A/N: This story was written for the I Will Remember You ficathon. Although this story, at the moment, is a stand alone piece, I do have an idea for a sequel. However, currently, I'm eyeball deep into grad school projects, so I have no idea when I'll next get the chance to write. I'm hoping during winter break, but time will tell. Also, the lyrics used for this story come from the K's Choice song "Not an Addict."

~Charlynn~

Not an Addict
A Buffy and Angel One Shot

Breathe it in and breathe it out
And pass it on, it's almost out
We're so creative, so much more
We're high above but on the floor

"Buffy, what are you doing sitting out here all alone? Everyone's inside, eating dinner. Why don't you come inside and join... oh my."

Even at the watcher's exclamation, she didn't turn around. Instead, she raised the joint to her pale lips and inhaled deeply, savoring the numbing void as it spread within her stretched to capacity lungs. Years ago, she would have laughed aloud at his British ways. An American would have swore in their astonishment; Giles just said 'oh my,' like he was Dorthy, roaming through Oz's woods afraid of lions, tigers, and bears... only he had traveled to their strange land of Sunnydale via an airplane not a tornado, and his woods were filled with things much more frightening than that which could fill a Friday night program on the Discovery channel.

Oh, and then there was the fact that her empty, emotionless chest could not be filled with a heart supplied by a wizard. Instead, Willow's spells only managed to strip her away from the pure, uncompromising happiness she had sought endlessly for oh so very long. Now, all her best friend could offer her was a little potion to dull the pain... not that Willow was aware of the fact that Buffy was raiding her private herb stash for use which definitely landed on the recreational side of magic.

Her thoughts had nearly distracted Buffy from the frowning, disapproving watcher behind her, but then Giles spoke once more, shattering any haze of obliviousness she had been attempting to create. "This is new," he remarked, attempting for casual. However, to her ears, he just sounded... timid, as though afraid of her response if he reacted too strongly. It smacked too close to the father who wanted absolutely nothing to do with her.

"Newish," she corrected dispassionately, shrugging.

"Well, I see," he replied, though Buffy knew that he actually didn't. As Giles considered what he wanted to say next – she could practically hear the tea-laden cogs of his mind spinning out of control, he shuffled and fidgeted, no doubt removing his glasses to polish them unnecessarily. "And what exactly does that mean, Buffy?"

Finally, she turned around to look at him. "It means that time really doesn't have any meaning for me now, Giles... since I've been brought back from heaven."

"Yes, well," he cleared his throat, obviously uncomfortable, obviously feeling guilty once more for not realizing what exactly Willow had been attempting to do over the summer. "There's that."

Extinguishing the cheery glow at the end of her join, Buffy put what was left away in her pocket. "Now, if we're done here, I need to go perform my sacred duty... which just so happens to have killed me. Twice." The sarcasm hovered between them like a dense, cloying cloud.

"Just promise me that this isn't a problem, Buffy," Giles insisted, taking a step forwards, towards her. "Promise me this is just you trying to... readjust. I'm not completely naïve. After all, I was a child of the sixties. I realize that there are worse things that you could do than a spot of marijuana every now and again, but I also need you to remember exactly who you are, Buffy, and that your body is not the same as a normal, human girl your age. We have no idea how this substance could affect you."

"It makes living a life I don't want slightly more bearable, Giles, a life that I was free of until Willow had to bring me back to this hell on earth that we all call home." He was about to protest further, to restate once more just how worried he was for her when she stopped him, holding up a hand and smiling. "I'm fine."

And she was.

It was just a little pot... which wore off in a matter of minutes thanks to her slayer institution. In fact, it wasn't even in her system long enough for her to experience the munchies, just an overwhelming sense of freedom for as long as the joint would last. It wasn't a problem. She had everything under control.

It's not a habit, it's cool, I feel alive
If you don't have it you're on the other side

Buffy felt... mellow.

After her confrontation with Giles, she had delayed the ol' vamp hunt for a night out on the town, choosing to hang out at the Bronze without her friends. She bought a coffee. Drank it. Bought another one. And listened to the slow, crooning rhythms of a band she didn't know and, in all likelihood, would never hear again. Their set lasted an hour and fifteen minutes, and, afterwards, she went outside to finish the joint she had been interrupted from enjoying completely earlier.

Relaxed once more, she set in to stalk her prey, having to go no further than the alley behind Sunnydale's most popular and only dance club. Her movements were slow and deliberate, and she slithered up to the undead slime engaged in some kind of private, quiet conversation with an unsuspecting teenage girl. Whether the vamp was rounding third and sliding into the home stretch of his seduction mode or simply asking for directions to the nearest convenience store, she wasn't sure. But what she did know was that she didn't care. So, practically prancing up behind the scumbag, Buffy slipped the point of her stake precisely against the back of the bloodsucker's heart, leaning forward to whisper coyly in his ear, "tell the girl to go, and I'll give you the chance to actually see my face before I dust your ass."

With a jerk of his chin, the vamp dismissed the high schooler, and, within moments, he and Buffy were alone together in the grungy alley... or, at least, as alone as any two supernatural beings could be on top of the Hellmouth. Removing her weapon and releasing the demon, the slayer allowed the vampire to turn around, only to be surprised when, instead of immediately trying to attack her, the guy just laughed. "If you think your pasty face is a sight anyone wants to see these days, you're obviously the one between the two of us who has an allergy to mirrors."

Hands on hips, Buffy demanded, "and what's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that there's one of us here who looks like death warmed over... and it ain't me, sweetheart." She remained silent, uncaring, simply waiting for her foe to make his move so she could kill him and move on. "What, no witty comebacks tonight, slayer? From what I heard about you, you always used to have a cutesy pun or two up your sleeve. I mean, you would have at least said something like 'yeah, well, at least I'm alive and not sporting grave mold,' but, then again, you can't really say things like that now, can you?" Still, Buffy remained impassive, uncaring. "Cat got your tongue, slayer, or are you just too high to keep up tonight?"

Yawning, she said, "you talk too much," and then raised her stake, advancing rapidly upon the distracted vamp.

Just as the tip of her wooden weapon was about to pierce her opponent's chest, he stumbled backwards, tossing up his hands in the classic defensive pose. "Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down there, killer. I have a business proposition for you." Reaching into his inside jacket pocket, the vampire removed a small ziplock bag. "In exchange for another night of my un-life, I'll give you something, free of charge, that'll really offer you a pick-me-up."

"No thanks," she replied, already advancing menacingly towards the smooth talking demon.

Once more, though, he took several hasty steps back until he collided with a brick wall and couldn't retreat any further. "If you think pot is freeing, this stuff here," and he shook the baggy for emphasis, "will make you fly. You'll forget everything – all your pain, all your regrets, hell even who you are, and you'll just... be. It's the best feeling in the world."

Doubtful, Buffy posed, "better than feeding on an innocent's blood?"

Shockingly, the drug-dealing vampire chuckled. "Alright, make that the best feeling in the world for somebody without fangs and sporadically in need of botox."

This time, when she advanced towards him, she did so in a non-threatening manner. "And you swear that this will stay just between us?"

"Demon's honor," he pledged, crossing his fingers over his unbeating heart."

"Yeah, that's what I thought," Buffy remarked, snatching the packet of heroin from the vamp's fingers. Then, before he could respond or even blink, her stake was in his chest, and his ashes were raining down upon her deceiving face.

Walking out of the alley and heading towards home, done for the night despite the fact that she had only removed one demon stain from the face of the earth, Buffy slipped the purloined drugs smoothly into the back pocket of her worn, old jeans.

The deeper you stick it in your vein
The deeper the thoughts, there's no more pain
I'm in heaven, I'm a god
I'm everywhere, I feel so hot

For the past month, Giles had been watching Buffy closely to make sure that her new, little hobby had not turned into some not-so-little habit, but he had yet been able to find a single sign from the slayer that she was still smoking pot – no discreetly discarded rolling papers, no lingering scent of the distinctive smoke. However, under her own admission, Buffy had told him that the night he had seen her getting high on the front porch had not been her only dalliance into the world of recreational drug use. If he had been oblivious before actually seeing her with his own eyes, just how many times had he been so absorbed in everything else they were dealing with that he hadn't noticed the trouble Buffy was apparently in? And perhaps he was still too distracted, or maybe Buffy was just too proficient at hiding things from him.

It was after dinner. Xander and Anya were off doing what Anya so often proudly proclaimed openly, and Willow and Tara were helping Dawn with her homework, but Buffy was nowhere to be found inside of the house. Not that her absence surprised Giles. It seemed as though, the longer she was back with them, the further she pulled away, preferring to spend all her time alone rather than with the people she, at one point, had loved the most. For a girl whose forays into nature during high school consisted of occasionally wearing an animal print inspired accessory or two, Buffy now rarely went inside. She loved to sit on the front porch, swinging. She laid down on the roof at night instead of her bed. And he had even found her climbing trees several times during the past month, hiding herself away in their fading green foliage.

So, wanting to see her, wanting to talk to her, and wanting to, if he was going to be completely honest with himself, check up on her, Giles quietly slipped outside, making sure to mask his movements so that no one else in the house would hear and then follow him. As he stepped out onto the covered porch, gently latching the door, he scanned the yard for his slayer, slightly surprised by just how late it had become. As a man who knew exactly how dangerous the night could be, Giles prided himself on always being aware of the time, but, apparently too distracted by his concerns for Buffy, he had somehow allowed the light of day to disappear without notice, and, now, the world around him suddenly felt too close and too stifled by the human limitations of twilight. Still, though, the streetlamps and the moon provided enough illumination for him to spot Buffy where she reclined lifelessly, the dew accumulating on and around her despite her lack of care or attention.

For a moment, he feared that they had lost her once more, but then she sighed, smiled, and he was struck by the sense of serenity he felt coming off the slayer in waves. It had been years since he had seen her so... carefree, so light. "Buffy," Giles questioned slowly, hesitantly. Not only did he not want to startle her, but he also didn't want to rouse her defenses which always seemed so readily available and close to the surface whenever they were now near one another. "What exactly are you doing?"

In response, she paused and cocked her head as though listening to the wind whistling through the trees rather than to him. Eventually, however, she answered his question, but, if he didn't know better, Giles would have sworn it was like Buffy had waited for permission from someone or something before addressing his concerns. "I'm listening to the leaves, Giles," she whispered reverently. "As they fall – dying, they talk to me. Their stories are always different, but, at the same time, they're all the same as well: they're born to serve a purpose, they do their best to help others, and then their lives are cut way too short. But they're not allowed to die with dignity. No, they pass away only to be pushed around, swept up, and then burnt. No peace. No tranquility. No final, deserving rest. But they're resigned to their fate anyway, knowing they're powerless to stop a cycle of existence they didn't even want in the first place."

Her words were so slow, so haltingly paced, and Giles found himself unconsciously matching the slayer's tempo. "That's rather existential of you, Buffy. I don't believe I've ever heard you speak in such a way before."

Rapidly, without warning, she switched topics without even acknowledging his observation. "Do you feel that, Giles – all those millions of soft, warm breaths puffing, and pulsating, and pushing against us? They make me feel like there are temporary flames of fire licking their way across my skin."

"Buffy, I do believe that's just the wind, though it has been unseasonably balmy this October." Questioning her behavior and attitude, he asked, "Buffy, did you smoke another joint this evening?"

"I haven't had any pot since that night you caught me on the porch," she answered, and he could hear the sincerity rolling through her voice. But still...?

Temporarily breaking into his thoughts, Giles watched as his slayer stood up smoothly, unconcerned about any fallen leaves or blades of grass that might have stuck to her clothing, and that's when he really looked at her for what might have been the first time in weeks. Buffy looked... fragile. It was obvious that she had lost weight, weight she could ill afford to lose. Her hair, hastily pulled back into a forgotten bun, lacked its usual luster, and there were dark craters rather than just mere dark circles ringing her once lovely, hazel green eyes. And her clothes were baggy and old – a pair of loose, ripped jean shorts with a hoodie several sizes too big. Not only did her ensemble contradict Buffy's usually fastidiously dressed habits, but it also made Giles wonder how the young woman could stand to wear such a heavy, warm shirt. Despite the late hour and the fact that the sun had fallen, the thermostat still hovered around the ninety degree mark.

In fact, as a bead of sweat rolled down his temple, Buffy announced, "I need to go."

"Where," he immediately questioned, realizing his reaction might have been a little too strong when the slayer eyed him closely.

"To kill bumpy-faced things that go eating at night, because, that's me, Giles – Buffy Summers, eliminating American demon obesity one midnight snacker at a time since 1996... except, for you know, that time in between when I was dead."

He didn't respond, and he didn't stop her when she pivoted on the heels of her tennis shoes and calmly walked away, but, as soon as she was outside, Giles did a little pivoting of his own, turning back towards the house and re-entering it just as quietly as he had left it moments before. Taking the stairs but making sure that he stepped where the wooden risers wouldn't squeak and give away his presence, he climbed to the second story before letting himself into Buffy's bedroom. While she might not still be smoking pot, there was something frighteningly different about the slayer. As her watcher and, more importantly, someone who loved her like a daughter, he was determined to find out exactly what was wrong with the confused, depressed young woman... well, what was wrong besides the obvious. As he started to rummage through her things, Giles promised himself that he wouldn't quit until he had some answers.

It's not a habit, it's cool, I feel alive
If you don't have it you're on the other side
I'm not an addict (maybe that's a lie)

As she entered her bedroom, using the always open window, Buffy knew that something was off, that something wasn't right. She felt a second presence in the room, one that shouldn't be there, and she was immediately on guard, fearful that some demon without the invitation restriction had gotten into her home. What if they had harmed her sister, her friends? What if they were lying in wait to kill her? What if they didn't succeed? What if...?

"Giles," she harshly accused, though, at the same time, maintaining a low volume to her voice. "You scared the wiggins out of me! What are you...?" And then she saw the things he had arranged upon her bed: her supply of unused needles, her stash of aluminum foil, her tube, the large rubber band she tied around her arm before shooting up. The only thing not present was the heroin that had been hidden in the hiding place she had made within Mr. Gordo's body. That was missing.

Narrowing her eyes in recrimination, she bit out, "you went through my things."

"And you lied to me, Buffy." His voice was calm, cool, and collected, and the fact that he wasn't losing his patience irked her for some reason. After all, why should she be the only one upset when what was happening between them was Giles' fault, not hers. "You promised me that you were fine, that you didn't have a problem."

"And I don't!"

"I think the evidence speaks for itself. While my guilt and worry might have allowed me to overlook the marijuana, heroin is another story entirely, Buffy. Why, don't you realize that you could have killed yourself the very first time you used this garbage? It's dangerous."

"Well, I'm danger-girl," she tossed back at him snarkily. "I slay the dragon's while the rest of the world stays tucked up tight in their beds at night. I take on demons, and vampires, and witches, and the first evil itself, and you consider a little escapism dangerous? That's laughable, Giles, really." And, to emphasize her point, Buffy chuckled mirthlessly to herself.

"I don't know how, and I don't exactly know when, but you've apparently become dependent upon recreational drugs."

"Hey, I'm not an addict," she retorted loudly, glaring at the watcher.

But he simply ignored her and kept talking. "It ends tonight however, Buffy, no matter what you have to say. If I see you using, catch you high, or even spot a single item of drug paraphernalia in this house, I'll go Angel, and we'll together get you the help that you need."

As the name of her former lover reverberated around the room... or at least around her mind and seemingly hollow heart, Buffy felt her rage kick up several notches. It was one thing for Giles to accuse her of having a drug problem, but it was an entirely different matter for him to threaten her, using her feelings for Angel against her. Lashing out, she advanced upon the older man, trapping him, and making him scramble backwards until he landed with a heavy thump against the wood of her closed bedroom door. With her hands clenched into fists down at her sides, Buffy narrowed her gaze and spoke.

"If you're disappointed in me, I'm ashamed of you. While I might be a lot of things, Giles, at least I'm not a hypocrite. You accuse me of being a drug addict, but you were once so addicted to magic that you killed someone, and, now, you allow Willow to use magic for everything. You turn a blind eye to the fact that Dawn is a freaking klepto. And, then, best of all, your big plan to save poor, pitiful me is to run off to a vampire that you only like when he's oh-so-conveniently helping you out, a vampire who, in his own way, is addicted to blood and who, years ago, was very much addicted to me... just as I was to him. Maybe you should stop for a second and really think. Do I get high occasionally? Yeah, I do, but I'm not hurting a damn thing by doing so. I still slay, I still keep this ungrateful, unappreciative, ugly world safe, and I still make sure that, somehow, the bills around here get paid. So, before you intervention me, perhaps you should worry about someone who really has a problem. Now, if you'll so kindly get out of my face, I really don't want to look at you anymore."

With a simple twist of her wrist, Buffy popped her bedroom door open and not so gently shoved Giles out into the hall. Once he was gone and she had waited for the sounds of his footsteps to fade away, she took her vanity chair and angled it beneath her doorknob, essentially barricading her door shut. Crossing quickly to where her stuffed pig was resting upon her pillow, she hastily scraped away at the childhood toy until she located the small slit she had made into Mr. Gordo's fabric, removing the white powder hidden within. Though she preferred either shooting up or inhaling the smoke made from burning heroin, Buffy neither had the time for such preparations or the patience for dealing with the watcher again if he would catch the smell of the melting opiate. So, instead, she snorted the last of her reserves.

As the drug quickly started to take effect, Buffy found herself wondering if there was even a slight chance that Giles was right and, if he was, what Angel would think of her actions. Did she, in fact, have a problem? But then she became submerged in the euphoria of the heroin, and any such thoughts spun neatly out of her blissfully empty mind. Lethargically, she fell onto her bed, rolled over onto her back, stared at the plain, white ceiling above, and smiled.

It's over now, I'm cold, alone
I'm just a person on my own
Nothing means a thing to me
(Nothing means a thing to me)

While the chip in his head prevented Spike from killing for his food, it didn't alleviate his other vices, thankfully. He still smoked, he still drank, and he certainly still fornicated. So, he was a recognizable, known element in the seedy part of Sunnyhell, though most of his fellow demons didn't frequent that part of town, mainly because they preferred their prey to be young, fresh, and tasty rather than old, used up, and uglier than the queen. Spike didn't mind these less than aesthetically pleasing aspects, though, because it was on these dark and dingy streets where he could find some peace from the rest of his life. The humans he knew didn't want him because he was a vampire, and the vampires didn't want to be around him because he was essentially neutered in their eyes. Just as the ex-convicts, prostitutes, druggies, and loons far crazy than Dru had ever been were, he, too, was an outsider everywhere else. Most importantly, the seedy part of town was the one place where Spike could go to escape the slayer.

Nobody cared about how he felt concerning Buffy's not-so-miraculous return from the dead, but, if they asked, he would have told him that his initial joy had quickly been eclipsed by his dismay. It had been one thing to be used and abused by a fully-functioning, confident woman who could kick his ass from one end of town to the other while, at the same, making him enjoy the torture, but it was an entirely different story to be ignored by someone unworthy of the memories he had of Buffy. Oh, he still wanted the slayer with an almost obsessive level of desire, and he still loved her, but he sure as hell didn't respect her anymore. She wouldn't even banter with him now, so, unless he wanted to become depressed, he avoided that not-so-hot-anymore mess.

Or, at least, he believed he had been avoiding her, but, as Spike rounded a corner to take the last road to the liquor store which was his favorite to hold up, he stopped short when he saw the slayer standing half in and half out of the shadows, loitering as though she were waiting for someone. By her constant twitching, he knew that she wasn't there on a hunting mission. Five seconds of behavior like that, and everyone and everything within a block would be aware of her presence. If he didn't already know better, Spike would have said that she looked like a junkie trying to score her next hit.

As soon as the thought left his mind, he went to laugh, but, before he could even open his mouth, Spike sobered in realization and recollection. He remembered the slayer's erratic behavior since her return, her crazy moods, and, for the first time in weeks, he really and truly looked at the woman standing across from him. Buffy looked sick. Thin, washed out, and lifeless, she reminded him more of a mannequin than she did of a living and breathing superhero. Add to that her jerky movements, the desperate air that surrounded her, and the fact that a non-living and non-breathing vampire was within striking distance to her, and she wasn't even aware of his presence, and there was only one possible conclusion. She was a junkie.

Well, he certainly wasn't going to tolerate that. Striking a casual pose – hands in his tight jean pockets, a jauntily whistled tune upon his lips, Spike strolled across the intersection as if he owned the entire town. As soon as Buffy saw him, she startled, and he could read her thoughts plainly as they flashed through her eyes. She was contemplating running away but, in the end stayed. He wondered if it was her pride or if it was her need for a score. "Fancy meeting you here, Pet. This isn't your usual scene."

"Unfortunately, I can't say the same about you, Spike."

He chuckled appropriately as though following a slayer-vampire script and pulled out his nearly empty pack of smokes. Lighting a cigarette, Spike stuck it between his lips, adeptly talking around the smoldering fag. "Let's cut to the chase, shall we," he suggested. "There's better ways to feel alive, Summers. What is it – blow, smack, crank?"

Feigning insult, Buffy huffed, "I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm down here to stake vampires."

"Look around you, Blondie. It's not exactly a mecca for fangs."

"I don't know what you're talking about. There's a candidate standing right in front of me, yacking my ear off when he should be running away."

He ignored her suggestion and, instead, moved closer, crowding her and trying to force her back and then up against the alley's brick wall. When she held her ground, Spike said, "you know, if what you want is to forget, I could help you with that if you asked me not-so-nicely."

When he went to slide a cold, pale finger down her cheek, she glared at him and threatened, her voice frozen with disgust, "touch me, and I'll end you right here, right now, Spike."

Annoyed, he snapped, "look, Summers, I get it. Life slapped you around a little bit. Been there. I wanted to be a poet, and look at me now. I couldn't write a decent sonnet if it meant getting this bloody chip out of my head. But it's time for you to either shit or get off the pot if you know what I'm saying."

"Haven't the foggiest... as usual," Buffy replied flippantly.

"What I mean is that you need to get your shit together, slayer. Beat something up. Have a good cry. Shag a bloke or two. But, if you're just going to keep on slowly killing yourself, then you might as well just end it here and now. Take that stake I know you have in your back pocket, turn it around, and use it on yourself. After all, you're more dead inside than the things you're killing with it. Put us all out of our misery already if you're not going to snap out of his funk."

"And, when you say shag a bloke or two, you mean you, right?"

"I might not be the demon I once was, but the bits still work. A few nights with me in my crypt, and I'd screw whatever ailed you right out, Blondie." Becoming smug and playing what he felt was his ace card, Spike smirked. "And it's not like Peaches is volunteering for the job. In fact, from what I hear, congratulations are in order for my big poof of a grandsire and his bitch of a mate."

He could practically taste the fine wine of victory when Buffy's already sallow face paled even more under the pressure of his words. When she spoke, her words were shaky and timid. "What... what are you talking about, Spike?"

"I mean your precious Angel," he nearly sneered the other vampire's name, "and Darla currently find themselves in the family way. Preggo her ego. Up the duff. I'm sure you catch my drift."

"But... but that's not possible. Darla's dead. Angel killed her. I saw him. And, besides, even if she wasn't, vampires can't have children."

"Yeah, and we're not supposed to have souls or chips in our noggins either, but you don't see me crying foul play, do you. Oh wait," Spike snickered, dropping the butt of his cigarette and rubbing it out with the toe of his right combat boot, "you do." Shoving his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels once more, he boasted, "so, now that Peaches has been knocked off the white-knight pedestal, why don't you allow this stallion to take you for a ride, slayer?"

He could feel the anguish, the hopelessness, and the misery rolling off of Buffy in waves, so he believed that he had finally won, his prize imminent, but, when she looked up and met his smug gaze, his confidence evaporated, and Spike could do nothing but listen in frustration and, if he were completely honest with himself – something he really didn't like to do – pain as well while Buffy shut him down for what he was positive would be the final but lasting time.

Lips trembling, eyes misty with barely held back tears, she said, "maybe Angel's going to be a father, and maybe I do get high now and again, but all the hurt and all the drugs in the world could never make me sleep with you, Spike. I'd rather live this terrible existence until the end of time than ever be with you. Now, if you'll get out of my way, I need to go kill things."

She walked away from him, never once looking back. While almost all of her pronouncements rang true, there was just one that he didn't believe. Buffy wasn't going off to slay vampires; she was running away to score. As she had promised, she preferred the total oblivion of getting high to a few sweaty, satisfying minutes in bed with him, and that was something that Spike's ego just couldn't handle. If he couldn't kill her, and he couldn't have her, then he'd find another way to get pleasure from the slayer, to use her, one that she'd never see coming and sure as hell would never forget. One way or another, he was going to make her his... even if he had to destroy her in the process to do so.

It's not a habit, it's cool, I feel alive
If you don't have it you're on the other side
I'm not an addict (maybe that's a lie)

The slayer was very much destructible.

As Spike observed her – not from the shadows, not from behind a mausoleum or a tree, but flagrantly and in plain sight, he was amazed by the fact that Buffy wasn't dead yet. Again. The drugs coursing through her system – heroin (he had confirmed his suspicions by doing some checking around) – made her a very easy target. With a little bit of luck and a lot of good timing, some nothing newbie could rise from the grave and bag himself a slayer without any finesse or even a smidgen of planning. Quite frankly, it pissed him off.

Besides the fact that he had a vested interest in the current slayer, for some other vamp to come along and do something that he himself had failed so miserably at several times was downright insulting. Add to that the fact that such an effortless slayer kill would really bring down the reputation of those demons who had actually managed to bag themselves a Chosen One or two in the past. Chipped or not, his old fame and glory still provided him with a little bit of a reputation. It might be one of a 'has been' great, but it was better than nothing, and Spike felt that he had to guard it carefully.

So, that's why he was in the cemetery that evening... well, besides the usual reason that he lived there. He was watching Buffy's back, protecting her until the calvary arrived. And it wasn't an easy task either. Between her bumbling and stumbling, her apparent inability to judge risk, and complete lack of stealth, the girl was a walking, talking target that practically screamed 'bite me, because I'm yummy.' The drugs had her completely off balance. She wouldn't have been able to stand up straight and walk in a forwards direction if her next score depended upon it. Then there was the fact that, even from a distance, he could see how weakened she was by the garbage flowing through her collapsing veins. While she still punched with a flair and kicked with a vengeance, the attacks lacked their usual strength and vitality. Plus, her reaction time was definitely slower, not to mention the fact that she was totally unobservant. That's why he could watch her so blatantly without worry that she would notice, and that's why several vampires that evening had gotten the unsuspected jump on her. More than once Spike had been forced to intervene, but even his timely and much-needed assistance had gone undetected. Considering the chit in question, though, that bloody well figured.

The only thing that still puzzled him, though, was how the drugs had been able to take hold of the slayer so quickly and why they had completely destroyed her after just, what he figured to be, no more than a month or so of use. Yes, heroin was bad. Blah. Blah. Blah. But Buffy was a freaking superhero; her body should have been able to withstand much more abuse than the average junkie's. Choosing a freshly inlaid grave marker, Spike sat down to ponder his thoughts, pulling out his smokes to keep him company.

Already that evening, he had witnessed for himself Buffy shooting up more than once. In fact, in the timespan of two hours, she had gotten high three times. But then he also recalled how fast that drug-induced euphoria left her, spinning her out of control and itching – sometimes literally - for another hit. And he knew that it was easy for the slayer to get her hands on the trash. Rather than being dependent upon a dealer and needing a steady influx of cash like any other addict, Buffy merely beat up, stole from, and threatened demons. Being practically invincible – at least to things that chewed up and spit out humans, vamps enjoyed dabbling in the recreational drug market, especially the younger ones who still hadn't realized that the best high was the one they received from hunting and then feeding from their prey. And, considering the fact that there was an unending stream of the walking dead flowing into and being born in Sunnyhell, it was no wonder that the slayer could so easily get her hands upon her habit of choice. Spike chuckled. In a way, it was her calling that was going to be the death of her... but not in the way anyone would have predicted.

With that thought, though, realization slammed into him, and his humor evaporated as quickly as it had appeared. That's exactly what it was – Buffy's slayer-ness was what was killing her so rapidly. Sure, the heroin wouldn't have helped anyone alive, but the fact that her body metabolized so quickly made her burn through the drugs just that much faster than any other human would have. The amount of smack it would take to get a non-slayer girl her size high scientifically couldn't do the trick for Buffy; she needed more... a lot more, and, because of this, she had become addicted quicker, too. Everything – the whole process – was exasperated and its pace greatly accelerated.

"Oh, bloody hell," he spat out, tossing his cigarette away.

If his plan – their plan – didn't work and quickly, he'd never get his chance to be with the slayer... or royally stick it to Peaches.

Unconsciously, his foot started tapping anxiously. Time was definitely of the utmost importance.

Free me, leave me
Watch me as I'm going down
Free me, see me
Look at me, I'm falling and I'm falling.

Finally, after what seemed liked hours, he watched as the slayer fell limply to the ground, her body lifeless and drugged into oblivion by the nameless, faceless human who worked with Spike's partner. Jackhammering up into a standing position, he sought his co-conspirator's gaze and challenged, "it's about bloody time you got here! I have things to do, you know – important things."

"Oh, I know," she simpered in ready agreement. "People to kill, apocalypses to create. Oh wait," Lila exclaimed, grinning cruelly. "That was the old you... before you became impotent. What? Are you about to miss the night run of The Young and the Restless on cable?"

"Impotent, huh," Spike rose to the bait. "I'd watch it if I were you, counselor. While I might not bite for sustenance anymore, I can still inflict pain... when someone wants and enjoys it. And, for your information, I watch Passions."

"Of course you do."

"That's enough about me."

"Oh, but, Spike, I thought that was your favorite subject," Lila teased him.

Ignoring her, he demanded to know, "why were you late?"

She shrugged demurely. "Traffic jam."

"Ha, bloody ha," he challenged. "You work for Wolfram and freaking Hart. If you wanted to, you could have taken a chopper to get here."

"Let's just say that something... unexpected came up, but it's nothing to worry about. In fact, it just might help us in our little mission."

"Care to share the good news," Spike requested.

"Hmm...," she mused. "No, actually. I think I'll keep this one to myself, but, really, it's been a pleasure working with you."

"Hey, we had a deal," he yelled after her retreating figure. "I give you Buffy, and, in return, you get rid of the Poof for me and make it so that the slayer can finally move on from him and fall in love with me."

"And I'll deliver," Lila promised, "but evil genius takes time and patience. Perhaps that's why none of your plans to take down Angel have worked in the past."

"You don't know what the hell you're talking about! You're just a puppet in a suit for people who really have power!"

"And you're just a vampire who has granddaddy issues," Lila returned, nonplussed by Spike's insults. "You claim to love the slayer, yet your jealousy of Angel has driven you to the point where you were willing to turn over the supposed woman of your affections to me – someone who'd rather see her dead than alive – just so you could one up a guy who has all but forgotten you." Laughing, she tossed back her last insult, "that's just pathetic... even for you, William."

Suddenly, Spike felt like his human self again – weak, simple, and stupid, a nothing, a nobody, and he had a sneaking suspicion that pairing with Lila and Wolfram and Hart had been a big mistake. But it was too late now. He was in all the way. It either worked or it didn't. There was no turning back, even if he wanted to, because the only person who even stood a chance of being strong enough to take down the evil law firm was the one person Spike could never go to for help... even if his inability to swallow his pride cost Buffy her life.

Shoulders slumped, head bowed, he morosely shuffled his way out of the graveyard and towards Willy's. "I need a drink," Spike muttered to himself, for there was no one in his life to listen. "Or twenty."

It is not a habit, it is cool I feel alive I feel...
It is not a habit, it is cool I feel alive

Slowly, Buffy came awake.

Her limbs felt heavy and stiff, their muscles cramping painfully, and she had difficulty peeling her eyelids open. It was as though she were sick and had been asleep in a fever-like haze for days, but she couldn't recall even developing any symptoms. She was still tired, though, and she smelled horrible... like she had been lying in a pile of her own sweat. Her clothes stuck to her clammy skin, but, at the same time, she shivered desperately, the room – wherever she was – unbearably cold. Attempting to compensate for the less than ideal circumstances her body currently found itself under, Buffy had been getting up slowly, but then a wave of intense, urgent nausea swept through her, and she stumbled off the bed just in time to throw up on the cold, white tiled floor.

She retched for what felt like several minutes with most of her efforts producing nothing more than dry heaves. It made her wonder just how long it had been since she had something to eat or even drank a cup of a water. Surely, she hadn't been out of it that long, but, then again, she was in a place she didn't recognize. Just as the floor was white, so were the walls and the ceiling. As for furniture, there was a small, narrow, metal cot, and the only way into or out of the cell-like room was a door on the opposite side. It, too, was white with a small, observation window that, even from a distance, looked too thick for even Buffy to break through, weak or not.

She was just about to start accessing her situation, to plan some sort of attack when the door opened, and a pleasantly dressed stranger walked in. She wore a suit, somber in color, but her shoes and haircut both screamed money, and Buffy didn't get a demon vibe from her. Oh, she was certainly up to something, but she was firmly on the side of the living. It was kind of disappointing, because it meant that she couldn't kill her for kidnapping her, but, at the same time, it was also a relief, because, with the way she was feeling, the slayer wasn't sure if she'd be able to overpower anything even slightly supernatural.

"Hello, Buffy," the stranger greeted her calmly. She even smiled, though there was no warmth in the gesture.

Narrowing her gaze, she demanded to know, "who the hell are you?"

"My name is Lila Morgan. I'd formally introduce myself, but, if you don't mind, I think I'd like to wait until after you've had a shower and received a change of clothes before I shake your hand."

"So, that means you're not going to keep me locked up in here?"

"Well, actually, that depends upon you."

Buffy nodded, silently accessing the woman's words. She was cagey, but, so far, she had no reason not to believe her. More importantly, she knew that, if she at least pretended to be willing to go along with whatever the stranger said, she'd more likely get her chance to escape. And she needed to go home. She needed to check on Dawn, report in with Giles, make sure that, during her absence, Sunnydale hadn't completely imploded upon itself, and, if truth be told, she really wanted a hit. No matter what, it always made her feel better. It made everything else in her life that was unpleasant... which was just about everything anyway... disappear, and, five minutes into being awake and aware, she was already tired of and annoyed with being sick. Just one dose, and, surely, she'd feel better, and then she'd stop using heroin altogether. She just needed one more...

"Thinking about this," Lila asked, opening her right hand and revealing a loaded syringe in her palm.

For a second, Buffy considered denying what they both knew to be the truth, but then she shoved her pride away and lunged for the other woman, only to have one of those expensive, designer shoes kick her squarely in the face and stop her in her tracks. Immediately, her nose started to bleed.

"Not so fast, Buffy," the stranger crooned. Though the words were gentle in tone, there was a steel strength of warning behind them. "This and anything else you might need or want is yours. No questions asked. No judgments. But, first, you have to agree to do something for me in return."

"What?"

"It's simple, really," Lila promised. "All you have to do is agree to kill Angel for us. You've done it once before. Surely, it would be no problem for you to do it again. And, of course, you'd have our full support behind you as well."

Standing up and backing away from the older woman, Buffy held her hands out in protest, in defense. "No, no way. Never going to happen."

"Oh, well," the stranger sighed, shrugging her shoulders. "It was worth a try."

"Wait, that's it," she called out, questioning the easy surrender. While she might not know the woman, Lila Morgan did not seem like the pushover kind. "You're giving up just like that?"

"I asked. You said no. And a bitch or not, Buffy, I can respect a woman with principles. You're obviously far more loyal than I could ever possibly be. I mean, if the man that I loved, that I nearly sacrificed the world for, that I went through hell and back for would do to me what Angel did to you, well... let's just say that I'd be the first one in line to put a stake through his heart. But I guess it doesn't bother you that, while you were fighting to save your sister's life, protecting the world, and not to mention dying... again, he was knocking up his sire, the woman who, years ago, tried to kill you. And, now that you're back, I think it's admirable that you're willing to love him from afar as he raises his son – Darla had a baby boy, by the way... Connor – with Cordelia. Our shamans have predicted that he's going to fall in love with your old rival, but, really, it's beautiful how selflessly you care about him – to let him go so that he can finally be happy with someone else even if you're miserable and dying slowly, piece by piece everyday, without him. Then there's that whole giving up the chance to be with you as a human thing. Don't even get me started on that," Lila laughed self-deprecatingly.

"What the hell are you talking about," Buffy asked desperately, not understanding half of what the stranger was saying. "Angel and Cordelia? And what do you mean he gave up a chance to be with me as a human?"

"Whoops," Lila exclaimed, covering her mouth guiltily. "I forgot that you didn't know about that." When Buffy simply advanced upon her, she added, "it was nothing, really. I mean, sure, the Mohra demon turned Angel human for a day. You two were together, blissfully happy... from what I've heard, but, then, when he realized that he could no longer fight the dark side, Angel went to the powers and had them turn back time, making him a vampire once more and erasing your memory. But that's just it, isn't it," she continued, shaking her head ruefully. "You two are always sacrificing your own happiness for the world. First, Angel gave you up in order to be a champion, and, now, here you are, willing to turn a blind eye on the fact that he's deceived you, lied to you, cheated on you, had a child with someone else, and, now, is going to fall for the one woman you perhaps loath the most. If that's not true love, I don't know what is. It kind of makes me sick actually," she added conspiratorially. "Well, anyway, I'll leave you alone now, and I'll be back in a few minutes with some new clothes for you so you can go home."

Buffy felt as though she couldn't breathe, and her heart, which had been barely working well enough to keep her alive before, had shattered with Lila's oblivious words. While it was true that she hadn't had Angel in years, there had always been a small part of Buffy that relished the fact that, no matter what happened or how far apart they were, she and Angel would always love each other. It had been the one thing she had been holding onto since returning from heaven. It had been the one thing preventing her from completely giving into the allure and the abyss of nothingness the drugs provided her with. It had been the one thing keeping her from just ending her life once and for all. But now that was gone. He was gone.

"Wait," she cried out frantically, making Lila Morgan freeze in the open doorway and slowly turn around to face her once more.

It's not a habit, it's cool, I feel alive
If you don't have it you're on the other side
I'm not an addict (maybe that's a lie)
I'm not an addict...

"I'll do it. I'll kill Angel."

Before the last word slipped out of her mouth, Lila had the needle plunged into Buffy's arm, and she sank down bonelessly to sit upon her knees. Finally, the blissful nothingness was back, and, even if it only lasted for a few minutes, she had returned to heaven.