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03 November 2011 @ 10:15 am
Fic: Out of the Dark (11/13)  
Summary, Notes, and Warnings are located in the Table of Contents.

Chapter 11
After an hour of getting in the way of Wesley and Fred’s research, Angel returned to his office to spend a few more sleepless hours on the couch.  As he noticed the sky brightening outside the window, he gave up on sleep and decided to go check on Buffy, on the better-than-average chance that she had decided to sneak out on him early.
His disquiet intensified as he approached Buffy’s suite, where the door was standing slightly ajar.  Mentally kicking himself for believing that she would wait until morning, he pushed the door open, stopping when he saw her sitting in the middle of the bed.  She was staring at a purple sweater in her lap, a handwritten journal laying open next to her.  As Angel moved into the room, she looked up at him wearily.  He was struck by the despair in her eyes.  He sat gently beside her.
As he looked around he saw the half-packed bag, the rumpled bed (he didn't think she had slept in the bed once since she'd been here), and then he saw the small bottle that held her valium laying on its side on the night table next to a partially filled glass of water. 
“Buffy,” he said, tension evident in his voice. What had she done?  he wondered.
She followed his glance in a daze.  It took a minute for her mind to clear enough that she understood what he was trying not to ask.  She said softly, “I only took a few.  I...”  She found she couldn’t say the words.  Instead, she handed him the journal.
Seeing no guile on her face, he decided to give her the benefit of the doubt for a couple of minutes to see if she could clarify what was happening.  He took the journal, holding her eyes for a couple of seconds until the pain in them was overwhelming him.  Looking down at the journal, he expected to see her handwriting, maybe an explanation of what was going on.  It wasn't Buffy's, yet it was still familiar.  He searched his memory and suddenly remembered what Xander had jokingly called the Dawn-meister Chronicles.  He read a couple of pages, confirming that this was indeed one of Dawn's journals.
A chill settled on him, the type of sixth sense that had helped so much over the years.  He remembered his meeting with Steven, the report that there were no personal belongings in Buffy's possession.  Where did this come from? He looked at her stroking the sweater in her lap and laid his hand atop hers, stilling it.  She looked back up at him.
Swallowing her grief, she said to him, “It was Dawn's.  She was wearing it when she,” her voice broke and she rephrased, “the last time I saw her.  I never realized that we never got it back after...”  She gripped the sweater tightly in her fist, breathing deeply, trying to shore up her tenuous control over her emotions. 
“How?  Buffy where did they come from?” he asked, not sure he wanted to hear the answer.
She half-shrugged.  “They were here when I woke up.”  She swallowed, disgust and anger in her voice as she continued, “He was here, while I was sleeping.”
“Okay, come with me.”  Angel dialed his cell phone as he got up and waited for Buffy.  When Harmony answered, he instructed her, “Close down the building.  No one in or out.”
“Okay, boss.  But what about Connor?”
Angel stopped, puzzled.  “What about Connor?”
“He’s downstairs waiting for security to clear him through.  Does he count as in or out?”
Angel started leading Buffy out of the suite toward the elevators.  “Why does he need to be cleared?”
“Well, it turns out that he lost his card this time,” Harmony nearly crowed, anxious to emphasize that she wasn’t the only one who lost them.
“Shit.  Tell Security to let him through and then lock it down.  And tell them to review the security footage for the last twelve hours.  We’re looking for someone in the guest area that shouldn’t have been there.  I’ll be right there.”
Fred had been on her way to Wesley’s office to retrieve some notes when the building shifted to lockdown.  Angel and Buffy arrived on one elevator, Buffy still looking shell-shocked, while Connor showed up a minute later on the other elevator.  Gunn also came out of his office, looking worried. 
“What’s going on, Angel?” was the question from everyone.
“He’s here, or he’s been here.  In the building, in Buffy’s suite.”  Everyone shifted their focus to Buffy.
“I’m okay.  He just kind of… left me something.”  She flashed back to the drawings Angelus would leave her, but quickly tried to focus on something else.
Connor had been shifting his weight, worried about what he had to tell Angel, feeling especially guilty in light of what had happened.
“Angel, something happened when I was at the club last night.  I think someone lifted my security pass.”
Angel nodded, having already pieced that much together.  “Did you see who it was?”
Connor laughed uncomfortably.  “Yeah.  I’m pretty sure I had a conversation with him.  But it’s all fuzzy, you know?”
Buffy nodded slowly, but Angel shook his head.  “What do you mean, ‘fuzzy?’”
“I mean, I know that I was looking right at him, but I can’t see him.”  Frustration tinged Connor's voice.  “I can’t remember what we talked about, how long we talked, just this vague feeling that I talked to someone.  And then when I got here this morning, my card was missing.  I don’t know why, but I’m sure there’s a connection.”
Harmony tottered over to give Angel more bad news.  “Boss, Security says there’s no one on the recordings that shouldn’t be.”
Angel nodded, “Then have them give me all activity on Connor’s card in the last twelve hours.”
“Okey dokey!”
“Fred, how close are we to finding the counterspells?”

“Well, Angel, I think we've got a good line on it.  There's still some question as to whether we've identified all the spells in play, but we should have something soon.”
Angel kept looking around, not able to relax.  Buffy was in pretty much the same shape.  Senses on hyper-alert, not knowing who was near or who was watching.
Harmony was typing away at her desk, faltering over the keys.  Angel stalked over, impatient for answers. 
“Well,” he asked, tapping his fingers on the counter above her desk.
Harmony, who had been seemingly been staring up into space, jumped.  “What, boss?”
“Connor's security card?  Where was it used recently?”
“Oh, yeah.”  She handed Angel a printout.  Her gaze slowly moved back up to stare toward the catwalk.  She was fighting something in her brain and couldn't stop staring.  He looked so familiar.   
Frustrated, but not surprised, at Harmony's lack of focus,  he grabbed the page and brought it over to the rest of the group.  He and Connor looked at it.  Connor pointed to a notation at about 10:30 PM the previous night.  “See, that's when I left.”  His finger ran down a number of notations starting around 2AM, “But that wasn't me.  I was on my way back to my dorm by then.”  The last notation was an entry to the guest suite Buffy was occupying.
“Fred, you'd better go tell Wesley we're going to need something quick.  I don't see any indication that he's left the building.”  Fred nodded and began moving toward the hall that would lead her to the library.
Harmony was standing at her desk, tilting her head this way and that.  “Harmony, what the hell are you doing?” Angel roared, his feelings of impotence fueling his rage.
“Don't you all see that?”
Everyone looked around and then looked at each other.  Gunn shrugged and said, “What are we looking at Harmony?”
She pointed to the top of the staircase.  “That... Him... Whatever.”  All she could see was a face obscured by mist.  “He's coming down the stairs now.”
They instantly went on alert.  Gunn, Connor, Angel, and Buffy standing in the center of the lobby, Fred hovering near Wesley's office, everyone staring as hard as they could at the stairs.  Slowly, they became aware of a distortion.  The sensation was familiar to both Connor and Buffy. 
Suppressing her desire to run, Buffy held her ground.  The distortion was moving down the stairs and toward their little group.  She stared; she began to see the face underneath the mist.  She opened her mouth, but couldn't find the name.  It stopped moving. 
Now she walked toward it, slowly, searching her memories for the name.  She circled him, half-seeing, half-feeling as images slowly filled her brain.  She remembered her meditation sessions with Giles, how he always chided her for trying to force the end to come about.  Relax, he would tell her.  Give in and let go.  She stopped and closed her eyes.
The others watched.  Once the intruder had stopped moving, he had become virtually invisible.  Angel could only barely perceive his general presence.  He waited, alert and on edge, for the intruder to make his move.  The entire lobby seemed to be holding its breath.
Buffy inhaled deeply, allowed the memories to wash over her, sunlight and picnics, laughter, danger, and dark.  She opened her eyes, looked at his face, and said, “Riley.”