Author’s Notes: This is AU. Buffy and Angel continue getting to know each other – much to Cordelia’s displeasure.
Okay, the salad sound strange but we have it often. It’s 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.
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: Nov 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 hadn’t 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 mother’s death…
“Don’t 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 you’d be back in a second, but that-”
“Buffy.” Cordelia said with displeasure, her arms crossed over her chest. Nothing about Buffy’s 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 Choo’s. She looked like she could have stepped right off the pages of a fashion magazine. Buffy felt a little self-conscious 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. “Didn’t he get my message that I would be back today?”
“He just went down to the grocery store. He’ll be back soon I’m 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 blonde’s 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 you’ve 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, “I’d hate for you to think that you might share Angel’s bed.”
“No, Cordelia.” Buffy said calmly, ignoring the butterflies that fluttered in her stomach at the suggestion. “I don’t 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 she’d 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 don’t have any interest in a gorgeous hunk of man like Angel? C’mon, Buffy, even I’m not that stupid.”
Buffy’s eyes twinkled with humor as she thought about the possible replies to Cordelia’s 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, let’s make sure that we keep that little fact straight.” Cordelia sat down and settled comfortably on couch indicating clearly that she wasn’t planning on leaving any time soon. Pointing toward the table, she asked, “So what’s 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.”
“I’m not pretending, Cordelia. I am married to Angel, your boyfriend.” Returning Cordelia’s 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. It’s 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 didn’t 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. I’ll have dinner with you Monday night. I’m staying with a friend this weekend. Yes, all weekend. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
The brunette’s voice carried into the kitchen and Buffy felt her stomach churn anxiously. She wasn’t sure she’d 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 woman’s 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.” Cordelia’s voice interrupted Buffy’s musing and she whirled around to see the brunette standing once more in the kitchen doorway. “Because I’m pretty sure I made this clear to you weeks ago – Angel is off limits. Married to you or not, he’s 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, it’s 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. That’s 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? That’s 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?”
“I’m not moving out. At least not yet.” Buffy twisted the towel in her hands absently. She didn’t really expect Cordelia to leave, but it’d be nice to stop with the twenty questions. Why couldn’t 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?”
“It’s 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 couldn’t 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?
“I’m sure it is.” Cordelia muttered sarcastically, her features twisted into a frown. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can prolong this and somehow get Angel’s attention. He’s 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 didn’t 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 Buffy’s 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 it’s the only closet space.” Reaching for her gym bag, Buffy neatly placed her sweats and sneakers on the bottom, along with a t-shirt. 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 doesn’t. He just thinks that he’s outgrown his pink sweaters and black mini-skirts but he refuses to buy a larger size insisting that someday he’ll lose all that weight.” Buffy answered mockingly with a roll of her eyes. She moved to the bureau to collect her undergarments. “He’s 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. I’m sure you’ve seen them before.” The blonde replied with a smirk, glancing briefly at the object in question. It was one of the Polaroid’s 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 façade 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. He’s the one that put it there.” Buffy retorted as she spun on her heel and left the room. “And while you’re at it, be sure and tell him that you’re 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 Lynardi’s…” 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 we’d need some time after my weeks in New York. Now come here baby, and welcome me back.”
Other than two brief phone conversations, Angel hadn’t talked to the brunette in almost three weeks. The dozen or so phone messages she had left didn’t exactly count, since they weren’t 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, you’re just going to love them. Calvin, Ralph, Stella, Burberry, even a fab Dolce and Gabbana skirt that you’re going love. Oh, and you’re going to die when you see my new lingerie – it’s Italian. I’ll put on a fashion show exclusively for you. You can be my assistant and help me out of my outfits. Of course, I’ll 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. You’re back.” Buffy greeted as she approached the pair standing just inside the apartment entrance. She was slightly surprised that Angel had returned since she hadn’t 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. I’m 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.
“There’s the salad I made and some bread on the table. Help yourself to the food so that at least it’s 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 I’d stay over with Willow tonight. Oz is gone and she gets kinda wiggy being there alone. I’ll be back tomorrow around noon. If that’s too early, let me know – okay? Willow’s 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 you’re not being completely honest with me? And what’s this with suddenly having to work? I’ve 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 wasn’t completely honest, but it doesn’t really matter. I don’t have to be at work early, but I figured that you would want the extra alone time with Cordelia. She’s been gone and all and is expecting your undivided attention.”
“So? Cordelia doesn’t 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.”
“I’d 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 wasn’t going to get what she wanted. Sighing softly, she glanced over at elderly couple watching them openly from their seat just inside Dublin’s pub. “Look, Angel, it’s okay. I have some things to do anyway and this will give you an afternoon free of me.”
“Maybe I didn’t 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.
Buffy’s 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) Angel’s girlfriend was in the apartment upstairs, b) theirs was a business arrangement only and c) it couldn’t 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 wasn’t successful in her attempt to prosecute them and deport Angel.
“Well, that’s probably a good thing then since I don’t 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. I’ll 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.
“Is she gone?” The brunette was nude, sprawled across his bed.
“This isn’t 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 didn’t think you’d 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 Buffy’s home now and I don’t want her to be uncomfortable here.”
“Oh, and just what did the little missy have to say about me?” The brunette’s 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 didn’t say anything.” Angel’s eyebrow lifted skeptically. He was now alerted to the fact that Cordelia had obviously said something to Buffy that she didn’t want him to find out about. What he wasn’t sure, but he’d see if he could find out from Buffy later. He was also certain that Buffy and Cordelia weren’t friends, as the tall brunette had claimed. Another subject he’d have to take up with Buffy later. Crossing his arms over his chest, he leaned a shoulder against the door frame.
“Sure, she didn’t.” 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. I’m 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 can’t 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 it’s 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. You’re going to have to be convincing that my marriage to Buffy is the real deal. That means no stories about you and me. We’re friends, that’s all.”
“I understand, I do. I’m 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 boyfriend’s 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. Didn’t you miss me? Even a little bit?” She purred, pressing against him.
“You can’t 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.
“I’m serious, Cordelia. The woman from the BCIS is already suspicious.” Angel leaned back, away from her as she continued forward. “I don’t 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 didn’t object to the attractive nude figure pressed close to his. He’d been in a near constant state of arousal for days, due to his interest in his roommate. And other than a few self-gratification 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 O’Connor and Buffy Anne Summers was a fraud perpetrated with the intent to allow Liam O’Connor 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 Angel’s marriage license that Ethan’s 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’ O’Connor.
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 wasn’t typical for a former girlfriend to serve as a witness to her boyfriend’s 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 Cordelia’s room and a review of her checkbook; there he found an entry for a $20,000 check written to “Buffy Summers”, coincidentally Liam Angelus O’Connor’s 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 granddaughter’s 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 man’s 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 man’s 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 ne’er 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, she’d eventually forget about this Angel. And if she didn’t, he had other, less palatable ways of taking care of the problem that he wouldn’t 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 he’d make sure that Dr. Walsh understood that Cordelia was not to be implicated in any way in the young man’s 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 O’Connor. And if greed didn’t 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 how’s married life?” Oz asked as he sat down at the table across from Buffy. He and Willow met her at Estrelita’s, 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.
“It’s 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?”
“He’s 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 café.
“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 he’s 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 it’s nothing like that. He’s… 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 Angel’s apartment because the BCIS – that’s 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 didn’t 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 Angel’s green card. She wants to have us prosecuted for fraud or something and, of course, Angel will be deported. So maybe I’ll 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 don’t 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 she’s 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 I’m going to go to jail.”
“Oh no. You know I-I can’t do that. Lie that is. I’m not a liar.” Willow squeaked nervously glancing between her best friend and her boyfriend. “Not that I don’t want to for you, but… I’m terrible at it.”
“If I had any other choice, I would never ask you. And maybe she won’t even call you – it’s not like I’ll give out your name if I don’t have to. She didn’t 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 won’t ask too much – or maybe you can say I’m so busy with Angel that you haven’t seen me or something – if she asks for details. I’m 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 girlfriend’s shoulder to sooth her agitation. “If we just stick to simple answers, we should be able to pull it off.”
“Sure. Yeah. We’ll 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. It’s not you. It’s me. And lying. And the pressure of being convincing while lying. But I’ll do it. I’m sure I can do it. Hey, I’ll even practice. Ask me a question now and I’ll – I’ll 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 Oz’s 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.
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 wasn’t entirely certain himself why he had been so pleased to see Buffy’s 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 wouldn’t be parked near the apartment unless she was planning on coming back there tonight.
“Really? I didn’t see you.” Buffy questioned skeptically, adjusting her bag on her shoulder. She was far from displeased to see him, but she didn’t a clue why he was there. With no small measure of relief, she wondered if Cordelia had gone home. She wasn’t 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 wasn’t like he really missed her, he just… wanted to see her? He didn’t 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 you’d 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, it’s nice.” She mentally chastised herself for the blunt questions; she hadn’t 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 wasn’t about to ask.
“It was fine.” Angel replied, pausing to peer across the street intently at the black Mercedes CLK parked along the curb. He’d seen the car several times in the neighborhood but couldn’t remember having ever seen the owner, which seemed a little unusual now that he thought about it. “Yours? How’s 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 he’s good. Even though he’s gone, he’s 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. She’d done it several times during their getting to know you meetings when they were on a topic she wasn’t entirely comfortable with. He also suspected that she wasn’t 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, don’t 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 aren’t 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 don’t work Thursdays.”
“Yes. Sure. I mean, that’d 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 I’m 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 he- could 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 Angel’s 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 Angel’s face. “What’s wrong?”
“My Uncle… he’s 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 don’t know, Harm. Ever since he married little miss Buffy he’s 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 it’s 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 don’t think they’re… you know.”
“No. At least I don’t think so. But then, he’s not doing it with me either and hasn’t in a few weeks.” Cordelia mumbled petulantly, flicking at a small leaf on the arm of the chair.
“No!” Harmony’s 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 don’t believe you!”
“It’s 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. That’s like- like… going to Fred Segal and not buying. You just don’t!”
“Well, Angel did. Er, didn’t. Whichever one means I didn’t 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, he’s really hung up over the whole thing with the BCIS. He said that they could stop by at any time and he didn’t want to risk it.” Still stung by his words that he also didn’t 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 can’t even get it up when they’re all stressed out. It happens to Spike sometimes.”
“You think?” The brunette glanced away. No, that hadn’t been Angel’s issue, she’d felt evidence to the contrary. He just hadn’t wanted to…
“Totally. I mean, just look at you. What guy doesn’t 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 they’re either seriously deranged or just… something else that’s 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. She’s 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 don’t you go there and console him?”
“Hm?” Cocking her head slightly, Cordelia glanced at her friend with sudden interest.
“It’s a perfect solution. You’d get some quality alone time with him and he’d be all impressed that you went to see how he’s doing. It’s another country, and I’m sure they don’t have those BICS or whatever people there so you’d 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.”
“That’s a great idea, Harm!” Cordelia sat up, smiling brightly. “Besides what else do I have to do right now?”