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Breathless

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Night had long since fallen, bringing with it the twinkling lights that lined the city streets that only added to the sultry allure of the cover of darkness. Sitting in her car, Buffy Summers pulled down the visor mirror and carefully applied a coating of her favorite strawberry lip gloss and fluffed her hair before exiting the vehicle. She hadn’t planned on going out that night, but her friends had managed to break down her resolve and get her out of the house for a night out. Doing so hadn’t taken much arm twisting, since her dear friend, Cordelia, was right around a million months pregnant and could go in to labor at any moment and had resorted to guilt in order to get Buffy to come out with her and her husband, Angel, claiming that once the baby came they wouldn’t be able to hang out for a while. Being a good friend and, if one was being totally honest, a complete pushover, Buffy had relented and gave up a night of old movies and ice cream in favor of karaoke.

While it was a bit strange that Buffy was such good friends with the couple, being that she and Angel had dated throughout high school and Cordelia had definitely not been a member of the I Heart Buffy fan club back then, they had managed to defy the odds and forge a friendship in spite of the dismal odds of doing so. It had been years since she had thought of Angel in any capacity other than a friend, and honestly thought Cordelia was the perfect match for him and that it was a shame they hadn’t gotten together sooner than they did.

Buffy checked to make sure her car doors were locked and stood awkwardly in the parking lot, while scanning the area to see if their car was already there. There were few things she hated more than going into social settings alone, often feeling as though she stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb when she took a seat at a table all by her lonesome. Not seeing Angel’s sleek black sedan, Buffy sighed and wondered why she hadn’t accepted a ride with them like they offered. She locked the car door and walked towards Caritas, the latest hip spot in town. As she neared the long line, she smiled with relief when she heard a familiar voice calling her name loudly. Standing on her tippy toes, she spotted Cordelia waving at her over the crowd at the front door. Buffy hustled over and slipped past the long line, offering a small smile of condolences at the other people who were stuck outside waiting to get inside, and allowed Cordelia to yank her in to the darkened establishment.

“It’s about time you showed up!” Cordelia announced loudly, as she somehow managed to squeeze her very pregnant belly around other patrons. “I told Angel we should have picked you up anyway. I figured you were bailing on us.”

“I know, it’s my bad. Clothes kept coming out of the closet, yet not seeming to form an actual outfit! Go figure. And might I add, whoa! When did you swallow a bus?” Buffy asked as she gingerly petted her friend’s swollen belly. She felt a bang of jealousy at the sight of Cordelia, who despite being intensely pregnant managed to look radiant and fashionable.

“Ugh. I know, right? Look at me! I keep asking this little devil to hurry up, but all I get is a swift kick to the bladder. All I can say is the day can’t get here fast enough! Now, come on inside so I can get you settled at the table with Angel and make yet another trip back to the bathroom.” Cordelia sighed with frustration and grimaced as she placed a hand beneath her belly. “I swear I go every five minutes these days.”

Trailing behind Cordelia, Buffy followed her waddling friend to the dim back corner of the club, where Angel sat in a candlelit booth with a striking man wearing a shocking green suit, or maybe that specific color of Day-Glo was referred to as chartreuse? Upon their arrival, she was introduced to the mystery man as she slid into the booth, and learned that he was the owner of the club and a personal friend of Angel’s.

While Cordy waddled away to take care of business, Angel set forth in ordering a round of drinks, cranberry juice for Cordelia, and a bottle of wine for himself and Buffy. Lorne requested something called a Sea Breeze, but announced that he had to make sure a certain bartender made it because the other one didn’t know a Sea Breeze from a Cape Cod and took off in the direction of the bar. Buffy just shook her head, both out of amusement and confusion since she had no idea what either drink consisted of.

“So, Buff,” Angel began, the rotating crystal ball hanging high above them caused his dark eyes to sparkle. “Tonight’s open mic night. Think we could coerce you to sing for us?”

“Oh, um, I am very much thinking no. Not really feeling the singing thing tonight.” She protested, shrugging out of her jacket and getting comfortable. The plush crushed velvet that covered the booth was soft enough against the backs of her bare arms that Buffy momentarily considered having her couch reupholstered in the material, but decided that maybe that specific look was reserved for dance clubs and retirement homes.

“What’s this I hear?” Lorne exclaimed loudly, as he returned with a pinkish-orange drink in his hand. “Do we have a song bird in the midst? Please tell me that this gorgeous gumdrop here can sing as good as she looks!”

Buffy started to protest once more, but Cordy returned and proceeded to inform Lorne that Buffy was in fact a fantastic vocalist but usually needed a great deal of wine to get up the courage to get on stage. Lorne laughingly pushed the wine glass closer to Buffy and exclaimed that it was in fact convenient since he knew the owner of the bar, and that a steady flow of liquor could be arranged. Buffy took the glass, muttering thanks and said politely that she would consider making a performance.

After several drinks and lots of conversation, Lorne somehow managed to get Buffy to agree to sing. As usual, she was nervous and excited all at the same time and butterflies erupted in her stomach as she climbed the stairs to the stage. Life had been too busy as of late and hadn’t permitted Buffy too much free time to indulge in her one and only passion, and thus, it had been a long time since she had been on stage. While she loved singing, she was generally plagued with a horrible case of stage fright and often shied away from doing anything that would put her in the spotlight. Sipping gingerly on her water, having given up on the alcohol since she now had to support herself and sing in front of what had turned into a very large gathering, she flipped through the enormous book containing hundreds of song options. Taking a deep breath, Buffy pointed to the song she wanted and perched herself on the edge of the bar stool on stage.

The music began and she closed her eyes, blocking out the sight of the packed house so that the next step came to her like second nature. The Faith Hill song she’d picked out was an old favorite and once she began her nerves soon began to melt away. “I can feel the magic floating in the air…Being with you gets me that way…I watch the sunlight dance across your face and I’ve…Never been this swept away.”

Once the first verse was sang, the butterflies in her stomach began to disperse and the spark of confidence that followed had Buffy opening her eyes to face the crowd. “All my thoughts just seem to settle on the breeze…When I’m lying wrapped up in your arms...The whole world just fades away…The only thing I hear…Is the beating of your heart.”

“Cause I can feel you breathe…It’s washing over me…Suddenly I’m melting in to you…There’s nothing left to prove…Baby, all we need is to just be…Caught up in the touch…The slow and steady rush…Baby, isn’t that the way love’s supposed to be…I can feel you breathe…Just breathe.” The pulsating lights overhead swam over her skin and caressed her with its warm glow. Everything around her seemed to fade away until there was nothing but herself, the microphone and the stage, and in that moment in time, everything was perfect. “In a way I know my heart is waking up…As all the walls come tumbling down…I’m closer than I’ve ever felt before…And I know…And you know…There’s no need for words right now.”

Buffy tapped her fingers on the microphone with the beat of the music; swaying side to side ever so slightly. “Cause I can feel you breathe…It’s washing over me…Suddenly I’m melting in to you…There’s nothing left to prove…Baby, all we need is just to be…Caught up in the touch…The slow and steady rush…Baby, isn’t that the way that love’s supposed to be? I can feel you breathe…Just breathe.” She took a quick breath, before singing through the chorus once more. As the last bit of the song slipped past her lips, Buffy closed her eyes and poured her heart and soul in to them. “I can feel the magic floating in the air…Being with you gets me that way.”

The final words barely a whisper as the song faded away and Buffy was left with only a deafening silence. Tentatively, she opened her eyes and looked out into the crowd, afraid of what she might see. After what seemed like a lifetime, but was more likely only a few seconds, the entire room broke into a loud applause; and amazingly, even a few glistening eyes. Elated and relieved, Buffy replied with a luminous smile and graciously said thank you, before flying off the stage; anxious to get back to her seat out of the limelight. As she neared their booth, Buffy was stopped in her tracks as Lorne jumped up and gathered her into his arms for a nearly bone crushing hug; causing Buffy’s face to smoosh against the sunburst yellow tie that accompanied his vivid green suit. After a nearly embarrassing amount of time to be hugged by someone she had just met, Buffy was relieved when Lorne finally unwrapped himself from around her and ushered her in to the booth.

“Angelkins! Honey, you were not lying when you said this little breath of fresh air could really belt one out!” Lorne exclaimed loudly as he pushed Buffy in the booth next to Cordelia before squeezing himself in after her. He turned to face Buffy and gushed, “Gumdrop, THAT was amazing! Your voice is like spun sugar, I wanted to eat you up while you were singing! Please tell me you are aching to sing professionally!?”

Buffy stared at him with dumbfounded shock etched across her face and shook her head slowly from side to side, while Cordy and Angel simply smiled like the cats that ate the proverbial canaries. Seeing the matching expressions on her friend’s faces, Buffy cocked her eyebrow and asked, “What are you guys up to?”

“Well, pudding pop, it just so happens that by day I happen to scout out musical talent and I have a new band in dire need of a lead singer and I think you’re sweet self is just the ticket!” Grinning ear to ear, Lorne continued, “So, what do you think about that?”