With classes about to begin for the semester, their days turned from idyllic vacation to ones of almost frenetic activity. Hours were crammed with purchasing books, last minute schedule changes, meetings with professors, and attending classes in addition to the usual routine of work, household chores and the occasional get-togethers with friends.
At a meeting with his advisor, Angel found out that he missed a general education requirement in the sciences that he’d have to take this semester in order to graduate in May. Granted, it was only a sophomore level class, but he wasn’t keen on having to take another geology or biology or whatever other ‘ology class option fulfilled the requirement. The only saving grace, as it turned out, was that he would be able to get into Sociology 256, Society and Environment, with Buffy. She was amused by this new development, and teased Angel with offers to tutor him so that he’d be sure to pass the class.
Even Faith signed up for a couple of classes, due in large part to Wesley’s encouragement, so their combined group along with Willow, Oz, Gunn and Fred was fast becoming a familiar sight on campus.
Every so often, in the flurry of activity, Buffy and Angel would wonder what was happening with Dr. Maggie Walsh and the BCIS investigation, but in silent agreement neither of them would mention it, both hoping that perhaps no news was good news. Or maybe, since they were both happier than either of them could remember being in quite some time, it was simply that they the preferred not to poke the hornet’s nest if they didn’t absolutely have to.
Buffy glanced around the crowded room. Angel was nowhere in sight, though Buffy could see what she thought was the back of Gunn’s head in the next room just inside the threshold of the doorway. Most likely her husband was over there somewhere as well; she just couldn’t see him because of the crush of people or the wall blocking her line of vision.
The cramped house was hot and airless despite the cool winter weather and open windows. The smell of beer permeated the air, someone having spilled a nearly full glass nearby. Music blared from a stereo near the makeshift bar along the wall, the music barely loud enough to be heard over the din of the crowd. Overall, however, the mood was festive, the UC Sunnydale students eager to celebrate the start of the semester with what would most likely be the first of many parties.
Sighing, Buffy glanced longingly across the room at the doorway. She wished she could simply teleport herself over to her husband rather than push her way back through the noisy and congested crowd. It didn’t help that Parker Abrams and several of his friends were standing just a few feet away and were part of the crowd she would have to go through. She had managed to avoid coming face to face with him so far, but the jockeying around was getting tiresome.
She glanced at Willow standing beside her and talking animatedly with Amy, Devon’s newest girlfriend. The two women had bonded in the last few weeks over their boyfriends frequent absences, and were commiserating again about the difficulties of dating a Dingo. Fred stood on the other side of Amy and seemed equally enthralled by the topic, despite it not being directly relevant to her.
Deciding to take the least crowded route to her husband, Buffy slipped away from her friends and back into the kitchen. She could go out the back door, around the house and back in the front entrance. Angel was then, from her guesstimation, only a foyer and a few steps past a potted plant from there.
Sighing with relief at the cool night air, she strolled leisurely across the back patio to the side of the house. There was a couple making out on one of the chaise lounges, but they didn’t even glance in her direction as she passed. Skirting around the corner, she found her way along the thick hedge toward the front yard.
At the small sound behind her, Buffy looked back over her shoulder. Seeing nothing, she turned back around only to find Parker Abrams blocking her path.
“Buffy.” His tone was ominous. It was clear by both his smell and his demeanor that he had been drinking heavily.
Buffy looked up at him, her gaze cold. “Get out of my way.” She stepped to the side, prepared to go around him and continue on her way back to the house.
“I don’t think so,” Parker said, reaching out suddenly and grabbing her by the arm. “So’d you tell that Irish bastard that I was bothering you or something? Is that why he told me to stay away from you? Huh? Cuz I’m not afraid of him.”
“Let. Me. Go.” Buffy snapped back, wrenching out of his grasp. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She could tell that, despite his statement to the contrary, Parker was afraid of Angel; the false bravado in his voice wouldn’t fool anyone. Assuming, of course, that her husband was the “Irish bastard” in question… How Angel knew about Parker bothering her was another point of interest, one that she’d have to find out about – later. Right now, she just wanted to get back inside.
“How’d you get him to marry you anyway?” The young man sneered, stepping in front of her once again and blocking her way. “You refuse to spread your legs without a ring? You convince him that it was gonna be that good when you did? Was he just that desperate for a fuck?”
Buffy refused to answer. Instead, she stared up at him coolly.
“You and I coulda had something, you know, but you fucked that up. I woulda treated you good, Buffy, if you hadn’t been such a tease. You’d have been like a queen on this campus, but instead you went and gave it up to some foreigner.” His tone was blatantly derogatory. “He hasn’t got anything that I haven’t got and besides, I’ll bet you’d have been much more satisfied in my bed.”
An amazed laugh escaped Buffy’s lips. “Parker, you can’t even begin compare to Angel. I-”
Suddenly Parker reached out and grabbed her, jerking her forward. His eyes glittered cruelly, his stinking breath hot on her face as he clamped her against him with one arm.
“Is that so? You walk around in those short skirts and tight tops, flaunting your body and thinking that you’re such hot stuff. Well, I think it’s past time you gave me a taste, don’t you, baby? Then you can see how I really compare then, huh?” Reaching out, he ripped her shirt exposing her pale rose satin bra. “We’ll see just how much your Angel wants you when he finds out that you’ve given it to me – every which way.” His tone was mocking as he walked them forcibly backward, deeper into the shadows on the side of the house.
Bending his head, he kissed her, his lips assaulting hers with punishing force as he shoved his tongue in her mouth. Buffy was so disgusted and so startled that for a moment she couldn’t even catch her breath. She felt violated and dirty, just from his touch. She began to struggle violently, pushing against his shoulders as he shoved her through the brush up against the wall of the house. He was panting heavily, his hand squeezing her breast cruelly. Reaching up, Parker grabbed her hair, yanking her head back and holding it still. “Now, Buffy, baby, play nice and I won’t hurt you.” With his other hand, he yanked the fabric of her bra aside so he could maul her bare breast. With a leering smirk, he added, “Much.”
Leaning into her, Parker relaxed his grip on her hair slightly and he became distracted by pinching and tugging at her nipple. Greedily wanting to see more of her, he shifted back slightly as he reached up to bare her other breast to his lust-filled gaze.
Seizing the opportunity, Buffy slammed the heel of her hand into Parker’s jaw. It was enough for him to loosen his hold on her and step back slightly, giving her room to bring her knee up hard between his legs. He let out a high-pitched yelp of pain and staggered backward, bending over to grab at his now pained crotch. Buffy lifted her knee again, this time catching Parker square in the face. There was a satisfying crack and blood spurted from his nose as the boy howled and tumbled to his knees.
Turning, Buffy took off at a run for the front door of the house. Adjusting her torn clothing, she zipped up her jacket, hiding the damage as she hurried around the corner and up the steps to the front door. There were a few people outside on the front porch that looked at her curiously as she practically flew up the short steps out of the dark. She didn’t want to draw any more attention to herself, so she forcibly slowed her pace as she entered the house in search of Angel or her friends.
When she spotted the familiar tall, dark-haired figure just across the room, she pushed her way through the throngs of people without further thought.
Angel looked up to see Buffy moving quickly through the crowd toward him, and he smiled slightly. It always surprised him a little, the feeling of warmth that filled him just to see her. He had wondered where she had gone to when he hadn’t seen her standing next to Willow a few minutes ago when he glanced through the doorway in search of her. Still, he was taken aback slightly when she practically flung herself into his arms and clutched him close, burying her face against his chest.
“Buffy?” Angel asked with sudden concern, bending his head down to hers. “Sweetheart? Are you all right?”
Buffy closed her eyes as a sense of relief suddenly overwhelmed her. She hadn’t realized until just that moment how tense she had been, or really, just how frightened. It felt wonderfully safe in Angel’s arms. She hadn’t meant to react so strongly, but she had been unable to prevent it when she finally found him. Never before had she faced her physical vulnerability in such a manner; it was a shock.
There was a surprised exclamation followed by a swift wave of murmured sounds, and Angel glanced up to see most everyone staring in the direction of the door. Parker Abrams had just come through the entrance, clutching his bloody nose as he made his way gingerly toward the stairs.
It only took a few seconds for Angel to put two and two together. He gave Doyle a quick glance then looked down at his wife’s blonde head.
“Buffy, sweetheart, did he attack you?” His words were soft and gentle as he tilted her face up to look at him, but every line of his body was taut with fury. With a critical eye, he noted the swollen lips and the slightly wild look in her green eyes as well as her jacket, now zipped all the way to her neck when it hadn’t been earlier. He turned his attention back to the man standing just inside the door.
“What?” Buffy questioned with surprise, quickly glancing down to ensure that her jacket hadn’t come open revealing the tell-tale evidence of her torn shirt. She thought that she might get away with not telling him anything until they left the party and all of the curious glances behind.
“How did you know?” she stammered slightly, looking back up at his face. Following the direction of his narrow-eyed gaze, she saw Parker standing at the foot of the stairs. “Oh.”
“I am going to kill that son of a bitch,” Angel growled furiously. Carefully he extracted himself from Buffy and started forward with determination. Seeing the dark and enraged expression on his face, the crowd parted quickly, not wanting it turned on them.
“Angel! Wait!” Buffy pleaded, grabbing his arm. The last thing she wanted was for Angel to get into any kind of trouble with Parker Abrams over her. “Nothing happened. Please. I’m fine. Let’s just go.”
Her pleas fell on deaf ears, Angel far too angry to simply let the matter drop. He shook off her restraining hand and pressed the last few feet through the crowd toward Parker.
Parker’s eyes widened with alarm as Angel drew steadily closer. He inched backward, then whirled around abruptly and prepared to try to run out the front door but found his path blocked by curious party-goers that had gathered around. Just then, Angel grabbed him by the arm and spun him back around. Parker didn’t even have time to lift his arms in defense before the punch landed squarely on his jaw. The crowd behind him parted as Parker stumbled and fell flat on his ass.
Angel lunged forward, grabbing the smaller man by the shirtfront and jerking him forward. “I told you to leave her alone.” The words were uttered with lethal softness as Angel drew back his arm for another blow.
“Angel!” Buffy shouted, more afraid for her husband than for Parker. She glanced briefly at the interested crowd surrounding them, her eyes pleading with Doyle to help her before returning once more to Angel’s broad back. “Don’t! Please. Nothing happened before I got away from him.”
Her words, intended to placate him, unintentionally only served to infuriate Angel more. His eyes flashed with fury as he landed several more blows before Doyle and Gunn managed to haul their friend off the now limp and dazed Parker.
“Angel. Honey?” Buffy said softly, reaching for his hand. Her fingers curled around his as she looked up at his face. She had never seen him so angry; the blind rage was almost chilling.
Parker’s friends helped him to his feet. Blood from the broken nose that Buffy had given him ran down his face and mingled with the blood from his new wounds. He swayed slightly on his feet, and spat a mouthful of blood and broken teeth on the floor. His defiant expression only lasted a few minutes before he dropped his gaze and turned away.
“If he ever touches you again, I’ll kill him,” Angel said flatly, his rage slowly beginning to abate as Parker’s friends slowly escorted him from the room. Turning, he searched Buffy’s face. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Yes,” she said, her voice quavering slightly. Buffy tried to smile, but felt self-conscious with everyone watching them so interestedly. “Let’s go home, please.”
Taking a deep breath, Angel worked to push aside his temper for another day. “Of course, sweetheart. I’m sorry.”
Taking her hand, he led them through the crowd, Doyle falling in step behind Buffy while Gunn went in search of Willow and Fred. Curious stares followed them as they left; behind them, the gossiping chatter began.
Angel was largely silent on the drive home, waiting until they had dropped off their friends and had reached the comfort of their bedroom before drawing her into his arms and finally speaking.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” He asked gently, tracing his fingers along her jaw as he carefully studied her face.
“Yes.” Buffy assured him, holding his palm to her cheek as their eyes met.
“I was bored and wanted to find you,” she began with a sigh, releasing his hand and looking away. “I thought it would be easier to go around the house and through the front, instead of trying to push my way through the crowd.”
“And past Parker.” He had been aware of the presence of the dark-haired young man from the moment they arrived at the party and had tried to keep an eye on him though obviously he had failed when it mattered the most. And that only added to his feelings of anger and guilt. He would have given a great deal to have spared her from the night’s events.
“Yes.” She cast him a tentative glance under her lashes. “How did you know about him? He said you warned him to stay away from me.”
Angel moved closer, his thumb stroking her cheek. “I overheard you mention him to Willow once and I also heard a few things about him from some of your friends at Patina.” He shrugged slightly. “I happened to run into him one night when I was there, and so I just suggested that it would be healthier for him to find other places to go.”
“Oh.” A tiny small sound of revelation. Maybe his high-handed approached should have bothered her, but just now she didn’t have the energy to be mad at him. If anything, she actually felt a bit touched by his concern.
Sliding his hands around her waist, he drew her to him and said, “I’m just glad you were able to get away from the little prick. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help you.”
“I’m all right. I’m just glad to be home,” she murmured and snuggled closer, resting her head on his chest. She wanted to put the events of the night behind her and as far from her memory as possible. Just being in Angel’s arms, enveloped in his warmth and his scent, and in their room that she had become to thank of as a sanctuary, made her feel loved and protected. It helped to push the disturbing memory of Parker’s attempted attack from her mind.
“So am I.” His palms swept over her back, caressing gently, soothingly as he nuzzled her hair.
Lifting her head, Buffy looked up at his face. Their gazes locked, held. In his arms, her heart leapt. Her senses came alive. Gripping his arms, she stretched up against him and touched his lips with hers in invitation. “Kiss me,” she whispered.
Very gently he began to feather kisses over her face, brushing her eyebrows and eyelids, the line of her nose, the delicate bones of her cheeks before finally reaching her lips. Her mouth opened under the slow, inexorable pressure of his lips, his kiss sensual, unhurried.
“I need you,” she breathed as he inundated her senses, warming her from the inside out until her skin was flushed and heated. She wanted him to touch her, to wipe away even the smallest memory of Parker’s touch.
He kissed her tenderly, recognizing a hint of her earlier anxiety in her voice. “I’m here,” he murmured soothingly. “You can’t get rid of me.”
His arms tightened around her, parted her lips and drew her deeper into another kiss. He made her feel lusciously heated, melting, his mouth delicate at first, offering light, sweet kisses on her lips and cheeks, her temples and earlobes, on the warm pulse of her throat, and lower along the soft skin just below her collar bone.
His eyes darkened with anger at the sight of her torn shirt when he unzipped her jacket and slipped it from her shoulders. Helped by his long fingers, her shirt was removed and tossed aside. His fingers returned, moving caressingly over her warming skin in gentle caress and examination, assuring himself that she was physically unscathed. His lips followed his fingers as he continued his pattern of light, sweet kisses on her breasts and stomach. When he reached for the zipper of her pants, she helped him slide them down to her feet so she could kick them off.
He drew back just enough to pull his shirt from his waistband and begin working the buttons free. Beneath the heavy silk, his muscles bunched and shifted, the tension in his body easing in one way yet tensing in another. He dropped the shirt on the floor with Buffy’s clothes then toed off his shoes and socks.
Buffy helped him unbuckle his belt and slide his pants and boxers down his thighs before taking his hand as she backed steadily toward the bed. He followed her down, covering her with his long lean, body, his lips finding hers in a yet another soft, tender kiss.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” he whispered against her lips. “We don’t have to…”
“Yes, we do,” Buffy breathed, a smile in her words as her lips traced a pattern along his jaw down his throat. The weight of his body covering hers triggered familiar senses and she melting, the liquid heat pouring through her in anticipation.
Shifting slightly, his hands traced a pattern along her hip, down her thigh. His touch was sure and soothing. His hand moved higher, finding the honeyed sweetness between her legs. She shouldn’t feel the light, delicate contact so intensely but he always seemed to know just how to touch her and where and when. A low sound of pleasure escaped her lips and she parted her thighs further, allowing his hips closer.
When his hard length slid into her with excruciating slowness, Buffy marveled at the sheer degree of ecstasy that he provoked within her so easily. His body was hot and hard over hers, his muscles taut and his eyes closed in concentration.
With slow, powerful strokes he moved, feeling her undulate beneath him, drawing him deeper and matching his every thrust with a subtle demand on her own. Her fingers on his back tensed, her nails digging into his skin as she urged him on.
Without changing his cadence, he rose from his elbows to his palms. His eyes swept over her and he pressed deeper. He thrust harder, deeper still, and Buffy drew in a sharp breath, arching beneath him as the first shuddering peak washed over her. She came with a low, panting cry that never failed to stir him, making him harder and propelling him toward his own shuddering climax.
She clung to him as he continued to move in a subtle, succinct way that seemed to touch every already stimulated nerve ending. The turbulent heat inside her rekindled quickly as she reached yet another sensational climax just before he joined her, leaving them both breathless and panting as the last vestiges of ecstasy hummed through their sweat soaked bodies.
Buffy mumbled in protest when Angel finally rolled from her long moments later. Smiling, he tucked her gently against his side. Bending his head, he touched his lips to hers in a gentle, light kiss.
Lifting her head slightly, she returned his kiss, soft, clinging. When their lips parted she sighed contentedly and snuggled into him. “I love you,” she murmured against his lips, her eyes closed. The words came out naturally, her feelings close to the surface.
Despite his own very recent, almost reluctant acknowledgement of his own feelings, her words struck him with a jolt. Utterly motionless, he stared down at her.
Feeling the sudden tension in his body, Buffy’s lashes fluttered and her eyes opened. She searched his face, wishing she could know his thoughts. At this continued silence, she spoke, her voice low and constrained. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that…”
“Did you mean it?” His eyes were intent as he studied her face.
“Yes,” she answered after a minute pause in which she debated the wisdom of sharing her feelings. “I have for a while… maybe even from the first. I know I probably shouldn’t, but then so much has happened that I didn’t expect, much less plan for. It just… happened,” she rambled softly, wanting to explain her openhearted admission since it was too late to take it back.
“Marry me.” He spoke quietly, his voice with very little inflection, his fingers tightly clasping her hand.
She wasn’t sure she heard him correctly, the conversation taking an unexpected turn.
“Answer me,” he prompted at her confused silence, his grip tightening on her hand with nearly fierce pressure.
“I am married to you,” Buffy replied, not completely understanding the direction of his thoughts and wary of being hopeful of the implication.
Leaning on one elbow, his head propped on his hand, he smiled down at her. “”I know, but I want to get married to you again, this time in front of our family and friends.”
She was quiet as he traced one eyebrow with his fingertip. Her heart was suddenly thundering in her chest and she wasn’t sure she could breathe.
“Do you love me?” she asked finally. She had to know.
“Yes,” he said carefully, “I love you. I didn’t expect it either, but I think I’ve been in love with you since the moment I saw you at Reverend Bonnie’s.” He smiled faintly in memory. “In retrospect, she must have seen then what neither of us figured out until later.”
She hugged him then, her smile carefree, her expression one of radiant joy. “We can get married again or not, as long as we’re together,” she said, her tone both tender and blissfully happy. “I’m perfectly happy the way things are.”
“But I want to marry you again, so there will never be a doubt in your mind about why.” He’d never thought of it in those terms before tonight but suddenly it seemed important. There would be no questions later as to why he married Buffy.
“Or in yours either,” she returned cheerfully, her smile widening.
“Although, our first wedding does make for an interesting story to tell our grandchildren,” he teased, dropping a kiss on her lips.
“Grandchildren?” Buffy’s eyes widened in mock alarm.
“Someday hopefully, after the babies,” he murmured, pulling her close. “That is, if you want them.”
“Someday would be nice,” she replied softly, suddenly serious. Drawing back slightly, she searched his face. “Is this real?” Her voice was a whisper.
He understood her fear, her reluctance to believe as he had shared those feelings himself. Still, he smiled at the look of hopeful expectation on her face. He would jettison all of his fears and previous reluctance about marriage for her.
“It’s real.” With a smile, he bent his head and kissed her. He had nothing else to say and instead, showed her in ways other than words how much he cared.
When Angel answered the knock on the door just after noon, he was more than a little surprised to see two Sunnydale Police Officers standing on the threshold.
“Liam Angelus O’Connor?” Officer Forrest Gates asked officially, even though he actually knew Angel from his volunteer work with the department.
Graham Miller rolled his eyes slightly at his partner’s overzealous following of protocol. “Hey, Angel.”
“Forrest, Graham.” Angel’s heart dropped and he couldn’t say anything else as the thought suddenly crossed his mind that something had happened to Buffy. She had left over an hour ago for work, but he hadn’t heard any sirens. Surely if she had been in an accident on her way to Patina, he would have heard something – after all, it was only a few blocks away. He looked anxiously from one man to the other waiting for an explanation.
“Sorry to do this, man,” Graham offered apologetically as he glanced toward Forrest, who was taking his handcuffs off his belt. “But we have to place you under arrest.”
“What’s the charge?” Angel asked quietly. Despite what he had just been told, he felt a strange sense of relief that nothing had happened to Buffy.
“Assault and battery. Parker Abrams filed a complaint this morning.” Graham replied with disdain in his voice. He had no respect or liking for Parker, having met him several times before while breaking up frat parties.
Angel simply nodded. He should have suspected as much; maybe he should consider himself lucky that it hadn’t happened last night or while Buffy was home. For reasons he couldn’t explain, he didn’t want her to see him taken away in handcuffs.
As Graham began to read him his rights, Angel turned and allowed Forrest to handcuff his wrists behind his back according to procedure. Out of respect, Graham had ensured that the apartment door was closed and locked as they left, though he couldn’t allow Angel to leave a note for Buffy to find when she got off work. She’d wonder where he was; Angel only hoped that maybe he’d be out in time to explain things to her.
Calmly, he followed Graham down the stairs, Forrest directly behind him. In looking at the bright side, at least the arrest wasn’t because of the BCIS and his green card status. And he honestly couldn’t say that, under the circumstances, he have done anything different – except maybe hit Parker a few more times and harder.
As soon as she stepped off the porch of the frat house, Cordelia’s concerned and caring expression transformed into a beaming smile. She couldn’t believe her luck – or Angel’s stupidity. The news about the altercation at the party had traveled fast, reaching Cordelia almost before breakfast. By nine-thirty she had formulated a plan and by ten-thirty, she had been to see Parker, ostensibly to check on his health and well-being.
Now that her newest, perhaps most brilliant plan was in motion, she couldn’t help but smile.
Reaching in her bag, she retrieved her cell phone and began to dial. Angel changing his phone number a few weeks ago had being extremely inconvenient, but it hadn’t taken long – or really that much money – for her to convince the girl in the academic records office to give it to her.
When the machine answered, she smiled sweetly and left her message. A few minutes later, singing happily along with the radio, she pulled the cherry red BMW away from the curb.