Build Me Up Buttercup

Author: Maxwell

Rating: R/NC-17

Summary: AU. Buffy is planning the wedding event of the year, and she doesn't want anyone to know about it. Her ex-husband isn't making things easy for her, especially since he's still in love with her.

Disclaimer: If anything here belongs to me will you please raise your hand? Seeing none, let's move on.

Author Notes: So about his fic, I was watching the film "Philadelphia Story" with Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart and Cary Grant. It's one of my favorite movies so I decided to borrow the premise. If you haven't seen it I highly recommend it.



The ranch was in the middle of nowhere just up the coast from Santa Barbara. They only ever used it as their summer house and for weekend getaways. Comparably small to their mansion above Sunset, it still housed seven bedrooms, a ballroom, a formal dinning room, a study, a guest house, stables, and a pool, with a pool house. The family purchased it for the specific reason that it was far away out of any city where they could have some peace and quiet. Today was not one of those days.

The large oak front door swung open and a cardboard box was immediately tossed out over the front veranda, its contents pouring out as it hit the gravel driveway. Soon another box followed, and another, all filled with personal items, books, portfolios, sketching pads, CDs, DVDs. When the boxes were done, the clothes came next. An array of shirts, pants, underwear and socks flew through the air joining the litter on the ground. After there were no more clothes to dispose off, then went the empty suitcase. Last but not least, the prized leather coat was tossed still on its wire hanger.

Holding his head high, he marched over the threshold to join his belongings. He kept his composure, his hands in his pockets, as he surveyed the mess she had made. Turning around, she was standing in the doorway in nothing but a skimpy piece of negligee with a smug expression on her face. She knew under his cool posterior he was raging with anger, but his ego would not let her have the satisfaction of seeing him seething towards her actions.

He took a bold step forward and she crossed her arms in front of her chest as if challenging him to take one more stride. She looked too self-righteous, he thought, like she had done nothing wrong. Finally letting his anger show, his face reverted from calm to furious and he marched the rest of the way back to the door. However, when he got there he was met with a fist to the face. The force snapped his head to the side, but his tall muscular frame did not stumble. Slowly he twisted his neck to face her again, a malicious smile spread across his lips. Still maintaining her complacent exterior, her insides betrayed her and they reacted to that look sending shivers up and down her spine, whether from fear, or the fact that he looked damn sexy, she did not know. She started to become mesmerized by his deep penetrating eyes, like she always used to months before, but soon realized he had set a trap to distract her. Raising his large muscular hand, he covered her entire face and with one powerful push she was falling backwards onto the hard marble of the entry way and landed with an `Oomph' on her rump.

Rubbing her soar bottom, she observed from her position on the floor as he bent over, only picking up his leather duster. Swinging it onto his shoulders he stalked down the long driveway, the leather flapping in the wind, not looking back, and she watched him get smaller and smaller until he was out of sight.


Part 1

"You wanted to see me boss?" Spike Welling asked as he poked his platinum blonde head into the chief's office. He had been sitting at his desk thinking of some cockamamie story he could present at the next writer's meeting, but so far everything had been done. He had ousted more celebrities from the closet then he could count and reported on his fair number of affairs, but this week, there seemed to be nothing. He was just about to use his creative imagination as all tabloid writers do when he was paged into Mr. Wyndam-Pryce's office.

Surprised by the intrusion, his boss, who had been scribbling on some papers, yelped tossing his pen in the air. It landed in his lap leaking ink all over his pants. "Yes, yes come in," he replied as he blotted the ink stain with a handkerchief. "I have from a reliable source that Buffy Summers' wedding is going to be this weekend," he explained giving up on his clothes.

"Uh huh, just like it was last weekend, and the weekend before that. Remember when we staked out that church for two days and the only wedding was some old rich geezer getting hitched to a twenty something stripper? Besides, even if it was this weekend there are still the problems of finding out where and then how the hell to crash it." Pulling out a cigarette from his pocket he placed it in his mouth. Patting down his chest and pants, he searched for his lighter, but found none. "Oh bullocks got a light?" he asked his boss.

Suddenly a flame coming from a polished, silver Zippo was in front of him. He looked up and saw a rather ominous fellow holding the lighter. "Thanks mate," he leaned forward to light his cigarette. Pulling back he let out a puff of smoke smiling, "So, does the brooding look get you lots of tail, or are you just that good in bed?" Neither the mysterious stranger nor his boss found the comment amusing. Studying the man more closely, Spike swore he knew him from some where. "You seem familiar, have we met before?"

"This is Angel McConnell," his boss stepped in. "He's agreed to help us in securing exclusive coverage of the nuptials." Spike wanted to smack his head at his own stupidity. Buffy Summers' first husband was standing right in front of him and he hadn't recognized him.While the couple was dating and the brief time they were married, the media was all over them. You couldn't open a magazine without seeing their faces or reading the latest gossip about how she's into kinky sex and he was really a spy from Ireland.

"Three years ago the girl throws you out and now you want revenge, eh?" Spike gave Angel a smirk before taking a long drag. It was a well known fact that their marriage did not end well, and Buffy being a little superstitious, wanted to keep this wedding and subsequent marriage as faraway from the media as possible. For months now she had been leading the press on about when and where the ceremony was taking place and it had become somewhat of a competition within the news medium.

"Something like that," was Angel's only reply.

"Right," turning to his boss, Spike sat down on the edge of his desk. "What's the plan Wesley?"

"You will accompany Angel to the Summers' Ranch where he assures me the wedding will take place. Under a guise, you'll cover theweekend festivities. I want everything from what hors d'oeuvres did they serve to the exact pitch of Buffy's voice as she whines to her dear mummy. I'm also sending you with a camera. Get me good stuff."

"Ay ay!" With a salute Spike headed for the door.

"Oh and Spike," Wesley called after him gaining his attention. "Just because you're my cousin's son does not mean I feel an obligation to keep you on my staff. Ruin this and your employment at this magazine might become an issue."

The moment after Spike closed the door, Wesley turned to the other occupant in his office. "Thank you for doing us this favor Mr. McConnell."

"Fuck you Pryce," Angel bit back. "I wouldn't call blackmail a favor."

"Yes, well people can't always see eye to eye now can they?" Trying very hard not to cower under Angel's murderous glare, Wesley decided it was best to ignore the man and return to his work. When he heard his office door open he called out to Angel while looking down at his desk, "Keep in touch this weekend won't you?" With that the door was slammed violently shut. Quite please with himself, he leaned back in his chair. It was by pure luck he received the information when he did and even more lucky that Angel felt threaten enough by it to agree to his plan. Kicking his feet up on his desk so he could sit and gloat, he instead lost his balance sending himself and his chair toppling to the floor.

Buffy Summers' great great great grandfather had arrived in America from Europe with just a single suitcase. His first line of work was a poor peddler, carry things to sell on a tiny cart traveling from city to city with his wife and children. They worked their way to the Midwest where they settled and he opened a small general store. When his eldest son took over management he expanded and the family moved west to California. Dipping his fingers in multiple business opportunities, his capital continued to grow, and he passed everything down to his son and by the time Buffy's mother, Joyce was born, the family business was a multi-million corporation.

Joyce married Hank Summers, an apprentice of her father. They were married for fifteen years, bore two children, Buffy and Dawn, and then divorced. Hank moved to Europe to head up the European division and on occasion sent birthday gifts back to his daughters. To make up for the loss of their father, Joyce found it easier to say yes to the girls then to say no.

The family name and company was always well known in the business world, but when Buffy turned eighteen, everyone knew the name Summers. Buffy hit the social scene like a hurricane. Her image started appearing every where and everyone wanted to know who she was dating and what she was wearing. Her popularity sky rocketed and the only thing she had ever done was be born rich.

Angel's family came from old money. His grandparents always tried to inject his family heritage into his mind, but it never really stuck. All he knew was his family came from Ireland where they had deep roots and mentions of his forefathers went as far back as the seventeenth century. They were so wealthy that the only business they ran was the McConnell Foundation which helped organize and sponsor various charities around the world.

When his father met his mother, he fell fast and he fell hard. His mother always told Angel that he actually said `Ouch' instead of his name when they were first introduced. When they got married, he transported his whole life to Los Angeles so she could remain close to her family. Angel became the first McConnell ever to be born out of Ireland and his sister Cordelia was the second. His father was still an active participant in the foundation and would always fly off to Ireland and other parts of the world for long periods at a time. Sometimes Angel, his mother and his sister would join him, but coming from humble beginnings Angel's mother did not want her children getting used to having a private jet at their disposal and thinking that it was okay to be pulled out of school any time during the year. In short, she did not want to spoil them.

When Angel was nineteen and Cordy was twelve, both their parents died in a car accident. His grandparents gained custody of Cordy and they urged Angel to come live with them in Ireland as well, but he chose to stay in California, finish college and spend his inheritance. With all the money his parents left him and the monthly check he received from his relatives across the pond, he made Forbes top ten list of one of the richest people under thirty. He too made quite an impression on the Los Angeles nightlife.

Buffy and Angel met at The Lounge, a local Los Angeles hotspot made famous by patrons such as Brittney Spears and Justin Timberlake. For years they had partied in the same social circles, but never before this night had they ever met face to face. They were on opposite sides of the club and through the throngs of bodies they made eye contact. Angel couldn't take his eyes off of her, she was beautiful. Buffy got lost in his dark brown orbs and later recalled to her friend Willow that she was caught in his thrall. After thirty minutes of flirtatious glances back and forth, Angel stealthily made his way to her. One minute she had been staring at him and then someone walked in front of her blocking her vision. When the person moved away, Angel was gone. Turning back around, she jumped a little to see him standing between her friends.

He moved closer so she could hear his voice over the throbbing music, asking Buffy for her name which had her in complete shock.

"You don't know my name? Everyone knows my name," she answered incredulously.

"Then everyone must have some psychic abilities that I don't. Let's test it, do you know my name?"

She knew his name alright. "Angel McConnell." He beamed thinking she took the time to actually know who he was. "You used to date or should I say sleep with my friend Faith and I used to date your friend Lindsey."

"Yeah, Faith she's a firecracker that one and Lindsey, who hasn't dated him?"

Offended by his words she told Willow she was going to the lady's room and walked away from the group. Angel easily followed.

"I wasn't trying to insult you, I was commenting on the fact that Lindsey's a man whore." He spoke into her ear as his hand loosely gripped her upper arm, casually guiding her in the direction of the restrooms. "If you dated him, why haven't we met?"

Letting him take her through the crowd she laughed a little remembering Lindsey's answer when she asked why she never met his close friend. "He said you might steal me away from him, that girls have a tendency to fall into your bed after getting one glimpse at your ruggedly handsome good looks."

"More like tumble," he replied smirking, as they reached their destination.

A few minutes later when she emerged she found him leaning in the cramped hallway the bathrooms were located in. The music was still going, but the sound was much more muted where they were. "Do you always stalk girls while they pee?" she asked.

Ignoring her question he pushed off the wall stepping closer to her. "Since you won't tell me your name, I think I'm going to call you Buttercup."

"I beg you not," she pleaded making a face at the nickname.

"So, what's your name then?"

"If you don't know it, then something is seriously wrong with you." She was full of herself and she knew it. For three years now, her face had been in the public eye and if he was too busy going out and partying to know who she was then that was his loss.

"Fine then," he responded not losing his cool, "Would you like to dance Buttercup?"

They stayed close together the entire night. Even though the `Buttercup' was really getting on her nerves she liked him too much and he was too good looking to let one little thing like a nickname spoil their good time. She had to admit the conversation wasn't so bad either.

When it was last call, she asked him to get her another drink and while he was at the bar she snuck out the back door with her friends. She heard the rumors about Angel and Buffy wasn't into one night stands, so she thought the easiest thing to do was slip out while he wasn't looking and avoid a confrontation. Even if he wasn't planning a one nighter, she never ever accepted a boy's offer of a date at the first meeting. She liked it when they chased after her and they always did.

Waiting in a narrow walkway between two buildings while her friends were getting the car, she stood rubbing her bare arms. It was freezing and she hadn't brought a jacket. The club was always hot and she didn't want to be toting around an extra piece of clothing when she would only be using it from the club to the car. However, her friends were taking forever and she was only wearing a micro-mini and a Dolce and Gabbana tank that was really a piece of lingerie, but it accented her breasts so she chose to wear it as her club shirt.

Feeling a heavy weight on her shoulders she looked down at them and saw a leather jacket being draped over her by a pair of masculine hands. "You look cold," Angel's voice came from behind her. She didn't know if she should be irritated that he had found her or relieved.

The jacket was huge on her. The sleeves were a good four or five inches longer then her arms and the whole thing went all the way to her shins while she suspected it only went to mid-thigh on him. She could tell he had just recently been wearing it because it still radiated some residual heat from his body. "Thanks," she mumbled as she wrapped the leather around herself.

"You're very clever with this whole sneaking out," he commented moving around to face her. "I'm guessing your friends are getting the car so you can avoid that big crowd of paparazzi."

"You guessed right." She found herself for the second time that night getting lost in his eyes.

He hovered over her forcing her to gently rest her back against the building. Leaning down he caressed her cheek with his knuckles as he nudged her nose with his before lowering his lips to hers. In the corner of her eye she saw Willow pull up and before their mouths could make contact, Buffy carefully maneuvered herself away smiling walking towards the awaiting car.

"You are such a tease Buffy Summers," he called after her, causing her to stop and face him.

"How do you know my name?" she asked placing her hands on her hips.

"Everyone knows your name," he mocked as he made his way over to her. "I know who you are, I just wanted to see how long you'd let me call you Buttercup. You must really like me to let me say it all night."

"You paid for my drinks, so I allowed it," she retorted masking the fact that he had been right. Quickly retreating towards the car again, she opened the door and was about to climb in when she remembered she was still wearing his coat. "Oh, your jacket!"

He stopped her before she could take if off, "You can give it back to me tomorrow when you meet me for lunch at Doughboys on 3rd Street, 12:30." He helped her into the car and shut the door.

He watched her roll down the window and giggle at him. "Guess you won't be getting your jacket back then."

Noticing the paparazzi were beginning to run over to them he moved away from the car and back in between the buildings. "Oh I think I'll be getting it back sooner then you think. 12:30, Doughboys, don't forget."

The car spun off leaving the mass of photographers behind all shouting Buffy's name. Then they quickly moved to the walkway to see who she was talking to, but there was no one there.

Cordelia groaned loudly. She turned to her brother who was driving and asked in a harsh tone, "Why do I have to be here again with this asshole?" she pointed to the back seat where Spike was enjoying a cigarette.

"I need to get him in for the wedding so he's pretending to be your boyfriend for the weekend," Angel explained for what seemed to be the hundredth time.

"Why can't you just say he's a friend of yours?" she whined.

"Because Buffy knows all my friends, and she also knows that I'd never be friends with someone like him."

"Hey!" Spike shouted from the back.

Cordelia groaned again as she glared at Angel. "Did I do something to you when we were children?" she then turned her fury on to theblonde sitting behind her. "Can you please put that thing out, the smoke is killing me."

"The window is bloody open and all the smoke is getting sucked out! What more do want from me?" he yelled.

"For your entrails to slowly rot and disintegrate until nothing is left of you but a brittle, old skeleton. Oh, wait you're a smoker, that's going to happen anyway!" Flipping her head frontwards, she caught the smile playing at her brother's lips.

"If you don't like the smoke so much, why did you request for the top up?" Spike asked referring to the convertible roof that she practically ordered Angel to put up as soon as they hit the highway.

"I didn't want my hair to get messed up from the wind," she replied as if that was the obvious answer, subconsciously checking her brown locks for imperfections. "But if you weren't smoking, then I wouldn't be complaining about carbon monoxide poisoning."

Spike huffed at Cordelia's response and moved on to inquire some details from Angel. "So, Angel what's going down this weekend?"

"It's Friday so no one is going to be there yet but the family. Tomorrow some close friends and the fiancée will arrive in the morning and Buffy and her mother probably already have a full schedule of activities to do. More family will come for the rehearsal dinner and then Sunday the rest of the guests will all be there by ten. The wedding will take place in the ballroom followed by the reception that will flow out around the pool area. Before any guests can leave the newly married couple will climb into their helicopter and whisk away to the airport and off they'll go on their honeymoon," he explained in a monotone voice, shocking Cordelia and Spike into silence.

"Wow mate, do all ex-husbands know the intimate details to their exes' wedding. What flavor will the cake be?" Spike teased, punching him lightly in the shoulder.

Chocolate, Angel thought, the cake will be chocolate with a mousse filling.

Buffy and he never had the big wedding. They had a whirlwind romance that shocked the press who labeled them as just having fun. They only dated for three months before they hoped on a jet to Las Vegas and got married at The Little White Wedding Chapel, both wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Lying in bed after celebrating for hours, she confessed to him what her dream wedding would be like. He apologized for not giving her that. She just kissed him passionately and told him she wouldn't take back a thing. She had her dream guy and that was the only thing that mattered.

Angel had no doubt that this time around the wedding she had explained to him that night was exactly the affair she had planned.

Slowing the car down, he made a right turn onto a narrow path and stopped in front of a large wrought iron fence. "Okay, children we're here."

"If they are trying to keep people out, shouldn't they have armed guards or something?" Spike ques tioned.

"If you didn't want people to know something was going down, wouldn't you want to keep a low profile? I'm guessing minimum security until the big day." Angel rolled down his window and opened a little black box that was resting on a stand at the perfect height for a car. Inside there was a small intercom with a call button and a number key pad.

Spike sat forward and strained his neck to peek out the front windshield. "I don't see a house."

Angel pressed in some keys on the pad, and the gate creaked open. "The main house is another half mile up," he sighed at Spike's incessant comments. "If you don't like the smell of horses, I suggest you roll up your window; we'll be passing by the stables in a minute." Inching the car forward, Angel started the slow trek up the gravel driveway.


Part 2

For the mid-afternoon the sun was still extremely bright. Buffy didn't mind at all, the brighter the better tan she will have for the wedding photos. Stretched out on her stomach, her eyes closed, she lay on a lounge with her string bikini top untied ensuring no visible tan lines. Her dress was backless, and it would be tacky to have tan lines. The hundreds of preparations that had yet to be done were running through her head. She couldn't wait until the wedding planner to arrive tomorrow and in the meantime planned to staff out certain things to her mother, Dawn and Willow when she arrived, but that was later and she didn't want to think about that anymore, not while she was soaking up the sun. Letting a comforting sigh out, she was startled when the warmth on her back disappeared. Blinking her eyes open she shifted, being careful to clutch her top to her chest as she turned partway over, and came face to face with her ex-husband. He was standing directly in the path of the sun not bothering to hide is lustful perusal of her smooth tan body and he looked sexy doing it.

Buffy was in shock at first and her heart starting doing little flip flops. The last time she saw Angel was a year ago at the Whiskey on Sunset and he was all over a red head in a dark corner. She was so hurt and sickened at the sight and after that night she always had people scout night time hang outs to make sure he wasn't there.

But that was just the last time she saw him. The last time they spoke was a few months before the Whiskey incident.

After the divorce they were still very much in each other's lives. Angel had a relationship with her uncle Giles and was over at the house quite often. They tried to avoid each other in those times and ignored one another if they were ever caught in the same room, but on occasion they'd exchange banter here and there. Buffy, at the time, was still social with Cordelia, and when she would head over to her condo, sometimes she would catch Angel just leaving, or he'd catch her on her way out. Again, they tried not to acknowledge the other's presence.

One night around two in the morning, Angel came waltzing through the front door of Buffy's house, shouting her name as he made his way up the stairs to her bedroom. It was obvious he was drunk, the almost empty bottle of Jack Daniels clutched in his hand being a dead give away. He made it to Buffy's bedroom safely and swung open the door, only to find Buffy and another man, both partially undressed and making out quite heavily. Buffy and her companion stopped what they were doing and before the other man had a chance to jump on Angel, Buffy ran over to him, pushing him out into the hall.

Demanding to know what he thought he was doing, Angel only stared at her while she fumed waiting for an answer. He tried to touch her cheek, but she flicked his hand away. He grew angry and raised the bottle to his mouth finishing its contents.

"You wrecked my fucking life, you spoiled little bitch," he slurred at her pointing an accusing finger. "No one has ever . . . Look! Look what you have done to me. I'm a horrible drunk."

"No, Angel I didn't do this, you did it to yourself." Buffy replied not letting up on her harsh tone.

"You're wrong, Buffy. It was you. Rot in hell," and with that he stumbled away.

Remembering both instances very clearly the shock feeling faded fast and rage took over.

"Didn't anyone ever tell you UV rays can cause cancer?" he smirked down at her.

"Didn't anyone ever tell you trespassing is illegal?" she snapped before taking a deep breath and shouting, "MOM!" frantically.

The cry caught Joyce's attention, and she hurried into one of the larger sitting rooms. The sliding glass floor to ceiling doors on the far wall were opened all the way, like they always were during the more gorgeous summer days, giving the illusion that the room was connected to the outside patio. Looking out she could see Buffy marching angrily across the grass coming from the pool trying to tie a robe around her. Also reacting to Buffy's scream, Dawn and several maids came to see what the commotion was all about.

Joyce met Buffy just on the edge of the large concrete platform, and noticed her daughter's flustered appearance. "Honey, what's wrong?"

"What's wrong? What's wrong!?" Buffy growled between clenched teeth, causing Dawn to open her eyes in surprise and the maids to take a scared step backwards. "I don't understand why all these horrible things happen to me. All I ask for is one perfect day, just one, but no!" she ranted waving her fists in the air.

Joyce grabbed hold of Buffy's arms trying to calm her down and asked her again what was going on. Before Buffy could reply, there was another rather loud shout coming from her other daughter.

"Angel!" Dawn exclaimed as she launched herself into Angel's arms the second he walked up the few steps to join them on the patio. Buffy glared in disgust at her little sister's enthusiasm and grew more upset as Angel responded in kind and hugged the teenager saying that he had missed her too. The maids relaxed and they too walked over to Angel calling him `Mr. McConnell' saying how good it was to see him again. Knowing them all by name he addressed them each individually asking them how they were.

This annoyed Buffy even more. She let out a long frustrated noise that brought the attention back to her. "I'm so happy the trespasser gets such a warm welcome. Why isn't anyone calling the police? Get Gunn, he'll throw him out," she paused in her tirade as she remembered what Angel looked like without a shirt on. "Gunn, Xander and Giles, they can all throw him out," she amended. "It might be easier if we knocked him out first." Racing over to a nearby table she lifted a large vase and charged towards Angel. Everyone reacted quickly all shouting, `No', `Ms. Summers!', and `Put that down'.

Angel didn't panic at all as it took all the maids to hold her back as Joyce slipped the vase out of her hands. "If you didn't want me here, then you should have gotten all new security codes. I just drove right up the driveway." With his hand he made a smooth sweeping motion winking at her, which only caused her to get riled up.

Still trying to calm Buffy down, Joyce noticed there were two other people standing behind Angel. "Oh, Cordelia, is that you? Oh my you have grown."

Cordelia, always looking for a compliment, beamed at Joyce's observation and stepped up allowing the spotlight to fall onto her. "Yes I have."

"How old are you now?" Joyce continued to gush over Cordelia. She couldn't get over how the young girl had filled out.

"Turned twenty-one just a few months ago. Angel took me to Vegas."

"You're lucky you guys are related, when Angel takes twenty-one year olds to Vegas he tends to marry them," Dawn butted in, trying to make a joke. She only got silent stares around the room, Buffy's being almost deadly.

A cough broke the silence, causing Cordelia to roll her eyes. "This is my boyfriend Spike," she explained with fake cheerfulness that fooled everyone but Angel. He knew when his sister was being truthful or putting on an act. Spike took his cue and swaggered up to stand next to Cordelia brazenly pulling her against him. Causally placing her hands on his chest she carefully placed further distance between them all the while smiling. "Angel had some business to attend to up here, and Spike's from England, so I'd thought it'd be nice if we could show him the area."

"And what a nice area it is," Spike commented looking Cordelia up and down, much to Angel and Cordelia's disapproval.

"Business," Buffy bite out like it was a dirty word. "Like the business of ruining my wedding."

At that moment Giles stepped into the room. "What is all this racket?" he demanded. With Giles presence the maids straighten their backs and dismissed themselves heading quickly back to work. Evaluating the scene, Giles saw Buffy huffing over on one side of the patio, Joyce and Dawn standing in the middle with a young woman in the arms of a cocky looking fellow and lastly, the large presence on the other side was Angel. "Why Angel, what brings you up here?" he asked sounding surprised and quite pleased to see him. He walked forward with an out stretched hand which Angel shook.

"I came to see you actually. I have a few business deals I would like to discuss. I apologize for choosing such a bad time I had no idea," punctuating the last words while glancing in Buffy's direction, "that the wedding was this weekend. Maybe it would be better if I go."

Before Buffy could put her two cents in, Giles spoke up, "No, no, you drove all the way up here; it's quite alright if you and your guests stay."

Leading Angel more into the sitting room, the other occupants followed. Buffy flopped down on a sofa clearly showing her displeasure with a pout. Her robe flew open a little bearing one of her long thin legs, which caught Spike's attention. He openly stared at her like Angel had done earlier, but Spike's was more of a dirty leer. Quickly she righted her clothing, but her slight panic seemed to only amuse him.

"I'm taking this as a sign you've finally given into your grandparents?" Giles asked Angel.

"Granddad is thinking of stepping down as President and the family is worried the Foundation will end up in the hands of my cousin Doyle. They want me to finally take up a position and I think they're right."

Everyone listened to their conversation, and congratulated Angel on his new career, except Buffy. She was busy thinking of the predicament Angel had created for her, but then stopped when Angel's words hit her. Sounding upset, she questioned, "Wait, does this mean you are moving to Ireland, to work for your family?" Turning her attention to Angel who was standing behind the sofa with Giles, he looked down at her and nodded. Staring at each other longer then they should have, Buffy snapped her head back around returning to her earlier mood, "Finally a whole ocean between us!"

"Why don't we step into the study, yes?" Giles suggested, allowing Angel to go ahead of him as they left the room.

Trying to avoid an uncomfortable silence, Joyce started a conversation with Cordelia, asking how her life was going. Taking her cue, Cordelia babbled on about how she left college to pursue her acting career. Thinking Cordelia McConnell was too ethnic she legally changed her name to Cordelia Chase. Just when she was about to describe all the auditions she had been on, none resulting in an actual job, Joyce saw Xander walking by the porch.

"Xander wait, please wait!" she called to him desperately. A scruffy looking young man cautiously entered the sitting room carrying a tool box. The ranch had an on site staff all year round. Besides the various maids and gardeners, there was Gunn who was in charge of the ranch when the Summers weren't there, his wife Fred took care of the horses and Xander was the handyman. "Is something not working?" Joyce asked indicating his tool box.

"Yes, the lights are out at the pool, I was headed over there now," he pointed in the direction and inclined his shoulders getting ready to turn back around when Joyce physically stopped him by tugging him over to Cordelia and Spike.

"You can always do that later. Why don't you show our guests around the grounds? You remember Cordelia right?" Of course he remembered her, the few times she had come up while visiting Angel they had some heavy make-out sessions, but after he asked her out for real, she laughed at him. "And this is her boyfriend Spike. Just bring them back here when you're done."

Reluctantly, Xander told them to follow him.

"A reporter? You brought a reporter here?" Giles proclaimed pacing in front of Angel in his large study. The room was covered in cherry oak bookshelves all stacked to capacity, Giles always joked he should have become a Librarian. Angel sat in a massive brown leather chair watching Giles get his outburst out before he was allowed to continue his explanation.

Rupert Giles was an old friend of the family. His father had been Buffy's grandfather's closest confidant and right after college Giles secured a job working for her grandfather. Lots of hard work and years of experience helped him rise to the very top and now he was CEO. When Hank left, he started to spend more time with the deserted Summers women and soon he became like a sergeant father. They were so close that he was walking Buffy down the aisle.

Angel admired the man greatly; he was the closet thing he had to a father as well. After Buffy and he had come back from Vegas with their announcement, and after Dawn finished her squealing, Giles congratulated them and welcomed Angel to the family. One of the few things in his life Angel was regretful about was not keeping in touch with Giles; his tense relationship with Buffy just wouldn't allow it.

"Angel, explain yourself," Giles spoke in his stern English accent looming over Angel looking quite angry, and every bit the disappointed father.

"Have you been checking up on Hank lately? He's been busy."

Intrigued, Giles joined Angel, sitting in a matching chair next to him. "What has the son-of-a-bitch done now?"

"He's having an affair with the Prime Minister of France's daughter, who is twenty years his junior, married to the French Minister of Defense and pregnant with Hank's child. I'm told that it will create quite a scandal, and bring a lot of unwanted attention to the family." Angel explained.

"And just who told you this?"

"Wesley Wyndam-Pryce."

Taking off his glasses, Giles leaned back in his chair bringing his thumb and forefinger to his forehead. "The little prick," he cursed. "I'm guessing blackmail. In exchange for not leaking the story, you give him Buffy's wedding." Angel nodded his confirmation. "Well, to me I would think an international scandal is far better material then a socialite's wedding."

"Not for a crappy tabloid paper. He'll have better sales with Buffy on the cover in a wedding dress then a shot of some unknown businessman with an unknown French woman."

"Why'd he go to you with this information, and not us?

"He suspected you would laugh in his face and send your lawyers after him. So, he chose someone with ties, but not too close, that would accept his offer. He blinded sided me with this, I didn't have time to go to you first before I had to give him an answer."

Cleaning his glasses before putting them back on, Giles studied Angel intently. "I didn't know you still cared."

Sadly, Angel looked right at Giles. "Yes you did."

A long pause came over them as the meaning behind Angel's actions passed between them.

"What do we do with the reporter chap, hm?" Giles questioned. "Bribery?"

"Thought of that, and I'm sure he would have taken the money if his job was not on the line."

"Can he be trusted?"

Laughing out loud, "No," Angel answered through his amusement.

Giles joined in the laughter, "Want to mess with him?"

"Hell yes."

Letting the laughter subside Giles rose and walked over to a small cabinet in one of the bookcases and opened it to reveal his liquor stash. "Whiskey?" he asked Angel who agreed. "Are you really going to Ireland?" Giles changed the subject.

"Got an office waiting for me and everything," he responded accepting the crystal glass from Giles.

"She'll miss you," he told Angel.

"I'll miss her."

Some time later, right before dinner, Giles and Angel emerged from the study and found everyone in the entry way waiting for them.

"Good, you're done. It was nice seeing you Angel, we shouldn't do it again," Buffy waved from her spot next to her mother and then marched passed the two men on her way to the dinning room.

"Actually," Giles voice stopped her, "I invited Angel to the wedding and of course you two as well," he nodded towards Cordelia and Spike.

"What, Giles, how could you-Mom!" Buffy whined storming back over to the group.

"Angel and I have not finished our conversation and since he's leaving for Ireland Monday it needs to be done this weekend. It'll save us some time if he just stayed here."

Buffy glared at Giles and then turned to her mother, her expression changing to a pleading look.

"Buffy," Joyce began using her best mother voice. "I don't see why Angel can't stay the weekend. We have two hundred and fifty guests coming; three more people won't make a difference."

Angel and Giles exchanged a look, knowing full well before hand that Joyce being the ever polite hostess would go along with Giles suggestion.

Not giving Buffy a chance to protest Giles clapped his hands once and then rubbed them together. "Now, who is ready for dinner? I'm starving."


Part 3

"Where were you last night?" Buffy demanded the second Angel walked into their bedroom. Wearing the little nothing of a night gown he had bought her when they were still dating, she marched right up to him the second he crossed the threshold.

"I stayed in the guest house, and you need to call Xander, it's out of hot water." His appearance mirrored his restless sleep with his rumpled clothing and dark circles under his eyes. Wearily, he maneuvered around her and slowly made his way over to the bathroom, shedding his leather duster and shirt as he went.

Buffy groaned at the fact that he just left his clothes lying on the floor. "You can't even do the right thing and throw your clothes in the hamper or hang up your coat?"

Not looking back at her, continuing on his course, "You never pick up after yourself, why do I have to?"

She tramped over and picked up his discarded clothes, throwing the dirty ones into the hamper and then turned to the walk-in closet to hang up his jacket. Midway reaching for a nice wooden hanger she stopped, noticing a few wire hangers pushed to the side. With a devilish smile she placed the heavy leather garment on the wire one knowing he would throw a fit. If he'd want his jacket on a certain hanger he would just have to do it himself.

Strolling into the bathroom without knocking she took a seat on the toilet and watched him bathe through the glass doors of the shower. Staring at his marvelous sculpted body, she couldn't believe this fine specimen had chosen her as his mate. That he willingly pledged himself over to her for eternity. She loved him and she wanted to show him how much, that is if she wasn't so fucking pissed at him.

He knew she was looking at him, but he ignored her. Contemplating asking her to join him for a second, he dismissed the thought. He loved her, but he didn't want to be around her right now.

Who were they kidding, thinking that a summer at the Ranch, just the two of them, would fix all their problems. At first they set aside their petty arguments and the first few nights they got along great, of course that was purely because of the sex. In bed with the lights out, neither talking except for moans of pleasure, everything seemed right, but then morning would come and something would remind them that they were angry at each other.

Finishing his shower, he grabbed a near by towel wrapping it low on his hips. He stepped up to the sink and pulled out his shaving kit, still ignoring her.

"You know I am your wife, you can't just pretend I am not here." She commented snidely.

"Yes I can," was all he said.

She felt herself burning up, but not with passion, with rage. "We can't make our relationship better if you don't give to the cause."

"That's really funny coming from you, because I'm not the one who's not giving." He started to apply the shaving cream having yet to look in her direction.

"Sometimes you sound like you don't want me around at all!"

"Maybe I don't."

That was it. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. He didn't want her. Silently she stormed out of the bathroom slamming the door behind her.

Angel stopped shaving and looked at himself in the mirror. "You are a real jackass you know that?" He didn't like being around her while he was pissed off. Sometimes he couldn't avoid it causing them to have vicious arguments, but when he actually succeeded in getting rid of her like he had now, he always felt like such an asshole.

A few minutes later he came out still wearing only a towel and walked into the closet. Putting on clean clothes, he noticed his leather duster resting on its wire hanger. Oh, she was so dead. As he reached for it, Buffy's hand shot out and snatched it away.

He followed her out into their room and saw she had a suit case lying on the bed. Making a few more trips to and from the closet, he thought she was packing for both of them, that this vacation obviously wasn't working, so they were leaving, but then he noticed it was all his clothes. Picking up the now full suitcase, she carried it downstairs with Angel trailing behind her not saying a word. She stopped in front of the opened front door and started hauling the clothes out until there was nothing left. He glanced past her outside and saw more of his possessions had already been tossed. She didn't need to explain anything to him; he understood what was going on. Holding his head high, he walked right past her and out the door.

Angel awoke startled, sitting up in bed. He cursed to himself as he laid his head in his hands. Being in this fucking house was bringing back all the memories, all the times he could have easily changed the course of events. If only he had grabbed her and ripped that negligee right off and told her he loved her, he wanted to make things work, that he couldn't live without her. While that would have made her not upset with him, it wouldn't have changed the fact that Buffy needed to learn how to not act like such a spoiled brat all the time. But there were other ways that could have been accomplished. He hated himself everyday for giving up so easily.

Pulling back the covers he got out of bed, bracing himself to face her again.

Angel emerged from his room to find Buffy waiting for him in the hallway.

"We pressured Giles into telling us what is going on," she told him.

"Are you upset?" he inquired examining her furrowed brow and crossed arms.

"Yes," she began, but then let down her guard. "But I am also grateful. He might be an absent father but he is still my father. Thank you for trying to protect us," she expressed hoping he caught the sincerity coming across with her words, she really was appreciative.

"Your welcome." Angel didn't want to say anymore, scared he would wreck the quiet moment between them. It had been forever since they have been able to stand in each other's presence and not exchange insults. He missed the times when the only words they'd exchange were playful and full of love. God, she was still so beautiful. "Would you mind if I escort you to breakfast?" he asked as a sort of peace offering.

"Sure. Oh and just to let you know, we've thought of some things to mess with our not-so-mild-manner-reporter, so just play along," she warned as they walked together, keeping a safe distance, making their way through the upper hallways and down the stairs.

Upon reaching the dinning room doors he looked at her giving one of his million dollar smiles, "Ready to have some fun?"

"Absolutely," she smiled right back.

Joyce, Cordelia and Spike were already sitting around the table. Angel and Buffy parted ways, Angel heading for a seat next to his sister while Buffy practically floated over to her mother.

"Why good morning mother dear" she replied in an elegant voice, leaning over dramatically kissing Joyce on both cheeks.

"Good morning my daughter, how was your slumber?" Joyce asked in a regal fashion as Buffy lowered herself on to the vacant chair next to her.

"Splendid Mother, just splendid."

"Fabulous," Joyce squealed.

Next, Dawn entered wearing a lavish light pink ruffled dress. Sighing she twirled her way to her seat wishing everyone good morning similar to the manner Buffy had just done moments before. Then Giles entered wearing a smoking jacket, with an ascot, smoking from a pipe.

Spike stared at the scene in shock. He couldn't believe these were the same people from yesterday. Wesley was going to get one whacked out story from him; he only wished he brought his camera to breakfast.

Angel and Cordelia were trying their hardest not to laugh at the show being put on in front of them, especially when Giles walked in, that was almost Angel's downfall.

"Good Morning, I hope everyone had a good nights rest. Mine was splendid, just splendid." Giles addressed the table, taking his place at the head. Clapping his hands quickly twice, a troop of maids entered each carrying a plate of food and then placed them in front of everyone seated. "Looks delicious," Giles commented.

Spike glanced down at his plate and was met with a single piece of bacon, a tiny scoop of scrambled eggs, and one grape. Gaping, he looked up and saw everyone tucking their napkins into their collars and then picked up their knives and forks. He watched as Dawn, Joyce and Buffy each cut the grape in half and place the half on their forks and into their mouths. Then suddenly they dropped their utensils and leaned back in their chairs.

"What a wonderful breakfast, I am full," Buffy exclaimed and Dawn and Joyce agreed. Buffy and Joyce quickly became immersed in a conversation about what toenail polish Buffy should wear tomorrow, clear or iridescent clear.

Suddenly, Dawn rose from her seat and announced, "I feel like dancing." She took to prancing around the room singing to herself. No one but Spike seemed to think it was odd.

For a few more minutes he sat there and watched the peculiar habits being displayed for him. Nothing he could make up would be better then this.

"Oh, everyone you must hear this. It's hilarious!" Giles declared in a giddy voice. "It says here," he pointed to the newspaper in his hand, "that the Dow went up four and a half points."

Everyone burst out in a fit of giggles, all having trouble controlling themselves. "Why is that funny?" Spike inquired.

"We just made fifteen million dollars, my boy." Giles told him through the laughter. "Pocket change really."

This is good, Spike thought. They are the stereotypical wealthy family: the fancy clothes to breakfast, the haughtiness of their voices when they spoke, the barely-there appetites, the turning the blind eye to bizarre behavior and their lax approach to money. It was perfect.

The chiming of a near by clock rang out over the laughter. "Oh, it's nine o'clock everyone, nine o'clock!" Giles shouted.

"What happens at nine o'clock?" Spike asked.

"The idiot says what," Giles told him.

"What?" Spike said.

Giles repeated, "The idiot says what."

"Wha- oh." Spike stopped in realization, as grins spread across everyone else's faces. "Haha, very funny, I'm glad you all had a nice barrel of laughs." He then turned to Angel, "I knew you were going to rat me out the first chance you got. So, now what I get thrown out with the garbage?"

"No, I'll let you cover the wedding," Buffy said surprising everyone. "But I get final say about what does and does not get printed. You contact your boss and we'll draw up a quick contract, deal?"

"Deal," Spike replied giving her a smirk. The maids cleared the plates and brought out the real breakfast, which was enough to feed an army. Seeing all the food being placed in front of him Spike didn't wait to dive in, "Now this is what I am talking about."

The meal had gone by without incident and after the plates were cleared away, everyone was enjoying some polite conversation when the opening of a door interrupted them.

"Riley," Buffy beamed as her fiancée strolled in and placed a sweet kiss to her lips. "I was expecting you earlier."

"I'm sorry I-," over the top of Buffy's head he saw Angel reclining in his chair observing the couple with a nonchalant expression. "What the hell is he doing here?" Not bothering to wait for an answer, he quickly placed himself in front of Angel who rose from his seat not phased.

"Riley," Buffy interjected getting between the two men. She saw Riley bunching his hand into a fist and she knew he was getting ready to push her aside so he could have access to Angel.

"I owe you a little something McConnell, for barging in on me and Buffy," Riley referred to Angel's drunken fiasco.

At the same time he moved his fist back and laid his other hand on Buffy's shoulder to shove her out of the way, "Riley don't!" Buffy screamed. He rested his hands at his sides giving her a look of confusion.

"You don't think he deserve a severe beating?" he questioned her.

"Of course he does, but he'll just hurt you." Riley was offended at her comment and it didn't help that Spike had started to point and laugh at him, saying his own woman had to step in and protect him. Buffy knew she wounded Riley's ego and even though his shoulders were broader and he was taller then Angel, Angel had strength and he knew how to fight. "I saw him, "she pointed behind her to Angel, "beat up a guy and put him in the hospital," for groping me on the dance floor, she silently said to herself.

"For two days," Angel added with a smirk. He was thoroughly enjoying the scene Buffy was creating all because she knew he could turn Riley into a bloody pulp.

"Way to go," Spike congratulated him and Angel nodded his thank you.

"Did the man even press charges?" Riley wanted to know.

"No," Buffy replied like the idea was preposterous. "He was too scared of Angel." Not wanting Riley to see Angel gloat at his accomplishment, she hurried Riley out the door.

The room became silent as they tried to listen to the conversation outside. Dawn and Spike went as far as running up to the door and pressing their ears against it. At first there was nothing and then they could hear Riley's voice quite clearly.

"Are you insane?! Inviting him to the wedding? He's your fucking ex- husband!"

There was silence as they suspected Buffy was trying to reason with him.

"Fuck the reporter! Angel could still be in love with you for all we know, or maybe he just wants to fuck with your life." So far, reason was not working for Buffy.

Still more muffled tones until finally the handle turned, Dawn and Spike rushed back, and the couple re-entered.

Trying very hard not to show the pain Riley was causing her as he held her protectively to his side Buffy smiled, "Riley's thrilled that you are staying for the wedding. Now, who is up for some riding?"

"Angel!" Fred squealed running up and giving him a hug. Buffy rolled her eyes, is everyone happy to see the asshole that ruined her life? "I got wind you were staying here," Fred continued in her Texas drawl. "Have you seen Gunn?" Shaking his head no, Angel allowed Fred to lead her over where Gunn was standing next to an old beat up truck and he welcomed Angel warmly.

Being a perfect summer day, Buffy woke up deciding she wanted to do some horseback riding. She phoned Fred before breakfast to gear up several horses for an early afternoon ride. After the commotion at breakfast died down, every one went their separate ways to change into riding clothes and together, minus Giles and Joyce, they walked down to the stables where they were met by Fred.

Turning to Riley who was burning holes into Angel's back as he chatted with Gunn and Fred, Buffy giggled at his jealousy. "Riley," she used her hand to move his face towards her. "He's a very friendly person who hasn't seen these people in years. You should make the best of the situation and remember I am marrying you tomorrow. I'm going to be Mrs. Riley Finn." Kissing him on the cheek he forced a smile as she left his side to head up to the stable.

On her way she spotted Cordelia resting a foot on one of the fences lining the grazing area, looking out at some of the horses.

"Hey," she said joining her. They used to be close friends during and after her and Angel's relationship, but somehow they had lost touch. "Remember which one you used to ride when you visited?"

"Yeah, that one, with the white left hoof", Cordelia pointed out. "Her name is Clarabelle and just because I am staying for the wedding doesn't mean we are friends again." She added harshly.

"Cordy, why did we stop being friends?" Buffy asked quietly.

"Please, like you don't know." Cordelia faced her with her hands on her hips, obviously angry.

"Am I supposed to?" Buffy asked remaining calm.

"You shattered his life Buffy!" Cordelia exclaimed waving her arms. "He turned into this drunken, smelly hermit who lived off of day old pizza. He might have looked good in public, but he would spend days at a time locked in his condo and you did it to him. I couldn't be friends with someone who hurt my brother like that."

"Cordy, I didn't know and for the record I was miserable too. I went through my phase of crying and not getting out of bed. As my friend you supported me for like a second until you just dropped off the face of the earth."

Shaking her head, Cordelia remembered how Buffy mourned their relationship for a couple of weeks while her brother's depression lasted years. She knew she had no right to be upset that Buffy got over it faster the Angel, but not once did Buffy ever ask how he was doing and when Cordelia took it upon herself to tell her how he was fairing, Buffy didn't care.

"I made a choice to be loyal to my brother and our friendship wasn't helping him. I'm sorry if I offended you in anyway, but you didn't need me, and he did." She wanted to make Buffy see just how she affected Angel's life, maybe that would help her get off her high horse and learn her actions effect others and not just her. "Ask him how many women he has been with within the last three years, it's surprising." With that she walked away.

Stepping into the stable Buffy found Angel standing in front of one of the horse's stalls, petting its head affectingly. While that alone was something unexpected, the horse he was petting was also surprising to her.

The first time Buffy brought Angel up to the Ranch for the weekend a filly was born. It was decided when they first discovered the mare pregnant that its offspring would solely belong to Buffy. Both Angel and Buffy stood by and watched as the baby horse came into the world and as Angel held her from behind fascinated by the scene, she whispered to him, "I'm gonna name her Buttercup." His response was to hold her tighter, kissing the nap of her neck.

"I thought you don't like horses?" she said catching him off guard, bringing his attention away from the horse and onto her.

"I never said I didn't like them, I'm just not that good at riding them." He smiled before returning to smoothing his hands down the Buttercup's neck.

Debating whether or not to mention the subject Cordelia brought up, Buffy just stood there watching him. He was definitely an enigma that she thought she figured out years ago, but she was just now starting to think there were parts to him she never fully understood. Maybe that was one of their problems; they didn't know each other like they should have.

"Is it true you became a recluse after our divorce?"

Her question shocked him, but he was sure to keep it away from the surface. Cordy must have opened her big mouth. With one last pat to Buttercup, he moved to help Buffy on the horse. "I had my moments," was his cryptic reply.

"So then you've been dating when you're not behaving like Boo Radley?" she pressed on, giving him her foot as he lifted her onto the saddle. She was worried for a moment when he didn't answer. Looking down he was concentrating too hard on adjusting her saddle, and she did not like that he was avoiding her question. Either he hadn't been dating, meaning he was still stuck on her, or he had been in which case Buffy did not want to know.

Angel was about ready to hurt Cordy very badly. She had no right to put ideas in Buffy's head and confuse her. The last thing he wanted Buffy to know was that in three years, he had been celibate except for one night. After leaving Buffy and Riley to do whatever they were doing before he interrupted them, he went to a bar and picked up a girl and went back to her place. He preformed his part but the act was empty and meant nothing to him, not even the release was a comfort. He left without knowing the girl's name.

"Well, a good fuck is a good fuck, I would be an idiot to pass one up," he lied. Looking up at her, he saw she was furious at him. She was thinking that Cordelia's suggestion was just to get back at her and not to help her see Angel's side.

"I'm glad you reverted back to your old ways. I'm sure the entire female population is happy to have your dick back on the market." Giving Buttercup a good kick, she was off galloping leaving Angel in her dust.

God, his hands were magic. At first glance you'd never expect them to be capable of such tender caresses, but oh, they so were. He liked to start with dragging them through her hair, combing out any tangles and then move them down her neck and over her collar bone. Her breasts would come next spending an extra long time there until continuing to her stomach and down to her thighs. After that it was a free for all, but where ever they were it always felt good.

Even though she loved his hands on her body, his mouth was even better. The first few times he kissed her, he was always tentative, like he was scared she would pull away, but after a while he learned she was very responsive to his kisses and he went for long and passionate. Never demanding, he'd carefully asked permission with his tongue, running it along the seam of her lips and when she opened her mouth he'd glide it in meeting her tongue. When his lips would leave hers, she would moan in protest, but then she would moan in pleasure as he nibbled on her neck. Combining those kisses with his hands and she would be floating for hours, high on the sensations he created.

Tonight was one of those nights. They decided not to go out but stay at his place and watch a movie. They didn't even make it fifteen minutes before his shirt was off and she was cradling his hips with her thighs.

His hand snaked down between their bodies and hitched up her skirt. Massaging her thigh he continued his trek to the tiny strip of fabric of her thong. Expertly he moved it aside and using his thumb and index finger manipulated her clit causing her to moan into his mouth. Leaving his thumb to place pressure on her nub, he inserted two fingers pumping them in and out. Breaking the kiss she screamed out and bucked her hips into his hand. He laughed at her reaction nibbling along her jaw. Through her waves of pleasure she giggled too from feeling his body rumpling against hers. His hand continued its work and she rocked her body to his rhythm. He turned his head to gaze at her face, mouth opened in a silent gasp, her eyes rolling to the back of her head and he just smiled that she was acting in response to his ministrations.

"Angel, oh Angel, my god," Buffy panted. Gripping his back she held him to her as her peak continued to build. Biting on his shoulder she yelled into his flesh as the wave begun pass over her. He started to kiss her neck and moved up searching out her lips. Releasing his skin she kissed him hungrily and with a few more pumps she was coming onto his fingers. Not breaking his stride, Angel removed his fingers and just continued on kissing her with the same amount of passion as when they first started earlier in the evening.

Buffy was still recovering, but she met Angel's eagerness and kissed him with abandon. His hips were rubbing against her, pushing into her sex and she could feel his hardness through his jeans. Even though she had given him a hand job a few times, she knew he wasn't expecting anything from her, but every time he gave her her release, she felt guilty for leaving him hanging. It was at that moment she realized that this was the first time she did not want him to stop. She wanted him to just go on and do whatever he wanted with her body and it wouldn't be just for him, she wanted it badly too, but she was scared.

Not pulling away she just went still, and stopped responding to his kisses. He leaned up on his elbows concern all over his face.

"What's wrong?" he asked cupping her cheek.

"I'm so sorry Angel, for not being ready-"

"Hey," he interrupted her, "I've told you, I don't care."

"But you're used to going out with girls and having sex with them. Not having intense make-out sessions and then a cold shower."

He sat up taking her with him. "True, but when I said you didn't have to compromise yourself just for me I meant it. If you're not ready, then you're not ready and I accept that. There was a point in my life when I wasn't ready either."

She playfully hit his shoulder. "Yeah, but you were fifteen, not twenty-one," she shyly looked away at him and started picking at the couch cushion, "and besides, maybe right now I am, you know, ready."

He was quiet and that just raised her frighten state to a new level. "Angel?" she spoke into the silence. His hand rose to her face urging her to look at him.

"I don't want to pressure you into anything you don't want to do. Just because I am obviously aroused over you, does not mean you are obligated to take care of it. I'm fine with waiting, when you love someone you don't mind waiting forever."

She was going to correct him and say she wasn't feeling pressured, but she was pretty sure he had just said, "You love me?" she repeated sounding hopeful.

"Yeah, I do, but you don't have to sa-"

"I love you. I really do and I want you so badly. You make me feel . . ." her voice faded as she searched for words.

"You make me feel too," he said leaning in for a light kiss.

"Angel, I'm ready, and this is all my decision, no pressure, but I'm scared." She cuddled up to him and he held her, kissing the top of her head.

"If it makes you feel any better, I'm scared too."

She gazed up at him surprised, "Scared about what? You know where everything goes."

Chuckling he couldn't stop himself from kissing her full on the lips and gently pushed her back into the cushions resuming their earlier position. "I have never felt like this with anyone Buffy and I'm scared I am going to do something to lose you."

"Well, you aren't going to lose me. At least not until I use you for sex." Letting a grin spread over her face she was the one to initiate the kiss this time.

When they broke apart for air he rested his head on her chest. "Not tonight Buffy. If you're ready then you're ready, but not tonight."

"Okay," she said combing her hand through his hair. "But definitely before next week, I want to be de-virginized before next week."

Laughing he left several kisses on her chest and collarbone before replacing his head. "Deal, but right now I just want to enjoy feeling you." She giggled liking that idea. "I love you Buffy."

"I love you Angel."

Buffy couldn't understand how a man that was so understanding about waiting until she was ready was also a disgusting I'll-fuck-anything- with-a-hole slut. Their first time was amazing and Angel used the opportunity to shower her with affection and love. He made it perfect.

`A good fuck is a good fuck.' His words were haunting her. Was she also just a good fuck? Did he only put up that façade to have a good fuck? She knew men lusted after virgins because they were so tight and undiscovered territory and if that's all Angel saw her as then . . . no that can not be true. He was sincere and loving and he cared for her, he had to. Remembering how his eyes bore into her as he carefully moved within her body, she knew he had meant every single word, every single gentle caress. The way he had filled her, there was no way anything about that aspect of their relationship was false.

But that aspect along with their relationship as a whole was over, so why was it bothering her that Angel was going out and getting good fucks.

"Baby," a voice broke into her reverie. Buffy thought it sounded like Angel and she felt her stomach fall away, but then Riley came into view and sat down next to her on the patio swing lifting her out stretched legs and placing them in his lap. "You disappeared after lunch, I was looking for you."

"Well, I've been here the entire time." She brought her knees to her chest hoping Riley didn't think she was avoiding contact with him, even though that is what she was doing. For some reason thinking about Angel in such an intimate way and touching Riley at the same time irked her. "Where is everyone else?"

"Um, Giles is in his study, Joyce is on the phone with Lorne, who I understand is on the highway and will arrive any minute, Cordelia, I think her name was, is taking full advantage of the spa, Dawn and Spike are watching television and I could give a rat's ass what your ex is doing."

They sat in silence, Riley enjoying the moment, while Buffy was feeling very uncomfortable.

"Buffy are you out here?" It was Willow's voice calling for her and Buffy jumped in excitement. Hurrying inside she met Willow with an aggressive hug.

"Will, I am so happy you are here, so happy!" Buffy squeezed her tighter, needing the support of her friend.

"I'm happy to see you too," Willow replied slightly confused. "Why is Angel here?" she asked as they pulled away.

"Argh, please tell me you were not happy to see him." Buffy pleaded.

"Um, not necessarily, I was more shocked, surprised, flabbergasted, all words I would use." Willow smiled at Riley in greeting and followed as Buffy sat down on a couch.

"Good and I'll explain later, but for once I would like to have a conversation today that was not about Angel."

"Angel," a cry came from the hall, halting any talk between Willow and Buffy. "What is it?" Dawn asked Angel trailing behind him as he entered the sitting room. Soon the room was full with every occupant of the house minus the staff.

Angel was carrying a large square something or other covered by a ratty cloth. He placed it on a side table keeping a hand on it so that it remained upright. "Wedding present," he explained. "I've been carrying it around in my trunk for a week trying to figure out what to do with it, and I felt bad about being invited to a wedding without giving a gift so . . ."

He unveiled his gift to reveal a landscape painting. The sky and large expanse of green grass took up most of the canvas. The center of the painting was a meadow with large massive trees scattered around it with one tree in particular at the center of the painting and off to the side, in the distance was an impressive manor. Everyone oohed and awed at the talented piece of work.

"Thank you Angel," Riley answered sincerely, placing his hands on Buffy shoulders as he stood behind her. "It's beautiful work, who painted it?"

"Angel did," Buffy answered. She'd studied his works many times and could tell with just a short glance whether a piece was his or not. "It is beautiful," she told him not taking her eyes off the canvas. Unbeknownst to everyone but Angel, Buffy was lost in a memory. That wasn't just any old landscape; it had meaning to both of them.

"What is it of?" Riley asked pretending that Buffy's interest in the painting did not bother him.

"One of his family estates in Ireland," Buffy answered for him again. "We spent our honeymoon there."

Riley was about to get riled up at the fact that Angel had the nerve to give him and Buffy a painting of something that held intimate memories of the two of them together, but Angel spoke up.

"It wasn't our honeymoon."

She took her eyes off the painting for the first time and looked at him. "Yes it was. After the wedding we came back to LA told my family and then off we went in your private jet so we could tell your family." She then turned her attention to the other people in the room. "He said we'd be staying at a cottage in the country. I thought it would be with his family, but we were alone and it wasn't a cottage."

"It was a cottage and my family was there," he insisted.

"If you call someplace with twelve bedrooms and servant quarters a cottage and your family was there for dinner the first night and then we didn't see a living soul for a whole week until we left."

"Compared to their other properties trust me it's a cottage and I thought they were staying but then they suggested we have some time to ourselves."

"A newly married couple staying in a romantic location all by themselves practically living in bed, oh yeah definitely not a honeymoon," she commented sarcastically.

"Well, it wasn't planned as one," he pointed out.

"But it turned into one."

"Yes, I guess it did."

They shared a small smile as everyone else was left speechless as they observed the exchange between the two. It was an awkward situation for everyone but Buffy and Angel who were only concentrating on the memories of years past.

Breaking eye contact Angel glanced at the painting, "It's a shame they are selling it," he said filling the silent room.

"Selling it, why?" Buffy was shocked and a little upset.

"No one goes up there anymore. They have other properties they use so this one gets neglected. I'm pretty sure we were the last people to stay there." Again they shared a moment through a quiet stare.

"I didn't even know you've been to Ireland," Riley said a little hurt.

Realizing how the last few minutes must have appeared to everyone, Buffy shook her head and thought fast. "Must not have been that important if I never brought it up," she turned to Riley smiling at him. He mirrored her expression and kissed her lightly.

Visibly wounded by Buffy's comment, Angel placed the painting carefully down and slowly worked his way out of the room. "Um, I have to, I have to be-excuse me," and he walked out. All but Buffy and Riley watched him go feeling hurt themselves just by witnessing the look on Angel's face.


Part 4

"Cordy I am not in the mood," Angel sneered as he nursed a beer sitting on the hood of his car.

Cordelia just ignored him and swiping her hand over the hood checking for dirt, she settled down next to him. "She's a bitch. Everyone saw what she did back there and no one is happy with her right now. After you walked out Joyce literally dragged her out of the room." He raised the beer to his lips and she snatched it away before it could get there. "This won't solve anything," and she poured the alcohol onto the ground. "Angel," she started but Angel knew exactly what she was going to say and he did not want to hear it.

"Really Cordy, for once can you not-"

"No, Angel I will not!" She snapped back at him, but then calmed herself and rested her head on his shoulder. "I just don't understand how you can still love her? You are too good for her, I know I told you to go after her before, but some people don't change and Buffy is one of them. You need to move on. I love you and I hate seeing you like this."

He had heard that speech many times before, and he always gave the same response, "You can't help who you fall in love with."

"How did you fall in love with her in the first place?"

Sighing, he closed his eyes concentrating on the first time he spotted her through the crowd. She was radiate and as the people parted he swore he saw a ring of light illuminating off of her. "She might appear tough skinned, but she really is just a vulnerable little girl who doesn't think before she talks. I felt this need to protect her, to comfort her. I still do."

"You can't let her get away with crap like this Angel."

"I know," he turned and looked down at her. "But I think she hates herself enough already and doesn't need me to add to that."

Leaning up Cordelia hopped off the car to face him. "You're sure betting on the fact that she's still in love with you aren't cha?"

Angel just sat there looking at his sister, a sad smile spreading over his face.

"You're a masochist you know that right?" she commented before kissing him on the cheek and heading back to the house.

Angel always did tell her she needed to think before she spoke and this was one of those times. When Riley mentioned that he didn't know about Ireland, Buffy felt that she had to hurry and make the situation better. Angel and she had left everyone behind as they discussed their trip, and the last thing Buffy needed was a fiancée, the day before their wedding, having insecure thoughts. The first thing that came to her head was make it seem like the fact that Riley didn't know was not a big deal, she didn't even think about the consequence of giving off the appearance that her time with Angel in Ireland wasn't important when in reality it was one of the most memorable weeks of her life.

She didn't even realize her mistake until her mother pulled her into the study yelling at her about how inconsiderate she acted and that she did not raise her to be so callous. Buffy was so confused that she grabbed her head and sat down in one of the large leather chairs, her mother's words practically bringing tears to her eyes.

Willow entered then and calmed Joyce down. She explained to Buffy what her remark had done and Buffy's face virtually reflected Angel's when he walked out of the sitting room.

"Oh God, Will I didn't mean it like that. I'm-I'm a cold heartless bitch," this time tears did come.

"I'm going to have to agree with you there," Willow put it bluntly.

"Buffy," Joyce kneeled down in front of her daughter softening her tone. "I know deep down you still carry feelings for Angel and it can't be easy with him here, especially now-"

"Mom," Buffy interrupted. "You're right it isn't easy and I would really like to be alone right now." Joyce and Willow glanced at each other before turning to walk out the door. "I'm sorry, about what I said before, I wasn't thinking," Buffy spoke up before they could leave. They looked at her, smiled and nodded accepting her apology and walked out.

Gathering her bearings for a moment, Buffy took several relaxing breathes and then rose from the chair. Moving over to where the poetry books rested on the shelves, Buffy searched through the titles until she came across the right book. Carefully sliding it out from between two dusty tomes, she held it gently in her hands and opened it to the page number she had memorized long ago.

Buffy liked poetry, but she was never one to read it for pleasure. The only poems she really knew were the ones she had to analyze in high school for English class. Angel on the other hand loved reading poetry and he used to love reading it to her. In fact the very book she was holding was the same one he had read to her under that very tree that lay in the center of Angel's painting.

They were spread out on a blanket, her head resting on his chest as it rumbled while he recited poem after poem.

"I love thee with a love I seemed to lose/With my lost saints, -- I love thee with the breath,/Smiles, tears, of all my life! -- and, if God choose,/I shall but love thee better after death." Angel closed the book and placed it above their heads and wrapped his arms around her.

"That was beautiful Angel."

"Not nearly has beautiful as you," he spoke into her hair.

Rolling on top of him, Buffy stretched her body against his. Holding his head in her hands she slanted her mouth to cover his and they met in an unbelievably exhilarating kiss that only continued to build and they made love right there under that tree.

Completely engrossed with the words on the page, Buffy didn't hear the door open and close and she didn't realize someone was standing practically behind her until they spoke.

"You like poetry? I've been known to write a few verses from time to time."

Slamming the book shut, Buffy whipped around and found Spike smiling at her. "It's okay, sometimes I find it soothing." Replacing the book, she moved past Spike heading for the door.

"My boss keeps calling asking what's going on," he began.

Getting her attention she turned back to him, "And what did you tell him?"

"Nothing out of the ordinary, just your typical wedding preparations and a few jitters here and there, but who doesn't get cold feet before the big day?"

I didn't the first time, Buffy thought to herself. "Thank you Spike," she said glad he wasn't reporting her tantrum yesterday or her bitchiness earlier. "And I'm sorry for how I've been acting this weekend, especially in the sitting room before, I-"

"No need to explain yourself love, you still love him and you're scared Captain America will find out."

Buffy felt Spike hit a little to close to home, but she didn't let it show, instead she looked appalled. "I spoke without thinking of the repercussions; it had nothing to do with who I still love."

"So, you admit you still love him?"

Argh, she did it again. Think next time Buffy, think! "Spike I appreciate your discretion and I hope you accept my apology, but I don't need advise on my love life. I'm getting married tomorrow so there really isn't anything to discuss."

Spike was going to comment that he had seen her be with Riley all day and never once had she said she loved him, when a loud exuberant voice echoed through out the house.

"Buffy, my little sweet pie, Lorne is here!"

Even though her wedding planner was flamboyant and easily gathered attention, Buffy couldn't concentrate on what he was saying, she was to busy hating herself.

She was stupid, immature, and evil, most definitely evil. She had made quick apologizes to everyone, except Angel who she couldn't find and then Lorne had swept her away halting her search, and they all accepted her apology but she still got the feeling no one really forgave her for acting like a snobbish, insensitive prick. God, she really did hate herself right now. The one thing she was glad about was that she did not see Angel leave the room because if she had, the image of his deflated face would be stuck in her mind and she wouldn't be able to stop herself from crying.

While she wallowed in her own self misery, Lorne was going on and on about the logistics for tomorrow. Joyce, Dawn, Giles and Riley followed him around the ballroom as he flayed his arms about, while people went to and fro setting up for the rehearsal dinner that night.

"Are you with me people? I need full corporation for this little shin dig to go off without a hitch." Lorne was a godsend. When Buffy was looking for a planner Lorne came lobbying for the position and when he spread out his ideas before her, it was like he was reading Buffy's mind. He made the whole process easy and painless. "I hope everyone knows their jobs for tomorrow because one very delicious couple is pledging their undying love for each other and I want everything to be in tip top shape when that preacher announces Mr. and Mrs.-Angelcakes." Abandoning his followers Lorne hurried over to Angel who had just walked through the ballroom doors.

Angel's name caught Buffy's attention and she looked up to see him and Lorne conversing. Her eyes were glued to Angel and she was concentrating only on him, willing him to make eye contact with her. She still wanted to apologize to him very much and if he would only look at her, then she would know it would be alright to go to him, but he didn't and he soon left after finishing his talk with Lorne.

Buffy stopped Lorne as he walked past her, her voice almost pleading. "Lorne, how do you know Angel?"

He opened his mouth to speak, but thought better of it and closed it again. He stared at her for a second before turning to tell Joyce, Giles, Dawn and Riley to meet him outside. "Look sugarplum, I promised I wouldn't say anything but I love you two crazy kids too much to keep silent any longer."

"Lorne what's going on?"

He pulled her over to a pair of chairs and sat her down taking her hands. "I don't know if this is going to mean anything to you but, the reason I knew what you wanted for your wedding was because I had it practically planned already." Buffy listened intently not really sure where he was going. "Right after you got married Angel hired me to plan a one year anniversary extravaganza. He wanted to give you your dream wedding, and told me everything down to the littlest detail about what exactly you wanted. When he called to tell me it was off even I was heartbroken. Then when word got around you were getting hitched again, well he told me to go after the job, and here I am."

"So basically, Angel is responsible for this wedding," Willow concluded.

"Uh huh," Buffy responded. At Willow's suggestion they were sitting in the Jacuzzi, trying to relax before the dinner guests started arriving. "I'm so confused Will, for years I thought Angel didn't care, but now it seems that . . ."

"He's still in love with you?" Willow prompted.

Buffy solemnly nodded her head yes, "And I've been acting like . . ."

"A cold heartless bitch?" again Willow stepped in.

"You're just going to keep saying that aren't you?" Buffy asked.

"Yup," Willow replied closing her eyes and resting her head back. "With him in love with you and you acting like a female dog, I bet it's like someone ripped out his heart and then stepped on it."

"And that someone would be me." Buffy added and Willow only turned to her and nodded her head. Burying her face in her hands, not caring they tasted like chlorine, Buffy wished she could take back the last twenty four hours or maybe even the last three years. "Riley's a great guy right?" she asked desperately lowering her hands back in the water.

Willow opened her eyes and turned her whole body to Buffy, concern all over her face. "Yes, he is a great guy."

"He's strong and smart and protective and he loves me," Buffy listed off, telling more herself then Willow. Defeated Buffy sighed heavily slouching, "But all I can think about is Angel. He looks like this dark, menacing, really hard to reach guy most of the time, but he's really gentle and loves poetry and is sweet, and giving, very giving." Her mind going back to all the times he put her first, "Giving in a lot of ways."

Willow noticed a smile playing at Buffy's lips. "Buffy does one of these ways involve nakedness?" Willow asked giving her a suspicious eye. Buffy rapidly nodded her head allowing her smile to come forward fully. A little too enthusiastic Willow blurted, "So, how big is he?"

Quite shocked at her friend's suggestion, Buffy fumbled a bit, her face growing redder by the second. "Willow! How can you, I-I can't tell you that!"

"Yes you can. I don't know why we've never discussed this before, but as best friends it is our duties to share sexual information about our significant others, now spill." Willow looked like a kid pressing their face against a candy store window.

"Okay, but you promise to tell no one?" Willow held up her right hand and placed the other over her heart. "Willow, have you ever seen a Clydesdale?"

The Jacuzzi, and the dirty gossip did make Buffy feel more relaxed, but it was only a temporary relief. After they were done talking about all the naughty stuff, her and Willow went back to their more serious discussion. Willow asked bluntly if Buffy still wanted to go through with the wedding. Buffy wasn't sure at first, but then a sense of obligation came over her and she told Willow yes. Willow wanted to tell her that she didn't believe her, but Buffy continued, not giving her a chance and said that she has got to suck it up and force aside her thoughts about Angel and concentrate on the wedding. It felt wrong, but it was what had to be done.

As guest after guest came streaming through the front door, Buffy greeted them with a smile and gestured for them to enter and enjoy the hors d'oeuvres that were being served in the large entry hall. In between arrivals she would survey the room keeping taps on Riley as he mingled with the guests and even though she wouldn't admit to herself, she was also looking out for Angel.

She found him standing off to the side with Spike, looking like he was not enjoying the festivities while Spike on the other hand was living it up, and taking hors d'oeuvre after hors d'oeuvre as the waiters passed by with their trays.

For a spilt second, she and Angel made eye contact and Buffy couldn't stop the burning in her cheeks from flaring. Quickly she turned away as more guests walked through the door, but soon she was aware of a presence behind her. At first she had hoped it would be Angel, but the fire within her went away and nothing ignited as a hand was placed on the small of her back.

"Hey Pet," Spike spoke into her ear. "You're red-headed friend fancies the ladies right?"

Keeping her face frontward, still welcoming people Buffy tried her best to answer him through a smile, "If you mean she's a lesbian, then yes. Oh, lovely to see you, thank you for coming." She shook hands with some stuffy old man who she was pretty sure was Riley's uncle or maybe second cousin once removed.

"Why then does she keep giving Angel over there funny looks?"

Ignoring an incoming guest, Buffy snapped her head over to Willow who was gazing at Angel and then sheepishly looking away. "Um," she spoke trying to hold in her giggles, "You are going to have to ask her."

Spike was about to comment when Riley interrupted them, saying he had to borrow his fiancée for a moment. Buffy obliged and taking Riley's hand followed him out of the entry hall.

Returning to his pervious location, Spike found Joyce talking with Angel.

"He's an art buyer Angel, he might be interested in your work," she was explaining to him.

"I told you Joyce, I don't sell my paintings," he protested.

"Well then can you just humor me and get your painting anyway, let him see it. I've already told him all about your talent and I'd hate to disappoint him.

Giving in, he excused himself and headed over to the sitting room to retrieve his work. However, when he started to push open the door, he heard Buffy's voice and stopped. He told himself he shouldn't listen, but he didn't walk away either.

"Riley, you're panicking," he heard her say.

"Maybe I am, but I still don't understand why you won't tell me. If we openly discuss your failed marriage then maybe we can avoid your mistakes," Riley tried to reason with her.

"They weren't my mistakes, they were Angel's and I'm still not going to talk about it and quite frankly I don't know what happened, it just went bad and ended."

"I don't want us to end up like that."

"Riley, you and I are different, we won't end up like that," she assured him taking both his hands in hers.

Occupied with their conversation they never noticed Angel listening or that as each word left their mouths his anger grew and grew. Forgetting the painting, he turned abruptly around finding the nearest waiter and grabbed a glass of wine.

The rehearsal dinner so far was a success. The two families were getting along great, Spike wasn't making any kind of commotion and Buffy hadn't felt this good since before Angel showed up, or at least that's what she was trying to convince herself. At the moment she was standing next to Riley, his arm securely around her waist as they listened to his father give them a heartfelt toast. Everyone was posed and ready with their glasses in the air.

"To Buffy and Riley," he proclaimed, and everyone repeated before taking a sip of wine. Through her glass, Buffy noticed Angel standing near the entrance to the kitchen with a scowl on his face, purposely holding his glass as low as possible. The incessant chanting of `kiss, kiss, kiss' coming from the crowd brought Buffy back to Riley who smiled at her and then leaned in for a chaste kiss, causing cheers to spread across the room.

Escaping Riley's hold while he was distracted by some family friends, she felt compelled to go over to Angel.

"You know it's customary to toast the happy couple," Buffy said in a playful tone sliding up to him raising her glass.

He stared studying her cheerful mood before holding up his class of wine to her, "To Buffy and Riley, here's hoping you don't screw up this marriage."

Her face fell and she lowered her glass. "I didn't screw up the last one. I believe my husband was the cause of that."

He gulped down his wine and placed the empty glass on the table behind him. "Please, you were to busy perched high on your pedestal to see what was really going on!"

Buffy placed her glass next to his and then took a moment to look around to make sure no one was watching them and pulled Angel into the kitchen. If they were going to have words then they were going to have words, but not in front of nearly fifty guests.

Maneuvering through the catering staff running about, she shoved him out the back door. "So, what was I missing from way up high?" she sneered at him.

Angel knew this was the only chance he would ever get to say to her what was on his mind so he had to make it good. "You have all these high morals that you faithfully believe in and expect everyone to act accordingly, but when it comes to yourself all those principles go right out the window."

"I don't-"

"You do. You're spoiled and stubborn and while you care for the people who are close to you, you really are only concerned with how their actions will affect you."

"You've known this all along and you still married me for better or for worse."

"There are so many enduring qualities to you Buffy that I mostly pushed the other stuff to the side, naively thinking that I could break you of those habits. We were so young and still learning about the world, I thought we could grow together, but I was wrong, you stayed exactly the same. You expected me to conform to your ideals, but when I asked something of you, you never budged."

She remained silent knowing he was right. She did ask a lot of him, like cutting back the drinking and for the most part he complied with her demands. There were a few things they had to compromise on, but they all involved Angel, never anything about her.

However, even though he was right, she was not the only reason their marriage crumbled. He had stopped caring. Slowly she had started to notice the alcohol intake she had asked him to reduce rose again, but higher then before. He would find excuses to leave the house and he stopped coming to sleep in their bed, and sometimes Buffy wondered if he found some else's bed to sleep in. During an argument they had a week before she tossed him out, she confronted him about the suspected women and he denied it. Watching his face change dramatically from extreme rage to hurt at her accusation she believed him, but that only caused her to ache even more because he chose solitude over her.

"You gave up pretty quickly, and practically abandoned me. I really had no other choice but to finally put us out of our misery. I think towards the end we both knew we made a foolish mistake. It was just lust between us, not love." Saying those words hurt, she didn't believe them, but if she tried to force herself to, then it made their break up a lot easier on her. She braced herself for another rude allegation from him about her part in the downfall of their marriage, but instead he calmed, taking some soothing breathes. Looking away he seemed to be contemplating something. Buffy was about to speak again, when he looked back and caught her eyes.

"Do you know why I showed up at your house that night?" his voice was soft, sounding almost ashamed.

"If you are referring to the drunken Jack Daniels incident, no I don't and I don't care." She really didn't. He had accused her of destroying his life when it was hers that he destroyed.

"I was going to beg you to take me back." She was stunned and her expression showed it. That was two years after their divorce; she thought he truly hated her by that point. Even the revelation she had earlier about Angel still loving her did not soften the blow his statement brought.

He walked over to the edge of the patio looking out into the night and she joined him silently stepping up beside him. "I used to look at my life and I would see all the possessions I owned and all the people who loved me and I would feel like I had nothing, that I was alone."

"You didn't show it. You always looked like you were having fun," she commented thinking of all the time they spent together, he still felt lonely when he was with her.

"I was good at masking my feelings. That is until I met you, and I felt like I had everything I would ever need ever again, I felt like I had finally found companionship. During the better times together what you saw was how I was really feeling. I never told you about how I felt before because I thought that when I had you, it was all behind me."

Finding her earlier thoughts contradicted, Buffy turned to face him even though he still stared out at the landscape. They were only together a total of eleven months, eight of those as man and wife and she never knew his feelings for her went that deep. Thinking back, they proclaimed their love many times, but they never really talked about their inner feelings. Buffy never got the chance to tell him she felt the exact same way about him, that with him she did have everything. That is until it fell apart. "Then why did you give up, why let it end?"

"I had the notion you didn't think I was good enough for you. I was compromising my life to be with you, but you didn't think I was important enough to compromise yours. You were this statue Buffy that wouldn't crumble, not even for me. Instead of facing you, I lashed out, reverting to drinking, staying out late, forcing you to retaliate and at the time your frustration and anger just fueled my fears."

"Angel, I-"

He cut her off, not willing to listen to her; he just wanted to get everything out so he could put some of his feelings to rest. "I lied before, there were no other women. I might have made out with a few when I was really drunk, but it didn't go further then that. When I lost you, I shutdown on the inside believing that I deserved to be alone. I thought I hid it well, but I couldn't get past Cordy. She convinced me I had to go after you so I could be whole again. I knew you were dating Finn, and I honestly thought you weren't sleeping with him. Seeing you two . . . I got a reality check, you've moved on and it was time I did too, but you ruined me Buffy. To know your love, to know the pure joy of loving someone who loves you back, there is nothing else like it, and there is nothing that can compare. I'm going to have to search the rest of my life to find something that will fill the void left by you, but sadly I know nothing ever will."

Silent tears slowly leaked down Buffy's face. Opening her mouth to say something, like she was sorry and that if she had only known she would have come back to him, but nothing came. Instead she chose to take a step towards him and reached out wanting to lay a comforting hand on his arm.

Twisting suddenly to face her, he didn't notice her outstretched hand retract and he spoke his next words, the longing in his voice gone. "I highly doubt you care about any of this because my pain does not involve you anymore. We're ex." He turned quickly leaving her standing there shocked and confused. With his hand posed on the doorknob he gave her some parting advice. "Have a talk with Finn, find out what each of you expect from one another and hope you guys are on the same page. That's one way to ensure you two won't end up like us." Slipping inside he didn't bother to look back, and Buffy was left alone with only his words ringing through her head.

The poem that Angel reads is by Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Part 5

Spike was just about to push open the door to the kitchen when it started swinging towards him instead. Dodging out of the way, he was confronted with Angel.

"Hey, I was wondering where you went." Angel didn't even acknowledge his presence and just walked by him. "Something got your knickers in a twist mate?" Spike asked to his back, but again there was no response and he watched the brooding man march right out of the ballroom.

Shrugging, Spike continued on his path and stepped into the kitchen making his way over to the large metal doors of the huge refrigerator. Right as his hand made contact with the handle, he saw out of the corner of his eye Buffy emerging from a side door, her composure shaky.

She paused a moment after she was inside, her hands going to her cheeks trying to wipe away the tear tracks. "Buffy, are you alright?"

Spike's question startled her and her attention snapped over to him. "Yeah, I'm fine. I was just enjoying the night air. What are doing in here?"

Taking Angel's foul mood and Buffy's appearance, Spike put two and two together. Giving her the once over, trying to convey he wasn't buying her act, he opened the fridge. "I'm tired of all this foo-foo French wine crap. I'm searching for a beer, and from the looks of it I think you need one too."

"Well, you won't find any in there," she indicated the refrigerator he was holding open, and as the words left her mouth, her concentration once more wavered and her eyes reverted to stare off into space. She couldn't stop the scene with Angel from replaying in her head. Something waving in front of her face brought her back and she focused in to find a champagne bottle. "What?"

"I said," Spike lowered the bottle, "What's with the fridge being lined with Dom Perignon?"

"Oh, it's for tomorrow."

Grabbing her wrist with his empty hand he led her outside, "They won't miss one bottle, c'mon."

"Spike wait, what are you doing?" she protested, "And I thought you don't like the foo-foo French crap."

"This is champagne, it's in a whole other category and trust me I'm doing you a favor," he spoke turning his head slightly as he led the way across the grass and out into the night.

The party was still going on downstairs as Angel sat in the dark in his room. For the last half hour his thoughts were consumed with the events of the weekend, especially his most recent conversation with Buffy. He was telling himself he did the right thing, that those were things Buffy needed to hear. Tomorrow she will marry Riley and they will go their separate ways once and for all. Maybe seeing the wedding will help him have some closure or maybe when the question `Is there anyone here who thinks these two shall not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace?' is asked, Angel screams, "Yes, I'm in love with the bride!" And then he'll come running down the aisle, sweeping Buffy into his arms and as he races out of the house, both families running after him with Riley leading the pack begging him to stop, Buffy will snuggle into his embrace thanking him for saving her and professes her undying love. They'll hop in his car and drive away together, maybe even to Vegas to get remarried.

As soon as the thought was over, Angel shook his head. Where did that come from? Tomorrow Buffy was marrying Riley. She was marrying Riley. Riley. Not him.

Making a hasty decision, Angel leapt from his seat, grabbed his faithful duster and pulled it on as he rushed out the door.

"Dawn sweetie, do you know where Buffy's gone? Riley's worried and people are asking for her?"

Dawn's vision shot around the room and she saw Riley talking to his parents, all three of them were taking small glances in her direction as her mother, obviously in cahoots with them, was inquiring of Buffy's whereabouts.

"Yes, she went upstairs, a headache, she had a headache. She didn't want to alert anyone so she snuck up to her room. Has to be fully rested for tomorrow," ending with a nervous giggle Dawn wrung her fingers together behind her back. "She said she didn't want to be disturbed."

"All the same, I think Riley and I will check on her."

"No!" Dawn exclaimed holding her hands in front of her mother. "I promised her I wouldn't let anyone upstairs. Besides, you are the hostess of the party, you can't leave and Riley needs to stay also. What would it be saying if both the groom and the bride disappear in the middle of the rehearsal dinner?"

Buying Dawn's lie, Joyce nodded her head in agreement, saying she'll check on her after the guests have left and went back to Riley to explain the situation. When the coast was clear, Dawn snuck out herself. Once in the entry hall, she stood turning in different directions not sure what to do, until she saw Angel descending the stairs.

"Angel, wait!" she shouted after him, but he kept moving towards the front door. "Angel, please."

He heard Dawn, but chose to ignore her, he needed to leave. He'll call Cordy from the road, hopefully her and Spike can find a ride, or he could call them a cab tomorrow, he'll pay the fine, but he couldn't stay any longer.

"Angel, it's important," Dawn tried again chasing after him. "Buffy's gone missing."

He didn't want to stop, his mind wanted him to keep moving, but his body did not want to listen. Only three steps away from the threshold, without turning around and without talking, he waited for Dawn to catch up to him.

He stood still, his eyes focused on the door like he was planning to make a break for it the second Dawn finished her explanation. Moving to stand in front of him, blocking his way, she hoped he wouldn't. "I saw her and Spike, they were heading out to the pool together. Angel, that was over a half hour ago. Riley and my mom just noticed she was gone, I told them she was up in her room with a headache, if they find her with Spike . . . you have to go get her and bring her back without anyone noticing."

"Dawn, Buffy's a big girl she can handle herself." He crossed his arms, still refusing to look at her.

"They had a wine bottle. Do you remember what she is like when she gets drunk?"

Angel slowly dropped his arms and brought his eyes down to Dawn's level and she could tell he made up his mind. "Keep them away from her bedroom for at least another half hour." Dawn smiled a thank you and hurried back to the ballroom. "Geez, Buffy did you have to fuck everything up for yourself the night before your wedding?" Angel commented before heading out through the sitting room and over to the pool.

Xander never did get around to fixing the pool lights. First it was the impromptu tour for Cordelia and Spike and then when he returned later, he found Cordelia in nothing but a towel exiting the pool house having just finished using the sauna. Old grudges were forgotten and they both went back into the pool house for some private time together.

When Buffy and Spike arrived, they didn't care there were no lights, the moonlight and the glow from the house lights was enough for them, even though they hardly made a difference so far out. Without the pool area being illuminated, people at the house could not tell Buffy and Spike were out there which made it the perfect hideout.

Laying down on two lounges side by side, Spike popped the cork and they took turns taking sips from the bottle. With already two glasses of wine in her, the champagne went right to Buffy's head and when the contents of the bottle were drained, they were both intoxicated.

It was Buffy's idea to take a swim.

Angel could hear the giggling and splashing a fair number of yards away from the pool and he already had a pretty good idea what was going on before he arrived to find his suspicions true.

Slowing as he got closer, he causally strolled up to the edge of the pool looking down and could just make out two bodies moving about in the water. Even with the lack of light he could tell they were naked.

"Angel! Look Spike, its Angel. Angel's here. Angel can join us." Buffy yelled as she swam over to rest on the edge directly beneath Angel. "You don't even need a bathing suit." Using her fingers she started making wet designs on his boots. "If I remember correctly, I happened to like what you looked like without a bathing suit."

"Buffy what are you doing?" Angel asked harshly, not giving into her antics.

"What does it look like silly, we're swimming."

"Get out. I'm taking you to your room. What if someone saw you right now? What if Riley came out and found you like this?" Again, he spoke harshly, peering down at her.

"Riley can go fuck himself," she spoke in false seriousness. Spike laughed in the background.

"You tell him pet and she isn't going anywhere. We are fine right here, you can go back, we don't need you," Spike splashed some water in Angel's direction smiling as some lightly splattered on him, and it was Buffy's turn to laugh.

Unfazed, Angel kept staring down at Buffy. "Spike shut-up." In a blink of an eye, Angel reached down and plucked Buffy out of the water. She was going to protest, but the shock of the cold air hitting her skin only caused her to hug herself as she shivered.

Automatically, she took a step closer to Angel leaning her wet, slick body against his warmth. Slipping off his jacket, he swung it around her hiding her nakedness from Spike and wrapped it tightly around her. Rubbing his hands swiftly up and down her arms and back to warm her up, he looked past her at the bleached blonde still in the pool.

"Spike, I suggest you get out as well, it's dangerous out here at night and I don't want you to crack your head open. It would be a real mess fishing your dead naked ass out of the pool in the morning. There are robes in the pool house." Placing his arm under her knees and around her back, he lifted Buffy into his arms and marched back to the house.

Relishing in the sensation of being in his arms again, Buffy rested her head on his shoulder closing her eyes. "Angel," she spoke lazily. "I just wanted to let you know, I loved Ireland. It is important, please don't hate me."

Her voice broke as she finished and Angel shushed her, placing a kiss to her forehead. "I don't hate you, I could never hate you," he whispered back.

Careful not to make too much noise coming up the stairs, Angel snuck Buffy back into her bedroom without anybody noticing. She had calmed considerably the moment she was situated in his arms, the feeling of his body soothing her and she was already half asleep by the time he placed her on her mattress. He gently slipped his arms from beneath her and she moaned at the loss of contact.

"No," she mumbled snaking a hand out of his jacket reaching out for Angel.

"I'm going to get a towel, you're still soaking wet," he explained leaning down close to her.

With half closed eyelids she nodded, "Okay, but hurry back." Using her free hand she pulled the jacket tighter around her, inhaling Angel's scent. Angel leaned up and took a moment to observe the blonde goddess bundled up on the bed. His eyes perused her from head to toe, even looking like a wet rat, she was still unbelievably beautiful. Right then he knew no matter what he said to her and no matter how far a distance he put between them, they would never have closure. The memories of his life with Buffy would haunt him forever.

Forcing himself to take a few steps back from the bed, he walked into the adjoining bathroom to retrieve a towel. As soon as he grabbed one from a nearby shelf he heard the bedroom door open and close, and when he turned to the entrance of the bathroom, Spike was standing there in nothing but a terrycloth robe.

"You have no right," Spike sneered advancing on Angel. "Buffy's isn't yours to control."

Clutching the fluffy peach towel in one hand, Angel grew furious at Spike's accusations and balled up his hand, pointing at him, "I know that and the same goes for you. What did you think Spike? She would get drunk and screw you on the side of the pool? She doesn't work that way and her wedding is tomorrow!" Angel tried to sound as furious as possible while still keeping a low tone as to not disturb Buffy.

"No, I was just trying to help her relax and forget about all the pain you caused her!" Spike shouted. Angel shot a worried glance past Spike's shoulder into the bedroom reminding Spike of Buffy just a few feet away, and he continued in a harsh whisper. "You're both so in love with one another that all you two can do is hurt each other and you coming to her rescue does not help the situation."

"What the hell does that mean?" Angel backed off a little crossing his arms in front of his chest.

"You said it yourself; her wedding is tomorrow. With you being here, it is confusing her and making her crazy. I really thought this scheme of bringing me to the wedding was revenge, but it's far from it. You're protecting her. You want to see her happy."

"I do," Angel replied, holding back anymore comebacks until he heard all of what Spike had to say.

"Did you really think your presence this weekend brought all smiles and jollies? She told me about the blackmail and Lorne, and you can't keep running her life from the sidelines. Either you step up and make her recognize you two belong together or leave and stay away for good."

"I was already on my way out when Dawn asked me to `rescue' Buffy," Angel pointed out. "After this I am gone."

"Oh right then," Spike appeared surprised by Angel's answer, but accepted it. "Glad you made up your mind." He half twisted around to leave, but something stopped him and he faced Angel once more. "Personally, I don't really care for you, but I think you are ten times better for her then that other ponce she's marrying. Grow a pair and get your woman back. If you don't, I might just step up-," Angel's fierce growl and menacing step forward cut Spike off. Laughing Spike held up his hands giving up, "Alright, alright I see you are the territorial type. I'll lay off, but you better do something, here's hoping it's the right something."

Spike left the bathroom, knowing he had hit a nerve with Angel and after a second of staring at Buffy's form on the bed, he walked out of the bedroom. Once Angel heard the door gently close, he let out a heavy sigh and actually started to consider Spike's advice.

Riley had finally managed to lose Dawn. That little girl was like a bloodhound. She stuck faithfully by his side and every time he tried to ditch her, she would somehow find him again in a manner of seconds. He was pretty sure the fact that dessert was being served was the only reason he was able to get away.

Climbing the stairs, he was on a mission to check on Buffy. He didn't think it was like her to retire for the evening and not tell him first, and with Dawn's new found attachment to him, he figured something was off. Reaching the mouth of the hallway that led to Buffy's room, he heard a latch and could just see from an angle, that Buffy's bedroom door was opening. Riley fully expected to see Buffy walk out on her way back to the dinner feeling just fine. Instead, Spike exited wearing a robe and smirk on his face. Moving backwards, Riley hid behind the corner, peeking out to see what was going on.

Spike quietly closed the door, purposely trying not to make a sound. He let out a short, quick laugh shaking his head. Reaching down he blatantly adjusted himself in a very macho fashion, straightened his shoulders and proclaimed, "Yeah mate, still got it." Turning to walk further down the hall he disappeared around another corner.

Riley stepped out of hiding and glared at Buffy's door. He was angry and couldn't think straight. First deciding to barge in and confront Buffy, he changed his mind and told himself to sleep on it, and really think about the predicament before he made any rash decisions. Maybe it wasn't what he thought it was. Buffy wasn't the type of person who cheated on her fiancée, especially the night before the wedding.

Leaning against the bathroom doorjamb, Angel observed Buffy while she dozed. Damn Spike and his obnoxious mouth. Angel was ready to leave. Just one last task: get Buffy to the altar and then he was going to walk away. But now Spike's words, `You're both so in love with one another that all you two can do is hurt each other' wouldn't get out of his head. Did Buffy really still love him? He always hoped it was true, but somewhere deep down he knew it was only wishful thinking, but now confronted with the definite possibility, could he still just walk away?

As much as it pained him to think it, yes he could. Spike was absolutely right about one thing, they did hurt each other, and even though it would cause Angel more hurt to leave her now, in the long run he would be causing Buffy less pain if he were just gone. Even if Buffy did love him, their first marriage was a disaster, which is to say giving it a second chance means happily ever after. Besides if the love was mutual why then was Buffy still going ahead and marrying Finn?

Raising his hand to his face he went to place his index finger and thumb on this bridge of this nose, but instead his face was smothered in a soft cloth. Surprised he realized he was still holding the towel and that Buffy was still wet from the pool. First he'd dry her off, and when that was done, he'd brood some more.

Sitting quietly on the side of the bed, trying not to make too much movement, he reached out with the towel, first smoothing it down her damp hair, gathering it in the fluffy fabric and squeezing the excess water still left in the strands. Next, he took a dry section and carefully wiped it across her face making sure to collect all the remaining droplets. Moving down to her neck, he continued drying her skin all the while trying to keep his composure. It had been a long time since he had been in Buffy's presence while she was naked and in bed. Finishing her neck, his hand stopped moving downward when he was confronted with a tiny triangle of skin left open by the jacket, revealing a portion of her chest. Swallowing hard, he peeled back the coat exposing more skin, but stopped when just the tops of her breast came into view. He felt his heart start to pound wildly in his chest and he couldn't believe he was nervous. Without noticing he leaned down a little to be closer to her and with a shaky hand he again returned to wiping the towel along her collarbones and shoulders, concentrating on the feel of her skin through the cloth but when it was time to move lower he hesitated for a moment wondering if it would be appropriate for him to dry her entire body and if he could even handle it.

Suddenly, Buffy's little hand was gripping Angel's hand that was holding the towel. He looked up and met her half opened eyes. "Angel," she let out in a whisper.

Using his other hand, he cupped her face, running his thumb along her cheekbone, "Yes, it's me."

"I didn't change because I thought that if I did you wouldn't love me anymore, but you did stop and you left because I was still me," tears started to build in the corner of her eyes as she turned her head into his hand. The alcohol was making her head spin and she wasn't sure if this was a dream or reality, but she didn't care, she was finally admitting the truth to herself.

"I never stopped Buffy," Angel knew she was still half sleep and probably not even aware what she was saying, but he loved her too much not to encourage her to open up.

"You think you didn't mean enough to me, you're wrong," tugging on his hand that she held, she urged him to come closer and he obliged leaving only inches between their faces. "You meant the world to me Angel, you still do. I thought strong was moving on, but it's not strong is fighting and that's something I didn't do." She kissed him then soft and tender, coaxing him to open for her. It took a moment, but he finally responded.

"Buffy," he pulled away out of breath, turning his head. "We shouldn't."

"Don't," she turned his face back to hers. "I want you Angel, I love you. Please, can we just . . . please Angel?"

He knew better, he knew he should turn her down gently, remind her of Riley and walk away, but the taste of her lips was still on his, her voice was pleading, tears were falling from her eyes and he loved her. Just one more night he told himself and without warning he captured her lips in a passionate kiss.

This was a good starting point, but I need more fluff I tell you!


Part 6

His hands cupped her face holding it still has he ravished her lips, then they slowly progressed downward to her shoulders, slipping underneath the leather coat, removing it completely, leaving her nude before him. Quickly they both helped in disposing of his clothes and she let out a sigh of relief when his bare body pressed against hers.

His hands knew exactly what to do and they moved over her skin leaving tingling sensations in their wake. His mouth left open mouth kisses along the column of her throat and down to her plump breast and latched onto an erect nipple and then the other, generously treating each breast with the same pleasure.

The feel of the moment was intense, it was familiar for both of them, yet nothing like they had experienced before. They poured every emotion into every touch and every caress as if they knew this was the only chance they would get to show the other just how they felt.

When he finally entered her, their movements were slow and tender and the experience lasted for what seemed like forever.

His hips moved forward hard and deliberate, pulling back almost completely out of her, before pushing himself back in to the hilt. Bending her knees, she contracted her thighs, squeezing, urging him to move faster. He obliged, but gradually, waiting for her peak to build, and with each new level, he'd increase his pace.

Sliding a hand up one bronzed arm, he brought it above her head where he clasped their hands together, while he busied his other hand by massaging one of her perfect globes, his fingers teasing a raised peak. He tired to kiss her mouth as much as possible, but their need to breathe heavily prevented them from prolong lip to lip contact. Instead he settled to moving along her jaw and neck, and chest and shoulders panting all the while.

She used her free hand to grip his hair has his ministrations continued, her lips licking and her teeth nibbling at any skin she came into contact with. But when he'd hit an especially sensitive spot, and he knew all of her sensitive spots, she'd rest her head back into the pillow, crying out, and whimpering, asking for more.

"Angel," came a breathy moan and it only encouraged him.

Pulling away slightly from each other, their eyes met, with their bodies still rubbing against one another. He let her hand go and caressed her face, whispering how he loved her, and she whispered the same. Her mouth caught his thumb as it moved across her lips and she sucked on it before releasing it, and allowing his hand to make a path along her neck, over her breast, down past her stomach until it found her swollen nub. Rubbing and pinching, she kept eye contact as he watched the ecstasy wash over her features and he increased his pumping. The waves kept coming, and she opened her mouth, wanting to scream in pleasure, but it was silent.

Her muscles convulsing around him, sent him over the edge and with a few last thrusts, he collapsed, not caring he was burdening her with his weight. She hugged him to her body, not wanted to let him go as they breathed, recovering from the powerful sensations. After their heartbeats had calmed, he tried to roll away, but she wouldn't permit it.

Using what little strength she had recovered, she flipped them, he still buried inside her. Leaving a trail of kisses down his chest, she glanced up through her lashes, her hips beginning to take movement, her look expressing to him, she wasn't finished yet.

/Why do you build me up, build me up Buttercup baby just To let me down, let me down And mess me around And then worst of all, worst of all You never call baby When you say you will, say you will But I love you still I need you, I need you More then anyone darlin' You know that I have from the start So build me up, build me up Buttercup don't break my heart/

Keeping her eyes closed Buffy cringed at the blaring music coming from her clock radio. Reaching over she blindly searched for the snooze button, desperately needing the noise to stop, her head just couldn't take it. Finally, she made contact and slammed her hand down ensuring she hit it hard enough to shut the music off.

Flopping her arm back down on the bed she expected another warm body to be lying next to her, but instead there was only mattress. Opening her eyes to see the empty space, she immediately regretted it. Pain shot through her head, it was pounding and she had no idea why.

Rolling on to her back, her eyes once again closed, she massaged her temples trying to concentrate on the previous evening. She remembered the guests arriving, eating dinner, the toast, her . . . oh g-d . . . conversation with Angel, and then Spike dragged her out to the pool with champagne and that's where everything goes fuzzy. She was guessing the champagne was the reason for the jackhammer going off in her brain.

While the precise events from last night were unclear, she definitely remembered her dream. Oh, what a good dream. There was a man, she couldn't see his face, but his hands and his voice were exactly like Angel's and in her dream she believed it was him. She told him she was sorry, that she loved him and that she wanted him. The events that followed in her dream proved that he wanted her too.

Looking over, she saw it was 8:30 in the morning. There was something she was supposed to be doing today, but nothing came to mind. Eventually she got out of bed and on shaky legs worked her way over to the bathroom to shower. Flinching as she switched on the lights she moved over to stand in front of the mirror. Seeing her reflection she suddenly remembered today was her wedding day. Thank g-d Riley decided to stay in the guest house last night; it would have been horrible if she had an erotic dream about another man, Angel no less, while her fiancée slept beside her.

Soothing down the piece of lingerie she wore, she recognized it as one that Angel had bought her. Why would she pick this to sleep in? Last time she wore it was the day she kicked him out. She threw it in her draw and there it had remained until now. Huh, how strange.

Buffy stayed in the shower for a good thirty minutes, hoping the hot water would help relieve her hang over. It helped a little partially due to the fact that the heat radiating off her skin from the water, caused her mind to waver from the pain and instead focused on the sensations left over from her dream. Just thinking about it got her excited again. Running her hand down the front of her chest and down her wet slick stomach, she started to breathe heavily, remembering the dream man moving inside her, how he filled her.

"Buffy, are you done? We have to get started, we're already running late!"

Her mother's voice broke through her haze and Buffy concentrated on composing herself before she stepped out of the shower, wrapped a towel around her and re-entered her bedroom.

Giles entered his study engrossed in a novel. Walking up to a bookshelf, he placed a bookmark in the crease and slipped the book back in its place. His fingers lingering on the binding for a moment he got the odd feeling he was being watched. Turning slighting he jumped, grabbing his heart as he found Angel sulking in one of the leather chairs, staring intently at a class of whiskey in his hand.

"Dear Lord, Angel what are you doing? How many of those have you had?"

Giles waited for an answer, but none came as Angel continued to stare. Giving up, Giles thinking he understood Angel sulking behavior he stepped up to the young man and patted him on the shoulder before heading towards the door.

"I poured myself a drink four hours ago, and I've been sitting here holding it. I haven't taken a sip." Giles went back to Angel and stood next to the vacant chair across from him. "She doesn't like it when I drink. I promised I would cut back. Does Finn drink a lot?"

"I honestly don't know," Giles answered. "Is that what happened to you last night? Got drunk and passed out?" he asked cautiously and sounding slightly disappointed.

"No," Angel responded, a smile lifting the corner of his mouth. "I didn't get drunk, not this time." He put the drink down on the corner of Giles' large oak desk and leaned his elbows on his knees, looking at the floor. "I made a mistake coming here, didn't I Giles? Cordy called me a masochist and she's right. I like pain; it reminds me I'm still alive, that I can still feel. Pain is very powerful."

"It is also very damaging," Giles added wanting to give Angel some advice, but he was cut off.

"But I had forgotten," Angel continued as if Giles had not spoken. "There is something more powerful then pain. It makes you feel more alive then anything else."

Rising, Angel crossed the room to the door and opened it stepping out, Giles was quick to follow. From the doorway he called Angel's name, stopping him. "What's more powerful then pain?"

Keeping his back to the older man, Angel twisted his head to the side, "Love," he spoke simply. Moving again, he headed towards the sitting room. "I'm leaving before the ceremony, tell everyone good- bye for me."

Giles went back inside the study and slumped into the chair Angel had just vacated. He too took to staring at the liquor filled glass, contemplating his unusual encounter. `She doesn't like it when I drink?' was Angel referring to Buffy or possibly Cordelia? Neither are very keen on Angel's drinking habit, especially when it gets out of control. Love, love was indeed a powerful emotion, and Giles knew Angel still loved Buffy, but why all of sudden did he come to the conclusion it makes him feel alive? Where did he go last night? Where did Buffy go last night?

Snapping his head over to the door, Giles got a sinking feeling, "Oh dear."

Buffy was starting to get excited. Her mother and sister were full of excitement and it was flowing out of them and Buffy was soaking it up. Simultaneously, a stylist was working on her hair, while another was doing her make-up. Willow stood a few feet behind her already dressed in her bridesmaid's outfit. They tried their best to carry a conversation, but Joyce and Dawn's constant interruptions and the make-up artist's requests not to move, were making it difficult. Faith had arrived a few minutes ago and Buffy's cousin Celia was helping her into her dress, with much fussing and complaining on Faith's part.

Buffy took the whole scene in as she admired it through the mirror. She was happy. This is what she wanted, this exact moment. The craziness and the anticipation of the day's events was just how she had imagined. She started to laugh, her giddiness surfacing. Everyone's attention was drawn to her and they all joined in.

"C'mon," Joyce came to stand behind Buffy, placing her hands on her daughter's shoulders she leaned down to kiss her on her cheek. "The quicker your hair and make-up are done, the quicker we can get you in your dress."

They smiled at each other before Joyce started running around directing the people in the room. She instructed Dawn to sit on the bed to make room for Faith and then Celia as they got dressed.

Dawn stared at the disarrayed bed sheets and duvet. "Have a wild night Buffy? You sure made a mess of your bed."

Buffy, still looking through the mirror's reflection, glanced over to Dawn as she pulled up the sections of the linen that had fallen to the floor. Her eyes reverted back to her reflection as more blush was applied to her cheeks, but then they quickly shot back to the bed, or precisely underneath the bed.

Lying in a heap just under the bed frame was Angel's favorite leather duster.

Looking away as fast as possible, Buffy clamped her hands together, trying to prevent them from shaking. The make-up artist noticed the tension in her face and stopped just before she started to apply the eye liner. Taking it as nerves over the wedding she laughed, telling Buffy it was just jitters. The moment she spots her groom at the end of the aisle, everything will be alright.

That only added to Buffy's anxiety. She was going to marry Riley in less then an hour and the most erotic, intense, sexually stimulating dream she had ever had was reality. Correction her most erotic, intense, sexually stimulating dream about Angel she had ever had was reality.

Jumping up from her seat, much to the surprise of everyone, she grabbed her robe and put it on covering her slip. "I need to, I have to do something," she mumbled as a pathetic excuse. Ignoring the outcry from the members of the room she left, in search of her ex- husband.

With one hand poised on the railing, Giles debated going up the stairs to talk to Buffy. He first had started to go after Angel, but decided he wasn't going to get anywhere with him and when he passed the staircase he thought maybe Buffy needed someone to talk to.

His decision was made for him as Buffy came down the stairs, curlers still in her hair.

"Buffy," he called.

"Giles where's Angel?" she asked as she met him on the last step.

Giles pointed in the direction Angel had stormed off, "He was leaving, said to say good-bye."

Good-bye? Angel never said good-bye. "No." She tired to move away, but Giles' hand gently grabbed her upper arm.

"Buffy, I just wanted to say-"

"Not now Giles, I have to-"

"Just because today is your wedding doesn't mean you have to marry Riley."

That got her attention, and she stopped trying to struggle free of Giles' grasp. "What?"

"Buffy, dear," Giles smoothed his hand down Buffy's hair, staring adoringly at her. "If you love him, be with him."

She knew who he was referring to.

When Buffy rushed out of her room and down the stairs she had no idea what she was going to do, or what she was going to say, but she knew she had to find Angel.

Listening to Giles' words, she knew what to do.

Kissing him on the cheek, he let go and she ran off, hoping Angel hadn't left yet.

Upon entering the sitting room, Buffy could see through the glass doors that Angel was outside on the patio with Spike, Cordelia, and to her surprise Xander, who was looking very cozy with Cordy. She couldn't hear very clearly what they were saying, but Angel was talking, looking quite upset, and Cordy was responding to his remarks. Spike was the first to notice her and she figured he announced her presence because the conversation had stopped and they were all now staring at her.

She heard someone call her name from behind her and when she turned around, Riley was standing a few feet away.

"I know its bad luck to see the bride," he began.

"No it's alright," she spoke overlapping him.

"We have to talk." They said at the same time.

A moment of silence followed, and during that time, Buffy heard the sound of the sliding door, opening and closing. Riley suggested that they go somewhere private, but Buffy didn't think it was necessary. Giving in, Riley took to pacing the room and Buffy turned her body in whatever direction he went. When he finally stood to face her again, he had stopped in the perfect spot for Buffy to see Angel just over Riley's shoulder.

While Riley was still gathering his bearings, Buffy studied Angel. She could tell he hadn't slept at all and his demeanor was guarded, his crossed arms and stooped shoulders a tell tale sign. They stared intently at each other before Riley started talking.

"Buffy I know something happened last night," Riley stated firmly, drawing her attention once again back to him.

She was shocked. Had he walked in on her and Angel and they hadn't noticed? "What do mean `something happened'?" she played dumb.

Xander, who was still standing with Cordelia, removed his arm from around her waist and attempted to leave, feeling that he was intruding. Cordelia just pulled him back, saying he was going to miss the good part.

"I thought you went to bed early and when I went to check on you, I saw Spike exiting your room." Riley explained.

"Spike?" she questioned. What else was she missing from last night?

"Me?" Spike added.

Ignoring him, Riley pressed on, "Just tell me what happened."

Buffy's memories might be incomplete, but she was positive nothing happened between her and Spike. Before she could voice her objections, Spike confirmed her suspicions.

"I admit we left the soiree early and got a little plastered, but that's it. When we parted ways I wanted to make sure she got to her room alright. I swear she was asleep when I walked in and when I walked out. I didn't touch her." Spike held up his hands trying to show he was being sincere. Of course, there was more to the story then that, but that's all Riley needed to know.

"Is that the truth?" Riley asked Buffy.

She didn't really know, but she trusted Spike so, "Yes, it is."

Breathing a sigh of relief, Riley smiled. "Great, now that that's settled, let's get this wedding underway. You go get into that dress and I'll meet you at the altar."

Angel cringed at Riley's attitude. Five seconds ago, he had accused Buffy of cheating and now everything was fine and dandy. He knew from the look they shared earlier that she remembered their night together, and the worst part of this situation was that she will marry Riley and go on with her life like it didn't happen. If any other person had cheated on their fiancée, Buffy would be first in line to chastise them, but if that person was her, she would rather throw it aside, believing she could do no wrong. Just another reason she remained on that high pedestal. Angel had to remind himself that none of that mattered, he was leaving and this time planned not to look back.

Riley lowered his head for a kiss, but Buffy took a step back, shaking her head. "No Riley." He leaned back perplexed. "Remember I needed to talk to you too and . . . something did happen last night."

Angel stiffened. She wouldn't, would she?

Spike, Cordelia and Xander all subconsciously took a step forward, waiting for Buffy to complete her revelation.

"I realized something about myself and I'm sorry, but I can't marry you." Riley was stunned and opened his mouth to protest, but she wouldn't let him. "You think I'm something I'm not Riley. This whole weekend I have been such a bitch, and every one has called me on it, except you. I'm not a sweet little rich girl; I'm a spoiled rotten rich girl."

"Buffy this is insane. This weekend does not reflect the accumulation of all our time together. I know who you are."

"Riley, something is not right. You were just standing there accusing me of cheating on you and then practically in the same breath you tell me to go put on my wedding gown! Are you completely blind to all my faults?" She raised her voice trying to drive her point home, but Riley shook his head vehemently, not wanting to listen to her. "You're even doing it right now, not listening to me, this is who I am and this is what I really want."

"Buffy you didn't cheat and even so when you love somebody, you forgive them and move on."

All the tension left Buffy's body at his words. Her eyes drifted over to Angel and she couldn't help the loving smile from appearing on her face. "Yes, Riley. You do forgive."

Riley followed her gaze just in time to see Angel's rigid disposition melt away. Looking back and forth between the two a few times, he wasn't surprised to see the same exact expression of love radiating off them. He didn't need to ask what happened last night, he already knew. He should have realized sooner, he never had a chance.

"You still love him?" he asked quietly and she nodded. "I want you to be happy Buffy," he added somberly.

"I'm going to try," she replied.

With her still staring in Angel's direction, Riley kissed her cheek and whispered a good-bye in her ear and was gone.

The room remained silent. Angel and Buffy were preoccupied with their intense stare and the rest were in a slight stage of shock.

A beeping noise broke through the stillness and everyone turned to Xander as he checked his watch. "It's ten o'clock."

Buffy's hands flew to her head messing a few of her curlers, which she had forgotten were there, along with the two hundred or so guests waiting in her ballroom for a wedding.

Cordelia looked at her watch as well. "No it's not Xander, I have ten fifteen."

"So do I," Spike agreed.

"Omig-d," Buffy exclaimed anxiety building within her again.

Without warning the sitting room doors burst open. "I just wanted to inform you all," Gunn started talking the minute he walked in the door, "That there are tons of people in the ballroom wondering why they aren't seeing a wedding."

"Oh G-d," Buffy moaned again, the reality of the situation sinking in.

Giles, Dawn, Joyce and Willow chose that moment to make an appearance. Dawn tried her best to be stealthy as she slipped Angel his jacket winking at him, while her mother went right for Buffy saying they got a shorten explanation from Riley on his way out. "Everything will be fine. Giles will make a simple announcement."

"No, this was my doing, I'll make the announcement," Buffy replied. She started to march out of the room, but turned just before the doorway. "Oh, my hair," Dawn and Willow rushed over to help her remove the curlers. With a few flips, her blonde locks looked practically perfect. "I'm still in my robe, maybe I should change first."

Just like the first time, Angel carefully laid his jacket on her shoulders from behind. "I'll go with you for support," he said.

Looking back at him she smiled gratefully, pulling the jacket closer to her body. "Let's go disappoint a large mass of fancily dressed people."

Together everyone from the sitting room migrated over to the ballroom following behind Buffy and Angel. Not wanting to have to walk down the aisle, Buffy instead entered the ballroom by using an entrance that you accessed from yet another outside patio. Swinging open the doors, she strolled in and stopped still as all eyes turned to her. Lorne hurried over asking what the delay was. He had resorted to giving an impromptu concert of solid gold oldies and show tunes to stall for time. Buffy assured him everything was fine, but she still couldn't move forward. Angel gently placed his hand on the small of her back, telling her he was right behind her and together they stepped up to the altar.

"Can I have everyone's attention," Buffy cringed at the words. All eyes were on her already of course she had their attention. Lorne moved a microphone in front of her face, which surprised her a little, but she gripped it as a life support. "I'm so sorry, but due to some unfortunate circumstances, there won't be, I mean I'm not," she stumbled and once again felt Angel's hand supporting her. "Riley and I called off the wedding."

A chorus of gasps and whispers spread through out the room and Buffy looked over at Riley's parents who stood abruptly, giving her an evil glare before marching up the aisle and out of the ballroom, with the rest of Riley's side of the room following. Taking their lead, Buffy's side began to rise from their seats confused.

"Tell your side to keep their seats," Angel spoke into ear making sure his voice didn't carry into the microphone.

Automatically Buffy listened to him, "If the bride's side of the room could please remain in their seats." Once the guests had done so, she leaned back away from the mic and against Angel and through a smile asked, "Now what?"

"Just repeat after me," he let a smile slip out but quickly concealed it. "Three years ago, I did you all a great injustice by eloping to Las Vegas."

"Three years ago, I did you all a great injustice by eloping to Las Vegas," she repeated.

"If you will please be patient for just a few moments," he waited while Buffy finished repeating his statement before saying, "I would like to recreate that wedding for you here, today."

Buffy opened her mouth, but then the words hit her and she twisted around rapidly, tears already forming in her eyes. "Angel are you sure, because I understand if your not, but I know exactly what I told you last night and I meant every single word-," she rambled on only to stop when he raised his hand to her face and using his thumb wiped away a tear that had leaked out of the corner of her eye.

"I know you did, and I'm sure. Make the announcement."

She turned back to their guests a full blown smile on her face, "I would very much, with all my heart, like to recreate that wedding for you today."

"Thank you," Angel told her to say.

"Thank you," she echoed.

"Now kiss me," he spoke with a smile.

"Now kiss me," Buffy said into the mic, but realized that wasn't supposed to be repeated. Her face blushing from the embarrassment, she turned around and launched herself into Angel's arms kissing him.

Lorne stepped in front of them taking the mic, "You heard them folks, just keep your seats and in just a few minutes we'll get these two lovebirds hitched!"

Angel had wrapped his arms tightly around Buffy's waist and lifter her feet off the ground deepening the kiss. He could tell someone was directing them over to the side and blindly allowed them to lead him and Buffy throw the door and outside.

Once on the porch, they released their lips and Angel swung them around enticing a squeal of delight from the blond in his arms.

"We'll make it work this time Angel, I'll change, I promise to never let you down. I don't want to be separated from you ever again. I love you." She ran one hand down the side of his face before capturing his lips in a searing kiss.

"I love you. We'll make it work. We won't give up so easily this time," he said pulling away.

They heard someone clearing their throat and taking a look around saw they had an audience.

Cordelia was the first to speak. "If you do anything to hurt him I will come after you and I warn you now, I'm a hair puller," she pointed her finger at Buffy.

Angel placed Buffy on her feet and kissed her temple, "She is," he confirmed before pulling back keeping an arm around her waist.

"I always liked Angel better then Riley anyway," Dawn spoke up next. "Angel's more fun to play with."

Buffy giggled and leaned more into her soon-to-be-ex-ex-husband. "You are," she whispered so only he could hear.

"Yes, I think I speak for everyone here when I say we are happy you two finally removed your heads out of your arses' and are back together, but we must get going, you promised those people a wedding," Giles said, a smile forming on his lips.

Lorne clutched his chest, "Ah, a man after my own heart. Let's get crackin'! I need the bride upstairs and changed, mother, sister and maid-of-honor go with." He shooed them away and turned towards Angel. He waited as Buffy blew the man a kiss before addressing him, "Groom you need to button your suit and find a best man."

"I'll do it," Spike volunteered.

"No," Angel snapped, but then turned to Cordelia and softened his tone. "Cordy, will you be my best man, or woman?"

"Of course big brother," she hugged him and before letting go whispered in his ear, "I really am happy for you."

"Xander, Gunn, want to be my groomsmen?" Angel asked them and they accepted. "Spike if you want, you can be an usher," he grumbled as Spike brightened. "Okay, Lorne what's next?"

Pulling open the doors, Lorne lead Angel and the remaining members of the wedding party back into the ballroom. "Saying `I do'."

Buffy sat astride Angel's lap, her skirt pooled out covering his lower half, her hips rocking against his while his hands were busy massaging her breast, teasing the nipples through her top. "I told you I can change," she panted. "I've never done this before."

"Neither have I," he commented before hissing in pleasure, his hands moving to grip her hips grounding them down harder.

"Ah, but the difference is, you would have done it," she lowered her head and nipped at his lips with her teeth, "So this is not a big change for you."

He leaned forward capturing her lips hungrily. One of his hands slipped under her skirt and found her swollen nub. He released the kiss and moved to her neck. Buffy could feel the pleasure rise with in her and just when it peaked she used his shoulder to muffle her cry as her inner muscles convulsed.

Angel maneuvered them so that she lay beneath him on the narrow couch and without losing a beat, thrust into her repeatedly, building her up once again until they both found their release.

They stayed entwined perfectly content when they heard the loud speaker click on. "Mr. McConnell, we are just coming into view of Ireland if you and Mrs. McConnell would like to look out the window."

"Think the pilots know what we were doing?" she asked breathlessly. The benefits of having your own private jet is you can basically do whatever you wanted during the flight, but you still had to worry about the pilots possibly hearing or even, g-d forbid, walking in on you. But Buffy wanted to try something new, and the idea that they could get caught made it all that much hotter.

"Probably," he replied his face buried in her chest. He started to kiss her collarbone and the tops of her breasts causing her to moan.

"Mmmm, so now we are official members of the mile high club," she spoke running her fingers through his hair.

"Yes, three times over," he responded into her skin. He looked up resting his chin on her chest and smiled. "I'm glad you decided to come with me."

"Angel you're my husband, I'll follow you anywhere."

"Yes I know, but I thought you would talk me out of going, saying you wanted to stay in California." He was still new at expressing his fears, but they made a promise not to hold back anything.

The first few hours of the flight all they did was talk, admitting to each other some concerns they had left over from their first marriage. They both knew it was the first of many similar conversations, but after so long of doing nothing but talking, they decided to do something that required as little words as possible.

"The old me would have, but marriage is about compromise and all I do in California anyway is spend money. You have a career waiting for you in Ireland and that's important to you and I can spend money anywhere. It's a transferable skill." She giggled and with a peck to his lips, started to sit up. They righted their clothing and then went back to holding each other. "Angel, I can't believe I haven't asked this but where are we going to live?"

"Well, when it was just me I was planning on staying with my grandparents." He didn't need to see Buffy's face to know she was cringing at the idea. "But I knew you wouldn't like that, so I asked them to start looking for places we can stay."

"And?" she prompted.

"And, they gave us a wedding present."

She pulled away slighting and turned towards him. "What kind of wedding present?"

He smiled and rose from his seat. Going to the back of the cabin he retrieved a familiar looking square object. She realized it was a canvas and when he turned it around to face her, she saw the painting he had presented to her a few days ago.

"The cottage?" she questioned.

"It's all ours. And if you want we can have another place a little closer to civilization as well, but I thought this would be good to start off with."

Letting out a squeal, she held out her arms, requesting him to join her once again, which he did. She kissed him tenderly, savoring the taste of his lips. "I'm so happy Angel," she said resting their foreheads together. "What are we going to do with those twelve bedrooms?"

"Fill them with children of course."

She leaned back giving him a skeptical look. "I am not giving birth to that many kids."

Laughing, he pulled her back into his embrace, "Come on, just think of all the fun we'll have trying."

"Well since you put it that way, I'll consider it."



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