A Convenient Marriage

Author: Gia
Rating: PG probably; ultimately NC 17
Disclaimer: Own nothing. All belongs to Joss, ME, Fox, et.al.
Pairing: Initially C/A, ultimately B/A.
Author's Notes: This is AU.

"Liam Angelus O'Connor" has been used in other fics and is not my original 'creation' although I liked it, which is why I'm using it here. I couldn't remember which fic or by who… I'd be more than happy to give credit though if someone can tell me.

I did a little bit of research into immigration rules through the BCIS (formerly the INS) web site but it was so boring and complicated that, well, what I have here may or may not be accurate. I'm sure you can suspend your disbelief, as this is FICTION. Flames regarding immigration rules will be cheerfully ignored. You have been warned.

UC Sunnydale admissions based on the UCLA admissions cost estimates of $18,186 a year for tuition, books, personal expenses, transportation, yada yada. If you care, you can find this on UCLA's website.

Feedback: Yes, please… gia@everysixseconds.com

Distribution: Anywhere currently hosting my stuff; my site, EverySixSeconds; anywhere else, just let me know.

posted 9.29.2003


Ethan Rayne frowned and pressed his lips together in disapproval at the sight of his granddaughter escorting her boyfriend into the house. He watched them from the window in his study, his hands clasped behind his back until they disappeared behind the long wall approaching the front door. Despite her obvious attempt at entering the house quietly, he could hear the staccato click of Cordy's high heels on the white marble as they crossed the foyer and climbed the stairs.

He listened as the sound retreated down the hall toward Cordelia's room then poured himself a healthy draught of Scotch and sat down in the high-backed leather chair at his desk. He glanced at the recent picture of his granddaughter on his desk, next to an older framed family photo.

Cordelia was so like her mother in looks and personality it was a little uncanny. Perhaps that was why he had tolerated her antics for so long. If her mother were alive today, perhaps things would have been different.

Cassandra, Cordelia's mother, had been killed along with her husband, Stuart, and another couple when Cordelia was only five years old. Their private plane had crashed in South Africa where they had been traveling on their annual safari, Stuart having a fondness for big game hunting. Ethan and Lillian had been devastated by the loss of their only child and as a result, had spoiled their granddaughter recklessly. Lillian had managed to control Cordelia somewhat until she passed away only three short and difficult years ago. Since then the young brunette's spending had reached epic proportions and the rumors of wild behavior had increased.

Ethan coughed slightly and took another sip of his drink. At seventy-three, he was much too old to deal with his granddaughter's irresponsible and willful behavior much longer, for all that she was twenty-one now. He was admittedly old fashioned and felt that only a husband would curb Cordelia's wild ways. He wanted to see her married and settled. Bottom line, he wanted her off his hands.

The only problem was her choice of men. He wouldn't be the least bit surprised if she chose her boyfriends simply to spite him, knowing that he would never approve of those without an established family name and sufficient wealth to keep her in the manner she was accustomed. He wouldn't tolerate some deadbeat sponging off the money that he and his father before him had earned - even though many would claim that their business practices were unscrupulous and bordering on illegal. As far as he was concerned, his business in investment banking wasn't about judging the ethics of his clients. He didn't care what business they were in as long as the deal was a sound one.

Ethan picked up the manila folder on the desk and flipped it open. Inside were several pictures of Cordelia with her boyfriend of almost six weeks now, Liam Angelus O'Connor. Ethan knew everything about the young man from his birthday in May almost twenty-four years ago in Galway, Ireland to his current 3.9 GPA at UC Sunnydale. He knew that "Angel," as he had been called since birth, was attending school thanks to an academic scholarship and student exchange program and that he was majoring in Criminal Justice. After an unaccounted for year, he had started classes at the National University of Dublin where he spent the next two years before coming to Sunnydale.

The young man had no family to speak of, other than an Uncle Giles who lived in Dublin. There was no mention of the boy's parents, which was unusual in and of itself. Regardless, that detail was of little consequence. From everything that Ethan had been able to ascertain through his thorough and well compensated private investigator, the boy was well beneath his granddaughter in terms of status, family name and wealth. Unfortunately, he was also the longest lasting of her beau's so far.

However, he wouldn't do at all as a suitor for his granddaughter.

Ethan leaned back in his chair as he perused the documents on his desk once again.

No, this "Angel" would not do at all.

***
Cordelia handed Angel the glass of water he had asked for with a small pout as she stood in front of him where he reclined shirtless on the baby pink sofa in her room. With the window at her back, she knew that her figure would be provocatively outlined through the thin silk robe which she knew that any man with a pulse had to appreciate.

"Are you listening to me, Angel?"

He had the irritating look that she was seeing more and more often as of late. It was thoughtful and pensive and clearly indicated that he wasn't listening to a word that she was saying. Unless of course he was deep in thought about her, which she would grudgingly accept as an excuse for such behavior.

"Angel? Hello? It's not very flattering when you do that, you know." Cordelia admonished with a slight frown. She sipped her champagne and counted to ten. She would have stomped her foot if she dared, but she had worked much too hard to capture his interest to simply allow him to slip away by revealing her often vile temper.

"Hm? Do what?" Angel questioned, his attention returning to Cordelia.

"Tune out on me." She retorted sharply then wished she could take back the words and her tone. Her temper was very close to the surface, and it simply wouldn't do for him to see it this early in their relationship.

Angel was different from the other men that she had dated. He didn't fawn endlessly over her beauty, and he didn't seem impressed with her material possessions or her obvious wealth. He didn't dote on her every word or look… however with his darkly handsome good looks, he was a challenge she had not been able to resist. It had taken her an inordinate amount of time to get him into her bed compared to her earlier conquests, but she had accomplished that just three weeks ago, so she was sure the rest would follow. She was confident though that she would bring him to heel, it was only a matter of time.

He was a fabulous catch except for the fact that he had no money of his own to speak of. It annoyed her when she allowed herself to dwell on how absolutely perfect he was for her in every respect except that one. Life just wasn't fair sometimes! Regardless, she had no intention of losing her lover.

She dropped to the sofa beside him, pressing her full breasts to his arm and offering an unobstructed view of her cleavage in the loosely tied robe. She batted her eyes at him coquettishly.

"Friday. Shopping. Giselle. You're meeting me at Patina at 2:00 right? We'll have a late lunch then head over to the Galleria from there. We have to get you a suit for the ballet." She shifted a slight bit closer, leaning over him. "Remember, you promised you'd take me."

Angel's lips curved upward in a slight smile. He knew what the beautiful brunette was doing and had no doubt that she knew it as well. Cordelia was as predictable and easy to read as anyone that he had ever met. He sat the glass of water on the table next to the sofa.

"I did?" He wrapped one arm around her and pulled her to lie more squarely on top of him.

"You did." She reminded him as she pursed her lips together for a kiss.

"Well, then, I guess I will." He said as the whisper of silk slid off her shoulders and dropped to the floor.

He wasn't looking for a long-term relationship; he was still young and wanted to have fun. He didn't envision his future with her or with any woman he might meet in, say, the next several years, but she was undeniably beautiful, considerably talented in bed and had yet to bore him with her self-absorbed sarcastic wit, all of which seemed reason enough for the time being to continue their relationship. That and there was no one else that he was currently interested in pursuing.

Women had been a constant in his life since the age of fifteen when Darla, the nineteen-year-old daughter of his father's partner, had revealed the pleasures of sex to him during one hedonistic summer. The fact of the matter was, no one kept his interest for long. He expected his interest in Cordelia to fade as had all the others; until then however, she was a lovely distraction.

***
Buffy sighed and tucked the scant three dollars into her apron pocket. She couldn't believe that the table of six had left such a measly tip for their almost ninety dollar check. At this rate, she'd have to take on a third job just to make ends meet. She was already teaching aerobics and kickboxing at the gym four mornings a week plus a class on the weekend which was bringing in a nice $150 a week but that only just covered her rent. It didn't make her car payment or pay her tuition, much less the other debts that she had been saddled with following her mother's death just four months ago, which is why she pleaded with Anya for the waitressing job at Patina.

Patina was a popular California style bistro not far from the UC Sunnydale campus that catered to a young affluent crowd. It was typically loud and crowded, which usually made for good tips. It was only through her friendship with Anya, the restaurant's hostess, that Buffy managed to land the job here at all, having no prior experience waiting tables.

She scooped up the plates, napkins and other debris from the table with quick efficiency as Anya shot her quick look of warning. Reginald Snyder, the manager, was rounding the corner, making his usual rounds through the restaurant. He was short tempered and impatient as Buffy found out after only three days on the job. Yesterday she had dropped several full plates of food and had to endure a lecture from him in addition to having her wages docked to pay for the wasted food and broken plates.

Determined not to let that happen again, she hustled, careful to stay out of Snyder's line of sight. She desperately needed to keep this job - it was one of the few with decent pay that was close to both her apartment and the university. It allowed her to work longer shifts and still make it to classes on time.

With a grimace, Buffy brushed the hair that had come loose from her ponytail out of her eyes, wiped down the table and hurried off to the next customer.

***
Lying nude in the shambles of the bed, Cordelia watched Angel as he dressed. He was easily one of the most gorgeous men she had ever seen: tall, lean, muscled and dark as sin. His wicked dark eyes seduced and promised delights she had only imagined while his sensual lips more than lived up to the promise of his rare teasing smile. He was the definition of classic good looks and physical perfection all wrapped up in one exquisitely delicious and sexually satisfying package.

She briefly considered taking offense at the casual indifference in which he left the bed, but the feeling past quickly given her current contented state. Instead, she rolled to her side, propping her head on her hand as she posed suggestively.

"Are you sure you need to go?"

Pausing to glance at the opulent fullness of her breasts and the curve of her hip so artfully displayed, Angel smiled slightly. "Yes, I have classes. I'll see you Friday."

"Don't forget me." Cordelia purred from the bed, one hand sliding between her legs in an obvious display of erotic enticement.

Not likely, Angel thought as he closed the door behind him, with the image of her pleasuring herself in his mind.

***
"Oh, Harmony, you would not believe the man's stamina." Cordelia gushed into the phone several hours later as she soaked in the tub. As had been the case since the two girls were in high school, full disclosure after any date or sexual experience was an absolute must. "Salty goodness multiplied times like, twenty."

She giggled as Harmony replied with a few suggestive remarks before continuing to dish about her afternoon rendezvous.

"I still can't believe that Grandpapa had the nerve to lecture me about Angel. Honestly." Looking down at her nails, Cordelia frowned. There was a small chip in the polish. She'd have to return to the salon.

"He knocked on my door almost an hour after Angel left and told me that he didn't approve. Like he needs to approve. Hello? Over twenty-one." With an indignant snort, she continued. "He should remember since he was at my twenty-first birthday party unless he's getting senile, which is entirely possible."

The brunette frowned more intently as she stared out the leaded glass window into the perfectly manicured grounds. She only half listened to Harmony's reply, focusing instead on mentally reviewing her wardrobe for what to wear tonight as they were again having guests. Her grandfather called them business dinners, but she knew that they were disguised attempts for her to meet the men that he considered eligible for her.

Of course, it wasn't all bad. She smiled slightly and shifted the phone to her other ear. The last man she had met ending up staying over. Not with her grandfather's knowledge of course…

***
Angel scanned the crowd at the busy bistro in search of the long brunette hair of his date. Familiar by now with Cordelia's habitual tardiness, he wasn't surprised when he didn't see her. Instead, he waited until a table on the patio cleared and then sat down.

Reaching in his pocket with an audible sigh, he unfolded the letter from the BCIS and re-read it for the twelfth time since it had arrived at his apartment around noon. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, affectionately known to him as the BCIS, was informing him that "due to irregularities with the required forms, his student visa had been denied" and that he was to return to his home country of Ireland within two weeks. Two weeks! He slapped the paper in frustration. He was a month away from completing his junior year and now they decide to send this! He couldn't believe the bureaucracy of the system, since he filled out countless forms last summer before he had even arrived in Sunnydale.

In politely worded sentences, he was encouraged to contact them if he believed the letter was in error. If he were to stay in the country past the date on the letter without additional proof of citizenship, then he would be considered to be in the country illegally and would be arrested and deported.

He called the BCIS office immediately, only to have been put on hold for almost an hour. As if waiting hadn't been bad enough, he had been subjected to bad muzak versions of Mandy and Copacabana so often the songs were still playing through his head. Once he finally reached a live person she had been unable to tell him what the exact problem was or how to correct it. In fact, she seemed genuinely confused. His first stop after getting off the phone had been at the office of Student Affairs, hoping they would help sort out the mess, but they seemed to be as much in the dark as he was. Finally they suggested that he go to the local office of the BCIS and see if he could sort it out in person.

He knew Cordelia would be unhappy about the change in their Friday afternoon plans, but it couldn't be helped. This was too important.

Behind him several dishes rattled and he heard a soft muffled curse. Reaching under his chair, he retrieved the fork and the bread roll that had skidded to a halt near his foot and handed them to the harried waitress.

Dark brown eyes met wide hazel green ones for a few lingering seconds before the girl dropped her gaze and scurried away. He felt an unusual jolt strike him with the simple look, and he glanced in the direction where she had gone.

"Angel. There you are." Cordelia waved and smiled brightly, dropping into the chair across from him. She leaned forward for him to kiss her cheek, hiding her annoyance when he instead glanced back over his shoulder again where the girl had disappeared.

"Listen, Cordy, I have to cancel our plans." He pushed the envelope across the table to her just as their waiter stopped to take their order.

"Diet coke with lots of ice." The brunette snapped as she picked up the letter. "And a small green salad. It must be fresh, no blemishes on the leaves, no onions and only one small tomato, sliced into dime thin slices, if you can manage that. I want citrus vinaigrette on the side. Oh, and NO croutons. If I even see a spec of crouton dust on the leaves, I will send the whole thing back and expect it to be made fresh. Do you understand?" Immediately her tone changed as she glanced across the table, "Angel? Did you want anything?"

Angel ordered water and a sandwich with a slightly apologetic expression, noting that the waiter, whose name tag read 'Andrew', seemed almost frightened by Cordelia's demeanor.

"This is ridiculous." Cordelia sputtered and looked up with incredulous eyes after she finished reading the letter. "This is just fucking ridiculous. I mean, what the hell do they mean by 'irregularities'? Those idiots. You just march down there and tell them where they can put this letter." She jabbed the white paper in the air, her voice growing louder with each word.

"Sh! Keep it down, please." Angel requested quietly, taking the letter from her and putting it back in his pocket. "I'm going to take care of it."

"Well I should hope so. Does that look like a spec of a crouton to you?" The brunette frowned, holding her fork over Angel's plate for his review.

"No, Delia." Angel replied with minor irritation. Reaching in his pocket, he dropped a few bills on the table to pay for lunch. "Look, I have to go see about this. I'll call you later."

Retrieving her cell phone from her purse, Cordelia watched as Angel left the restaurant.

"Harmony, you will never believe this." She wailed into the phone immediately after hearing her friend answer. "Angel is going to be deported."

As she listened to her friend's response, Cordelia absently watched the blonde waitress scurry across the restaurant and back again, only to be stopped by the manager and berated.

"I can't marry him, Harm. At least not until Grandpapa dies. You know he would disown me. I've already told you that he doesn't like Angel."

Across the restaurant the blonde waitress hung her head and nodded. She seemed almost defeated as the little man continued shaking his finger at her.

"What? What did you say?" Suddenly Cordelia's attention returned to her phone conversation. "That's a terrific idea, Harmony, absolutely fabulous. You could marry him!"

Twirling her hair around her finger, the former high school cheerleader and Prom Queen leaned forward on the table. Her brows drew together in a frown. "What do you mean, no? You've told me that you and Spike are in a seriously off again phase right now. Isn't he still in Europe skiing? Besides, we're not talking about sex. You wouldn't be having sex with him. And it would be temporary, you know until he gets his paper work or green card or whatever they call it these days."

"Very funny." Shooting a dirty look in the direction of the woman at the nearby table who was glancing in her direction, Cordelia waited until the nosy gray haired lady had turned completely around before answering Harmony. "Where am I going to find some chick that won't want Angel for a husband? I told you he's a hottie, not to mention an absolute dream between the sheets. Any girl would marry him in a heartbeat."

Her laughter ringing out through the restaurant, Cordelia shook her head and replied, "That's really funny, Harm. Some ugly chick that he'll ignore is a great idea. Now tell me where to find one of those, and we're all set."

Glancing back across the restaurant, Cordelia once again noticed the haggard blonde, her uniform covered with stains and splatters, her hair a dreadful mess. She seemed to be apologizing to one of her customers, a defeated look on her face.

"I'm sure Angel will get it straightened out, and it will all be just fine. I am not going to miss having that fabulous bod next to me at the beach house this summer, I'll tell you that already." Thoughtfully, the brunette stared across the restaurant at the obviously worn-down and completely unstylish young woman. "I have to run, Harm. I'll talk to you later."

"Hey you. Yes, you. Come here." Cordelia called to her waiter as she clicked off her phone. She pointed at the girl she had been watching earlier. "What can you tell me about that girl?"

***
Buffy slumped against the back wall near the kitchen doorway and muttered a series of curses under her breath. Snyder again threatened to fire her after one of her customers complained that she was slow in delivering the condiments to their table. She rolled her eyes at Anya who passed by and couldn't help the sarcastic chuckle that escaped her lips. That would be the cap to a really delightful stint as a waitress, to be fired over the lack of ketchup. It wasn't as if she didn't have a dozen other tables to take care of, not to mention that the bus boy assigned to help in her section seemed to find it funny to make her do half his work.

Brushing her hair back from her face and adjusting her ponytail, Buffy sighed. How much things had changed in only four short months. She had only herself to rely now that her mother was gone. Her father, the rat bastard, had come back to Sunnydale for the first time in three years, not for the funeral but to sell the house, which, as it turns out, was actually was left to him since her mother never bothered to change either the house title or her will after the divorce.

Thrilled with the unexpected windfall, which would help pay for a good portion of his new expensive LA residence, Hank Summers returned to LA with his wife and Buffy's two year old half-sister, Dawn, leaving Buffy with nothing more than some unpaid bills and her mother's jeep. Just before he drove away, he made a vague promise about sending money for college and rent once he had things sorted out, but that had been months ago, and Buffy had yet to see a dime.

The calls she made to him in the first few weeks had been unreturned; the few times she managed to catch him on the phone, he was always distracted or rushed and always had the same glib promises. After that first two months, Buffy gave up and stopped calling.

The various bills had depleted a good bit of her savings, leaving her just enough to rent a tiny apartment. She didn't regret not living in the dorms this first semester, what with her mother's illness and all, but it certainly made things that much more difficult in the recent weeks. But she knew that she'd never better her situation without a college education, so she was determined to somehow manage that even if it took her five or more years. Thankfully her tuition for the semester had already been paid, but she needed to get ahead somehow if she were to make next semester.

With a deep inhalation of air, she pushed away from the wall and resolved to make it work. It would get easier, it had to. She needed to keep this job.

****
It was late, almost one am when Cordy knocked on the door to Angel's loft apartment. She had come straight there after the ballet, having conned Xander Harris to attend the performance of Giselle with her in Angel's place since he had been tied up all afternoon at the BCIS offices.

"Well?" She demanded as he opened the door.

"Hello to you too." Angel stepped back from the door as the brunette pushed past him to enter the apartment. Unable to sleep, he'd stayed up studying and getting a jump on preparing for finals - finals that he probably wasn't even going to be able to take. He had chuckled at the irony even as he had pulled out the textbooks.

"Sorry." Cordelia paused and turned, kissing his cheek before brushing by and dropping on the couch. She patted the spot next to her. "But you know I'm upset about all this. I bought two extra pairs of shoes while shopping to help me deal. I was barely able to enjoy the ballet, I kept thinking about that stupid office and their silly rules. The stress even made me buy a chocolate torte during intermission. Now tell me that you've resolved this."

Sighing heavily, Angel sat down in the chair across from her. He wasn't particularly in the mood to cater to Cordelia's selfish behavior tonight, but she did provide a welcome distraction from his own frustrated and angry thoughts. "No."

"What do you mean, no?" She demanded, a frown crossing her features.

"I mean no. It looks like I have to pack up and go home." He said as he shrugged his shoulders. "I've already talked to the landlord about keeping my place here through the summer at least. My uncle Giles said he'd help out with the rent. Hopefully I can straighten this out and come back for next semester. Monday I'll see if there's anything I can do about my classes so that I don't lose all my credits."

"No. You can't." Cordelia stated bluntly. "There's only like the biggest beach party at Harmony's summer house in Malibu on the last day of school, and you have to be there as my date. I already told her that we'd go. I can't just be expected to change all my plans around. And I have plans for us this summer. Who is going to take me to the Black & White charity ball if you have to go back to Ireland?"

"I don't have a choice Cordy. I could stay, but they're rather insistent that if I do I'll end up in jail or deported or both. You know I can't afford to have even the smallest blemish on my record if I want to get into the FBI. It's already hard enough that I'm not a U.S. citizen as it is."

Pressing her lips together, the brunette bit back a reply. She didn't understand why he wanted to do that anyway. The FBI was a silly choice of a career in her opinion. She would, of course, work on changing his mind about that if they were going to have any type of long-term relationship. It just would not do for someone of her class to be with someone who worked for the government. Maybe she could talk him into law school. A lawyer for a prestigious firm, eventually a senior partner… now that she could see justifying as worthy of marriage. Maybe her grandfather could pull a few strings with Wolfram & Hart, the firm that represented him…

"Well, if you can't get through the paper work then you should just get married." She blurted it out without thinking, her earlier conversation with Harmony coming to mind.

"What?" Angel shifted on his chair, his gaze wary as he stared at the beautiful brunette. He didn't want to think about getting married for another six or eight years, if ever. And certainly he didn't envision himself married to Cordelia.

"You know, get married. People do it all the time to stay in this country." She said as she brushed an imaginary speck of lint off her skirt.

"I don't think that's such a good idea." He said skeptically, wondering how he was going to manage to escape from this conversation without offending Cordelia to the point where she was cursing him loudly and waking the neighbors.

"Look, you get married in name only. It's not like a real marriage." The idea taking shape in her mind, Cordelia sat forward eagerly. "And once you get your green card or whatever, then you get a divorce."

Searching for the appropriate tactful response, he glanced out the window and reluctantly replied, "Cordelia… you know I think we have a good thing but-"

Her laughter interrupted his words and he looked up at her in confusion.

"Not me, silly. I mean, not that I wouldn't want to …" Her eyes roved over him suggestively, her memory recalling the muscular body hidden under black sweat pants and white t-shirt. "But you know I wouldn't be proposing a marriage in name only if that were the case."

"You're saying I should marry someone else?" Angel looked at her, slightly dumbfounded that she would be suggesting the idea.

"Sure, why not?" Cordelia shrugged one shoulder. "It's not like you'd really be married. You wouldn't have to live with her or, heaven forbid, have sex with her."

His brows quirked upward as he stared back at her. "This whole conversation is ridiculous, Delia."

"I'm totally serious." She replied adamantly, coming to her feet and crossing the room. She dropped into his lap, her fingers tracing a path up his chest. "We find someone, and you can stay in the country and finish college. It'll be perfect."

Stopping her hand abruptly, he lifted her off his lap and strode to the window. "I'm not going to marry someone just to stay in the country."

Used to getting her way with men, Cordelia rose gracefully to her feet. She unzipped her dress, dropping it to the floor. She walked over to him, wearing only a dark blue bra, matching panties and garter belt with sheer silk stockings.

Taking his hand, he placed it on the rounded curve of her breast. Sliding her hand up his chest, she pursed her lips together in a small moue, "Think about it, okay?"

***
Just after nine pm, Cordelia parked her cherry red BMW Z8 along the curb just down the block from Patina. She had spent a good bit of the day on the phone with Harmony and was now convinced that a marriage of convenience for Angel was the absolute best idea. Not only would it allow him to stay in the country, it would also get her Grandpapa off her back about the 'unacceptable' fit of Angel as a husband and his threats to disown her should she choose to marry him. If he was already married, then well, no need to worry now was there? She didn't for a minute stop and think that perhaps her grandfather would have an issue with her cavorting around with a married man.

Striding quickly to the busy bistro, she waited along the patio tables until she spotted the waitress from yesterday. It had been an impulse that had led her to ask her waiter about the young woman yesterday, but now she saw it as an omen.

Buffy Summers, as she understood to be the girl's name, was in dire straits financially and on the verge of losing her job at the restaurant. A job that, according to Andrew the waiter, she desperately needed. That desperate situation combined with Buffy's plain blonde looks was just what Cordelia was looking for.

Taking a seat in Buffy's section, Cordelia ordered a diet coke and prepared to wait. Half an hour later, when the traffic was finally thinning out, she flagged down the harried waitress.

"Buffy? Your name is Buffy right? Buffy Summers?"

"Yes." Buffy replied almost reluctantly, slowing as she neared the brunette woman's table. "Can I get something for you?"

"No thanks, I just wanted to talk to you. My name is Cordelia. Cordelia Chase." Cordelia replied with a smile. A smile that grew wider as she once more scanned the girl that she had selected to be Angel's wife in name only. The mousy blonde was perfect, not so horrible that Angel would be embarrassed or would outright object, but definitely not any competition. Not that there really was any competition, as far as Cordy was concerned, but it never hurt to be absolutely certain.

"Do I know you? Are we in a class together?" Buffy questioned, holding her small notepad in front of her as if prepared to take an order. She had to look busy or else Snyder, who seemed to have eyes in the back of his head, would be in her face again. "I'm sorry, I don't remember you…"

"No. At least, I don't think we are." Cordy laughed, the forced sound trilling out in the restaurant and causing a few heads nearby to turn in their direction. "Listen, Buffy. I have a little business proposition for you. Have a seat."

"I can't, I'm sorry. I'll get fired." The petite blonde glanced over her shoulder again before returning her attention back to Cordelia. What on earth could a woman wearing shoes that cost more than her entire outfit want with her? Buffy couldn't imagine.

"Okay, so don't sit. Look, I know you need money. It's rather obvious from your clothing, which is so last year and besides, one of your coworkers mentioned that your Mom died and stuff and that you got stuck with a bunch of the bills." The brunette said flatly, not even attempting to sound sympathetic. "So, I'm willing to offer you $20,000 to do me a little favor."

Buffy stared at the woman with wide eyes. Twenty thousand dollars?! That would cover her expenses - tuition, books, rent, as well as other essentials - for an entire year. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What little favor?"

"Marry my boyfriend." Cordelia replied, glancing at Buffy's face.

"Huh? What? Marry?" The young waitress's eyes widened suddenly. "Oh, hell no. No way. I am so not into kinky stuff like that."

She spun on her heel to walk away, but Cordy reached out and grabbed her by the arm.

"Wait. Listen to me." The brunette whispered, tugging Buffy back a step.

Turning, Buffy glanced down at the brunette's hand on her arm then back at the woman's face. Her eyebrows lifted slightly in challenge.

Cordelia dropped her hand. "It's not what you think. It's just so he can stay in the country."

"So what don't you marry him then? He's your boyfriend. That's usually what you do - you know, date and then if you fall in love - or in this case, if one of you needs to stay in the country - you get married." Buffy replied, crossing her hands over her chest.

"I can't marry him." The brunette stated irritably. She couldn't believe the girl was being this difficult when it was so obvious that she needed the money.

Shifting her stance slight, Buffy looked at the girl suspiciously. "Why not?"

"It's a long complicated story."

"Uh-huh." The diminutive blonde stared back skeptically, noting the absence of a wedding ring on the girl's finger to excuse the obvious "already married" possibility. "Let me guess, you'll get disinherited or cut off from your trust fund if you marry this guy, who is probably from the wrong side of town and your rich parents don't like."

"Okay, maybe it's not that complicated." Cordelia answered with an indignant sigh. "Look, you just have to marry him. It would, of course, be in name only. You're not even going to have to live with him. And you're certainly not going to have sex with him."

"I don't think so." Turning, Buffy walked away.

"Just think it over." Cordelia called after her. Muttering in annoyance, Cordy dropped only enough money on the table to pay for her soda before she walked out of the restaurant. She certainly wasn't going to tip the ungrateful bitch for not helping her out. Now where was she going to find someone else that would fit her ideal so perfectly on such short notice?

 

As was often her habit, Buffy stopped off at Oz and Willow’s apartment on her way home. Even though it was late, she knew that her best friends would still be up watching their favorite show, “Stargate SG-1.”  She knocked loudly then waited until the count of thirty before opening the door, an established pattern ever since she had walked in on the couple in a rather compromising position in their living room a few weeks ago. 

“Hi Buffy.” Willow smiled and waved from her lounging position on the couch, curled up next to Oz, her boyfriend of just over two years. They had only moved in together four months ago and so far the living arrangement seemed well suited to them both.

“Hey.” Oz added in his flat monotone voice.

“Hey guys.” Tiredly Buffy dropped into the armchair near the window and propped her feet up on the small cube shaped ottoman.  

“Rough day?”  The red-haired girl asked after a minute, noting her friend’s slumped posture and defeated expression.

“Unbelievable. I wasn’t able to finish my reading for English or study for my calc test and I still have a final paper for poli sci. On top of that, Snyder threatened again to fire me. Some guy urgently in need of ketchup complained.” 

“Were there fries involved? Because if there were fries, I can see how that might be a problem.” Oz deadpanned, his gaze leaving the TV screen for only a brief second.

“You won’t believe this though.” Buffy continued, “At work tonight this woman, she said her name was Cordelia Chase, well, she offered me twenty thousand dollars to marry her boyfriend.”

“What?!” Oz and Willow asked in unison, both their heads coming up off the couch to look in her direction.

“That was pretty much my reaction too.” The petite blonde replied with a small laugh. “I didn’t believe it.”

“What’d you say?” Willow asked, her eyes wide with surprise.

“I said, Sure! When?”  Buffy answered with a roll of her eyes. “What’d you think I said?”

“Was she for real?” Oz questioned as he shifted slightly, sitting forward now instead of reclining.

“I doubt it. Who has the kind of money to throw around?” Scoffing slightly, Buffy shook her head.

“Cordelia Chase does. Seriously. My Mom has been worked with that family for years. They’re loaded. Ethan Rayne, Cordelia’s grandfather, is like some financial giant in Sunnydale. Investment banking or something.” Tucking her feet under her, Willow looked from Buffy to Oz as she answered the half-joking question. Willow’s mother was a noted psychologist whose clientele consisted of the higher echelon of Sunnydale society, which gave added truth to her words.

“Hm. It’s true she was sporting some serious designer labels…  But of course I said no. I’m not going to marry some guy just so he can stay in the country. If this Cordelia wants him here that bad, she can marry him.” With a shrug, Buffy settled back in the chair and gave her friends a playful smile.  “Speaking of guys though… saw one yesterday that was of interest.”

“Oh?  Date material?” Willow sat forward interestedly. More often than not she was prodding her best friend to get out and meet people, wanting her to have the same love, security and fun that she had found with Oz. Most of the time Buffy protested, claiming to be too busy or uninterested. That she was showing some interest in a guy was a definite good sign.

“Most definitely dateable. Tall and gorgeous with this thick dark hair that was sort of sticking up all messy like sexy – really sexy - bed head.” With a dreamy expression on her face, Buffy sighed. “Beautiful brown eyes, like the best richest chocolate.” 

“Eyes? You got close enough to see eyes?”  Willow grinned, her eyes lighting up animatedly.

“Well yeah, when I was retrieving the bread roll that I dropped at his feet.” With a grimace, the diminutive blonde shrugged. “Which, if the thought hadn’t occurred to him before that moment, I’m sure it came to mind then that I’m a total and complete loser.”

“Buffy.” The red-haired girl admonished, “Guys never think that about you. Never.”

“Which explains why my social life is so full.” Buffy replied wryly, watching as Oz got up to go to the kitchen.

“You’re just … busy, that’s all. You’ve had a lot of things going on.” Willow excused with a small understanding smile.

“Maybe.” Buffy acknowledged absently, her mind lingering on the vision of the guy at the restaurant for just a moment longer.

“So did you get the guy’s name?” Willow asked hopefully, hugging one of the couch pillows to her chest.

“No. He wasn’t in my section, and I had like a dozen other tables. The only other glimpse I saw of him was when he was leaving.” The blonde girl replied with a soft disappointed sigh.

“And?” Willow prompted, a grin threatening to burst forth. She knew her best friend all too well.

“And yeah, he has a really nice butt too.” Buffy grinned back. 

“Maybe he’ll come back in.” The red-haired girl suggested optimistically as Buffy rose to her feet.

“Maybe. But you know me and my luck with guys, Will.”  Buffy picked up the bag she had dropped next to the chair. “Every time I think maybe about a guy it ends badly. But hey, that’s okay. It’s not like I’ve got time for guys and dating right now anyway. Which brings me to - I’ve gotta run. Much studying to be done tonight and another early day tomorrow.”

Giving Willow a quick hug and shouting goodbye to Oz, Buffy hurried out the door and headed home. 

****

Dressed in a short black plaid mini-skirt and bright red sleeveless sweater, Cordelia was oblivious to the appreciative stares as she walked through the UC Sunnydale campus. She attended her classes sporadically, unconcerned with her grades and not particularly ambitious when it came to getting an education. It pleased her grandfather that she attended school and largely kept him off her back, so that alone was worth the occasional hassle of studying or actually making an appearance at the school.  And of course, if it hadn’t been for an art class that she had taken on a lark, she wouldn’t have met Angel.

Stopping near the library, she scanned the crowd in search of her boyfriend. She knew he typically went to the library between classes to study, so she was certain to find him somewhere nearby.  After a few minutes, she spotted his dark head just coming out of the administrative offices.

“Angel! What a surprise.” She smiled and walked toward him.

“Cordelia.” Angel replied with a touch of skepticism as he half-heartedly returned her hug and ignored her proffered cheek. Not in the mood to deal with her, he hadn’t returned her calls yesterday or this morning, so he suspected this meeting was no chance accident.  “Did we have plans?”

“No, silly. Do I have to have reason to see you?” She batted her eyes flirtatiously. “I thought maybe we could grab some lunch or something.” 

“Thanks, but no. I’m not really in the mood. I have two more professors to see, then I have to go home and starting packing.” A serious expression on his face, Angel started toward the math and sciences building.

“Packing?” Cordelia echoed as she fell into step next to him. “No packing. There’s no packing. You are not going back to Ireland.”

“Yes I am, Cordelia.” Angel gave a small exasperated sigh as he stopped once again to look at the brunette. “I’m not going to risk legal action.”

“But… but … What about me- I mean, your classes?” She demanded, reaching out to grab his arm as he once again started to walk away.

“As far as the semester goes, I’m fucked. On Friday afternoon all my instructors were willing to let me finish early or work around this whole screwed up mess, today they’re all telling me that it would be against school policy, and they’re sorry but they can’t make an exception. My whole semester is shot down the tubes. I’ll have to take all these classes over.”

“Not necessarily.” Cordelia insisted. “Remember what I suggested…”

“I can’t do that Delia.” Angel replied, reaching for the handle on the glass door and holding it open.

“Yes, you can.” The brunette said firmly as she stepped in front of him and into the gloomy hallway. She grimaced at the display of bones before turning back to Angel with a pleading look on her face. “Look, I have this… friend. Her mom died, and she was left with tons of debt. I mentioned that maybe she could help me – you – out and I’d help her out a little.” 

Tugging her to the side of the hallway, he stopped. He frowned down at her. “I don’t think so. I don’t want you buying me a wife.”

“I’m not buying her. I’m just… helping her. Yes, I’m helping her get a small low interest loan through one of grandfather’s banks. She’s too proud to accept my help without doing something for me in return. I’ve offered, really. Several times. She was more than willing to do this.” She improvised as she looked away from him as if afraid he might see the truth in her eyes. Actually, she spent more in one productive shopping trip than the sum she had mentioned to Buffy, so to Cordelia the amount was inconsequential. Turning back, she inched closer and smiled, watching her fingers as she walked them playfully up his arm. “You won’t even have to live with her.”

Angel only looked at her, his expression unreadable.

Redoubling her efforts, she continued. “And it would really, really help her out. You’d be doing her a favor AND you wouldn’t lose any of your credits or your time. Just think how much harder it will be to get into the FBI if you were deported and stuff.  Or if you had to explain why you suddenly left before the end of the semester and had to start over…”

“And it’s surprisingly simple.” Cordelia pressed on, “Reverend Bonnie, over on Broadway and Third, can issue marriage licenses and perform the ceremony all at once. You don’t even have to go to Vegas or get a blood test or anything.”

“What’s your friend’s name?”  Angel asked reluctantly, unable to believe he was actually thinking what he was thinking. Of course, should he actually achieve his goal of getting into the FBI he could just as easily get kicked out if they found about this…

“Buffy. Buffy Summers.”

***

Parker Abrams along with several other guys from Delta Zeta Kappa house were celebrating a foosball championship win over Tau Kappa Epsilon. It was the first time they had beaten the rival fraternity in any activity resembling a sport all semester so the young men were fired up and looking to party. They’d already had more than a few beers back at their frat house before heading to the restaurant, so it was a loud and raucous group that strolled into Patina just after eight o’clock.

Buffy had pleaded with Andrew then with Kennedy to switch sections with her, even offering up her tips for the night but to no avail. Snyder had walked up in time to catch the last bit of their conversation and had asked, in his stern nasally voice, if there was a problem.  Buffy shook her head no, and grudgingly waited on the table of twelve.

The mostly drunk frat boys purposely made the next few hours of Buffy’s life absolutely miserable. They complained about their orders and sent back their food, they made lewd remarks and pawed and groped her, snickering and laughing the entire time.

Snyder had watched her like a hawk; the only thing that hadn’t gotten her fired after the third plate of food was returned to the kitchen was that Snyder knew the boys were drunk and purposefully obnoxious. Although, he excused it as simply “blowing off some steam.”  After all, he’d been a Delta Zeta Kappa himself many years ago.

At the end of dinner, the group left a paltry one dollar tip in which Parker had written “Thanks for a good time - again.”

“Very funny.” Buffy grumbled as she cleared the table. Parker has taunted her that they’d be back, and she didn’t doubt that he’d make good on the threat. He seemed to enjoy trying to humiliate her.  Despite her anger, her eyes watered with tears.

She’d gone out with Parker Abrams twice at the beginning of the semester and had regretted it ever since. On their second date, he brought Chinese takeout and a rented video over to her place.  Instead of the sex he had expected, he had ended up with a bloody nose and a pair of sore testicles. Angry and embarrassed at the obvious signs of damage to his face as well as his gait, he had spread lies about Buffy that led other members of his frat and who knows who else to believe that Buffy was into rather rambunctious and kinky sex.  She had endured weeks of teasing and lewd remarks after that; they had only just died down when her Mom had taken a turn for the worse…

“Buffy?”

Buffy sniffed and stiffened her spine. Deep in thought, she hadn’t even heard anyone come up behind her. Besides, it was late – the restaurant was closed.

“I just wanted to see if you had given any more thought to my offer.” Cordelia questioned hopefully. She had already made all the necessary arrangements; now she only needed the blonde to agree. 

Buffy wiped angrily at the tears in her eyes, but did not turn around. There was no need, she knew that the girl behind her was Cordelia Chase, the one that had offered her money to marry her boyfriend so that he could stay in the country.

“Look, it would really, really help my boyfriend out. If he can’t stay in the country, he’s going to lose all his credits for this semester…It may even jeopardize his entire future. I really can’t believe you’d be this selfish, Buffy.”

Glancing down at the wadded up dollar bill in her hand, Buffy grimaced. If she had the kind of money Cordelia was talking about, she could quit this job and never worry about having to wait on Parker or his rude friends again. Taking a deep breath, she whirled around.

“Fine.” Buffy replied impulsively.

“What?” Cordelia questioned, startled.

“I said fine, I’ll do it.” The blonde waitress wiped her hands on the cloth apron tied around her waist, her eyes downcast. After a second, she lifted her gaze to Cordelia’s face. “You did say I didn’t have to … live with him right?”

“Right. Definitely. No living. No sex. Your life can stay just like it is.” The brunette replied, her eyes raking over the girl again. Her hair was in a wild disarray on her head, her clothes were stained with food. Buffy Summers was admittedly… unexceptional. Passable enough to be considered cute perhaps if she were to do something with her hair, change her clothes and do something about that thing on her face but she was certainly no competition. Cordelia smiled brightly, a wide insincere smile showing her perfect white teeth. 

A fleeting reservation passed through Buffy’s mind, but she pushed it aside. “So, um, then...”

Before she could finish her thought, Cordelia drew a card out of her purse and handed it over. “Here’s the address for Reverend Bonnie’s.  Be there Friday at three o’clock sharp. I’ll give you your check then.”

Whirling around, the brunette started to leave.

“Hey!” Buffy called out, thinking there were dozens of things that she should be asking right now, things that she should know but she seemed unable to form a coherent thought.

“What?” Cordelia stopped and turned around. Crossing her arms, she tapped her foot impatiently.

“Um, what’s his name?” She stammered, still trying to organize the chaotic jumble of thoughts lurching through her mind.

“Angel. His name is Angel.”  Cordelia replied brusquely before she turned and flounced away.

“Oh.” Buffy stared at the neatly printed note in her hand, unable to believe that she had just agreed to this.

***

Angel leaned against the black GTX, surveying the traffic along the street from behind a pair of silver rimmed, gray tinted sunglasses as he waited apprehensively for the woman that would soon be his wife. He still couldn’t believe that he had agreed to marry someone that he had never met.  He had, in fact, considered backing out more than a dozen times since he had agreed, feeling as if he were doing something sordid and unscrupulous. In addition, the alarm bells of the words ‘marriage’ and ‘wife’ clamored through his mind putting up an additional shred of resistance. These were words that he had never expected to hear or use in regards to himself for quite a few years, if ever. 

In the shade of the nearby tree, Cordelia paced and talked on her cell phone, her laughter and loud voice ringing out every so often. She had insisted on coming with him, claiming that not only was she there to facilitate the introductions, but that they would need a witness for the ceremony. She had also reminded him that they were expected at Harmony’s for cocktails tonight, so they would need to leave for the Kendall’s estate just after the ceremony if they wanted to get there before traffic.

Despite his reservations and the warm May weather, he had dressed the part of the groom in a deep blue suit that hugged his tall muscular frame. The top few buttons of his white shirt were unbuttoned at the collar in deference to the heat.  Closing his eyes, Angel cursed his luck for having led him here. Feeling a last minute panic, he pushed away from the car and started toward Cordelia.

Perhaps it wasn’t too late to stop this farce.

*** 

Buffy checked her reflection in the small rearview mirror one last time while she waited at the stoplight.  She couldn’t believe she had actually agreed to marry a man that she had never met. All she knew was that his name was Angel. What kind of name was that anyway?

Angel.

She’d repeated it to herself over a dozen times in the last two days, uncertain she was going to be able to go through with this. Why hadn’t she asked for his last name? Or what if that was his last name? Buffy Angel?  Buffy Summers-Angel? Egads. It was a good thing she planned on keeping her maiden name then.  Behind her a car honked and she jumped, startled to see that the light had turned green while she was lost in thought. Pressing firmly on the accelerator, she gave an apologetic wave and zipped through the intersection.

As she approached the little pink bungalow at the address specified on the paper, Buffy briefly considered just driving on past and forgetting this whole ridiculous scheme. Instead, she found herself braking and pulling into a parking space just across the street. Glancing over, she saw the small cheerful sign out front proclaiming that she was, indeed, at “Reverend Bonnie’s”.

“There’s Buffy now.”  Cordelia said, clicking off her cell phone abruptly. She held up her hand, shielding her eyes from the sun as she watched the petite blonde get out of the green jeep and cross the street toward them.

Angel stopped next to her on the sidewalk, the words he had been about to utter frozen on his lips.

Buffy was wearing a stylish pink sundress, so light it appeared almost white, and a pair of strappy high heeled sandals. Her hair was pulled up on the back of her head, with long curls cascading down from the secured knot. She wore a short string of pearls around her neck with matching tear-drop shaped earrings dangling from her earlobes.

Without realizing it, Cordelia frowned. The blonde actually looked … good. Too good.  Which was definitely not good.

Oh lord, she was small, Angel thought as the young woman stepped out of the car parked at the curb. How old was she?  She seemed almost like a child. He drew in a deep breath as she approached, trying to remember why he had let Cordelia talk him into this. Why had this seemed like a good idea?  He could still stop this before it’s too late, he only had to find the words. A soft curse escaped his lips. Or maybe not so soft as Buffy glanced over at him curiously.

Plastering a smile on her face, the brunette cheerfully spoke as Buffy stopped next to them on sidewalk. “Buffy! Did you lose weight? And your hair... Alright, I respect you too much to be dishonest. The hair's a little...” Standing almost protectively in front of Angel, Cordelia shifted her stance. “Well, that really isn't the point here, is it?”

Buffy tried not to stare at the man behind Cordelia, her heart suddenly beating erratically in her chest. She would never have agreed to do this if she had known that her prospective husband was the guy from the restaurant. The really, really gorgeous guy from the restaurant, with those beautiful eyes and that nice butt…  Oh but of course, he would be the boyfriend of the incredibly beautiful and incredibly rich woman. This was an example of Buffy luck at its finest.

“Buffy, Angel. Angel, Buffy.” Cordelia chirped out the introductions with a small sweep of her hand before turning on her heel and heading toward the door. “Now let’s get this over with, okay?”

Buffy swallowed nervously and managed a strangled “hello” before moving to follow Cordelia who was waiting impatiently by the door. She clenched her fingers in her palm, suppressing the urge to race to her car and drive away or, perhaps run her fingers through the dark, spiky locks of hair that practically begged to be touched.

Removing his sunglasses, an interested smile crossing his lips, Angel’s gaze followed Buffy’s trim figure as she walked away from him.  The scent of warm vanilla drifted to his nostrils as he followed closely in the petite blonde’s wake, picking up his pace to reach the door ahead of her. Grasping the door handle, he held it open politely as Cordelia then Buffy entered salmon pink bungalow. 

Without any conscious realization, his earlier reluctance had slipped completely from his mind.

Just inside the door they were greeted by a petite Korean woman named Jin-Soo, who introduced herself as Reverend Bonnie’s assistant. With a smile, she told them that it would be just a few minutes, then disappeared through the door behind her.

Buffy anxiously studied the pictures that aligned the lobby walls as they waited. On one side there were pictures of smiling, happy couples. Next to some of the pictures were notes or cards of thanks. On the opposite wall, there were pictures of babies and children of a wide variety of ages. A few of them had names on them, but most were simply photographs.

Sneaking peeks at Buffy from his position next to the reception desk, Angel found himself suddenly curious about her. What was she like?  Was her financial situation so dire that she would have to resort to this? 

The door at the back of the room burst open and Reverend Bonnie, a plump strawberry blonde wearing a bright yellow dress, burst through the door with Jin-Soo following close behind.

“Hello, hello. I’m Reverend Bonnie.” She said with a wide smile, her eyes moving rapidly between the occupants of her lobby. Her blue eyes stopped again on Buffy and she fairly beamed, “You must be our bride.”

Bonnie glanced once more at Angel with a wide smile, “and of course, the groom.” Her gaze then landed on Cordelia. “Oh, and let me guess? You’re the best friend that set them up?”

Cordelia’s eyes narrowed and she started to speak, but Bonnie continued speaking cheerfully, reaching for the papers Jin-Soo was handing her. “I can always tell these things. When you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you develop sort of an instinct.”

“Oh. Yes. The bride. That’s me.” Buffy managed to say, feeling suddenly like a fraud to this charming and friendly woman.

“Those are my couples. And their children.” Bonnie commented with a nod, noticing that Buffy had been studying the pictures on the wall.

“Oh.”  Buffy said simply, glancing once more back at the smiling faces in the picture. How very different she and her groom would no doubt look when compared to the other pictures. She couldn’t help but suppress a small chuckle at the thought that her expression as well as Angel’s appeared to be more suited for a funeral than their own wedding.

“Now then, shall we get down to business?”  The plump woman said with a smile, setting a few papers on the counter with prompt efficiency. “Here’s the paper work for your marriage license. Just fill this out. I’ll need a valid driver’s license or a passport as well.”

Buffy sat her driver’s license on the counter next to Angel’s passport. Her eyes flitted to his for a brief second before she returned her gaze to the papers in front of her.

“Have either of you been divorced or widowed in the last two years?” Bonnie questioned, filling in the form as Jin-Soo made copies of their documents.

“No.” Angel replied in a low voice as he cast a sidelong look at Buffy.

“No.” Buffy shook her head, clearing her throat and taking a deep breath to steel her nerves.

“Sorry, I have to ask these things. It’s part of the requirements.”  The plump woman smiled and reached out to pat Buffy affectionately on the arm. “Everyone is a little nervous, it’s normal. You’ll be smiling just like that once we’re done. Now just sign here and your handsome groom will sign there and that will just about finish up the paperwork for the marriage license.”

Buffy signed her name in a neat cursive script then watched as Angel signed on the line next to her, his name a beautiful black flourish.

Liam Angelus O’Conner.

Buffy repeated his name to herself, seeing it in full for the first time. She was a bit chagrined that she hadn’t asked before they were signing their marriage certificate, but it was a little too late for misgivings now.

“Now, are you the witness?” Bonnie questioned with only slightly less warmth as she peered around Angel to the brunette standing behind him.

“Yes.” Cordelia replied with a forced smile.

“Okay, sign here on the marriage license and we’re all set for the ceremony.”

Cordelia signed her name and pushed the paper back across the counter.

“You’ll just need to get this one here notarized for the BCIS, hon.”  Bonnie waved a form at Angel, then handed it to Jin-Soo who then scurried away.

Smiling once again, Bonnie gestured for the trio to follow her into the adjoining room. It was a cozy little room, obviously the living room of the small bungalow but without furniture. A tall vase of flowers and several candles set at one end. 

“You two are really a cute couple. I know, I’ve seen a lot of them, but you two...” Bonnie bustled around the table at one end, lighting the candles. Her strawberry blonde curls bobbed as she talked, as if punctuating her words. “I like a little romantic ambiance during the ceremony. Hope you don’t mind. Oh, I was saying… you two are really such a perfect compliment to each other.”  Turning around, she nudged Angel on the arm. “I see some beautiful babies in your future. Which, of course, I will want pictures of for my wall.”

Buffy and Angel glanced at each other briefly, both of them shifting uncomfortably.  Behind them Cordelia rolled her eyes, bristling with annoyance. 

They took their positions in front of Bonnie after she donned what she called her “officiant’s robe” and she began the ceremony.

Taking Buffy’s hand in his, Angel studied his bride directly for the first time. Sunny golden blonde hair, dainty arched eyebrows over green eyes… or were they gray? A pert nose and full pouty – and rather seductive - lips. His eyes drifted to the rounded curve of her breasts, the swell of them just visible over the neckline of her dress. No, definitely not a child he thought, revising his initial assessment.  His gaze moved lower to her small waist and the gently rounded curve of her hip before returning once again to her face. It was then that he noticed her blush at his perusal.  Innocent then.  And decidedly beautiful.

The combination stirred something unexpected within him, a curious possessiveness as if he suddenly wanted her for himself alone. It was uncharacteristic for a man who had never considered any of his previous companions as anything more than a pleasant diversion. He shook away the fleeting impulsive thought, though he did admit that he found Miss Buffy Summers exceptionally attractive.

As he listened to Reverend Bonnie intone the words that would bind them together in matrimony, he was struck with a sudden sense of solemnity at the concept of his marriage, no matter the unusual circumstances. The woman standing at his side would be his wife, the first Mrs. Liam Angelus O’Connor. It was a significant acknowledgement for a man that had never even considered marriage before.

Intensely aware of the man standing beside her, his size alone enough to draw attention, Buffy too was thinking about the seriousness of the moment and the stranger that would soon be her husband. This was hardly the fairy-tale wedding she had dreamed of as a child, years before the bitter and stormy nature of her parents marriage seemed to disprove the idea of lasting love. While she hadn’t exactly met anyone that she had ever considered her true love, she never thought she’d be getting married for anything less. Yet, here she was.

Startled out of her reverie, Buffy repeated the words as Reverend Bonnie prompted her, then reached in her pocket and pulled out the inexpensive silver ring that she had picked up on impulse. She blushed, hating the idea of being so presumptuous, but was glad that she had thought that rings would be expected. With trembling fingers, she slipped the ring on the third finger of his left hand.

Angel cursed himself for not thinking of such a detail, and would have slapped himself in the forehead had everyone not been staring at him expectantly. 

“I was in a rush to get here and I forgot the ring…” He improvised apologetically, then his face lightened. He slipped the Claddagh ring from his right hand. “It was my fathers. It’s a little big, but hopefully it will do for now.” He smiled, taking Buffy’s hand and slipping the ring on her finger. It was warm from his hand and much too big, but rather than being offended that he had forgotten Buffy was actually touched by his gesture. She curled her fingers together, holding the ring in place.

When Reverend Bonnie pronounced them husband and wife with a smile, Buffy looked up at Angel with bated breath. The words “You may now kiss your bride” rang in her ears along with the sudden thundering of her heart.

With only a minute hesitation, Angel slipped his arms around his diminutive bride, drawing her close. Bending his head, his lips met hers gently, brushing them with the lightest of touches.

Buffy’s breath caught and she drew back in an unconscious response as a shocking trail of fire seemed to curl through her. From the look in his eyes, she knew that he had felt it too, the tiny heated spark. Her gaze dropped to his lips and she swayed forward without thinking, pressing her lips to his again.

His idea of a simple chaste kiss forgotten, Angel’s hands tightened on her back and he pulled her closer still. Under the light pressure of his lips, she opened her own and the velvety heated caress of his tongue slipped into her mouth, languidly exploring. Buffy responded eagerly, savoring the fresh minty taste of him as a tingling sensation crept through her veins, warming her from the inside. She gradually became more aware of him: the hard wall of his chest grazing the tips her breasts, the heavy warmth of his hand on her back, holding her to him. Her thighs brushed his as she shifted, making her acutely aware of his arousal, firming against her stomach. A melting warmth swept through her and her hands slipped up his arms to his shoulders.

“Ah-hem.”  Behind them Cordelia coughed loudly, her eyes sparkling angrily. She tapped her foot impatiently, her irritation in no way concealed.

Angel released Buffy almost reluctantly as she broke off their kiss and pulled away from him.

He hadn’t expected to be interested in his bride beyond a casual curiosity nor had he given any thought to the ramifications of intimate involvement with her. Although, a small voice in his head playing devil’s advocate suggested, wasn’t that one of the benefits of marriage?  Still, the word ‘wife’ and the permanence it implied gave him pause. Yes, she was beautiful and desirable, but they didn’t need to complicate things by becoming sexually involved. At least that’s what he was trying to tell himself.

With a hint of a blush on her cheeks at her unusually brazen behavior, Buffy turned to face the others. She and Angel awkwardly accepted congratulations from Bonnie and Jin-Soon and then Cordelia, who only offered it because Bonnie stared at her expectantly.

As they started toward the door, the ceremony over, Jin-Soo handed Angel an envelope containing their marriage license and the forms he needed for the BCIS. He thanked her as he held open the door as first Cordelia, then Buffy exited the building. 

“Wait one minute!” Bonnie called after them impulsively, her voice trailing off as she darted back into the office. Panting slightly from her run into the building, the plump woman burst through the door behind them, a Polaroid camera waving triumphantly in her hand. “I don’t normally do this but since you don’t have a camera or a photographer…” 

Buffy glanced at her new husband and gave a small conciliatory shrug.  Behind her, Cordelia snorted impatiently, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Just a few pictures. You have to have something to commemorate this day, hon, really.” Grinning, the plump strawberry blonde gestured toward the jasmine covered trellis next to the porch. “Now Angel get over there and stand next to your beautiful bride.”

Angel took his place next to Buffy, his arm slipping around her waist. A strand of her hair, captured by the light breeze, brushed his cheek in a silken caress making him exceptionally aware of the woman who was now his wife.

“Now smile.” Bonnie cheerfully declared as she snapped a couple of pictures. “Now then, we have to have one with a kiss.” 

Buffy felt her breath catch in anticipation. A tingle of excitement skittered through her nerves at the idea of kissing him again though she attempted to force it away, knowing that it would do her absolutely no good to be attracted to her husband. Who would have thought that being attracted to one’s own husband would be a bad thing?  She almost laughed at the irony of her thought, her lips twitching into a smile.

Angel saw the fleeting smile and offered one in return, curious suddenly as to what she was thinking. He stared into her hazel green eyes for a brief second, as if searching for a clue to her thoughts. Next to them, Bonnie snapped off another picture.

Buffy’s eyes closed as he kissed her, his lips settling on hers. She fought down a shivery sigh, finding it all too tempting to sink into his arms, his kiss. Instead, she drew back from him, reminding herself that theirs was a business arrangement, nothing more. Still, something about this man caused her to lose her senses; she had never been so forward as she had been today – practically throwing herself at him during their earlier kiss.  No doubt Angel found it awkward and uncomfortable enough to have to kiss her with his girlfriend watching without having her behaving like some silly infatuated ninny. 

Buffy stepped away from Angel with a resolute sigh.  Yes, he was deliciously kissable… but he wasn’t hers and would never be, despite the circumstances. 

“Oh, sweetie, these are just great.” Bonnie beamed as she crossed the small distance to where Buffy now stood. Impulsively, the plump blonde reached out and caught her in a hug.  She then turned and did the same to Angel. “Take care you two. Remember, send me pictures of the children!”

Pressing the pictures into Buffy’s hand, Bonnie waved. “Gotta run. My next couple is here! Ta-ta.” In a swirl of lemon yellow fabric, her curls bobbing wildly, the vivacious Reverend disappeared back into her salmon pink bungalow.

“Finally, god. Who knew she would be so annoying? If she’d shut her mouth once in awhile, that would be nice.” Cordelia muttered, stepping between newly married couple. Reaching in her purse, she retrieved an envelope that she then handed to Buffy. “This is for you. Now Angel, let’s get the hell out of here.”

“Bye Buffy.” The brunette called over her shoulder as she tugged on Angel’s arm, almost dragging him away. “Harmony’s parents just had their pool house refurbished. I helped advise them on the décor. Wait until you see it – it’s fabulous… It’s a French Mediterranean look, along the lines of a villa that I stayed at in Nice last summer… You’re going to love it.” Her voice faded as they crossed the yard to where the black GTX was parked.

When they reached the car, Angel put on his sunglasses and glanced covertly back at his bride one last time, Cordelia’s voice still droning in his ear. The petite blonde was still standing where they had left her, looking down at the pictures in her hand.

Buffy studied the photographs, scarcely able to believe that it was over, that she was now officially married.  The pictures of the two of them were really quite nice, if a bit serious. The one with her hair blowing across his face as he looked down at her actually looked almost believable, as if they really were a couple in love.  She shifted it behind the others and glanced at the next one - the one of them kissing.

“Oh boy.” Buffy sighed softly.  She tucked the pictures in her purse and started to her car just as the black Plymouth roared off down the street.

NEXT PART


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