Genre: Drama/AU. Everybody's human.
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: Joss owns all the characters.
Thanks to my beta Alison
Summary: Buffy is the new bartender at Seven, one of LA´s most popular nightclubs. One of her new co-workers is Spike, a bleached hottie with an attitude. And a boyfriend. But everything's not as it seems.


Chapter note: The songs are "Might be Stars" and "You and Me Song" by The Wannadies.

There was a click of a button, a sliding sound, and a low, mechanical buzz. Then the sound of the music covered the clatter in the kitchen.

"We spend our money on guitars, write songs about our broken heart."

The magic 8-ball on the speaker was shaking with the rhythm of the loud music.

"We're Shit City stars."

From the kitchen a slightly off-tune voice started singing.

"And when we don't we're still aware that we're pop revolutionaries."

Then the voice stopped for a second, the amateur singer obviously trying to remember the lyrics.

"Hm hm..." Eureka. "Aren't we cool!" she howled, making a perfect imitation of a deaf coyote.

Humming, Buffy entered the living room/bed room carrying a tray with assorted necessities - toast, jelly and coffee, aka the holy trinity of breakfast. She was wearing white loose-fitting sweats and a blue tank top. Her subtly bleached hair fell in semi-tangled strands against her shoulders. The skin on her nose wrinkled a little as she let out a big yawn.

As Buffy sat down on the couch, she slouched back against the couch pillows behind her. She reached for the big cup and sipped the hot liquid, squinting a little against the oblong stripes of noon sunlight that fell through the almost-closed blinds.

Working nights was pretty good, Buffy thought, and smiled a pleased little smile. You never had to jump up out of bed at seven, rushing off to work. Good thing, ’cause, rushing - not good for the complexion. Considering that her friends kept pretty much the same hours as she did, there weren’t really any big down sides to the work. She looked at her small but cozy apartment through the steam of the coffee. Well, being a bartender didn't make you rich, but she wasn't exactly starving either.

In contrast to many others in her profession, for Buffy, bartending wasn't a temporary source of income to pay for college, or a means to make a living until she found a "real" job. The nightclub was an enigmatic environment, and she liked to be around people. Her co-workers were also a lot of fun, so as long as the sleazy-guy-with-greasy-hair-who-made-icky-comments ratio was low, she enjoyed her profession.

Buffy hummed and pulled up her feet at the edge of the table. She made a little grimace when her eyes fell on the corny frog slippers Tara had given her for her last birthday. Well, it's the thought that counts.

"Hmm hm, hm, you and me, always, and forever." The song had ended, and a new one was playing, tempting her to sing again.

Some loud knocks at the door brought her out of her thoughts. She sighed to herself. Mr. Jones down the hall again. Probably the only person in the world who hadn't learned how to use a doorbell. She pulled herself off the sofa and went out into the entryway. When she opened the door a tired-looking elderly man wearing a strange red fleece jacket was staring down at her, squinting a little.

"Ehm... Miss Summers," he said with a tense voice. He tilted his head, bringing out his best passive-aggressive look. "Me and the pixies were sleeping, and your music woke us. Mind turning it down, little girl?"

Buffy shifted her weight uncomfortably.

"Yeah, sure,” she said. "Turn it down. Got it." She sighed and started closing the door.

"And Miss Summers," his voice slipped through the opening. "It's not Satanist music you're playing, is it?"

Buffy slammed the door shut. Sometimes she was sure that she had ticked of some kind of housing goddess or something. ’Cause these weird people always seemed to pile up around her wherever she lived. Like the chinchilla-loving lady at the last place, who chipped little pieces of floor tile from famous buildings she visited. Buffy looked at the small ziplock bag with a beige piece of ceramic in it, labeled "WTC. May 1997,” that lay in a bowl on the TV. "It's valuable now when the buildings are gone,” the old woman had said with a solemn face as she handed it to Buffy as a going-away present. "It's like with dead artists, you know. If you ever get poor, think about selling it on eBay before considering getting into prostitution."

Yeah, whatever. It is still the thought that counts.

Well, nothing was going to destroy her happy mood today, she decided as she walked back to the sofa and finished her breakfast after turning the music down. There had been talk about minor pay raises for, like, forever. Perhaps salary 2.0 would at least buy her a new pair of slippers. Hopefully, a pair that didn't have eyes.

* * * * * *

How come every staff room in the world looked almost exactly the same? There was the fitted carpet, the cheap looking chairs, and the whiteboard that always had strange notes nobody could decipher, left from some earlier meeting with god knows who. And then there were the fluorescent lamps that completed the impersonal impression. Buffy was grateful that they at least had omitted the inspirational posters. What would the message of choice be in their business? "Intoxication. It gets lots of ugly people laid"?

The room was filled with talking employees who were waiting for the meeting to start and glancing at the big cinnamon rolls that were going to be consumed afterwards. Finally, the boss arrived. As he took his place at the end of the table, he fiddled a little with the papers in front of him before he started talking.

"Well, ehm..."

The chatter in the room stopped, and everybody looked at him, waiting for him to continue.

"I guess that we should get right down to business." Now he was visibly squirming. "The thing is..." he coughed, getting a sip of water before he continued. "Finances haven't been very good lately."

The employees around the table started feeling a bit uncomfortable. Recently announced staff meeting + nervous boss = badness.

"We have been unable to get the income we need these last months, and unfortunately the club has been repossessed by the bank. We have tried to find a buyer, but nobody has given us a bid that would cover the debts. I'm sorry to inform you all that we are forced to close down."

Now the squirming escalated into loud discussions, and angry questions to the boss:

"Surely there must be something you can do?!"

"What are we gonna do now? How are we going to pay our bills?!"

"Can't you take another loan?!"

As Stewart continued talking, Buffy sat silent, feeling numb. Goodbye eyeless slippers, hello future payless state. At the moment there were almost more unemployed bartenders in LA than there were struggling actors/waiters. Mental note: consider an actor/waiter career.

She heard a voice next to her, but she didn't really listen

"Don't you think, Buffy?"

"Huh?" Buffy was brought out of her career planning by Kendra's whispering voice.

"Don't you think that they could have told us sooner that there were problems?" The dark skinned girl looked at her like she expected Buffy to say something to make it all better.

"Well, yeah," Buffy said quietly, looking around the table at her unemployed co-workers. "God, I feel all panicky!"

"Listen, you're great at what you do. Don't worry, you’ll get a new job in no time," Riley cut in, while throwing her a shy smile.

Buffy sighed inwardly. She had known for a while that he had a thing for her.. He was friendly, funny and helpful, not to mention well-built. In theory he was perfect boyfriend material, but he didn't manage to bring out that crucial spark. In short, he was safe to handle around flammable liquids and he kept her belly butterfly-free, sort of like an exterminator-guy in anti-stat suit.

Buffy suddenly caught a less-than-subtle glare in the corner of her eye. Kendra quickly looked down at the table.

"You know what we should do?" Riley leaned closer to Buffy. "We should all have a party. You know, to cheer us up."

"Party?" she said, looking a bit annoyed about his cheerful mood.

"Well, can't hurt, can it? We can throw it at my place," he continued.

Riley had a huge apartment in a good part of town. It wasn’t thanks to the bartender job, though. His father was a big shot general, and he had decided that if his son was stubborn enough to work in such an embarrassing profession, he should at least not put shame on his father by living in some cheap apartment. Hence: big place. Great for parties.

"Great idea!" Kendra smiled widely at Riley. "Can I help?"

"Sure." Riley turned to Kendra. "We could get coffee at Starbucks and make some lists." Kendra looked giddy.

As Buffy left the club an hour later and walked out into the sunny parking lot she sighed heavily. Well, isn't this typical. That's what you get for being cheerful - destiny biting you in the ass. "Better not try to cheer up," she thought as she walked to her car, "or I'll probably loose a couple of limbs in a freak pez dispenser accident or something."

* * * * * *

"This is so depressing! I'm depresso-girl!" Buffy whined into the receiver twenty minutes later when she had returned to her apartment.

"Hey! Depresso-girl sounds like some cool supervillain," Willow replied, trying to take Buffy's mind off things. "Oh, Godzilla vs. the Depresso-girl! That would definitely be a hit!"

"Well, if I'm going to be a Japanese supervillain, I'm at least not going to be subtitled," Buffy pouted.

Willow giggled. "Don't let Xander hear that. Dubbed Asian movies make him ramble. And Xander's ramblings can pretty much poke eyes out of unsuspecting bystanders."

"Well, I don't really know him that well yet, so thanks for the heads up." Buffy was amazed by her oldest friend's ability to always make her feel better in no time. "I'll just add it to the list: No talking about clowns, no subtitle stuff. Check."

"You know, there might be a simple solution to all this, one that hopefully will keep you from standing in the welfare lines."

"Oh, please do tell." Buffy lay back on her bed, twirling the phone cord around her finger, still sulking.

"Well, I work at a nightclub, don't I?

Buffy sighed to herself. Why hadn't she thought of that? Post Traumatic Unemployment Shock?

"I'm sure I could do the puppy eyed thing with my boss," Willow continued. "I'm always working like a ferret on a sugar rush, he owes me one. Oh, but a cute ferret, not one that bites children's fingers off or pees in people's shoes!" Silence. "Got a bit side tracked there, huh?"


"Anyway," she continued, "you've got experience, and good references, don't you?"

"Well, yeah..."

"It would be fun! We would be work buddies too. We could gossip at the coffee breaks and stuff!" she continued, showing off some classic Willow-enthusiasm™.

"Coffee break" probably isn't the correct term." Buffy picked up a button marked "World's best booze seller!" that lay on her nightstand and flipped it between her fingers. "It's more like time off to get a smoke or go to the bathroom. Possibly have quick sex with some substitute girl in a closet."


"Uh huh." Buffy chewed absentmindedly on her lip. "Almost got himself fired for that one.”

"Kind of harsh."

"Well, it was the boss’s daughter."

"Oops,” Willow replied.

"Oops, indeed." Buffy rolled her eyes. "By the way, I totally forgot!" she continued. "My ex-coworkers are planning to throw a farewell party at Riley's next Friday. We're going to drown our sorrow in lots of alcohol. Want to come along? I'm sure that there will be lots off passed-out people we can poke at and arrange in embarrassing positions."

"Well, I don't think I'm busy. And, well, it seems like a pretty depressing theme for a party. You probably could use some moral support."

"Great! Anyway," Buffy sighed, "you'll talk to your boss?"

"Yeah, first thing tomorrow. Bring out your resume and your brightest smile!" Again with the undying optimism.

"I will." Buffy smiled a little. "Talk to you later."

"Yeah. Bye."

Buffy pressed on the end call button and tossed the phone in the direction of her nightstand. Her body fell back on the bed with a low thump. Perhaps things would work out after all. Seven - the nightclub where Willow worked - was one of the hottest places in LA at the moment. Which meant big tippers. Buffy suddenly felt a bit hopeful. She glanced over at the clock. Oh, almost time for the rerun of The Bachelor, she thought as she sat up and reached for the remote.

When Willow hung up she sighed sympathetically. She would definitely panic too if it was she who had lost her job. She actually put away some money every month, just in case. Some would probably think that it was overkill, but "better safe than sorry" was practically Willow’s middle name.

She took a big breath and picked up the phone again. "Hello, it's Willow." Her voice tensed up a little from nervousness. "I was just...just we need any more bartenders at Seven?"


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