A Convenient Marriage, Part 8

Buffy and Angel get closer in their arrangement.

Author’s Notes: This is AU.The song is “I Belong To You” by Lenny Kravitz.  It’s on Lenny’s “Greatest Hits” (2000) as well as “5” (1998).

The Rangers refer to the Carrick Rangers, an Irish soccer team. For more info: Carrick Rangers.

Recipe: Angel hair pasta with peas, prosciutto, and lemon (though it’s not specifically used, that’s what Angel was cooking).

Yep, there’s a real “Doug Flutie”; he’s a quarterback for the San Diego Chargers. “Principal” didn’t work as a first name, so I used ‘Doug’ – but think Principal Flutie from BtVS s1, not quarterback Doug Flutie. *g*

Big thanks to LJ and Copper.

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: Jan 12, 2004


Buffy kept busy on Sunday with household chores and various errands, eager to distract herself from the tempting thoughts of her husband, and his wickedly enticing kisses from last night, before she did something that might embarrass them both. When she left for her shift at Patina, Angel kissed her goodbye, a sweet, tender kiss that filled her with an inviting warmth and tempted her to call in sick.

Despite the relative slowness of the Sunday evening shift, the night seemed to fly by. Buffy’s good mood was infectious to both her coworkers and customers, and the atmosphere of the restaurant was filled with a rare jovial camaraderie. Snyder’s absence no doubt contributed to the mood, making it a much more pleasant place to work than it normally seemed to be.

Monday morning found Buffy on edge, restless. She was grateful for her kickboxing class, which got her out of the apartment early and gave her a way to vent some of her nervous energy, but by mid-afternoon a heightened sense of anxious anticipation had returned.  She listened to the radio and sipped iced tea as she dug through the closet, sorting through her clothes and trying to decide what to wear tonight. It was one thing to think about a date with Angel in theory, but another to actually prepare for the reality. Holding a burgundy slip-style dress in front of her, she studied her reflection in the mirror. Wrinkling her nose slightly, she exchanged it for a dark blue halter-style dress and once more returned to the mirror to scrutinize her reflection.

She was glad that Angel had gone out with Doyle earlier and said he wouldn’t be back until almost time for them to go. It was hard enough to get ready without having him nearby, particularly when she planned to occupy their only bathroom for most of the afternoon showering, shaving, and moisturizing in addition to all of the other things that went into preparing for a really important date.

After several more minutes of deliberation, she smiled and hung the dark blue dress on the closet door. Now, which shoes?

Doyle, breathing heavily, slowed and finally came to a stop, resting his hands on his thighs. He watched as Angel continued to run at a grueling pace around the track surrounding the UC Sunnydale football field. They’d often worked out together, but today Angel was setting so punishing a pace that Doyle wondered exactly what had set off whatever it was that seemed to be driving his long-time friend.  They’d already spent almost an hour lifting weights in the gym before they headed, against Doyle’s protests, outside in the hot afternoon sun to the track.

Angel pushed himself harder, almost sprinting when he hit the straightaway on the opposite side of the field. After another two laps at nearly the same speed, he reduced his speed to a jog and did one final lap to cool down before he finally slowed to a walk and made his way to where Doyle now sat on the bleachers alongside the field.

“You want to talk about it?” Doyle asked with his characteristic straightforwardness. There was never any need for pretext between the two men, something that obviously added to their long standing friendship.

“Nothing to talk about,” Angel replied, reaching in his bag to retrieve a towel and a bottle of water.

“You sure about that?” Doyle asked, leaning back on his elbows and squinting at the two women in the distance that had just entered the field and were making their way around the track before he returned his gaze to Angel speculatively. “Because it looked to me like you were running like the hounds of hell were chasing you. I’d say you’re trying to get you mind off something… or, should I say, someone.”

Angel drank over half the bottle of water before spraying his face liberally with the rest of it to cool off. He wiped his face again before he glanced back at Doyle intently and shook his head.

“Well I’m done for,” Doyle said after a minute, picking up his bag and rising to his feet, “If you want to get your mind off your lovely wife by wearing yourself out in yet another grueling sport, count me out. It’s bad enough that you got me up at the crack of dawn and drug me down here as it is.”

“It was after nine.”

“As I was saying, the crack of dawn.” Doyle returned with a grin as the two of them made their way toward the locker room. “So, the Rangers play tonight. Dublin’s is carrying a delayed broadcast of the game. Meet there around seven? I need a pint or two of fortification before the game starts. More if they’re going to play like they did last time.”


Doyle turned and glanced at Angel, his gaze incredulous. “Tell me you’re kidding.”

“I’m taking Buffy out tonight.” Angel replied calmly as he opened the door and stepped into the cool hallway.

The explanation did nothing to diminish Doyle’s astonishment. Continuing to stare at Angel with wide eyes, he said, “We’re talking about the Rangers and Portstewart. They lost to those bastards last time. She’s your wife already, man, you’re past the need to impress, not to mention the small fact that you can and do see her any and all the time. Wait, let me guess. You had your first newlywed fight, and now you’re trying to make amends.”

“No, nothing like that.” Angel dropped his bag on the bench behind him and reached for the locker combination. “And I’m still taking her out to dinner.”

“You’re kidding right?”

“Nope.” Angel removed his watch and placed it on the top shelf of his locker. “Made reservations at Ginza Shushiko.” He shrugged, kicking off his shoes. “She likes sushi.”

“Argh, tell me it isn’t so! Tell me she doesn’t have you whipped.”

“No, we haven’t got to anything quite that interesting,” with a small chuckle, Angel added, “yet.”

Doyle let out a short bark of laughter. “Don’t tell me. No, wait, on second thought, tell me. I want details. You can start by telling me what she looks like naked.”

Angel shook his head, but returned Doyle’s grin with a smug grin of his own. “I don’t think so. Besides,” he continued reprovingly, “we’re talking about my wife. Not just some girl.”

Doyle shook his head and whistled softly, “She must be damn good. When’s the last time you missed a Rangers’ game – one that there was a chance of actually seeing that is. Not many are broadcast here in good old Sunnydale.”

“I’ve missed a game before, Doyle, and you know it.” Pulling his sweat soaked t-shirt over his head, Angel stuffed it in the bottom of his locker. He stripped off his shorts and threw them on the bottom shelf along with his other dirty clothes.

“Oh, now I get it.” Doyle exclaimed, slapping himself on the forehead as he sat down to take off his own shoes. Marriage, or even long term relationships, brought with them a certain adjustment of schedules, one of which was the accommodation to a woman’s monthly cycle. Angel’s attempt to wear himself to exhaustion must be because of an excess of pent up sexual energy due to such a conciliation. Now his behavior at least made some sort of sense.

“Get what?” Angel questioned, one eyebrow lifting skeptically as he glanced over his shoulder. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he closed the metal door of the locker.

“You’re in love, but more importantly, you’ll be getting laid.” Doyle grinned as he tossed his clothes into his locker and slammed it shut. He slung his towel over his hips and started walking toward the shower. “Even I’d give up a soccer game for that, especially after a week of abstinence and doubly so when the woman is as hot as your wife.”

“It’s not what you think,” Angel answered brusquely, automatically. He stopped short, regarding his friend carefully. He wasn’t in love. Nor, he reminded himself on a deep exhalation of breath, was he getting laid.  Maybe not tonight, a little devil in his head suggested, but there were plenty of other Buffy delights yet to be tasted that would make any waiting for the actual act worthwhile.

“Uh huh.” Doyle replied dubiously, making a right and crossing into the tile covered shower area. He tossed his own towel on a hook near the first shower. “Then you want to explain it to me? Because I can’t think of anything else that makes any kind of sense.”

“No.” Angel returned flatly, walking to the shower stall on the far end and turning on the water, effectively shutting out any of Doyle’s reply and any further commentary until almost an hour later when they climbed into Angel’s GTX for the ride home.

“First you, then next I’m sure wedding bells are going to ring for Gunn. I hope this isn’t catching.” Doyle said seriously, leaning down to look through the open passenger window as he closed the car door behind him. Despite the prodding and teasing on the drive, he hadn’t been able to get Angel to say anything more about either his wife or his evening plans.

“I think you’re safe.” Angel said with a faint smile, glancing at his friend then in the rear view window. “Have a drink for me.”

“Dru will miss you.” Doyle answered with a wink, thinking of the attractive brunette that waited tables at Dublin’s Pub and seemed overly interested in Angel. There was no question that the service was better when Angel was with the group. “But I’ll break the news to her that you’ve gone and fallen in love and got married.”

“That works.” Angel returned absently, glancing at his watch. He had almost an hour and a half before the agreed upon time for his date with Buffy. Enough time to run an errand before going home to change.

Watching as Angel drove away, Doyle shook his head slightly. Knowing Angel as well as he did, Doyle was well aware that his long-time friend had never considered marriage seriously before the highly secretive and rushed wedding – so alarm bells had sounded in his mind immediately when he heard the news. His first thought had been that Buffy had trapped Angel into marriage with some cunning ploy, like a deliberate ‘accidental’ pregnancy or some other form of blackmail. The fact that Angel had continued to see Cordelia after the date of the wedding had reinforced his suspicions. When Doyle finally met the mysterious Buffy, his suspicions tripled. Petite, blonde, and beautiful, he could easily see how she could get a man to do just about anything for her. Angel was obviously taken with her. Even Wes and Gunn seemed to fall easily under her spell after a few brief meetings.

Angel’s typical taciturn behavior had done nothing to help alleviate Doyle’s concerns that his friend had been somehow conned into marriage. When Angel finally confided that there were problems with his visa and that the BCIS was snooping around, Doyle thought he had found the key: Buffy had somehow used Angel’s immigration status to her advantage.

It was only recently after talking to Angel and later, seeing Angel and Buffy together that he had begun to grudgingly revise his opinion. In all honesty, he had to admit that Buffy didn’t appear to possess the manipulative qualities necessary to pull off such a scheme, but even more pertinent was Angel’s behavior. In all their years of friendship, Doyle had never seen Angel show even the smallest sign of jealousy, much less encourage public displays of affection, but he could think of no other way to describe his friend’s actions at the Kendall’s pool party.

Now, Angel’s casual reply only confirmed what he had begun to suspect as of late; regardless of whatever reason they might have had for marrying and whether he would admit it or not, Angel was obviously enraptured with his wife.

Whistling a happy tune, Doyle made his way to his apartment.

“You make my life complete.” Buffy half hummed and half sang along to the song playing on the small portable CD player, finding the romantic Lenny Kravitz tune perfectly suited to her mood as she applied her make-up and put the finishing touches on her hair. “You make me feel so sweet.”

With one last nervous glance in the mirror she carefully scrutinized her appearance again. “Oh, I belong to you.” Her hair was pulled back at the sides and secured with a pearl clip at the crown of her head. A few strands were loose and curled around her face while the rest of her hair hung down, shiny and golden, over her shoulders. “And you belong to me too.”

Taking one last quick glance in the mirror, she snapped off the CD and unplugged the player before returning it to the bottom of the closet.

Angel stood on the deck, gazing down at the street below. His senses were on alert, the tension in his shoulders almost straining the fine silk of his shirt as he waited for Buffy.  It was impossible that he could be nervous. He was never nervous. This was just… dinner.

“Are these for me?” Buffy asked from the doorway, holding the bouquet of purple tulips in her hand. The flowers had been lying on the kitchen table wrapped in paper and tied with a white ribbon.

“Yes,” Angel turned and smiled, his eyes sweeping over her in assessment, “If you want them.”

“Thank you.” Her warm gaze met his over the flowers for a few lingering seconds before she retreated back into the house. Her voice was somewhat muffled when she continued speaking, “Let me just put them in some water.”

Angel followed her into the apartment and waited patiently while she arranged the flowers in a narrow glass vase and set it on the table. He admired her figure in the dark blue dress, the narrow halter-style straps offering only tenuous support for the plump mounds of her breasts, adding a delicious element of suspense to his interest as he considered what might happen were the bow at the back of her neck to become untied.

They made mundane small talk on the drive to the restaurant, Buffy sneaking glances at Angel out of the corner of her eye. He looked absolutely gorgeous in a pair of black slacks and a grey silk shirt, both of which fit his tall, muscular form perfectly.

They had walked only a few steps toward the restaurant, when Buffy stopped him, holding his arm to lean forward and adjust the strap of her shoe. Her breasts threatened to spill out of her dress, causing Angel to inhale deeply and wonder how he was going to keep his carnal urges firmly in check tonight. After that, each time she bent or turned he noticed that her breasts swayed gently, and he felt desire curl more tightly within him.

Buffy was more than impressed with the restaurant that he had selected, glancing up at him with an appreciative smile as the hostess escorted them to their table.  Ensconced in a cozy private room in the small restaurant, the candlelight adding an air of enchantment to their evening, conversation flowed freely in the tranquil ambiance as they enjoyed their dinner.

Buffy was cautious about her choices when she ordered, well aware that the restaurant was exceptionally expensive, but Angel ordered several of the rare delicacies himself and coaxed her to try them. He fed her little bites of food and she returned the favor, so by the end of the evening they had devoured their cuisine with playful intimacy.

Smiling, Buffy waited for Angel in the foyer of the restaurant after dinner. She wondered if she was slightly drunk from the few sips of potent sake that she had tried or simply just deliriously happy. She caught sight of Angel out of the corner of her eye as he made his way toward her from the back of the restaurant.  As if in slow motion, she watched as the pretty waitress put her hand on his arm, stopping him. When the girl smiled up at him flirtatiously and slipped a small piece of paper in his hand, Buffy’s smile slipped from her face, her happiness suddenly marred. She glanced away, looking out the window to the street as Cordelia’s words rang forcefully through his mind, “You may be married to him, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be faithful, now or ever. With Angel, there will always be other women.”

Maybe she should just ask him if they were seeing each other exclusively. For her, it wasn’t an issue – there wasn’t anyone else she even wanted to date. But Angel… was he seeing Cordelia? Or someone else?  Chewing her lip thoughtfully, she considered what she might say to him, how to bring up the subject for discussion. After another few seconds of deliberation, she decided that it was too early to bring it up – it was only their first real date after all – despite the unusual fact that they were married. There would be time to ask him later. Right now, she resolved to put it aside and not let the actions of some other woman bother her. It wasn’t worth spoiling what had been a wonderful evening.

“I can’t believe that bitch gave you her number.” Buffy fairly exploded when Angel touched her elbow, guiding her toward the door. So much for any resolve to not let it bother her.

“She may have tried,” Angel responded dismissively, wrapping his arm around her waist as they walked slowly down the street, “I don’t honestly know. I threw away the paper she gave me without looking at it.”

“It was rude. Couldn’t she tell that you’re married?” She retorted, hot with resentment. She turned to face him as they stopped beside the car.

Angel looked at her cryptically for a moment, not entirely sure how to respond when his own feelings as of late were curiously out of character. “I don’t know.”

You don’t know?” Buffy’s emotions were more in response to Cordelia’s remarks of the other night than to Angel’s answer.

“Buffy.” Angel began cautiously, aware that she was upset. Reaching out, he ran his hands down the smooth skin of her arms to take her hands in his. “Even if she doesn’t know, I know.” He tugged her closer, leaning down to look her directly in the eye. His nose brushed hers. “I’ve already forgotten all about her. What are we even talking about?”

As if his earlier statement finally registered, Buffy asked, “Really? You threw it away?”

“Really, sweetheart,” Angel replied, brushing her cheek with a kiss.

Somewhat mollified by his answer, Buffy inched closer. By saying ‘Even is she doesn’t know, I know’, did that mean he intended to take their wedding vows seriously? She was still trying to rationalize that statement and gauge the level of her anger when she heard his soft whisper near her ear.

“Let’s go home. I want to kiss you.” Raising her hand slowly, he brought it to his lips and placed a warm kiss in her palm. “And maybe show my appreciation for that dress.”

Buffy glanced up at him, her eyes wide. After a moment, her lips curved up in a smile, warmed by the teasing, interested light in his eyes. When he held her close and looked at her like that, she couldn’t doubt his sincerity. He fascinated her and charmed her, allowing her to easily accept romantic notions of love and fidelity and forget that it might all just be a familiar game for him. With her earlier feelings of contentment and happiness gradually returning, she rose up on tiptoe and kissed him.

When they finally returned to the apartment, Buffy lit the few candles along the mantle while Angel retrieved the CD player from the bedroom. The sounds of the CD Buffy had been playing earlier drifted through the apartment as Buffy sank down on couch and kicked off her high-heeled sandals. Arching her back slightly to stretch, she sighed gratefully, “Thank you again for dinner. That was wonderful. I never thought I’d ever get to go there.”

“I’m glad you liked it.” Angel said as he joined her on the couch. She was a glorious sight, he thought, her cheeks flushed a delicate pink, her golden hair loose on her shoulders.

Buffy looked up and smiled – a winsome, half-seductive smile that Angel couldn’t resist. His pulse soared. Bending his head, his mouth closed over hers, drawing in her soft, breathless sigh.

Lifting her arms and wrapping them around his neck, Buffy melted into him and pressed her lips eagerly against his. A shiver ran along her spine when Angel made a soft sound deep in his throat, almost a growl, and his hands moved to her waist, pulling her tightly against him.

His silk shirt was thin and slick, as was her dress, and Buffy felt almost as if nothing existed between them. She eased back on the couch, pulling Angel with her so that he was lying over her.

Angel could feel the swell of her breasts against his chest, the small, hard pebbles of her nipples pressing into him. His lips moved on hers hungrily, his tongue exploring her mouth. For a very long time, he only kissed her – on her eager lips, the downy arch of her brow, the soft smooth skin of her cheek, the sensitive hollow behind her ear, the silken column of her throat and her warm, bare shoulders before finally drifting slowly along the edge of her dress just above her breasts.

Buffy sighed languorously and mewled softly in pleasure as she gave herself up to his attentions. Enthralled, she couldn’t get enough of him. She could feel the hard ridge of his erection pressing into her, and her hips moved unconsciously against his in a sensuous rhythm, trying instinctively to lure him closer.

His lips returned to hers and their tongues twined, sliding together in a heady seductive kiss. One of her hands slipped to his head, and she buried her fingers in his thick hair. Her other hand clung to his shoulder, her fingers flexing as she gripped him tightly in a desperate urge to move closer.

When their lips parted again, Buffy sucked in a gasping breath. Before she could open her eyes, his lips settled on hers again. His kiss was ravenous, demanding and an answering flash of heat raced through her veins.

With one hand, Angel reached up and cupped her breast.

Buffy’s breath hitched. His touch was muted by the thin material of her dress, but still she felt it acutely, arching into his hand. He stroked and kneaded gently before his thumb found the taut peak of her nipple. The sheer pleasure of his caresses spread through her body with a molten heat making her every nerve hum with anticipation. Undeniably, she wanted more. She wanted his touch on her bare skin.

Breaking their kiss, Angel shifted and moved back slightly. Finally he did what he had wanted to do since he had first seen her standing in the doorway: he tugged the tie of her halter dress free with a quick tug. With agonizing slowness, he pulled the top of her dress down, the material teasingly scraping her nipples as it slid along her skin. He gazed at her bare breasts for a long moment, watching as her nipples seemed to tighten even more under his gaze.

Feeling the cool air on her skin, Buffy drew in a shaky breath. Angel’s hand returned, curling around her breast and cupping the soft weight in his palm. Gently he took a nipple between his fingers and squeezed, rolling it slightly. Her senses leapt when she felt the touch of his lips on her heated skin, and she gave a small moan of pleasure.

Angel placed small kisses on the smooth skin surrounding her aureole before he drew the taut peak of her nipple into his mouth. He suckled and Buffy squirmed, clutching at his hair and pulling him closer. He nibbled and licked and sucked, alternating between breasts until Buffy thought she would die from the sheer pleasure.

Angel wanted to devour her; he wanted to sink into her and feel her surrounding him intimately. He wanted to shove her short skirt up and take her, thrusting hard and deep into her body. His feelings were so intense and pervasive, he wondered for a moment at his sanity. Clenching his jaw and taking a breath, he moved back slightly and fought for some semblance of control. He stifled a groan as his body protested his withdrawal. He couldn’t continue or he’d end up taking her here and now on the couch. There was no doubt that he wanted to make love to her, but he also wanted their first time together to be special. He suspected that Buffy was a virgin; she deserved a special night. And he needed to know that she was sure.

Buffy’s lashes fluttered and she opened her eyes to look at him. Her luminous green eyes were slumberous with passion. “Angel?”

His eyes followed his fingers intently as he traced a small pattern over her skin, causing goose bumps to rise anew. When he spoke, his voice was deep, husky, “You’re beautiful.”

She flushed slightly, but kept her gaze directly focused on his face, “Why did you stop?”

His lips brushed hers lightly – too lightly to satisfy the hunger inside her.

“I don’t want to rush.” He murmured after a moment, his gaze contemplative. “We have plenty of time. Besides, I want to fully appreciate.” he paused, dropping a soft kiss followed by a suggestive lick on one nipple before pulling her top up to cover her, “all the stops along the way before I make love to you.”

Buffy drew in a breath as a flaring surge of passion washed over her at his words.

His gaze met and held hers for a long minute before she nodded in acceptance. With a strength of resolve she didn’t know she possessed, Buffy excused herself to get ready for bed.

“So I saw you come to the party with Angel.” Harmony said cheerfully, giving Cordelia a hug and blowing an air kiss on each cheek as they met outside April Fools.

“It’s not what you think, unfortunately.” Cordelia replied as she followed Harmony into the small but exclusive boutique. The two women were frequent patrons of the shop, meeting there usually once a week to peruse the latest fashions before heading down to the Espresso Pump for a latte and gossip.

“Oh?”  Harmony questioned, taking a red print skirt off the rack and handing it to the sales girl now trailing along behind them.

“I told you I was going to see Angel, right?  Well, so I told him that I’d given it some thought and was no longer mad at him for sending me away from Ireland. I said that I understood that he was stressed out and not thinking clearly, particularly about making his marriage work.” The brunette paused and rolled her eyes slightly. “I mean, where did that come from anyway – making his marriage work? Like it’s a real marriage, or something?” She gave a skeptical snort as she picked up a pale blue sheath dress and examined it before stuffing it carelessly back on the rack.

“And?” Harmony asked as she paused by a small table to scrutinize the scarves that were neatly stacked for display. “So what’d he say?”

“Not much. Is this my color?” Cordelia held out a scarlet dress with a plunging neckline. In all honesty, Cordelia had talked almost non-stop the entire time she had been in the car giving Angel little or no opportunity to reply to anything she had said.

“Oh, absolutely. You look fab in that color.”

“Anyway, I told him that I understood completely about the BCIS and that I could see why he would need to pretend to have a relationship with Buffy. I mean, I doubt that the stupid little cow can be even half way convincing to the BCIS woman otherwise, so it’s probably the only hope he has to get his green card or whatever.  Not that I told him that, but I’m sure that’s a huge reason why he’s doing this.  Anyway, I also said that I know his whole future depends on this, so it was only natural that he’d be all nervous and stuff about it, not to mention a little cranky. Oh, and I said that I knew he was sorry so he didn’t have to apologize. I said some other stuff too, you know, so he’d realize I was all understanding and supportive.”

“Hm, I guess.” Harmony replied distractedly, handing a peach pantsuit to the sales girl still following behind her. The girl scurried away to hang the stack of items in her arms in the fitting room.

“What? You don’t think he’s actually serious about her?”  Cordelia snapped, pinning her best friend with a glare. “He can’t be. He has to be just doing this to make Buffy think he cares so that she doesn’t screw it up.”

Harmony shrugged, “You saw them together at my party. She was hanging all over him.”

“What you’re seeing there, Harm, is yet another Buffy mistake. I know for a fact that Angel hates clingy and hates PDAs.” The brunette declared hotly. She had first hand experience; Angel had coolly and politely shaken her off on several different occasions. The fact that he seemed to tolerate Buffy’s clinginess grated on her, as did the kiss that she witnessed.

“I didn’t see him exactly complaining. He seemed to, like, cling back.” The blonde stated airily, her blue eyes wide and seemingly innocent. Despite being the closest of friends, the two women were fiercely competitive about wardrobes, jewelry and men; opportunities to make digs or achieve any sort of an imaginary social advantage were never passed up.

“I’m sure it’s just an act.” Cordelia sniffed indignantly, examining a black Tahari dress before tossing it casually on a nearby chair for the salesgirl to scoop up. “Like I said, he has to pretend to like her so that everyone else believes that their ‘relationship’ is real. Kissing her in public is just part of the act.”  She punctuated her sentence with exaggerated air quotes around the word relationship.

“I don’t know, Cordy. I saw them making out before they left. It didn’t seem very pretend to me.”

Cordelia frowned. She hadn’t seen that, being inside and rather occupied herself by doing body shots with Xander, but anything was possible. Buffy probably threw herself at him again just like she had done earlier by the pool, and he couldn’t exactly say no. Regardless, Angel would never, ever fall in love with someone like Buffy, much less stay with her for very long. As soon as he had his green card, his little pretense with Buffy would be over.

Noticing that Harmony was watching her curiously, Cordelia shrugged dismissively, “Well, so what if they were kissing. It doesn’t mean anything. Most guys will fuck anything that’ll let them, and obviously little Buffy falls into that category. If he wants to screw her, then let him get her out of his system now. He’s not going to stay with someone like her, married or not.”

“Okay, I’m done. I’m going to the fitting room.” The brunette glanced quickly around the store once more before returning her gaze to her friend. “Besides,” she added airily as she flounced back to the elegant dressing area, “I’ve already started working on Plan B.”

“Plan B?” Harmony questioned with a lift of her eyebrows as she entered the small room containing the things that she picked out.

“Plan B.” Cordelia affirmed decisively, drawing the curtain closed behind her.

“Uh, share? I need details.” Harmony’s voice came from the room next door.

“I just planted a few little seeds of doubt in Angel’s mind about little Miss Buffy.” The brunette answered a few short minutes later, standing in the middle of the room wearing the black Tahari dress and eyeing herself in the large, triple mirror. “You remember Parker Abrams, don’t you?”

“I think so.” Harmony mumbled, coming to stand next to Cordelia at the mirror. She was wearing the peach pantsuit.

“Well, he and Buffy apparently had a little thing awhile back, so I may have told Angel what I had heard about that.”  Cordelia turned and looked back over her shoulder at the back of the dress. “Guess little Miss Buffy is a kinda kinky. Which, now that I think about it, makes total sense why Angel might be kind of interested in her right now.” Turning again, the wealthy brunette smoothed the fabric along her hip. “Honestly, men are totally ruled by their cocks.”

“Buffy’s into kinky sex?” Harmony questioned with a giggle as she returned to her dressing room.

“That’s the rumor.” Cordelia replied smugly, also returning to her fitting room to try on the next thing she picked out. The flattering black Tahari dress went into her ‘to purchase’ pile.

“Okay, but how is that a Plan B?”  Harmony asked, the confusion in her tone obvious even though her voice was muffled from the distance and the fact that she was changing her clothes. “Wouldn’t that just make him want to see her?”

“Not necessarily. not if he thinks that she’s going to blow the whole thing for them because she’s all hot for another guy. Or maybe lots of other guys.” The brunette answered matter-of-factly, slipping on a pale green slip dress. Thinking back to the party, Cordelia remembered that the guy who had come to the party with Kate had seemed to know Buffy as well. She’d have to ask Kate about that.

“You think she’s still seeing Parker then?” The blonde asked as she once more came to stand in front of the mirror.

“I may have embellished it a little and said that something was still going on.” Cordelia replied, frowning as she exited the dressing room to stand next to Harmony. The pale green was an unflattering shade for her and she grimaced.

“You didn’t?”

“I did.” With a flip of her hair, Cordelia returned to the dressing room and stripped off the green dress. She tossed it carelessly in a ball in the corner. “I told Angel that I only told him about Buffy and Parker because I know how important this is to him and because I care about him.”  Her tone was one of practiced innocence.

“Did he believe you?” Harmony asked as she returned to change outfits as well.

“Well, he didn’t seem too happy about it. When we got to your place, I told him that I’d always be here for him if he needed me to talk or whatever then I hugged him and left.”

“Ooh, nice touch.”

“I thought so.” Cordelia stood in front of the mirror in the scarlet dress with the plunging neckline. The back was also low, dipping below her hips to reveal the upper curve of her behind. She smiled. This was exactly the kind of dress that made men crazy. “Guys seem to always want the girl they can’t have. I’ll show Angel that I’m caring and supportive, not to mention stunningly beautiful. If another guy, or two, shows interest… well, even better. A little jealousy can be a good thing.”

“Ooh. True.” Harmony, wearing a pale pink sundress, came out of the dressing room. “Oh, Cordy!” She gasped, “That is absolutely perfect on you. You have to get it.”

“I know.” Cordelia gushed, holding out her arms and twirling in a circle. “Let’s just see if Angel still says he’s going to stay with Buffy once he sees me in this.”

“True.” Harmony gave a little happy clap and smiled. After a second, her smile faded and her brow creased in concentration. “But I still don’t see how your plan is going to work.”

“Divide and conquer, Harm. That’s a strategy that Grandpapa says always works.” Cordelia returned to the dressing room. Her voice was muffled as she continued to speak, “Did I tell you I ran into little Buffy in the bathroom?”

“No.” Harmony replied, carefully scrutinizing her own reflection in the mirror.

“We had a little girl-to-girl chat. I might have mentioned that she shouldn’t expect Angel to be faithful to her. I figure if she thinks she’s only one of many, the little mouse will retreat into her little hole for a while and not be all that interested in Angel. Which will, therefore, make Angel not at all interested in her.”

“But if he’s so worried about the BSCI people, won’t he be?” Harmony asked with a perplexed frown. “Faithful that is.”

“Oh, probably.” Cordelia shrugged as she came through the curtain once more. “I know I told you he turned me down, so I can’t imagine that he’s seeing anyone else.”

“I still don’t get it.” The blonde glanced over at her friend. “If Angel’s not screwing around, won’t Buffy figure that out eventually?”

“Well that’s why I have Plan C.” Cordelia said self-confidently, her eyes fixed on her reflection.

The next week was filled with a flurry of activities in preparation for the start of the new semester along with the start of classes.  Angel worried when he saw Buffy’s course schedule: it was full and then some. He cautioned her about taking on so much and still trying to work the same schedule at Patina, but she assured him – repeatedly – that she could handle it. It was no more than she had taken the semester before she met him.

Angel also noticed that she watched her budget carefully when purchasing her text books. She spent extra time searching out used books in good condition in order to save money.  It was the first time that he had wondered seriously about her finances. He had cashed the checks that she had given him for rent, but all the money went into a savings account that he intended on returning to her someday. He didn’t need the money and wouldn’t have taken the checks at all if she hadn’t been so adamant about paying her own way. She had once refused his offer of paying for all of their groceries during a trip to the store, and he knew better than broach that subject again.

Searching his memory, Angel recalled that Buffy’s father was in LA and that he didn’t help her out with any of her expenses. She had told him once in short, clipped phrases that her father lived in a sprawling new house in LA with his wife and her half-sister and that he had no interest in her, especially after he had collected the money from the house after her mother’s death.

With a thoughtful expression on his face, Angel promised himself then that he’d find a way to find out a little bit more about Buffy’s financial situation.

Early Sunday afternoon Buffy sat on the couch reading through the first few chapters of her psychology text. She glanced up as Angel opened the door, one hand clutching his bloody side.

“What happened?” She questioned with wide eyes. Her book was discarded without thought as she came quickly to her feet.

Angel hissed through his teeth, “Nothing.”  He moved his hand and glanced down at the wound. The blood that had seeped through his t-shirt was clearly visible.

“That looks like something,” Buffy replied matter-of-factly, one eyebrow lifting skeptically.

“It was stupid,” Angel answered, dropping his sports bag carelessly on the floor near the door.

“I’ll go get some bandages, just take your shirt off.”

“So?” She called from the bathroom where she was searching through the assorted items in the cabinet. “What happened?”

Angel walked toward the bedroom, pulling his t-shirt over his head. He could hear the padding of her bare feet as she followed him into the room.

“Soccer game. The field isn’t the best. It’s near a large hedge that’s covering – as I found out the hard way – a very old picket fence.” He smiled slightly, a little embarrassed by the admission. He didn’t explain that he had been fighting for the ball with two of defensive players from the other team at the time and was essentially shoved into the tall hedge.

“I like your tattoo.” Buffy said as she stopped behind him and studied the large tattoo on his shoulder. Without thinking, she reached up and traced it lightly with her fingers.

Feeling her touch on his back, Angel turned.

Buffy looked away, feeling flush and warm. She was very cognizant of the bed so very near. Despite several heated make-out sessions this week, they had yet to move into the bedroom.

“How did you know about it? I mean, did you… when Dr. Walsh asked?” Angel asked curiously, lifting his arms as Buffy washed the nasty gouge on his ribs carefully with a warm cloth.

She glanced up at his face. “Oh. I had to get some clothes one morning not long after I moved in – you were asleep on your stomach. I peeked.”

“Oh?” he murmured interestedly as she taped the white bandage squarely over the wound.

“Yes.” Buffy smiled up at him playfully. Her fingers lingered on his ribs just above the bandage. His skin felt warm to touch.

Leaning down, Angel kissed her gently. Buffy parted her lips and Angel shifted forward. His lips forced hers wider as his tongue thrust into her mouth in a now familiar game of thrust and parry.

Buffy’s hands slid up his chest, palms flat, gliding as she traced the heavy muscles, and slowly explored the warm, smooth expanse of skin.

Hearing a sound at the door, Angel drew back slightly. Oblivious to his distraction, Buffy stretched upward against him, her hands going to his shoulders to steady herself as she pressed against him in flagrant invitation. Her hips rocked slowly into him in unconscious entreaty. Her fingers slid into his hair as she reveled in the raw hunger that he always made her feel.

Closing his arms around her possessively, Angel dismissed any other thoughts from his mind. He slanted his head, deepening the kiss. The unquenched desire that had been growing steadily between them smoldered for a scant few seconds before it flared hot. He walked backward, moving steadily toward the bed and taking her with him. In a smooth economy of motion Angel turned, easing her down.

Buffy’s arms clutched him closer as Angel settled over her, his hips between her thighs, his chest against her breasts. She hooked one leg over his hip, her foot on his thigh pulling him closer.

Bracing himself on his elbows, Angel kept the bulk of his weight from crushing her even as he continued kissing her with a hunger that said he would not be denied.

“Ah-hem. Am I interrupting something?” Doyle asked from his position just outside the doorway, a wide grin on his face.

Angel stilled, opening his eyes but otherwise didn’t move. “Yes.” He finally answered in an exasperated groan, his attention riveted on his wife.

“No.” Buffy squeaked in answer at the same time, her cheeks flushing a brighter shade of pink.

“Sorry to interrupt, but after the game we, uh, wanted to make sure that you were all right. See, I had thought you were injured. I didn’t realize you were, er, occupied.” Doyle said teasingly, not in the least embarrassed. “Normally I wouldn’t just walk into your bedroom, but I thought you were back here alone, clumsily bandaging your wounds.” After a moment when Angel didn’t reply, a grin still on his face, Doyle shrugged in apology, “Why don’t I…  I’ll just go… somewhere else.”

“Good idea.” Angel said flatly, dropping his head to the bed next to Buffy’s shoulder.

“Uh, I have to go to work soon anyway.” Buffy said softly looking up at Angel. Her fingers stroked his shoulder absently and she had yet to move the leg still curled around him.

With a sigh, he kissed her again and then reluctantly rolled to the side to let her up.

There was no sign of Doyle or the others when Angel came out of the bedroom a few minutes later. Angel knew however, that Doyle would tease him endlessly about this later. He groaned, wondering of how many weeks of fake injury and wifely TLC jokes he’d have to hear.

When his last class of the afternoon ended early, Angel headed straight back to the apartment anxious to see his wife. In the last two weeks since school had started, they had only managed to snatch little bits of time here or there together – which meant that he would take every opportunity he could to see her.

Buffy looked up as he opened the door; she smiled warmly. “I didn’t think you’d be home so soon.”

“Criminal Evidence ended early. Professor Mortensen apparently had something that didn’t agree with him for lunch. Hey Willow.” Angel walked over and sat down on the arm of the couch next to his wife. Resting one arm along the back of the sofa, he picked up the paper in Buffy’s lap. “Chemistry?”

Willow nodded, watching the two of them with interest. “Homework. We have lab tomorrow.”

Angel scanned the page of notes and put it back in Buffy’s lap. He still worried that she was taking on too much this semester with both her course load and her work schedule. As it was, she already seemed to be studying constantly.

“Are you going to be awhile?” Angel asked, studying Buffy’s profile as she looked down at her book. “Or do you want to get something to eat?”

As she looked up, Buffy’s arm brushed his thigh. Her eyes met his and she gave a disappointed frown, “Another half hour at least. Then I have to read a chapter for psych and, I think, do some calculus problems.”

“Take your time. I’m going to take a shower,” Angel brushed her lips lightly with a kiss before he rose smoothly to his feet, “Then if you want, I’ll make something.”  Turning, he smiled at one of his wife’s closest friends and frequent study partner, “Of course, you should stay and have dinner with us, Willow.”

Willow nodded eagerly, returning his smile. Oz was at a gig tonight so she was happy for the company. Besides, she knew from at least two other occasions that Angel was a great cook – which was definitely preferable to the ramen or mac and cheese that’d she be having if she went home and cooked for herself.

Buffy watched as Angel walked down the hall and disappeared into the bedroom, her expression wistful. Finally, at Willow’s insistence, she grimaced and returned her attention back to her studies.

“You think we’ll ever finish?” Buffy questioned with a groan almost half an hour later. Angel had emerged from the shower about ten minutes earlier and was now in the kitchen rattling around.

“We only have…” Flipping through the book, Willow looked through the exercises, “oh, only one more!”

“Finally! Then just psych and calculus.” Sighing heavily, the petite blonde closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the couch.

“You took on too much – again.” Willow chastised, glancing up at her friend with worry.

“I have to. I can’t afford to take five years to get my degree.” Buffy opened her eyes and sat forward, crossing her legs beneath her.

With a sigh, the red-haired girl twirled her pencil. “I’ll be in school forever.”

“Awhile, but not forever.” Buffy replied, knowing that her friend’s long term goal was to become a forensic pathologist. Since they were younger, Willow had been fascinated with the subject, devouring books and watching the various forensic science shows. “Besides, Will, you excel at academia.”

“Eh, maybe.” Willow shrugged dismissively, her features twisting into a pensive frown. “But it would be more fun if Oz hadn’t dropped out this semester. I mean, I’m happy that the Dingoes got so many great gigs and all, I just wanted to see him at school and stuff too.”

“I know.” The petite blonde empathized, before sitting up a bit straighter and smiling brightly, “But hey, you still get plenty of time to see him at home in the evenings and at night. That’s something. Think of it like he only has one class: Willow.” Buffy grinned, trying to cheer up her friend for what she knew wouldn’t be the last time. “And you can tutor him so he gets an A in that.”

“True,” Willow laughed. Her eyes sparkled mischievously, “So is Angel getting an ‘A’ in Buffy?”

“Oh, he’s definitely getting an ‘A’…” Her smile was impish, “in all his subjects.” She glanced toward the kitchen, wondering if the man in question could hear their conversation.

“I’m so happy that things are working out for you.” The red-haired girl replied sincerely. She was genuinely happy to see her friend so happy. It had been a long time since she had seen Buffy smile so much; Angel was definitely good for her. Willow also found herself smiling at their demeanor when they were together; they were just so cute with the sly looks, hand holding and sweet kisses.

“Thanks, Will. Me too.”

The next few minutes were quiet as they both turned their attention back to the one remaining chemistry problem. Finishing first, Willow closed her book and set it aside. Since Buffy was still working, Willow retrieved her anatomy book and flipped it open, reviewing the diagram of the muscular structure of the shoulder.  Her brow creasing into a frown, Willow glanced up. “I told you that Parker is in my anatomy class didn’t I?”

Only half-hearing the name, Angel paused in chopping the prosciutto for the pasta. Until that point he hadn’t really been paying attention to the conversation in the other room. Hearing the name reminded him what Cordelia had told him weeks ago; comments that he had dismissed as gossip after a brief deliberation. Buffy herself had told him weeks prior when they had talked about people in their pasts that she had dated the guy twice and that it had been a mistake. But still, breath held, he couldn’t stop himself from listening for Buffy’s response.

“Hm, yes.” Buffy replied disinterestedly as she made one last notation in her notebook.

“Is he still coming in to Patina?” Willow asked with concern. Buffy had vented one more than one occasion about the annoyance and difficulty that Parker and his frat brothers at the restaurant caused at the restaurant. In fact, some of what Buffy had told her that Parker had said actually had made her a little afraid for her friend.

“Unfortunately. Anya said they were in on my day off.” Closing her book, Buffy set it aside. “At least I missed them.”

“And Snyder never says anything?” The red-haired girl asked incredulously, shaking her head. “You know, about what jerks they are?”

“You mean besides that they’re ‘just young and blowing off steam’?” Buffy sighed, a flare of indignation on her features. “Nope, not a word.”

Angel stirred the simmering cream sauce then took the boiling water with the pasta off the stove and poured it slowly in the colander, carefully to keep the sound to a minimum so as to not miss a word of Buffy and Willow’s conversation. He knew it was wrong to eavesdrop, but his curiosity was peaked. Cleaning up, he wiped down the counter then picked up the knife he had been using earlier.

“But, Buffy.” Willow protested adamantly, “With Parker making threats and grabbing you and stuff, that has to be sexual harassment or something. Snyder has to do something or he’ll get in trouble. You should report it.”

Angel fingers closed around the handle of the knife until his knuckles turned white. His face was dark and set in grim lines; a furious rage washed over him.

“I guess, but report it to who?” Buffy asked, her voice low. “Most likely Snyder would just fire me and you know I can’t afford to lose that job without having another one lined up first. I’ll just have to deal with Parker and his friends. I figured if I don’t give him the satisfaction of a response, then he’ll eventually tire of his little game and go away. It’s only fun for him if he gets to me.”

Willow whirled around and Buffy jumped as a loud sound came from the kitchen.

Buffy rose quickly to her feet. She had a worried frown on her face. Quickly crossing the room, she peered cautiously into the kitchen. “Angel?”

“Hungry? Pasta’s ready.” Angel replied, walking toward Buffy with two dishes of pasta in hand. He stopped and studied her face for a few minutes. He wished that she would trust him enough to tell him what was going on. After a long moment, he pressed a hard kiss to her forehead then moved past her to set the plates on the table.

Wondering about his sudden strange mood, Buffy watched him for a few seconds before she picked up the remaining dish of pasta and followed him to the table. She never noticed the knife embedded firmly in the thick wood cutting block on the counter behind her.

Maggie Walsh burst through the glass doors of the BCIS offices. Without slowing her stride she strode to her office, her agitation plain. Grumbling, she slammed her notebook and briefcase on her desk then sat heavily in her chair.  Her meeting with Faith Emerson had been an exercise in frustration. The young woman had cooperated and answered all of her questions, but said nothing that would provide support for Maggie’s assertion that the O’Connor marriage was a fraud. In fact, with a wide eyed look of innocence, Ms. Emerson had smiled and told tale after tale of what Maggie was positively sure were made up stories about Buffy and Angel’s love life. If she had to hear a story that started with “And this one time, at their apartment.” again, Maggie was positively certain she’d scream and pull her own hair out.

Standing in the doorway, Doug Flutie, the Director of the California branch of the BCIS, made a steeple with his fingers beneath one of his many chins and surveyed one of his better agents; her anger and frustration was obvious. “Problems, Dr. Walsh?”

Maggie glanced up in surprise. She hadn’t realized that anyone had been standing there. She took a deep breath. “No, nothing that I can’t handle.” She answered dismissively, turning her attention to the paperwork piled on her desk.

“Good, good.” He nodded agreeably, a friendly smile on his face. “I never suspected otherwise.”

After several long seconds when it was obvious that he didn’t intend to budge from his position at the door, Dr. Walsh sat back in her chair and looked up at him. “Did you need something, Doug?”

“I had a call today about one of your cases, the O’Connor case.”

“Oh?” Maggie asked speculatively, shifting in her chair. She tapped her fingers on the desk impatiently. “From?”

“You’ve been working on that for what? Four, five months?” Doug Flutie studied his employee with casual regard. His casual, dopey demeanor hid a shrewd and perceptive mind; he wouldn’t have the position that he held at the BCIS otherwise.

“Yes. but you know that with these types of cases, the ones that are suspected to be fraudulent, it often takes time to complete a thorough investigation. Some cases have taken up to a year, as you well know.” Dr. Walsh returned coolly, unperturbed. “Who did you say had called?”

“I’d like to see what you have currently on the case.” He stated firmly, ignoring her question.

Maggie shook her head slowly, pressing her lips together to hide her growing anger. “I don’t really think it’s ready for you to review. It’s far from complete. I’m still working several angles and have several additional interviews to conduct with references. I have yet to write my report on the interview that I just came from, in fact.  I’d also like to talk to several of the professors at UC Sunnydale as well as the manager at the restaurant where Ms. Summers works as I believe they will have valuable information to contribute. That being the case, I think that it would be a waste of your time, given the incomplete state of the-”

“Just give me what you have.” Director Flutie interrupted, pushing away from the doorframe. “Knowing how thorough and detailed you are with your paperwork on all of your cases, I think that there will be sufficient enough information there for me to at least get a sense of how things are moving along. I trust that having a current report on my desk by the end of the day won’t be a problem.”

“Yes, sir.” Maggie Walsh’s dour face further soured.

It was almost nine when Angel finally entered Patina. He paused just inside the gated patio and looked around, scanning the crowd. After a few minutes, he spotted Buffy carrying a tray of drinks to a table at the far end of the patio on the left.

He had paced by the restaurant several times in the last few hours, debating exactly what it was he wanted to do and why he was there. Last night at dinner, he had wanted to ask Buffy point blank about Parker and what Willow had meant by ‘threats and grabbing’ but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to do it. He didn’t know why she hadn’t told him, but he didn’t want her to think he was prying or being pushy – or perhaps worse, eavesdropping. When Buffy trusted him, she would confide in him. Until then, he doubted that anything short of torture would get her to tell him whatever it was that was going on with Parker. But that didn’t mean that he couldn’t check it out for himself.

“Hey, so… can I help you?” The hostess asked with a flirtatious smile. Anya had seen the gorgeous guy pass the entrance several times and each time she prayed a little harder that he would finally come in. She had even entertained a dreamy little fantasy that he was working up the courage to ask for her number; it ended with the two of them in bed, Anya riding him like a stallion. By the third time she had seen him, she had planned their wedding on the beach in Antigua and was beginning to name their children.

Noting the direction of his avid gaze, Anya frowned. “She’s married.” When he seemed undeterred, she pouted and grumbled louder. “Very married.”

“I see.” Angel replied lazily, his gaze still following his wife as she crossed the restaurant once again. She was bustling around with a quick and friendly efficiency that he had come to recognize.

“He’s big too. And mean.” Anya cast a glance out of the corner of her eye, lifting one shoulder. “Really mean.”

Angel’s brow quirked upward. He turned then to look at the Patina hostess, a small smile playing on his face, “Really?”

“That’s what I’ve… okay, so I haven’t really heard that.” Anya confessed with a shrug. She found it difficult to lie directly to the piercing gaze. “But he should be, what with all the guys that come in here and want to sit in Buffy’s section.” Her lips pursed into a pout. “Which, I’m going to guess is what you want as well.”

“In a minute, yes.” Angel answered honestly, though his eyes glittered darkly. “Why don’t you tell me first, what guys?”

“Why?” She asked bluntly. She hugged the menus that she held in her arms to her chest and studied his face.

“I’m curious.” He gave her a charming smile as he slipped one hand in a pocket, taking on an almost casual stance.

“Well, there was one guy, Lindsey… he’s been back a couple of times. The first time he wanted to sit in Buffy’s section. The second time, well.” She preened slightly, smoothing her hair, “He asked me out. We’re going out next Thursday in fact. He drives a Mercedes, so I’m sure we’re going somewhere nice.”

“That’s nice.” Angel replied politely, “Now what about the other guys?”

Anya glanced away to smile and nod at the family of four leaving the restaurant. She turned back and looked at the man in front of her speculatively for several seconds.  “You’re Buffy’s husband aren’t you?”

“Yes.” Angel admitted after a long pause. “And I want to know about Parker Abrams.”

“What are you doing here?” Buffy asked with a smile as she stopped next to the table where Angel sat.  She couldn’t help but notice that he looked perfect as always in a wine colored shirt and a pair of dark charcoal slacks. She ran one hand over her disheveled hair, suddenly conscious of her rumpled appearance.

“I wanted to see you.” He replied warmly, handing her the menu that Anya had left with him. “And maybe I wanted a glass of merlot and some chocolate mousse.”

“I’ve never seen you eat sweets.” Her eyebrow quirked upward, but still she smiled.

“The mousse is for you.” His gaze took on a suggestive gleam. “Although I could be persuaded to try it if you’ll let me eat it off your tummy.”

With a smile and a slight flush, Buffy retrieved the desired items from the kitchen and the bar, returning them to Angel’s table.

Suffused with a warm glow that withstood Snyder’s critical eye and Anya’s constant ribbing, the rest of Buffy’s shift passed by quickly. She flirted with her husband both in words and with her eyes as she went about her job, finding it an extremely pleasant and appealing way to pass the evening. She refused to give him his check, paying it herself. She had only just stepped out on to the sidewalk where Angel waited, when he pulled her into his arms and kissed her long and hard.

Minutes later, their hands intertwined and their smiles an indication of their shared good spirits, they made the short walk back to the apartment.

Just after they got home, Buffy excused herself to take a quick shower. She was anxious to wash away the food smells that she imagined clung to her after a shift at Patina.  Less than twenty minutes alter, wearing a pair of grey sweats and white t-shirt, she padded out to the living room and sat down on the couch.

“Tired?” Angel asked as he came to his feet. He had been reading, as he often did, while he waited for her.

“Not really.” She fluffed her hair, the long strands mostly dry now after a quick blow out with the hair dryer.

With a bemused smile, she watched as Angel turned off all of the lights but the lamp in the bedroom, leaving the room shadowed in darkness. He lit several of the candles along the mantle then walked forward to join her on the couch. Her lips curved into a gentle smile as she looked up at him.

Instead of sitting next to her as she had expected, he placed one knee on the cushion and leaned over her. With one hand, he tilted her face back to meet his kiss.

As always, she responded eagerly. Her lips parted beneath his, welcoming him and inviting him in. She tasted faintly of the chocolate mousse dessert he had brought and fed to her in sneaking bites when she stopped at his table. Slowly, he eased down beside her.

Buffy’s arms came up to twine around his neck even as she leaned back on the couch, her head resting on the pillows propped up in the corner.

Angel’s arm slipped around her waist, pulling her against him. They kissed for long moments as if they were starved for the taste of each other, but it wasn’t enough to ease the hunger that had been growing between them for weeks.

Caught up in their kiss, Angel didn’t realize that Buffy had worked the buttons of his shirt free. A fleeting moment was all the warning that he had before her palms settled, soft and warm, on the bare skin of his chest.

Distracted, he drew back from the kiss and caught his breath as she boldly ran her hands over his chest, exploring. With her encouragement, he shrugged out of his shirt, dropping it to the floor.

Buffy flexed her fingers, gliding them over the hard expanse of muscle before sliding down along his ribs. Splaying her fingers wide, she caressed him eagerly, possessively.

Forcing his mind away from the pleasurable sensation of her touch, Angel pushed her t-shirt up and encouraged her to pull it over her head. Next he expertly unfastened her bra, baring the breasts that he was, by now, quite familiar with. He paused, savoring their absolute perfection: the pale smooth skin that contrasted with her tan, framing her breasts for his attention, and the pale rose of her taut nipples. He blew on one and watched it pucker before lowering his head and taking the tip between his lips.

Buffy gasped as he laved and suckled her nipple, dropping her head back as she sank her fingers in his hair to hold him close. Her other hand, still splayed on his chest, moved up to cover the tan pebbled nipple of his chest.  She closed her eyes and reveled in the now familiar pleasure, the delicious intimacy and waited expectantly for more.

Angel took his time, moving from one breast to the other and making the heat swirl higher and hotter within her. Beneath him, Buffy shifted restlessly and her hands moved frantically, one clenched in his hair, the other stroking his chest.  The sensation of his hands stroking her skin combined with the play of his lips and tongue on her breasts was more than pleasant, but still Buffy wanted more. And she wanted it now.

When he seemed content to linger, Buffy reached out and grabbed Angel’s wrist, bringing his hand to rest on her stomach. She didn’t need to give him any further encouragement. His fingers teased, kneading her abdomen gently before slipping beneath the waistband of her sweats.

She tensed, the anticipation curling through her body and growing steadily until she ached. She lifted her hips in flagrant invitation, deliberately forcing his hand lower.

Angel glanced up at her face, his eyes glittering darkly. A primitive, unrestrained need, provoked by her actions, slammed through him and shook him to his very core. He wanted her with a need so acute that it was physical pain.

“Angel… Touch me.” Buffy demanded, her gaze locked with his. The green of her eyes was darker, luminous. She was breathy, dizzy with desire and gripped with a sense of urgency. Her senses seemed heightened yet greedy for every sensation, every kiss and every touch.

He shifted slightly, returning his lips to hers. The thought flashed through his mind that he could make love to her here, tonight. After a few seconds of mental debate, he reminded himself that there were a few pleasures yet that he wanted to show her. He could wait; but not much longer.

Buffy’s breath caught in her throat as Angel’s hand slid lower, slipping beneath her panties to skim the neatly trimmed curls before moving lower still.  Her body was seemingly no longer in her own control as she lifted her hips to meet his exquisite stroking fingers. The delicious sensations spiraled higher and higher until Buffy broke off their kiss to catch her breath. Her head dropped back as she gave herself up to the steadily building coil of tension.

Angel moved back a few inches, his gaze roving over her face, down to the flushed skin of her breasts and the taut peaks of her nipples, over her stomach to her hips, where his hand moved rhythmically between her legs beneath the grey cotton of her sweats.  His hand shifted, probing deeper. Slowly and deliberately his thumb circled and caressed the highly sensitive spot he’d teased before through layers of clothing.

Reaching up, Buffy attempted to tug him closer. She was nearing the edge of the precipice and she wanted him with her, she wanted him closer.

“Relax and just feel.” Angel murmured softly, his lips curving up in a small smile. His lips brushed her neck and she shivered, mewling softly. She was close… so very close. The maelstrom of sensations overwhelmed her suddenly; she gasped, her nails digging into his shoulder as the heated hysteria seized her. Her breathy whimper exploded in the shadowed room, and she melted under his hand.

He planted soft kisses on her face and neck, and held her until the last shuddering spasm died away. Her eyelashes fluttered a short while later, and she opened her eyes to look up at him with a satisfied sigh. She reached for him, wanting to offer the same glorious pleasure that he had given her, “I want to touch you.”

He caught her hand. “Next time.” He whispered against her cheek, uncertain if he’d be able to keep to his resolve to wait just a little longer.

“Now.” She countered, shaking off his hand.

They gazed at each other for a long moment, Buffy stubbornly insistent, Angel uncertain.

Her gaze still locked with his, she lowered her hand to his stomach. The muscles beneath her palm tensed. Slowly her hands glided down along the smooth warm skin to his pants. She drew her fingertips along the length of his rigid erection, the soft material of his pants warm to the touch. After several breath-held seconds of exploration, she worked the top button free with his help, then tugged his zipper down bit by bit.

Shifting positions, she pressed him down on the couch and moved so that she was kneeling between his knees. With a boldness that surprised him, she tugged his pants and boxers down his thighs.

Buffy’s eyes widened in surprise. “You’re not…” She traced the hard length with one finger tip before her eyes darted back to his face.

“Circumcised. No.” Angel replied, his voice husky. Her slightest touch made him feel like an adolescent, tense and lacking control.

She couldn’t control the giggle that escaped her lips. “Good thing Dr. Walsh didn’t actually ask for visual confirmation.”

He returned her smile, swallowing hard and clenching his jaw when her fingers closed around him and tentatively began to stroke up and down. She marveled at the velvety softness, the silky smoothness that covered such an incredible hardness. She licked her lips, wondering if she dared to taste him.

Taking a deep breath, Angel closed his hand over hers and guided her movements. Buffy followed his lead eagerly, leaning what he liked and how to touch him. Catching his rhythm, she moved her hand with firm, eager strokes until the explosive pleasure broke, and he gritted his teeth and came with a groan.

With his eyes closed, Angel relaxed back on the couch. Buffy retrieved her t-shirt, and wiped up the white sticky mess on his stomach with a few quick swipes. She then cuddled next to him, closing her eyes.

He simply held her for awhile, until much later, when he finally rose, adjusted his clothing and carried her to his bed. Curled together, it was the best night of sleep either of them had had in months.

Buffy clicked off the phone and returned it to the cradle with a resounding snap. She walked distractedly to the center of the room, wrapping her arms around herself in a hug.

Just a few seconds ago, she had been humming happily as she changed clothes, pleased to have an evening to spend alone with Angel. They both agreed that a night at home would be a welcome change to their busy schedules; take out and a rented movie was on the agenda, and Angel had gone out to pick up both. And, she hoped, they might have a repeat – or more – of last night.

When the phone rang she had thought it would be Angel calling to tell her that ‘The Two Towers’ had already been rented and ask her for alternatives. He was so thoughtful and considerate that way that it never failed to make her feel special.

She had never imagined that it would be someone named Kate. A Kate claiming to be returning Angel’s call after he had asked for her number when they met recently in the UC Sunnydale library.

Buffy sank down on the couch. Despite the heat, she trembled. Had he really? Was he seeking out other women because they hadn’t had sex yet? It wasn’t like she didn’t want to or wasn’t ready… He was the one that had been delaying. Was she doing something wrong?

She was tense and slightly angry when Angel finally opened the door.

“Got it!” He said almost triumphantly, a smile on his handsome face. He held up the DVD case in one hand. “Though I had to wrestle a couple of Hobbit wannabe’s for it since it was the last one they had.”

Crossing her arms over her chest, Buffy snapped resentfully, “Who’s Kate and why did you ask for her number?”