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03 November 2011 @ 10:21 am
Fic: Out of the Dark (10/13)  
Summary, Notes, and Warnings are located in the Table of Contents.

Chapter 10
Connor remained seated at the table, while his friends moved off toward the dance floor of the club.  Sasha turned and motioned for him to join her.  Fully intending to get up and follow, he found himself lifting a finger to gesture that he'd join them in a minute.  Confused as to his sudden lethargy, he settled back in his chair.  A little alarm sounded in his brain.  Something was wrong.
Trying to get his brain to focus, he was startled as someone settled into the chair next to his.  Looking over, something is wrong, he saw a friendly smile.  The stranger gestured to his eye, which still carried a bruise from his sparring with Buffy, "Looks like you had some trouble there."
Connor shook his head, trying to recall what he had been thinking.  "No," he replied slowly.  "No, I was sparring with the…"  Connor caught himself.  "Sparring with a friend in my martial arts class."  He chuckled.  "I got a little cocky, and got this as a reward."
The stranger nodded with a knowing look.  Something is wrong floated around Connor's consciousness.  He tried to take a mental picture of this person, but something was…  The stranger spoke again.  "I found this wallet on the floor over there; is it yours?"
…wrongWhat?  Connor pulled his wallet from his back pocket and shook his head, smiling.  "Nope, mine's right here," he said, putting it down between the glasses on the table. 
The stranger shrugged.  "Just thought I'd check.  It's no fun losing things."
The conversation continued.  At least, the stranger kept talking, but Connor wasn't sure he was responding with any coherence.  He kept trying to make note of the appearance, but found it difficult to focus on any one aspect of the face. 
Drifting off into a fog, Connor started when he felt a hand on his shoulder.  Jennifer laughingly leaned down and kissed him lightly.  "You're a million miles away."  She teasingly danced around his chair.  "Come on and dance!!"
Connor looked around to find he was alone at the table.  He thought confusedly, Was I just talking to someone?  Shaking off the confusion, he got up to follow Jennifer to the dance floor, where the rest of his friends were dancing. 
"Wait," she said suddenly, leaning across him.  She handed him his wallet, which had been sitting on the table.  "Don't forget this!"

Buffy sat in the now abandoned lounge, thinking.  She had come here to rest and regroup, not to get blindsided with girlfriends, old memories, and startling revelations.  Exhaustion and anxiety had her muscles tense and her brain spinning.  She turned off the lights behind her as she decided to head to the gym and try to work off some of the excess energy.

Angel lay restless on the couch, unable to find sleep.  When he heard his private elevator doors open, he debated trying to pretend he was asleep.  He knew Nina would be coming to ask why he hadn’t come to bed, and he didn’t have an answer for her.  All he knew was that it felt wrong.
Nina stepped out of the elevator, not surprised to see Angel on the couch.  He hadn’t come after her earlier and now wasn’t coming to bed.  “Angel,” she began harshly.  Taking a deep breath to get herself under control, she continued, though he hadn’t acknowledged her presence.  “Baby, why aren’t you coming up?”
Angel sighed, unsure of what to say. 
Nina frowned at his lack of response.  “She’s not in the infirmary tonight, no one’s attacking her in your building.  Last I saw, she seemed to be having a pretty good time, actually.  I think you can afford to take a couple of hours for yourself… for us,” she tried to soften her voice for the final bit of that sentence.  He had always been a sucker for the romantic stuff.
“I am taking some time for myself, Nina.”  He pulled himself upright and looked at her finally.  Suddenly realizing he didn’t even know when she had left the party earlier, he felt slightly ashamed.  “I’m sorry, I know this has to be hard for you.  It’s just that with everything that’s happened…” he trailed off.
Nina leaned against Angel’s desk.  “You still have feelings for her?” she asked.
Trying to remember if Cordelia had ever coached him on how women like that question answered got him nowhere.  He shrugged tiredly.  “I didn’t think so.”
Nina let out a little laugh.  “So, after three years together, you suddenly decide it was all what? A mistake, a way to fill time?“
Angel shook his head.  “No, Nina.  None of that,” he protested, although deep in his heart he was unsure.  But Buffy had made no secret of the fact that she was leaving as soon as she could, had wasted no time in telling the world that she was just fine with Angel’s relationship with Nina.  Did he really want to throw away a good thing for the memory of a great one?
He stood and crossed the room.  Looking at Nina, he said, “I’m with you now.  I just need some time to sort out things in my head.”  He moved to take her in his arms, but she moved away.
“Fine,” Nina bit out.  “Take all the time you want.  You know where I’ll be when she leaves.”  And she’d better leave, she thought as the elevator doors closed behind her.
Angel paced his office a few times before realizing he wasn’t going to get to sleep any time soon.  He headed out to try to exhaust himself at the gym.
He almost turned back around when he saw Buffy just ahead of him at the entrance.  Unfortunately, she saw him before he could duck away.  Both of them seemed tense and uncomfortable. 
“Little late night workout?” Angel asked, tersely.  Images of her and Gunn were still floating in his head.
Buffy offered a noncommittal shrug as she scanned her security badge and the doors opened.  “Apparently.”  She didn't think that volunteering that she was coming in to work off sexual tension would engender a very amiable conversation.  She found her eyes lingering on Angel as the memory of Lorne's revelation returned to her.  Angel shifted uncomfortably under Buffy's gaze.  She looked both vulnerable and predatory.  All of a sudden, she shook herself slightly and said, “What are you doing here in the middle of the night?  Won't Nina miss you?”
Angel bristled.  Why did she have to keep turning the damn conversation back to Nina?  Before he could say anything though, they were interrupted by the sound of footsteps.  Both turned to face the potential threat, assuming fighting stances, which relaxed as Wesley came around the corner. 
“Ah, good, I was hoping to find you both.  I have some information that I thought you should know immediately.”
Buffy looked puzzled.  “So you came to the gym in the middle of the night?  I mean,” she looked at the three of them.  “Is this where you all hang out?  It's getting to be a regular party here.”
Wesley shook his head briefly.  “No, I checked Angel's office and didn't find him there and then saw that you scanned your card here, so I thought I'd take the chance that both of you were together.”
“What's the news, Wesley?” Angel asked.
“I believe I have identified the source of the spell, or more likely spells.”  He hesitated.  Both Buffy and Angel looked at him expectantly.  He cleared his throat.  “It was us.”
“What?”  Both of them looked floored.
“Well, not us, per se,” Wesley clarified, pointing between himself and Angel.  “But rather, Wolfram & Hart.  I found several spells in our library tonight, and until recently, the relics required to cast them were also listed in the Wolfram & Hart inventory.  Now they are not.”
Angel and Buffy both became very still.   Angel’s face was grave as he considered the possibilities.  “Does this mean it was someone here?” he asked.
Wesley shook his head.  “No, it was general Wolfram & Hart material, accessible from any of our offices worldwide, possibly beyond.”
 “I’m leaving in the morning,” injected Buffy.

“What?” Angel replied, aghast.  “Buffy, you can’t,”
She cut him off.  "Not only am I up against a killer with no conscience, but he's supplied by your buddies,” she looked almost accusingly at Angel.
Angel’s eyes were imploring as he said, “Please stay.  Now that we know where the spell originated, we can find out who accessed it, maybe even how to reverse it.  Right, Wesley?” he asked almost desperately. 
“Absolutely,” he replied.  “Fred is still in the library looking into it.  I thought about pulling in the rest of my staff, but at this point, I’m not sure who to trust.  But we will find the information we need,” he assured Buffy.
Buffy sank against the wall, trying desperately to control the waves of grief and fear that she felt welling deep inside as a new thought occurred to her.  Breathing deep and focusing on an inane picture hanging on the wall across from her, she steeled herself and said, “I have to go.  He knows I’m here.”  She laughed almost frantically.  “He’s going to come here and he’s going to kill you.” 
“Buffy, you can’t be sure he knows you’re here.”
She sighed.  “We haven’t gone out of our way to hide it.  I went to your freaking party right in front of everyone!  And people talk, Angel.  Harmony alone is good to tell at least 50 people.  I mean, the Slayer staying at Wolfram & Hart?  Come on, that must have set the grapevine on fire.”  Angel couldn’t think of an answer to that.
She pushed off the wall and stood in front of Angel looking up at him.  “Maybe,” she mused, still bordering on a type of muted frantic hysteria.  “Maybe if we stage some type of argument, some very public exit.  Maybe, maybe we can convince him that I don’t care about you anymore, that there’s nothing for him here.  He’ll follow me, and...” Buffy faltered.
Angel secretly thought that it wouldn’t be that difficult to persuade her pursuer that she didn’t care anymore if he had been privy to their interactions of the past few days, but shook his head.  “You know that won’t work, Buffy.  We’re safer if we all stick together.”
She smiled sadly.  “No, Angel.  Willow and Giles, Dawn, Xander,” her eyes shone with tears, “they weren’t safe and I was right there.  The best thing I can do for you is to get gone.  I’ll say goodbye in the morning before I leave.”  She turned on her heel and moved away before Angel could protest, and before she could change her mind.
Angel watched her leave.  Never taking his eyes off her retreating form, he said, “Wesley, find an answer.  Fast.”

Buffy returned to her suite, slowly, tiredly.  It would be so difficult to leave this, the comfort, the companionship, but it was her only option.  And it wouldn't be for long.  She wouldn't hide this time.  She would lead this bastard away, whoever, whatever, it was.  A few days, a few hundred miles.  Then she would stand and fight.  She had no illusions that she would win, but she wasn't going to go down hiding and scared.  She would go down like a Slayer.
She started repacking the few possessions she had unpacked from her knapsack, but looked longingly at the bed.  It had been so long since she'd slept in a bed, and it didn't look like she would get another chance.  Grudgingly, she gave in to her longing and laid down on the soft mattress.  A smile flitted across her face for just a moment before she fell asleep.

Some time later, he stood over her.  She looked better than she had in Cleveland, obviously had been getting more food and more sleep.  He shook his head; she should know better.  Looking around the room, he saw her half-packed bag.  She was leaving sooner than he had anticipated; he would have to move up his plans.  Leaving her his gift, he slipped out the door and down the hall.