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03 November 2011 @ 11:40 am
Fic: Out of the Dark (4/13)  
Summary, Notes, and Warnings are located in the Table of Contents.

Chapter 4
 
Angel sat at his desk for the next hour or so, but could not concentrate on the paperwork in front of him.  Not that the paperwork aspect of being CEO of Wolfram & Hart was ever his favorite thing, but all he kept thinking about was Buffy.  Or to be more precise, Buffy and Nina.  And why he forgot about Nina the instant he saw Buffy again.  So, he was actually grateful when Harmony popped her head in his door. 

"Boss?"
 
"Yes, Harmony.  Is there an emergency?  Someone needs to see me?" Angel asked almost eagerly, beginning to stand up.  Anything to get his mind off the convoluted thoughts racing in circles.
 
"No, boss.  Everything's running just fine." Angel slumped back into his chair dejectedly.  "I just wanted to check with you about tomorrow night."
 
"Tomorrow night?" Angel echoed, with a vacant look.
 
"The party," Harmony said.  Angel motioned her to continue.  "You know, the big do to celebrate Nina's coming back from her first showing in New York?"  Angel groaned and thudded his head on the desk. 
 
Harmony sympathized.  "Well, yeah, because with you know, the girlfriend coming back from a trip to find the ex-big love of your life here now, all life and deathy, and …" she trailed off at Angel's glare.  Hurrying to her actual point, she said, "So, I was wondering if you wanted to postpone until after Buffy leaves."  She smiled nervously.
 
"So, you think we should have Nina's welcome home party after she's been back for a few days?" Angel commented wryly. 
 
Harmony shifted in her pink stiletto heels.  "Well, when you put it that way…  But I just thought, I mean, are you gonna invite Buffy?  'Cause that could be major tension.  But if you don't, won't Nina think there's a reason you don't want them to meet?  And not to mention, if Buffy finds out, I really don't want to have to clean up after pissed off Slayer!"
 
"Harmony, we are going to have the party tomorrow night.  Nina is going to be there.  If Buffy is feeling well enough, she is, of course, invited.  There will be no tension, no suspicion, and no pissed off Slayer!"  Angel's voice had been growing louder as he spoke as he vented his frustration on his half-wit secretary.  "Now, go do your job and leave me alone!!"
 
Harmony scurried out as quickly as she could.
 
Moments later, there was a knock on his door.  "Harmony, whatever it is, order it, sign it, or kill it!  I don't want to be disturbed."
 
The door opened and Wesley's head peeked in.  "You know, I think that might the first time I've ever been mistaken for Harmony.  I can't imagine why."
 
Angel smiled apologetically and waved Wesley in.  "Sorry, she just reminded me about the party tomorrow night.  It makes things…"
 
"Complicated?" Wesley suggested.
 
Angel sighed. "Yes.  So, you'll understand that I'm hoping you've come in on an urgent matter that needs my immediate attention and has absolutely nothing to with Buffy, Nina, or even women in general."
 
"Yes and no."
 
"Which parts?"
 
"Bryson just called me.  He said that Buffy has become agitated."

"She's awake?" Angel inquired.
 
"No, still unconscious, but talking in her sleep, thrashing about.  I thought you'd like to go down there with me."
 
Angel was already heading toward the door.
 
~)O(~
 
As they entered the room, the nurse and a doctor were standing by the doorway, while Buffy continued mumbling incoherently, her voice tinged with desperation, shifting and moving erratically.
 
Angel went immediately to her bedside, while Wesley asked the attendants, "How long has she been like this?"
 
"About half an hour before we called you.  At first, we were trying to see if we could pick out any words that she was speaking, see if anything might help with identifying her attacker or the weapon."
 
Angel watched her, tossing, turning, her voice wild, her breathing labored.  The last time he had seen her even close to this state, was when she had absorbed a demon's mind-reading ability, and was overwhelmed with the thoughts of all those around her.  At least, that time, there had been a specific cure, something he could do, that had thankfully involved beating the living daylights out of the demon's partner.  This time, as he stood watching her, he felt helpless.  The half words and other sounds issuing from her became more frantic and Angel could hear fear, no, not fear, but terror underlying every sound.
 
"Wake her," Angel said shortly.
 
Wesley looked at the doctor who said, "She should be waking from the sedative in the next hour or so."
 
"I said, Wake Her," Angel repeated, vehemently.
 
"Angel, you must understand," Wesley began.  "It's not as if she's under anesthesia, where we can just remove the depressant effect.  She was given a sedative that runs a specific course.  If we counter that, there are possible detrimental effects."
 
"Will it kill her?" he asked the doctor.
 
"Well, no," the doctor replied hesitantly.  "It just really isn't recommended to stack too many counter-indicated medications together, especially when we have no idea the nature of her injury."
 
"Then you will get whatever drug you need and you will administer it now," Angel said calmly.  The doctor took one look at the cold glint in his eyes and hurried over to a counter, where he pulled a syringe from a drawer.  He added the contents of the syringe to the IV drip and nodded quickly at Angel, then withdrew to the other side of the room.
 
Angel held her hand in one of his, and with the other, stroked her feverish forehead, murmuring calming words softly.  Wesley stood on the other side of the bed, watching them, remembering a time where Buffy had been the one desperate to save a poisoned Angel, abandoning the Council, and even risking her own life to do so.  After all these years, it seemed the bond between them was still just as strong as ever. 
 
  ~)O(~
 
Darkness surrounded her.  Images appearing and fading, faces and voices, but every time she'd reach out to touch them, her friends, her family, they faded again.  Then the footsteps, the realization, the eyes, the pain.  Over and over.  Torment, physical then emotional, in a never-ending cycle.
 
Then she heard it.  Words of comfort spoken in a familiar voice.  Safety and love and forgiveness waited for her, if she only find him. 
 
"Angel," she cried out, trying to move toward the voice, but something kept her rooted in the darkness.  "Help me!  I can't get out, Angel!"  Tears crept down her face as she struggled against the invisible force.  "Where are you?"

 ~)O(~
 
With a nearly inhuman yell, Buffy suddenly awoke, her free hand shooting out and making contact with Wesley's solar plexus, sending him stumbling back to the wall behind him.  Looking around frantically, she scrambled back up the bed, till she was pressed against the wall.  Angel carefully moved into her field of vision.
 
"Buffy?" he asked gently.
 
"Angel?" she replied, her breathing still labored and her skin ashen.  Suddenly, she turned away from him and vomited over the side of the bed.  When the convulsions stilled, she slowly pulled herself back to a seated position and looked at him accusingly.  "Why?  Why did you put me to sleep?"
 
Wesley was slowly regaining his breath, but not yet to the point where he could point out that it was he and Fred, not Angel, who had decided on the sedative.
 
"Well, uh, I mean really," Angel's mind whirled with 'It wasn't me' and 'They did it,' but he knew that not only would that not mean anything to Buffy, he was in charge here, and he was the one who had talked her into the tests.  There were times when responsibility really sucked.
 
"Buffy, you were exhausted and sick.  You needed sleep badly.  We did what we thought best."
 
"You didn't even ask me why!  Just like always, you make the decisions based on your criteria and the rest of us get stuck with the consequences."
 
"What consequences, Buffy?  What happened when you were sleeping?"
 
"This," she replied and, taking his hand, placed it over the bandage on her back.  He pulled it back sticky and red with her blood.
 
"It gets worse when you sleep?" questioned Wesley, still consciously controlling his breathing.  "I would imagine that the movement prompted by the nightmares would account for that."
 
"Nightmares?" said Buffy, looking from Angel to Wesley questioningly.  "What nightmares?"
 
Angel nodded.  "You looked and sounded as if you were having one hell of a bad dream.  Tossing, turning, crying out.  You don't remember?"
 
"No," she said haltingly.  "All I remember is… darkness.  Sleep, dark, then blood.  That's why I stopped sleeping so much." She shrugged.
 
"I wonder if it's part of the memory dampening," Wesley mused.
 
Buffy arched an eyebrow.  "Memory dampening?" she mimicked.
 
"We have gotten enough information to determine that there was some type of mystical potion or charm on the weapon which inflicted your wound.  It is that which keeps the wound from healing, and, we believe, keeps you from being able to have clear recollection of the event."
 
"Oh."
 
They were silent for a moment, allowing her to absorb the information.  Then Wesley cleared his throat.  "Anyway, I believe we've done everything we need you to be present for, at least at this point.  If you'd like, I can ask the nurse to change your bandages and you can get out of here."
 
"Sounds like a plan," Buffy said.
 
Wesley left to track down the nurse who had scampered away when Buffy woke, making a mental note that they would have to include ability to withstand startling and violent patients in their hiring screening.
 
Angel stood, shifting nervously.  Buffy looked at him and wondered what was on his mind.  Whatever it was, if it caused that amount of anxiety, she felt she was probably better off not knowing. 
 
"So, you got a gym in this place?" she asked.
 
Angel looked perplexed.  "You can't be thinking of working out!" he exclaimed.  "You just reaggravated that injury."
 
"Well, I can and I am," she retorted.  "Trust me, I know my limits."
 
Angel stopped himself from engaging in a 'who knows better' battle.  "Yes.  You'll find the gym on the second floor.  Just ask Harmony for a visitor's pass.  That'll get you in."  The nurse came in and busied herself changing Buffy's dressing.
 
"Great, thanks."
 
"And, um," Angel cleared his throat.  Buffy glanced up.  "We're having a little get-together tomorrow night.  Nothing big, just a congratulations thing for Nina; she's returning tomorrow from her first art show in New York.  Just thought maybe you'd want to come.  Spend some down-time with the gang."
 
Oooh, fun! Buffy thought.  A nice little party with the new girlfriend.  Can we go back to that sleeping-nightmare thing again?
 
"That sounds really nice, Angel," she replied aloud.  "I can't wait to meet her."