The song shifts into another, and Buffy's hips hesitate the briefest moment before finding the new beat; Marius' fingers crawl possessively along her sides to cup her hipbones, and she allows him to draw her backward, grinding against him, arms winding through the air.
New Improved Buffy, Roman Edition, has a pretty, millionaire boyfriend. She has terribly impractical shoes, high-maintenance extensions, and porcelain nails; Cordelia Chase would not find a square inch to criticize. There is not a bruise on her anywhere; when her sister borrows her clothes, she knows the blooming red stains are pizza sauce.
She is, at last, normal.
And she is not pining for anyone.
Xander doesn't know what he's talking about.
She lets her hand rise, slide into the curls at Marius' nape; she slides her body down his, letting his thigh slip between her own. If the quickening of his breath is any indication, this will be the last stop of their evening.
A sudden mental jolt, and her hunter's instincts freeze her spine; Marius' grip tightens. Vampires, here in the club... she's almost certain. Unbidden, her fist curls around an invisible stake.
"Buffy," Marius whispers, cupping her stake hand in his own. "Relax. I will take care of it. Dance."
She feels Marius' nod, sees several figures - indistinguishable from the dancing crowd moments before - move as one towards the bar, where the vampires are.
"Relax," Marius repeats.
She can't; some things are too bone-deep... but she can dance, and that's where she sends it... the manic energy, the need to slay, the drive for destruction. She rips herself from Marco's restraining arms, shakes from side to side, her new, perfect hair whipping in an arc around her.
She twirls, and she's two shimmies into the next verse before it registers... the flash of peroxide hair in her peripheral vision. She slams her eyes closed, works the beat harder; she was over this, past this, the seeing him everywhere... her therapist said so. Everyone bloody well bleaches their hair here, it doesn't mean anything, she has to quit jumping every time some club kid not-so-originally combines white hair with black leather, or she's going to go insane. It's been months, everything has changed, and she's in a new relationship...
"OK, sleeping together is not a relationship," says a voice passing behind her.
And Buffy flinches; she's not pining, she's not crazy, and she is not hearing Angel's voice in her head passing judgement on her thing with Marius. Okay, so everyone calls her his 'regazza', and the way Dawn snorted when Buffy mentioned it made her think that the word maybe had some not-so-swell connotations... but he's sweet and he's normal and he's...
"It is if you do it enough times," another voice replies.
Scratch that. She is going crazy. That sounded exactly like...
"Marius?" Buffy says unsteadily. "I'm, uh... it's kinda hot in here. I think I'm gonna go to the bar, get some water..."
"No, no, darling," Marius soothes, taking her elbow. "Let us leave this place. We will go to my apartment. You will feel better soon."
"I thought we were going to my place? Dawn said she'd be home, and we were gonna..."
"My love," Marius sighs, "If I have to spend another evening listening to your friend Andrew, I will stab myself in the eye with one of his little statues."
She chuckles, taking his hand. "No need to get Oedipal with Boba Fett. Andrew has a date with two women tonight. Believe me, it's all I've heard him talk about for weeks."
"Andrew is heterosexual?" Marius replies incredulously.
"Hey, no one was more surprised than me, okay? You should have seen the massive mancrush he had on..." Buffy trails off into silence, biting her lip.
There is a scuffling from the bar; Marius' men have caught up with the vampires, apparently. Buffy turns to watch, and Marius surprises her with a sudden kiss.
"So that's why you wanna go home," Buffy says playfully.
"You know me very well," Marius replies, his hand rising between her and the bar to caress her temple.
Buffy catches it mid-air, throwing back a flirty smile. "Aww, c'mon, I wanna watch. Evaluate their technique, y'know, see what the compe..."
Her words fade as her jaw drops, tears suddenly stinging her eyes; she can't be seeing what she's seeing, she can't, it's not possible...
But there he is, silver hair streaked multicolored by the flashing club lights, the muscle in his jaw tensing as he pulls back for a punch... Fightin' Spike, achingly familiar, every sense telling her yes, this is perfect and correct, the sweeping arc of his arm as he leans forward with his own momentum and...
Punches Angel in the face?
Angel. Spike and Angel. Together. Fighting. Knocking against Marius' men, and they're real and Angel's real so Spike's real and oh my God oh my God oh my God oh my God...
She takes a lunging step, stumbles, kicks off her shoes in frantic frustration... and then is whirled around by a restraining arm.
"Where are you going, Buffy?" Marius asks pleasantly.
She nearly growls in annoyance. "Friends. Old friends. One of them... look, I'm gonna go say hello, okay?"
Marius' smile never wavers. "I don't think so."
"Marius, c'mon, let go of my arm," Buffy laughs. "Don't get all jealous-y, they're just old friends."
"Angelus and William the Bloody?" Marius sneers. "You have a very interesting definition of 'old friend'."
"Angelus..." Buffy sputters. "You... how do you know... what do you..."
And her eyes narrow. "You knew they were here."
Marius shrugs. "I merely wished to avoid a scene. The two of them are not known for their... rational reactions to emotional situations. They seek to take what is mine... and that is something I do not allow."
"What's yours." Buffy's voice is soft now, deadly.
"Yes," he replies casually. "You are mine. In time, you will come to understand what that means."
"Wow," Buffy chirps... and a hundred dusted Sunnydale vampires could have warned of the danger in that suddenly-sunny grin, "Y'know? Call it, um, emotional baggage, but I'm really not down with the whole 'ownership' thing. See, I've got all kinds of control-issues with this group of guys in tweed, so..."
"You are mine," Marius repeats, unfazed.
"Really kinda not." Buffy rips her arm away from him, still wearing her Miss America smile. "Tell you what, though... there are some parts of me you can borrow."
Marius' brow furrows. "I... do not understand."
"Well... like this part," Buffy grins, and smashes her fist into his face.
And he sails across the room, hitting the wall with a sickening thump, sliding to the floor... only to rise a moment later, shaking out his arm, a nasty grin spreading across his face.
"You cannot kill me, dear," he smiles predatorially. "Did you think 'The Immortal' was just a flattering nickname? I am forever... and no woman leaves me until I am through with them."
"That's funny. 'Cause, y'know, you say 'forever', and I'm thinkin'... wow, that is a really long time for me to make you wish you could die."
"Knew I bloody well missed you for a reason."
The smile on Buffy's face grows genuine; she does not turn around. "Hey, Spike."
"She does do nice work, doesn't she?"
And now, she bites her lip against the oncoming laugh. "Hey, Angel."
"Listen, love... mind if Peaches an' I get in on the forthcomin' ass-kickin'? Got a few scores to settle."
"I dunno, Spike," Buffy says casually. "He's pretty tough. Maybe this is something Angel ought to handle."
She can practically hear Spike's jaw set, Angel's head inflate.
"Yeah, I think I can take care of this," Angel grins, stepping in front of her, gazing down at the Immortal.
"Right then," Spike drawls. "Guess I'll be off then, get that head-thingey..."
And now, Buffy turns. "Spike... not yet, okay? There's something else I want you to do."
The eyebrow soars. "An' what's that, pet?"
"Well, duh," Buffy laughs, pointing out at the crowd.
His eyes follow her finger, his brow knitting. "Fraid I don't quite follow you there, love...?"
"Aw, c'mon, Spike," Buffy smiles, taking his hand. "You know you want to dance."