Author’s Notes: This is AU. Buffy and Angel’s “marriage of convenience” gets some scrutiny by the BCIS, resulting in a change in living arrangements in order to make sure their marriage is convincing.
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.
Rating: Adult; explicit sex
Disclaimer: Own nothing. All belongs to Joss, ME, Fox, et.al.
Pairing: Initially C/A, ultimately B/A
Distribution: My site, EverySixSeconds; sites currently with permission to host my fics; all others please ask.
Originally posted: Oct 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.
“It’s 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 I’m 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 O’Connor?”
“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.
“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. I’m 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. He’d 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 Cordelia’s 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. O’Connor?” 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.
“Yes. Buffy Anne Summers. That is her name, is it not?” Still writing, the BCIS official didn’t even both to look up.
“She’s at…” Angel paused, realizing that he didn’t actually know where his wife was at that moment. He never saw her at school, he didn’t know where she worked – if she worked – and other than the partial address he had glimpsed on her drivers license, he didn’t 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 don’t have to tell you, Mr. O’Connor,” 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 friend’s name?”
Angel paused. Cordelia could be flighty and unpredictable. He wasn’t at all sure that he wanted her talking with the BCIS on anything even remotely related to his case. But he also wasn’t 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 I’m not certain she’s too happy with how things worked out.”
Dr. Walsh jotted something – presumably Cordelia’s name – in her notebook and snapped it shut.
“Let me be straight with you, Mr. O’Connor, 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 don’t 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.”
“We’ve 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 wouldn’t 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, I’m 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. That’s 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 couldn’t 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 it’s my understanding that classes complete this week at the university, I’ll 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. O’Connor.”
“Two weeks should be fine.” That’s anything but fine, Angel thought as he smiled at the woman and took the business card that she offered him.
“That’s 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. O’Connor? Mrs. O’Connor?” 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. O’Connor or be Mrs. O’Connor?” 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. “That’s one chick that is not worth the baggage that she brings with her. That’s all I’m sayin’.”
Gunn had never hidden his dislike for the brunette from the others; Wesley tended to agree with Gunn, claiming that beauty didn’t excuse character flaws. On the other hand, Doyle, the other member of their usual foursome, seemed to understand Angel’s interest in the self-centered 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 didn’t 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 wasn’t 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, what’s 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 doesn’t know about her, or so it would seem.”
“She doesn’t.” Angel answered with a heavy sigh, taking the beer from Wesley’s hand. He took a long drink then set the bottle on the counter. “She’s 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 Cordelia’s number.
Buffy sighed tiredly as she gathered her things and prepared to leave Patina, the restaurant now closed for the evening. Tonight’s shift hadn’t 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 hadn’t 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 she’d 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 wasn’t 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 didn’t bring him up…
The sound of her name broke into her thoughts, interrupting her musing and she glanced up.
“Cordelia. Hi.” Buffy greeted, hiding her surprise. She hadn’t 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 Buffy’s 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 Angel’s 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 Cordelia’s confidence.
“What did you say?” The petite blonde questioned, doubting her hearing. They’d been through this already, hadn’t 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. “I’m sure I didn’t stutter.”
Suppressing her own growing annoyance, Buffy replied firmly. “When I agreed to this you said that I wouldn’t 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 it’s not really that hard to understand. The BCIS can deport Angel, and they’re 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 Angel’s apartment, like now, since they’ve 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. It’s probably just for a couple of months.”
“I don’t know… I don’t 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, you’re going to go to jail too. Complicity or something. You’re part of the whole illegal thing. Which makes sense really.” Cordelia shrugged her shoulders, her expression almost innocent. She completely ignored Buffy’s 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 couldn’t 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 Angel’s 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 brunette’s statements with growing horror. She couldn’t afford any legal action – either in actual financial cost or time off school or work. At the same time she wondered why Angel wasn’t there to tell her – or ask her perhaps – himself.
“So where is Angel? Why didn’t he come to tell me about this himself?” The words slipped out of her mouth before she could stop them.
“He’s 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 Buffy’s number. She demurred, telling him instead that she’d 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 didn’t give her any additional incentive to be accommodating; she really wasn’t comfortable with the idea of moving in with him… “I don’t know. I’m not comfortable with this…”
“This is really, really hard for me, you know. I don’t 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 hadn’t considered the brunette’s 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.
“I’m sorry.” The petite blonde replied politely, not entirely convinced.
“Yes, well, I had hoped to someday have a future with Angel but that’s probably not going to happen – at least not now.” The brunette’s eyes welled with tears. “I’m sure he’ll 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 I’ll 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 can’t study that there.”
“They don’t 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 wouldn’t 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 wasn’t 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 it’s 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 doesn’t really give me the impression that he thinks it’s important.” Buffy mused sardonically.
“I don’t know why you have to make this so hard, Buffy.” The brunette gritted her teeth in exasperation. She honestly thought she’d have the opposite problem – the blonde eager to move in and get intimately acquainted with Angel. “It’s no different than having a roommate, except that it’s a he instead of a she. It’s not like you’ll be sleeping with him or anything. Besides, think of the additional money that you’ll save on rent.”
“To be honest Buffy, I don’t like this any better than you do. You don’t 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. I’m going out of my way to help you both – I can’t believe you’d be so ungrateful. It’s not like I want to see you arrested either, but if you don’t do this I don’t think there’s anything else that I can do. I’ll 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. I’ll 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 wouldn’t 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. “I’ll tell Angel this weekend then.”
“Wait a minute! I have to tell my landlady – who isn’t going to be thrilled about the short notice. I’m lucky I’m 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. Here’s 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 Oz’s 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 couldn’t believe that she had actually agreed to move in with Angel. Liam Angelus O’Connor. 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 Patina’s 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 Oz’s 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 “Dublin’s Pub”. That’s 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 wasn’t every day that you just showed up at a strange man’s 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 Angel’s back.
“I thought you were going to call on Friday.” Angel said flatly, his eyes returning to Buffy’s 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 wasn’t just another guy wanting her number. He needed to talk to her. When she hadn’t 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. She’d 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 hadn’t 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 she’d arranged to move today. As far as she was concerned, she had given sufficient notice.
“Well, I don’t know how I would have called Friday since I didn’t 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 wasn’t her fault if he was too busy with his girlfriend to pick up his calls. Given that he couldn’t 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, “I’m 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 woman’s boyfriend. Willow had been shocked while Oz took the news with his usual stoic calm.
“No, it’s not. It’s fine. I just – I wasn’t 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 hadn’t been exactly truthful with him about her conversation with Buffy. It also explained her sudden appearance at his apartment this afternoon; it wasn’t 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. He’d have to have a conversation with Cordelia about this later.
He turned his attention back to Buffy. “I’m sorry. I didn’t 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 Buffy’s hand. “Here, let’s 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 don’t I just put my things over there, out of the way? Then I can sort through them and we can see what… if anything… won’t 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.
“That’s fine. Can I help?” He replied after a deep exhalation of air. He couldn’t 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 we’d meet them for drinks at the Country Club in about an hour. After I thought we could head over to Harm’s for a little… private party of our own.”
“I’ll just go… We’ll just… I’m 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 Oz’s 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.
“It’ll be fine, Will. Besides, I don’t see that I have much of choice at this point. I can’t 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 Oz’s; 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.
“I’m 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 didn’t seem happy.” Oz said in his typical expressionless voice. It was quite an understatement given the brunette’s 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 hadn’t 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 Buffy’s 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 mother’s house, across from Angel’s. 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 didn’t talk much as they carried box after box up the stairs. No one asked about Cordelia and Angel didn’t 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 wasn’t 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 she’d 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 wasn’t 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, that’s 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 Oz’s, but there’s really no place for them.” Her eyes darted to his as she quickly amended, “But that’s fine. It’s 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 didn’t think you’d mind.” He added with a teasing smile.
“Oh, you didn’t 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 she’d take the couch.
“You need a place to put your clothes – you can’t just live out of boxes. And this place… well, I liked the view and openness, but it’s admittedly lacking on storage space.” His warm gaze met hers and he smiled.
“Thank you.” Buffy replied as she came to her feet. “I’ll just… put some things away then, if you don’t 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, I’ll 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. I’ll be back in a couple of hours.” She said as she shrugged into her jacket.
Angel looked up, surprised that she’d 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 wasn’t spending the night. He came to his feet and retrieved something from the fireplace mantle.
“Here.” He pressed the key into her hand. “You’ll need this.” Reminding himself that her life wasn’t 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 she’d 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. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“Oh no.” Kicking off her shoes, Buffy sat down cross legged on the couch. “I couldn’t. Really. It’s your bed and… No.”
“I don’t mind.” Angel countered firmly, “In fact I insist. It’s the least I can do since we don’t have enough room for your bed.”
“Well, I mind.” Buffy insisted, her tone adamant. “And I really like this couch. It’s super comfy. Really. Besides, you’re too little tall anyway. You’d be cramped and uncomfortable.”
“But nothing. It’s fine. End. Of. Discussion.” She replied firmly. “But, if you don’t mind…” She glanced meaningful in the direction of the bedroom, “I’m tired. It’s been a long day.”
“I don’t-” He stopped, the look on her face cutting him off abruptly. He stood, unhappy to be capitulating.
“Good night, Angel.”