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A Convenient Marriage

Author: Gia Rating: PG probably; ultimately NC 17 Disclaimer: Own nothing. All belongs to Joss, ME, Fox, Pairing: Initially C/A, ultimately B/A. Author's Notes: This is AU. "Liam Angelus O'Connor" has been used in other fics and is not my original 'creation' although I liked it, which is why I'm using it here. I couldn't remember which fic or by who I'd be more than happy to give credit though if someone can tell me. I did a little bit of research into immigration rules through the BCIS (formerly the INS) web site but it was so boring and complicated that, well, what I have here may or may not be accurate. I'm sure you can suspend your disbelief, as this is FICTION. Flames regarding immigration rules will be cheerfully ignored. You have been warned. UC Sunnydale admissions based on the UCLA admissions cost estimates of $18,186 a year for tuition, books, personal expenses, transportation, yada yada. If you care, you can find this on UCLA's website. Here's the original challenge: Tara's Challenge Feedback: Yes, please Distribution: Anywhere currently hosting my stuff; my site, EverySixSeconds; anywhere else, just let me know. posted 9.29.2003 Ethan Rayne frowned and pressed his lips together in disapproval at the sight of his granddaughter escorting her boyfriend into the house. He watched them from the window in his study, his hands clasped behind his back until they disappeared behind the long wall approaching the front door. Despite her obvious attempt at entering the house quietly, he could hear the staccato click of Cordy's high heels on the white marble as they crossed the foyer and climbed the stairs. He listened as the sound retreated down the hall toward Cordelia's room then poured himself a healthy draught of Scotch and sat down in the high-backed leather chair at his desk. He glanced at the recent picture of his granddaughter on his desk, next to an older framed family photo.

Cordelia was so like her mother in looks and personality it was a little uncanny. Perhaps that was why he had tolerated her antics for so long. If her mother were alive today, perhaps things would have been different. Cassandra, Cordelia's mother, had been killed along with her husband, Stuart, and another couple when Cordelia was only five years old. Their private plane had crashed in South Africa where they had been traveling on their annual safari, Stuart having a fondness for big game hunting. Ethan and Lillian had been devastated by the loss of their only child and as a result, had spoiled their granddaughter recklessly. Lillian had managed to control Cordelia somewhat until she passed away only three short and difficult years ago. Since then the young brunette's spending had reached epic proportions and the rumors of wild behavior had increased. Ethan coughed slightly and took another sip of his drink. At seventythree, he was much too old to deal with his granddaughter's irresponsible and willful behavior much longer, for all that she was twenty-one now. He was admittedly old fashioned and felt that only a husband would curb Cordelia's wild ways. He wanted to see her married and settled. Bottom line, he wanted her off his hands. The only problem was her choice of men. He wouldn't be the least bit surprised if she chose her boyfriends simply to spite him, knowing that he would never approve of those without an established family name and sufficient wealth to keep her in the manner she was accustomed. He wouldn't tolerate some deadbeat sponging off the money that he and his father before him had earned - even though many would claim that their business practices were unscrupulous and bordering on illegal. As far as he was concerned, his business in investment banking wasn't about judging the ethics of his clients. He didn't care what business they were in as long as the deal was a sound one. Ethan picked up the manila folder on the desk and flipped it open. Inside were several pictures of Cordelia with her boyfriend of almost six weeks now, Liam Angelus O'Connor. Ethan knew everything about the young man from his birthday in May almost twenty-four years ago in Galway, Ireland to his current 3.9 GPA at UC Sunnydale. He knew that "Angel," as he had been called since birth, was attending school thanks to an academic scholarship and student exchange program and that he was majoring in Criminal Justice. After an unaccounted for year, he had started classes at the National University of Dublin where he spent the next two years before coming to Sunnydale. The young man had no family to speak of, other than an Uncle Giles who lived in Dublin. There was no mention of the boy's parents, which was unusual in and of itself. Regardless, that detail was of little consequence. From everything that Ethan had been able to ascertain through his thorough and well compensated private investigator, the boy was well beneath his granddaughter in terms of status, family name and wealth.

Unfortunately, he was also the longest lasting of her beau's so far. However, he wouldn't do at all as a suitor for his granddaughter. Ethan leaned back in his chair as he perused the documents on his desk once again. No, this "Angel" would not do at all. *** Cordelia handed Angel the glass of water he had asked for with a small pout as she stood in front of him where he reclined shirtless on the baby pink sofa in her room. With the window at her back, she knew that her figure would be provocatively outlined through the thin silk robe which she knew that any man with a pulse had to appreciate. "Are you listening to me, Angel?" He had the irritating look that she was seeing more and more often as of late. It was thoughtful and pensive and clearly indicated that he wasn't listening to a word that she was saying. Unless of course he was deep in thought about her, which she would grudgingly accept as an excuse for such behavior. "Angel? Hello? It's not very flattering when you do that, you know." Cordelia admonished with a slight frown. She sipped her champagne and counted to ten. She would have stomped her foot if she dared, but she had worked much too hard to capture his interest to simply allow him to slip away by revealing her often vile temper. "Hm? Do what?" Angel questioned, his attention returning to Cordelia. "Tune out on me." She retorted sharply then wished she could take back the words and her tone. Her temper was very close to the surface, and it simply wouldn't do for him to see it this early in their relationship. Angel was different from the other men that she had dated. He didn't fawn endlessly over her beauty, and he didn't seem impressed with her material possessions or her obvious wealth. He didn't dote on her every word or look however with his darkly handsome good looks, he was a challenge she had not been able to resist. It had taken her an inordinate amount of time to get him into her bed compared to her earlier conquests, but she had accomplished that just three weeks ago, so she was sure the rest would follow. She was confident though that she would bring him to heel, it was only a matter of time. He was a fabulous catch except for the fact that he had no money of his own to speak of. It annoyed her when she allowed herself to dwell on how absolutely perfect he was for her in every respect except that one. Life just wasn't fair sometimes! Regardless, she had no intention of losing her

lover. She dropped to the sofa beside him, pressing her full breasts to his arm and offering an unobstructed view of her cleavage in the loosely tied robe. She batted her eyes at him coquettishly. "Friday. Shopping. Giselle. You're meeting me at Patina at 2:00 right? We'll have a late lunch then head over to the Galleria from there. We have to get you a suit for the ballet." She shifted a slight bit closer, leaning over him. "Remember, you promised you'd take me." Angel's lips curved upward in a slight smile. He knew what the beautiful brunette was doing and had no doubt that she knew it as well. Cordelia was as predictable and easy to read as anyone that he had ever met. He sat the glass of water on the table next to the sofa. "I did?" He wrapped one arm around her and pulled her to lie more squarely on top of him. "You did." She reminded him as she pursed her lips together for a kiss. "Well, then, I guess I will." He said as the whisper of silk slid off her shoulders and dropped to the floor. He wasn't looking for a long-term relationship; he was still young and wanted to have fun. He didn't envision his future with her or with any woman he might meet in, say, the next several years, but she was undeniably beautiful, considerably talented in bed and had yet to bore him with her self-absorbed sarcastic wit, all of which seemed reason enough for the time being to continue their relationship. That and there was no one else that he was currently interested in pursuing. Women had been a constant in his life since the age of fifteen when Darla, the nineteen-year-old daughter of his father's partner, had revealed the pleasures of sex to him during one hedonistic summer. The fact of the matter was, no one kept his interest for long. He expected his interest in Cordelia to fade as had all the others; until then however, she was a lovely distraction. *** Buffy sighed and tucked the scant three dollars into her apron pocket. She couldn't believe that the table of six had left such a measly tip for their almost ninety dollar check. At this rate, she'd have to take on a third job just to make ends meet. She was already teaching aerobics and kickboxing at the gym four mornings a week plus a class on the weekend which was bringing in a nice $150 a week but that only just covered her rent. It didn't make her car payment or pay her tuition, much less the other debts that she had been saddled with following her mother's death just four months ago, which is why she pleaded with Anya for the

waitressing job at Patina. Patina was a popular California style bistro not far from the UC Sunnydale campus that catered to a young affluent crowd. It was typically loud and crowded, which usually made for good tips. It was only through her friendship with Anya, the restaurant's hostess, that Buffy managed to land the job here at all, having no prior experience waiting tables. She scooped up the plates, napkins and other debris from the table with quick efficiency as Anya shot her quick look of warning. Reginald Snyder, the manager, was rounding the corner, making his usual rounds through the restaurant. He was short tempered and impatient as Buffy found out after only three days on the job. Yesterday she had dropped several full plates of food and had to endure a lecture from him in addition to having her wages docked to pay for the wasted food and broken plates. Determined not to let that happen again, she hustled, careful to stay out of Snyder's line of sight. She desperately needed to keep this job - it was one of the few with decent pay that was close to both her apartment and the university. It allowed her to work longer shifts and still make it to classes on time. With a grimace, Buffy brushed the hair that had come loose from her ponytail out of her eyes, wiped down the table and hurried off to the next customer. *** Lying nude in the shambles of the bed, Cordelia watched Angel as he dressed. He was easily one of the most gorgeous men she had ever seen: tall, lean, muscled and dark as sin. His wicked dark eyes seduced and promised delights she had only imagined while his sensual lips more than lived up to the promise of his rare teasing smile. He was the definition of classic good looks and physical perfection all wrapped up in one exquisitely delicious and sexually satisfying package. She briefly considered taking offense at the casual indifference in which he left the bed, but the feeling past quickly given her current contented state. Instead, she rolled to her side, propping her head on her hand as she posed suggestively. "Are you sure you need to go?" Pausing to glance at the opulent fullness of her breasts and the curve of her hip so artfully displayed, Angel smiled slightly. "Yes, I have classes. I'll see you Friday." "Don't forget me." Cordelia purred from the bed, one hand sliding between her legs in an obvious display of erotic enticement. Not likely, Angel thought as he closed the door behind him, with the

image of her pleasuring herself in his mind. *** "Oh, Harmony, you would not believe the man's stamina." Cordelia gushed into the phone several hours later as she soaked in the tub. As had been the case since the two girls were in high school, full disclosure after any date or sexual experience was an absolute must. "Salty goodness multiplied times like, twenty." She giggled as Harmony replied with a few suggestive remarks before continuing to dish about her afternoon rendezvous. "I still can't believe that Grandpapa had the nerve to lecture me about Angel. Honestly." Looking down at her nails, Cordelia frowned. There was a small chip in the polish. She'd have to return to the salon. "He knocked on my door almost an hour after Angel left and told me that he didn't approve. Like he needs to approve. Hello? Over twenty-one." With an indignant snort, she continued. "He should remember since he was at my twenty-first birthday party unless he's getting senile, which is entirely possible." The brunette frowned more intently as she stared out the leaded glass window into the perfectly manicured grounds. She only half listened to Harmony's reply, focusing instead on mentally reviewing her wardrobe for what to wear tonight as they were again having guests. Her grandfather called them business dinners, but she knew that they were disguised attempts for her to meet the men that he considered eligible for her. Of course, it wasn't all bad. She smiled slightly and shifted the phone to her other ear. The last man she had met ending up staying over. Not with her grandfather's knowledge of course *** Angel scanned the crowd at the busy bistro in search of the long brunette hair of his date. Familiar by now with Cordelia's habitual tardiness, he wasn't surprised when he didn't see her. Instead, he waited until a table on the patio cleared and then sat down. Reaching in his pocket with an audible sigh, he unfolded the letter from the BCIS and re-read it for the twelfth time since it had arrived at his apartment around noon. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, affectionately known to him as the BCIS, was informing him that "due to irregularities with the required forms, his student visa had been denied" and that he was to return to his home country of Ireland within two weeks. Two weeks! He slapped the paper in frustration. He was a month away from completing his junior year and now they decide to send this! He couldn't believe the bureaucracy of the system, since he filled out countless forms last summer before he had even arrived in

Sunnydale. In politely worded sentences, he was encouraged to contact them if he believed the letter was in error. If he were to stay in the country past the date on the letter without additional proof of citizenship, then he would be considered to be in the country illegally and would be arrested and deported. He called the BCIS office immediately, only to have been put on hold for almost an hour. As if waiting hadn't been bad enough, he had been subjected to bad muzak versions of Mandy and Copacabana so often the songs were still playing through his head. Once he finally reached a live person she had been unable to tell him what the exact problem was or how to correct it. In fact, she seemed genuinely confused. His first stop after getting off the phone had been at the office of Student Affairs, hoping they would help sort out the mess, but they seemed to be as much in the dark as he was. Finally they suggested that he go to the local office of the BCIS and see if he could sort it out in person. He knew Cordelia would be unhappy about the change in their Friday afternoon plans, but it couldn't be helped. This was too important. Behind him several dishes rattled and he heard a soft muffled curse. Reaching under his chair, he retrieved the fork and the bread roll that had skidded to a halt near his foot and handed them to the harried waitress. Dark brown eyes met wide hazel green ones for a few lingering seconds before the girl dropped her gaze and scurried away. He felt an unusual jolt strike him with the simple look, and he glanced in the direction where she had gone. "Angel. There you are." Cordelia waved and smiled brightly, dropping into the chair across from him. She leaned forward for him to kiss her cheek, hiding her annoyance when he instead glanced back over his shoulder again where the girl had disappeared. "Listen, Cordy, I have to cancel our plans." He pushed the envelope across the table to her just as their waiter stopped to take their order. "Diet coke with lots of ice." The brunette snapped as she picked up the letter. "And a small green salad. It must be fresh, no blemishes on the leaves, no onions and only one small tomato, sliced into dime thin slices, if you can manage that. I want citrus vinaigrette on the side. Oh, and NO croutons. If I even see a spec of crouton dust on the leaves, I will send the whole thing back and expect it to be made fresh. Do you understand?" Immediately her tone changed as she glanced across the table, "Angel? Did you want anything?" Angel ordered water and a sandwich with a slightly apologetic expression, noting that the waiter, whose name tag read 'Andrew', seemed almost

frightened by Cordelia's demeanor. "This is ridiculous." Cordelia sputtered and looked up with incredulous eyes after she finished reading the letter. "This is just fucking ridiculous. I mean, what the hell do they mean by 'irregularities'? Those idiots. You just march down there and tell them where they can put this letter." She jabbed the white paper in the air, her voice growing louder with each word. "Sh! Keep it down, please." Angel requested quietly, taking the letter from her and putting it back in his pocket. "I'm going to take care of it." "Well I should hope so. Does that look like a spec of a crouton to you?" The brunette frowned, holding her fork over Angel's plate for his review. "No, Delia." Angel replied with minor irritation. Reaching in his pocket, he dropped a few bills on the table to pay for lunch. "Look, I have to go see about this. I'll call you later." Retrieving her cell phone from her purse, Cordelia watched as Angel left the restaurant. "Harmony, you will never believe this." She wailed into the phone immediately after hearing her friend answer. "Angel is going to be deported." As she listened to her friend's response, Cordelia absently watched the blonde waitress scurry across the restaurant and back again, only to be stopped by the manager and berated. "I can't marry him, Harm. At least not until Grandpapa dies. You know he would disown me. I've already told you that he doesn't like Angel." Across the restaurant the blonde waitress hung her head and nodded. She seemed almost defeated as the little man continued shaking his finger at her. "What? What did you say?" Suddenly Cordelia's attention returned to her phone conversation. "That's a terrific idea, Harmony, absolutely fabulous. You could marry him!" Twirling her hair around her finger, the former high school cheerleader and Prom Queen leaned forward on the table. Her brows drew together in a frown. "What do you mean, no? You've told me that you and Spike are in a seriously off again phase right now. Isn't he still in Europe skiing? Besides, we're not talking about sex. You wouldn't be having sex with him. And it would be temporary, you know until he gets his paper work or green card or whatever they call it these days." "Very funny." Shooting a dirty look in the direction of the woman at the

nearby table who was glancing in her direction, Cordelia waited until the nosy gray haired lady had turned completely around before answering Harmony. "Where am I going to find some chick that won't want Angel for a husband? I told you he's a hottie, not to mention an absolute dream between the sheets. Any girl would marry him in a heartbeat." Her laughter ringing out through the restaurant, Cordelia shook her head and replied, "That's really funny, Harm. Some ugly chick that he'll ignore is a great idea. Now tell me where to find one of those, and we're all set." Glancing back across the restaurant, Cordelia once again noticed the haggard blonde, her uniform covered with stains and splatters, her hair a dreadful mess. She seemed to be apologizing to one of her customers, a defeated look on her face. "I'm sure Angel will get it straightened out, and it will all be just fine. I am not going to miss having that fabulous bod next to me at the beach house this summer, I'll tell you that already." Thoughtfully, the brunette stared across the restaurant at the obviously worn-down and completely unstylish young woman. "I have to run, Harm. I'll talk to you later." "Hey you. Yes, you. Come here." Cordelia called to her waiter as she clicked off her phone. She pointed at the girl she had been watching earlier. "What can you tell me about that girl?" *** Buffy slumped against the back wall near the kitchen doorway and muttered a series of curses under her breath. Snyder again threatened to fire her after one of her customers complained that she was slow in delivering the condiments to their table. She rolled her eyes at Anya who passed by and couldn't help the sarcastic chuckle that escaped her lips. That would be the cap to a really delightful stint as a waitress, to be fired over the lack of ketchup. It wasn't as if she didn't have a dozen other tables to take care of, not to mention that the bus boy assigned to help in her section seemed to find it funny to make her do half his work. Brushing her hair back from her face and adjusting her ponytail, Buffy sighed. How much things had changed in only four short months. She had only herself to rely now that her mother was gone. Her father, the rat bastard, had come back to Sunnydale for the first time in three years, not for the funeral but to sell the house, which, as it turns out, was actually was left to him since her mother never bothered to change either the house title or her will after the divorce. Thrilled with the unexpected windfall, which would help pay for a good portion of his new expensive LA residence, Hank Summers returned to LA with his wife and Buffy's two year old half-sister, Dawn, leaving Buffy with nothing more than some unpaid bills and her mother's jeep. Just before he drove away, he made a vague promise about sending money for college and rent once he had things sorted out, but that had been

months ago, and Buffy had yet to see a dime. The calls she made to him in the first few weeks had been unreturned; the few times she managed to catch him on the phone, he was always distracted or rushed and always had the same glib promises. After that first two months, Buffy gave up and stopped calling. The various bills had depleted a good bit of her savings, leaving her just enough to rent a tiny apartment. She didn't regret not living in the dorms this first semester, what with her mother's illness and all, but it certainly made things that much more difficult in the recent weeks. But she knew that she'd never better her situation without a college education, so she was determined to somehow manage that even if it took her five or more years. Thankfully her tuition for the semester had already been paid, but she needed to get ahead somehow if she were to make next semester. With a deep inhalation of air, she pushed away from the wall and resolved to make it work. It would get easier, it had to. She needed to keep this job. **** It was late, almost one am when Cordy knocked on the door to Angel's loft apartment. She had come straight there after the ballet, having conned Xander Harris to attend the performance of Giselle with her in Angel's place since he had been tied up all afternoon at the BCIS offices. "Well?" She demanded as he opened the door. "Hello to you too." Angel stepped back from the door as the brunette pushed past him to enter the apartment. Unable to sleep, he'd stayed up studying and getting a jump on preparing for finals - finals that he probably wasn't even going to be able to take. He had chuckled at the irony even as he had pulled out the textbooks. "Sorry." Cordelia paused and turned, kissing his cheek before brushing by and dropping on the couch. She patted the spot next to her. "But you know I'm upset about all this. I bought two extra pairs of shoes while shopping to help me deal. I was barely able to enjoy the ballet, I kept thinking about that stupid office and their silly rules. The stress even made me buy a chocolate torte during intermission. Now tell me that you've resolved this." Sighing heavily, Angel sat down in the chair across from her. He wasn't particularly in the mood to cater to Cordelia's selfish behavior tonight, but she did provide a welcome distraction from his own frustrated and angry thoughts. "No." "What do you mean, no?" She demanded, a frown crossing her features. "I mean no. It looks like I have to pack up and go home." He said as he

shrugged his shoulders. "I've already talked to the landlord about keeping my place here through the summer at least. My uncle Giles said he'd help out with the rent. Hopefully I can straighten this out and come back for next semester. Monday I'll see if there's anything I can do about my classes so that I don't lose all my credits." "No. You can't." Cordelia stated bluntly. "There's only like the biggest beach party at Harmony's summer house in Malibu on the last day of school, and you have to be there as my date. I already told her that we'd go. I can't just be expected to change all my plans around. And I have plans for us this summer. Who is going to take me to the Black & White charity ball if you have to go back to Ireland?" "I don't have a choice Cordy. I could stay, but they're rather insistent that if I do I'll end up in jail or deported or both. You know I can't afford to have even the smallest blemish on my record if I want to get into the FBI. It's already hard enough that I'm not a U.S. citizen as it is." Pressing her lips together, the brunette bit back a reply. She didn't understand why he wanted to do that anyway. The FBI was a silly choice of a career in her opinion. She would, of course, work on changing his mind about that if they were going to have any type of long-term relationship. It just would not do for someone of her class to be with someone who worked for the government. Maybe she could talk him into law school. A lawyer for a prestigious firm, eventually a senior partner now that she could see justifying as worthy of marriage. Maybe her grandfather could pull a few strings with Wolfram & Hart, the firm that represented him "Well, if you can't get through the paper work then you should just get married." She blurted it out without thinking, her earlier conversation with Harmony coming to mind. "What?" Angel shifted on his chair, his gaze wary as he stared at the beautiful brunette. He didn't want to think about getting married for another six or eight years, if ever. And certainly he didn't envision himself married to Cordelia. "You know, get married. People do it all the time to stay in this country." She said as she brushed an imaginary speck of lint off her skirt. "I don't think that's such a good idea." He said skeptically, wondering how he was going to manage to escape from this conversation without offending Cordelia to the point where she was cursing him loudly and waking the neighbors. "Look, you get married in name only. It's not like a real marriage." The idea taking shape in her mind, Cordelia sat forward eagerly. "And once you get your green card or whatever, then you get a divorce."

Searching for the appropriate tactful response, he glanced out the window and reluctantly replied, "Cordelia you know I think we have a good thing but-" Her laughter interrupted his words and he looked up at her in confusion. "Not me, silly. I mean, not that I wouldn't want to " Her eyes roved over him suggestively, her memory recalling the muscular body hidden under black sweat pants and white t-shirt. "But you know I wouldn't be proposing a marriage in name only if that were the case." "You're saying I should marry someone else?" Angel looked at her, slightly dumbfounded that she would be suggesting the idea. "Sure, why not?" Cordelia shrugged one shoulder. "It's not like you'd really be married. You wouldn't have to live with her or, heaven forbid, have sex with her." His brows quirked upward as he stared back at her. "This whole conversation is ridiculous, Delia." "I'm totally serious." She replied adamantly, coming to her feet and crossing the room. She dropped into his lap, her fingers tracing a path up his chest. "We find someone, and you can stay in the country and finish college. It'll be perfect." Stopping her hand abruptly, he lifted her off his lap and strode to the window. "I'm not going to marry someone just to stay in the country." Used to getting her way with men, Cordelia rose gracefully to her feet. She unzipped her dress, dropping it to the floor. She walked over to him, wearing only a dark blue bra, matching panties and garter belt with sheer silk stockings. Taking his hand, he placed it on the rounded curve of her breast. Sliding her hand up his chest, she pursed her lips together in a small moue, "Think about it, okay?" *** Just after nine pm, Cordelia parked her cherry red BMW Z8 along the curb just down the block from Patina. She had spent a good bit of the day on the phone with Harmony and was now convinced that a marriage of convenience for Angel was the absolute best idea. Not only would it allow him to stay in the country, it would also get her Grandpapa off her back about the 'unacceptable' fit of Angel as a husband and his threats to disown her should she choose to marry him. If he was already married, then well, no need to worry now was there? She didn't for a minute stop and think that perhaps her grandfather would have an issue with her cavorting around with a married man.

Striding quickly to the busy bistro, she waited along the patio tables until she spotted the waitress from yesterday. It had been an impulse that had led her to ask her waiter about the young woman yesterday, but now she saw it as an omen. Buffy Summers, as she understood to be the girl's name, was in dire straits financially and on the verge of losing her job at the restaurant. A job that, according to Andrew the waiter, she desperately needed. That desperate situation combined with Buffy's plain blonde looks was just what Cordelia was looking for. Taking a seat in Buffy's section, Cordelia ordered a diet coke and prepared to wait. Half an hour later, when the traffic was finally thinning out, she flagged down the harried waitress. "Buffy? Your name is Buffy right? Buffy Summers?" "Yes." Buffy replied almost reluctantly, slowing as she neared the brunette woman's table. "Can I get something for you?" "No thanks, I just wanted to talk to you. My name is Cordelia. Cordelia Chase." Cordelia replied with a smile. A smile that grew wider as she once more scanned the girl that she had selected to be Angel's wife in name only. The mousy blonde was perfect, not so horrible that Angel would be embarrassed or would outright object, but definitely not any competition. Not that there really was any competition, as far as Cordy was concerned, but it never hurt to be absolutely certain. "Do I know you? Are we in a class together?" Buffy questioned, holding her small notepad in front of her as if prepared to take an order. She had to look busy or else Snyder, who seemed to have eyes in the back of his head, would be in her face again. "I'm sorry, I don't remember you" "No. At least, I don't think we are." Cordy laughed, the forced sound trilling out in the restaurant and causing a few heads nearby to turn in their direction. "Listen, Buffy. I have a little business proposition for you. Have a seat." "I can't, I'm sorry. I'll get fired." The petite blonde glanced over her shoulder again before returning her attention back to Cordelia. What on earth could a woman wearing shoes that cost more than her entire outfit want with her? Buffy couldn't imagine. "Okay, so don't sit. Look, I know you need money. It's rather obvious from your clothing, which is so last year and besides, one of your coworkers mentioned that your Mom died and stuff and that you got stuck with a bunch of the bills." The brunette said flatly, not even attempting to sound sympathetic. "So, I'm willing to offer you $20,000 to do me a little favor."

Buffy stared at the woman with wide eyes. Twenty thousand dollars?! That would cover her expenses - tuition, books, rent, as well as other essentials - for an entire year. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What little favor?" "Marry my boyfriend." Cordelia replied, glancing at Buffy's face. "Huh? What? Marry?" The young waitress's eyes widened suddenly. "Oh, hell no. No way. I am so not into kinky stuff like that." She spun on her heel to walk away, but Cordy reached out and grabbed her by the arm. "Wait. Listen to me." The brunette whispered, tugging Buffy back a step. Turning, Buffy glanced down at the brunette's hand on her arm then back at the woman's face. Her eyebrows lifted slightly in challenge. Cordelia dropped her hand. "It's not what you think. It's just so he can stay in the country." "So what don't you marry him then? He's your boyfriend. That's usually what you do - you know, date and then if you fall in love - or in this case, if one of you needs to stay in the country - you get married." Buffy replied, crossing her hands over her chest. "I can't marry him." The brunette stated irritably. She couldn't believe the girl was being this difficult when it was so obvious that she needed the money. Shifting her stance slight, Buffy looked at the girl suspiciously. "Why not?" "It's a long complicated story." "Uh-huh." The diminutive blonde stared back skeptically, noting the absence of a wedding ring on the girl's finger to excuse the obvious "already married" possibility. "Let me guess, you'll get disinherited or cut off from your trust fund if you marry this guy, who is probably from the wrong side of town and your rich parents don't like." "Okay, maybe it's not that complicated." Cordelia answered with an indignant sigh. "Look, you just have to marry him. It would, of course, be in name only. You're not even going to have to live with him. And you're certainly not going to have sex with him." "I don't think so." Turning, Buffy walked away. "Just think it over." Cordelia called after her. Muttering in annoyance,

Cordy dropped only enough money on the table to pay for her soda before she walked out of the restaurant. She certainly wasn't going to tip the ungrateful bitch for not helping her out. Now where was she going to find someone else that would fit her ideal so perfectly on such short notice?
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A Convenient Marriage, Part 2

Author: Gia Rating: NC 17 Disclaimer: Joss, ME, & own all but the ficcy idea and some of the words. Pairing: Initially C/A, ultimately B/A. Includes W/O. Author's Notes: This is AU. "Liam Angelus O'Connor" has been used in other fics and is not my original 'creation' although I liked it, which is why I'm using it here. I couldn't remember which fic or by who I'd be more than happy to give credit though if someone can tell me. Credit: Tara's "Forced into Love" is one. *g* I did a little bit of research into immigration rules through the BCIS (formerly the INS) web site but it was so boring and complicated that, well, what I have here may or may not be accurate. I'm sure you can suspend your disbelief, as this is FICTION. Flames regarding immigration rules will be cheerfully ignored. You have been warned. UC Sunnydale admissions based on the UCLA admissions cost estimates of $18,186 a year for tuition, books, personal expenses, transportation, yada yada. If you care, you can find this on UCLA's website. Here's the original challenge: Tara's Challenge Feedback: Yes, please Distribution: Anywhere currently hosting my stuff; my site,

EverySixSeconds; anywhere else, just let me know. completed 10.5.2003

As was often her habit, Buffy stopped off at Oz and Willows apartment on her way home. Even though it was late, she knew that her best friends would still be up watching their favorite show, Stargate SG-1. She knocked loudly then waited until the count of thirty before opening the door, an established pattern ever since she had walked in on the couple in a rather compromising position in their living room a few weeks ago. Hi Buffy. Willow smiled and waved from her lounging position on the couch, curled up next to Oz, her boyfriend of just over two years. They had only moved in together four months ago and so far the living arrangement seemed well suited to them both. Hey. Oz added in his flat monotone voice. Hey guys. Tiredly Buffy dropped into the armchair near the window and propped her feet up on the small cube shaped ottoman. Rough day? The red-haired girl asked after a minute, noting her friends slumped posture and defeated expression. Unbelievable. I wasnt able to finish my reading for English or study for my calc test and I still have a final paper for poli sci. On top of that, Snyder threatened again to fire me. Some guy urgently in need of ketchup complained. Were there fries involved? Because if there were fries, I can see how that might be a problem. Oz deadpanned, his gaze leaving the TV screen for only a brief second. You wont believe this though. Buffy continued, At work tonight this woman, she said her name was Cordelia Chase, well, she offered me twenty thousand dollars to marry her boyfriend. What?! Oz and Willow asked in unison, both their heads coming up off the couch to look in her direction. That was pretty much my reaction too. The petite blonde replied with a small laugh. I didnt believe it. Whatd you say? Willow asked, her eyes wide with surprise. I said, Sure! When? Buffy answered with a roll of her eyes. Whatd

you think I said? Was she for real? Oz questioned as he shifted slightly, sitting forward now instead of reclining. I doubt it. Who has the kind of money to throw around? Scoffing slightly, Buffy shook her head. Cordelia Chase does. Seriously. My Mom has been worked with that family for years. Theyre loaded. Ethan Rayne, Cordelias grandfather, is like some financial giant in Sunnydale. Investment banking or something. Tucking her feet under her, Willow looked from Buffy to Oz as she answered the half-joking question. Willows mother was a noted psychologist whose clientele consisted of the higher echelon of Sunnydale society, which gave added truth to her words. Hm. Its true she was sporting some serious designer labels But of course I said no. Im not going to marry some guy just so he can stay in the country. If this Cordelia wants him here that bad, she can marry him. With a shrug, Buffy settled back in the chair and gave her friends a playful smile. Speaking of guys though saw one yesterday that was of interest. Oh? Date material? Willow sat forward interestedly. More often than not she was prodding her best friend to get out and meet people, wanting her to have the same love, security and fun that she had found with Oz. Most of the time Buffy protested, claiming to be too busy or uninterested. That she was showing some interest in a guy was a definite good sign. Most definitely dateable. Tall and gorgeous with this thick dark hair that was sort of sticking up all messy like sexy really sexy - bed head. With a dreamy expression on her face, Buffy sighed. Beautiful brown eyes, like the best richest chocolate. Eyes? You got close enough to see eyes? Willow grinned, her eyes lighting up animatedly. Well yeah, when I was retrieving the bread roll that I dropped at his feet. With a grimace, the diminutive blonde shrugged. Which, if the thought hadnt occurred to him before that moment, Im sure it came to mind then that Im a total and complete loser. Buffy. The red-haired girl admonished, Guys never think that about you. Never. Which explains why my social life is so full. Buffy replied wryly, watching as Oz got up to go to the kitchen. Youre just busy, thats all. Youve had a lot of things going on.

Willow excused with a small understanding smile. Maybe. Buffy acknowledged absently, her mind lingering on the vision of the guy at the restaurant for just a moment longer. So did you get the guys name? Willow asked hopefully, hugging one of the couch pillows to her chest. No. He wasnt in my section, and I had like a dozen other tables. The only other glimpse I saw of him was when he was leaving. The blonde girl replied with a soft disappointed sigh. And? Willow prompted, a grin threatening to burst forth. She knew her best friend all too well. And yeah, he has a really nice butt too. Buffy grinned back. Maybe hell come back in. The red-haired girl suggested optimistically as Buffy rose to her feet. Maybe. But you know me and my luck with guys, Will. Buffy picked up the bag she had dropped next to the chair. Every time I think maybe about a guy it ends badly. But hey, thats okay. Its not like Ive got time for guys and dating right now anyway. Which brings me to - Ive gotta run. Much studying to be done tonight and another early day tomorrow. Giving Willow a quick hug and shouting goodbye to Oz, Buffy hurried out the door and headed home. **** Dressed in a short black plaid mini-skirt and bright red sleeveless sweater, Cordelia was oblivious to the appreciative stares as she walked through the UC Sunnydale campus. She attended her classes sporadically, unconcerned with her grades and not particularly ambitious when it came to getting an education. It pleased her grandfather that she attended school and largely kept him off her back, so that alone was worth the occasional hassle of studying or actually making an appearance at the school. And of course, if it hadnt been for an art class that she had taken on a lark, she wouldnt have met Angel. Stopping near the library, she scanned the crowd in search of her boyfriend. She knew he typically went to the library between classes to study, so she was certain to find him somewhere nearby. After a few minutes, she spotted his dark head just coming out of the administrative offices. Angel! What a surprise. She smiled and walked toward him. Cordelia. Angel replied with a touch of skepticism as he half-heartedly

returned her hug and ignored her proffered cheek. Not in the mood to deal with her, he hadnt returned her calls yesterday or this morning, so he suspected this meeting was no chance accident. Did we have plans? No, silly. Do I have to have reason to see you? She batted her eyes flirtatiously. I thought maybe we could grab some lunch or something. Thanks, but no. Im not really in the mood. I have two more professors to see, then I have to go home and starting packing. A serious expression on his face, Angel started toward the math and sciences building. Packing? Cordelia echoed as she fell into step next to him. No packing. Theres no packing. You are not going back to Ireland. Yes I am, Cordelia. Angel gave a small exasperated sigh as he stopped once again to look at the brunette. Im not going to risk legal action. But but What about me- I mean, your classes? She demanded, reaching out to grab his arm as he once again started to walk away. As far as the semester goes, Im fucked. On Friday afternoon all my instructors were willing to let me finish early or work around this whole screwed up mess, today theyre all telling me that it would be against school policy, and theyre sorry but they cant make an exception. My whole semester is shot down the tubes. Ill have to take all these classes over. Not necessarily. Cordelia insisted. Remember what I suggested I cant do that Delia. Angel replied, reaching for the handle on the glass door and holding it open. Yes, you can. The brunette said firmly as she stepped in front of him and into the gloomy hallway. She grimaced at the display of bones before turning back to Angel with a pleading look on her face. Look, I have this friend. Her mom died, and she was left with tons of debt. I mentioned that maybe she could help me you out and Id help her out a little. Tugging her to the side of the hallway, he stopped. He frowned down at her. I dont think so. I dont want you buying me a wife. Im not buying her. Im just helping her. Yes, Im helping her get a small low interest loan through one of grandfathers banks. Shes too proud to accept my help without doing something for me in return. Ive offered, really. Several times. She was more than willing to do this. She improvised as she looked away from him as if afraid he might see the truth in her eyes. Actually, she spent more in one productive shopping trip than the sum she had mentioned to Buffy, so to Cordelia the amount

was inconsequential. Turning back, she inched closer and smiled, watching her fingers as she walked them playfully up his arm. You wont even have to live with her. Angel only looked at her, his expression unreadable. Redoubling her efforts, she continued. And it would really, really help her out. Youd be doing her a favor AND you wouldnt lose any of your credits or your time. Just think how much harder it will be to get into the FBI if you were deported and stuff. Or if you had to explain why you suddenly left before the end of the semester and had to start over And its surprisingly simple. Cordelia pressed on, Reverend Bonnie, over on Broadway and Third, can issue marriage licenses and perform the ceremony all at once. You dont even have to go to Vegas or get a blood test or anything. Whats your friends name? Angel asked reluctantly, unable to believe he was actually thinking what he was thinking. Of course, should he actually achieve his goal of getting into the FBI he could just as easily get kicked out if they found about this Buffy. Buffy Summers. *** Parker Abrams along with several other guys from Delta Zeta Kappa house were celebrating a foosball championship win over Tau Kappa Epsilon. It was the first time they had beaten the rival fraternity in any activity resembling a sport all semester so the young men were fired up and looking to party. Theyd already had more than a few beers back at their frat house before heading to the restaurant, so it was a loud and raucous group that strolled into Patina just after eight oclock. Buffy had pleaded with Andrew then with Kennedy to switch sections with her, even offering up her tips for the night but to no avail. Snyder had walked up in time to catch the last bit of their conversation and had asked, in his stern nasally voice, if there was a problem. Buffy shook her head no, and grudgingly waited on the table of twelve. The mostly drunk frat boys purposely made the next few hours of Buffys life absolutely miserable. They complained about their orders and sent back their food, they made lewd remarks and pawed and groped her, snickering and laughing the entire time. Snyder had watched her like a hawk; the only thing that hadnt gotten her fired after the third plate of food was returned to the kitchen was that Snyder knew the boys were drunk and purposefully obnoxious. Although, he excused it as simply blowing off some steam. After all, hed been a

Delta Zeta Kappa himself many years ago. At the end of dinner, the group left a paltry one dollar tip in which Parker had written Thanks for a good time - again. Very funny. Buffy grumbled as she cleared the table. Parker has taunted her that theyd be back, and she didnt doubt that hed make good on the threat. He seemed to enjoy trying to humiliate her. Despite her anger, her eyes watered with tears. Shed gone out with Parker Abrams twice at the beginning of the semester and had regretted it ever since. On their second date, he brought Chinese takeout and a rented video over to her place. Instead of the sex he had expected, he had ended up with a bloody nose and a pair of sore testicles. Angry and embarrassed at the obvious signs of damage to his face as well as his gait, he had spread lies about Buffy that led other members of his frat and who knows who else to believe that Buffy was into rather rambunctious and kinky sex. She had endured weeks of teasing and lewd remarks after that; they had only just died down when her Mom had taken a turn for the worse Buffy? Buffy sniffed and stiffened her spine. Deep in thought, she hadnt even heard anyone come up behind her. Besides, it was late the restaurant was closed. I just wanted to see if you had given any more thought to my offer. Cordelia questioned hopefully. She had already made all the necessary arrangements; now she only needed the blonde to agree. Buffy wiped angrily at the tears in her eyes, but did not turn around. There was no need, she knew that the girl behind her was Cordelia Chase, the one that had offered her money to marry her boyfriend so that he could stay in the country. Look, it would really, really help my boyfriend out. If he cant stay in the country, hes going to lose all his credits for this semesterIt may even jeopardize his entire future. I really cant believe youd be this selfish, Buffy. Glancing down at the wadded up dollar bill in her hand, Buffy grimaced. If she had the kind of money Cordelia was talking about, she could quit this job and never worry about having to wait on Parker or his rude friends again. Taking a deep breath, she whirled around. Fine. Buffy replied impulsively. What? Cordelia questioned, startled.

I said fine, Ill do it. The blonde waitress wiped her hands on the cloth apron tied around her waist, her eyes downcast. After a second, she lifted her gaze to Cordelias face. You did say I didnt have to live with him right? Right. Definitely. No living. No sex. Your life can stay just like it is. The brunette replied, her eyes raking over the girl again. Her hair was in a wild disarray on her head, her clothes were stained with food. Buffy Summers was admittedly unexceptional. Passable enough to be considered cute perhaps if she were to do something with her hair, change her clothes and do something about that thing on her face but she was certainly no competition. Cordelia smiled brightly, a wide insincere smile showing her perfect white teeth. A fleeting reservation passed through Buffys mind, but she pushed it aside. So, um, then... Before she could finish her thought, Cordelia drew a card out of her purse and handed it over. Heres the address for Reverend Bonnies. Be there Friday at three oclock sharp. Ill give you your check then. Whirling around, the brunette started to leave. Hey! Buffy called out, thinking there were dozens of things that she should be asking right now, things that she should know but she seemed unable to form a coherent thought. What? Cordelia stopped and turned around. Crossing her arms, she tapped her foot impatiently. Um, whats his name? She stammered, still trying to organize the chaotic jumble of thoughts lurching through her mind. Angel. His name is Angel. Cordelia replied brusquely before she turned and flounced away. Oh. Buffy stared at the neatly printed note in her hand, unable to believe that she had just agreed to this. *** Angel leaned against the black GTX, surveying the traffic along the street from behind a pair of silver rimmed, gray tinted sunglasses as he waited apprehensively for the woman that would soon be his wife. He still couldnt believe that he had agreed to marry someone that he had never met. He had, in fact, considered backing out more than a dozen times since he had agreed, feeling as if he were doing something sordid and unscrupulous. In addition, the alarm bells of the words marriage and wife clamored through his mind putting up an additional shred of resistance. These were words that he had never expected to hear or use

in regards to himself for quite a few years, if ever. In the shade of the nearby tree, Cordelia paced and talked on her cell phone, her laughter and loud voice ringing out every so often. She had insisted on coming with him, claiming that not only was she there to facilitate the introductions, but that they would need a witness for the ceremony. She had also reminded him that they were expected at Harmonys for cocktails tonight, so they would need to leave for the Kendalls estate just after the ceremony if they wanted to get there before traffic. Despite his reservations and the warm May weather, he had dressed the part of the groom in a deep blue suit that hugged his tall muscular frame. The top few buttons of his white shirt were unbuttoned at the collar in deference to the heat. Closing his eyes, Angel cursed his luck for having led him here. Feeling a last minute panic, he pushed away from the car and started toward Cordelia. Perhaps it wasnt too late to stop this farce. *** Buffy checked her reflection in the small rearview mirror one last time while she waited at the stoplight. She couldnt believe she had actually agreed to marry a man that she had never met. All she knew was that his name was Angel. What kind of name was that anyway? Angel. Shed repeated it to herself over a dozen times in the last two days, uncertain she was going to be able to go through with this. Why hadnt she asked for his last name? Or what if that was his last name? Buffy Angel? Buffy Summers-Angel? Egads. It was a good thing she planned on keeping her maiden name then. Behind her a car honked and she jumped, startled to see that the light had turned green while she was lost in thought. Pressing firmly on the accelerator, she gave an apologetic wave and zipped through the intersection. As she approached the little pink bungalow at the address specified on the paper, Buffy briefly considered just driving on past and forgetting this whole ridiculous scheme. Instead, she found herself braking and pulling into a parking space just across the street. Glancing over, she saw the small cheerful sign out front proclaiming that she was, indeed, at Reverend Bonnies. Theres Buffy now. Cordelia said, clicking off her cell phone abruptly. She held up her hand, shielding her eyes from the sun as she watched the petite blonde get out of the green jeep and cross the street toward them.

Angel stopped next to her on the sidewalk, the words he had been about to utter frozen on his lips. Buffy was wearing a stylish pink sundress, so light it appeared almost white, and a pair of strappy high heeled sandals. Her hair was pulled up on the back of her head, with long curls cascading down from the secured knot. She wore a short string of pearls around her neck with matching tear-drop shaped earrings dangling from her earlobes. Without realizing it, Cordelia frowned. The blonde actually looked good. Too good. Which was definitely not good. Oh lord, she was small, Angel thought as the young woman stepped out of the car parked at the curb. How old was she? She seemed almost like a child. He drew in a deep breath as she approached, trying to remember why he had let Cordelia talk him into this. Why had this seemed like a good idea? He could still stop this before its too late, he only had to find the words. A soft curse escaped his lips. Or maybe not so soft as Buffy glanced over at him curiously. Plastering a smile on her face, the brunette cheerfully spoke as Buffy stopped next to them on sidewalk. Buffy! Did you lose weight? And your hair... Alright, I respect you too much to be dishonest. The hair's a little... Standing almost protectively in front of Angel, Cordelia shifted her stance. Well, that really isn't the point here, is it? Buffy tried not to stare at the man behind Cordelia, her heart suddenly beating erratically in her chest. She would never have agreed to do this if she had known that her prospective husband was the guy from the restaurant. The really, really gorgeous guy from the restaurant, with those beautiful eyes and that nice butt Oh but of course, he would be the boyfriend of the incredibly beautiful and incredibly rich woman. This was an example of Buffy luck at its finest. Buffy, Angel. Angel, Buffy. Cordelia chirped out the introductions with a small sweep of her hand before turning on her heel and heading toward the door. Now lets get this over with, okay? Buffy swallowed nervously and managed a strangled hello before moving to follow Cordelia who was waiting impatiently by the door. She clenched her fingers in her palm, suppressing the urge to race to her car and drive away or, perhaps run her fingers through the dark, spiky locks of hair that practically begged to be touched. Removing his sunglasses, an interested smile crossing his lips, Angels gaze followed Buffys trim figure as she walked away from him. The scent of warm vanilla drifted to his nostrils as he followed closely in the petite blondes wake, picking up his pace to reach the door ahead of her. Grasping the door handle, he held it open politely as Cordelia then Buffy

entered salmon pink bungalow. Without any conscious realization, his earlier reluctance had slipped completely from his mind. Just inside the door they were greeted by a petite Korean woman named Jin-Soo, who introduced herself as Reverend Bonnies assistant. With a smile, she told them that it would be just a few minutes, then disappeared through the door behind her. Buffy anxiously studied the pictures that aligned the lobby walls as they waited. On one side there were pictures of smiling, happy couples. Next to some of the pictures were notes or cards of thanks. On the opposite wall, there were pictures of babies and children of a wide variety of ages. A few of them had names on them, but most were simply photographs. Sneaking peeks at Buffy from his position next to the reception desk, Angel found himself suddenly curious about her. What was she like? Was her financial situation so dire that she would have to resort to this? The door at the back of the room burst open and Reverend Bonnie, a plump strawberry blonde wearing a bright yellow dress, burst through the door with Jin-Soo following close behind. Hello, hello. Im Reverend Bonnie. She said with a wide smile, her eyes moving rapidly between the occupants of her lobby. Her blue eyes stopped again on Buffy and she fairly beamed, You must be our bride. Bonnie glanced once more at Angel with a wide smile, and of course, the groom. Her gaze then landed on Cordelia. Oh, and let me guess? Youre the best friend that set them up? Cordelias eyes narrowed and she started to speak, but Bonnie continued speaking cheerfully, reaching for the papers Jin-Soo was handing her. I can always tell these things. When youve been doing this as long as I have, you develop sort of an instinct. Oh. Yes. The bride. Thats me. Buffy managed to say, feeling suddenly like a fraud to this charming and friendly woman. Those are my couples. And their children. Bonnie commented with a nod, noticing that Buffy had been studying the pictures on the wall. Oh. Buffy said simply, glancing once more back at the smiling faces in the picture. How very different she and her groom would no doubt look when compared to the other pictures. She couldnt help but suppress a small chuckle at the thought that her expression as well as Angels appeared to be more suited for a funeral than their own wedding. Now then, shall we get down to business? The plump woman said with

a smile, setting a few papers on the counter with prompt efficiency. Heres the paper work for your marriage license. Just fill this out. Ill need a valid drivers license or a passport as well. Buffy sat her drivers license on the counter next to Angels passport. Her eyes flitted to his for a brief second before she returned her gaze to the papers in front of her. Have either of you been divorced or widowed in the last two years? Bonnie questioned, filling in the form as Jin-Soo made copies of their documents. No. Angel replied in a low voice as he cast a sidelong look at Buffy. No. Buffy shook her head, clearing her throat and taking a deep breath to steel her nerves. Sorry, I have to ask these things. Its part of the requirements. The plump woman smiled and reached out to pat Buffy affectionately on the arm. Everyone is a little nervous, its normal. Youll be smiling just like that once were done. Now just sign here and your handsome groom will sign there and that will just about finish up the paperwork for the marriage license. Buffy signed her name in a neat cursive script then watched as Angel signed on the line next to her, his name a beautiful black flourish. Liam Angelus OConner. Buffy repeated his name to herself, seeing it in full for the first time. She was a bit chagrined that she hadnt asked before they were signing their marriage certificate, but it was a little too late for misgivings now. Now, are you the witness? Bonnie questioned with only slightly less warmth as she peered around Angel to the brunette standing behind him. Yes. Cordelia replied with a forced smile. Okay, sign here on the marriage license and were all set for the ceremony. Cordelia signed her name and pushed the paper back across the counter. Youll just need to get this one here notarized for the BCIS, hon. Bonnie waved a form at Angel, then handed it to Jin-Soo who then scurried away. Smiling once again, Bonnie gestured for the trio to follow her into the adjoining room. It was a cozy little room, obviously the living room of the

small bungalow but without furniture. A tall vase of flowers and several candles set at one end. You two are really a cute couple. I know, Ive seen a lot of them, but you two... Bonnie bustled around the table at one end, lighting the candles. Her strawberry blonde curls bobbed as she talked, as if punctuating her words. I like a little romantic ambiance during the ceremony. Hope you dont mind. Oh, I was saying you two are really such a perfect compliment to each other. Turning around, she nudged Angel on the arm. I see some beautiful babies in your future. Which, of course, I will want pictures of for my wall. Buffy and Angel glanced at each other briefly, both of them shifting uncomfortably. Behind them Cordelia rolled her eyes, bristling with annoyance. They took their positions in front of Bonnie after she donned what she called her officiants robe and she began the ceremony. Taking Buffys hand in his, Angel studied his bride directly for the first time. Sunny golden blonde hair, dainty arched eyebrows over green eyes or were they gray? A pert nose and full pouty and rather seductive - lips. His eyes drifted to the rounded curve of her breasts, the swell of them just visible over the neckline of her dress. No, definitely not a child he thought, revising his initial assessment. His gaze moved lower to her small waist and the gently rounded curve of her hip before returning once again to her face. It was then that he noticed her blush at his perusal. Innocent then. And decidedly beautiful. The combination stirred something unexpected within him, a curious possessiveness as if he suddenly wanted her for himself alone. It was uncharacteristic for a man who had never considered any of his previous companions as anything more than a pleasant diversion. He shook away the fleeting impulsive thought, though he did admit that he found Miss Buffy Summers exceptionally attractive. As he listened to Reverend Bonnie intone the words that would bind them together in matrimony, he was struck with a sudden sense of solemnity at the concept of his marriage, no matter the unusual circumstances. The woman standing at his side would be his wife, the first Mrs. Liam Angelus OConnor. It was a significant acknowledgement for a man that had never even considered marriage before. Intensely aware of the man standing beside her, his size alone enough to draw attention, Buffy too was thinking about the seriousness of the moment and the stranger that would soon be her husband. This was hardly the fairy-tale wedding she had dreamed of as a child, years before the bitter and stormy nature of her parents marriage seemed to disprove the idea of lasting love. While she hadnt exactly met anyone that she had ever considered her true love, she never thought shed be getting

married for anything less. Yet, here she was. Startled out of her reverie, Buffy repeated the words as Reverend Bonnie prompted her, then reached in her pocket and pulled out the inexpensive silver ring that she had picked up on impulse. She blushed, hating the idea of being so presumptuous, but was glad that she had thought that rings would be expected. With trembling fingers, she slipped the ring on the third finger of his left hand. Angel cursed himself for not thinking of such a detail, and would have slapped himself in the forehead had everyone not been staring at him expectantly. I was in a rush to get here and I forgot the ring He improvised apologetically, then his face lightened. He slipped the Claddagh ring from his right hand. It was my fathers. Its a little big, but hopefully it will do for now. He smiled, taking Buffys hand and slipping the ring on her finger. It was warm from his hand and much too big, but rather than being offended that he had forgotten Buffy was actually touched by his gesture. She curled her fingers together, holding the ring in place. When Reverend Bonnie pronounced them husband and wife with a smile, Buffy looked up at Angel with bated breath. The words You may now kiss your bride rang in her ears along with the sudden thundering of her heart. With only a minute hesitation, Angel slipped his arms around his diminutive bride, drawing her close. Bending his head, his lips met hers gently, brushing them with the lightest of touches. Buffys breath caught and she drew back in an unconscious response as a shocking trail of fire seemed to curl through her. From the look in his eyes, she knew that he had felt it too, the tiny heated spark. Her gaze dropped to his lips and she swayed forward without thinking, pressing her lips to his again. His idea of a simple chaste kiss forgotten, Angels hands tightened on her back and he pulled her closer still. Under the light pressure of his lips, she opened her own and the velvety heated caress of his tongue slipped into her mouth, languidly exploring. Buffy responded eagerly, savoring the fresh minty taste of him as a tingling sensation crept through her veins, warming her from the inside. She gradually became more aware of him: the hard wall of his chest grazing the tips her breasts, the heavy warmth of his hand on her back, holding her to him. Her thighs brushed his as she shifted, making her acutely aware of his arousal, firming against her stomach. A melting warmth swept through her and her hands slipped up his arms to his shoulders. Ah-hem. Behind them Cordelia coughed loudly, her eyes sparkling angrily. She tapped her foot impatiently, her irritation in no way

concealed. Angel released Buffy almost reluctantly as she broke off their kiss and pulled away from him. He hadnt expected to be interested in his bride beyond a casual curiosity nor had he given any thought to the ramifications of intimate involvement with her. Although, a small voice in his head playing devils advocate suggested, wasnt that one of the benefits of marriage? Still, the word wife and the permanence it implied gave him pause. Yes, she was beautiful and desirable, but they didnt need to complicate things by becoming sexually involved. At least thats what he was trying to tell himself. With a hint of a blush on her cheeks at her unusually brazen behavior, Buffy turned to face the others. She and Angel awkwardly accepted congratulations from Bonnie and Jin-Soon and then Cordelia, who only offered it because Bonnie stared at her expectantly. As they started toward the door, the ceremony over, Jin-Soo handed Angel an envelope containing their marriage license and the forms he needed for the BCIS. He thanked her as he held open the door as first Cordelia, then Buffy exited the building. Wait one minute! Bonnie called after them impulsively, her voice trailing off as she darted back into the office. Panting slightly from her run into the building, the plump woman burst through the door behind them, a Polaroid camera waving triumphantly in her hand. I dont normally do this but since you dont have a camera or a photographer Buffy glanced at her new husband and gave a small conciliatory shrug. Behind her, Cordelia snorted impatiently, crossing her arms over her chest. Just a few pictures. You have to have something to commemorate this day, hon, really. Grinning, the plump strawberry blonde gestured toward the jasmine covered trellis next to the porch. Now Angel get over there and stand next to your beautiful bride. Angel took his place next to Buffy, his arm slipping around her waist. A strand of her hair, captured by the light breeze, brushed his cheek in a silken caress making him exceptionally aware of the woman who was now his wife. Now smile. Bonnie cheerfully declared as she snapped a couple of pictures. Now then, we have to have one with a kiss. Buffy felt her breath catch in anticipation. A tingle of excitement skittered through her nerves at the idea of kissing him again though she attempted to force it away, knowing that it would do her absolutely no

good to be attracted to her husband. Who would have thought that being attracted to ones own husband would be a bad thing? She almost laughed at the irony of her thought, her lips twitching into a smile. Angel saw the fleeting smile and offered one in return, curious suddenly as to what she was thinking. He stared into her hazel green eyes for a brief second, as if searching for a clue to her thoughts. Next to them, Bonnie snapped off another picture. Buffys eyes closed as he kissed her, his lips settling on hers. She fought down a shivery sigh, finding it all too tempting to sink into his arms, his kiss. Instead, she drew back from him, reminding herself that theirs was a business arrangement, nothing more. Still, something about this man caused her to lose her senses; she had never been so forward as she had been today practically throwing herself at him during their earlier kiss. No doubt Angel found it awkward and uncomfortable enough to have to kiss her with his girlfriend watching without having her behaving like some silly infatuated ninny. Buffy stepped away from Angel with a resolute sigh. Yes, he was deliciously kissable but he wasnt hers and would never be, despite the circumstances. Oh, sweetie, these are just great. Bonnie beamed as she crossed the small distance to where Buffy now stood. Impulsively, the plump blonde reached out and caught her in a hug. She then turned and did the same to Angel. Take care you two. Remember, send me pictures of the children! Pressing the pictures into Buffys hand, Bonnie waved. Gotta run. My next couple is here! Ta-ta. In a swirl of lemon yellow fabric, her curls bobbing wildly, the vivacious Reverend disappeared back into her salmon pink bungalow. Finally, god. Who knew she would be so annoying? If shed shut her mouth once in awhile, that would be nice. Cordelia muttered, stepping between newly married couple. Reaching in her purse, she retrieved an envelope that she then handed to Buffy. This is for you. Now Angel, lets get the hell out of here. Bye Buffy. The brunette called over her shoulder as she tugged on Angels arm, almost dragging him away. Harmonys parents just had their pool house refurbished. I helped advise them on the dcor. Wait until you see it its fabulous Its a French Mediterranean look, along the lines of a villa that I stayed at in Nice last summer Youre going to love it. Her voice faded as they crossed the yard to where the black GTX was parked. When they reached the car, Angel put on his sunglasses and glanced covertly back at his bride one last time, Cordelias voice still droning in

his ear. The petite blonde was still standing where they had left her, looking down at the pictures in her hand. Buffy studied the photographs, scarcely able to believe that it was over, that she was now officially married. The pictures of the two of them were really quite nice, if a bit serious. The one with her hair blowing across his face as he looked down at her actually looked almost believable, as if they really were a couple in love. She shifted it behind the others and glanced at the next one - the one of them kissing. Oh boy. Buffy sighed softly. She tucked the pictures in her purse and started to her car just as the black Plymouth roared off down the street.
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A Convenient Marriage, Part 3

Author: Gia Rating: PG/R Disclaimer: Joss, ME, & own all but the ficcy idea and some of the words. Pairing: Initially C/A, ultimately B/A. Includes W/O. Author's Notes: Thanks to LJ for the beta! I've been told that there was another fic for this challenge... I haven't seen it, though I'd be interested in reading it - when this one is done of course! If anyone has the URL, please send. See previous parts for other notes. Feedback: Yes, please Distribution: Anywhere currently hosting my stuff; my site, EverySixSeconds; anywhere else, just let me know.

completed 10.19.2003

Angel put the twelve-pack of Guinness in the refrigerator next to the salsa, then reached in the brown paper bag for the milk just as he heard the firm tap on the door. Its open! He shouted in the general direction of living room, thinking that it was one of the guys showing up a little early for their Thursday night monthly poker ritual. He continued unpacking his groceries, setting aside the chips and other snacks for tonight from the other food items. The knock sounded again, louder this time. With a perplexed frown, he sat the remaining bag aside and walked to the door. He smiled as he reached for the doorknob, thinking that his friends were playing some sort of practical joke as they had often been known to do. I told you already, the only cookies Im buying are from hot girls in short skirts He said with mock seriousness as he opened the door to reveal the unfamiliar face of an older woman with short reddish blonde hair. She was dressed in a crisp dark blue business suit and low heeled sensible shoes; in the crook of one arm, she carried a black leather notebook. Everything about her screamed no-nonsense, stern efficiency. Her eyebrows were lifted slightly in question at his comment. Sorry. Thought you were someone else. He apologized with a sheepish smile. He could only imagine what the woman must be thinking. I gathered that. She stated directly, her eyes meeting his. Are you Liam OConnor? Yes. Dr. Maggie Walsh from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. She held out her hand in greeting, her handshake firm and dry. A feeling of trepidation rising at the mention of the BCIS, Angel waited patiently for her to speak. Silence hung between them for a few seconds before she spoke again. May I? Oh. Sure. He mentally chastised himself for his manners as he stepped back out of the way and gestured for her to enter his apartment. Closing the door behind her, he watched as she walked casually through the

apartment looking around with avid interest. Can I help you? My visit is just a formality. Im following up on the paperwork that you recently submitted to our offices about your wedding. Dr. Walsh stopped, glancing into the kitchen before turning back to face Angel who was still standing near the door. My congratulations to you and your bride. Thank you. Angel replied, a fleeting memory of Buffy passing through his mind at her mention. It had been almost two weeks to the day since he had seen her at their wedding ceremony. Hed thought of her often the first few days that followed, but her image gradually dimmed in the hectic pace of studying for finals and keeping up with both his interests and Cordelias social obligations. In the whirlwind of activity his marriage had slipped into the back of his mind; it seemed almost surreal now. Continuing her perusal of the apartment, Dr. Walsh turned and walked down the short hall to the bedroom. She paused briefly to look at the map of Ireland hanging on the wall next to two smaller black and white photographs. The map was yellowed with age, quite possibly an antique. She nodded slightly as if making a mental note before continuing on down the hallway. Angel followed a few steps behind her, his eyebrows lifting slightly at the brazenness of the woman and her bold inspection of his apartment. Do you mind? Without waiting for an answer, Dr. Walsh stepped into the single bedroom. She scrutinized the dark furniture with a critical eye, the large bed dominating the room. With the tall, carved posts, silk sheets and crimson duvet, the bed seemed almost decadent. With a quirk of an eyebrow, she turned toward the open closet door. Uh, can I help you? Angel asked, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice. Short of physically moving her, he realized that she was determined to snoop. Where is your wife, Mr. OConnor? Reaching in her pocket, Maggie Walsh took out her reading glasses and put them on. Next she opened her black leather notebook, balancing it on her arm as she extracted a pen and jotted a brief note. Buffy? Yes. Buffy Anne Summers. That is her name, is it not? Still writing, the BCIS official didnt even both to look up. Shes at Angel paused, realizing that he didnt actually know where his wife was at that moment. He never saw her at school, he didnt know where she worked if she worked and other than the partial address he had glimpsed on her drivers license, he didnt even know where she

lived. A burst of fear shot through him; had he been found out? When he found his voice, he stammered, Out. School. Errands. Maggie Walsh glanced up over the rim of her glasses, her expression skeptical. I see. Which is it? Errands, after classes. Angel improvised firmly, chastising himself for his earlier sputtering mistake. That was just the type of cool headed thinking under pressure that would certainly guarantee him entrance into the FBI, he noted with a grimace. Still, there was nothing to do now but brazen it out I dont have to tell you, Mr. OConnor, Dr. Walsh said as she looked up from her notebook, that we at the BCIS were quite surprised to see a wedding so soon after irregularities in your paperwork were identified. Yes, well Angel replied with a small smile and slight shrug, It was love at first sight. What can I say? How did you say you met your wife? She questioned bluntly, once more looking down at her notes before returning her gaze to his face. Through a mutual friend. Angel replied without hesitation, finding a small measure of satisfaction that he could tell the truth about something in this whole mess. And this friends name? Angel paused. Cordelia could be flighty and unpredictable. He wasnt at all sure that he wanted her talking with the BCIS on anything even remotely related to his case. But he also wasnt sure he had a choice now that he had already waded so deeply into this set of lies. Her name was on the marriage certificate as a witness. Cordelia. Cordelia Chase. He mumbled reluctantly. As an after thought, he added the disclaimer, Though Im not certain shes too happy with how things worked out. Dr. Walsh jotted something presumably Cordelias name in her notebook and snapped it shut. Let me be straight with you, Mr. OConnor, I think you married to stay in this country and just one look at your apartment confirms my suspicions. I see nothing whatsoever to indicate that another person lives here. And dont bother embarrassing both of us by bringing out any undergarments that belonged to a previous paramour in an attempt to prove otherwise. Brushing past him, Dr. Walsh walked briskly down the hallway toward the door. I will be putting all of this in my report that I will file with the appropriate authorities. I can assure you that we at the BCIS do not take

this type of attempt to falsify documents and defraud the government lightly. We will be in touch shortly to discuss next steps. Thank you for your time. Weve been really busy. School. Finals and all. Angel blurted as he followed behind her. He was searching his brain for any plausible excuse why his wife wouldnt be living with him just yet. We decided it was better to wait until after finals before moving. That seems rather unlikely. Clasping her hand together, Maggie Walsh stopped and stared at him, her expression obviously unconvinced. In my experience, newlyweds that are in truly in love surpass any number of difficulties to be together. Yes, Im sure it seems unusual. His eyes betrayed none of his anxiety as he answered her in a calm voice. In our case, however, we wanted to start our new life together under less stressful circumstances. Thats not to say that everything else is anything less than perfect, Dr. Walsh. I can assure you that Buffy and I are very happy together. He couldnt resist adding the last bit with a hint of innuendo. I see. Pausing with her hand on the doorknob, Dr. Walsh glanced back at him. You did read the paperwork, I trust, that informed you that the BCIS has the authority to make as many home visits as we deem necessary to establish validity of your marriage claim? Since its my understanding that classes complete this week at the university, Ill be back in a week, two at the most. That should have given you enough time to have gotten things settled without any undue stress. Opening the door, Dr. Walsh glanced at Angel once again as she stepped out into the hallway, Needless to say, I very much want to meet Mrs. OConnor. Two weeks should be fine. Thats anything but fine, Angel thought as he smiled at the woman and took the business card that she offered him. Thats the number of my office, should you need to reach me. I shall be in touch. Good day. Wesley and Gunn, reaching the door in time to hear the last bit of the conversation, stepped aside as the woman gave them a polite nod then brushed past them. Mrs. OConnor? Mrs. OConnor? They echoed in surprised just after the woman disappeared down the stairs. At the door, Angel ran a frustrated hand through his hair before he turned and stormed back into the apartment. Dude, what was that all about? Gunn questioned with a grin as he and

Wes followed Angel through the door. Did she say she wanted to meet Mrs. OConnor or be Mrs. OConnor? Wes quipped, closing the door and glancing in the direction of the kitchen where Angel had disappeared. Grinning, he continued, Though I imagine Cordelia might object to the latter. Gunn laughed as he set the pizza he carried down on the table. Hell, I think Angel might even object to the latter. You know our man there has his choice of hotties. Why choose only one? Even one as hot as Cordelia, he amended with a grin, catching Wes inquisitive smirk. Thats one chick that is not worth the baggage that she brings with her. Thats all Im sayin. Gunn had never hidden his dislike for the brunette from the others; Wesley tended to agree with Gunn, claiming that beauty didnt excuse character flaws. On the other hand, Doyle, the other member of their usual foursome, seemed to understand Angels interest in the selfcentered woman openly admitting to having a weakness for beautiful women himself. Standing in the kitchen, the portable phone clutched in his hand, Angel realized then that he didnt even know how to get in touch with his own wife. He swore softly and slammed a hand down on the counter. He should have trusted his instincts that this marriage scheme was a bad idea; the BCIS was on to him already. Getting through the semester was only a small consolation if he got deported and/or arrested for attempting to defraud the government. He could kiss his FBI career goodbye then, no doubt. Of course, he thought with a touch of sarcastic humor, his verbal fumbling around with Dr. Maggie Walsh wasnt exactly going to get him a gold star for any type of covert operations or undercover work. He glanced up as his friends came into the kitchen, Wes setting the six pack of beer he carried on the counter. So, whats up with all that? Who was that anyway? Gunn asked as he rifled through the drawer in search of the bottle opener. Finding it, he tossed it to Wesley. And why would she want to meet your mother? Wes asked as he popped the cap from three bottles. He handed one to Gunn and held the other out for Angel. Apparently she doesnt know about her, or so it would seem. She doesnt. Angel answered with a heavy sigh, taking the beer from Wesleys hand. He took a long drink then set the bottle on the counter. Shes Dr. Maggie Walsh from the BCIS. She wants to meet my wife. With his friends staring at him - their mouths open wide in stunned

surprise Angel did the only thing he could think of; he dialed Cordelias number. *** Buffy sighed tiredly as she gathered her things and prepared to leave Patina, the restaurant now closed for the evening. Tonights shift hadnt been too bad; the job seemed to be getting a little easier all the time. Though she wondered as she trudged out the door why she hadnt quit any number of times over the previous two weeks. She could afford to now thanks to the check from Cordelia Chase that was tucked away at the bottom of one of her bureau drawers. Maybe, she mused, it was because she liked having something to occupy her time and her thoughts now that classes were ending for the quarter. She was signed up for summer school, though it would be a much lighter course load than shed taken this past quarter. Ah well, more hours at work meant more money which allowed her to take more classes which brought her that much closer to her degree and eventually hopefully - a decent job which would bring her some financial stability. She wasnt greedy she just wanted extra money at the end to put away so as to not ending up living from month to month paying bills and basic expenses. With some extra hours, maybe she could even afford to buy that black dress that she had tried on about a month ago at April Fools on a whim. It would be perfect for a date should she ever have one Of course, how awkward was it going to be should she ever have to explain her husband to a potential boyfriend? Maybe if she just didnt bring him up Buffy! The sound of her name broke into her thoughts, interrupting her musing and she glanced up. Cordelia. Hi. Buffy greeted, hiding her surprise. She hadnt seen or heard from the brunette or Angel since the day of the wedding. To say that finding her waiting outside of Patina just after midnight was a surprise would be an understatement. Look, you have to move in with Angel. Cordelia stated bluntly without any pretense of cordiality. The hour and a half wait until the restaurant closed had only furthered her irritation and anger, but she had been unable to catch Buffys eye or find a table in her section so she had no other choice but to hang around if she wanted to take care of this herself. The wealthy brunette had already spent the entire day at the St. Regis spa getting massaged and pampered in an attempt to calm her rage after Angels call last night. This type of stress was so not good for complexion. The one solitary consolation was the Buffy appeared as haggard and

unattractive as she first thought; apparently her appearance at the wedding was an exception. The thought boosted Cordelias confidence. What did you say? The petite blonde questioned, doubting her hearing. Theyd been through this already, hadnt they? Not moving in was part of the deal. I said you have to move in with Angel. Cordelia replied slowly with exaggerated emphasis on each word, as if she were speaking to a child. Im sure I didnt stutter. Suppressing her own growing annoyance, Buffy replied firmly. When I agreed to this you said that I wouldnt have to live with- she paused, finding the phrase live with a little too intimate. Calmly, she amended, move in. That was part of the deal. I know what I said. Cordelia snapped sullenly. How was I supposed to know that the stupid BCIS offices made home inspections? Home inspections? Buffy echoed, still not completely certain she was hearing things correctly. With an exasperated roll of her eyes, the brunette continued, Look, Buffy its not really that hard to understand. The BCIS can deport Angel, and theyre apparently allowed to make home inspections - I guess so they can make sure that the marriage is real or whatever. This means that you have to move into Angels apartment, like now, since theyve already been by once and will be back. After they do all of their silly little inspections and decide everything is okay, you can just move back out again. Its probably just for a couple of months. I dont know I dont really think so Buffy said, shifting her bag to her opposite shoulder. Other than the fact that he was attractive and an incredible kisser, she knew nothing about him. For all she knew, he could be a total slob or have some other freaky habits that would make her uncomfortable. Besides, why would I have to be the one to move anyway? Look Buffy, if they arrest Angel and deport him, youre going to go to jail too. Complicity or something. Youre part of the whole illegal thing. Which makes sense really. Cordelia shrugged her shoulders, her expression almost innocent. She completely ignored Buffys question; it grated on her enough that Angel had been stupid enough to tell the BCIS people that Buffy was moving into his place, though when pressed she couldnt come up with an alternative that she preferred that would also keep the BCIS happy. Still, she resented the thought of the petite blonde living in his apartment beyond reason. The one saving grace was that she could comfortably come and go from Angels place, so she planned to be there often to make sure that things were kept to her liking. She was, after all, still determined to keep him in the country and equally

determined that his marriage not have any impact on their relationship. Buffy contemplated the brunettes statements with growing horror. She couldnt afford any legal action either in actual financial cost or time off school or work. At the same time she wondered why Angel wasnt there to tell her or ask her perhaps himself. So where is Angel? Why didnt he come to tell me about this himself? The words slipped out of her mouth before she could stop them. Hes out with his friends, I guess. Cordelia said dismissively, as if the question were completely unrelated to the subject at hand. Of course, she knew perfectly well that he was at home waiting for Buffy to call. He had wanted to handle this himself; all he asked of Cordelia was to give him Buffys number. She demurred, telling him instead that shed have Buffy call him. She knew that Angel was feeling guilty about dragging Buffy into this mess and she had no doubt he was having stupidly noble thought about offering her a way out. Oh. Buffy said, angered and disappointed by the callousness that her husband exhibited about this whole affair. Did he have his girlfriend do his dirty work all the time? That attitude didnt give her any additional incentive to be accommodating; she really wasnt comfortable with the idea of moving in with him I dont know. Im not comfortable with this This is really, really hard for me, you know. I dont think anyone really understands my feelings in all this. Not you, certainly not Angel. Cordelia said softly, abruptly switching tactics. Here I am just trying to help out my friends, and everyone just seems to want to make things difficult for me at every turn. Buffy studied the taller woman skeptically, though she admittedly hadnt considered the brunettes feelings. It probably would be hard to be in her shoes her boyfriend married to another woman and now expected to live with that woman. Im sorry. The petite blonde replied politely, not entirely convinced. Yes, well, I had hoped to someday have a future with Angel but thats probably not going to happen at least not now. The brunettes eyes welled with tears. Im sure hell probably forget all about me all about me once you move in. Um, I doubt that. Buffy mumbled. She doubted any man alive would forget Cordelia; she had a lush eye catching beauty with a full figure that was prominently displayed in her tight tops and short skirts. In short, Cordelia was the type of woman that men worshiped and women tended to envy. Buffy hardly saw herself as any type of competition.

But I love him and Ill do whatever I can to help him. I want him to be able to get his education and fulfill his dreams. The brunette continued dramatically, dabbing at her eyes. Her lips curved upward in a small smile, as if sharing a confidence. He wants to be a lawyer, you know, and if he has to go back to Ireland Well, he cant study that there. They dont have lawyers in Ireland? Buffy questioned with a skeptical look. No. At least not the kind he wants to be. Cordelia replied brusquely, growing impatient with his charade. Why wouldnt the ungrateful little bitch just agree so they could move on? Ah. What kind is that? The petite blonde asked, a small smile tugging at her lips. Perhaps Angel really did want to be a lawyer, but that wasnt the reason why he needed or wanted to stay in the U.S. Of course, the law was different in different countries, but still Does it matter? The brunette snapped impatiently. Look, this is important to me. To you? What about Angel? Buffy inquired with a slight lift of her eyebrows. Of course its important to him as well. Cordelia replied with growing irritation. She ran a hand over her hair, smoothing the long tresses. So important that he took time out of his busy social schedule to tell me about this himself Huh. That doesnt really give me the impression that he thinks its important. Buffy mused sardonically. I dont know why you have to make this so hard, Buffy. The brunette gritted her teeth in exasperation. She honestly thought shed have the opposite problem the blonde eager to move in and get intimately acquainted with Angel. Its no different than having a roommate, except that its a he instead of a she. Its not like youll be sleeping with him or anything. Besides, think of the additional money that youll save on rent. I guess. To be honest Buffy, I dont like this any better than you do. You dont know how hard it is for me to ask you to do this. How many other women could move another woman in with their boyfriend? Not many. Im going out of my way to help you both I cant believe youd be so ungrateful. Its not like I want to see you arrested either, but if you dont do this I dont think theres anything else that I can do. Ill tell Angel he might as well call the woman at the BCIS office and tell her on Monday that it was all a scam. You can use all the money that I gave you for your legal expenses though I doubt that will cover it. Of course, they might take

that away too. Fine, okay. Ill move. The petite blonde muttered grudgingly, visions of being carted away from her apartment in handcuffs running through her mind. Would she never catch a break? Maybe it wouldnt be so bad and it was probably only for a few months. Great! Cordelia gave Buffy a wide fake smile showing her perfect white teeth. Ill tell Angel this weekend then. Wait a minute! I have to tell my landlady who isnt going to be thrilled about the short notice. Im lucky Im on a month-to-month instead of a lease. Buffy began making a list in her head of all the things she needed to do in order to move. Besides, I have to work tomorrow Well, whatever, just hurry. Heres the address. The brunette hastily scrawled the address and a phone number on a piece of paper that she handed to Buffy. Without another word, she turned on her heel and flounced away. *** Buffy carried the last box down to Ozs van with a small burst of energy. The anger and annoyance after her meeting with Cordelia had died away a couple of days ago, leaving only a nervous trepidation behind. Fortunately, her landlady had been understanding when she told her that she was moving because she had gotten married. Instead of complaining about the short notice, Jenny had wished her well. She had even given her a wedding present: a trio of ivory mosaic glass hurricane style candle holders. Even now, with all her belongs packed up in boxes, Buffy couldnt believe that she had actually agreed to move in with Angel. Liam Angelus OConnor. Her husband. Because she had seen him so seldom, it was all just a little unreal to her. She even doubted her memory that he was in fact the same guy that had interested her at Patinas only a few weeks ago. Buffy let out a deep exhalation of breath as she climbed into her car and pulled away from the curb. Oz and Willow followed behind her in Ozs van. She drove the short distance to the address that Cordelia had given her and parked in the first open space along the curb. She knew from the directions and her drive by yesterday with Willow on the pretext of going for ice cream - that Angel had a third floor loft apartment. The second floor was apparently another loft apartment but the first floor was a cozy neighborhood type bar named Dublins Pub. Thats appropriate, Buffy thought, with Angel being Irish and all. She wondered if there was any connection or if it was purely coincidence. Getting out of her Jeep she glanced around at the surrounding area. It

was an older area of Sunnydale, but been recently renovated though the original architecture had been retained giving it an inviting charm. There were several shops lining the streets a coffee shop, a dry cleaner, a laundry and a gift shop among others all of which would be convenient to have nearby. It was much nicer than the neighborhood where she had been living, so that was definitely a plus. It was as close to UC Sunnydale as her place was, albeit on the opposite side of the sprawling campus. It was even within a few blocks of Patina as well, so in many ways the location was an improvement. Reluctantly, Buffy trudged up the stairs to the third floor and knocked on the door. She could hear the sounds of people moving around inside, so she knew that someone was home. She felt a sudden attack of nerves as footsteps came closer to the door and she clenched her hands in her palms to keep from turning around and fleeing down the stairs. Opening the door, Angel was surprised to see his bride on the opposite side. Buffy? Angel. Buffy replied, her voice remarkably calm despite the frantic beating of her heart. It wasnt every day that you just showed up at a strange mans apartment to move in even if the strange man was your husband. Something about the way she said his name - sort of breathy and partially like a question jolted him. Deep brown eyes locked with hazel green ones and they simply stared at each other. He realized then that he had in fact seen her before; that she was the waitress at Patina. Buffy felt someone nudging her arm. With effort, she pulled her gaze away from the mesmerizing eyes of the man in front of her. She cleared her throat and force her attention away from Angel and back to her friends. Turning slightly, she smiled at Willow who stood just behind her. Sorry guys. These are my friends. Oz and Willow. Guys, this is Angel. Hey. Nice to meet you. Angel nodded in greeting as Cordelia walked up to the door from inside the apartment. She was obviously quite at home and made no effort to hide that fact. Nor did she attempt to hide the fact that she was buttoning up the top few buttons on her blouse. Oh, hey Buffy. She smiled, her hand coming to rest possessively on Angels back. I thought you were going to call on Friday. Angel said flatly, his eyes returning to Buffys face. He stepped back away from the door, pushing it open so that they could come in. Cordelia had told him that Buffy asked that he not be given her number; that she would prefer to call him. That had irritated him, particularly given the unusual circumstances. He wasnt just another guy wanting her

number. He needed to talk to her. When she hadnt called Friday as she had apparently told Cordelia she would - or on Saturday either, he found his temper growing short. He hoped she was more reliable than she appeared. Uh, Friday? Buffy questioned, her eyes darting between Angel and Cordelia. Without even knowing him, she could detect the trace of anger in his voice. Shed only found out about the BCIS on Friday after midnight which was technically Saturday morning really. Was she supposed to have called him that night? Or was he merely upset that she had apparently interrupted a romantic rendezvous with his girlfriend? Oh lord, she hadnt even thought about that aspect of sharing the apartment with him But she had left a message yesterday and again this morning at the number Cordelia had given her letting him know that shed arranged to move today. As far as she was concerned, she had given sufficient notice. Well, I dont know how I would have called Friday since I didnt even have your number before I saw Cordelia Friday night around midnight when I got off work. But I did call yesterday and again this morning. I left a message both times. She added baldly before he could speak. It wasnt her fault if he was too busy with his girlfriend to pick up his calls. Given that he couldnt even be bothered to tell her about this whole BCIS moving in business, her tolerance for taking any shit from him was limited. With a cold tone, she added, Im sorry if this is a bad time. We can come back later. Turning to her friends, she said softly, If you guys have other plans, I can get my stuff later tonight or whenever. I think I only need a couple of the boxes right away anyway. Maybe I can fit those into the Jeep for now. She already felt bad that she had interrupted their weekend with her urgent must-move-now speech that had only led to more questions than she had answers. It was the first time she had admitted to her friends that she had in fact, taken Cordelia Chase up on her offer and married the womans boyfriend. Willow had been shocked while Oz took the news with his usual stoic calm. No, its not. Its fine. I just I wasnt expecting Angel turned to Cordelia with a questioning look. She only shrugged dismissively and proceeded to study her fingernails with interest, thus fueling his suspicion that she hadnt been exactly truthful with him about her conversation with Buffy. It also explained her sudden appearance at his apartment this afternoon; it wasnt the spontaneous impulse she had led him to believe. He even questioned the notion that Buffy and Cordelia were in fact friends they acted more like casual acquaintances than old friends. His eyes narrowed suspiciously. Hed have to have a conversation with Cordelia about this later. He turned his attention back to Buffy. Im sorry. I didnt get your messages.

He had fully intended to help Buffy move even moving her himself to save her the inconvenience if she was open to the idea, but since he never had a chance to talk to her, he had never been able to even offer. She was turning her life upside down for him helping her move was the least he could do. Instead he snapped at her. And now he felt like a heel. On impulse he reached for Buffys hand. Here, lets just start over. He tugged her forward with a small apologetic smile, Let me apologize again for being an ass and then I can show you around. Cordelia snorted and rolled her eyes, stalking over to the couch where she sat down with an ungraceful thud. Picking up a magazine, she thumbed through impatiently while covertly watching the foursome walk through the apartment. Her hand still clasped in his, Buffy followed Angel, taking in the tastefully decorated and wide open loft, noting with reluctance the one bedroom. She swallowed hard, the butterflies in her stomach gaining speed. It was bad enough when he smiled at her, but his touch seemed to give her an unusual case of the tinglies. She could not afford to be attracted to him. Pulling her hand away, she stepped out of the bedroom and pointed to the vacant spot in the wide hallway near the door. Why dont I just put my things over there, out of the way? Then I can sort through them and we can see what if anything wont be in the way. Angel shook away the lascivious thoughts that had surfaced upon seeing Buffy standing in his bedroom, next to his bed. He fully intended on keeping things platonic with his bride; yet the urge to become more intimately acquainted with her had surged with unusual force. He had even forgotten about her friends standing behind them as he resisted the urge to pull her into his arms. Thats fine. Can I help? He replied after a deep exhalation of air. He couldnt remember being so strongly affected by a woman before. It had to be the unusual circumstances. Angel? Honey? Cordelia called as she pushed her way past Oz and Willow to stand next to Angel. She brushed a non-existent speck from his shoulder as she sidled up even closer. I just talked to Harmony. Spike is back from Europe and she wanted to have a little welcome home celebration. I told her wed meet them for drinks at the Country Club in about an hour. After I thought we could head over to Harms for a little private party of our own. Ill just go Well just Im going to go. Buffy said quickly before she walked down the hall and out the door. Oz and Willow followed behind her, leaving the couple alone. Before the three of them even reached the stairs, they heard raised voices coming from the apartment.

Buffy, are you sure about this? Willow asked with concern as they opened up Ozs van and surveyed the contents. I mean, you hardly know him And Cordelia The red-haired girl made a shuddering gesture, indicating her dislike of the brunette. Itll be fine, Will. Besides, I dont see that I have much of choice at this point. I cant risk any legal action and I already gave notice at my place. Buffy replied with a shrug, reaching for the lamp that lay haphazardly on the small couch, the only major piece of furniture that they could fit in the van. Her bed had been left behind at Willow and Ozs; there was obviously no where to put it, so no need to go back for it. She sat the lamp on the sidewalk and reached for a box. I made my bed and now I have to lie in it. Only not really. In. It. Her cheeks colored slightly as her words took on a slightly more significant implication given the single bedroom of her new home and the current occupant. Im sure we could think of something. And you could stay with us- Willow stopped abruptly as Cordelia stalked by then on the sidewalk, obviously upset. The tires of her BMW squealed loudly as she pulled away from the curb and roared off down the quiet street. She didnt seem happy. Oz said in his typical expressionless voice. It was quite an understatement given the brunettes actions. So, what can I take? Angel asked with a friendly smile. He seemed to appear out of nowhere, now standing next to Buffy near the curb. Even though there was no rational reason for her to feel that way, Buffy was strangely pleased that he hadnt gone with his girlfriend after all. Without a word, she returned his smile and handed him a box. * It only took a short while before all of Buffys meager things were sitting along the wall in the hallway. They set her couch, one of the few things that she had kept from her mothers house, across from Angels. The rich sage green patterned fabric complimented the deep brown leather sofa, giving the room a cozy warmth. Other than conversation about what went next or what was fragile, they didnt talk much as they carried box after box up the stairs. No one asked about Cordelia and Angel didnt volunteer any information about what had happened between him and the brunette that had caused her to storm off. The last box had been carried up and the four of them lounged on the deck, enjoying a cool drink and the afternoon sun. It wasnt long before Oz reminded Willow that he had band practice, so they needed to go. On the walk down to the van, Buffy assured her best friend no less than a

dozen times that she would be fine, that it was okay to leave her alone, before Willow finally agreed to accompany her boyfriend. When Buffy returned to the apartment, Angel had disappeared into the bedroom. She stared at her boxes along the wall then scanned the apartment once more before walking over to the window. A nice view of Sunnydale, a patio deck, a cozy fireplace. It was hard to believe that shed be calling this place home for the next few months. Sighing, she turned her attention back to her things. She supposed she should unpack, but then she wasnt sure yet what she was going to do with most of it. Are you sure this is everything? Angel commented as he came out and sat down on the couch. He was honestly surprised at her few possessions. We can move some of my things and make some more room Yep, thats pretty much it. I sold most of my furniture after a few months ago. My place was so small. Buffy replied quietly, taking a seat opposite him on the couch. I have a few other things at Willow and Ozs, but theres really no place for them. Her eyes darted to his as she quickly amended, But thats fine. Its nothing I need, really. Um, well, He paused, clearing his throat before continuing, Half the closet is now yours and I cleared out a couple of drawers on the dresser as well. The bottom ones, but I didnt think youd mind. He added with a teasing smile. Oh, you didnt need to do that. She was touched just the same, having not expected him to go out of his way for her. Neither of them had yet broached the subject of the one bedroom, though Buffy had already determined that shed take the couch. You need a place to put your clothes you cant just live out of boxes. And this place well, I liked the view and openness, but its admittedly lacking on storage space. His warm gaze met hers and he smiled. Thank you. Buffy replied as she came to her feet. Ill just put some things away then, if you dont mind. Not at all. Please. It goes without saying - make yourself at home. Angel stood, torn between offering to help her and thinking that it might be best for him to put some distance between them for a little while. If you need anything, Ill be on the deck. Choosing the latter, he picked up his book and headed toward the small door that led outside. Later, after most of her things were put away, Buffy found Angel sitting

on the couch reading. The darkness had apparently driven him back inside, since he appeared to be engrossed in his reading. I, uh, have a few things to do. Ill be back in a couple of hours. She said as she shrugged into her jacket. Angel looked up, surprised that shed be going out this late. He wanted to ask where she was going, but he bit back the question. Was she meeting someone? Did she have a boyfriend? She said a couple of hours, not tomorrow wherever she was going, she wasnt spending the night. He came to his feet and retrieved something from the fireplace mantle. Here. He pressed the key into her hand. Youll need this. Reminding himself that her life wasnt really his business, that she could go where she wanted and see who she wanted, he turned away from her and dropped back to his previous position on the couch. Picking up his book, he pretended to resume his reading. Thanks. She replied, wondering briefly about his mercurial moods. One minute he was warm and friendly, the next a bit of a grouch. She shrugged and headed out the door. * Driving across town to the gym, Buffy chastised herself for not being brave enough to use the shower at the very place she was going to be living. Seeing his shampoo and soap in there it had been just the last straw of the day. It had been strange enough hanging her things in the closet next to his, folding her undergarments and placing them in the chest of drawers where his no doubt resided. But to consider standing in the shower where he stood naked that had been brain overload. She needed to escape for a while and collect her thoughts. She hoped that Faith would be at the gym; some sparring would no doubt take the edge off her nerves. * It was almost midnight when Buffy parked on the street near her new home. Had he left the light in the living room on for her or was he still up? Quietly she turned the key in the lock and opened the door. In answer to her question, Angel sat on the couch, reading just as she left him. Well, almost just as she left him, she amended. He was now wearing a white fitted tank top and a pair of black sweats. He had obviously showered while she was gone; his hair was still mussed and slightly damp. Hey. He greeted quietly, glancing up as she closed the door behind her. He closed his book and sat it aside, studying her with unconscious

interest. She was wearing sweats as well, her hair pulled back into a ponytail. She appeared freshly scrubbed as well, so he surmised that wherever she had gone, she had showered. Hi. Buffy replied tiredly, setting her gym bag down near the door. She retrieved a small stack of blankets from atop one of the few remaining boxes and walked over the couch. How was the gym? He ventured a guess, having also noticed the bag in her hand. He was admittedly surprised that after a day of lifting and carrying boxes that shed have the energy to go to the gym. Fine. She replied, somewhat startled by his accurate deduction about where she had been. He watched quietly as she began to unfold the blankets in her hand, making them into a bed on the couch. Buffy um, about the bed He paused thoughtfully, I thought you could take the bedroom. Ill sleep on the couch. Oh no. Kicking off her shoes, Buffy sat down cross legged on the couch. I couldnt. Really. Its your bed and No. I dont mind. Angel countered firmly, In fact I insist. Its the least I can do since we dont have enough room for your bed. Well, I mind. Buffy insisted, her tone adamant. And I really like this couch. Its super comfy. Really. Besides, youre too little tall anyway. Youd be cramped and uncomfortable. But- But nothing. Its fine. End. Of. Discussion. She replied firmly. But, if you dont mind She glanced meaningful in the direction of the bedroom, Im tired. Its been a long day. I dont- He stopped, the look on her face cutting him off abruptly. He stood, unhappy to be capitulating. Good night. Good night, Angel.
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A Convenient Marriage, Part 4

Author: Gia Rating: PG/R Disclaimer: Joss, ME, & own all but the ficcy idea and some of the words. Pairing: Initially C/A, ultimately B/A. Includes W/O. Author's Notes: Thanks to LJ for the beta! The results of a 1994 study, Sexual Behavior in Britain, indicated that only 20- 25% of the population there is circumcised. This is based on information obtained from the National Health Service since 1948 and includes the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, & Northern Ireland). The number of Catholics is slightly higher, but only about 25%. So while this doesnt cover all of Ireland (only Northern Ireland) Im going to extrapolate and assume that even in the present Angel is not circumcised. *g* Getting Ready for Marriage Workbook is by Jerry D. Hardin and Dianne C. Sloan, copyright 1992. See previous parts for other notes. Feedback: Yes, please Distribution: Anywhere currently hosting my stuff; my site, EverySixSeconds; anywhere else, just let me know. completed 11.02.2003

Buffy fumbled around in the dark until she found the small battery operated alarm clock that she had set on the floor next to the couch. The neon green hands pointed to 4:45 am. She sighed heavily and wished that she hadnt agreed to take Faiths six am spinning class before teaching her own class at seven. Of course, when she had agreed to it last night, shed had some pent up energy to burn so it had sounded like a great idea. After a relatively sleepless night, it now seemed like a terrible idea. Faith would never let her hear the end of it if she didnt show up after she said she would though, which was enough incentive for Buffy to convince herself to go. She blinked several times, waiting for her

eyes to adjust to the darkness. The couch had been comfortable enough; she just wasnt used to sleeping in a strange place not to mention, having a relative stranger so close by. It wasnt that she expected him to attack her or anything; it was more the intimacy of the situation that she found unnerving. With a groan, she tossed aside the blankets and sat up. She wasnt sleeping anyway, and shed have to leave in half an hour or so to make it to the gym on time, so she might as well get up. She realized with dismay as she folded the blankets that shed have to go in the bedroom where HE was sleeping to gather her clothes for the day. She hadnt considered that last night or she would have packed her gym bag then. With a small resigned sigh, she crept quietly down the hallway. The door to the bedroom was open only an inch or so and Buffy held her breath as she pushed it slowly inward. She cringed as the hinges squeaked, her eyes darting quickly to the figure on the bed. Angel was sprawled on his stomach, his arms over his head and circling the pillow. The sheets were pooled around his waist, exposing his bare back. He was on the side of the bed close to the door but his head was turned away from her. He stirred slightly, moving his leg under the covers but didnt seem to wake with the small sound. Tip-toeing forward, Buffy crossed the room to the closet. Luckily the sliding doors were still open as she had left them; no worry about the additional sound of opening that door. With quick motions she grabbed the black skirt and white shirt that she needed for Patina, along with a pink sweater. She hated wearing her work clothes to class, but today it couldnt be helped. Tomorrow shed remember to plan a little better. She glanced once more at the man on the bed as she moved to the bureau. She paused, noting that the shadow on his back was in fact a tattoo. She squinted in the dark, leaning closer to make out the faint shape of a Gryphon straddling the letter A. He rolled over on his side then and she jerked back, almost stumbling into the dresser. Clutching her clothes to her chest, she waited anxiously to see if shed been caught. As if it wasnt bad enough that she was in the bedroom while he was sleeping, but if he caught her staring at him too shed be mortified. She waited for almost thirty seconds before she released the breath she had been holding, the soft cadence of his breathing adding to her certainly that he was, in fact, still sleeping. Moving quickly Buffy knelt down and pulled the bureau drawer open with a slow deliberate motion. She grabbed her necessary undergarments along with her small jewel case. With one last look at the man on the bed, she silently exited the room.

*** The alarm went off at just after seven oclock and Angel rolled over, swiping at it with one hand to turn it off. Now that his classes were over for the quarter, he was helping Professor Johannsen with some research for a study on criminal profiling. In addition, he was also doing some work for the Sunnydale police department; it was mostly administrative work research, pulling files, making telephone calls and what not, but any experience could only be helpful in the long run. It was strictly volunteer for now; without his green card or an H1-visa, he wasnt otherwise employable. He tugged on his shorts and t-shirt in preparation for his morning run, then padded quietly into the living room carrying his shoes. He was surprised and a little disappointed to see that Buffy was already gone; her blankets neatly folded and placed at one end of the couch. He had just assumed that shed be there. He shrugged off his disappointment as simply curiosity; it was completely natural that he would wonder about her schedule and her life. As he took a bottle of water out of the refrigerator, he noticed the note propped up on the counter, his name printed neatly across the folded paper. Next to it sat his Claddagh ring, the one he had given her the day of the wedding. Picking up the paper, he unfolded it and read the short note. Angel, Sorry for not returning the ring earlier, I didnt know how to reach you. Besides the fact that it doesnt exactly fit me, I know it was your fathers and has special meaning to you. I thought you would probably want it back. I wont be back until after my shift at Patina tonight. (after 11 or so) Buffy He smiled at the little happy face she had drawn next to the words fit me as he picked up the ring and slipped it on. The ring was special to him; he was glad to have it back but he would never have asked. It was one of the few things that had been returned to him after his parents accident. He never believed the story that had been spun about their disappearance when he had been in high school, but any of his questions had only been met with patronizing replies and later with silence. Of course, neither response was unexpected given the line of work his father had been in. With effort, he pushed away the unwelcome thoughts and instead headed out the door. The brief grim reminder about his parents dissipated with the steady pounding of his feet on the pavement as he jogged along the familiar route around the UC Sunnydale campus. By the time he returned to the

apartment almost an hour later, he had determined that it was going to be a good day. *** Over the next few days, Buffy and Angel communicated mostly via notes left on the counter in the kitchen, their schedules rarely finding them at home at the same time during the day. Still, despite seeing very little of her, additional signs of Buffys presence began to appear in the apartment small cartons of yogurt and cans of diet soda lined up neatly in the refrigerator, a basket of dirty clothes discretely covered with a towel in the bottom of the closet, her soaps and shampoos in the shower next to his already he associated the scent of vanilla with her. Usually Angel was up reading or working on his laptop at the table when Buffy came home from work. Theyd exchange a few words, mostly small talk, before Buffy would head off to the shower. Angel would wait until she was finished, then he would excuse himself and go to bed so that she would have some privacy. More often than not, he would lay awake and listen to the soft sounds of her moving around the apartment. Only when she turned out the light would he too finally drift off to sleep. *** Buffy sighed blissfully and sank into the heat of the water, closing her eyes as she lay back in the tub. The last few days had been exhausting. In addition to her classes, she had taken extra shifts at Patina to keep herself busy and out of the apartment, needing some time to adjust to the idea of living with someone she hardly knew. Her brow creased into a frown as she realized that she still needed to talk to him about her share of the rent. Unfortunately, she didnt think that half the rent on this place would be any cheaper than what she had been paying for her studio apartment so no real savings there. Granted, this apartment was much nicer and had plenty of perks, like the convenient location, the big roomy tub, and the gorgeous view. She giggled and blew a handful of bubbles away as she concluded that the apartments gorgeous view could also include the occupant: Angel was certainly not a hardship to look at. She sighed softly and chided herself not for the first time and probably not the last - for the impulsiveness that had led to her getting into this situation in the first place; she couldnt say that marrying Angel had been her brightest move. Not that living with him was proving difficult, not at all. Besides the eye candy factor, he was friendly and polite and always seemed very conscientious about giving her her personal space. Of course, the flipside of that could be that he wasnt particularly interested in spending time with her - a thought Buffy chose not to analyze too closely. It shouldnt matter, after all, given the circumstances of their marriage. Oh well, Buffy thought dismissively, tonight was her first night off in

almost two weeks and she planned to savor it. Angel was out with his friends or so the note he had left her said - so she had the place all to herself. After a nice long soak in the tub, she had plans to make a trip to the Laundromat, then splurge on some take-out from the rotisserie place down the street and maybe rent a movie. That is, if the TV that Angel had even worked. Shed never seem him even turn it on, so she wasnt sure. All-in-all not the most exciting way to spend her Saturday night, but not the worst way either. When the door swung open, Buffys eyes flew open to see Angel standing there. She let out a small gasp but otherwise didnt move. Angel stood frozen to the spot. It hadnt even occurred to him that she might be home as he rushed through the apartment to pick up his forgotten wallet and then grab some aspirin out of the bathroom medicine cabinet. Mesmerized, he stared down at her. Her hair was pinned up on her head, a few tendrils escaping and clinging wetly to her neck. Her beautiful breasts were partially visible just below the surface of the water and scattered bubbles. Her legs were stretched out and parted, her dainty feet with plum red painted toenails resting on the edge of the tub. Her voice, when she finally found it, came out as a low husky whisper. If youve seen enough you can leave now. Strangely though, she still hadnt moved. It was as if she too, was frozen in place her gaze locked on his face. She even felt a shiver of warmth seep through her at his ardent perusal. Angel returned his gaze to Buffys face almost reluctantly, a faint blush coloring his cheeks. Sorry. I-uh- I didnt realize you were home. He swallowed hard and turned on his heel, closing the door behind him. *** Buffy sat on the deck the following morning sipping her coffee and enjoying the warmth of another beautiful Sunnydale summer day. Her feet tucked under her, she flipped idly through a magazine. She had already decided to pretend that her little run-in with Angel in the bathroom last night had never happened. It would also serve as a good reminder for her to make sure that in all future such occasions she locked the door. Morning. Angel mumbled as he trudged out on the deck. He collapsed in the lounge chair next to her with a solid thud. He was still wearing the clothes he had on the night before, only now he was looking rumpled and a little worse for wear. Good morning. Buffy replied, glancing over and taking note of his disheveled condition. She knew he hadnt come back to the apartment

last night; she had also drawn the conclusion that one of the friends he had mentioned going out with in his note had to have been Cordelia. It was to be expected that hed spend the night with his girlfriend, particularly on the weekends. She only hoped Cordelia didnt stay over too often; she was certain she wasnt going to like hearing the sounds of their intimacy just down the hall. Looks like someone had a little too much of a good time last night. Buffy smirked, unable to resist the small jibe. Angel only grunted in reply, his eyes closed behind the grey-tinted sunglasses. Last night Doyle had brought out several bottles of aged Bushmills whiskey, insisting that they celebrate Angels recent and highly secretive - nuptials. It had taken almost two bottles between the four of them, before they were able to pry even the smallest detail about his wedding or his bride from Angel but by then the vision of her nude in the bathtub had been the predominant thing in his mind. Needless to say, the sly grin and his only responses of Buffy, a few weeks ago and shes beautiful only furthered their already avid curiosity. If they all hadnt been too drunk to drive, they no doubt would have descended on Angels apartment to meet the mysterious bride. Instead, they ended up watching old episodes of Columbo, playing cards, and polishing off the rest of the whiskey before passing out just after three in the morning. With his head throbbing and his mouth feeling like he swallowed cotton, Angel managed to get off Doyles couch and head home before the rest of them were even awake. He knew his friends though; theyd be dropping by this week if not today to meet his wife. Here. Maybe this will help. Opening his eyes, Angel glanced up to see Buffy setting a tray on the small table next to him. On it sat a mug of black coffee, a glass of ice water, a glass of orange juice and a bottle of aspirin. Thanks. He took a couple of the aspirin and drank the entire glass of water before he set it down and glanced over at her again. Almost transfixed, he studied her in the bright sunlight. She was wearing a simple black tank top and shorts that contrasted nicely with her smooth tan skin. Her golden hair was pulled back in a ponytail and her eyes were hidden by a pair of black sunglasses. She appeared to be engrossed in some article in the magazine balanced on her knees. There was nothing extraordinary about her appearance really, yet he was struck not only by her beauty but her small unexpected gesture. He had a sudden urge to hug her. Or, perhaps more pertinently, lay his head in her lap and let her soothe away the ache between his temples. Sure. She replied, turning back to look at him. He wondered suddenly if she thought he did this often. Doyle that is, he insisted that we sort of celebrate

Its okay, Angel. You dont have to explain anything to me. Buffy replied with a smile before turning back to her magazine. I dont want you to think that I go out and get drunk every weekend. He stated emphatically, then let out a small pained groan as the sound of his own voice seemed to ricochet loudly through his head. I dont. Anyway, Id find out the truth next weekend. She teased as she reclined the chase lounge she was sitting on until it was completely flat. With an agile move, she flipped over on her stomach. He took a sip of coffee as he studied her profile. Hows that? Because if you did it every weekend then youd do it again next weekend, and then Id know that you did it every weekend. She hadnt looked up at him, but he could hear the playful tone in her voice. Ah. He closed his eyes again and laid his head back on the cushion of the chaise. A smile tugged at his lips at her slightly rambling logic. Impulsively, he said, I have to go to the grocery store this afternoon and pick up some things. Do you want to go with me? We could get some of those horrible soy patties that you seem to like. Surprised, Buffy glanced up. Her lips twitched into a smile and with mock sternness she declared, Aha! You did eat one of them! I thought someone was pilfering my food. Guilty. Angel said without opening his eyes. He took another sip of coffee. Though I regretted it if thats any consolation. Those things are terrible. She laughed and shook her head. Hey! Theyre good! And Ill have you know theyre healthy. Sweetheart, I think cardboard would taste better. The endearment slipped out naturally and Angel didnt even give it a second thought. He opened his eyes again and looked over at her again. So are you up for a trip to the grocery store then? I could use a few things so, sure. Buffy replied. It was just a trip to the grocery store why did it feel like something more significant? And why was her heart suddenly racing? That is, if we can get back by four. I have to be at work by five. Not a problem. Angel said with a satisified smile as he relaxed back into the chaise closing his eyes. He wasnt even aware until that moment how tense he had been in waiting for her answer. ***

Angel sat on the couch and sipped a bottle of water as he watched Buffy flit nervously around the apartment. First she lit the candles on the fireplace mantle, then she fussed with the magazines on the table, aligning them just so. On her way to the kitchen to check on the coffee, she stopped and adjusted the flower arrangement on the table. He understood and even shared her agitation, but the strange sense of pleasure he found in simply watching her somehow seemed to calm his nerves. Since their trip to the grocery store on Sunday, a friendly camaraderie had developed between them. With Buffy not working extra shifts, they saw each other a bit more during the day and talked a little more at night when she got home from work, though they hadnt delved too far into anything personal in their conversations. Angel glanced at his watch just as the firm knock sounded at the door. It was six oclock right on the dot. He should have known that Dr. Maggie Walsh would be exceedingly punctual. He glanced over to where Buffy stood near the kitchen doorway as he came to his feet. She nodded to his unasked question and tugged nervously at the hem of her shirt. Buffy had changed three times in preparation for tonights meeting before settling on her current outfit. It hadnt hurt that Angels eyes flared appreciatively when she had finally come out of the bedroom. The simple pale green v-neck shirt brought out the green in her eyes and was low enough to provide a teasing view of her dcolletage. Her black boot-cut fitted pants clung snugly to her hips, emphasizing the attractive firmness of her bottom and the length of her legs. All of which added to the reasons Angel had been mesmerized by watching her. Opening the door, Angel smiled. Dr. Walsh. Nice to see you again. He stepped back and held out his hand, gesturing for her to come in. Thank you. Maggie Walshs keen gaze landed immediately on Buffy. Mrs. OConnor, I presume? Yes. Crossing the room, Buffy extended her hand in greeting. Dr. Maggie Walsh, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. Nice to meet you. Would you like to sit down? Slipping easily into the role of hostess, Buffy directed them toward the couch. Would you like some coffee? I just made some. Once they were comfortably seated with coffee cups in hand, Dr. Walsh retrieved her reading glasses from her pocket and put them on. Opening up her black notebook, she flipped through several tabbed pages until she found the one she was interested in. As I mentioned to you over the phone, the purpose of this meeting is to

verify the authenticity of your relationship for the BCIS. I can assure you that these home visits and interviews are standard operating procedure within the agency and that you are in no way being singled out due to your nationality, age, location or other demographic factors. The BCIS makes it a policy to meet as many of our newly married couples as possible. Her gaze was direct as she glanced from Angel to Buffy then back again. You understand, of course, that defrauding the federal government is a serious offense, and so we do look at these things very closely. Once the questions have been answered to our satisfaction, your citizenship card will be issued, Mr. OConnor. Do you have any questions so far? Buffy replied negatively while Angel only shook his head. First, I will need to speak to each of you individually, Dr. Walsh stated without pause, I assume that there is somewhere in the apartment that the other of you can wait? The bedroom. Angel offered, masking his growing discomfort. With a brisk nod, Dr. Walsh continued, That should be fine, as long as the door closes and you will not be able to hear the conversation taking place in this room. If not, then I will need to ask you to wait in the hallway or downstairs. I will warn you in advance that some of the questions may be quite personal. You may choose not to answer those. Simply say so and well make a note of the question and then move on. Now, do you have any questions before we get started? No. Buffy answered, her voice surprisingly confident despite the feeling that she was near to panicking. She hadnt anticipated an individual and personal interrogation. She had envisioned a casual conversation between the three of them; this had recipe for disaster written all over it. No, no questions. Angel added, his own thoughts similar to Buffys. He glanced at his wife briefly before turning his attention back to the brusque woman seated across from them. Good. Then I would like to begin with Mrs. OConnor first. Mr. OConnor, if you will Without waiting for a response, Maggie Walsh glanced at her watch. Setting aside her coffee cup and retrieving her pen, she jotted the time down on the top of a blank sheet of paper. Before he rose to his feet, Angel leaned over and kissed Buffy gently on the cheek impulsively. He wished her luck with his eyes and also offered an apology, even though he didnt dare voice the words. Once the door down the hall was firmly closed, Dr. Walsh glanced up at Buffy, So, Mrs. OConnor Call me Buffy. Buffy insisted with a smile. She wasnt about to admit

that she found the Mrs. OConnor stuff disconcerting. She hadnt thought of that as her name since the day of the wedding and even then only briefly. Yes, well, please tell me where was Liam was born. The BCIS agent stated stiffly as she flipped though a few pages in her notebook. Liam? Buffy repeated questioningly. Your husband, Mrs. OConnor. Dr. Walsh returned curtly, glancing up from her notes. Oh, sorry. Its just I always call him Angel. Buffy quickly interjected, realizing her mistake. She couldnt believe she had fumbled over something as obvious as his name. Actually, everyone calls him Angel. I dont think Ive ever even heard anyone call him Liam before. I see. Can you tell me where he was born please? Ireland. The petite blonde answered firmly, determined to make amends for her faux pas. City, please. The BCIS agent insisted as she scanned the paper in front of her. Well, we havent really discussed it. Buffy mumbled, quickly growing disheartened. She was going to blow this for them right from the start. Dr. Walsh scrawled something in her notebook, the pen scratching the paper almost loudly in the momentary silence, and then looked up at Buffy once more over the rim of her glasses. You dont know the city he was born in, is that correct? No, I mean yes. Buffy shrugged apologetically. I mean, no, I dont know. Thank you. Dr. Walsh said crisply, tapping her pen on her paper. How long did the two of you know each other before you married? Not long. A few weeks. I know that seems rather rash but- Can you please narrow that down to a specific number? Dr. Walsh interrupted impatiently, not interested in excuses or stories, just the facts. Well, I feel like Ive known him for months Buffy searched her mind for an appropriate response. What had Angel told the BCIS if anything about how long they had known each other? Still stalling for time or perhaps even a hint, she continued, Cordelia talked about him for so

long before I met him Um-hum. Do you or do you not have a number, Mrs. OConnor? Three. The petite blonde returned coolly, calling forth all the bluffing poker skills she possessed. Three weeks. Thank you. Dr. Walsh said patronizingly as she jotted yet another note. What is your husband studying at UC Sunnydale? Law. Buffy answered calmly, remembering what Cordelia had said about him wanting to be a lawyer. The books on his shelf though With a polite smile, she amended, Well, actually his major is criminal justice but hes considering going into law. With an almost disgruntled expression, Maggie Walsh checked a sheet of paper that had UC Sunnydale at the top of it before slipping it back behind the others. She next retrieved a printed form from the other side of the notebook and jotted Buffys name at the top next to the date. When she completed her notation, she glanced up. Her blue eyes were direct and piercing. The next few questions are of a more personal nature. The intent of these questions is not to embarrass you, but to establish that you do in fact have an intimate relationship with your husband. I would like to remind you that if you object to answering any of the questions, you may say so at any time. Clearing her throat, Buffy settled back on the couch. Her hands were clenched tightly around her coffee cup, the untouched liquid growing cold. Okay. What time does your husband get out of bed in the morning? Dr. Walsh checked a box on the form, indicating the selected question. Um, well, later than I do. I leave early and hes still in bed. So you dont know? The BCIS agent inquired bluntly as she shifted, crossing her legs at the ankles. Well, hes up by Buffy inhaled deeply then plunged ahead with a guess, Seven thirty or eight. Dr. Walsh made a note of the answer as she asked her next question, And what time do you get up? Between five thirty and six. The petite blond replied, I teach a kickboxing class at 7:00 at Pacific Athletic Club. I see. The BCIS agent acknowledged disinterestedly as she continued

writing, What is your husbands most frequent meal for dinner? Searching her memory for the contents of the refrigerator, Buffy quickly seized on an answer, I guess I would say pizza or stuff from the deli just down the street. Thank you. After making another notation, Maggie Walsh looked up again. And what do you typically eat for breakfast? Vanilla yogurt. Angel teases me about it, always trying to get me to branch out into more exotic flavors, but I happen to just like vanilla. With a small smile, Buffy played back their conversation in the grocery store when Angel noticed that she was buying five of the same flavor. Why do you not wear a wedding ring, Mrs. OConnor? Dr. Walsh flipped the paper over and scanned the page with the computer printing. It was an unnecessary action; she knew the form by heart. Briskly, she made tick marks by five more questions. Its being resized. Buffy answered, a little surprised that the BCIS agent had noticed the missing ring since she seemed so intent on her notes. The name of the jeweler doing the work? I dont know. Angel took care of it. Glancing up at the young bride over the top rim of her glasses, Dr. Walsh inquired, Does your husband have any birthmarks, scars or tattoos? Yes, he does. Buffy replied as she took a sip of her coffee. Her heart was racing in nervous anticipation of each question. When would this end? Describe them please. The BCIS agent prompted looking down once more at the notes she was taking. He just has the one tattoo, on his back by his shoulder blade. Its a Gryphon with an A below it. Buffy said a brief prayer of thanks to her English professor for her interest in mythology; without it, she wouldnt have known exactly what the bird like creature was. Thank you. And do you have any birthmarks, scars or tattoos? No. Buffy disclosed resolutely. A giggle almost escaped her lips as she thought that there might actually be some benefit to Angels having stumbled on her in the bath; of course, it was unlikely that he had seen enough to be assured of no tattoos or other marks. And there was the fact that he hadnt seen her backside

When was your last menses? Dr. Walsh asked candidly, her voice interrupting Buffys musing. Uh, just a little over two weeks ago. Color rising to her cheeks, Buffy blushed. Like Angel was supposed to know that? Stopping for the first time to take a sip of her coffee, Maggie Walsh once again adjusted her position on the sofa. Placing the coffee cup back on the table, she looked directly at Buffy. She was a keen observer of human behavior; reactions mattered almost as much as the questions, particularly for these last few. What, if any, form of birth control are you currently using? Um, I, um, were that is we Buffy stammered, taken somewhat aback by the question. It shouldnt have surprised her, but hearing it out loud was a little startling. We, uh, use, er, condoms. At least we do right now. Thank you. Dr. Walsh made a brief notation on the printed paper, then asked matter-of-factly as she returned her gaze to Buffys face. How often would you say that the two of you engage in intercourse? Feeling her cheeks grow warm once again, Buffy gave the first answer that came to mind, Well, er, we are newly married. Yes, I understand that. Would you like to skip this question or do you have an answer, Mrs. OConnor? Pressing her lips together, Maggie Walsh suppressed a ruthless smile. She couldnt deny that she enjoyed certain aspects of her job, such as seeing young couples squirm. She had, on occasion, even made up outrageous questions just to liven up these interrogations. We, uh, have sex at least a couple of times a day. Buffy returned promptly. At the slight lift of the womans eyebrow, Buffy wondered if that was too often or not often enough She wished then that she had a little more experience with this type of thing well, with sex specifically so that she might have a more appropriate answer. And my last question. Is your husband circumcised? Seconds ticked by as blue eyes remained locked with hazel green ones. Finally Buffy gave her answer, Yes. Thank you for your cooperation, Mrs. OConnor. Would you please ask Mr. OConnor to come in here now please? I also need to ask you to not speak with your husband, other than to let him know that Im ready for him. With a dismissive nod, Maggie Walsh returned her attention to the papers in her notebook. With a worried frown, Buffy rose to her feet and walked down the hall.

She opened the bedroom door to see Angel sitting on the bed with a book in his hand. Well, honey, youre up. She said brightly, as if nothing were wrong. She waiting until he reached the doorway before she rose up on her tiptoe and wrapped her arms around his neck. As she brushed a kiss on his cheek, she whispered, No tattoos, condoms, couple of times a day, 2 weeks ago and god, I hope youre circumcised. *** Hiding his bemused expression, Angel waited until Buffy closed the bedroom door before joining Dr. Walsh in the living room. Thank you for waiting, Mr. OConnor. As I said earlier, this is a formality. Maggie Walsh looked up, as Angel sat on the couch opposite her. I understand. Angel replied as he reached for the carafe to refill both his and Dr. Walshs coffee cups. Fire away with your questions. With a brisk nod, the BCIS agent began, Where was Mrs. OConnor Buffy - born? Angel paused thoughtfully before he answered, Right here in Sunnydale. He was guessing, but from his confident demeanor, no one would have known. Her expression marred with something akin to disappointment, Dr. Walsh asked her next question, Please tell me the name of your in-laws? We havent talked about them much, to be honest. Can you expand on that, please? Maggie Walsh tapped her pen on her paper, studying his expression. Her parents are a difficult subject for my wife, Dr. Walsh. Its not one that we tend to spend much time on. Angel ventured, not realizing that he was actually close to the truth. Even their names? She glanced down at her papers, shuffling them slightly to look at the copy of their marriage certificate that had been filed with the BCIS office. Yes. Weve had no reason to discuss them. Taking a sip of his coffee, Angel closed his eyes and suppressed a feeling of panic. I see. The BCIS agent replied skeptically, jotting some additional notes.

What time does your wife normally get off work? It varies. He knew from their conversations this past week that her schedule did vary some at night, depending on the day of the week and who ended up working the late shift. She works different shifts at the restaurant. Sometimes she gets off earlier than others. Glancing up, Dr. Walsh looked at him speculatively. I thought your wife worked at a health club? Angel studied her expression for the space of a few seconds before he answered, She works as a waitress at Patina. A restaurant a few blocks over. Her pen scratching the paper, she hastily scrawled a few notes and then drew a circle around something she had written on the page. Reaching for her coffee cup, she took a sip then inquired, What is your wife studying in school? She hasnt decided on her major yet. Angel replied easily. Knowing that it was Buffys first year of college, he assumed that she hadnt yet declared a major. How long did the two of you know each other before you married? Dr. Walsh questioned, glancing at her earlier notes briefly before flipping to a new page. About a month I think. Running a hand through his hair, Angel attempted to appear calm. He wondered what Buffy had answered, assuming that she had been asked the same questions. Thank you. Maggie Walsh acknowledged as she looked over the top rim of her glasses, her expression foreboding. The next few questions are of a more personal nature. They are not intended to embarrass you or your wife, but rather to allow us to verify the nature of your relationship. Let me remind you that if you object to answering any of the questions, all you need to do is say so. Angel nodded, shifting the coffee cup from one hand to the other. What time do you normally get out of bed in the morning? The BCIS agent inquired plainly as she sat her coffee cup back down on the table. Seven thirty. And your wife? What time does she normally get up? Dr. Walsh made a note on the form, near the question Buffy had answered earlier. Much earlier than that; five-thirty, six. Im a heavy sleeper I dont

always hear. He improvised with an apologetic shrug. What does your wife have for breakfast most often? Vanilla yogurt. She loves the stuff. He answered with a smile, reminded of their conversation earlier that week at the grocery store. And you, what do you eat for dinner most often? Dr. Walsh asked brusquely, scanning her notes from Buffys answers. Simple stuff; steak and vegetables, grilled chicken. Angel answered with a small shrug, I happen to like to cook. I see. With her pen, Maggie Walsh made another circle around her notes before jotting down a few brief words. Does your wife have any birthmarks, scars or tattoos? No. Angel replied as a feeling of apprehensiveness crept over him. Had Buffys whispered words about tattoos meant for her or for him? And you, Mr. OConnor? Do you have any birthmarks, scars or tattoos? Her gaze was direct and piercing. Angel drew in a deep breath and debated his answer for a scant few seconds. He could lie since Buffy had no way of knowing about his tattoo but something about how closely Dr. Walsh was scrutinizing him gave him the strangest feeling that the BCIS agent knew about it, someway, somehow. Finally he said, I have a tattoo on my back. I noticed that neither you nor your wife wear your wedding rings. Why is that Mr. OConnor? The BCIS agent inquired stiffly, once more reaching for the coffee cup on the table. Buffys is at the jeweler, Angel bluffed though it wasnt completely a lie. He had simply never bought her one which technically meant it was at some jewelers. That was something that he would apparently need to rectify if they made it through this cross-examination, And mine is in the bedroom. I was doing dishes earlier and I dont like to wear it then. He purposefully ignored mentioning the Claddagh ring on his right hand. He already knew the best way to get through this was to simply answer the question; providing additional details would only trip them up later. I see. Returning her eyes to her notes, Maggie Walsh made an annotation in the margin of one page. Glancing up once more, she returned her gaze to his face. What, if any, form of birth control are the two of you currently using? Condoms. Angel suddenly wanted to grin. Buffys whispered words had tipped him off successfully for that one. Instead, he answered the

question with a hint of intentional discomfiture. And how often do you and your wife have intercourse? Pressing her lips together firmly, the BCIS agent waited for his answer. He couldnt help himself. Even with her keen eyes dissecting his every move or gesture, Angel gave in to the impulse and grinned. Even without knowing what possible question Buffys hint of two weeks might apply to, he was certain it wasnt the answer to this question. As often as possible, he replied cheekily. Do you have a specific answer, Mr. OConnor? Or are you just going to attempt to be clever? Dr. Walsh questioned coldly. She was obviously not amused. Clearing his throat, he nodded. We, uh, have sex at least twice a day. He tried, but Angel couldnt keep the smirk from his face. The question and the provocative answer - had brought visions of Buffy nude in the bathtub to the forefront of his mind. The question of her sexual experience also came to mind; was she less innocent than she appeared? Still, there was no question twice a day sounded more than just fine to him, it sounded divine. Thank you. Dr. Walsh replied brusquely as she flipped her paper over and scrawled another few words. When was the last time your wife had her menses? No tattoos, condoms, couple of times a day, 2 weeks ago and god, I hope youre circumcised. Her answers were falling neatly into place. Still, he schooled his features into a thoughtful expression, as if he were considering her question before answering. About two weeks ago. Dr. Walsh made a brief notation on the printed paper, then asked matterof-factly as she returned her gaze to Angels face, Fine. Now, my last question - are you circumcised Mr. OConnor? He wasnt, but Buffy didnt know that; in fact, Buffy had obviously assumed otherwise. Unconsciously crossing his legs, Angel replied, Yes. Thank you. With an almost malevolent smile, Dr. Walsh clasped her hands together smugly over her notebook. If you would please call your wife back, I think we can finish off our discussion. Her look sending his nerves careening wildly, Angel rose to his feet and went to fetch Buffy. He avoided her eyes, only giving her a small shrug as the two of them returned to the living room. Silently, they took their previous seats across from the BCIS agent.

Despite their efforts, Maggie Walsh was a keen observer of human behavior and had been an agent for the BCIS for a long time. Not to mention, the tidy little sum that Ethan Rayne had promised her for looking into this matter and ensuring that it was resolved to his satisfaction gave her additional impetus to be extra thorough. Of course, any legal action such as deportation would require the appropriate supporting documentation which would take more than just one interview to obtain. Suppressing a smile, Dr. Walsh glanced between them, Mr. OConnor, Ms. Summers, Ill be quite frank with you. Despite your relative success at bluffing your way through my questions, there is sufficient reason for me to believe that your marriage is entirely an attempt to obtain a green card for Mr. OConnor. Dr. Walsh, would you please elaborate? Buffy questioned, unknowingly parroting the BCIS agents own words. Id like to know what youre basing your assumption on. Ms. Summers. Dr. Walsh chided patronizingly, Ive been in this business for a very long time. Ive seen con artists of all types imaginable. You dont know the answers to easy questions such as where your own husband was born, he doesnt know the names of your parents, and I find your answers to my question regarding your intimate affairs highly suspect. It would not surprise me in the least if you had somehow tipped off Mr. OConnor to your answers with your pretended endearment to him at the bedroom door. I pride myself not only on my observation skills, but also my judgment. Snapping her notebook closed with brisk movement, Dr. Walsh rose to her feet. Over the course of the next few weeks or months if necessary - I will personally be compiling the necessary documentation in support of your prosecution for attempting to defraud the United States government as well as for your deportation, Mr. OConnor. Please be aware of the fact that I do have the right to interview your family and your friends, as we as returning for as many repeat visits as I deem necessary in order to complete my report. The completed report will be filed with the local District Attorney to being the necessary proceedings. Turning on her heel, Maggie Walsh stalked to the door. With her hand on the knob, she turned back to face the stunned couple, I will warn you that attempting to flee will only make the situation worse. I shall be in touch. Good day. Minutes after the door closed behind her, Angel kicked the coffee table sending magazines, coffee cups and coffee pot flying. Fuck! Buffy watched the earthenware cups as they shattered, spilling coffee on the floor as if the scene were taking place in slow motion. After a second,

she knelt down and began to put the broken pieces on top of a ruined magazine. After she had all of the damaged pieces together, she calmly said, Well, that helped the situation a whole lot. Whirling around, Angel shot her a dangerous look. Rising to her feet with the debris, Buffy seemingly ignored him as she moved toward the kitchen. His anger barely under control, Angel clenched his jaw and watched her. He hadnt moved from his spot when she returned with several towels and began to clean up the spilled coffee. Turning, he slammed his hand into the wall. Thats not really going to help anything either. The petite blond added as she crawled around on the floor, mopping up the dark liquid. And that is? Angel snapped furiously, once more turning around to look at her. His future plans seemed to be slipping away before his eyes. No, its not but at least its not going to stain the floor. Buffy sat back on her heels and looked up at him, And you owe me a new copy of In Style and one of Vanity Fair I hadnt read those yet. Didnt you hear what she said?! He snarled bluntly, taking a menacing step toward her. Shes serious about this and youre talking about your damned magazines. Well, Ill be sure to buy you a copy of those hell, Ill buy you subscriptions - because youll have plenty of time to read them in jail. Hey! Im not your enemy here. Buffy returned, her eyes blazing angrily. Im in this with you, right up to the jail cell part of it so dont you dare take that tone with me. In fact, the petite blonde stood up abruptly as she continued speaking in a calm but obviously furious tone, youll probably just have to go home to Ireland. Ill be the one to end up broke and in jail. No job - no college - no future! Dont tell me that all I care about here are my magazines. Just because Im not throwing a temper tantrum doesnt mean that I have nothing to lose. Knowing that she was right and suddenly feeling like an ass, Angel felt a bit of his anger deflate. Hed thought only of the loss of his dreams. What about hers? He looked away from her to stare out the window. Look, shes cant do anything yet or she would have said so, Buffy offered in a moderate tone, that means she needs more proof. So, we just need to play our parts. If shes going to be talking to our friends, we need to convince them that this our marriage - is real. If shes going to

ask personal questions, well, we just have to get to know each other so we can answer them. Think of it like another class project only more personal. With one eyebrow quirked upward, Angel turned back to look at the young woman that he had married. He was a bit chagrined that she had calmly assessed the situation and put forth a proposed solution before he had; wasnt this type of thing in his supposed area of study? His estimation of her rose. He wondered then about her life, at what events she had been through to have given her so much maturity at such a relatively young age. Are you always this sensible? I have to be. Buffy returned, her eyes meeting his across the room. And she did. She couldnt afford legal or financial ramifications as a result of her impulsive decision. Now it was simply a matter of make the best of a bad situation - something she was good at. Tentatively, Angel smiled at her. So, where do you suggest we start? *** This is for you. Buffy said brightly as she handed Angel a neatly wrapped package. He looked up at her from his position at the table, hunched over his computer trying to finalize the results of a study for his meeting with Professor Johanssen tomorrow. Pushing back in his chair he took the package from her as she took the seat next to him. It had been two days since Dr. Maggie Walshs visit and pronouncement about her intent to see them prosecuted. In those two days, Buffy and Angel had sat down and mapped up a schedule for dates in which they could get together and start getting to know each other. Today was their first official date though a two hour block of time set aside on a Saturday afternoon before Buffy would have to go to work would hardly qualify as anyones definition of a date. What is this? He questioned as he pulled off the white ribbon. Just open it. Buffy encouraged, tucking her feet under her on the chair. In front of her, she had set two spiral notebooks. Pulling apart the elegant beige paper, Angels lips twitched with amusement. Getting Ready for Marriage Workbook, How to Really Get to Know the Person Youre Going to Marry. He read the book title out loud before his curious gaze returned to her face. This is for me, why? Well, its as good a place to start as any. Its got worksheets and stuff

that will help us figure out questions to ask so were not just sitting here staring at each other. Buffy replied somewhat defensively as she reached for one of the notebooks and pushed it over to him. And writing things down will help, so I got these too. I guess its too much to hope that you picked up a copy of The Kama Sutra as well? Because that could also be a good place to start Angel teased as he turned off his laptop and pushed it aside. His attraction and interest in his wife was growing, much to his concern and occasional discomfort. His smile widened as a faint blush touched her cheeks. I dont think so. She replied almost primly as she opened her notebook. He wasnt seriously interested in a more intimate relationship with her was he? Sneaking a peek at him out of the corner of her eye, she was relieved or was that disappointed? to see that he was teasing. Do you want to read the first chapter or skip to the worksheet part? I dont know. You decide. He prompted, handing her the book. But first, Angel came to his feet and crossed the room to retrieve something from the fireplace mantle. Returning to his seat, he sat a small black velvet jewel box on the table between them. I have something for you. Buffy glanced from Angel to the jewel box and then back again. He pushed it closer with his fingertip, a smile playing on his lips, It doesnt bite. As she reached for it, a strange sense of anticipation, excitement and dread all seemed to assail her at once. She hadnt realized until that very instant that this was one of those moments that she had somehow expected to be more significant in her life. In some far off recessed corner of her mind, she had imagined that there would be a marriage proposal accompanying a ring; that shed be looking into the eyes of the man she loved and who loved her as they promised their hearts to each other. They would have already talked about their future together sharing their dreams along with their plans for careers and kids... With a resolute smile, she pushed aside her thoughts. No sense dwelling on that now. It was possible that she would have those things someday, just not now. She picked up the small jewel box and opened the lid. A simple silver band gleamed in the light. I hope its okay. I wasnt sure about the size Angel began, uncertain about the play of emotions on Buffys face. Did she like it? Or not? Should he not have bought it? Maybe he should have asked her first Oh, no. Its fine. Its beautiful. Buffy gave him a quick smile as she plucked the ring out of the case and slipped quickly on her finger. And look. Its fits. Buffy, are you sure? I thought that since Dr. Walsh asked about it that

you should have one, but if you dont like it Absently he touched the silver ring that she had given him the day of the wedding. He had started wearing it after Dr. Walshs visit. Cordelia would object, he knew. It had been at her insistence that he had removed it the day of the wedding in the first place. Somehow though, the brunettes feelings didnt seem to matter so much right now. And he found himself instead bothered by what he thought was a look of disappointment on Buffys face. Had she expected a diamond? Or what was going through her mind? Its perfect, Angel. Really. Thank you. She glanced at her watch then opened the book she had given him to the first chapter. We should get started here. Ill have to head out to work soon. *** The sound of voices carried from the hallway long before the knock sounded on the door. Buffy glanced up from her position at the table where she was working problems for her statistics class at the first firm knock. Down the hall, the sound of running water shut off abruptly as Angel finished his shower. He was getting ready to go out - it was his monthly poker ritual night with the guys. Tonight it was apparently Wes turn to host, so he was going over there. Hey, you decent? A slightly accented voice called out as the apartment door opened a few inches. Reaching the door, Buffy pulled it open further. Yes. At least I think so. Oh, hello there. Doyle fairly stumbled into the apartment, his eyes riveted on the diminutive blonde standing in front of him. Didnt realize Angel had company. It was of course a lie; the very reason they had dropped in on Angel early was to see if they could meet his new bride. They had tried once this week already without success, much to their disappointment and Angels amusement. With a grin, Gunn shouldered Doyle aside, pushing him into the apartment. Extending his hand, he smiled at Buffy. Im Charles Gunn. But my friends just call me Gunn. Hi. Im Buffy. Nice to meet you. Buffy returned his smile before turning to the dark-haired behind him, still partially in the hallway. And you are-? Wes shook her hand. Wesley or Wes if you prefer, he said as an unmistakably charming smile slipped into place. Unaffected by his dark good looks or flirtatious charm, Buffy merely smiled and turned back to the man that opened the door. Then you

must be Doyle, she surmised, remembering the names of Angels friends. That would be me. He shook her hand, his curiosity undisguised as he looked her over and obviously liked what he saw. Guys. Angel greeted as he came from the hallway to stand slightly behind Buffy. He was barefoot, dressed only in a pair of jeans, his hair still damp from the shower. When he heard the voices and glanced toward to see Buffy standing among his friends, he felt an uncharacteristic surge of male rivalry. Hed never been a jealous man or felt any competitive impulses regarding any of his previous girlfriends, yet he couldnt deny that his possessive instincts seemed to make themselves known where Buffy was concerned. I thought we were meeting at your place. There was a hint of censure in his voice as he glanced at Wesley over Buffys head. Casually he stepped closer and slipped his arms around her waist. Yes, well, we were- Wes said, his expression one of practiced innocence as he struggled to come up with a believable reason for their appearance. Outright lying to his friends, however, wasnt one of Wesleys stronger skills. But there was a slight change of plans. Doyle interjected affably, a sly grin on his face. His friends possessive stance hadnt gone unnoticed. Doyle and Angel had known each other since they were toddlers together in Ireland; they had moved in and out of each others lives over the years but always managed to keep in touch. It had in fact been Doyle who had suggested UC Sunnydale and the exchange program to Angel in the first place, since he had been living and working in Sunnydale for the past four years. What change? Angels brows lifted suspiciously. He knew his friends; their dropping by was a barely disguised ploy to meet his wife. He should have suspected it tonight given their earlier attempt this week, but in his preoccupation earlier with Buffy and their latest getting-to-know-you date, it had slipped his mind. In fact, after the pleasant afternoon spent with her at the park having an impromptu picnic lunch, he had almost wanted to change his plans and stay home with her tonight. Maybe order take-out, rent a movie The only thing that stopped him was the fact that it was Buffys only night off this week and he wasnt about to crash her plans at the last minute. It never crossed his mind that Buffy had shared his thoughts for the evening, but hadnt dared to suggest it for the same reason. This months poker night has been revised into an unplanned yet not quite proper bachelor party. Were taking you out on the town, Angel my friend. Doyle winked at Buffy. He didnt tell us about the wedding, so we didnt get a chance to throw him a proper bachelor party much less be

there for the happy occasion. Oh? Buffy questioned, one dainty eyebrow lifting doubtfully. Angels arms around her waist and his naked chest brushing against her back were wreaking havoc on her sense of concentration. She was wearing only a thin cotton sundress and the heat of his body was seeping right through her clothing, sending her pulse jumping erratically. I didnt realize that it was a requirement. I dont really think that- Angel began hesitantly, a little uncomfortable with the suggestion. The last thing they needed right now was even the smallest hint of impropriety about their marriage. You dont mind if we take your husband out for a little fun, do you? Gunn interrupted, directly the question to Buffy. Nothing too ribald of course. Wes amended. They really werent suggesting anything improper and he wanted to make sure that Angels new bride knew that. Naturally. I said not quite proper bachelor party, didnt I? Doyle added with a sincere smile. And whats the difference? Buffy questioned good-naturedly, her eyes sparkling with humor as she glanced between the three men. Without realizing it, she had adjusted her stance slightly so that she was leaning back against the hard chest behind her. Her arms rested lightly on top of those wrapped around her waist, and absently she moved her fingers, stroking the warm, smooth skin. Doyle lifted his eyebrows exaggeratedly as he said with mock seriousness, Lets just say, a proper bachelor party typically involves the exchange of bodily fluids. Im not going to detail which fluids or how or why Ill leave that up to your perverted imaginations. In a not-quiteproper bachelor party, a proxy for the groom and here I offer my services has to step in, if you will. I see. Buffy laughed, So youll be uh, handling any exchange of body fluids on Angels behalf then? Not literally his, but yes, thats the idea. Grinning, Doyle answered the question as he stuffed his hands in his pockets. So, you dont mind if he goes then? Gunn queried, almost surprised that Buffy didnt seem to be upset or angry at the idea. Of course not. Buffy smiled, amused that they seemed to be asking her permission. Even though their relationship was far from ordinary, Buffy trusted that Angel wouldnt do anything that would embarrass her or

compromise their situation. Both beautiful and understanding. Wes complimented with a smile, How Angel got so lucky, I will never understand. Tell me that you have a sister? Buffy blushed slightly at the compliment. I do but shes only two and half. Youll have to wait awhile. Hey that works for me. By the time shes twenty, I should be about ready to consider getting married. Gunn laughingly said, But then again, if I find one like you, I may do what Angel did and just snatch her right up. Though, do tell, Angel where did you manage to get so lucky? Its not luck, its skill. And lets just say I was in the right place at the right time. Angel returned smugly, dropping a kiss on the top of Buffys head as he hugged her closer. The gesture was natural and instinctive, yet was surprising to his friends who had rarely ever seen Angel indulge in public displays of affection. Buffy smiled and tilted her to head to look up at Angel over her shoulder. This was the first time that they had really tried to pretend to be a couple in front of anyone; it was much easier than she expected. And much nicer. It was also much different than how they had discussed it in theory she hadnt expected him to put his arms around her much less then affectionate kisses. Get dressed, man, and lets go before she changes her mind. Gunn added with a teasing smirk as he glanced at Buffy. Womanly prerogative, or so Fred says all the time. Fred? Buffy asked as Angels hands dropped from her waist. She could hear him walking back down the hall to the bedroom. Winifred. His girlfriend. Wes amended before Gunn could continue his usual joke on his girlfriends name. She goes by Fred. The teasing banter continued for another ten minutes before Angel rejoined the group, now fully dressed. He was tempted to talk to Buffy privately to see if she was really okay with him going out with the guys knowing what they planned, but he wasnt sure if shed be honest with him. He also wasnt sure that his male pride would be able to take the teasing that would ensue if his friends even thought he was letting Buffy control him. Just as the guys started out the door, Buffy impulsively reached out and touched Angel lightly on the arm. Her eyebrows were lifted teasingly and her eyes were sparkling with humor as she softly murmured, Behave. His lips curving upward in a return smile, Angel replied, Always. He

leaned down intending to kiss her cheek, but instead touched his lips to hers in soft, slow, sweet kiss. Buffys breath caught and held as his lips met hers. Without thinking, she lifted her arms to circle his neck, her fingertips brushing the soft hair on his nape tentatively as the kiss deepened. Lets go, Romeo. Plenty of time for that later. Reluctantly Angel broke off the kiss. He wasnt entirely sure which of his friends had spoken up. His eyes were locked with Buffy's as she stared up at him with a trace of confusion on her face. Buffy resisted the shivering warmth that crept along her spine, reminding herself that Angel was simply playing his part. He was beginning as they intended to go on proving to their friends that they were married for real. Little did she know that those thoughts had been the farthest thing from Angels mind; he had simply acted on impulse. Bye. Buffy breathed softly, but she leaned forward again and her lips brushed his in a light butterfly kiss. I wont be too late. He murmured, finding a profound pleasure in her reaction to his kiss. It took considerable effort for him to step back away from her. Hey, that just happens to remind me Just because you didnt invite me to the wedding, dont think that Im not going to get to kiss the bride. Gunn nudged Angel aside and reached out and caught Buffy by the shoulders. Pulling her forward, he gave her a less than brotherly kiss on the lips. Because this new found jealously of Angels deserved some teasing, both Doyle and Wes followed Gunns lead and gave Buffy a congratulatory kiss. Knowing that they were doing it on purpose to annoy him, Angel tried not to be affected but was largely unsuccessful. They said their goodbye's once more and opened the door to leave. As if he couldnt stand to leave her with Wesleys kiss on her lips, Angel turned suddenly and took Buffy into his arms, kissing her again. It was a lazy, mindless tongue-tangling kiss that seemed to go on for long slow minutes. By the time he lifted his head, both of them were breathless and panting and completely unaware that they guys had closed the door behind them to give them some privacy. Without a word, Angel dropped his arms and let her go. Only after the door closed behind him, did Buffy finally return to her seat at the table. It was awhile longer before her concentration returned and

she could finish her homework. *** It was just after two am when Angel slipped the key in the lock of the apartment door. Taking great care to be quiet, he pushed open the door. The small hallway nightlight gave the room some light, as did the bedroom lamp that Buffy had apparently left on for him. Taking off his shoes so as to not make any sound, he closed the door behind him. His eyes on her sleeping form, he crossed the room slowly to where Buffy slept on the couch. Cautiously he sat down on the couch opposite her. Her rich golden hair was spread over her pillow, several long strands cascading down the side almost reaching the floor. Her eyes were closed; the darkened and lacy lashes hiding the luminous beauty of her eyes. Her pink lips were slightly parted as she breathed quietly, the delicate features of her face perfectly formed. Other than a few dollar bills stuffed in a very aggressive girls g-string as she gyrated in front of him, he hadnt really had any interest in the beautiful women at the strip club that Doyle had insisted they go too. It was unusual, given his former proclivities. All he could see were a pair of trusting green eyes looking up at him teasingly. And strangely, that aroused him more than the beautiful naked bodies that he had seen. Buffy sighed in her sleep and Angel held his breath. The blanket slipped down as she turned slightly, revealing a shoulder, bare except for the thin strap of her pajama top. His thoughts drifted back to the breathtaking vision of her in the bath. She was without a doubt one of the most beautiful women he had seen. Leaning forward, he covered her shoulder. He smiled faintly as she snuggled contentedly under the blanket. Lifting a strand of her hair to his lips, he kissed it gently before replacing it carefully on the pillow. What had he gotten himself into?
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A Convenient Marriage, Part 5

Author: Gia Rating: PG/R Disclaimer: Joss, ME, & own all but the ficcy idea and some of the words. Pairing: Initially C/A, ultimately B/A. Includes W/O. Author's Notes: Okay, the salad sound strange but we have it often. Its quite yummy. Dried cranberries substituted for the strawberries are also quite delicious. *g* So I had thought to get to smoochies in this chapter, but well, I didn't. Next one. *g* See previous parts for other notes. Feedback: Yes, please Distribution: Anywhere currently hosting my stuff; my site, EverySixSeconds; anywhere else, just let me know. completed 11.17.2003

Buffy finished slicing the strawberries and scooped them along with the small chunks of blue cheese into the salad bowl. Adding the balsamic vinegar dressing and a handful of walnuts to the baby spinach leaves, she tossed the salad ingredients together with deft expertise. It was a favorite of her moms, something they had shared often on lazy days when neither had been in the mood to cook. Angel had seemed to like the unusual combination when she shared it with him the other day, so she had offered to make it today for their afternoon date. They were planning a late lunch followed by a couple of hours of going through the next chapter in the workbook before Buffy had to go to work. With pleased smile on her face, Buffy hummed softly as she got plates out of the cabinet and utensils out of the drawer. This getting to know you time was fast turning out to be more than enjoyable. It had become a part of her day that she looked forward to, and she had to admit her interest and attachment to her husband was growing with each passing day. They hadnt actually touched since the other night when he left to go out with the guys, but since then she had felt like her senses were in a heightened state of awareness when he was around. Despite the serious circumstances of their situation with the BCIS, she felt giddy and happy; it had been a long time since she could remember having felt that way. Months at least, before her mothers death

Dont tell me that you ran there? Buffy called out as the door to the apartment opened, interrupting her musing. Angel had left just a short while ago to pick up fresh rosemary from the grocery store; he was making some sort of special grilled chicken dish for their lunch and had been insistent that only fresh rosemary would do - not the dried stuff she had picked up. Buffy turned around to face the kitchen doorway with a bright smile. I know you said youd be back in a second, but that- Buffy. Cordelia said with displeasure, her arms crossed over her chest. Nothing about Buffys demeanor or the cozy scene in the apartment was to her liking. It was quite obvious that the little blonde had clearly made herself at home in the last few weeks. Too much at home. Cordelia. Buffy replied politely, unable to completely hide her surprise. The brunette looked absolutely stunning, from her perfectly styled hair to her form fitting turquoise dress, right down to the high heels which had to be a new pair of Jimmy Choos. She looked like she could have stepped right off the pages of a fashion magazine. Buffy felt a little selfconscious in her casual red Capri pants and white halter top. She also felt her heart sink a little; her pleasant interlude with Angel was over now that his girlfriend was back. Buffy took a slow, deep breath and asked, How was your trip to New York? She knew from the numerous messages that had been left on the answering machine for Angel that Cordy had been in New York for the last couple of weeks shopping for her fall wardrobe at some of the more exclusive fashion houses. Though she never asked and Angel never said, Buffy assumed from the steady stream of phone calls that the pair had made up from their argument of weeks ago, the day she moved in to the apartment. Fabulous as always. Where is Angel? Cordelia questioned bluntly, making no attempt to conceal her impatience. Didnt he get my message that I would be back today? He just went down to the grocery store. Hell be back soon Im sure. Buffy replied quietly, picking up the slices of bread and placing them in a basket. Picking up both the basket and the bowl, she carried the items to the table. This just looks so very cozy. The brunette scrutinized Buffy again, noting the two plates on the counter, the somewhat intimate looking lunch, the blondes obvious ease in the kitchen and her ease in conversing about Angel. Turning on her heel, Cordelia walked slowly past Buffy back to the living room, examining every detail of the apartment with a critical eye. I see youve really made yourself at home. Yes, well I do live here now. Buffy answered, masking her growing annoyance and disappointment. She chastised herself briefly for entertaining the idea that there might be a growing interest between

herself and her husband. So, Buffy how is the couch anyway? Cordelia questioned with a smirk, her heels making a staccato tap on the hardwood floor as she crossed the room. She ran one perfectly manicured fingertip along the back of the object in question casually as she passed by it. Fine. Comfy actually. The petite blonde replied with a small shrug, watching the other woman somewhat circumspectly. She had the distinct suspicion that Cordelia was trying to provoke her, so she refused to give her the satisfaction. Good. Cordelia said as she cast a glance over one shoulder. Lifting one eyebrow, she added smugly, Id hate for you to think that you might share Angels bed. No, Cordelia. Buffy said calmly, ignoring the butterflies that fluttered in her stomach at the suggestion. I dont have any designs on his bed. His person maybe, but the bed was optional. Suppressing a grin, Buffy glanced out the window. She had allowed herself to consider the possibility of intimacy with her husband for the briefest of seconds recently, but shed certainly never admit that to Cordelia or even to Angel. Really? The wealthy brunette questioned skeptically, running one had over her hip and smoothing the slick material of her dress. You actually expect me to believe that you dont have any interest in a gorgeous hunk of man like Angel? Cmon, Buffy, even Im not that stupid. Buffys eyes twinkled with humor as she thought about the possible replies to Cordelias statement on her intelligence. Instead of offering a snarky reply that would likely only escalate the tension, she chose a simple innocuous comment, Really. Good, lets make sure that we keep that little fact straight. Cordelia sat down and settled comfortably on couch indicating clearly that she wasnt planning on leaving any time soon. Pointing toward the table, she asked, So whats with the cozy little lunch anyway? Are you entertaining some silly little fantasies about the two of you? I mean, it must be fun for you, living here and pretending to be married to Angel. Cordelia gave Buffy a venomous smile as she opened her arms, resting them along the back of the couch. My boyfriend. Im not pretending, Cordelia. I am married to Angel, your boyfriend. Returning Cordelias smile with a nasty one of her own, Buffy responded wryly, Or did you forget that it was your idea in the first place? Whatever. Its not like a real marriage. Cordelia snapped, her eyes flaring in anger. How dare the little bitch get snippy with her? She bit back a retort as the phone in her purse began to ring. Pursing her lips,

she frowned as she retrieved the ringing object from her red Prada bag. Her tone changed immediately to a light, friendly air as she answered, Hello. How could Angel stand that woman? Buffy thought as she turned back to the kitchen to leave Cordelia alone. The man she had been getting to know didnt exactly seem the type to tolerate such superficiality and rudeness but then again, men had been known to forgive beautiful women even the most egregious transgression. It was also entirely possible that Cordelia was a completely different person around him. Yes, Grandpapa, I know I just got back yesterday. Ill have dinner with you Monday night. Im staying with a friend this weekend. Yes, all weekend. We have a lot of catching up to do. The brunettes voice carried into the kitchen and Buffy felt her stomach churn anxiously. She wasnt sure shed be able to carry out this charade with the BCIS if she had to hear Angel and Cordelia together, making love in his bedroom just yards away from where she slept. Even seeing Cordelia over breakfast in the morning, the two of them snuggling together after a romantic evening, would be nauseating. She turned on the faucet, drowning out the other womans words and turning her attention to the few dishes in the sink. Maybe she should stay somewhere else tonight Maybe you should explain this cozy little lunch thing to me before Angel gets back. Cordelias voice interrupted Buffys musing and she whirled around to see the brunette standing once more in the kitchen doorway. Because Im pretty sure I made this clear to you weeks ago Angel is off limits. Married to you or not, hes still mine. Cordelia finished flatly. She wanted to make sure that Buffy clearly understood the situation. I got that the first ten times you said it. Buffy snapped before she tempered her voice, Besides, its nothing like that. Could the woman be any more persistent or annoying? Angel and I We just get together to exchange information for the BCIS interviews. Thats it. Oh. So has that woman come by yet? The brunette asked curiously, crossing her arms over her chest. Yes, she has. The petite blonde replied, putting the last dish away and drying her hands on a towel. She has? Thats great. Cordelia smiled widely, pleased for the first time since arriving in the apartment, So then why on earth would you still need to get together with Angel and when are you moving out? Im not moving out. At least not yet. Buffy twisted the towel in her hands absently. She didnt really expect Cordelia to leave, but itd be nice to stop with the twenty questions. Why couldnt the woman just sit on

the couch quietly and wait if she was going to? What do you mean? Her eyes narrowing, Cordelia tapped her foot impatiently. You just said the woman already came by. Did you screw it up or something? Its a little complicated Buffy began hesitantly, as she ran her hands over her eyes in an attempt to stave off her growing anger. Where was Angel? Why couldnt he be here to explain this to his girlfriend? And why did she feel like she had to be at least polite to her, when all she wanted to do with kick the tall brunette firmly in the ass? Im sure it is. Cordelia muttered sarcastically, her features twisted into a frown. Dont make the mistake of thinking you can prolong this and somehow get Angels attention. Hes not going to be interested in well, someone like you. As much fun as it is exchanging words with you, I have some things to do. Choosing not to stand and exchange insults any longer, Buffy pushed past the taller woman and headed down the hall into the bedroom. She might have gotten herself into this situation, but she didnt have to take any more verbal abuse from Cordelia. Angel should be back in a little while. Why are you going to his bedroom? Cordelia questioned peevishly, following closely on Buffys heels the minute she realized where the blonde was headed. I keep my things in here. Buffy replied blandly, not slowing her stride or turning to look back. What?! Why? The brunette snapped angrily as she flounced into the bedroom. As if to stake her territory, she sat down abruptly on the bed, her arms spread wide as she placed her hands flat on the crimson comforter. Because its the only closet space. Reaching for her gym bag, Buffy neatly placed her sweats and sneakers on the bottom, along with a tshirt. Next she grabbed her clothes for work at Patina and sat them on top of the bag. Does Angel know about this? The brunette questioned rudely, watching intently as if worried that the younger woman might be stealing something. No, of course he doesnt. He just thinks that hes outgrown his pink sweaters and black mini-skirts but he refuses to buy a larger size insisting that someday hell lose all that weight. Buffy answered mockingly with a roll of her eyes. She moved to the bureau to collect her undergarments. Hes the one that offered the space, Cordelia. Of course

he knows. Cordelia snorted indignantly, glancing away from the blonde with a roll of her eyes. Her gaze fell on the small, framed photo that sat on the night table. With an expression of outrage, she snatched it up and thrust it at Buffy. What is this? Those are called pictures. Im sure youve seen them before. The blonde replied with a smirk, glancing briefly at the object in question. It was one of the Polaroids taken on the day of their wedding. Buffy had given it to Angel after he asked; he had framed it thinking it added nicely to the faade of their marriage, particularly since Dr. Maggie Walsh was given to snooping. Buffy had been pleased when she had seen the unexpected addition to the bedroom, surprised that Angel had done such a thing with the photograph. I know that. What the hell is it doing here? The brunette fairly shrieked as she slammed the frame down hard on the table, marring the wood. The glass covering the photo cracked with the force of the blow. Ask Angel. Hes the one that put it there. Buffy retorted as she spun on her heel and left the room. And while youre at it, be sure and tell him that youre the one who broke the glass. With a frustrated growl, Cordelia scrambled off the bed and followed Buffy only to find the bathroom door closed firmly in her face. Behind her, the sound of the apartment door opening drew her attention and she turned around. Stepping over the threshold and into the apartment, Angel called out, Sorry it took so long. I had to go all the way to Lynardis When his gaze landed on the brunette standing in the hallway, he stopped abruptly. Cordelia. Angel! Darling! Hello. Changing her tone and demeanor immediately, Cordelia sauntered toward her boyfriend with her hips swinging seductively. I hope you got my messages. I freed up my entire weekend just for you, knowing that wed need some time after my weeks in New York. Now come here baby, and welcome me back. Other than two brief phone conversations, Angel hadnt talked to the brunette in almost three weeks. The dozen or so phone messages she had left didnt exactly count, since they werent reciprocated. Still, he cursed himself for not actually paying attention to them since knowing her plans today would have been decidedly in his benefit. He stepped back away from her slightly, his eyes scanning the apartment for Buffy. When did you get here? A little bit ago. Smiling, the brunette shifted closer and reached out a hand to stroke his arm. Just wait until you hear all about my trip to New

York. I picked up so many great outfits, youre just going to love them. Calvin, Ralph, Stella, Burberry, even a fab Dolce and Gabbana skirt that youre going love. Oh, and youre going to die when you see my new lingerie its Italian. Ill put on a fashion show exclusively for you. You can be my assistant and help me out of my outfits. Of course, Ill reward you accordingly She murmured, pursing her lips in provocative moue sidling closer still. Down the hallway the bathroom door opened and Buffy exited, now dressed for her shift at Patina. Instinctively, Angel drew away from Cordelia, his gaze going immediately to the luminous green eyes of his wife and attempting to discern her mood. Oh, hey. Youre back. Buffy greeted as she approached the pair standing just inside the apartment entrance. She was slightly surprised that Angel had returned since she hadnt heard the door open. She ignored the painful squeezing in her chest that seeing him with his girlfriend brought on and instead, averted her eyes as she brushed past them on the way to the door. I, uh, have to go in early today. Im sure the two of you have things to discuss anyway. Buffy wait. Pulling further away from Cordelia, Angel reached for Buffy then just as quickly withdrew his hand. With the exception of the other night in front of his friends, all but the most casual, accidental touch between them was typically avoided. Theres the salad I made and some bread on the table. Help yourself to the food so that at least its not wasted. Buffy said as she stopped at the door and shifted her bag to her other hand so that she could pick up her purse and slip it over her shoulder. Without looking back, she added the spontaneous excuse that she had come up with during her brief escape from Cordelia in the bathroom, Oh, and Angel. I forgot I promised Id stay over with Willow tonight Oz is gone and she gets kinda wiggy being there alone. Ill be back tomorrow around noon. If thats too early, let me know okay? Willows number is on the fridge. Shaking Cordelia loose Angel followed Buffy out the door and down the stairs. Buffy, did Cordelia did she say something? Or do something to upset you? No. Buffy returned promptly, as she moved briskly down the stairs. Reaching in her purse, she fished for her keys as she walked. Why do I think youre not being completely honest with me? And whats this with suddenly having to work? Ive been gone less than an hour, Buffy. Angel admonished gently, finally reaching out to grab her arm and slow her progress. They stopped just on the sidewalk in front of the apartment building. Talk to me. Stopping, Buffy turned and looked up at him. Why did he have to be so

sweet? Did he not understand that she was dangerously close to falling for him and how bad that would be for her? Okay, maybe I wasnt completely honest, but it doesnt really matter. I dont have to be at work early, but I figured that you would want the extra alone time with Cordelia. Shes been gone and all and is expecting your undivided attention. So? Cordelia doesnt always get what she wants. Angel said with a small smile, his hand remaining on her arm for another brief moment before he released her, sliding his palm down her forearm in a lingering caress. The temptation to pull her into his arms was growing steadily. He found himself wanting to soothe her with a kiss. Or two. Or ten. Besides, I thought we had plans. Id love to see you tell Cordelia that. Buffy chuckled, envisioning a conversation with the wealthy and outspoken brunette in which she was informed that she wasnt going to get what she wanted. Sighing softly, she glanced over at elderly couple watching them openly from their seat just inside Dublins pub. Look, Angel, its okay. I have some things to do anyway and this will give you an afternoon free of me. Maybe I didnt want an afternoon free. He murmured softly in reply as he inched slightly closer. He was only inches away from her; he could almost feel the warmth of her skin against his. If he were honest, he would have to admit that she affected him like no other woman had before. It unnerved him slightly but he seemed powerless to change it. Buffys breath caught in her throat and her pulse jumped erratically at the warmth of his tone, the soft words. She leaned closer, her hand lifting as if to touch him before she dropped it back to her side and clutched her purse strap. It took her almost a minute to collect her thoughts as she reminded herself that a) Angels girlfriend was in the apartment upstairs, b) theirs was a business arrangement only and c) it couldnt possibly be a good idea to complicate their situation with any kind of emotional or physical - involvement. That would only end in badness when their relationship ended after the two year residency requirement assuming of course that Dr. Maggie Walsh wasnt successful in her attempt to prosecute them and deport Angel. Well, thats probably a good thing then since I dont think you have one. Buffy replied with a mischievous grin as she stepped back away from him. It took considerable effort on her part both to step back and to smilingly send him off to his girlfriend. But she knew that was the right and only thing she could do. Bye Angel. Ill see you tomorrow. Feeling both unexpectedly disappointed and more than a little captivated, Angel watched until Buffy reached her car and drove away. When he returned to the apartment, his expression had changed immediately to one that was cold and unwelcoming.

Cordelia. Is she gone? The brunette was nude, sprawled across his bed. This isnt a good time. Grabbing her clothes from the floor where they had been carelessly discarded, he held them out to her. You should have called first. I did call. I left you several messages. Cordelia grumbled sullenly, refusing to take the offered clothing. She rolled slightly, then arched her back and stretched, hoping to tempt him out of his annoying sour mood. A mood she blamed on Buffy; had the girl not been here, she would probably already be receiving the nice hard welcome she had come for. Besides, I didnt think youd mind. I do mind. Now get dressed. Angel dropped the clothes on the bed and paced back toward the door. His temper was growing short. We have to get a few things straight. Whether you like it or not, this is Buffys home now and I dont want her to be uncomfortable here. Oh, and just what did the little missy have to say about me? The brunettes eyes narrowed angrily as she pushed herself up to a seated position. Did she make up some lie about me or something? If you mean Buffy, she didnt say anything. Angels eyebrow lifted skeptically. He was now alerted to the fact that Cordelia had obviously said something to Buffy that she didnt want him to find out about. What he wasnt sure, but hed see if he could find out from Buffy later. He was also certain that Buffy and Cordelia werent friends, as the tall brunette had claimed. Another subject hed have to take up with Buffy later. Crossing his arms over his chest, he leaned a shoulder against the doorframe. Sure, she didnt. Cordelia muttered under her breath as she eyed her lover intently. She was on the verge of throwing a tempter tantrum, but restrained herself. Angel would be unlikely to appreciate such theatrics. Still, she was used to getting her way with men she only needed to figure out the right tact to take here. You may not understand it and you may not like it, but Cordelia, the situation with the BCIS is serious. I do understand that. Im the one that has been trying to help you all along, baby. Cordelia pushed aside her discarded clothing. Of course, she thought with sudden insight, he would be a little tense for having to deal with the BCIS as well as having a new roommate underfoot all the time. No doubt Buffy followed him around with puppy dog eyes which had to be beyond irritating. That combination had to be the reason behind his boorish behavior.

You cant come over here and act like nothing has changed. Angel bit out almost angrily, his gaze landing on the cracked glass and picture frame. We Buffy and I have to make our marriage look like its for real. Not to mention, Dr. Maggie Walsh from the BCIS will no doubt be interviewing you as well as our other friends in order to find any holes in our story that she can use. Youre going to have to be convincing that my marriage to Buffy is the real deal. That means no stories about you and me. Were friends, thats all. I understand, I do. Im sorry. I just wanted to see you. Padding across the room nude, Cordelia slid her arms up his chest to twine around his neck. She hated even the thought of having to talk about her boyfriends marriage to the BCIS, but was confident in her abilities as an actress to pull it off without leaving even a hint of doubt. I missed you. Didnt you miss me? Even a little bit? She purred, pressing against him. You cant come over anymore without talking to me first. And I mean actually talking, not leaving a message on the machine. But Angellll The brunette whined, pouting her lips. Im serious, Cordelia. The woman from the BCIS is already suspicious. Angel leaned back, away from her as she continued forward. I dont want to give her any more ammunition. I know you are baby. Let me make it better. Cordelia murmured, pressing her lips to his throat and closing the distance between them again. Let me help you forget about all that for just a little while. Angel wavered, uncertain. His body didnt object to the attractive nude figure pressed close to his. Hed been in a near constant state of arousal for days, due to his interest in his roommate. Other than a few selfgratification sessions in the shower, which hardly counted, he had been celibate *** Ethan nodded at his personal secretary as she placed a small stack of mail on the desk in front of him. Concluding the phone call with his tax attorney, he set the phone back in its cradle and then picked up each of the items in front of him until he reached the FedEx envelope on the bottom. Setting everything else aside, he pulled the zip strip on the cardboard envelope and opened it. Withdrawing the neatly stapled papers, he scanned the copy of the report that Dr. Maggie Walsh had filed with the BCIS in which she outlined the reasons why she believed that the marriage between Liam Angelus OConnor and Buffy Anne Summers was a fraud perpetrated with the intent to allow Liam OConnor to stay in the United States. Attached to the report was a handwritten note from Maggie Walsh to Ethan explaining

that she anticipated a slight delay in continuing her investigation; her great aunt in Maine passed away and she had been asked to make the necessary arrangements for her funeral which would require her to be out of the office for at least a week. She concluded her note with the reassurance that, despite the short delay, she had no doubt that the matter would be resolved to his satisfaction. Sighing heavily, Ethan opened his desk drawer. Taking a key, he unlocked the compartment at the back of the drawer and withdrew a manila file folder. Setting it on the desk, he opened it. The document on top was a copy of Buffy and Angels marriage license that Ethans private investigator, Lindsey McDonald, had delivered to him several weeks ago, just days after the wedding itself. Beneath were other documents and assorted photographs that had been collected by Lindsey in the weeks since Ethan had asked him to investigate this Angel OConnor. When Lindsey had called with news of a wedding, Ethan had at first been petrified with worry that his granddaughter had eloped. He had been greatly relieved to find out that the name of the bride had not been Cordelia Chase. The relief lasted only until he received a copy of the marriage license that had her signature on it as a witness to the ceremony. Being far from a stupid man, his suspicions were immediately aroused. It wasnt typical for a former girlfriend to serve as a witness to her boyfriends wedding, particularly when the former girlfriend was his granddaughter. Knowing his Cordelia as he did, he also knew that it was completely out of the character for her. It also was more than a little unusual that she would then have that same boyfriend over several times in the weeks following the wedding as if nothing had changed between them. Acting on his suspicions, Ethan conducted a search of Cordelias room and a review of her checkbook; there he found an entry for a $20,000 check written to Buffy Summers, coincidentally Liam Angelus OConnors bride. A quick call to the bank revealed that the check had not yet been cashed, however, as far as Ethan was concerned that was but an insignificant detail. It was enough proof that the young woman had been paid off. Ethan followed up by talking with the maids responsible for cleaning the house; evidence of his granddaughters continued intimate relationship with her now married boyfriend was quickly confirmed by the observation of discarded condoms found in the trash. He had grudgingly written a bonus check for the young woman that he had asked to find such proof. He knew that even now she was at the young mans apartment, another irresponsible action that grated on him. Tucking the report inside the folder, Ethan returned it to the desk drawer and locked it. He had thought briefly that the young mans marriage might be the end of his relationship with his granddaughter but obviously that was not the case. Obviously this Angel had convinced Cordelia to go

along with his scheme to stay in the country and had even conned her into buying him a wife. What next? Would he convince her to pay for his apartment or college tuition? Or would he find other excuses to wheedle money out of her? She was willful and headstrong, but she was simply too trusting and generous. It angered him that someone would take such advantage of her. True, he wanted her to find a husband but not such a gold-digging neer do well that was so far beneath her in status that it was laughable. Having this Angel shipped back to Ireland was the first step in freeing Cordelia from his gold-digging ploys. He knew his granddaughter out of sight often meant out of mind. Once gone, shed eventually forget about this Angel. And if she didnt, he had other, less palatable ways of taking care of the problem that he wouldnt refrain from utilizing if necessary. Eve. Ethan said after he pressed on the intercom button to call his secretary on the phone. Get Dr. Maggie Walsh on the phone, please. First hed make sure that Dr. Walsh understood that Cordelia was not to be implicated in any way in the young mans nefarious scheme despite her signature on the marriage license. And then could you call Lindsey McDonald and ask him to come by? Ethan added releasing the button without waiting for a response. A little more information on the newlyweds might help in speeding the case along. Obviously this Buffy Summers could be bought; perhaps Lindsey could use her greed to their advantage in coming up with enough evidence to deport Liam Angelus OConnor. And if greed didnt appeal, surely Lindsey could come up with some creative alternatives to prove that her marriage was a scam. Never once did it occur to him that Buffy had as much or more to lose as her new husband. *** So hows married life? Oz asked as he sat down at the table across from Buffy. He and Willow met her at Estrelitas, a Mexican restaurant just down the street from Patina. She called them shortly after she left the apartment, explaining that she had some time to kill before her shift and that she needed to talk to them asap. Within 20 minutes they met her at the restaurant, having no immediate plans for Saturday afternoon and always willing to help out their friend. Its fine. Buffy replied, murmuring thanks to the bus boy as he sat chips and salsa on the table in front of them. And Angel? Willow prompted with small grin, reaching for a chip. How is he? Hes fine too. The petite blonde said, averting her eyes and taking a sip

of water. Flamenco guitar music played over the restaurant speaker system, adding to the ambiance of the brightly colored and noisy caf. Uh-huh. Willow murmured knowingly, her eyes lit with humor. While she was worried about her friend and the situation she had gotten into, she also suspected from the conversations she had with Buffy over the last couple of weeks that the petite blonde had something of a crush on the man she was living with. Not that Buffy had admitted anything to her; it was more just something Willow discerned from having known her for so long. With romantic optimism, the red-haired girl now held out hope that the situation might actually work out for the best after all. And? And what? Buffy queried, glancing briefly at the menu. And tell us what hes like? You said on the phone the other night that he was nice and that the two of you were spending more time together The red-haired girl prodded inquisitively, Is there sparkage? He is nice. The petite blonde said noncommittally as she popped a chip in her mouth. Did she want to tell her friends that she was growing more interested in her roommate even though she knew that it would never amount to anything, as Cordelia chose to remind her? That even now he was probably pounding his girlfriend into the mattress? But its nothing like that. Hes not really my type. Since when is tall, dark, handsome and nice not your type? Willow teased affectionately, knowing that those words described almost every guy that Buffy had ever dated or found attractive. Buffy only rolled her eyes in response, turning her attention back to the menu. Oz glanced between the two women calmly, quiet as usual. So, I, uh, told you guys why I married Angel, right? Buffy said quietly after the waiter had come by to take their order. His girlfriend paid me so that he could stay here in the U.S. and get his green card. She hated saying those words out loud it made her feel like a whore, bought and paid for. Cordelia Chase, right? Willow said, taking a sip of her soda. She was the one that was there being all tantrumy the day you moved in to his apartment, right? The one and only. Buffy replied sardonically, thinking of a few additional adjectives she could add to describe the brunette after their run-in earlier today. And I told you that I moved in to Angels apartment because the BCIS thats the immigration agency - is checking up on why we got married? Yep. The red-haired girl replied, nibbling on another chip and watching

her friend closely. She Dr. Walsh from the BCIS came by last Thursday. Glancing around, Buffy checked to see if anyone was listening. Lowering her voice, she continued, To say it didnt go so well is kind of an understatement. She asked us a bunch of personal questions about each other, then she said that she knew that we married just for Angels green card. She wants to have us prosecuted for fraud or something and, of course, Angel will be deported. So maybe Ill be the one prosecuted for fraud Her brow creased slightly as she considered the possibility. Oh, Buffy. Willow murmured apologetically, her eyes growing wide with alarm. What are you going to do? Well, the good news is that I dont think she can do anything yet, or she would have. Besides more interviews or visits with us, she said that she was going to be talking with our friends. I think shes looking for more evidence. Buffy paused and took a deep breath. She hated to ask this but she had no other option, I hate to ask you to do this, but if she talks to you I need you guys to lie for me. And Will, you have to lie convincingly, or Im going to go to jail. Oh no. You know I-I cant do that. Lie that is. Im not a liar. Willow squeaked nervously glancing between her best friend and her boyfriend. Not that I dont want to for you, but Im terrible at it. If I had any other choice, I would never ask you. And maybe she wont even call you its not like Ill give out your name if I dont have to. She didnt even ask for names. Buffy replied with false cheerfulness, But if she does, you have to tell her that Cordelia introduced Angel and I and that it was love at first sight, and so we got married. Maybe she wont ask too much or maybe you can say Im so busy with Angel that you havent seen me or something - if she asks for details. Im sorry, I really hate to ask you guys to do this... Seems simple enough. Oz said in his typical monotone voice as he put his arm around his girlfriends shoulder to sooth her agitation. If we just stick to simple answers, we should be able to pull it off. Sure. Yeah. Well just say yes or no. Willow smiled encouragingly and nodded her head. You know, when we can. Thanks. I am so sorry to drag you into this. Buffy apologized, feeling even guiltier for her impulsive decision now that it affected her friends. Oh, Buffy, no. Its not you. Its me. And lying. And the pressure of being convincing while lying. But Ill do it. Im sure I can do it. Hey, Ill even practice. Ask me a question now and Ill Ill lie. Willow rambled contritely. She honestly wanted to help her friend, but was as they all

knew a terrible liar. Thanks. Buffy smiled brightly, trying to hide her fears. So, since the girlfriend is apparently staying the weekend, do you guys mind if I crash at your place tonight? *** Buffy said goodnight to the cooks that were finishing up in the kitchen as she gathered her things and headed for the door. The work at Patina was getting easier it seemed and tonight had been a particularly good one for a Sunday night. One of her tables, a party of six, had been celebrating the fortieth birthday and had, after consuming several bottles of wine, left her a generous 25% tip on their bill of just under $300.00. Not too bad in addition to her other tips, especially after an almost sleepless night spent on Willow and Ozs lumpy couch. It actually made her long for her own plush-by-comparison couch. She had just stepped through the gated patio onto the sidewalk when she heard a familiar voice behind her. Hey. Stopping, Buffy glanced over her shoulder in surprise. Angel. She pronounced his name as sort of a breathy question, which never failed to affect him powerfully. She fixed her gaze on his face, studying him curiously in the orange glow of the streetlights. There had been no sign of either he or Cordelia when she returned to the apartment earlier that afternoon, so she assumed that they must be out together. Buffy showered and changed, then did some reading for class before heading off again to another shift at Patina. What are you doing here? She asked without thinking. The sensation of her racing pulse was distracting as was the beauty of his features even in the dim light. This would have been so much easier had he been less attractive, she mused as he approached her. I had dinner here. Angel replied with smile. He wasnt entirely certain himself why he had been so pleased to see Buffys jeep parked near the apartment again when he had come home from the gym or why he had felt the need to walk down here tonight. He knew that she often walked the few blocks to Patina when she worked; he also knew that her jeep wouldnt be parked near the apartment unless she was planning on coming back there tonight. Really? I didnt see you. Buffy questioned skeptically, adjusting her bag on her shoulder. She was far from displeased to see him, but she didnt a clue why he was there. With no small measure of relief, she wondered if

Cordelia had gone home. She wasnt sure what excuse she was going to use for leaving the apartment tonight, should the brunette be there again. Okay, so I just had dinner there. Angel said as he pointed to the sandwich shop across the street that had been closed for almost an hour. After he had eaten, he sat at one of the benches outside squinting at a paperback in the dim light and waiting until Patina closed. But I would have had dinner here if I could have sat in your section. You wanted me to wait on you, huh? Buffy teased, a smiling playing on her lips. Something like that, yeah. He returned playfully. The temptation to kiss that teasing smile from her slightly curved, luscious lips was incredibly strong. He quelled it, glancing away from her. So why are you really here? Buffy asked as she turned and started walked slowly down the street. Angel pondered the question, glancing at her briefly out of the corner of his eye as he fell into step beside her. What should he tell her? That he missed her seemed a little too dramatic; she had only been gone for a day. Besides, it wasnt like he really missed her, he just wanted to see her? He didnt completely understand the motivation that had led him down her himself, so how could he explain it to her? His voice was tinged with frustration when he spoke, No particular reason. I was down here having a late dinner, figured that youd be off soon and thought that I could use some company on the walk home. Is that okay? Buffy suppressed a sigh, hiding her disappointment. She had thought for a few seconds there that he might say something personal Something a little more encouraging. Of course. I mean, its nice. She mentally chastised herself for the blunt questions; she hadnt meant to annoy him. She had no way of knowing that the frustration she heard was for himself, not her. They walked in silence for almost a block the only sounds their footsteps and the occasional passing car. How was your- So what did you do- They both spoke at the same time as they turned the corner toward the apartment. You first. Buffy prompted with a small smile and wave of her hand. No, you go ahead. Angel returned politely. Glancing at him out of the corner of her eye, she asked, How was your

evening? There that was innocent enough. She wanted to know what happened with Cordelia correction, some of what happened with Cordelia - but wasnt about to ask. It was fine. Angel replied, pausing to peer across the street intently at the black Mercedes CLK parked along the curb. Hed seen the car several times in the neighborhood but couldnt remember having ever seen the owner, which seemed a little unusual now that he thought about it. Yours? Hows Willow? Good. She and Oz, both good. I thought Oz was gone on a gig or something? He questioned, returning his attention back to Buffy. Oh. Yes, gone. Oz is gone. But hes good. Even though hes gone, hes still good. Mentally berating herself for the slip up, she grimaced slightly. Angel only smiled at her, thinking how adorable she was, particularly when she rambled. Shed done it several times during their getting to know you meetings when they were on a topic she wasnt entirely comfortable with. He also suspected that she wasnt being completely honest with him, since she was avoiding his eyes; another thing he had learned about her in their few weeks together. Had she used the excuse to stay away from the apartment thinking that Cordelia would be staying over? Should he tell her that he sent the brunette on her way after declining her blatant invitation? If he told Buffy that he had no plans to invite Cordelia into his bedroom while she was living in the apartment, would she believe him? Impulsively he reached out and took her hand. So, I was thinking You were thinking? Buffy felt the nervous fluttering of butterflies in her stomach when his long fingers closed over her hand, his grip firm and warm. Hey, dont sound so surprised about that. Angel teased as he squeezed her hand gently. One thing was certain in the muddled confusion of his thoughts; he wanted to see more of his wife. He wanted to get to know her and not just because he had to for the BCIS interviews. I was thinking maybe we could go out to dinner. Dinner? Buffy parroted, taken completely by surprise at the question. Was he asking her out for a date? Unable to believe it possible, her mind jumped to the next logical conclusion, Oh. You want to set up time to go through the next chapter of the workbook. No... I mean, yes. We should do that, but we could do that tomorrow before you go to work. Or tonight even, if you arent too tired. He gave her hand one final squeeze and released it, letting her precede him up the stairs to the apartment. I was thinking dinner on Thursday night. I

know you dont work Thursdays. Yes. Sure. I mean, thatd be nice. She replied, waiting as he unlocked the door to the apartment. She was more than a little curious about his mood and about what brought on the invitation to dinner. Thoughts of Cordelia had completely slipped her mind. Stepping through the door she turned to face him. But um, and I know this is going to sound weird but since Im 0 for 2 on rude questions tonight why? One sec. Angel uttered quickly as he rushed to answer the now ringing phone. Buffy sighed softly and sat down on the couch. Her nerves were on edge, wondering what he was going to say in answer to her question. Was hecould he be interested in her beyond the obvious BCIS reasons? She picked up her magazine and half-heartedly flipped through it. In the kitchen, she could hear Angels deep voice as he asked the caller several short questions. Hearing his footsteps on the wood floor, Buffy glanced up. The smile dropped from her face at the stricken look evident on Angels face. Whats wrong? My Uncle hes been hurt in an accident. Angel replied hoarsely, picking up his laptop and setting it on the table. He needed to make plane reservations immediately. I need to go back to Ireland. *** Cordelia took a sip of her icy cosmopolitan before settling back on the plush chaise lounge with a sigh. Behind the dark lenses of her sunglasses, she watched the maid return to the house after delivering the fresh pitcher of cosmos and a tray of finger sandwiches to the two women lounging by the pool. I dont know, Harm. Ever since he married little miss Buffy hes been acting different. Different, how? Harmony asked without moving from her position on her stomach, her eyes still closed. Her floral print bikini top was untied for maximum sun exposure, though she was slathered with SPF 45 sunscreen to protect her lily white skin. Different as in not interested in me. The brunette pouted, adjusting the top of her black bikini slightly, leaving only a small triangle on each breast covered. She too was covered in sunscreen, though an oil with SPF 8 as she preferred a golden tan. No way. The blonde gasped in surprise, leaning up on her elbows to look directly at her oldest friend. Nooo way. I know its hard to believe. Cordelia agreed, chewing her lip

thoughtfully. Things were fine right after the wedding, but then once she moved in to his apartment, he got all uptight. She shrugged one shoulder. You dont think theyre you know. No. At least I dont think so. But then, hes not doing it with me either and hasnt in a few weeks. Cordelia mumbled petulantly, flicking at a small leaf on the arm of the chair. No! Harmonys voice was high-pitched and incredulous. He turned down the perfect opportunity the other day and sent me home with only a promise to call once the thing with the BCIS blows over. Picking up the bottle of sunscreen, Cordelia sat up and began to reapply the oil to her shoulders. No way! Scrambling to a seated position, Harmony stared at her friend in disbelief. Her eyes and mouth were wide in an exaggerated display of incredulity. I so dont believe you! Its true. Cordelia sighed dramatically and set the sunscreen back on the table. Picking up her drink she took another sip. What guy turns you down? That just so does not happen, Cordy. Thats like- like going to Fred Segal and not buying. You just dont! Well, Angel did. Er, didnt. Whichever one means I didnt get the benefit of his great bod and sexual expertise. The brunette replied sullenly as she leaned back on the chaise. No guy turns you down. There has to be a reason. A really, really good reason. The blonde insisted as she reached for her own drink. What did he say? Cordelia glanced at her friend, Well, hes really hung up over the whole thing with the BCIS. He said that they could stop by at any time and he didnt want to risk it. Still stung by his words that he also didnt want Buffy to be uncomfortable, Cordelia kept that bit of the conversation to herself. Oh, that totally has to be it. Harmony said with obvious relief. Besides, some guys cant even get it up when theyre all stressed out. It happens to Spike sometimes. You think? The brunette glanced away. No that hadnt been Angels issue, shed felt evidence to the contrary. He just hadnt wanted to Totally. I mean, just look at you. What guy doesnt want you? The blonde insisted, always supportive of her friend. Hello? Guys fall all over

themselves just to get a hello from you. To turn you down means that theyre either seriously deranged or just something else thats serious and not good. True. Cordelia preened, turning her gaze back to Harmony. He left for Ireland, you know. Really? Why would he go there? Adjusting the back of her chair, Harmony settled back into a lounging position. His uncle got hurt or something. The brunette replied disinterestedly, glancing at her Cartier watch. It was almost time to turn over. Oh. Did he take her with him? No. Shes still here. In fact, I had to hear the news from her which, he could have called first. I mean, hello, girlfriend. I should know these things first. Cordelia muttered waspishly, her annoyance resurfacing with the reminder of the brief phone call with Buffy in which she found out that Angel was gone. Ooh! I know, I know. Harmony sat up excitedly, her arms waving in the air. This is soo perfect!! Why dont you go there and console him? Hm? Cocking her head slightly, Cordelia glanced at her friend with sudden interest. Its a perfect solution. Youd get some quality alone time with him and hed be all impressed that you went to see how hes doing. Its another country, and Im sure they dont have those BICS or whatever people there so youd be able to have Angel all to yourself along with lots of snuggles and sex without them or Bunny watching. Take away all their excuses, I always say. Thats a great idea, Harm! Cordelia sat up, smiling brightly. Besides what else do I have to do right now?
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A Convenient Marriage, Part 6

Author: Gia Rating: PG/R Disclaimer: Joss, ME, & own all but the ficcy idea and some of the words. Pairing: Initially C/A, ultimately B/A. Includes W/O. Author's Notes: Enter the Dragon is one of my all time favorite Bruce Lee movies. If you haven't seen it, watch it sometime. I know Buffys former landlady was also named Jenny; we just have two Jennys in this little ficverse. *g* Ring references: and (I recommend checking out the colors of the pink diamonds; pretty!) So says Christian Kane aka Lindsey has green eyes. So, I used green. *G* Thanks to Harri for giving me the correct monetary terms for Ireland. *g* I originally had pounds here, but that's been changed to Euros. Thanks! Also, big hugs and thanks to LJ, Trammie and especially Indie on this part. See previous parts for other notes. Feedback: Yes, please Distribution: Anywhere currently hosting my stuff; my site, EverySixSeconds; anywhere else, just let me know. completed 12.02.2003

At the firm knock on the door, Buffy smiled and looked up from the paper she was working on. Since Angel left almost ten days ago, Wesley or Gunn or in one instance, Wesley, Gunn and Doyle, had dropped by every so often to see if she needed anything. At first she wondered if Angel put them up to it, but when she found out that they simply took the initiative on their own, she found it very endearing. The afternoon that Gunn had stopped by, the two of them had ended up watching Enter the Dragon and bonding over their mutual respect and admiration for Bruce Lee. During the movie he told her a few stories about Angel that made her laugh, though she wasnt sure how much of the obviously embellished tales to believe. Later that week, Gunn showed up to take her kickboxing class. When Wes stopped by a few days later, Buffy cajoled him into sharing

her lunch. Over ramen noodles and grilled chicken, she managed to find out that Wesley was something of a young genius. He had managed to skip almost two years of college due to his academic prowess and would be starting his first year of medical school in the fall. The next time he stopped by, he brought truffles from Joseph Schmidts, having found out that Buffy had a fondness for the latte and hazelnut ones, as well as his biology class book and notes, since shed be taking the same class next semester. Angel had called two days after his arrival in Ireland to let Buffy know that his Uncle was going to be fine. He had been hit by a car while out for his morning walk. Fortunately, the elderly driver hadnt been going very fast when she veered off the road in the dense morning fog, so Giles injuries were nowhere near as serious as they could have been. He had a broken leg, a fractured wrist and a minor concussion in additional to some other scrapes and bruises, but all-in-all was in much better shape than Angel originally feared after Jennys panicked phone call. Angel called again after Giles was released from the hospital a few days later; he told Buffy that he was going to stay in Dublin until his uncle was moving around a bit more capably at home probably another couple of weeks. Hed called again this morning, using the excuse that they had to continue their work for the BCIS interviews, even if it could only be in short phone calls. Still smiling as she reached the door, Buffy recalled the dozen or so questions Angel had asked her after she had told him about his friends visits and their determination to see that she wasnt lonely in his absence. He sounded almost upset and angry about it; was it possible that he was jealous? No, she thought dismissively as she opened the door, that was highly unlikely. Even though he had been teasing and affectionate when he said that he hadnt forgotten that she had agreed to go out to dinner with him and that he wasnt going to let her back out, it didnt mean anything. Did it? She knew that her own feelings for him were growing steadily, but was it possible that he was interested in her in return? Dr. Walsh. Buffy said less than enthusiastically, her smile fading as she opened the door to reveal the BCIS agent. She had expected it to be one of Angels friends, not the unfriendly BCIS agent. Good afternoon, Ms. Summers. Dr. Walsh greeted formally, her posture ramrod straight. As always, she clutched her black notebook in the crook of her left arm. Mrs. OConnor. Buffy returned, coolly poised and equally formal. Ive submitted all the necessary paperwork with the DMV, the social security offices as well as UC Sunnydale. I can provide you with copies of the paperwork if you need them. Changing her name hadnt been in her original plan, but at this point Buffy was willing to do whatever it took to convince the BCIS that she was serious about this. She hadnt even told

Angel what she had done yet, uncertain of his reaction. There would be time enough for that when he got back. No, thank you. That wont be necessary. Maggie Walsh replied, suppressing the predatory smile that was just below the surface. She peered over Buffys shoulder briefly before returning her gaze to the young womans face. May I? Uh, sure. Stepping back from the door, the petite blonde gestured for the BCIS agent to enter the apartment. Thank you. As she crossed the threshold, Dr. Walsh scrutinized the room with a keen gaze. Living spaces told her a lot about people and she was always on the look out for any tell-tale sign or detail that she could use to build her case. Noting nothing of particular consequence, she took a seat on the couch. Maggie Walsh opened her notebook then took out her reading glasses as Buffy sat down across from her on the opposite couch. She flipped through several pages until she found the page in the notebook she was seeking, then she glanced up over the rim of her glasses. Ms. Summexcuse me, Mrs. OConnor, would you mind telling me where your husband is? Hes visiting relatives in Ireland. Buffy stated quietly, forcing herself to be calm despite the unexpected visit. The question made her wonder how closely they were being watched or how the agency had known that Angel was gone. She sat slightly forward, her hands tucked under her thighs until she realized what she was doing, then she forced herself to lean back and relax. I see. Are you aware that hes traveling with another woman? A Miss Cordelia Chase? Dr. Walsh sat back, watching the petite blondes expression closely. To her credit, Buffy didnt flinch. How nave of her to dismiss Angels girlfriend from her mind. She didnt know that Cordelia had, in fact, joined Angel in Ireland though it probably shouldnt have surprised her. He had never mentioned the brunette, but now that she thought about it, Cordelia hadnt called or come by the apartment since the day when Buffy had told her that Angel had left. That had actually struck her as a bit unusual; she would have thought that Angel would have called his girlfriend before he left or shortly after he arrived in Ireland, but he hadnt. That is, until some time later obviously. He had been stressed and worried, he probably wanted someone to lean on. Buffy would have been on a plane in a minute, had he but suggested that he wanted her there Shaking away the thought with a rueful smile, the young blonde finally answered, Yes. Shes a family friend. Her voice was even, without a hint of the hurt or

confusion she felt. Why had Angel asked her out for dinner? Was she reading too much into his teasing queries and their warm, increasingly intimate conversations? Was it all part of their marriage charade, nothing more? I see. Its hardly expected for a newly married man to travel with a single, female friend. A friend that it has been rumored that he was sexually involved with prior to and immediately after your wedding. You understand how this situation looks to my office. The BCIS agents lips curved upward in what would only be described as a nasty little smile, her pleasure at having had such a nice bit of gossip dropped in her lap almost unrestrained. She knew Ethan had expressed his wishes about having his granddaughter implicated in the whole OConnor marriage farce and she knew that bringing up Ms. Chases involvement was risky for that very reason, but she had confidence that she could use this information to her advantage and still be in strict compliance with Ethans wishes. We cant all afford to take a vacation Ms. Walsh. I have classes and two jobs. My husband needed to see his family. His uncle was in an accident. Buffy returned calmly, disappointment beginning to pervade her entire body. Pretending to be interested in her beyond their arrangement was hardly necessary; in fact, the mixed signals only complicated things. When Angel returned, they would have to have an honest and open discussion about this. Clearing her throat slightly, she added, And hes not traveling with Cordelia, Dr. Walsh. She happens to be in Europe on vacation and simply stopped by to express her concern to Angel and his family. Its as much as any good friend might do in the same situation. The lie burned as she forced it out, but she reminded herself again of the importance of convincing Dr. Walsh and therefore the BCIS that her marriage was real. She was doing this as much for herself as for Angel. Im sorry to hear that, Maggie Walsh murmured insincerely, glancing down at her watch. Will he recover? Yes, fortunately it wasnt as bad as they initially expected. Buffy shifted slightly on the couch, pushing aside the maudlin thoughts of her husband for the moment. As for your other suggestion, I doubt that my husband was involved with Cordelia, but if he was, it was prior to our marriage and therefore is of no interest to me now. I trust my husband, Dr. Walsh. I find it highly unlikely, Mrs. OConnor, that your husband has only a platonic relationship with Ms. Chase. The BCIS agent returned coldly, jotting a few notes in her book before returning her gaze to Buffys face. Nor did I believe that Ms. Chase just happened to be in Europe and able to pop-in to express her concern. Then Im sorry that youre uncomfortable with the truth. Buffy struggled to maintain her composure. It was bad enough to be rudely slapped with the reminder of Angel and Cordelias relationship when she

had begun to entertain fanciful notions about her husband, but then to have to lie convincingly about it when she was uncomfortable with even the smallest white lie it was almost more than she could take. Already she could feel her temples begin to pound with start of a headache. If it were the truth, I would have no problem with it whatsoever. Dr. Walsh replied, her voice tinged with impatience. I have no interest in playing games or continuing to waste time here, Ms. Summers. If you would simply like to tell me the truth about the circumstances of your marriage to Mr. OConnor, I can recommend leniency in prosecuting your case. Buffy wavered for all of two seconds, wondering if simply confessing might be the easiest and simplest way out at this point. Ultimately though, she trusted Dr. Walsh only about as far as she could throw the sturdy BCIS agent, which probably wasnt far despite the fact that Buffy was in great shape. Dr. Walsh, I love my husband. Yes, were young and our marriage probably seems to be rushed to you, but what can I say? Buffy paused and shrugged her shoulders, Love makes you do the wacky. With an angry look, Dr. Walsh tapped her pen on her notebook. Since you insist on continuing with this charade, then I will proceed with my investigation. I will need the names of no less than six references. These references should be people that have knowledge of your relationship with your husband and can verify your story. Im sorry, but I dont have six references for you. I require at least six. They can be your friends or your husbands. Maggie Walsh firmly declared, looking over the rim of her glasses. Im not sure who my husband would like for you to speak with. Youll have to ask him when he returns. As for my own, Ive lost contact with most of my friends in the last year due to personal obligations. They wont be able to help you since many of them wont even have a clue about my life any more. The petite blonde murmured quietly. Absently she twisted the silver ring around her finger as thoughts of just how much her life had changed in the last year drifted through her mind. Thats very convenient. Dr. Walsh replied skeptically, as if she thought that the younger woman was merely making excuses. If thats how you prefer to see it. Buffy replied stiffly, shaking away the sadness at the reminder of the last few months and her mothers death. It was the truth; nursing her mother had taken her away from most all her friends except for a few steadfast ones like Willow and Oz or Faith.

When will Mr. OConner be back? The BCIS questioned brusquely, flipping to the calendar page at the front of her notebook. Were playing it day by day. His uncle is at home now and still improving, so its likely that Angel will be back within a couple of weeks. Irrespective of his travel schedule, I will need your references by the end of the week. You are in touch with him, are you not? Maggie Walsh jotted a note on the box marked for Friday then snapped her notebook closed. She slipped her glasses off and tucked them in her pocket. Of course I am. Buffy stated with confidence, her eyebrows lifting slightly as if in question of such a ridiculous question. Here is my card. Please have a list of references in my office by Friday. I will need names and phone numbers and I would like addresses as well. Dr Walsh rose to her feet in a smooth economy of motion. If not, then I suggest that you tell Mr. OConnor that he might just as well stay in Ireland. Without another word, the BCIS agent strode to the door and swept out of the apartment, the door closing with a slam behind her. With a reluctant sigh, Buffy found the number that she had written down for Angels Uncle Giles. After finding out that he was with Cordelia a minor detail that he had obviously forgotten to mention she wasnt exactly in the mood to talk to her husband right now, but unfortunately this had to be done. She checked the time; it would be almost 10 PM in Dublin a little late really to be calling Still, she dialed the number with shaking fingers then listened to the ring as she waited for someone to pick up the phone. Hello? Um, hello. Is this the home of Rupert Giles? *** Angel walked along Wicklow Street until he reached the store that he was seeking. Shifting his packages to one hand, he opened the door to OReilly Jewellers and entered the brightly lit shop. OReillys was one of the more prestigious jewelers in Dublin, known for their quality work and custom designs, particularly their traditional Celtic patterns and styles. David OReilly, the founders son, and Liam Devlin OConnor, Angels father, had also been friends. Hello. The auburn haired woman behind the counter greeted with a friendly smile as the bell on the door rang announcing Angels entrance into the shop. Can I help you?

Yes. No Actually, I dont really know. Angel replied with a small selfconscious smile, uncertain of the impulse that had brought him to the shop. He already had a hand-knit Aran sweater, a Waterford crystal vase and a box of Butlers chocolates in his hands from his earlier shopping, so why did he feel compelled to also look at OReillys for yet another present for Buffy? The man bent over the counter carefully examining a trio of diamonds with a jewelers eye loupe glanced up. Angel? Angel OConnor? Scrutinizing Angel with a keen gaze, he slowly smiled as he straightened up. Well, Ill be damned. It is you. David. Angel smiled as he set one of his packages on the counter then extended his hand in greeting. Other than the wealthy smattering of grey hair at the temples, David OReilly looked much the same as Angel remembered as a boy. How have you been? David retrieved a bottle of finely aged Whiskey from a cabinet at the back of the room, then they sat a small work table behind the jewelry counters and reminisced over fond memories of family and times past until long after OReillys and the other the shops along Wicklow and Grafton closed. David and Rupert Giles kept in touch, so David was aware that Angel was attending college in the U.S. and had ambitions to follow a career similar to his fathers. Angel however, offered very little information about himself preferring instead to talk about Davids family or his uncles health. David wasnt surprised when Angel mentioned wanting to buy a present for a female friend, but he was a little taken aback when the young mans eyes landed on the Claddagh rings. Shes special, this girl? David questioned with some amusement as he unlocked one of the cabinets containing the jewels and extracted several items. He set them on the table as he sat back down and reached for his glass, taking another sip of the amber liquid. Shes my wife. Angel returned absently in answer, picking up a white gold band with a raised Claddagh design from the velvet tray in front of him. Your wife, did you say? The jewelers eyebrows shot up in astonishment. Women had been a constant in the young mans life since a very young age; David had seen that first hand beginning with the giggling girls who used to stop by the OConnors house with various and often flimsy excuses in search of the lad. While Angel was always polite and friendly, which no doubt only helped his popularity, he always seemed to maintain a level of detachment. Even as he got older, Angel was rarely with the same girl for long giving confirmation to his vehement declaration of not settling down any time soon, if ever.

Yes. Replacing the first ring in the tray and picking up a gold Claddagh band with a heart shaped emerald in the center, Angel wondered about Buffys tastes. Did she like silver or gold? Emeralds? Sapphires? In that case David stood and walked over to a large cabinet at the back of the room. He unlocked the wooden door to reveal a large safe. He turned the dial with familiar expertise and pulled open the heavy steel door. He sifted through a few items before pulling out the one he was clearly searching for with a small ah-ha. Let me show you something special. Oh, but I dont think that I can really afford Angel began hesitantly, looking up to see David returning to the table with a velvet bag in his hand. He had some money saved and he had his trust fund, but he wasnt really planning on spending a lot. Partly because he didnt want to make Buffy uncomfortable with an extravagant purchase and partly because he wasnt even sure what he was doing. Nonsense, lad. The woman that captured the capricious heart of Angel OConnor must indeed be truly a special gem. Dont think Ive forgotten your declarations about never settling for just one woman. David grinned and winked as he shook the ring out of the bag into the palm of his hand. The polished platinum gleamed in the light. And a special gem deserves a special gem. Angel took the ring from the jewelers hand almost cautiously. It was extraordinarily beautiful, each detail of the crown and hands perfectly formed. A heart shaped diamond with an obvious rose-pink tint winked at him from the center of the ring. I finished that piece over two months ago. David nodded toward the ring, But for some reason I didnt put it out. I think maybe now I was just waiting to find the right person for it. Pink diamonds are quite rare, you know. Thats only the second one that weve ever had pass through the shop in all my years. Its really beautiful. Angel said quietly, turning the ring over in his hand. He felt a tinge of guilt that David obviously thought that he had married for love. Still, he could imagine Buffys surprise at being given such a gift she had several pieces of jewelry that he had seen but nothing to rival this in either beauty or value. The thought of making her happy and seeing her wear his ring, this ring filled him with an inexplicable feeling of warmth. With a resigned sigh, he held out his hand to hand it back to David. But I cant afford it. And how would you know that? I havent exactly told you what I want for it, now have I? David clasped his hands in front of him, refusing to take the ring.

No, you havent but Im sure its out of my budget. I dont know much about pink diamonds short of the words J.Lo. and extremely expensive, but Im sure that its several hundred Euros beyond what I can afford to spend. Angel placed the object in question carefully on the velvet bag that it had come out of. The stone itself, given the size and clarity, is worth over 5,000, but thats not what Im asking for the ring. The jeweler swiveled in his chair, tapping his fingers on the table contemplatively. Such a rare beauty as that deserves to belong to someone truly extraordinary. Tell me that the woman you married isnt that someone and Ive a bridge or two I can sell you along with that ring. Buffy is Angel paused, considering an appropriate description for his wife. Buffys image rose clear and vivid in his imagination. His feelings for her were murky and undefined, but there was no denying that she affected him like no one else had before. Shes certainly a rare beauty herself. He finally said as he leaned back in the chair, his expression shuttered. She was more than beautiful, as he had come to know from their days spent together going over the details of their lives, but what could he tell David that didnt sound like he was simply waxing poetic and mooning over her? Because he wasnt waxing poetic or mooning. No, he didnt do that. Well then, there we go. David retorted cheerfully, reaching for the bottle of whiskey. Now lets drink a toast to your bride and another to your future wee ones, then Ill tell you how your father introduced me to the love of my life and why I want to see his son happy. Pushing one almost full glass across the table, David held the other aloft. Then afterwards, we can haggle a bit over the price of the ring. *** Angel was a little surprised to see the front room lights on at Giles house when he parked his uncles Citroen in the long narrow drive. Had the circumstances of his visit been different, he would have expected it Giles always one to stay up late and get up early - but that pattern had changed significantly due to his various injuries. In addition to napping during the day, the antiquarian had been retiring early, needing the additional rest to recover from his accident. Hearing voices as he entered through the side kitchen door, Angel set his packages down carefully and then walked through the doorway into the front room. To say he was surprised to see her was a considerable understatement; thunderstruck would perhaps be a more accurate description. Cordelia? What are you doing here? Angel, darling. There you are! The brunette smiled widely and

immediately came to her feet. When I found out that your Uncle was hurt, I came as soon as I could. Giles struggled with his crutches and finally managed to also rise to his feet. With a look of displeasure on his face, he glanced over at his nephew. Liam? I would like to speak with you in the kitchen. He had only gone two steps when he paused and added, Privately. Angel backed up as Giles hobbled past him and into the kitchen. With a brief apologetic look at Jenny and a warning glance at Cordelia, Angel closed the door between the two rooms. Apprehensively he watched as his uncle opened the cabinet and extracted a bottle of brandy. Giles calling him Liam didnt bode well; he only ever called him that when he was upset or angry. In fact, it had been at least two years since Angel could recall hearing that name from his uncle and that had been when Giles had to pick him up from the Interpol office in Lyon. First, please explain to me how on Gods green earth you became involved with that self-centered, irritating woman that is sitting out there in my living room and second, why in the bloody hell didnt you think to tell me you had gotten married? Giles snapped impatiently as he poured a healthy measure of brandy into a teacup. Angel sighed. He should have guessed it would be something along either of those lines, given Cordelias unexpected presence. What all had she told them? And how long had she been here? I It wasnt important. Please clarify which, that woman or your marriage? Giles questioned as he stumbled clumsily into the cabinet, one of his crutches slipping out of his grip as he drank down the brandy in one shot. Both actually. Angel replied, stepping forward prevent his uncle from falling. Since when is marriage not important? Shaking free of his nephews arm irritably, Giles steadied himself and fixed his gaze on Angels face. I didnt mean it like that. Its just- its not- Angel paused as he considered what he wanted to say. Its not what? Leaning against the counter, Giles sat the teacup down and crossed his arms over his chest. Its not what you think. Angel paced across the small kitchen, searching for how best to explain what had happened. He should have told Giles and Jenny about Buffy, but the right time hadnt yet materialized given their other more pressing concerns about Giles health. There was a problem with my student visa paperwork. The BCIS office threatened to deport me before the end of the semester. I was going to have to forfeit all my credits and end up back here. I would probably have been unable

to return and finish school there for another year, if at all. I married a woman from the U.S. so I could stay and finish school. I see. Giles said skeptically as he removed his eyeglasses and began to clean them, a familiar gesture. I hardly think it was necessary to go to such an extreme measure. A simple phone call and Im sure that the problem could have been dealt with. If not directly through the university, then you know that several of your fathers former colleagues would have offered assistance. Im sure Interpol is not without influence in the U.S. You know I wouldnt do that. Angel declared bitterly, turning back around to face his uncle. I dont want or need their help. So you thought getting married was the better solution? Giles questioned sternly as he replaced his glasses on his nose. And what of the young woman? Does she know that you married her only to stay in the country? I- well, I yes. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Angel replied with a dismissive shrug. And yes, Buffy knows. You do realize that what youve done is illegal in the United States? Leaning on his crutches, Giles moved the short distance to the stove and turned on the gas beneath the teakettle to reheat the water. Yes. And yet, given your ambitions, you still thought that such an illegal action was better than enlisting the aid of an agency that owes you their assistance? Yes! Angel snapped heatedly, They owed me the truth but they werent forthcoming with any information when You and I both know they know more about what happened in Los Angeles than they ever said. Yes, well, while I may agree with you thats not what were discussing at the moment. Giles replied without turning away from the stove. He missed his sister and brother-in-law dearly; their deaths had never been adequately explained, but that was to be expected given Liams job. As the Director of Specialized Crimes for Interpol, he traveled often on risky assignments around the world. Kathleen refused to stay at home, so she often went where Liam went and over the years became an asset and alibi for him. For more mundane or routine cases, Liam and Kathleen would take their son with them; for riskier ones, Angel would be left with Giles. Shaking away his grief, Giles turned back to face his nephew. He felt responsible for how the boy had turned out since he had partially raised

him. He also worried as much as any parent worried about their childs health, their happiness, their future. Were discussing you and your marriage and therefore, your future. What did Cordelia tell you? That pleasant bit of fluff didnt happen to mention your marriage, though she had plenty to say about the closeness of your relationship. Sarcasm was evident in every word as Giles sat on a stool near the counter, his strength waning. Your wife called looking for you. Alarmed, Angel turned to stare at his uncle. Is she okay? Is something wrong? Giles studied his nephew for a moment, surprised at the obvious intensity of his concern. Was there more to it than Angel was letting on? Did he have feelings for his wife beyond their convenient marriage? Shes fine, I believe. And I have to say, rather patient and indulgent with a nosy old man. She didnt immediately tell me that you were married. Angel smiled faintly, thinking of Buffy dealing with his uncle who no doubt pestered her with questions until she confessed. He knew how persistent Giles could be. What did she say? Did she need something? He couldnt keep the anxiety out of his voice. The apparently unpleasant woman that works for the BCIS was by for a visit. It seems that even they know about your whoring about. With a frown he gestured toward the now almost whistling teakettle. Damn. Angel swore softly as he turned off the fire and lifted the kettle from the stove to pour the hot water into the teapot. How did they know that Cordelia was here? What did Buffy say? Was she upset? He asked with a worried frown. Did Buffy think that he brought Cordelia with him? Or that he called and asked her to come to Ireland? She didnt seem to be particularly upset, no. Giles surmised, replaying the conversation with Buffy in his mind. She had answered his questions politely but vaguely, and had only mentioned the other woman reluctantly. She did say that she needs the names of four of your friends for references by Friday. Maybe I should call her and make sure. Angel said anxiously, glancing at this watch and checking the time. He wanted to reassure her that Cordelia had not come with him; that he hadnt even called her. He was surprised himself when she had showed up tonight. Dr. Walsh the woman from the BCIS can be a pretty big pain in the ass. I hate that Buffy had to deal with her alone.

Your Buffy seems like a nice young lady Giles ventured, growing ever more curious now as he watched the play of emotions on his nephews face, his agitation obvious. She is. Angel replied absently, a faint smile curving his lips at the possessive pronoun. Unconsciously, he glanced over to the packages on the counter, the presents hed bought for her. Then why did you leave her in California and why is that-that overblown, arrogant floozy in my home and claiming to be the love of your life? Reaching over to the counter, Giles picked up the teapot and poured tea into the cup hed been drinking brandy from previously. What? His musing over Buffy interrupted, Angel turned back to his uncle. I didnt bring Cordelia here, she came on her own. Do you deny that you are involved with her? Sexually involved? Giles questioned sternly, his blue eyes landing on Angel with piecing intensity. I was young once you know, and Im far from blind, Liam. No, I dont deny anything. Angel replied with a heavy sigh. But Cordelia its not like that. Not anymore. I see. Does she know its not that anymore? And does she know youre married. Yes. Giles eyebrows quirked upward in question. No, Angel corrected at his uncles knowing look. She knows Im married, but He hadnt exactly ended things with Cordelia though he hadnt been in touch with her either. He had thought that their last conversation might have been enough, but apparently not. Regardless of the reasons for your marriage, Im disappointed that you would take your vows I presume they were typical wedding vows so cavalierly. Giles said disapprovingly. Leaning on the counter with both hands, Angel looked down. He wasnt sure what to say. He hadnt taken his wedding vows seriously; he hadnt mentioned his wife to his friends until he had to, he had slept with Cordelia after his marriage Liam? Angel looked up at his uncles face.

I dont suppose I have to tell you that Im disappointed. No. You dont. Angel replied, chagrined. He hated disappointing his uncle, the man that had been there for him during some of the best and worst moments of his life. Giles rarely chastised and never judged, he had always been understanding, supportive and usually encouraging; it made his disapproval now that much worse. Angel ran a hand through his hair in exasperation. He still had to deal with Cordelia. *** With his rumpled hair, striking green eyes and obviously toned body, he had sexual attraction written all over him, and Anya wanted him in the worst possible way. She hid her disappointment when he specifically requested a table in Buffys section, saying, with a roguish wink, that hed wait if he had to. Still, Anya wasnt just throwing in the towel just yet. Buffy was married while she was most definitely not. She smiled and flirted as she led him to his table, stopping just short of asking him for his phone number. Get me a name and phone number and I promise that I wont seat anyone that even remotely looks like a bad tipper in your section for at least a month. Buffy turned at the sound of Anyas voice and glanced at her friend. She looked over her shoulder as Anya pointed behind her, indicating the man in the charcoal grey shirt, black jacket and black pants. Three months if I get some naked one-on-one action out of it. Anya added, her eyes trained on the man seated across studying the menu. She was just short of drooling. And how do you suppose Im going to get that for you? Buffy asked with a grin, picking up the plates of food to deliver to one of her tables. Im sure you can think of something. The blonde hostess said with a toss of her hair. Surely you remember how to flirt. You havent been married that long. Speaking of which, when are you going to bring the husband down here? Im beginning to think you really are keeping him chained to the bed. Buffy laughed and shook her head. Anya had made no attempt to hide her curiosity about Buffys marriage from the minute she had spotted the wedding ring on the blonde waitress hand. Im sure youll meet him someday, Ahn. Right. It better be soon, or Ill think youre making him up. As Buffy headed out to the dining room, Anya called out commandingly, Married,

Buffy! Just remember that. With a smile still playing on her lips, Buffy dropped off the plates at her first table then moved along to the table where the man that they had been discussing sat. He was pretty close to gorgeous, Buffy thought as she pulled her pad of paper out of her pocket. She probably would be a little interested in him if if, she thought with a sigh, if everything was totally and completely different. If she wasnt married, if she had never seen Angel, if she had never met Angel, if she wasnt falling for her husband Hi. What can I get you? Buffy asked, pushing the muddled thoughts about her husband aside and focusing on her job. Ill have the tenderloin, rare, an Amstel Lite, and, Lindsey lowered the menu and met Buffys gaze directly, your phone number. The first two are no problem; the third is a no can do. Buffy returned smoothly, though she was flattered and a little surprised at such a direct approach. Darlin, you wound me. The handsome brown haired man countered with a smile as he held out the menu for her to take. I doubt that, Buffy said as she returned his smile hesitantly. So you think Im used to being turned down. Now that really hurts. Lindsey replied, refusing to release the menu from his grasp causing Buffy to tug on it ineffectively. At least tell me why youre turning me down without even giving me a shot at dinner and a movie. Im told I buy a mean dinner. Not to mention, Im willing to sit through even the most heinous French art film for the right girl. With a laugh, Buffy held up her left hand and showed him the silver band on her ring finger. Im married. But I do know someone that would be very interested in your offer. Ive known plenty of women to wear those just for show. Lindsey said half-jokingly, glancing only briefly at the ring before returning his gaze to her face. And Ive known more than a few who dont let a little thing like a ring get in the way of pleasure. He seemed to ignore her comment about a potential interest for him. Not me. The blonde waitress replied curtly, jerking the menu away from him and tucking it under her arm. If that was his attitude, then she didnt want to get his number for Anya. You sure about that, darlin? He asked with a playful wink, offering a somewhat apologetic smile.

The teasing tone in his voice was the only thing that kept Buffy from snapping at him angrily. Instead, she simply said, Yes, absolutely. Then Im real sorry to say I didnt meet you first. Lindsey said almost to himself, Buffy already walking away. *** He practically threw me out, Harm. Cordelia muttered angrily into her cell phone. She was in the back of a cab that was careening wildly along the streets of Paris in route to the Ritz Carleton hotel. And, get this He took me to a hotel in Dublin in a hideous old car. I mean, you should have seen this piece of junk. It was unreal. I dont know what kind of car. Just hideous. The brunette answered with exasperation as she extracted her lipstick from her purse and dotted the rose-pink shimmer on her lips. Well, so I went to his Uncles dank little house and had to wait there for like hours while Angel was out God only knows where. Let me tell you, making small talk with the uncle and aunt for more than 10 minutes? Bor-ring. These people have, like, lived in the same place all their lives and have done nothing. I mean, they hadnt even been skiing in the Alps or been to the film festival in Cannes, and they knew nothing about French couture Id bet my latest Jimmy Choos that theyve never even been to Harrods. Which, hello? You live in Europe people, get out of Ireland once in awhile and do something. Needless to say, their conversation skills? Limited. Cordelia listened quietly for a few minutes while Harmony offered sympathetic murmurs for her plight. Well, so when Angel finally showed up, he and his Uncle closed themselves in the smelly little kitchen for awhile to talk about I dont know what. Afterwards, Angel was acting all depressed and moping. He didnt act happy to see me or anything, just says that we have to go. Slowing, the cab stopped at a light and Cordelia glanced out the window to see where they were before turning her attention back to her conversation. Im thinking, finally! Were going to get out of there and get some alone time. I do have to say, Angel was looking pretty damn good in this white linen shirt and these jeans that were just so perfectly snug. Anyway, on the drive to the hotel he asks how I found out where he was. I told him that Buffy told me of course. I didnt mention how many hoops I had to go through with my Grandpapas P.I. firm to find his uncles address. Then, out of the blue, Angel says that he didnt want me there. Pausing, Cordelia held the phone away from her ear as Harmonys surprised exclamations could be heard loudly over the small device. Even

the cab driver glanced in his rear view mirror at the noise. I know! I mean, hello? I didnt want to be there either, but I went to show my support for him. Youd think he could stop thinking about himself for two minutes and consider what I went through to get there. Its not like I enjoy rustic, damp old houses and Irish cuisine. Honestly. The cab began moving again, turning left on the final leg of the trip to the hotel. Well, then so youre not going to believe this. He actually says that hes going to try to make things work with Buffy. Cordelia laughed, a shrill fake sound that reverberated through the small cab. Buffy! Can you believe that? Like that little mouse has anything to offer. I figured, hes stressed out and maybe his Uncle found out about the marriage and made him feel guilty or something. Swerving right, the cab driver pulled into the driveway in front of the Ritz Carleton and slammed on the breaks. Moving briskly, he got out and went around and opened the door for Cordelia. I give it a month, two tops, before Mr. Liam Angelus OConnor comes crawling back to me. And believe you me Im going to make him do some serious groveling after this. The brunette stepped out of the cab, shaking her jacket as the bellhop rushed forward to take her bags from the cab driver. Reaching in her purse, she extracted a handful of bills. In the meantime, I plan on making sure to show him exactly what it is hes missing. Every. Chance. I. Get. Which means, I need to make sure youve invited him to your pool party, okay? Pressing the money into the cab drivers hand, she walked up the steps to the hotel without a backward glance. She had no doubt that the bellhop would be following with her luggage. Why do I want him? Cordelia asked in response to Harmonys question as she entered through the glass door into the lobby. Well, for one, no one breaks up with Cordelia Chase. Second, because I just want him, Harm. Her voice changed to a distinct whine. I dont know maybe its some sort of addiction. The brunette laughed as she approached the marble counter. She was oblivious to the others in the hotel lobby listening to her conversation, I am so not a sex addict. Sliding her platinum American Express card across the counter, she smiled at the clerk and resumed her conversation. Shed already had her Grandfathers assistant make her reservations before she left Dublin. Right now Im going to my room to soak away some of the rustic smells in a hot tub. Tomorrow, Ill be exercising my plastic on the Rue du

Faubourg. I figure since Im here, I might as well make it worth my time before I head home. Besides, I could use a few more things to show off the wonder that is me and give Angel something to drool over. Cordelia smiled and signed the credit card receipt that the petite French woman had set on the counter. I can tell you one thing, Harmony, Angel OConnor is going to be very sorry that he broke up with me. Cordelia picked up her credit card and room key and turned on her heel toward the elevator. Oh, definitely. Buffy already knows that she cant have him, but Ill be sure to make that very clear to her when I get back. *** Buffy stared at the answering machine as the phone rang. Angel had called every day since she had left a message with his Uncle Giles, and every day she listened to his voice on the machine instead of answering, resolved to put a little bit of distance between them. Each day her resolve weakened a little more as she struggled with her own feelings. She missed their conversations, she missed hearing his voice, and after almost three weeks, she had to admit, she missed him. At night, when it was dark and she was alone in the apartment, she imagined Angel and Cordelia taking long drives through the beautiful Irish countryside, stopping to explore historic sites, beautiful castles and craggy, windswept beaches. She imagined them kissing and snuggling and spending nights at cozy romantic inns along the way. Even though Angel had encouraged her to take the bed while he was gone, something about sleeping in his bed felt a little too intimate, so instead, shed simply toss and turn on the couch until dawn. Other nights, shed turn on the light or the TV to chase away the images. Impulsively she reached out and snatched the phone from the cradle just as the machine began to pick up the call. Hello? Buffy? Angel breathed with relief. Hed been trying for days to reach her, but had only reached the machine each and every time he had called. Hed even called Wes to find out if Buffy was okay, worried after almost ten days of not being able to catch her at home. Finding out that she was fine but busy eased his fears somewhat, but he was still afraid that her unavailability was connected to her finding out that Cordelia had come to Ireland. Buffy, Im glad I caught you. Did you get my messages? Yes, I did. Buffy replied, suddenly wishing she hadnt picked up the phone. Her stomach was fluttering nervously. She felt as if they had suddenly gone back to being strangers. Clearing her throat slightly, she asked, How is your uncle?

Hes doing much better. Angel answered. He could hear the reserve in her voice, so unlike the warmth he had come to know and it frustrated him. Thats good, Im glad. Shifting the phone to her other ear, Buffy ran her finger along the counter near the phone. Im sorry I had to call, but I needed the information for Dragon Walsh. I wasnt going to tell your uncle, you know, about us- No, its fine. Angel interjected firmly, his voice soothing and warm. Im glad you called. You got all of the information you needed, right? He had left the names and numbers for Doyle, Wes, Gunn and their landlord, Lorne, the day after she had called needing the information. Yes. Thank you for leaving the message. She replied, trying to work up her courage to ask him about Cordelia and about their relationship, such as it was. Its not a problem. Im sorry you had to face her alone. Oh, no biggie. I mean, it was fine. Buffy hadnt even seen Maggie Walsh when she went to the BCIS office to drop off the list of references. Buffy is everything okay? He asked softly. He stood near the window, glancing out into Giles backyard. He wondered what Buffy would think of Ireland, of Giles and Jenny. The concern in his voice infused her with warmth and confusion. She paused and took a deep breath, collecting her thoughts only to lose her courage and instead say simply, Yes. Just fine. Buffy Angel ventured on a soft exhalation of air. He wasnt used to explaining himself and wasnt exactly sure how to start. I want you to know, Im not here with Cordelia. Yes, she was here, but not because I invited her. You dont have to explain anything to me, Angel. You know that. Buffy fought against succumbing so easily to his charm and to her tumultuous feelings. Wariness and practicality intervened, firming her wavering resolve. Just a business arrangement, she repeated in her thoughts. Your relationship with Cordelia is none of my business. I know, but I want you to know the truth. He declared firmly, taking a seat on the wooden bench near the window. He could hear the soft murmurs of Giles and Jenny talking quietly in the living room. I told Cordelia to go home. I didnt want her here. Oh. She replied with a touch of astonishment and a heady rush of pleasure. A squeal of delight bubbled under the surface, but she held it in. Still, she couldnt seem to form the questions in her mind about why

and when and give me all the details, how did she take it? Did saying we should talk about us sound too presumptuous? Or how exactly should she go about bringing up the topic? I miss you. Angel murmured softly. It was the first time he could remember ever saying those words to a woman, and certainly the only time he could remember meaning them. Overcome by surprise and the sudden racing of her heart, Buffy stammered a reply, I-I miss you too, Angel. She was overwhelmed, attracted and filled with trepidation. Buffy you and I should talk, but I dont want to but not over the phone. He said as he toyed with the silver ring he still wore on his left hand. My flight gets in around 9:30 Friday night. Can we get together then? Buffy let out a soft groan. Im sorry. I have to work. Were short staffed. Extra shifts. When then? You tell me. He questioned, glancing up as Jenny entered the kitchen. She smiled at him as she retrieved a plate of fruit from the refrigerator and returned to the front room. Well, Saturday How about breakfast? I know a great place. Sure. I mean, that sounds nice. They talked for a few more minutes before Buffy reluctantly said she had to go get ready for work. Only when the phone was securely in the cradle, did she let out the happy squeal that she had long been holding in. *** Buffy was still asleep when Angel got up. He crept quietly into the living room and stood arrested for a moment, her beauty more glorious than he remembered. Tired from the trip and slightly jet lagged, he had gone to bed before she had gotten off work. He eased down on the couch opposite her, content to watch her. Her skin was a rich golden hue against the white of the pillowcase, her hair in wild disarray around her face. One arm and shoulder were uncovered, the blanket tucked just above the steady rise and fall of her breasts with each breath. The delicate pink of her top gave her an almost ethereal appearance in the gray morning light, the sun just beginning to peek over the horizon. Hed missed seeing her last night, but this moment seemed to more than make up for it.

On the flight home he questioned his decision to further his relationship with his wife; after all, he hadnt wanted such an encumbrance at such a young age. However, with her slumbering so peacefully, so near his fingers flexed, an unconscious gesture of restraint, and he resisted the urge to touch her. Youre back, Buffy whispered softly, still half asleep. How was your trip? Fine. He smiled faintly at her closed eyes. Yawning and stretching, Buffy attempted to shake away the remnants of sleep. Glancing at him with a playful expression, she tugged the blanket up slightly. I know we said breakfast, but I didnt realize it was going to be at the crack of dawn. Im sorry. I didnt mean to wake you. He said apologetically and made to rise. No, no. Its okay. Buffy held out her hand to stop him. Coming to her feet, she wrapped the blankets around her modestly. She wasnt quite ready to stand in front of him in just a tiny tank top and shorts. Just give me a few minutes to shower and then, Im yours. Her cheeks turned pink as she realized how that sounded. With a small sound, almost a meep she rushed down the hallway. They made mundane small talk as Angel drove them to Stacks, a cozy but busy restaurant just a few blocks down from the beach. Angel was noticeably restless until after they were seated and the waiter took their order. Ive been thinking our situation He grimaced. That wasnt exactly the smoothest of starts. Yes? Buffy inquired, suddenly wondering if she had misinterpreted his signals. She sat stiffly, bracing herself for his next words. Ive been thinking about us. He amended softly before he stopped again and cursed under his breath. He ran one hand through his hair. Why was this so awkward? Changing his approach, he smiled, You look beautiful. And she did, he thought, in her pale yellow sundress. Thank you. Buffy returned his smile, reaching for her coffee and taking a sip. I want to start over, with you. Leaning forward, he reached for her hand. But I dont want to rush. I thought we could take things slowly,

see where they go. "You mean... date?" She said finally, her nerves on edge. "Yes. That is, if you want." Angel quietly replied, watching her closely in an attempt to discern her mood. "I know it's a little unusual, given our circumstances but..." I'd like that. Buffy cheerfully replied, smiling up into his eyes. Angel felt the tension he hadn't even been aware he had been holding in his body dissolve. Returning her smile, he squeezed her hand gently as his eyes held hers. Just as he leaned forward, the impulse to kiss her unchecked, the waiter arrived with their food. The moment passed and they both sat back in their chairs. Conversation flowed easily as they ate, their accord from weeks ago restored now that they were together again. Now, however, there was a heightened awareness between them, a noticable palpable attraction. And their thoughts on the future that bright summer morning were eerily similar... Heaven, or something quite near, might just be within reach. *** Buffy sat cross-legged on the floor, studying her notes as Angel put away the leftovers from their Chinese take-out dinner. The apartment was quiet, even the traffic outside unusually hushed for a Thursday evening. Since his return almost a week ago now, they had yet to reestablish any kind of routine. When Kennedy had quit almost a week ago, Snyder switched Buffys schedule for the next month, so she was once again working extra shifts until a replacement was hired. Summer classes were also winding down, bringing with them final exams and projects, so Buffy found her time pretty well constrained to work and studying. It was now almost midnight, and she had a dozen or so problems to finish tonight for her statistics class tomorrow. Angel sat down on the couch and picked up his book. He half-heartedly tried to read, but spent most of his time watching Buffys expression twist up in aggravation as she struggled over a problem. She sighed, muttered and then erased before repeating the actions several more times. With a small smile, he eased himself down on the floor next to her. Let me see? He asked softly, reaching for her notebook. Buffy studied him under her lashes, trying to quell the fluttering of her

stomach. Other than breakfast a few days ago, they hadnt been this close in weeks. Theyd both been so busy, she with work and school and Angel spending time with his advisor, preparing for the upcoming semester as well as making up for lost time on the study that he had been working on with Professor Johannsen before he had gone to Ireland. Leaning closer, Angel looked from her notes to the problem in the book on her lap. Buffy inhaled, breathing in the clean scent and faint woodsy smell that seemed to define Angel. He was so close, she could sense him; a hard, strong and very male potent force. Rarely had they been this close. Here. Angel pointed from her notes to the problem in the book. It looks like you just transposed the denominator here at the beginning. Oh. Buffy sighed in exasperation. It figures it would be something so mundane and stupid, one of those things that you look at a dozen times but still miss. Finishing the problem quickly, she waved her pencil in the air triumphantly, Done! Thank you. Turning slightly, she glanced up at Angels face. Their eyes locked and held. Buffy felt her lungs seize as her breath caught in her throat. His nearness provoked a surge of emotion within her. It was something more than nervousness, something more like anticipation. Or pleasure. With his gaze still on hers, Angel leaned closer. Buffys eyes dropped to his lips and her own lips parted as he moved steadily closer. When his lips touched hers, Buffys eyes closed completely, and she dropped the pencil she had been holding on the floor. Angel kissed her, his lips moving against hers firmly. Parting her lips, Buffy leaned into his kiss. Her book and notebook slid from her lap as her hands came up to rest with on his chest, her palms flat on the white cotton of his t-shirt. She inched closer, leaning into him slightly, encouraging him as their kiss deepened. The thought flitted through her brain that maybe this wasnt a good idea and she paused but the warmth of his tongue slipping into her mouth chased it away. This felt too good not to be good. Angel sensed her slight hesitancy, felt it himself in fact, but chose instead to ignore it. Placing his hands on her waist, he stroked gently with the long length of his fingers before closing his hands around her and lifting her so that she was all but lying atop him as he eased back against the couch. Buffy felt the muscles of his chest bunching and shifting beneath her

hand as his arms closed around her, drawing her to him. She felt surrounded by his strength and his heat, and she shivered. He felt her tiny tremble and his kiss grew deeper, ravenous and hungry. Buffy gasped and tried to draw back, but Angel lifted his hand and cupped the back of her head, tangling in her hair as he drew her steadily back into his kiss. Sighing softly into his mouth, she sank into him and gave up any attempt at rational thought. Content to follow where he led, she went willingly into the beckoning whirlpool of sensation. His hand slipped from her hair, the knowing caress of his fingertips moved over her throat, along the exposed skin above the neckline of her cotton tank top and then down the outer curve of one breast. His fingers traced and teased before returning to flirt with the bare flesh just along the edge of her top. With the unfulfilled ache of desire growing rapidly between them, Buffy murmured softly as she arched into his hand, the sound trapped between their lips. Encouraged by her subtle movement, his fingers returned to the swell of her breast and began to trace the curve again slowly. Again and again he touched her, his touch gradually firming while her skin grew increasingly warm and her nipple hardened. Finally, Angel curved his fingers and cupped the mound of flesh in his palm. Sensation whipped through her, the warmth melting through her, spreading and filling her. His wicked fingers flexed, tensed, squeezed. He closed his hand, kneading. This wasnt anything like the inexperienced groping she had experienced with Pike or Tyler. With her eyes still closed and her mouth locked on his, she was captured in the drugging sensuality of the slow deep kiss. Nerves she didnt even know she possessed leapt into life. Pure pleasure washed over her as his thumb brushed over the now taut peak of her nipple, the heat and fire building through her along with an ache that he seemed to evoke and alternatively appease. It was almost a revelation that anything could feel so good, yet she knew there was more. Within seconds, she knew that she wanted to find out exactly what more there was. Angel broke off their kiss only to brush his lips along her jaw to her ear. He was beyond thought; instead he only wanted to take what he had been craving for what seemed like months now. His attention, his senses were entirely focused on the woman in his arms, the tempting promise of the supple body beneath his hands. Hed had many women but this one... Buffy was special. Perhaps it was because he had considered her a forbidden delight for so long. Perhaps there was something else to it but he found himself wanting to savor

her, and at the same time he wanted to satisfy every wicked dream he had ever had about her, thoroughly and completely. He moved lower, planting open-mouthed kisses along the soft smooth column of her throat. He could feel her soft, warm breath on his hair, along his ear, caressing his skin with a sweet rush of temptation. Pressing his lips to the base of her throat he could feel the erratic beat of her pulse beneath his lips, urging him on as did the small hands clutching at his shoulders, caressing him through the soft cotton of his shirt. Her nails raked his skin through the material, spurring his desire and need to feel her hands on his bare skin, to feel her bare skin. Her breasts were full and firm, the nipples hard and straining beneath the cotton of her tank style top. It was a simple matter to slip the straps from her shoulders, and tug the material down slowly. A shift of position and he was cupping her naked breasts were in his palms. Buffy gasped at the feel of his hands on her bare skin. Her eyes lashes fluttered, but didnt open. Returning his lips to hers, Angel smiled against her mouth as she kissed him hungrily. Her tongue slipped into his mouth to explore and taste him as his hands played, familiarizing himself with her body. He found the taut peaks of her nipples and tweaked them gently then slowly squeezed. Buffy gasped again, breaking their kiss and lifting her head, searching for breath. He kissed her neck, trailing his lips down over her collarbone and savoring the soft skin as continued a path lower to the upper curve of her breasts. Shifting her slightly in his arms, he pulled her higher to her knees so she was straddling him, her knees on the floor on either side of his hips. When the heat of his mouth touched her nipple, she stilled, waiting. He licked gently, then took the taut peak into his mouth, his tongue curling around it teasingly. Buffy quivered as he laved her pebbled nipple with his tongue. His hand skimmed her waist and hip, moving around to cup her bottom. A low sound of pleasure escaped Buffys lips as he continued the pleasurable torment. He licked and then sucked, glancing up at her face from beneath his lashes to gauge her reaction. Her breath caught in her throat as he suckled harder, her hand slipping from his chest to his nape, holding him to her as her head dropped down to rest against the softness of his hair. He steadied her with his hands, as he moved between her spiked coral nipples lavishing them equally with his attention. He glanced up to catch a glimpse of her green gaze beneath half-closed eyes; she was watching him. His other hand moved to the waistband of her sweats, skimming the skin of her narrow waist. Leaning his head back, he looked up at her. Tugging

at her waist, he urged her down, settling her on his lap. Feeling the hard bulge of his erection beneath her, Buffy eased down tentatively at first, uncertain. Reaching up to grasp a strand of her hair, Angel tugged her face closer. Buffy leaned forward and kissed him, sinking down firmly. Instinctively, she moved her hips, rocking slowly at first then with flagrant invitation. Outside a car alarm went off. Their kiss slowed, stopped. Buffy drew back reluctantly as the alarm continued loudly. Lying beneath her, staring into her trusting face, Angel was suddenly reminded of his words the other day at breakfast about taking things slowly. He didnt want to rush into physical intimacy with his wife, no matter how beautiful and desirable she was. He knew she was innocent. Moving too fast too soon would only complicate things. He circled the aureole of one nipple with his thumb. With a resigned sigh, he tugged her top up and covered her beautiful breasts. Buffy, maybe we shouldnt Angel ran a hand through his hair. Was he honestly thinking about taking things slowly? Because right now, that was the last thing on his mind. He was resisting the urge to carry her into the bedroom and spent the next few hours, hell days, acquainting himself with her beautiful body. Oh, you dont Buffys face flamed in embarrassment. Had she been too forward? He did say he wanted to take things slowly She scrambled off his lap. No I do I just dont think- We should. She finished for him, gathering her books together in a jerky nervous gesture and rising to her feet. I get it. You know, youre right. We shouldnt. Do. Stuff. Stuff like that. Um. You know, Im going to take a shower. Not a cold shower. Just a shower shower. Buffy amended without turning around. She was mortified. Here he had said he wanted to take things slowly and the first thing she did was throw herself in his lap and practically give him a lap dance. What did he think of her now? Angel watched her hurry away on stiff legs. When the door to the bathroom closed, he cursed softly. He rushed her exactly what he said he didnt want to do and now she probably didnt want to have anything to do with him. Maybe he should give her some space for a few days, then start over.

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