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03 November 2011 @ 11:47 am
Fic: Out of the Dark (2/13)  
Summary, Notes, and Warnings are located in the Table of Contents.

Chapter 2
 
Back at Angel's office, they rejoined Lorne and Fred who had tidied up in the meantime.  Buffy sat uncomfortably in one of the overstuffed armchairs in a corner of the office, Angel took his place behind the desk and everyone else found places here and there.
 
"So, what's going on Buffy?" Angel began.  "Why are you here?"
 
Buffy fidgeted, looking around.  Lorne, in particular, seemed to make her skittish.  "I came here, to LA," she began haltingly, in a low voice, just above a whisper.  She cleared her throat and started again, this time slightly louder.  "I came to ask for help."  Her face remained shuttered but her heart was pounding in her chest.  She had debated this course of action for months; leaving it only as a last resort.  It felt foreign to her to reveal any vulnerability, especially in front of strangers.
 
Wesley responded before Angel could.  He had some questions he wanted answered before resuming any type of relationship with the Slayers.  "You are asking us for help?  I seem to remember several times your Slayers made it clear that assistance either way was neither needed nor wanted.  If your organization needs help, may I suggest we deal more formally?  And if it is you, Buffy, who needs help," as Wesley thought was more likely, "then I would suggest that you ask Mr. Giles or your Scoobies."
 
She looked blankly at Wesley.  "They're dead," she responded in a conversational tone.
 
Angel blanched.  Wesley stuttered some sounds, then was still.  It was Fred who leaned forward so that she could look Buffy in the eyes.  "What do you mean 'they're dead?' Who's dead?"  She desperately wanted to touch Buffy's hand or shoulder, to offer some physical comfort, but was afraid that this militant looking Slayer would break her arm if she tried to do so. 
 
Buffy took a deep breath.  "They are all dead.  Dawn, Giles, Willow, Xander.  Dead, gone.  No longer able to help."
 
With each name, Angel and Wesley's faces fell farther.  At Willow's name, Fred's eyes filled with tears as she remembered the bright witch who had helped them recover Angel's soul. 
 
Angel spoke up.  "When?  How?"
 
"What about Faith?  Is she dead too?" came Connor's voice from the corner. 
 
Buffy's head whipped up.  "You know Faith?" she asked suspiciously.  Then realization dawned, and she nodded.  "You're Angel's son.  She told me about you."  Angel was almost dismayed as the suspicion vanished from her face, it was the first real emotion he had seen her display.
 
"No, Faith isn't dead.  She took over the training and coordination of the Slayers.  It was in everyone's best interests that I leave."
 
"Why?" Lorne asked.  "Surely, safety in numbers and all that."
 
"I'm the reason they were killed."
 
"Buffy, you can't know that," Angel remonstrated.  "You all made some pretty powerful enemies over the years.  Maybe this was retribution for something entirely outside of you; maybe even something that happened while you were…"  Angel mentally winced; after all these years it was still hard to remember that awful summer.
 
"Dead?" she finished for him.  "Nice idea, but no.  It followed me as soon as I left town."
 
"And you led him here?  Not that I don't like a good fight, but maybe you coulda called first?" Gunn half joked.
 
"It's not like I made a beeline here."
 
"No, I’d have to say Buffy's right.  Given her appearance, I'd say that she's been on the run for quite a while."  Wesley noted that his comment about her appearance drew no noticeable reaction from the Slayer.
 
"Sure, if 'quite a while' is stuffy Watcher talk for almost three years."
 
Lorne spoke up. “Well, cats and kittens and,” he glanced slightly uncomfortably at Buffy, “fierce lioness.  It's late and I've gotta get my beauty sleep.  What say we call it a night?”
 
Angel nodded.  "That's not such a bad idea."  He looked over at Buffy.  "You can use the guest room in my suite."
 
Buffy smirked.  "I'm pretty sure your girlfriend wouldn't like that."
 
Angel looked confused.  "Girlfriend?" 
 
"Nina," Wesley hissed.
 
"Oh!  Uh, well, you see, um…" Angel trailed off.
 
"Angel," Buffy interrupted before Angel dug the hole any deeper.  "I don't care."
 
Those three words seemed to Angel to be more cutting than anything else she had said or done all night.
 
Wesley interjected, "We have a nice guest suite a few floors down.  No one is using it at the moment."

"A suite?" Buffy seemed reticent.  "That's really a lot.  I was just thinking, you know, a room."
 
"Well, there are rooms within the suite," Wesley continued.  "I'm sure you could find one to your liking."
 
"That's not it.  Just more rooms make it harder to secure, that's all."
 
"Buffy, I assure you nothing gets in or out of this building that we don't know about."
 
Buffy still looked unconvinced, but shrugged resignedly.
 
~)O(~
 
Angel unlocked the door to the suite and handed the key to Buffy.  She followed him in to the elegant living area and stopped as he pointed out the amenities of the suite like a real estate agent.
 
She interrupted his sales pitch.  "Is this place fully stocked?" she asked.
 
"Yes, the mini bar is," Angel looked around, "ah, it's right over there.  See how they disguised the fridge as an end table."
 
She looked at him as if he had sprites issuing from his ears.  "No, Angel.  Is this place stocked with first aid supplies?"
 
Angel was thankful he couldn't blush.  Was he really that far removed from her life?  When had he started to worry more about entertaining clients than helping to patch their wounds?  He nodded.  "Yes, the bathroom should have everything you need for light wounds.  We also have an infirmary onsite if you need anything beyond that."
 
"Great, thanks."  She disappeared into the bathroom and a minute later, Angel was overwhelmed by the scent of fresh Slayer blood.  He hurried over to the bathroom, where she was sitting on the toilet in a sports bra and her workout pants.  He noticed the homemade splint on her left forearm, but what really focused his attention was the bundle of cloths wrapped around her midsection, covered in blood. 
 
"You're hurt," he said, feeling like the master of the obvious.  "Why didn't you say something?  We could've waited on the conversation until you were patched up."
 
She shook her head.  "Don't worry, it's not new."
 
As she slowly unwound the makeshift binding, he noticed that the blood was still wet.  "Buffy, this blood is fresh."
 
"Yeah." 
 
Angel waited a minute and, as she did not appear to be forthcoming with details, he questioned, "If the wound isn't new, how come it's bleeding so much?" 
 
"A few months ago, I think it was in Cleveland, he was a little closer on my trail than I had thought."
 
"You fought?"
 
She nodded.  "I barely got out alive.  And I got this little memento.  Something was on the blade must prevent the wound from healing."  She winced a bit as she shrugged one shoulder.  "I do all right."
 
She finished the unwrapping and began to wet a washcloth to clean the area.  As she turned toward the sink, Angel got a look at her back, where a jagged gouge separated the skin.  Blood seeped from the edges of the tear.  The skin around it was inflamed.  He took the washcloth from her.  He placed a hand on her right arm to steady them and it was then that he noticed that she was hot with fever. 
 
"Buffy, your temperature..."
 
"I'm fine, Angel," she cut him off.  "My Slayer healing keeps it in check."  She chuckled wryly.  "Otherwise, I would never have made it out here."  She hesitated.  "But this is why none, I repeat NONE, of your people are to even go near this thing.  They wouldn't survive this."
 
"Let me worry about my people.  We have resources at our disposal that you and I never dreamed of back in Sunnydale.  It is quite possible that we have something here that could take this thing out."
 
"No, Angel.  I just need a couple of days to rest up, let my arm heal, and then I'm out of your hair.  You don't need to worry about this." 
 
"Buffy, you're sick.  All of your healing abilities are probably working overtime just to keep you alive.  I don't see your arm healing in a couple of days.  We have a fully equipped science lab and Wesley's department is top-notch at the mystical.  Please, let them look at you, see if we can find a way to heal it.  Maybe even get a lead on what poison it's using, give you a chance to counter it."
 
Buffy sighed heavily.  This was what she had been afraid of.  Even after all these years, the pull to just give in and let Angel take care of things was so strong.  She could just close her eyes and sleep, trust that he wouldn't let the monsters in.  But how many of his people would die keeping her safe?  How many people would die if this monster turned its attention elsewhere?  There was no choice; she had to remain detached, apart.  She could not give in.  No matter how tired, how scared she was, she would not hide in his arms.  She was alone; it was best that way.
 
Conjuring an image of Angelus' face as he taunted her in one of their fights all those years ago, she hardened herself once more.  As her eyes met Angel's, he was taken aback by the anger simmering just under the blank surface.  "Fine.  You can have them do their tests in the morning.  But I'm not waiting for the cure.  If they have something before I leave, great.  If not, I'm not hanging around."
 
Angel nodded.  "Ok.  But why don't we schedule the tests for afternoon?  It's almost morning now and you look exhausted.  You should get some sleep."
 
"I have enough time.  I don't sleep very much."
 
"What's 'very much?'" Angel asked.  "It's only a couple of hours until dawn."
 
"I'll see the sunrise," Buffy replied.  "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to be alone."
 
Angel left, not wanting to upset the plans they had just made.  Buffy spent a few minutes wandering the suite checking access points, making note of every tactical weakness she saw.  She looked at the luxurious king-sized bed with what she was sure were feather pillows and down comforter and turned instead into the walk-in closet opening off both the bathroom and the bedroom.  Sitting against a wall in a corner, she allowed herself to fall into a light sleep.