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The Devil's Gift

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Buffy followed Chloe into Lux, totally unprepared for the rush and crush of the crowd, and the wall of noise that slammed into her. It had been a long time since she'd been to the Bronze, but compared to this, that was nothing.

Beautiful people in beautiful clothing, exposed flesh pressing against other flesh… dancing, drinking and basically just showing off for the sheer joy of it. She couldn’t remember the last time she had the luxury of being so self-indulgent.

Certainly not since before her mother had fallen ill and her subsequent death. And even less once her little sister became the object of desire of a Hellgod.

Thoughts of Dawn reminded her that she was out there, somewhere… just not here. She’d begun to feel as if tonight’s outing was a mistake. All these people made her feel more alone than sitting in a closed room.

“Are you sure Lucifer doesn't mind me hanging around his place for free? You know I don't have anything to...” Buffy dropped her gaze, staring at her fingers as she played with the leather bracelets Maze had lent her. She wondered if she should bring up the fact that she was underage, as well. True, there were quite a few other girls that weren’t of legal age, either, but she still worried that someone was going to ask her for an ID for just being in the club.

“Don't worry," Chloe said. “Lucifer would be happy to see you enjoying yourself. That, and he never lets his doormen turn away anyone pretty. Says it adds to the atmosphere.”

Buffy couldn't help but agree. There wasn't a single person that she could see in the club who didn't look like magazine cover model. Including her current companions. It made her feel dowdy in comparison.

“Hello, ladies,” Maze greeted the pair with enthusiasm. “Follow me. We'll head up to the balcony for a bird's eye view of the place.”

“Maze.” Chloe acknowledged her presence, and returned her welcome with a nod of her head.

“Where's Lucifer tonight?” Chloe asked, scanning the room.

“Where do you think?” Maze answered with a little derisive snort. “The center of attention, as usual.”

Maze pointed their gaze to the lower level of the pit, to Lucifer's grand piano. Buffy admired the beautiful instrument. Shining ebony wood, sparkling ivory white keys… she certainly wasn’t an expert, but even she could tell it had to be high quality. From everything she’d seen of Lucifer, and Lux itself, he surrounded himself with only the very best.

Right now, Lucifer’s attention was focused on the piano, even though he was surrounded by a multitude of nubile women, all preening and vying for his attention. The crowd grew quiet in anticipation as he raised his hands to the keyboard.

The music was soft and melancholic, and she could feel the tingle through her spine as Lucifer sang the first notes of the song.

Buffy never expected the Devil would have a voice that made you want to swoon. Or for him to be a Sarah McLachlin fan.

Then again, when she first encountered the bleach blond menace behind the Bronze, she’d never expected him to ever have her back, or that she’d be able to trust him with her sister's life.

A beautiful, deep, melodic voice made her stare at the man at the piano, as Lucifer began to sing:

“Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that would make it okay”

He managed to imbue the words with meaning… feeling, something that hit Buffy in the guts like a sucker-punch with every word… making her think about the mistakes she'd made in the recent past.

“There's always some reason
To feel not good enough
And it's hard, at the end of the day
I need some distraction”

The actual music and lyrics faded out, and Buffy got lost in her memories – of all that had gone wrong in her relationships with her father, Angel, Parker and Riley; with all the harsh words she'd said to her mother, or how she'd broken Mom's heart by running away, when she noticed the look on Chloe's face.

Pain. And longing. Oh God, did Buffy ever know those feelings. Way too intimately for comfort.

“He's good,” she murmured.

“Just don't tell him that. He already thinks he's the center of the universe,” Chloe answered with a smile.

Buffy returned the smile. Again, thoughts of a certain pain in the ass vampire crossed her mind. She shook her head, as if trying to clear it. Here, there was no Spike, no Angel, no anybody she knew at all.

It hurt.

“Let's get a drink,” Maze’s peppy tone cut into her ruminations.

“Maze, I'm underage,” Buffy offered, not wanting to get anyone in trouble for serving alcohol to a minor.

“So?”

“I could close the place down if we're caught.”

“So,” Maze repeated. “Who’s gonna tell?”

Chloe lifted her hand.

“Spoilsport.”

Maze snorted. “All right, all right. I'll get her an alcohol free mojito. Happy?”

“It's fine,” Buffy said with relief. “Alcohol and me aren't mixy, anyway.”

“Don't tell the old fuddy-duddy,” Maze whispered, sotto-voce, “but I can always slip a little something-something in if you want.”

“Thanks,” Buffy whispered in response. “but I'd rather you didn't. The last time I got really drunk, I turned into a cave woman… literally.” This world was not ready for Cave Buffy to make a reappearance.

“Really?” Somehow the delighted look on Maze's face made her think of a cat that’s just pounced on a mouse. It scared her more than the thought of Faith tossing her favorite knife from hand to hand. Something told her she really shouldn't have given a demon that kind of personal ammo.

“Sounds like fun to me,” said demon chuckled.

“It was a spell alright? The bartender wanted to mess with some college assholes, and put a spell on the beer to turn them into cavemen. I drank one, and next thing I knew, I was beating an ex with a tree branch.

“Still, my kind of girl," Maze snickered, and left to get the drinks.

Chloe just sort of sighed, as if she were used to putting up with crazy women.

Buffy turned to Chloe, and asked: “So what's the story between you two? Are you an item?”

“Me and Lucifer?” Chloe looked somewhat stunned. She wasn't sure if she should laugh, cry, or do both at once. “It's... complicated.”

Buffy's look was nothing but compassionate.

“He's my partner, and a friend. But we've never been anything more than that. There've been times I was almost foolish enough to go for it, but well... we're just better off as friends.”

With a smile, Buffy said, “You don't sound too sure. Sounds like there's more to it than that.”

“Just because something could be, doesn't mean there should be, Buffy.”

“But... what if by doing nothing, you miss out on something wonderful?”

“You're young, Buffy. So young,” Chloe said. “When you get older and have responsibilities – children like Trixie – you have to be careful who you introduce into your life. I can't just date whomever I want. Not anymore.”

Buffy was taken aback at that, she chewed at her bottom lip, once again thinking of Dawn, and how she’d suddenly become a mother figure to a teenager.

“Ladies.”

Buffy jumped. She hadn't heard Lucifer sneak up behind them.

“Nice to see you out and about, sweetie.” Lucifer's smooth voice practically dripped with seduction as his warm, brown eyes focused on her.

“I loved your singing. Is it something you do every night?” Buffy couldn’t help being effusive.

Lucifer preened. His smug look had the other two women rolling their eyes at his display.

Taking Buffy by the arm, Lucifer led her to the bar, where he immediately ordered her a cocktail.

Buffy held up her hand, gently demurring, and asked for a diet coke, instead.

Lucifer shrugged, then okayed the change.

It was nice that he didn't question her refusal. What with him being the devil, she'd expected him to try and tempt her into doing the wrong thing. She could picture a little devil on one shoulder, brandishing a pitchfork, (if he had platinum blond hair and a sneer, who was here to judge her?) and a shining white angel (of course he had soulful, brown eyes and hair that stuck straight up) on the other shoulder.

“Give the lady what she wants,” was all he said to the bartender.

Said bartender, a rather hot guy in his twenties, winked at her as he put down her glass.

Buffy paid little notice his attentions. Instead, she was more focused on the interaction between Lucifer and Chloe. Where he was ebullient, she was reticent. When she moved closer, he backed away. Who said she didn’t know her S.A.T. words?

“C'mon then, darling," Lucifer purred, turning his attention away from Chloe. "Time to unwind and let loose. Dance with me?”

Buffy almost refused, but Maze egged her on… shoving her shoulder none too gently. What the hell, right? With a little chuckle, she said: “All right, hot stuff. Let's see what you've got. Then I can always tell people I've danced with the devil in the pale moonlight, for real.”

It was a line she’d heard from Xander. He’d been a super hero geek way before he’d met her.

“I always did like Nicholson's performance,” Lucifer chuckled, then led her to the dancefloor. “Well, we don't have moonlight, but I'm sure the fluorescent lighting will do in a pinch.”

Was he seriously… he was! He was out-and-out flirting with her! Well, never let it be said that Buffy was a little stick-in-the-mud wallflower. She could give as good as she got. And it was just for play, anyway.

The music playing was nothing she recognized, but the beat was stirring, and Buffy found herself falling into a natural rhythm. Lucifer kept up nicely, which was admirable. This was no mere boy, for sure. Oh, no – he moved like a man who knew exactly what he wanted, and for the moment, it felt like he wanted her.

Thinking maybe, just maybe, she should pull her performance back a bit, she felt… something. Not quite a tingle, but she was being watched. Years of honing her predatory instincts had not gone to waste.

“What's the matter, sweetie? You've gone all tense.”

“There's something ... not right,” Buffy murmured, still dancing, but mainly for appearances sake instead of wild abandon.

She tried to reach out her senses, like Giles insisted. With a few years of practice under her belt, she’d gotten pretty good at it if she concentrated. Mostly she just preferred to find the vamp or demon in question and put them out of her misery. Most vampires (but not all, her mind insisted) wore clothing out of fashion for so long, they could be carbon dated.

Suddenly, Buffy rammed into Lucifer, knocking him to the ground, just as a blade of some kind whizzed past where he'd been standing, embedding itself in the dance floor. Buffy found herself straddling his prone body, and immediately rolled off and stood up, picking up the fallen blade as she did so. Instinctively putting herself in front of Lucifer, as if to protect him from the unknown.

The dagger practically hummed in her grip. There was more to it than just being a sharp, sticky thing.

Lucifer stood up, brushed dust from his clothes and addressed the crowd that had gathered around them. “Off you go, people. Nothing to see, here.”

Chloe shoved her way past the onlookers. “Lucifer, are you okay?” she asked, before looking for Buffy. She then shifted her attention. “How on earth did you do that?”

Maze just stood next to them, applauding. “Told you she was a hero. How else would you expect her to react to a threat?”

People stared for a second longer, before they continued with their dancing, as if nothing had happened. As if it was all just part of the floorshow.

Nothing like the self-absorbed to ignore things that weren’t themselves.

Buffy scanned the room for the attacker, and noticed him trying to sneak out of Lux, instead of running. She was about to take him on, but Lucifer got to him first.

“You attacked me in the middle of a packed room, in my own club. Are you looking to die?” he asked, in a tone of voice so chill, it was terrifying.

Buffy almost… almost felt sorry for the accoster. A man who now looked more like a frightened kid about to piss his own pants than a dangerous threat.

But she knew from experience that looks could be deceiving.

She swore Lucifer's eyes were glowing a deep, brilliant red, reminding her that he was indeed whom he claimed to be – the Devil, himself.

And just for a split second, the man’s face became fractured… burned and melted on one side… just like a Salvador Dali painting.