Rating: FRT - Harmless really, just a few mild swear words, nothing you don't hear on television.
FEEDBACK: Will be appreciated
SUMMARY: A first kiss.
DISCLAIMER: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar Productions, Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Television and the UPN Television Network. The story was written out of the love that I have for the characters (especially Giles) and for the enjoyment of the readers. No money is being made from its publication on Live Journal.
SPOILERS: None - set in the future - after Chosen and Not Fade Away
NOTES: When I posted my story for the fic-a-thon I was looking over the combination of words that the other authors had selected, and I noticed that no one had picked a combination that I thought was pretty obvious, and this idea popped into my head. So, I hope no one minds that I'm doing two stories. My second combination is: Kiss-Nightclub-Tipsy/Drunk.
Lorne looked around his new club with satisfaction. Rick's Place was a decided hit, although he had to keep explaining to people that there was no 'Rick'. Ah, the younger generation had no taste in movies. Or music either. They kept asking the DJ to play the most outrageous sounding things. And people kept asking him to have a karaoke night.
Lorne shuddered. He refused to listen to people sing. He had no intention of ever again being in the position of telling people their possible futures. No, he just wanted to run a nice bar. One that had music for people to dance to, but not so loud that they couldn't sit and have conversations. A place where HE could sing a song or two on a slow night, but no one else.
'People' being a generic term of course. He had gotten the idea for Rick's Place one evening while watching the classic movie Casablanca on late night cable. Neutral territory where demons and humans could mingle without fear of attack. Like his previous bar, Caritas, but without the singing. And not in Los Angeles. Not even in America. He thought back to the series of events that brought him here.
When Angel had declared war on Wolfram and Hart, Lorne had had every intention of going back to Pylea, because even though he wasn't welcome there, he knew he didn't belong in LA anymore. A few hours of thinking, while trying to find a sorcerer willing to open the portal, had changed his mind. What he really wanted was a change of scenery in this dimension. Someplace safe for him to operate. He decided to sleep on the matter and see if the next day brought any ideas.
He had barely put his head on the pillow when he had the dream, or perhaps it had been a vision. A vision from Cordelia. She told him to go to Rome. There was a large community of non-violent demons there, a Slayer training facility, and Angel, at Buffy’s insistence, had closed that branch of Wolfram and Hart. All he needed to do was check in with the head Watcher at the training site and establish his credentials as a good guy and he would be left alone.
Lorne had doubted that things would be that easy, but he had no where else to go, and things in LA looked pretty bad. So he got back up, found a sorcerer, asked the sorcerer to put a disguise spell on him and was teleported to Rome. He had appeared right outside the training facility.
When Lorne entered, two things happened. His disguise disappeared, and alarms went off. He thought that he was going to be killed before he had a chance to explain why he was there, when deliverance arrived from a most unlikely source.
"Hold your fire," the voice shouted to the half dozen girls holding crossbows, "he's on our side." A girl with dark hair pushed her way through the crowd. "Lorne, good to see you man. How's it goin’?" She threw herself into his arms.
"Faith! You're a sight for these sore eyes. What are you doing here? I thought you were in charge in Cleveland." He returned the hug, wincing slightly. "Careful of the ribs, sweet thing, I need them to breathe."
"I was here to pick up some girls to take back with me when we heard about the ruckus. Giles called and told me to bring all of them and meet him LA. What happened? How's Angel and Wes?"
Lorne pulled away and sank onto the nearby chair. "Angel felt that his mission had become corrupted. He decided to go out in a blaze of glory and take out a group called the Circle of the Black Thorn. They were the human element for the senior partners of Wolfram and Hart. I told Angel I would do one thing he wanted done, but that then I was out. I don't know what's happened to any of them."
He looked up at Faith, misery clear in his eyes. "I'm not a fighter. My being there wouldn't have made a difference. In fact, it might have been a liability."
Faith patted him on the shoulder. "I know, don't worry about it. You do what you have to do." She took a deep breath and straightened. "Giles needs to know about this. I'd better call him." She snapped at the girls as she hurried away, "Get back to packin'. We still might be goin' to LA." The girls scattered.
Lorne sat in the now empty room, feeling miserable.
Lorne took a sip of his drink and shook off the memories. That had been five months ago. Faith and the girls hadn't gone to LA, because by the time she had called Giles it was over. An exhausted Willow had appeared in the London headquarters after sealing the dimensional rift that Angel's actions had opened. She had been in a deep meditative state at a holy site in Peru, had felt the rift open, and had teleported to LA to close it. Wesley's body had been found at the Hyperion hotel, along with Gunn's, but there had been no sign of Angel, Spike or Illyria. Not then, or since.
All of the Wolfram and Hart offices around the world were deserted, although Lorne was sure that this was only temporary, and LA had been declared a 'keep out' zone by the demon community. Shell shocked survivors still appeared in his bar from time to time, needing to tell their tales of how they had gotten out that night. He listened; after all, that's what a bartender was supposed to do, right? He had stopped asking about the others, since no one seemed to know.
Lorne was sure that Angel and Spike were just dust floating in the wind, but he worried about Illyria. Had she survived the battle and was lost somewhere without Wesley's guidance? Or had the energy of the troubled Godking finally been released from Fred's shell and sent to its true resting-place?
The doorman, Malcolm, turned to look at Lorne for guidance. Uh, oh, must be major trouble because Malcolm had handled everything so far. Lorne had taken a few steps towards the door, when three women pushed their way in. He blinked in surprise. Think of the devil.
"Lorne, how's it goin', jolly green?"
"Faith," he braced himself for her hug, "long time no see. Have you moved here?"
Faith gave him a gentle squeeze and a pat on the butt. "Nah, just in town for B's birthday. Do you remember Willow?"
Lorne turned to the other women and blinked. Whoa! A soft white aura surrounded Willow; she was practically glowing from the energy she possessed. She hadn't looked like that when she had re-ensouled Angel. Lorne took her hand and bent over to kiss it. "I remember meeting you, but you've changed since then. No wonder you were able to stop them."
Willow blushed. "It was nothing. I just invoked you're basic earth goddess. She didn't want them coming here cause some demons have no respect for the planet."
Lorne nodded, knowing that it really hadn't been that easy, but he was willing to let it go so that Willow could have her privacy. He looked at the third member of the group. He had never met her, but had seen her image many times in the memories of Angel, Cordelia, Wesley, and Spike. So this was Buffy. Strange, somehow he had thought she would be taller. "Welcome to Rick's Place, I'm Lorne, your host."
Buffy had been gazing around the bar, but turned back. "Yeah, got that when Faith called you Lorne. Rick's Place. Catchy name; you must love Casablanca."
Lorne looked surprised. "You've seen the movie?"
"One of my favorites. Mom loved anything with Humphry Bogart." Buffy looked around at the tables, many filled with demons. "Nice idea as long as everyone follows the rules." She looked back at Lorne. "They don't start anything, we don't start anything. We're just here for a night on the town."
She had barely finished speaking when the sound of a chair scraping across the floor could be heard. In the dimness of the club a large, misshapen, form could be seen approaching the group. Buffy took a defensive posture, blinked, relaxed, then jumped at the demon.
"Clem," she grabbed the demon in a fierce hug, "it's so good to see you. I didn't know if you made it out of Sunnydale in time. How have you been? How's your family?"
"Slayer, good to see you too. Everyone's fine. We originally went to LA, but when things started heating up there we came here. My wife's got family here, made the move easier. I knew there was a group of Slayers in town, but I didn't know you were with them."
"Not officially, I'm retired now. Dawn and I are living here while she's going to art school." Buffy gave him a worried frown. "Did you check in with the head Watcher? I wouldn't want one of the newbies taking you out by mistake."
"Yeah, my wife's uncle Otto took us over. No problem." Clem gestured back at the table. "Uh, if you're not too busy, I'd like to introduce you to some of the family."
"I'd be happy to meet them. Lead the way." Buffy took a few steps then turned back. "Go ahead and order the drinks, I'll be right back." She took a couple more steps and turned again. "NO BEER."
The others watched her step up to Clem's table, and then Lorne and Faith looked at Willow. She gave a little shrug. "Buffy and beer are kinda un-mixy. Wine's okay."
Lorne led them to a table close to the dance floor, but not so close they couldn't talk. "Is anyone else going to be joining you?"
"Maybe, later. Dawn, that's Buffy's sister, said something about a present she was expecting by special delivery. She might bring it here, or she might just wait until we get home."
"Did I hear mention of a birthday?"
"Yeah, Buffy's 25th." Willow looked stricken. "Please, no singing 'Happy Birthday'. No cake or anything like that either. Buffy's birthdays usually suck, big time, and we've only got 4 hours to go. Don’t jinx it for us, please."
Lorne placed his hand on his chest, over where a human heart would be. "Word of honor. No singing, no cake. But I insist that the drinks be on the house. What would you like?" Lorne took their order and returned to the bar.
When Buffy joined the others at the table, there was a glass of white wine waiting for her. There was also a bucket with a bottle of champagne and three champagne flutes sitting in the middle of the table. A small tag on the bottle read 'Happy Birthday'. Buffy gave Willow a look.
"He promised, no singing. He said he does this for anyone who comes in on their birthday, no special treatment, honest."
Three hours later Lorne was sitting at the table keeping the girls in constant giggles as he told them some of the funnier stories of his time with Angel and company. They were all well and truly buzzed and Lorne was planning to see them home after the bar closed. He was telling them a second hand account of Wesley dancing at a party, giving them Cordelia's version of the event. "She said he looked like a featherless bird trying to get off the ground."
The image struck the girls as especially funny and Faith fell off her chair, which made Buffy and Willow laugh even harder. Willow calmed down enough to say, "Yeah, he was such a geek in the beginning, but the last time I say him, whoa boy. If I wasn't into girls I would have made a pass."
Buffy looked at her in disbelief. "Wesley?"
Faith climbed back on to her chair. "Yeah, B, he dirtied up real good. He was hot; you wouldn't have recognized him."
"You're joking me, right? Wesley, hot? Never happen."
Willow waved her hand in the air. "Wait, just a minute, I can show you." Her eyes narrowed in concentration and she muttered some words. A glass ball appeared, with an image of the way Wesley had looked when she saw him at the Hyperion. "There." She handed the ball to Buffy.
Buffy blinked owlishly. Opened shirt, spiky hair, beard stubbled cheeks, and no glasses. "That was Wesley? Wow, he WAS hot. Damn, why didn't he look like this when he was our Watcher? I might have listened to him." She shrugged. "Probably not. He was trying to take Giles' place. Didn't matter what he looked like, he would have still been a pillock."
Willow looked at her earnestly. "What does that word mean? Giles won't tell me."
"Wouldn't ever tell me either." She grinned. "Must be something really bad."
Without thinking Lorne said, "I know." Three sets of eyes looked at him questioningly. He blushed deep green. "It's an English slang term for, for, well it means….." he stopped, leaned forward and whispered in Buffy's ear.
"Get outa town. Really?" Her face lit up and she started giggling as she told the other girls, "Only Giles could call someone a dick and make it sound so elegant. It must be the accent." She deepened her voice and said, in a very good approximation of Giles' voice, "Pillock." This time all three girls fell off their chairs.
When Willow was getting back into her seat, she happened to glance at the door. "Oh, no," she groaned. She looked at her watch. "Less than an hour to go, we almost made it." Her head hit the table with a thump.
Lorne looked sharply at the door, and gasped. Three ghosts had just come in. Next to him he heard Buffy murmur, "Angel and Spike? But Spike died in Sunnydale."
Faith frowned. "Yeah, and who's the blue chick?"
Willow's head came up and looked at the woman. "Fred?"
Lorne looked at Buffy in confusion. "Didn't anyone tell you? That amulet that you gave to Spike bound him to Wolfram and Hart. After Fred found a way to break the binding he stayed on as part of the team until that ….. problem."
"You mean until Angel almost ended the world." Buffy glared angrily at the trio. "And no, I didn't know." She glared at Faith. "Did you know?"
"Not me, B. Not a clue."
Buffy realized that Willow was silent. She looked at her. "You knew, didn't you?"
"Andrew told Giles when he brought Dana back to London. I was there, so I heard."
"Why didn't he tell me? I had a right to know."
"Giles felt if Spike wanted you to know he was alive, he would tell you himself. He didn't."
Buffy was silent, staring at the man standing still on the other side of the room. "That bastard."
"Buffy, Giles felt"
Buffy cut her off. "I don't mean Giles, I mean Spike. How dare he come back from the dead and not tell me." She stood up, the chair flying out from behind her, and rushed across the room. "You BASTARD. You should have called me!" She smacked him.
Spike rocked back from the blow. "Happy birthday to you too, pet."
"I'm not your pet." She turned to Angel. "And stop smirking. I'm not yours either."
Angel frowned. "No, you're the Immortal's latest toy."
Buffy smacked him as well. "As if. We went out together a few times, had a few laughs. That's all. Me, get serious with another vampire? Been there, done that. Twice. Regardless of what some people might think, I do learn from my mistakes."
"But Andrew said,,,"
"You listened to Andrew? And you think I'm stupid. Where have you been for the last five months? People have been worried, you big dope."
Illyria moved between Buffy and Angel. "You will not address him in that manner. He fought very bravely. He is a champion."
Angel pulled her back. "Illyria, this is Buffy."
"You are the Slayer? The one they both loved." Illyria looked her up and down. "I thought you would be taller."
"That's it, she's going down." Buffy started to move towards the blue woman, but found that she couldn't. She looked down and saw that a band of green energy encircled her torso. "Willow! Let me go!"
A most unexpected voice behind her said, "Fighting in a bar? I thought you learned your lesson about drinking the last time."
Buffy stopped struggling against the energy. She closed her eyes and a smile swept over her face. "Giles," she whispered. Raising her voice she said, "I'm not drunk." She heard a snort from behind her and a 'yeah, right' from Spike. She glared at Spike. "I AM NOT DRUNK. A little buzzed, yeah, but that's all."
She tried to turn around and the energy dissipated. Buffy faced a smiling Giles. "And no beer has touched these lips. Just wine and champagne." She flung herself at him, grabbing him in a bone-crushing hug. "I've missed you. Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"
"It was a surprise," Giles drew in a pained breath as her arms tightened. "And I would rather not make a trip to the hospital. Ribs, Buffy, ribs." Her grip loosened and Giles heard a muffled 'sorry' from the head that was burrowed against his chest. "I take it that you like your present?"
The blond head lifted and mist green eyes met emerald green. "I love my present. I've missed you so much." Giles blinked and withdrew a bit.
"I meant Angel and Spike. I'm only here because I brought them in the Council jet."
Buffy pulled away, angry again. "You mean you wouldn't have come if you hadn't been bringing them? Forget what I just said, I haven't missed you a bit." She turned around, stomped back to the table, picked up a glass of champagne and gulped it down. She grabbed the bottle and re-filled her glass.
Giles followed her over to the table. "Now, Buffy."
"Don't 'Now Buffy' me, mister. For months I've been trying to talk to you. You're always 'busy'. You couldn't come for Dawn's birthday; you couldn't be bothered to come at Christmas. Now, you finally show up, and it's just to bring THEM?" She turned her back and hunched her shoulders. "Go away." 'Hic'
Faith and Willow started giggling again, but stopped at Buffy's glare. Struggling to keep a straight face Willow said, "Let's go say hi to the guys." Faith and Lorne nodded and the three crossed the room to where the other trio was still standing.
Faith walked up to Angel. "I think this rates a hug." She wrapped her arms around him and gently squeezed. Faith turned to Spike. "You too, Liz."
Spike gave a huff. "Good to see you too, Slayer." He gave her a hug, then turned to Willow. "You're looking good, Red. How's life been treating you?" He hugged Willow.
"Pretty good, actually." She pulled back and gave Spike a smack on the arm. "Why didn’t you call? I would've wanted to know you were back with us." She turned to Illyria. "Hi, Fred. You've changed. Blue is a really good look for you."
"The Fred being no longer inhabits this shell. I am Illyria." She turned, stalked over to a window and stood looking out at the city.
"What?" Willow looked at Angel.
Angel ducked his head for a moment then looked back at Willow. "Um, Fred's dead. She opened a sarcophagus that contained the spirit of an ancient god. When Illyria's spirit took over, Fred's soul was destroyed."
Willow looked appalled. "That's what you wanted my help for? That time you called Giles?" Angel nodded. "But, I couldn't have helped. I'm not so powerful that I could have taken on a God."
"Once I stopped and thought about it I realized that, but at the time I was desperate. I was responsible. If I hadn't brought all of us to Wolfram and Hart, Fred wouldn't have been there when the sarcophagus was opened."
"No offense, but if she's a god why is she hanging around with you?" Faith asked.
"Wesley." At their blank looks he continued. "Fred and Wes were in love. Regardless of what Illyria said, some of Fred must still be in there cause she was attached to Wes. Helping Illyria acclimatize to life in this dimension was the only thing that kept Wes going after Fred was gone."
Faith was frowning. "If you had a god on your side, why were you losing the fight in LA?"
“A couple of weeks before the big bad we had to neuter her.”
Faith and Willow gave Spike a puzzled look, but he just grinned at them. Angel gave Spike an annoyed glare. “Fred’s body couldn’t contain Illyria’s power. It was causing temporal disruptions. Wes made a devise that changed her and prevents her from accessing more than a fraction of that power.”
Willow stared at him, not sure what was surprising her the most; the fact that Wesley could have build a devise that could drain the power of a god or that Angel was using words like ‘temporal disruption’. Trying to collect her thoughts, she turned back to see how Buffy and Giles were getting along. She sighed. Giles was talking, but Buffy still had her back to him and appeared to be ignoring him.
Spike chuckled. “Watcher having a rough time of it, eh?”
Willow turned back around. “Well, things have been a little….” she trailed off.
Faith laughed. “Giles has been ignoring her and B’s pissed.”
“Yeah, kinda like our first year of college, but reversed. He’s just been buried in work and she doesn’t understand. Dawn said she’s been moping around the apartment for weeks.”
“ME?” Buffy’s voice came ringing across the room, “What about YOU?”
Everyone looked this time. Buffy and Giles were nose to nose arguing fiercely.
“This doesn’t look good.” Willow sighed.
“Maybe I should go over there and knock some sense into her.” Faith offered.
“Just give them a little time; he’ll calm down and then he’ll calm her down.” Willow sighed again. “Looks like Buffy’s birthday curse strikes again, although on a scale of 1 to 10, an argument with Giles can’t be more than a 1, can it?”
“The Immortal? Oh, please, not you too.” There came the sound of a smack, but although they all winced, no one looked.
Willow carried on determinedly. “So, where have you guys been the last few months? We found Wes and Gunn, but there was no sign of any of you.”
“After you closed the rift, we cleaned up the stragglers, or at least we thought we did. Illyria had already taken Wesley’s body to the Hyperion before the fight, so we took Gunn’s there too and started to make arrangements. We were attacked by a small group who had hidden. One of them had the ability to open a small dimensional portal and they tried to pull us into their realm.”
“Lucky for us that Blue had enough power to divert us. Even though she couldn’t bring us home, at least we didn’t end up in some hell dimension.” Spike gave a little shrug. “Not a bad place really, not much different than the time I grew up in.”
“How did you get back?” Lorne asked.
“We traveled around, kept our ear to the ground, and finally found a coven. They didn’t have a lot of power, but with Blue helping them they were able to get a message through to this dimension. Watcher got the coven in Devonshire to create a link between the two groups and heh, presto, here we are.”
“Oh, damn.” Angel said softly.
Willow and Faith looked at him questioningly, but before either could say anything Spike morphed into game face and snarled, “Bloody Hell!” He was glaring over Willow’s shoulder.
Willow glanced at Faith, who had already turned to look at what Spike was seeing. She had a big smile on her face. “I’d say the birthday curse just got broken, and about damn time.”
Willow looked around and saw Buffy and Giles in each others arms, kissing passionately. She gave Faith a high five. “Yep, it’s long overdue.” Willow looked back at her friends. They were still kissing and showed no signs of stopping any time soon. Her smile widened and she nodded. “Long overdue.”