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pj! I remember wishing one of your stories would be finished seriously about a decade ago. Amazing. I just tried an old password I used to use and amazingly got in too. Memories!
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Chapter One
Love and Jack Daniels

Disclaimer: I don’t own Buffy nor any characters except an original character featured later on. This is a response to challenge 319 on BSV.

A/N: Much thanks and appreciating to GoldenBuffy, Dead Man Walking, and DreamsofSpike. It means a lot to me that you took the time to beta this.

He poured the Jack Daniel’s into the glass, already savoring its taste before it even reached his mouth. Aged over time, it was not the highest quality alcohol, but he knew that it was just good enough to do the trick. The dark liquor slid down his throat as he tilted the glass back, feeling the slow burn of the liquid as it flowed into his stomach, barely beginning to ease his pain.

It was odd how something so dead could feel so alive, without the benefit of either a soul or a heartbeat.

Sometimes, he wished that he *didn’t* feel so alive.

His body, unaged over time, was still recovering from a fight he had had with a Fyarl a little while earlier, his alabaster skin bruised and sore. The Fyarl had fought hard, and Spike had even momentarily felt a slight tremble of fear that he would be dusted -- and yet, a part of him had welcomed it. The end to his eternal search for peace, the kind of darkness his Sire never could have offered him – at this point, death would be a welcome release.

All he really knew was that he could not live like this, not anymore.

The Fyarl had knocked him to the ground, its huge hands wrapped tightly around his throat, apparently intending to rip his head off. Whether he could have thrown the demon off or not, Spike didn’t know – because he hadn’t tried.

Yet, the killing blow did not come.

The soddin’, holier-than-thou Slayer had arrived, and as she had snapped the demon’s neck, Spike felt more disappointment than relief. It had been the first time he had seen her since his little fling with Anya. Spike knew that it had hurt Buffy’s pride, finding out that he wasn’t as whipped as she thought, finding out that after she had told him that she could never love him, shattering his hopes and his heart, he’d turned around so quickly and slept with Anya.

Bloody bint should have known it was a nothing more than a healing sort of thing. There were no feelings between the ex-demon and himself, just alcohol and the fragments of two broken hearts -- two broken hearts shattered by the people they had loved more than anything. A vampire, broken by his love for a Slayer, and an ex-demon, whose heart had been shattered on her wedding day.

Now he spent his days drinking alone, staying out of the Slayer’s way.

He’d show her who was a bleedin’ lap dog.

Spike wished that he would have dusted in the fight with the Fyarl, that his animated corpse had combusted, leaving nothing but his ashes scattering into the air -- because anything would have been better than living like this…loving her, wanting her, yet never having her, nothing more than her sidelong glances, and her eventual rejoicing at his dusting.

But the memories, those were what killed him the most – memories of touching her golden body as it writhed in ecstasy beneath him, burning him, etching a mark into his mind like a brand of her ownership, unwilling to let him ever forget the feel, the taste of her.

The alcohol numbed the pain a bit, yet it was still hard to bear the familiar scent of her, all over his desolate crypt. Even the charred scent of smoke that pervaded the room after the explosion, courtesy of Captain Cardboard, couldn’t rid the crypt of the distinctive, intoxicating scent that was Buffy.

A broken home, filled with memories that he longed to forget, and yet, somehow didn’t want to forget, because those memories were the closest Spike would ever get to touching heaven. She was his purgatory, her body taking him to heaven and hell all at the same time. More so the latter, he reflected bitterly, as she had always seemed more willing to give him hell than heaven.

After all, he didn’t *deserve* heaven; he didn’t have a soul.

And what would a soul do for him, anyway, he wondered with frustration, besides providing him with a superficial conscience to plague his already conflicted mind. He was already a demon so broken that he didn’t even want to attack humans anymore, so broken that he had no choice but to accept that he loved a slayer for all eternity, and never would have her love in return.

The government may have put the stupid chip in his head, forcing him to change his nature, but the change in him, the nagging beginnings of conscience and good that had slowly crept into Spike’s psyche weren’t results of the chip, but rather of his love for Buffy. Yet she’d never accept that, because in her eyes he wasn’t in her league, was not on her level.

Beneath her.

What Buffy thought she truly needed was Peaches.

To her, Spike’s body was nothing more than a scapegoat for her anger at being the Slayer, and being ripped out of Heaven – not to mention the anger she felt at Angel’s abandonment, and the love she had refused to let go.

Because Angel was no longer available, she used the next best thing -- Spike.

His body was a vessel into which Buffy poured her own outrage and torment, torturing him for simply being what he was, for the comfort he offered her, for everything that he represented in her mind. Angel couldn’t love her without a soul, but Spike could. And as punishment, she tortured him with her touches, both gentle and violent.

Buffy seemed to have truly lost the concept of love completely. If she still knew what it was, what it meant, then surely she wouldn’t have used him like she had. Perhaps she would even have realized that he truly loved her with all his being -- but she hadn’t.

To her he was just a thing…nothing…beneath her.

He poured himself another drink, but before he could even swallow this one down, a familiar scent caught his attention. The Nibblet was in his crypt -- probably on her way to judge him as well as the others. He hadn’t seen her in a while; he’d been to busy shagging her sister senseless.

Dawn had been busy with the witches. She had been a victim of Willow ’s addiction to magic, had witnessed Tara’s breaking up with Red, and had been caught in the middle of the tension and pain between the two of them. He poured himself another drink, tears stinging his eyes.

The Nibblet didn’t deserve to see him like this.

“Does it help?” Dawn asked flatly.

“Doesn’t hurt,” Spike replied, as he tilted back the glass and swallowed.

“Everybody’s still mad at you.”

“Can’t say I blame them.” He looked at her, eyes red from tears and alcohol. “Planning a campout, kitten?”

“No, I’m sleeping at Janice’s tonight. Thought I’d give Willow and Tara some alone time…”

“So the birds are flying again?” Spike questioned, a hint of sarcasm in his voice. “That’s nice.” He reached into his jeans and pulled out his pack of cigarettes, slipping one out of the box before taking out his silver Zippo to light it. That accomplished, he took a deep drag, expelling it with a weary sigh.

“Why’d you do it? Hurt Buffy like that. Cause if that’s what you meant to do, congratulations. It worked.”

“Pity party for Buffy, and I wasn’t invited,” Spike spat the words out with sarcastic sympathy.

“It wasn’t right what you did, and you know it, Spike.”

“And big sis was treating me so well up until that point. Points for Spike, must be some of that evil left in me after all.”

“I don’t know what happened between you two, but you really hurt her, Spike. Maybe you should try making up?” Dawn suggested eagerly.

“Can’t do that pet. There’s nothing I should be apologizing for,” Spike stated firmly, taking another drag off his cigarette.

“What you did with Anya hurt her badly. Do you really love her?” Dawn persisted.

Spike didn’t answer right away. “Anya? No. We had been drinking, and we were a bit lonely, and stuff happened…”

“No, doofus, I meant Buffy.”

“It’s not about whether I love her or not, Nibblet, I just can’t do this anymore,” Spike said, running his fingers through his disorderly curls in frustration. “I love her, but she’ll never love me, because clearly I’m supposed to have a soul, or else I’m just a bloody monster. How do you want me to deal, Dawn? ‘S not like I can go ask some mystical wishing demon and get it. A soul -- do you know how that would kill me? I’ve done a lot of wrong, pet. I’ve been a vampire for over a century -- that’s decades of bloodshed on my non-existent conscience.”

He flicked his cigarette across the room angrily to punctuate his words.

“You’re wrong, Spike. You are good enough for her, but you’ve got to make her see that,” Dawn insisted, as she set her stuff down at the edge of the sarcophagus and sat on the lid.

“’S not like I haven’t bloody tried to. I’ve helped the Scoobies time and time again, but all she’ll see me as is just an evil, soulless monster. Buffy could never be my girl,” Spike said, his voice quiet and despairing.

“Why not?”

“Cause I’m ‘evil’, cause I’m not normal enough for her. She realizes with me there’s no fat little sprogs, no white picket fence, no -- sunbathing. What I have to offer, it’s just not good enough.” Fat tears slid down from Spike’s eyes, a testament to the painful emotions weighing on him. He had bared his heart to her over and over again, just to be rejected and kicked away like filth, like trash to be picked up by someone else.

She was everything to him, the love of his unlife, his sunshine, his redemption -- a redemption that he’d seen, but could never touch, because it didn’t belong to him. He could see just enough of her brightness to leave him hopeful, but never enough to fulfill those hopes.

“How normal do you think Buffy is?” Dawn asked. “She’s the Slayer, chosen and all to fight evil. Not so much with the normal,” Dawn pointed out.

“It’s what she wants, though -- to be normal -- and she’ll strive for it, dating idiots like Captain Cardboard and such just to try to get there. She doesn’t care if she breaks my heart in a momentarily lapse of loneliness.”

“Because you let it get this way. She was using you and you knew it and didn’t stop it. She’s not the only one at fault.”

“It was the closest I’d ever get to the chit. I couldn’t help it, I loved her.” As he admitted the truth to Dawn, to his horror, he found himself breaking down completely, his tears overwhelming him in the wake of his heartache and despair.

For a brief moment he had held her – but now she was gone, and he had nothing.

She was that effulgent prize he had sought – and now she was gone.

The alcohol and the emotional suffering combined to overwhelm him completely – and there in his chair, right in front of a very startled, alarmed Dawn -- Spike passed out completely.

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