seen him he was laying low, and that would mean steering clear of Restview.

So.

Not the best day in the life of the Slayer.

A little too much introspection and a little too much humble pie for her tastes. Couple that with the fact that the obstinate vamp wasn't available to receive her apology and to provide her the opportunity to avail herself of her guilt and it was actually kind of a sucky day.

Little did she realize just how much worse things were going to get, and all she had to do was step inside her front door.