Buffy gathered up her Egyptian princess costume peering into the stage lights as she did. It was one of her best tip earning costumes, which was why she had worn it tonight. Men liked the foreign exotic beauties for some reason. Cleopatra, The Mummy and all of that historical mumbo jumbo. Priscilla was already on stage, ready to dance. Her song would be queued up, the deejay waiting for Buffy to start to leave the floor. The dancers like Buffy who got lots of tips took longer to collect them and no one wanted to cut into a dancer's time on stage. Angel was out there somewhere, but she did not feel like getting chewed out for hogging stage time.
She changed as fast as she could, not bothering with a shower tonight and got her things ready. She took one last pass through her small dressing area to ensure she had everything. She wanted to leave as soon as they were done. Convinced she had everything she went to the club part of The Neon House for the first time ever. She realized too late that she had forgotten to take the jet black wig part of her costume off. She felt multiple sets of eyes following her progress into the club as she searched for Angel.
He was busy talking to Xybler when she finally picked him out of the crowd. Both were talking rather intensely. She wondered if Xybler was upset the investigation was taking so long. She took advantage of being able to watch Angel without his knowing. No matter where they were he always took her breath away and left her wanting more. She turned to walk away, not wanting to draw attention to Angel or herself unnecessarily. If Angel was trying to get information or talking business he did not need Buffy interfering.
"Cleo," she heard Angel's voice carry to her through the crowd. She stopped dead in her tracks, uncertain she wanted to be outted at the club anymore no matter the reason. There were lots of demons here tonight and each and every one of them would know there was a slayer in town.
"Here goes nothing," she muttered before turning to face Angel. She was not prepared for the look in his eyes and it caused her to take an unplanned step back. He did not look like a detective gathering information nor an evil vampire on the verge of exposing a slayer for who she truly was to a room full of demons. He looked like a man unexpectedly catching sight of the woman he loved. And the look was directed at her. It made her heart take flight. Had they been any place other than The Neon House she would have run and jumped into his arms. She was tempted to do it anyway but instead walked toward the two men. Her hormones and wanting to act on them to reward him for that look in his eyes were temporarily in check. "Hi," she said hesitantly.
"So, you're the slayer?"
She glanced at Angel for a moment before answering Xybler. She did not have any idea what was going on. He was not supposed to out her unless the guy was here. She was confused, but decided if Angel had told him there was no sense lying about it.
"I am," Buffy said proudly. She was getting used to taking claim to the title that she tried to hide from the past two years. She was gradually immersing herself into the life of a slayer once again. She and Angel patrolled alone. Illyria had seemed to accept Buffy so that was not really the problem. Buffy did not like being in the uncomfortable position of being around Spike any longer than she had to.
"You're lucky you've made me so much money these past months."
"I am," she said, her amusement at his statement coming through loud and clear. "I think you're the lucky one I came here to work for you and not kill you. It could be me killing off your customers. I could be working here just to have the demons and vampires come to me, makes for easier kills that way."
"We caught him," Angel said simply.
"You did?" she asked, thoroughly confused now. Why did he need to tell Xybler who she was if they had caught them without their act?
"Well, who was it? Where are they?"
Xybler glanced at Angel who answered her question. "It's taken care of."
"If he's human you better have taken care of it by calling the police."
"You can't call the police in a situation like this, Cleo," Xybler said. He was one of the most human looking demons Buffy had ever seen. She was not sure what kind of demon he was, but with the exception of his ears being pointed like she always thought elves ears were he was normal looking. She did not have Giles' knowledge or any books to look it up. "Things like this are better handled in-house, as it were, among our people."
"So they aren't human." Again the two men exchanged glanced. "Okay, what's going on here?"
"It was a man who was infected with aspect of the demon like you were."
Angel did not need to remind her of the time she thought she was going to have to live in seclusion for the rest of her life. Of course, that life could have included Angel so that might not have been so bad. She shook her head to get rid of those thoughts. Bad, Buffy, to be thinking about Angel like that when they were talking about a killer.
"Well, apparently when he found out he was infected after playing a game of Russian Roulette to see how many demons he could be with he went after all of the demon types he had been exposed to."
"Okay, gross much. I mean, eww," she said with a frown. "Let's just drop it. So, he's caught. Demons are safe again."
"Are they?" Xybler asked.
"I don't go hunting demons. I'm a vampire slayer, demons come with the territory but only if they're stupid enough to do things in front of me or are just obviously evil."
"So you didn't come here to learn about my customers, their habits, their names?"
"Of course not. I'm the Slayer not a murderer."
"Some might argue there's little difference."
"Yeah, well, I'm not here to argue with you or anybody else. I didn't choose the calling, it chose me."
"I know how it works, Cleo."
"Can we go now?"
"The slayer with a vampire. I've never heard of such a thing."
"What can I say? I'm crazy that way," Buffy said. "Can we go now then?" she asked Angel. She did not want to have to stay here any longer than she had to.
"Sure, I think we're done here."
"Yes, Randy has your money, Cleo. He had just gone to find you when you came out."
"I'll find him I'm sure."
Randy found her on her way to the dressing rooms and gave her that night's cut. She barely glanced at it before shoving it into the front pocket of her hooded sweatshirt. She felt Angel's eyes assessing the manager who had been the closest thing to a friend Buffy had the past few months.
"Hey, Cleo," he said as he gave her a once over that was neither innocent nor flattering. He quickly stopped, however, when a low growl was heard coming from Angel next to her. "Yeah, whatever. You find yourself in need of work, let us know."
"Thanks," she said, offering him a weak smile.
"Good night then, doll," he said, giving Angel a curt nod as he walked off to do whatever it was he did. He probably thought Buffy had finally succumbed to the temptation of meeting one of the club's customers. She turned her attention to Angel who now knew the surprise she was going to give him tonight on their way home.
Tonight was her last night at The Neon House. Hopefully, it would be her last night ever having to take off an article of clothing to do a job. She had Angel now and earning unlimited amounts of money did not seem as important as it had when she first got the idea to strip. For the first time in her life, though, Buffy had been doing it. She had been living on her own and not just barely scraping by while doing it. Her life had not been in constant danger day in and day out for the first time in years. Those things had been important to her. What was more, she was proud of herself even if the job lacked respectability to some. She hoped never to see Randy or The Neon House again.
"I'll be right out," she said to Angel right away hoping he had missed what Randy had said. "I just need to get my things."
"What was that about?" Angel asked. No such luck! Of course he had caught it.
"I'll tell you on the way home, okay?" Her house had not been designed with vampires in mind. Her bedroom in particular was decorated with sheer white, lace curtains. Not exactly good for someone who had an aversion to sunlight, particularly since her room faced east. So Angel left before sunrise the nights he spent at her house, which had been all but one or two over the past month. She had no idea what to do if she wanted to spend an entire night with him except go to his house. Tonight she planned to do just that.
She had avoided seeing Spike for too long. If she kept doing it both vampires would wonder what she was trying to hide or avoid. She was not hiding anything. She had been incredibly happy the past few months, but was happier still to have Angel back in her life and to have his love unconditionally once again.
There were times like when they had a picnic in her back yard or went for a walk on the beach that she thought about Riley and the picnic and beach fun they had shared in the daytime. She wished she could share those things with Angel because they were fun, but he seemed to understand that she did not need those things. Hopefully, he was done making decisions for her.
"Ready." She offered him a smile as she took his hand.
"So, what was that about?" he asked again once they were outside and away from the club's neon lights that seemed to extend for blocks.
"I quit," she said simply.
"I can't say that I'm not ecstatic about that choice, but why?" He released her hand and slid his arm around her waist, tugging her close to him.
"Because I have the chance at real happiness and for once I'm not going to ruin it by doing something so stupid."
"What about rent?"
"I got a job waiting tables. It's not great, but it's a better place than the dive I worked at a few years ago."
"I'd say this calls for a celebration," he said far happier than she realized he would be by her decision.
"What kind of celebration?" she asked, thinking a night of dancing or something would be fun.
He drew her to him and his mouth found hers. He gave her a smoldering kiss, gathering her closer still as he caressed her bottom and upper thighs with his capable hands. Her heart started pounding as her excitement grew. His tongue found hers and her breath hitched at the joining of their two bodies, wanting so much more than just this tonight. He broke the kiss and nibbled on her lower lip, grazing it slowly, seductively with his tongue between nibbles.
Somehow while kissing her he must have spotted and flagged down a cab because suddenly there was one idling on the street in front of them. Angel broke the kiss and opened the door for her, not giving her a chance to ask questions or protest. He gave the cabbie his address and gathered Buffy into his arms again.
The entire cab ride to his house was spent kissing. Hands roamed freely over their bodies bordering on giving the cabbie a show. She was humming by the time they reached his house. He paid the driver and they got out of the cab. Buffy saw that he handed the cabbie a fifty dollar bill and wondered if he was as wound up as she was or if he was just normally so generous.
The cab pulled away and Buffy and Angel stood on the sidewalk outside his home continuing their passionate kiss. She was never going to get enough of him, there was no such thing as enough of Angel.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com