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15 November 2011 @ 10:06 pm
Fic: Rewards (4/8)  
Summary, Notes, and Warnings are located in the Table of Contents.

Chapter Three: Found and Lost
 
A couple of hours later found Cordelia sitting in an armchair in Buffy/Liz’s room.  The others were downstairs researching.  Wesley had gotten in touch with Giles, who was going to be flying out in the next day or two.  They had decided not to alert Dawn or Buffy’s friends at this point.  Her death had been excessively traumatic to Dawn.  Giles felt that it was in her best interests to have some answers before talking to the Scoobies.
 
Angel had initially stayed upstairs until Cordelia insisted that he take a break.  “Cordy, I don’t want here to wake up alone.  God knows what she’s been through.”
 
“Angel, we don’t even know who’s going to wake up!  Besides, you are about to wear a hole through the floor with the pacing.  I’ll stay here with her for a while.  You go downstairs, stare at a book, go punch something, I don’t care, just go!”  Cordy pointed to the door and refused to move until Angel reluctantly left.  Then Cordelia curled up in the chair, opened the nearly incomprehensible book she had brought up with her and began reading.
 
It was quiet.  Her body felt so tired and achy.  She slowly opened her eyes, seeing an unfamiliar room.  Looking at the wallpaper, she wondered what she was doing in a hotel.  Searching her memory, she tried to remember what had happened, but everything was blurry right now.  Looking to her other side, she saw a woman reading in a chair.  She cleared her throat.
 
Cordy looked up in surprise.  “Oh my god, you’re awake!  You’re,” she stopped, unsure as to who she was addressing.  She put her book down.
 
“What am I doing here?  Who are you?”
 
“Well, that’s kind of complicated,” Cordy began.  “I’m Cordelia Chase, I work for Angel Investigations.  What do you remember about this morning?”
 
“I remember going out to the dig site and walking in, but everything after that is fuzzy,” Liz replied. 
 
“Okay,” Cordy said slowly.  “Well, you had a seizure while you were there.”
 
“So you brought me to a hotel?”  She glanced down under the blankets and saw the hospital gown.  “And changed my clothes,” she noted with alarm.
 
“Oh, no, we didn’t do that.  You were taken to the hospital.  We brought you here later.  And it’s not a hotel, exactly.  This is Angel Investigations.”
 
“But why?”
 
“Well, you hired us to help,” Cordelia said with a winning smile.
 
Liz looked incredulous.  “I hired you to help identify an artifact.  As far as I know, you guys are not medical professionals.”
 
“Well, the hospital wasn’t exactly the safest place for you to be.”
 
Liz started trying to get out of bed.  “I want my clothes.  I want to leave.”
 
“Okay, Liz,” Cordelia said in a placating voice.   She looked around the room, wondering if Angel and Wesley had thought to bring Liz’s clothes.  “I will go find you some clothes and I’m gonna get Angel and Wesley.  They’re going to be able to help explain, I hope.  Will you just stay here for a little bit?  It’s really important that we talk to you before you decide to leave.”
 
Cordelia left the room and then jogged to the stairs.  They looked up as she approached.  Angel was already on his feet and heading up the stairs.  Cordelia caught his arm and he stopped, looking at her. 
 
She said, “Liz is awake and she’s feeling kind of, well you know, kidnapped right now.”
 
Angel looked blankly at her.
 
“She wants to leave.  Have you guys found out anything yet?  ‘Cause I’m thinking right now might not be the best time for this girl to be on her own.”
 
Wesley started toward the stairs as well, motioning  Fred and Gunn to stay downstairs.  The three of them walked down the hallway to Liz’s room.  As they started to go in, Cordy suddenly said, “I forgot to ask, did you guys bring her clothes?”  At their sheepish looks, she shook her head and said, “Men.  Okay, I’m going to go see if I have anything that might fit her.  I’ll be back in a few minutes.”  She continued down the hallway.
 
Angel walked through the doorway, followed by Wesley to see Liz sitting up in bed looking expectantly at them.  He asked, "Do you know who I am?"
 
"Yes," she replied.  "You're Angel."  He brightened momentarily until she continued, "From the private investigation firm.  We met this morning.  Now will someone please tell me what’s going on here?"
 
"What is the last thing you remember?" Wesley inquired.
 
“Like I told her, Cordelia was it?  I remember driving you guys to the dig and going in, but that’s it.  Next thing I know, I’m here, and now I’d like to leave and I think we can pretty much forget about continuing our business relationship too.”
 
“Before you leave, we’d like to share some information with you.  We believe your life may be in danger.”
 
“Way to ease into that one, Wes,” Angel grumbled.
 
Liz laughed.  “Why would my life be in danger?  I had a seizure, yeah, but that’s not fatal.”
 
Wesley said, “No, but the treatment they had you scheduled for may well have been.”
 
“What do you mean?  Who would want me dead? And why?”
 
“We don’t know who, yet.  As for why, does the name Buffy Summers ring a bell?”
 
Liz paled.  “I don’t talk about that.  Who told you about that?”
 
Cordelia had just entered the room with an armful of clothing.  “No one had to tell us, although I did have a brief talk with your mother.” She dumped the clothes on the bed and said, “See if there’s anything there you can wear.  You’ll probably be better off with the skirts than the jeans, but you can always roll the legs up.”
 
Liz ignored the clothes.  “What do you mean no one had to tell you?”
 
Angel pulled the armchair closer to the bed and sat down, looking the frightened young woman in the eye.  “No one had to tell us, because we all knew Buffy Summers.”
 
“No, no.  Buffy Summers isn’t real.  It was all, it was a delusion.”  Liz was fighting to retain control.  She had spent so long trying to forget those long years.  Now these people wanted to bring it all back up.  Then a chilling thought struck her.  What if these were new delusions?  Except that Angel wasn’t new, he’d always been there.  And she had to admit that the other two seemed familiar as well. 
 
Angel sighed.  “I can show you pictures, letters.  I can tell you anything you want about my time with Buffy.  It was real, Liz.  And I don’t know what’s going on, but somehow, you’re her.  Or you were her.  And I can’t just let you leave.  Someone was trying to make sure that you didn’t get out of that hospital alive and I can’t help but think that it has something to do with Buffy.”
 
She laughed a little hysterically.  “So, if you’re saying Buffy is real, then what everything else is real too.  There are really vampires and demons and werewolves wandering around out there?”
 
Cordy and Wesley both cut their eyes to Angel, who nodded.  “Yes there are.  Do you want proof?”
 
Liz looked him straight in the eye and nodded.  Angel’s face transformed.  She jumped a bit but quickly got hold of herself.  Leaning toward him, she stretched out a hand running it over his brow ridges, down his cheek.  Again, it was all so familiar.  Then, blushing, she pulled back.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to...” she trailed off.
 
“No, it’s okay,” Angel said as he shifted back to his human visage, stopping himself from grabbing her hand and holding against his face.  He remembered the first time Buffy had touched his face in just such a way, how she just hadn’t cared what he looked like.  She was the first person to see him as just Angel.  And now, here she was sitting in front of him, thinking their entire history was a dream. 
 
They all jumped when they heard a small tap on the door.  Looking up, they saw Fred hovering timidly, not wanting to interrupt the emotionally charged atmosphere of the room. 
 
Wesley responded first. “Fred, did you need something?” 
 
“Um, yes, well, the police are downstairs.  They want to talk to you and Angel.”
 
Every eye in the room pivoted to Liz, knowing that somehow the police visit was connected and waiting to see if she was going to start screaming that she had been kidnapped.  She looked at them wide-eyed and said, “You’d better go see what they want.”
 
Angel looked at her.  “Buf,” he winced and started again.  “Liz, they are probably here about you.  I would really feel more comfortable if you stayed here until we can figure all this out.”  She wouldn’t look him the eyes and it made him nervous.  What would she say if the cops wanted to talk to her?  “If it’s okay with you, I’m going to tell them that you’re not here.” 
 
She shrugged.  Part of her wanted to run screaming down to the police officers and have them take her somewhere safe, away from these people who believed in vampires and demons and Slayers.  But another, increasingly large, part of her kept saying to trust them, to trust Angel.   Her head versus her heart. 
 
Angel, Wesley, and Cordelia shared a worried look as they left the room.
 
~~BA~~~~BA~~~~BA~~~~BA~~

Angel descended the stairs slowly, casually as he scanned the five officers waiting in the lobby, being watched carefully by a defiant looking Gunn.  He saw two faces he recognized, neither as a friend.  Angel moved over to the reception counter, where he pretended to scan phone messages, before finally walking over to the officers.  Wesley and Cordy arranged themselves behind him, while Fred hurried over to stand next to Gunn.
 
“What can I do for you, Detective Ryder?” Angel said, addressing the tall plainclothes officer that had been hounding him for years. 
 
The detective snarled, “Come off it, Angel.  Where is she?”
 
“Who?”
 
“We have you and the Brit on tape taking her from the hospital.”  Wesley winced, he hadn’t thought about security cameras in his rush to get her out of there. 
 
Angel just smiled.  “If there’s a problem with the bill, I’m sure she’ll be happy to settle up at a later date.”
 
“Angel,” Ryder warned.  “Don’t jerk me around.  Kidnapping an unconscious woman?  That’s low, even for you.”
 
Angel shook his head.  “Don’t know what you’re talking about.  We didn’t kidnap her.  She woke up and wanted to leave, something about not trusting that she was receiving the care she needed.  So, we helped her leave.”
 
The detective looked unconvinced.  “Well, maybe when I hear her tell me that... Where is she?”
 
“I don’t know.  We came back here, chatted for a bit and then she left.”  Angel was pretty sure this was not convincing anyone.  He was right.
 
“We’ll just take a look around ourselves okay?”  Angel made as if to stop them, when Ryder handed him a piece of paper.  “Warrant.  Don’t get yourself in any more trouble than you already are.”
 
Angel glanced at the legal paper in his hand.  It looked proper, as far as he could tell.  Ryder was splitting his men up, having two search each wing of the hotel.  Angel indicated that Wesley and Gunn should go with those searching the other wing, while he followed the two who were heading toward the room where they had left Liz.
 
Her room was about halfway down the hall and it took a few minutes for them to make their way down to it, checking each room and any adjoining bathrooms along the way.  Angel was racking his brain trying to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why he had said she was gone.  Then they were at her room.  One of the officers opened the door and stepped in, reappearing a minute later, “No one there either.”  Angel fought to keep his face impassive, now mentally willing them to hurry up and get out so he could go check the room himself. 
 
It took them another 15 minutes to declare that Liz was not at the hotel.  Ryder looked at Angel.  “We will be searching the surrounding areas and talking to your neighbors.  I can’t prove that you took her against her will, at this point.  But don’t think you’re off the hook.  We’ll be back.”  With a nasty look, he turned and led his team out.
 
As soon as they were out of view, everyone began asking questions, but Angel took off to the the second floor.  Racing into Liz’s room, followed by the rest, he saw the unmade bed scattered with some of the clothes Cordy had brought in.  A breeze alerted him to the fact that one of the windows was not shut all the way.  As he looked out, he noticed the fire escape landing directly next to it. 
 
“Dammit!” he yelled.  She was gone.