Making the Rent
by tango and indie

 

Buffy took a deep breath, steeling her resolve. Lips set into a hard line, she lifted her hand and knocked crisply on the door. She could hear footsteps approaching, but they couldn't blot out her heart pounding in her ears.

Angel pulled open the door, blinking twice at the sight of Buffy dressed in a black satin robe. "Uh, yes?" he squeaked. He quickly coughed. "Buffy is there something I can do to- uh, for, for . is there anything I can do for you?"

"Were you serious about me posing for you?" she asked quickly, her tone completely businesslike. She kept her manner as serious as she could and found herself struggling to keep her eyes on his rather than looking at the floor.

He stared at her blankly for several heartbeats. "Yes," he finally answered. "I would love to sketch you."

"Three hundred dollars, right?" she asked. "Cash."

Angel nodded and then groaned and shook his head. "Wesley would kill me," he said.

"My brother doesn't have anything to do with this," she countered, her expression hard. "I'm doing this on my own. I'm an adult. Neither Wesley nor my father has any say in my life now."

I'm going to Hell, Angel thought. "Okay," he said, standing back to let her into his penthouse apartment, "Come in here before someone sees you in that."

Buffy thankfully hurried into the apartment, brushed past him and waited for him to close the door, looking around nervously. Now that he had agreed, this suddenly felt like an asinine way to make money, but three hundred dollars for lying around for an hour or so couldn't be that wrong, no matter how it felt.

Angel walked stiffly to his bedroom and didn't look back at her as he pulled the comforter off the bed and threw it aside on the floor. He rumpled the black silk sheets and closed his eyes for a split second, taking a deep, hard breath. Then, moving into motion as if he hadn't stopped, he scattered the pillows over the bed as if it were from lovers tangling together in intercourse.

"Lay down," he said, gesturing at the tousled bed, "and I'll just...uh...get my, get my stuff."

Buffy waited until he left the room before slipping off her robe, leaving it pooled at the end of the bed. She climbed on quickly, not wanting him to see her in any lewd position when he walked back inside the room. She carefully arranged herself in the center of the bed, covering up almost completely with carefully arranged pillows and sheets.

That was how Angel found her when he came back into the room. His brow wrinkled as he looked over her, seeing nearly none of her golden, decadent flesh in the open.

"What?" she asked as he looked over her, not speaking.

"You said you'd pose nude," he said carefully.

"I am buck naked here! Are you blind?" she snapped, knowing her cheeks were bright red and the blush was quickly traveling down her body.

"Believe me, baby, I can see just how undressed you are," he said huskily.

"Well, okay, fine," she said, somewhat mollified, "can we just get on with this?"

He sighed in exasperation, leaning his sketchpad against the wall. He didn't want to do this. He didn't want to be the nice guy again. But this was Buffy. And Wesley was his best friend. And he couldn't just push his ethics aside no matter how much his cock was screaming for him to do just that. "Buffy, why are you doing this?" he asked after a long pause.

She scowled. "Just do it."

"Not until you tell me why you need the money. Is it for rent?"

She pursed her lips together tightly, not wanting to answer. "Yes," she finally admitted.

He shook his head and reached for her robe, tossing it to her. "Then get dressed and go back to your apartment. This month's rent is on the house as is every other month until you can afford it."

"No," she snapped, sitting up in bed so fast the sheet fell to her waist. She quickly grabbed it, blushing again. "I am just like everyone else. I don't want your charity. All of the other tenants have to pay rent, so will I."

"Buffy, you're not like all the other tenants," he explained. "I've known you since you were born. Your brother is my best friend. I can't take advantage of you like this."

"You're not taking advantage," she protested. "This is a business transaction. You pay people to model for you, I need money. Pay me and you'll get your rent."

"Trust me," he said dryly. "I've never offered for Harris in 2D to work off rent by posing nude. I'm not being a martyr here. Just put your clothes back on."

She shook her head, tears pricking her eyes. "Please, Angel," she said softly. "I need to do this. I need to make it on my own."

He sighed and against his better judgment, finally nodded. "Okay," he said, "you can model, but if you're going to do it, you have to do it like a professional. I can't have you huddling under the covers."

Biting down on her bottom lip, she nodded. "Fine," she said, pushing off the blankets. She laid back on the bed and stared at the ceiling, trying not to cover herself up.

Angel took a deep breath. And another. He couldn't even begin to count the number of times he'd had this very fantasy. As professionally as possible, he walked over and arranged her as if she were a mannequin. Except, of course, when someone positioned an inanimate object, they rarely held their breath . and they rarely had an erection.

After he moved her into the position he wanted her, he sat down quickly, hoping that the stiffening in his groin would go away but he knew it wouldn't. He also wished that he could block himself with the sketchbook as he sketched her, but he knew that wasn't possible either. The fact was that having Buffy within sight was enough for him to harden. Having her naked in his bed, hair spread out around her, her naked body lying against his sheets was enough for him to completely lose control.

He had wanted her from the time he first found out that girls actually had far more interest than cooties. He had stayed as nice and brotherly as he could to Buffy as they were growing up because Wesley was his best friend, but now things had changed. She was an adult, a startlingly beautiful adult. All he wanted to do was throw the sketchpad aside and climb in there with her. There was something very natural and right about her being in his bed and his arousal was rising in agreement.

He began to sketch her slowly, methodically, making sure he got every detail of her soft curves, the slight bend of her hips, the crease of her brow, the arch of her back against the sheets. He wanted to get it all on paper and then follow each detail with his fingers on her flesh.

Shaking his head, he tried to concentrate more on the lines he was drawing rather than the body the lines were making up, but he couldn't. He wanted her and with a passion that years of fucking other women didn't sate. He wanted Buffy Summers and the fact that she was naked in his bed was the most sensual thing he had ever witnessed.

"Uh, Angel," she said meekly, "is there any way you could turn up the heat?"

His eyes immediately flicked to her rock hard nipples and he forced himself to look her in the eyes. "Uh ... s-s-sure," he muttered. Very carefully, he unfolded himself from the chair, trying to figure out how he was going to stand up without embarrassing himself. He quickly came to the realization that there was no way he could possibly achieve that goal. In a moment of exasperation, he set down his pencil and stood. He didn't look at Buffy, he merely walked over to the thermostat and turned the heat up to eighty-five, walked back to the chair and sat down. He picked up his pencil, poised to begin sketching again and looked at Buffy. Her eyes were big as saucers. She quickly looked away, blushing from the roots of her hair to the tips of her toes. "You're very beautiful," he said by way of explanation, unable to keep the huskiness from his voice.

"N-n-no problem," she squeaked. Buffy couldn't meet his eyes. Not after she saw his ... She couldn't even finish the thought. Angel was beautiful. He was rich. He was an artist who did nudes all the time. He could have any woman he wanted. Why on earth would he get a hard on looking at her naked? But he had. Absolutely no doubt about that. Her blush intensified as she remembered exactly how impressive it had been. She shifted uneasily on the sheets.

"Are you uncomfortable?" he asked.

"No," she replied, but couldn't help shifting again.

"It's okay, Buffy," he said. "We can finish this later."

"Later?"

He smiled at her slowly. "I generally don't finish a sketch in just one sitting."

"Oh," Buffy managed in a weak, husky voice. He turned and began to move his art supplies back out of the room in a show of deliberate slowness.

Buffy took the opportunity to scramble to the end of the bed and scoop up her robe. She checked him often to see if he was peeking as she struggled to get her arms in and wrap it around her body. Her hands were shaking so badly, she wasn't sure how she accomplished the task. Hurrying toward the door, it didn't even occur to her to say goodbye until she touched the doorknob. She squeezed her eyes shut and cursed silently before turning around.

She found him leaning against his bedroom doorway, arms folded across his broad chest. She couldn't help but let her eyes graze his body and land directly on his tented groin before quickly raising her eyes back to his.

"I didn't mean to make you feel." he started and paused as he searched for the right word. He was actually glad his mouth was still working, with the way the rest of his body was focused on sex. Hell, if she asked him what he had just said, he wasn't certain he would be able to answer correctly. Instead, he moved and stalked toward her. The thudding in his chest should have been alarming, but it made him feel invigorated for the first time in a long time.

"That's okay," Buffy said quickly as he moved toward her. Moving backwards, she let out a shuddered, panicked breath as she slammed back against the door. "I wish I didn't have to . but I do ." she mumbled as she felt for the doorknob behind her. By the time Angel reached the door, she had made it out into the hallway and proceeded to run away from his apartment - or more accurately, him.

*****

"I'm guessing that one of your dates fell through," Wesley said dryly, looking at Angel's grumpy countenance across the table, now littered with empty martini glasses.

Angel smiled tightly. He wasn't about to confirm any suspicions, especially when his blue balls were courtesy of his best friend's beloved baby sister. It made him feel dirty just thinking about the things that he wanted to do to Buffy. Of course, not dirty enough to make him stop fantasizing. Why was it that women flocked to him but that none of them really captured his interest - except Buffy, the one woman he couldn't have?

It was some sort of sad joke. As an only child, Angel had always enjoyed being around Wesley and Buffy, they were the siblings he didn't have. When they went to boarding school together, his bond with Wesley only intensified. But one Christmas vacation, everything had changed. They came home and Angel was excited to see Buffy, the girl he thought of as his little sister. Only he found out when he looked at her that there was absolutely nothing brotherly about the way he felt toward the gorgeous creature who was his best friend's sister. Ever since then, Buffy had been his preferred masturbatory fantasy. Which, once again, made him feel dirty, but it was safe. While fantasy Buffy gave him endless pleasure, he avoided the real Buffy as much as possible. Avoiding her was the only option. He wasn't strong enough to be around her without jeopardizing his entire relationship with Wesley and the rest of the Summers family.

He had honestly thought he could go on avoiding her for the rest of his life. But one night when she showed up, pounding on his apartment door, soaking wet and needing a place to stay, he agreed to lease her an apartment. Actually, it wasn't so much as he agreed as it was that all he could say was "yes". He couldn't say much else. Her shirt was wet and her nipples were completely visible through the thin fabric. He probably would have taken her right then, but he had company. Never shy, Darla walked out of his bedroom wearing nothing but a sheet and shooed Buffy out the door before dragging him back to bed. For the last eight months, Buffy had lived downstairs in apartment 2G. For the last eight months, he had been forcing himself not to show up at her door in the middle of the night. And now she was posing nude for him to make rent. There was no way this could end well. No way. And of course, he had no intention of changing a damn thing.

"I see you're feeling especially talkative this evening," Wesley added when Angel's irritated smile yielded no reply. "Surely the doxy broke out in a horrible case of the hives to pass up an evening with you, Angel."

Angel sneered across the table in warning at his friend and then blinked before sighing, "Sorry, Wes. I'm just a little-"

"Not at all," Wes said waving his hand in dismissal, "But I think I should like to meet the girl who has caused you to get in such a twist."

"Yeah," Angel laughed sarcastically, "Wouldn't that be funny?"

****

The following evening, Buffy paced in her apartment nervously. Rent to Angel was only getting later and when she finished balancing her checkbook, she thought about throwing up. She would owe him two hundred more plus the electricity bill she hadn't paid yet. She ran her fingers through her hair worriedly and continued her trek around the living room.

She had to go back up there and finish the sketch and then she should start looking for yet another job. Her job at the University's library might have been fine if she hadn't started taking classes this semester. She hadn't been living away from her family nearly long enough to get the complete student aid she needed and now she couldn't even pay the rent or the electric bill, not to mention the depressingly empty refrigerator in the kitchen.

Unfortunately, she couldn't even worry about how her stomach was growling or how the bills were due without thinking of Angel and what had happened when she had posed for him. It wasn't right to be as attracted to someone who was almost family, but whenever she thought about him, her heart skipped a beat. She couldn't believe he was truly attracted to little, mousy, virgin Buffy. It wasn't possible. But then again, Angel was a guy. Just because he had a physical reaction to her nude body didn't necessarily mean he was "interested". Faith's favorite word of advice was that all men were beasts. That thought should have reassured her. Instead, it merely made her wonder more. Which wasn't good, especially considering she was heading straight into the beast in question's lair.

When Angel answered the door, he was barely managing to hold a stack of assorted magazines and mail in his hands while he had one of his shirts clasped in his teeth. He nodded Buffy inside and disappeared in the second bedroom he used as his office. Buffy heard a loud crash and muffled cursing before Angel reemerged. He looked at her and shrugged. "Sorry," he said, "just trying to clean the place up a little. Didn't want to scare you."

Buffy smiled, both flattered and amused that he had been cleaning his apartment for her. "The place looks fine," she said truthfully. It could probably use a little straightening up, but Angel was no slob. And his apartment was decorated absolutely beautifully. It was a far cry from her hand-me-down sofa and rabbit ear television.

Angel looked at her and nodded. An uncomfortable silence fell. Buffy motioned towards the bathroom. "I thought that I'd just change here this time," she said. "I really didn't feel like running into one of my neighbors in my robe."

"Oh," Angel said, "yeah, sure. No problem."

Ten minutes later, Buffy was attempting to relax as she stared up at the ceiling of Angel's bedroom. He had apparently remembered her temperature issues from the last time because his room was toasty warm despite her complete lack of clothing. But the warmth didn't make her feel any more at ease. At least Angel was distracted as he hunted through stacks of sketchbooks, apparently looking for one in particular. Buffy blushed crimson as her stomach growled loudly for what felt like the tenth time.

Angel stopped riffling through sketchbooks and looked at her. "Are you hungry?" he asked.

Her blush intensified. "Nope," she said. "I'm fine."

Angel shrugged, going back to his searching, but her stomach growled again. He turned and looked at her. Really looked at her. Naked as a jaybird, it wasn't like she could hide anything. Angel frowned. "When was the last time you ate?" he asked.

"I had some crackers before I came up here," she said somewhat truthfully. It was actually one cracker that she found while cleaning out her backpack. Not one of her finer moments to be sure.

"What about a full meal?"

"Uh...I'm dieting - "

Her excuse was cut short as Angel threw his own robe at her, glowering. Dutifully, Buffy shrugged into the robe and followed him out to the kitchen. He pulled open his refrigerator and Buffy's mouth watered. Oh groceries, how she had missed them. She remembered her own sad refrigerator with its jar of mustard and some expired cottage cheese. Angel turned around and looked at her. "What do you like to eat?" he asked.

"Really, Angel, I'm not hungry," she lied.

He knew she was lying and rolled his eyes as he started pulling items out of the refrigerator. She was certain she was drooling and her stomach began nearly roaring as he placed eggs, bacon, cheese, bread and orange juice on the counter. He seemed to be an expert in the breakfast department as he began frying an egg while he poured her a glass of orange juice.

"Angel," Buffy said, talking loudly over her belly's ravenous sounds, "You really don't have to go to all this trouble."

"Sit down," he said, motioning at the kitchen table absently, focused on his task. He didn't stop to look at her as he started brewing coffee like it was 8 AM rather than 8 PM. Tossing a towel over his shoulder and whistling a jaunty tune slightly off key, he tossed bacon into a second pan.

"Angel..." Buffy said reluctantly after a second, biting her lower lip. Nervously she rubbed the cuff of his silk robe between her fingers. He winked happily at her as he placed a thick slice of cheese in her hand, turned her shoulders toward the table and went back to his work. She forced herself not to gobble the cheese and pecked at it lightly as she watched him move around the kitchen. Sweet Jesus, what other man looked like that while doing something as mundane as frying an egg?

***

After he had finished making her eat as much food as he could, he followed her back into the bedroom. He gathered his sketchbook and sat down, sneaking glances as she laid back in his warm bed and stifled a yawn. He frowned slightly, watching her rub her belly as if she expected a rounded Buddha belly in place of the sunken in look. A frightening yet not completely unsatisfying vision of feeding her chocolate covered strawberries in bed sprang to his mind as he realized just how thin she had become lately.

He began to sketch her again, getting lost in her beauty, occasionally stopping to sip at his cooling coffee. Her eyes were closed and Angel knew she had fallen asleep, but kept sketching. Buffy contented and asleep in his bed was one of the most glorious vistas upon which his eyes had ever fallen. It was close to midnight before he set the sketchpad aside, trying to ignore the uncomfortable tightness in the front of his pants. He couldn't help but smile as Buffy let out a little snore, rolling over and burrowing deeper into the covers.

He should wake her up and send her back to her own apartment. He should. It would be the right thing to do. On the other hand, the wrong thing to do would be to turn the thermostat down, change into a pair of threadbare pajama bottoms, crawl into bed and spoon himself around the beautiful, naked blonde. But as he did it, it sure didn't feel wrong. Buffy automatically curled back against him, sighing as he wrapped his arms around her waist.

He wanted to run his hands over every inch of her silky soft, golden skin, but he refrained. He didn't want to risk waking her up. He was already going to have a hell of a time in the morning explaining why he crawled in bed with her in the first place. But he was confident in his ability to lie on the spot, a craft honed in early adolescence. Closing his eyes, with a smile still planted on his face, he snuggled against her happily and fell asleep.

***

Buffy could feel the sunlight warming her face from the nearby window and she snuggled in deeper. It wasn't every day that she woke up in the morning to the sunshine. Besides the fact that her bed was on the opposite side of the window, she always had to get up way before the sun rose. It was nice being bathed in warmth, snuggled in a bed so comfortable it couldn't possibly be her narrow twin...with a large firm body against...

Oh gods.

Buffy opened her eyes and closed them again quickly. It only took a second to realize just what bed she was in and whose sexy bare chest was against her naked back. His arm was slung around her waist, keeping her pinned against him and she thankfully noted that he wasn't completely naked when she felt the brush of his groin against her, covered in what felt like extremely thin cotton. She took a deep breath and began to move slowly across the bed. Inching. Inching was the key. She made it half a foot from Angel when he pulled her back against him, nuzzling against her neck.

"Not yet, love," he murmured into her hair, talking in his sleep.

Buffy froze, trying not to breathe. Oh gods, could this get more embarrassing? No doubt she had fallen asleep last night in the middle of her sitting. The thought made her nauseas. Had she snored? Oh gods, she probably snored. And drooled. She knew there had to be drool. She wished she were a snail so she could just crawl back inside her shell. Obviously she had looked so pathetic passed out in Angel's bed - after he fed her - that he just let her sleep. She was doing a great job of surviving on her own, oh yes she was. Angel had to hate this, his best friend's bratty little sister mooching off of him for a place to stay, eating all his food, sleeping in his bed. She felt like Goldilocks. And now he was in the middle of some dream, probably about that skank, Darla, and was grabbing the nearest warm body.

Very carefully, she tried to move away from Angel again. He grumbled in his sleep, rolling her onto her back underneath him, forcing one of his legs between her thighs as his hand descended over one of her breasts. He smiled in his sleep, snuggling closer against her.

Despite all the warning bells going off in her head, telling her that she needed to get out of that bed, Buffy couldn't ignore the fact that she had lusted after Angel from the moment she hit puberty. He was a god, all broad shoulders and dark eyes with a body that - oh gods, it was pressed against her and she swallowed so hard it was audible. The thought of his body made her weak. The reality of it pressed against her made her want to weep for joy. There was no way she could capture Angel's attention. He liked older, sophisticated - slutty - women. What could she, a nineteen-year-old virgin, possibly have to offer him? Nothing. But it didn't stop her from dreaming.

She turned her head, his sleeping face on the pillow a mere hair's breadth from her own. He was so damn beautiful. The sunlight streaming through the window caressed his face, making him look like a real angel. She couldn't help it, she reached out, gently tracing the line of his jaw with her fingertips. What would it be like to wake up with him after a night of passion? What would it be like to really be with him? A wistful sigh escaped her lips and Angel's eyes fluttered open.

Buffy went deathly still. He blinked, obviously disoriented, but quickly recovered. He looked at her and down at their intertwined bodies. His dark eyes once again met hers and she waited for the inevitable embarrassment, the rejection.

It never came.

He moved only slightly, but it was more than enough to close the distance between them and then his lips were on hers, gently coaxing. Buffy whimpered, parting her lips for him and the sound seemed to spur him on. His hand tightened on her breast, moving down to cup it while he gently pinched her nipple. She arched into his touch, her legs instinctively tightening around his invading thigh. He rumbled deep in his chest, a sound of pure masculine satisfaction. He pushed himself up, maneuvering himself over her, urging her to part her thighs far enough to accommodate his hips. She did so eagerly, gasping as he came to rest against her, his erection prodding against her most sensitive places. His hands slid up to grip the sides of her face, holding her still as his mouth attacked her with raw passion. Her hands played over his back, her short nails digging into the corded muscle, tracing over the shoulder blade that she knew bore his tattoo - the same tattoo she had dreamed of touching for years.

"Angel? You still in bed?"

Buffy and Angel both froze, staring at each other in alarm. "It's your brother," Angel said in a frantic whisper. He glanced over his shoulder. Dammit, he hadn't closed the bedroom door last night like he always did when he had overnight guests.

Buffy made a helpless sound and Angel crawled off of her, snatching the voluminous comforter off the floor and throwing it over her as he shoved her under the covers. He sat on the edge of the bed and reached behind him to make sure the lump in the covers that made up Buffy was directly behind him. Then he raised his arms over his head, stretched and yawned. "In here, Wes," Angel said inside his yawn. He thought about walking out into the living room but his rock hard erection made him decide a different course of action. He leaned over with his elbows on his knees, rubbed his eyes and attempted to look more tired and less aroused as his friend made it into the bedroom and leaned against the door.

"I suppose you forgot our breakfast this morning?" Wesley said, staying just outside. "At least that's the clue I'm picking up."

"Powerful ability to pick up the obvious you got there." Angel muttered, "Yes, I forgot. Completely."

"Well, get in the shower," Wes clipped, "I'm famished and the gallery owner is not going to wait forever to discuss your work."

"The gallery owner is your mother," Angel said wryly.

"Chop, chop," Wesley chirped before heading into the living room. Angel tiptoed to the door and looked out to see that Wesley was carrying the newspaper in from the hallway and setting it on the table. Wesley would start the coffee next. His friend was entirely too predictable and he made a mental note to thank him for it later.

Angel swung the door shut and hurried back to the bed, flinging off the covers and scooping Buffy into his arms. He rushed to the bathroom and ignored the wild look on her face as he locked them both in there. Her clothes were still sitting in a neatly folded pile on the edge of the counter. He placed her on her feet and immediately turned on the water. She assumed he set it to cover their voices, but she watched as he adjusted the temperature before turning to face her.

"What are we going to do?" she whispered, trying to read the crazed look in his eyes. He towered over her in the small bathroom, standing less than a foot away and she stared at his bare chest for a moment, dealing with the fact that, if she wanted to, she could just lean in and lick it. The urge to do so was nearly overwhelming.

"I don't know," he whispered hoarsely, stepping closer. He threaded his fingers through her tousled hair and she made herself stare at him rather than glancing in the mirror. She knew she looked awful. Somehow standing in front of him nude was different than posing. She felt...more naked. It was impossible to think otherwise...or think at all when his lips were moving closer and closer to hers.

"What are you doing?" she whispered frantically as she realized that not only was she still naked and in full view of Angel, with her brother making coffee in the next room, but he was going to kiss her again. He was going to kiss her while she was naked again. He lowered his lips to hers, pulling her body against him and wrapped his arms around her.

"I don't know," he growled. And he didn't. He was completely fucking clueless to why he wasn't being smarter about this. He could hurry in the shower while Buffy got dressed and get Wesley out of there before her brother figured anything out, but that's not what he wanted to do at all. He wanted to strip off his pajama pants and make love to her under the warm spray before he took her to bed and made love to her again.

"Wesley..." Buffy reminded him against his lips, forgetting the rest of the sentence as he plunged his tongue into her mouth. Gods, he tasted so good, even first thing in the morning.

"My name is not Wesley," Angel purred, kissing down her neck, enjoying the feel of her full breasts pressing against his chest.

Not Wesley indeed. As if she could ever mistake this sexy masculine creature kissing her for her brother. While her mother - and yes, Wesley - seemed to encourage it, she had never been able to think of Angel as a brother. She couldn't. The mere sight of him had always made her blood boil. And now here he was kissing her like he had the same reaction. It was overwhelming.

She broke the kiss, turning half away from him, panting harshly. Angel didn't release her, his lips slid over her neck, her shoulder. His hands caressed her naked body and she almost wept with want. But they couldn't do this, Wesley was in the next room. She twisted again, grabbing his face and forcing him to look at her. "Wesley will kill me," she said firmly.

Angel looked at her with such naked longing she thought her heart might break, but then he pulled away, cursing as he paced around the small room, muttering to himself and dragging a hand through his hair. He laughed wryly to himself, bracing his hands against the vanity. "I'm the one he would kill," Angel said, "you would merely get The Look."

Angel grabbed her clothes, balling them in his fist before handing them to her without looking at her. The steam from the shower was already fogging the mirror, so his view of her reflection was obscured. "Put those on before I do something we'll both regret," he snapped.

Buffy took her clothes, watching as he turned and shucked off his pajama bottoms before stepping into the shower. She couldn't exactly leave, so after getting dressed, she sat there on the toilet as he quickly washed himself. She couldn't help herself from admiring his backside as he washed his hair. As he slid the shower door open, she handed him a towel, averting her eyes.

He wrapped the towel around his hips and cracked open the door. He could hear Wesley flipping through channels on the television and knew he had to be standing in the living room since he'd forgotten to change the batteries in the remote. He ushered Buffy out into the hall in front of him, snuck her out the front door and was back in the bathroom putting gel in his hair without Wesley ever being the wiser.

***

Buffy missed her first class that morning and the better part of her morning shift at the library by the time she made it to campus. She worked and went to classes and then applied for several jobs in the surrounding area. Two of them were waiting tables and one was at the gas station directly adjacent to the east side of the campus. She was worried about that one, not entirely sure she wanted to be stuck in a metal box where she handed people money through a little drawer and talked to them through a piece of bulletproof glass.

It was past 9 PM when she finally made it home to her apartment. She was starving and it was becoming hard to concentrate. She was dreaming about all those steaming trays of food in the two restaurants she visited. It was much safer than thinking about what had clouded her mind for the majority of the day - Angel and his hot, probing kisses, his tight buns of steel through the steamed glass of the shower door, not to mention those talented, wandering hands...

She strolled in her apartment and flipped on the light. She would have gladly mugged someone for a day old cup of coffee and a stale piece of toast. Instead she poured herself a glass of tap water, thinking of her mother's Brita pitcher with longing, and sat down to flip through her mail. The University had sent her pay stub as they did every month after direct depositing her salary. The meager amount made her want to cry. If she underpaid her electricity bill, she could get a little food to tide her over and put gas in her car. Nearly all the rest went to Angel and with the three hundred he would pay her she could buy a few other things she needed with what was leftover after rent- which wasn't much.

The third envelope in the pile had her first name only printed on it in a heavy, slanted script that she recognized as Angel's. She hesitated before opening it. She was starving to death, broke as hell, her feet hurt and she didn't want to read a note where he told her that this morning had been a big, hormonal mistake and that she was a little sister to him...blah, blah, blah, bliddity, blah. She would rather study than deal with that sort of note, but she knew that she had to read it.

"Buffy," it said in masculine black letters, "Please come up when you have a chance." That was it. No I don't like you anymore or your brother's gonna kill me or you're just a flat-chested virgin with no ability to please a stud like me. Nothing. Just an amicable looking "A" at the bottom. Great, he wanted to insult her to her face. Lovely.

***

When Angel answered the door, his expression was guarded. He stepped aside and she entered. Her body language was awkward as she braced herself for either insult or rejection - both actually. Angel merely nodded her over to the sofa. She waited for him to take a seat before she lowered herself into the leather armchair.

He was fidgeting. Angel never fidgeted, but he couldn't seem to keep his hands still and his gaze would lock with hers and then flick away. "You wanted to see me," Buffy finally prompted when the strained silence got to be too much.

"Uh, yeah. Yes," Angel said, mentally berating himself for being such a spaz. "I wanted to give you this." And with that he handed her another envelope in the same buttery yellow parchment as his earlier note.

Buffy's brow creased in a frown, but she accepted the envelope, clutching it in her hands.

"Open it," Angel said somewhat impatiently.

Frowning, Buffy opened the envelope and felt like an idiot when she saw it was cash. He just wanted to pay her. She felt like smacking herself in the forehead. Of course, if he was paying her, that must mean he was done ... which was a rather unpleasant thought. For as uncomfortable as she felt right now, she still liked the idea of being near Angel, of having an excuse to see him - to be in his bed. "Thanks," she said with a tight smile. "If you ever need another model, you know where I live."

"I'm not going to pay you to pose for me again," he said firmly.

Oh, this was the crushing rejection part of the evening. She was actually glad she hadn't eaten or she was fairly sure his blunt setdown might have made her vomit. "Oh," she said quietly, "I see."

With a frustrated noise, he stood up, staring down at her with a scowl. "No you don't see," he said. "I'm paying you, ending our business agreement, because the next time you're naked in my bed, I want to know that you're there because you want to be there and not because of money."

"Next time," she parroted, wide-eyed. She was certain that he could see her gulping for air and swallowing it harshly but she couldn't help it. There was no way he meant what it sounded like he meant.

"Yes, next time," he answered, moving a bit closer until she was craning her neck to look up at him. "I want to take you out to dinner tonight," he added more quietly, reaching down and trailing his fingers over her face and stopping to cup her chin. "After this morning, I think it'd be a good idea to spend some more time getting to know each other."

"We've known each other for a really long time," she said, feeling like a moron for the trembling in her voice because she meant exactly what she said. She had known Angel for so long she barely remembered not knowing him. He had dinners with their family, came to Christmas, Turkey Day, the whole shebang. She knew him, lusted after him, fantasized about doing much more than what happened this morning and yet she couldn't seem to meet his eyes without her knees feeling rubbery. Not that her knees didn't feel rubbery before...but still.

"I think we both know there's a difference between then and now," he answered huskily. Just as he was about to kiss her, her stomach roared. Angel's brow wrinkled as he frowned at her tummy and then looked back up at her face.

"Guess my stomach agrees with your plan for the night," Buffy joked. "Where do you want to go to eat?"

"Anywhere you want," Angel said, still frowning, "And while we're there we can discuss your money issues and why you think paying me rent is more important than eating."

***

Angel frowned as he pulled his black Mercedes up in front of a club called "The Bronze". It looked loud and one quick glance at the Marquee informed him that it was an all ages club. He was used to a different type of place, ones with forty-dollar cover charges and adults only. However, Buffy assured him that the kitchen was of the good and frankly if it would make her happy, he would have taken her to Chuck E. Cheez.

They gave their orders to the bartender and found a secluded red velvet sofa tucked away in a corner. There was no band tonight so it would probably be slow. Most of the patrons seemed to be studying while they nursed various coffee concoctions though a few inspired lovebirds were swaying on the dance floor to the canned music.

Buffy was completely confused about just what Angel was up to and couldn't imagine that he could have possibly meant that she was going to be in his bed again. Well, maybe one more time but he surely didn't mean they were going to date. Did she want to be just a one night stand? For Angel, hell yes. Only, screwing her brother's best friend and being tossed out with the rest of the skanks was not the best way to encourage jolly feelings when they had to see each other at Christmas. The really sad part was that she knew she would do it anyway.

When the food was served, Angel finally spoke for the first time since they arrived. He had a plate balanced on his lap and was watching Buffy dive into her burger and fries. She groaned in delight with the first bite and then looked over at Angel self-consciously. He was watching her and chewing slowly. It was unnerving.

"You can't afford to pay rent, Buffy," he said finally.

"I can," she argued trying to keep her voice from shaking, "I just need to be a few days late this month, Angel. I'm getting another job and I'll pay you, I promise."

"No," he said, shaking his head and setting his plate on the coffee table in front of him. "You can't pay rent. You obviously aren't eating and you don't look healthy. No, I'm sorry, but our current arrangement is not working out."

"I can pay," she shot back trying to will the desperation from her voice, "I promise. I won't let you let me live there for free, it wouldn't be making it on my own. If Wesley finds out, he'll tell our parents."

"I'm not offering to let you live there for free," he answered quietly. "You've made it clear that it isn't an option."

"You're kicking me out?" she gasped. Crocodile tears swam behind her hazel eyes and her plate slid precariously close to falling off her lap. "Angel-" she started.

"I want you to pack up your things," he said slowly and firmly, "and I will have them moved to my apartment."

"What?" Buffy stared at him blankly. He hadn't just said that, had he? Angel owned the building and his apartment was nice, but it was still just an apartment. The layout wasn't platonic roommate friendly, about that much, she was certain. There was only one bed in his bedroom.

He looked at her seriously. Blunt. He had to be blunt. He respected her far too much to play any games and he couldn't risk her misunderstanding him. "I know it's a rush," he said, somewhat awkwardly. "I wish I had the option of going slower, of wooing you, but that's not in the cards. Your financial situation is bordering on disastrous. Drastic measures need to be taken, and quickly or you're going to starve yourself or get murdered in a robbery at one of your jobs. In your position you don't have many options. You can move back in with your parents - which I already know you're not going to do; you can live in your current apartment rent free - which I know your pride won't allow you to do; or you can move in with me - which common sense would dictate you not to do, but which I really hope you want to do because I sure as hell want you to do it."

Lest she drop her plate, she set it on the table next to his and self-consciously wiped her hands on her napkin. She shot him a sidelong glance, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. "You want me to move in with you?" she asked. "Like move in, move in?"

"As in be my lover?" he asked. "Yes."

Buffy flushed at his words. Angel's lover. The mere idea of it made her stomach clench with desire.

He reached over, gently stroking her cheek with the tips of his fingers. "I know it's a bad idea," he said truthfully. "Wesley is my best friend in the world. He's like a brother to me. Your family is the only one I've ever known. I also know that none of them would take our involvement well. Wesley will likely try to kill me. But knowing all of this, I still can't stop myself," he admitted. "When I woke up with you this morning ." he trailed off, a look of naked longing on his classical features. "I want more mornings like that, Buffy. I need them."

She wrapped her hand around his much larger one, holding it to her face. Her tongue darted out to lick her lips and she said breathily, "I . uh, don't know what to say."

He leaned forward, his lips the barest brush against hers. "Just say yes," he whispered.

"Yes." She answered, breathless.

***

Angel managed to get Buffy home before attacking her like a hormonally imbalanced schoolboy, but it was difficult. She had agreed to be his lover and just the thought of her warm little body in his bed every night made his groin tighten with anticipation. He had waited more years for her than he was willing to admit and now she was his. Finally.

She didn't seem to realize how obsessed he was with her, which was a really, really good thing. In fact, she seemed to think that he was doing her a favor. That struck him as funny. If she asked him to rip off one of his arms, he would have gladly done so and handed it to her. He always had a fantasy of Buffy living a pampered life off of his money and now he was closer than ever to reaching his goal. The thought sent a wave of happiness through him. With other women, he tried to fend them off and often wondered if it was him or his money that they wanted. Now he told himself he didn't care. He promised himself that he wasn't taking advantage of her money problems to get her into his bed. He was helping.

Yeah. Uh-huh. Sure.

Either way, she was there looking out of his penthouse living room window, her fingers resting lightly on the window sill on either side of her hips. He walked over and stood behind her, sweeping her hair aside before placing kisses just behind her ear and making his way down, nibbling and licking the soft flesh. She released a breathy moan and leaned back against him but he knew she was nervous. He took the opportunity to thread his arms around her waist and pulled her even closer.

A thousand dizzying images rushed through his mind as he guided her through the apartment to his bedroom. Images of Buffy cradling him between her firm thighs as he moved in and out of her...on her knees before him, taking him into her mouth, her blonde hair streaming down her naked back as she pleasured him...her legs over his shoulders as she orgasmed against his lips.... He wanted it all tonight and then again tomorrow night.

He had a swift moment of guilt. She was Wesley's baby sister. She was like family. But as she turned around and looked at him, there was nothing familial about the way she licked her lips and reached for him. My gods he wanted her.

They stepped inside the threshold of his darkened bedroom and Angel paused. He didn't know if he was going too fast. As far as he knew, Buffy never had a serious boyfriend, but that information was courtesy of Wes. How likely would it be for a teenage girl to tell her older brother she was sleeping with some guy? Very much not. Angel didn't like that idea, but it wasn't enough to taint her in his mind. He wanted Buffy in whatever way he could have her. And even if she had taken other lovers, none of them could possibly know her the way he knew her. They shared a history. They were part of each other's lives for as long as they could both remember. Angel smiled.

"What?" Buffy asked warily.

"Nothing," he said, "just thinking."

"Bout what?"

"That I've never had a relationship like this before," he said quietly.

Buffy's heart caught at his use of the word "relationship". He was actually serious about this. It made her feel warm down to her toes. She took a breath, her tongue venturing out to wet her lips. "Like what?" she asked breathlessly.

Angel shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable. He was a player and he knew that Buffy was probably aware of his less than admirable reputation. But if he wanted to put that behind him, he had to own up to the truth. "I don't have to explain things to you," he said seriously.

Buffy laughed lightly. "If you'd stop dating those bimbos - "

He silenced her with a kiss. He started to pull away, but her lips tasted too good. He pushed her against the doorframe, his fingers biting into her hips as his tongue traced her lips, her tongue. When he finally pulled away, they were both panting breathlessly. "Trust me," he said, "I'm done dating bimbos."

She looked up at him through her lashes and a wicked smile lit her lips. "Good," she said with a tone of undeniable satisfaction. She splayed her hand across his chest, tracing the outline of his body through the material of his shirt. "What don't you have to explain?" she asked.

He looked away, at a loss for how to explain it without sounding like a chump. "Me," he said, frowning. "Things."

Buffy knew what he meant. Angel was the dark horse, the mystery man that captured women's attention through his aloof behavior, his seemingly untouchable manner. She doubted that any of his lovers had a glimpse of the real him, of his vulnerable nature. None of them knew that his parents had been killed when he was very young and that his exclusive private school education had been paid for by a trust fund. None of them knew how horrible a patient he was when he was sick, complaining incessantly as you tried to spoon chicken noodle soup down him. None of his bimbos had seen the side of Angel she knew - the side that wore the horrid green sweater her mother had given him three Christmases ago rather than insult a woman he respected deeply.

Buffy hadn't been friends with any of Angel's former lovers, but having been completely enamored of him for years, she had watched him closely. On the rare occasions when she was at the same social function as her brother and Angel, she had kept close tabs. She knew how he dealt with women. She had seen him be charming and alluring, but always elusive. He played games and he kept his lovers at an emotional arm's length. He wouldn't be able to do that with her and they both knew that. It was a heady rush.

"I want you, Buffy," he said hoarsely, pulling her more tightly against him. "If you want to wait, then please tell me now."

"I'm...I'm ready," she whispered back, trying to keep her voice steady, but it wasn't possible. She had wanted him for so long and it always felt like an unattainable goal, a dream of a teenage girl in love with her brother's best friend. Just the idea of having sex with him, of doing more than what had happened in his arms that morning was dizzying. Giving her virginity to him, have him touch and feel what no one else ever had...and hopefully never would. Any second she was going to wake up and find she was sitting in a classroom somewhere. She was sure of it.

Angel breathed a sigh that seemed mixed with lust and relief before bending down and kissing her again. He threaded his fingers through her silky golden hair, nipping at her lips and steering her back into the bedroom at the same time. There was an almost irresistible urge to rip her flimsy shirt away like crepe paper as he gorged himself on the taste of her, backing her towards his bed. Even as the thought crossed his mind, he knew he wouldn't do it. Unlike the women he usually slept with, Buffy was new and uncertain. Her blushing cheeks and trembling lips didn't match with the fire in her passionate and enthusiastic response to his kiss. The mixture was intoxicating.

She backed along with him and helped him undress her. Time seemed to speed up and slow down at the same time, leaving blurs for how her clothing disappeared, how his were lying on the floor on top of hers. His erection prodding against her belly should have alarmed her but it didn't. She wanted him for longer than she could remember. He was largely the reason she was still a virgin. No other man worked up the same kind of passion, the same drugged intensity.

The same luxurious black silk sheets were trapped beneath her as she laid back on the bed. She wiggled across them, noting that Angel followed her every inch of the way, and automatically opened her thighs to cradle his hips. She mewled in pleasure and partial fear as his tongue swirled hot and wet along her neck to her collar bone before he made his way to her breasts. Even before he sucked one of her erect nipples into his mouth, her stomach was already clenching with desire in concert with her sex. One of his hands slipped between her thighs and she bucked back, taking a sharp breath in surprise as one, then two fingers slipped into her silken depths.

Angel groaned at the heat of her, the lush wetness. Gods, she felt just like he knew she would, hot and wet and decadent. He explored the feel of her slowly, his long fingers gently edging deeper into her body. She was liquid and willing, but even those factors couldn't disguise the telling snugness of her fit. He shifted his hand, plumbing deeper into her fluid depths and felt the unmistakable resistance of her virginity. He moaned her name against her flesh, his cock growing even harder at the knowledge that she hadn't shared her body with another man.

He once again caught her lips in a frantic, needy kiss. He couldn't have stopped now if his life depended on it. His erection was hard and insistent against her thigh and she shifted uncomfortably, trying to draw him nearer, needing him to assuage her hunger as only he could do. He made a sound that was halfway between a chuckle and a groan as he broke the kiss, pushing himself up on his elbows.

"Angel," she said in a breathy, plaintive tone that shot straight to his groin.

"One second, baby," he said, fumbling blindly for his nightstand. He got the drawer open and was rooting through the junk, searching for what he needed. Buffy took the opportunity to kiss her way up his neck, her blunt little teeth biting down teasingly. His eyes nearly rolled back in his head and he momentarily forgot his quest. As her legs tightened around his waist, drawing him nearer, the head of his cock began to slip inside her body. He wanted nothing more than to bury himself inside her, but managed to retain control. With a growl, he pulled back and redoubled his efforts with the nightstand, nearly crying with relief when his fingers finally closed around the condom.

He held it in one hand, tearing it open with his teeth. He shifted his weight onto one hip, twisting his body so he could quickly roll on the latex sheath.

"Oh," Buffy chirped.

Angel knew that she had completely forgotten about protection. "Best to be safe," he murmured against her lips before kissing her once again.

She met his kiss with wild abandon, offering herself up to him. And this time, he did not deny himself. He plundered her mouth as he positioned himself between her thighs. She rolled her hips, doing her best to accommodate him. It wasn't easy. He was very big and she was very small, but they were nothing if not determined. In short moments - that still seemed like an eternity to them - he was seated completely inside her body. They both shuddered at the sensation, fingers biting into flesh, tongues tangling in an effort to get even closer.

He hissed her name as he pulled back and then slowly pushed forward again. Her back bowed, her heels pressing against his ass, urging him harder, faster, deeper. He would have chuckled at her enthusiasm if her internal muscles hadn't been clamping around his cock in a manner so delicious it made him want to weep. His mind told him he should be gentle with her, that she was untried and might not know what was best. His body didn't give a flip about gentle, he only knew that she was urging him on and he wanted nothing more than to lose himself in her.

He thrust harder, his hips slapping against hers. She keened, her fingernails clawing into his back, spurring him on more. He slipped one hand between their bodies, the pad of his thumb rubbing her hard little nub in time with his thrusts. Her breath caught in her throat and he could feel the tremors begin. Her sheath fluttered around his cock, forcing his own orgasm. With a cry, he slammed against her two final times, spending himself.

He moved away only long enough to dispose of the condom and then she was back in his arms. He pressed gentle kisses to her face, the tip of her nose, her eyelids. He whispered her name in the tone of voice reserved for religious litany.

***

Buffy woke for the second time to a comfortable bed, silk sheets, sunshine and the feel of a warm body against hers. Mmmm.something was very different this morning than there had been the previous day. Stretching like a spoiled cat, she would have purred if she could have, but instead she blinked open her eyes and looked down her body at Angel.

The smile he gave her was enough to turn her insides into molten mush, but she couldn't focus on that when he was fitting himself so comfortably between her thighs. She could feel his breath against her skin and his hands sliding over her flesh. Languorously, he shifted her legs further apart and continued his quest to taste every inch of her body.

Angel's smile was definitely chocked full of lust and happiness. He had been waiting for at least an hour for her to wake up, which was strange to say the least. He never woke up without the benefit of an alarm clock, unless the woman in his bed woke him or Wesley came over. This morning however, it was as if his body knew that the warm, petite frame against his was not the usual garden variety of tramp that had been parading in and out of his bed for years. No, the only girl he had ever really wanted and knew he couldn't have - that was who was in his bed.

He had gone from watching her sleep to slowly tracing out the perfect lines of her body with his eyes, then his hands and finally, when he couldn't resist one more moment, his mouth. Triumphantly, he parted her with his thumbs and relished in his first taste of her. "Morning," he rumbled against her, his voice rough and hoarse from sleep.

Buffy gasped as his tongue teased her, reaching the most sensitive places and pulling away just when she was ready to beg for more. His movements were slow and unhurried. The man was like honey running slowly across her flesh. It took a few minutes to realize that the sounds of pleasure echoing across the room were coming from her.

"An.gel," she managed to pant out. She couldn't believe what was happening. Yesterday, she thought she would be out on the street and today she was in bed with Angel, having sex with Angel. Gods, she was having oral sex with Angel. Moaning in pleasure and knowing the happiness was evident on her face, she rolled her hips, threaded her fingers through his hair and rode out her first orgasm of the day.

*****

"What about this one?"

Angel smiled, wrapping his arms around Buffy's waist and pulling her back against his chest. "Whatever you want," he said with a smile.

Looking at the clerk, Buffy nodded. "We'll take this one," she said. She watched as the clerk hurried off to get the Christmas tree bundled up for them and ready to take home.

Tree Mission accomplished, Angel turned and pulled Buffy with him over to his SUV. He backed her against the side of the vehicle, standing directly in front of her. She giggled as he dipped his head to catch her lips in a kiss. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she returned the kiss enthusiastically. He eventually pulled away, looking down at her. "Are you really happy?" he asked quietly.

Her smile nearly knocked him off his feet. "I'm perfect," she assured him.

His expression sobered and he took a deep breath. "We're going to have to tell them," he said. "It's been months, Buffy."

She sighed, looking away. "I know," she admitted. They both knew that they couldn't keep their relationship a secret indefinitely. They would have to tell Buffy's family. But neither of them were in a hurry to drop that bomb, so it kept getting put off farther and farther and farther ... They had been together nearly eight months and it was still a secret "Wes is going to flip," she said with a groan.

Angel chuckled mirthlessly. "Trust me, I know," he said. "He knows that you're seeing somebody, but he can't figure out who and it's driving him nuts. He talks to me about it all the time, about how he feels hurt that you won't tell him about it and all the while I'm trying not to crawl under the table from guilt."

She frowned. "You're not making this any easier," she huffed.

"He's my best friend, Buffy," Angel said seriously. "I'm already worried that our friendship won't survive when he finds out the truth. It's one thing for you to duck his questions, but I've as good as lied to him for nearly a year."

They broke apart as the clerk began tying the tree to the top of the SUV. Needless to say, their happy holiday spirit had been dampened considerably.

****

The following morning Angel woke up in their bed alone. It didn't happen often, but when it did, he always felt this twinge of something akin to fear, as if he should get used to that feeling. He didn't want to admit that there was a possibility that he may lose her, but he knew that was a definite chance when they showed up for Christmas Eve dinner that night with her family. As much as Buffy assured him that the reason she went out on her own was to become independent from her parents and brother, he was worried. She said she was tired of being babied and wanted to be her own person. He knew that long before they had become involved. It didn't, of course, change the fact that she was the baby of the Summers brood and they would not take lightly his stealing of her innocence.

He groaned as he climbed out of bed and slipped on his pajama bottoms. Every step from the bedroom to the living room made him more determined. He was not going to bow in defeat tonight. He was keeping Buffy in his life. He wasn't going back to those nights when he wondered whether he should take the tramp of the evening to his house or not or the mornings when he had to open his eyes before he spoke to be certain who was beside him.

As he walked into the living room, he heard the light jingling of Christmas music and focused on his lover dressed in a creamy silk nightgown that shimmered over her slight curves. The room was scattered with cardboard boxes where the ornaments had been before she put them on the tree. Currently, she was holding the Christmas angel that would decorate the top of the tree and was studying the height carefully.

"Need some help?" he asked, his voice rough with sleep.

"Mmmm, yes," she murmured, turning on her heel. She tossed the angel back on top of the box at her side and sashayed toward him, smoothing her hands over the silk that covered her. Angel watched her intently as she approached, suddenly much more awake than he had been. She bit at his lips, catching his lower lip between her teeth teasingly until he growled and pulled her close, delving into her warm mouth.

With a grunt of satisfaction, he lifted her off of her feet and carried her across to the couch. She giggled when the boxes that covered his leather couch went tumbling to the floor and were replaced by their writhing bodies.

"Angel," Buffy laughed breathlessly as he kissed down her neck, nibbling at the delicate flesh there. "You're supposed to help me."

"I am helping," he whispered, tracing the trail of lace that barely covered her breasts with his fingers and then his mouth. "I plan on helping a lot."

"You're supposed to.mmmm.help me put the angel on the.um.the." she moaned, struggling to collect her thoughts while he sucked a silk covered nipple into his mouth. Simultaneously, she arched underneath him trying to cradle her legs around him, only to find that the narrow lines of the silk nightgown prevented that movement.

"Tree," he answered as he traveled to her other breast. "See? Helping."

"Yes," she managed, threading her fingers through his hair, "And I'm making.breakfast. I have a r-recipe and everything."

"Can't wait," he mouthed against the valley of her breasts. "Starving," he added, moving further down her body.

"Well, I certainly hope this is what you wanted to tell me because if not, I have to say I'm a bit apprehensive as to what the news could be." Buffy and Angel both turned sharply at the voice to find a very stern and unhappy Wesley standing in the doorway with his arms crossed across his chest.

"Shit," Angel groaned, sitting up and running his fingers through his hair. He perched on the edge of the couch as Buffy sat up and curled herself up in a semi-fetal ball in an attempt to hide.

"Precisely," Wesley nodded. He walked through the room and headed for the kitchen with long, certain strides. "I'm going to make coffee," he announced, "And then I will sit down and talk with the both of you, at which time, I will hope you both are dressed."

"Wes, there's already coff-" Buffy started quietly, only to be interrupted.

"I'll make more," he blurted without meeting her gaze. "Please, put some clothes on."

*****

Wesley was her older brother, her protector, her role model. Buffy had absolutely no reason to think that he would ever do her physical harm. So why was she slinking into the kitchen behind Angel like she was afraid Wes was going to throttle her?

While Buffy reveled in her cowardice, Angel seemed determined to meet the executioner unflinchingly. Dressed in a threadbare sweatshirt and a pair of well-worn jeans, Angel sat down at the small table. Somehow, Wesley managed to both ignore him and pour him a cup of coffee at the same time. Buffy crept around him, her curves now completely obscured by a sexless sweater and jeans ensemble. As she sat down, Wesley placed a cup of coffee in front of her before finally taking his own seat.

The silence was deafening. Stoically, Angel sipped at the coffee - which, as much as he hated to admit, was far superior to Buffy's brew. Wesley seemed content to stare at his own hands as he folded and refolded his paper napkin. Finally Wesley let out an immense sigh and met both of their gazes. His vision lighted on Buffy and Angel's intertwined hands and he made a strangled noise, forcing himself to look away.

"Buffy," Wes said, his voice taut with strain, "I know that you are an adult. I know that I have no right to pry into your personal life, but for God's sake you're my..."

Wes trailed off and grimaced violently, swearing under his breath. He turned to glare at Angel. "Goddammit! She's my baby sister!" he yelled, rising to his feet. "How could you? It's one thing for you to sleep with everything that moves, but I thought you had some morals or at the very least common decency. You're part of our family. How could you betray us like this? How could you take my innocent baby sister and turn her into another one of your whores? I can't - "

Wesley's tirade was cut short when Angel's fist connected with his jaw. He fell backwards, knocking over his chair and landing unceremoniously in the middle of the floor. He stared at Angel, dazed.

For his part, Angel didn't remember getting to his feet. He definitely didn't remember deciding to hit his best friend. He looked at Wes and swore under his breath, shaking his wrist as he tried to assuage the pain in his aching hand. He took a deep breath. "For the record," he stated very loudly and clearly, "I am in love with your sister. She is not one of my whores, she is my extremely significant other. And as much as I value our friendship, if you ever insult her like that again, I'll tear your fucking head off."

Things seemed to move in slow motion, as Buffy rose and made her way around her enraged lover to help her brother to his feet. Her hands were shaking terribly as she helped him up and immediately pulled away in the hopes he wouldn't notice. She swiped angrily at the hot tears that managed to escape and roll down her cheeks despite her efforts to keep them at bay.

"I knew you would completely lose it over this," Buffy barked at her shaken brother. Wesley rubbed his jaw and glared down at her. "You wondered why neither of us told you after eight months?" Buffy continued in frustration, "Well, this is why!"

Angel stepped forward and placed his hands on her shoulders, gently tugging her back until she was leaning against him for support. Wesley, for the first time since he entered the apartment, watched them closely. Angel leaned down and whispered something in her ear and she nodded, allowing herself to curl into him even though her brother was watching.

Wesley was stunned. It was a feat in itself that they had managed to hide the relationship from him not to mention the fact that she was very obviously living there. All those mornings he had stopped by and found Angel's bedroom door closed, he had no idea that the woman lounging in the shameless black silk bed was none other than his precious baby sister. All those times he stopped by Buffy's apartment and left notes for her to call him, he had no idea that her worn couch and rabbit ear television were just remaining in an empty room as decoys.

"Well," Wesley ground out, "I suppose I have no choice. I won't reveal your secret, but you two will have to say something to the family at Christmas Eve dinner tonight."

"We had already planned to," Angel answered, turning himself and Buffy toward the door as Wesley retreated.

*****

"Angel, it's so good to see you," Joyce said warmly and then fell silent as Buffy entered the house on his heels. Joyce looked from her daughter to the young man who was very nearly a part of her family and suddenly her face lit with a smile. "I guess it would be silly for you two to come over separately, especially since you live in the same building."

Angel took the presents that Buffy was carrying so she could remove her jacket. "Uh, yeah," Angel mumbled, "we actually need to talk to you about that."

"About what?" Giles asked, absently, poking his head into the foyer.

"I'm not sure," Joyce replied, turning around to look at her son as he walked up behind Giles. Wesley's jaw had bruised a vivid purple and was obviously swollen. She frowned at him in obvious displeasure. "Everyone just seems to be full of secrets tonight."

Giles ignored his wife's comment and turned to look at his daughter. "Buffy, come and help me with this damned DVD player. I can't seem to get it connected correctly."

Buffy shot a quick questioning glance to Angel and then shrugged. "Sure," she said, following her father back into the living room.

"Here, let me take those," Joyce said, scooping the presents out of Angel's arm and scurrying off to place them underneath the tree.

With Joyce gone, it was just Wesley and Angel left staring at each other in the foyer. Wesley glared. "Tonight," he mouthed with a pointed look.

"I know," Angel snapped.

***

The time between dinner and the present opening seemed to crawl. Angel, Buffy and Wesley were all acting strangely and they knew it showed without glancing at Giles and Joyce's confused faces. Dinner was polite, but strained and the giving of gifts was not nearly as joyful and jolly as usual.

Giles frowned as he looked over his daughter. Things had been going so well. She had been struggling for awhile and avoiding the family in her frustrating attempt at making it on her own, but then everything seemed to fall in place. She had looked happier and healthier than he had seen her since she was a child. For the last year, she seemed almost blissful.

Now, he had a feeling that everything was about to blow up in his face. Wesley and Angel spent the entire night glaring at each other from separate corners, hardly speaking at all and Buffy seemed to have turned into herself, as if she hoped to disappear at any given moment.

When they were all stuffed with food and surrounded by opened gifts, sipping coffee in almost unbearable silence, Angel suddenly stood up. "I can't stand one more second of this," he mumbled as he rose to his feet. "Giles, Joyce," he said and then added a grunted "Wesley" at the end. "You along with Buffy have been the only family I have ever known. I respect and care for all of you."

Giles and Joyce exchanged looks of confusion as Angel held his hand out to Buffy, silently asking her to join him. She stood on wobbly legs and made her way towards him from across the room, seeming to struggle with an inner battle with every step. Finally, she took his hand and threaded her fingers through his.

"Buffy and I have been seeing each other for almost a year now," Angel blurted, trying not to choke on his words, "and I'd like your blessing to marry her."

Buffy nearly gave herself whiplash turning to face Angel. Her eyes widened with the obvious shock and he squeezed her hand before bringing it to his lips. It took serious concentration not to pass out or scream.

Giles coughed, choking on his coffee. Her face blank with shock, Joyce mindlessly took the cup from his hands and patted him on the back. Once Giles had recovered, he shot a severe look at Angel. Slowly, rising from his chair, he surveyed the couple in front of him. "I feel like I'm missing some information here."

"I'm sorry," Angel began.

Buffy silenced him with a look and turned to face her parents. "I'm the one who should be sorry," she said, looking at her parents and then to Wesley. "I was so determined to make it on my own, to not accept anyone's help that I backed myself into a corner. I've cut myself off from you guys when all you wanted to do was protect me."

"It seems Angel has taken care of that," Giles said shortly.

Buffy frowned at her father. "It wasn't like that," she said seriously. "Angel was a really great friend. And when things got to be ... more, he tried to back off. We both did. Because we knew you guys would freak." She looked pointedly at Wesley who wouldn't meet her gaze.

She sighed, squeezing Angel's hand gently. "We're his family and I can't bear the thought that he could lose all of this because of me, because of some stupid misconceptions. I'm an adult. Angel is an adult. We're in a long-term, committed relationship. I know it wasn't very adult of us to keep it from you, but in all honesty, given how it's turned out, could you really blame us?"

Slowly, Giles sunk down into his chair. "No," he admitted, "I suppose I don't blame you." He took a deep breath and released it. Reaching over, he took Joyce's hand and looked her in the eye. She smiled gently at him. Turning back to face the couple, he said, "Not that you need it, but if you want it, you have my blessing, Angel."

"Thank you," Angel replied calmly, but his muscles were so tense, he was sure he'd sprain his neck if he turned his head too quickly. He took a deep breath and turned to Wesley. "Somehow I don't think you will have the same thing to say, Wes," Angel said warily, squeezing Buffy's hand so hard she winced.

"We don't need your blessing either," Buffy said quietly.

"And I would be wise to remember that when I'm choosing my response to this whole.issue?" He asked wryly, "Yes, little sister, you both have made it abundantly clear where I stand in this situation." He turned his gaze to Angel and stared at him for a long moment before stepping closer. "I give my blessing," Wesley said slowly, "Of course, I have no more say about it than Father does, but I'll say what he didn't - Angel, if you break her heart, I'll rip yours out."

"I think you underestimate your sweet little sister," Angel answered with a grin. He looked down into her bright hazel eyes and caressed her cheek. "I think I've loved you your whole life," Angel said quietly, "And for a long time I thought there was no chance I would ever be the part of your life that I wanted to be. Now that I have you, I want to make sure I can keep you."

Taking a deep breath, Angel dropped to one knee. Gently clasping her hand, he asked, "Buffy Summers, will you marry me?"

A single tear trickled down her cheek. "Yes."

*****

Buffy smacked his hands away, pinning them to the mattress on either side of his head to prevent him from unbuttoning his own shirt. "I get to open my present," she declared dictatorially.

Angel chuckled a moment before forcing a mask of seriousness on his face. "Whatever the lady wants," he said. He left his hands above his head as she diligently unbuttoned his shirt and peeled it open to reveal his muscled chest and stomach. He laughed again as she murmured "Mmmm..good present." and began nibbling on him like he was a treat.

She helped him out of his shirt and then went to work on his belt buckle. She glanced up at him underneath her lashes and gave him the coyest little grin as she unbuttoned and unzipped his pants. He lifted his hips to help her and waited as she removed his pants, keeping his hands obediently above his head.

A groan escaped from his lips and the amusement on his face was replaced by pleasure when she began caressing him through his silk boxers. He waited for her to remove them but she didn't. Instead, she touched and teased him through the material until he was bucking into her hands.

"Buffy," he said, his voice low and strained.

She took pity on him and he was no longer able to keep his arms above his head as he helped her remove the confining material. He didn't bother to return the favor of undressing her. The nice, sensible skirt she had worn to the Christmas festivities was hiked up to her waist as he tore away her panties. She barely had time to plant her hands on his chest and steady herself as he brought her hips down over his and buried himself inside her liquid warmth.

"Angel!" she gasped sharply.

He pushed her sweater up and then pulled it over her head. The bra clasp wasn't cooperating, so he merely pulled the cups down, baring her breasts to his touch. He suckled at her breast as he pumped in and out of her body. His lips sealed around her areola and his teeth bit down on her nipple ever so gently. Her fingers threaded through his hair as she arched her back, pressing herself against his mouth.

They rolled around on the king size bed as they made love, trading positions of dominance, both giggling and passionate like teenagers. For so long they had made love with the disapproval of her family hanging over their heads and with the thought that maybe there would be something to keep them apart, but tonight it was as if a great weight had been lifted off of their shoulders.

Buffy, finding herself on top once more, braced her hands on his chest and slammed against him as her orgasm washed over her. Angel watched in fascination as she threw her head back in pleasure, her mouth slack in ecstasy, her long blonde tresses sliding over her skin with her movements. Rolling them again, he nibbled at her neck and thought for the millionth time how much he loved the way she trembled around him after release.

He moved harder inside her, staring into her sated hazel eyes as he neared climax. Her hips moved in concert with his, rising off the bed to meet him, as they slammed against each other. Just as Angel found his release, just as he tipped over the edge, a voice sounded through the apartment, reaching the lovers in the bedroom.

"Angel? Buffy? Are you two home?" Angel buried his face in her neck and counted very slowly to ten before meeting her gaze.

"I'm going to kill your brother," he said, kissing her lightly.

"I was just waiting for you to get off me so I could kill him," she growled back. Together, they quickly put on their robes and stomped into the living room wearing twin grimaces. It took Wes a full thirty seconds to realize he was going to have to run.

The End.

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