Angel entered The Neon House with disdain. A strip club was not on his list of top ten places to go in Los Angeles. Spike had laughed at him when he mentioned where he was going tonight. He and Illyria were out patrolling while Angel looked into the occurrences at The Neon House. Someone was killing off the strip club's customers. Not that Angel found that a bad thing, but the owner of the club, Xybler who happened to be a demon, asked Angel to look into it. Despite his thinking that someone was out to muscle him out of the business since he was a demon Angel had found out that his club was not the only one having its clientele thinned out, so Angel agreed. Xybler was of the mind that there was a new demon hunter in town.
He could not help but think of Wesley when he came to LA over six years ago now. Angel had thought him a pathetic excuse for a human being when he first met him in Sunnydale and that opinion did not change when he ran into him again in LA. Angel had grown fond of the man, despite their differences that at times were potentially life threatening.
Illyria still seemed rather confused by the fact that Wesley was not coming back. She was adjusting to helping others as Spike and Angel were doing, but there were days that Angel caught her looking rather lost. Helping the helpless was a new concept to her and there were times Angel had to remind her that she was here to help and heal not destroy.
Angel looked in on Anne and her shelter now and again knowing Gunn would want that done. It seemed the least he could do. He could have easily gone to a hospital instead of meeting them in the alleyway and might be alive today. Angel doubted it given the man's injuries, but he certainly had a better chance of survival at a hospital than in that alley.
It was back to business as usual for Angel, with the exception of waiting for the senior partners to collect themselves again and come after him with even bigger guns. "I'll have a beer," he said to the bartender, pushing aside the glass of blood. Thinking of the senior partners and the possibility that he might die left him thirsty.
He had arrived shortly before the night's "entertainment" began. Unfortunately, he had little choice in the matter given his aversion to the sun and the fact The Neon House had live girls performing beginning just about at sunset. He scanned the crowd for anyone who stood out or looked like they did not belong. A blaring voice announced over the loud music the first dancer of the evening, inspiring Angel to leave the room.
The club was huge, each of the three floors and two basement levels needed to be checked out by Angel. Xybler had promised Angel freedom to go into every room he wanted to go into. The basement was where the private shows were given. It was beyond him why a human would want to give a private lap dance to something like a chaos demon, or worse, but it was not his place to judge. He just opened doors, looked and left. No one seemed to pay him any attention, which was good. He was not prepared to get into a fight tonight.
He glanced at his wristwatch as he made his way back to the main floor. He had been there for over two hours. He stopped to watch the current stripper dance to "Manhunt". She was quite good; Angel wondered why some of these girls were stuck taking off their clothes for a living. Angel had no idea what her name was, but she was by far the best dancer he had seen in the club tonight. He took a five dollar bill out of his wallet and walked to the stage, sliding it under her g-string at the hip.
"Thanks, sugar," she purred seductively at him. Angel was not fooled by her sweet words. He knew it was an act to get more of his money. "Are you going away so soon?" she asked when he turned to leave. There was nothing here, no one jumped out at him as being hunting. Many of the patrons, on the other hand, fit the bill for being the hunted since they were demons. The Neon House was one of the few clubs in LA that welcomed both demons and humans alike. Humans thought it was cool to hang with the demons and the demons liked patronizing a club owned by a fellow demon, even if he was a different demon.
"Ladies and Gentleman," the booming voice sounded over the speakers. "Let's hear it for Alexa. Isn't she great?" The voice paused for the crowd's enthusiastic response.
"And now, a special guest appearing at The Neon House for an extended stay. From Parts Unknown, let's hear it for Cleo." The audience clapped and shouted some things not fit to repeat. Angel grew curious at who this special guest was. Had she been here long enough to be the person he was looking for? It seemed unlikely that a stripper would be who he was looking for, he had been under the assumption it might be a demon doing the other killings to draw attention away from The Neon House. But nothing ceased to amaze him any longer, so he could not dismiss anything just yet.
Angel moved to a spot with a better view and instantly regretted it. What in the hell was she doing here? His game face fell into place as he watched the roomful of demons and humans alike ogle his girl. It did not matter how much time they had been apart, she would always be his. He glared at the others; no one seemed to pay him any attention. All of them were focused on her as she gyrated to "You Can Leave Your Hat On". He imagined as the song implied, her nurse's cap would remain at the end of the dance and nothing else.
He was beyond furious. He thought it entirely possible he might just kill everyone in the room himself. What in the world was she doing here? He found it hard to believe Giles would let her start stripping. He understood that she was taking time away from slaying, but she was the chosen one for god's sake. As far as Angel was concerned, she would always be the only one no matter how many others there were now.
He watched her act, glaring at the stage hoping she would become aware of his presence. At one time they had that type of connection. He did not believe there would be any mistaking he was unhappy. Had he given her up only to have her become a stripper? Was this how she planned to become cookies? He shook his head no longer having any plans of leaving. Unable to watch any longer he walked to the bar and ordered another beer. "What's the deal with the dancer?" he asked the bartender.
"Some bimbo who goes around the country and performs at various clubs for a price. She's a pretty hot attraction from what I've been told."
"Yeah, you know, she's not a regular dancer so the men come and pay the higher cover charge to catch a glimpse of someone they've never seen before."
It took every ounce of strength to not throttle the bartender for calling Buffy a bimbo and an attraction as if she was not a person. The bartender was human, so he expected better. "Thanks," he said instead of the choice words he wanted to say and stepped away.
The song ended and despite not wanting to see her, not wanting to be reminded of what he could not have, Angel peered at the stage. She was perfect, more so than he remembered. He tried not to bring up the image of her that day years ago now that only he remembered, but tonight he did.
She had still been maturing then, growing into her body and the strength that came with it. Gone was any evidence of the high school girl he met in the alleyway. She was toned and tanned, everywhere he realized unable to resist looking to see if she had tan lines. Gone were the insecure and innocent airs about her that Angel had found endearing when he first met her.
She was a woman now. The experiences that had brought her to this point were evident in her eyes. The rest of her was glorious, pretty, and still youthful. Her eyes, however, betrayed a knowledge that could only come from a very hard life. No one said a slayer's lot was easy. He knew he had made her lot a little more difficult by leaving.
He tore his gaze away, feeling more than a little intrusive by staring at her like he was. Not that every one else in the club was not doing the same thing. He finished his beer and walked to the back. The bouncer let him in knowing Angel was on a case and Angel stood in the hallway waiting for Cleo to come out of her dressing room.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com