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03 November 2011 @ 10:52 am
Fic: Out of the Dark (8/13)  
Summary, Notes, and Warnings are located in the Table of Contents.

Chapter 8
A few hours later, Wesley and Fred accompanied Angel back down to Buffy's room.  They entered just as the doctor was finishing examining her.  She looked at the doctor expectantly.  He hemmed and hawed to himself as he wrote some notes on her chart.
Buffy finally spoke up impatiently.  "Well?  Can I leave now?"
The doctor looked up.  "Hmm?" He raised his eyebrows, looking startled for a moment.  "Oh!  Soon, Ms… errr…  Summers.  I just want to review your most recent blood work.  Just another half hour or so."  He put her chart on a hook on the wall and left.
Buffy sighed and slumped back on her pillows.  She looked at her guests.  "I don't like your doctor," she groused. 
Angel smiled briefly.  "You don't like any doctors," he replied. 
"True," she admitted.  She looked at Fred and Wesley pulling up chairs and said, "I guess I'm about to be treated to a 'here's what's happening' speech?"
Wesley cleared his throat.  "Yes, well, I guess that's accurate."
"So, go on."  Angel settled himself on the end of Buffy's bed.  He noticed that Buffy seemed to be trying to look anywhere but at him.  He sighed inwardly.  Despite the fact that he had not been able to get any sleep due to his mind continuing to process his current dilemma, he was no closer to an answer than he was at the beginning of the night. 
Wesley began.  "Buffy, we believe that we have ascertained the reason behind the abrupt downturns in your health."
"Boy, you guys just never outgrow Watcher speak, do ya?" Buffy interrupted.  She was in pain, she was bored, and it just never got old to needle Wesley.
Wesley was silent a moment as he strove to maintain his composure.  While his shortcomings as Buffy's Watcher were not nearly as egregious as those that had affected Faith, he nevertheless found himself unwillingly drawn back to a time when he was only a fresh young recruit with no idea of how to function in the reality of the world into which he was thrust.
"We believe that the wound you sustained in your encounter with the creature pursuing you is somehow tied to your emotional state.  That extreme emotions trigger a worsening of your symptoms."
Buffy looked unconvinced.  "Sleep is an extreme emotional state?"
"Not sleep itself, but the dreams you are having while you are asleep.  Dreams of the original attack, which I'm sure evoke pain, fear, anger…"
"Disillusionment," Buffy muttered softly under her breath.
"Do you remember something?" Wesley asked sharply.  Buffy shook her head slowly as she searched her mind.  There were no images, but she could feel a deep sense of disappointment, of lost hope. 
"Not really," she replied.  "Just a feeling." 
Wesley made a mental note before continuing.  "Of course, the night you first ran into us, seeing Angel again for the first time in years was obviously emotional."  Fred noticed Buffy's expression shuttering as Wesley kept talking.  "Then there was the dream, followed by last night's conversation with Nina."
"What do you mean?"  Buffy's voice was like ice.  Wesley looked up in concern.
Before he could make her more defensive, Fred jumped in.  "Guys, I may have been a little off in my ideas."  Both Angel and Wesley looked as if they were about to argue the point, so she continued, "Would you mind giving Buffy and me just a minute alone here?"  She tried to put as much of her meaning into her eyes as she looked at Wesley as she dared.
Fred relaxed greatly as Wesley nodded, and touching Angel on the shoulder, motioned him to follow into the hallway.
Fred giggled nervously as she turned back to Buffy.  "Guys," she said, shrugging.  "What can we do with them?"
Buffy just looked at her.  She didn't like where the conversation had been going and was even more unsure now that Fred was going all 'girl solidarity' on her.  They wanted her to admit that she still had feelings for Angel, that this whole stay was an 'emotional ordeal.'  She didn't want to admit that; to bring that to the surface, well, anymore than it already was.  She didn't want to deal with it and what's more, she didn't want their pity.
"Look, Buffy," Fred began.  "I understand if you don't want to talk about, well, things.  I mean, you don't know me from Adam, and there's all this stuff going on, and people are coming at you from all sides.  So, here's the deal.  I don't know, and I don't care, what the emotions were, but I need to know if you've noticed any correlation between intense feelings and worsening of your symptoms."
Buffy couldn't help thinking how nice this girl was, how much like Willow, so earnest and guileless.  She was really trying to be helpful.  Buffy looked briefly into Fred's eyes and nodded.  She didn't trust herself to say anything, worried that she might not be able to stop the emotional venting that lay waiting inside.
"Thank you," Fred said quietly and motioned the guys to come back in.  "I was a little off in some of the specifics," Fred said as they entered. "But there does seem to be an emotional tie-in.  So, I’m off to go see if there's anything in the Wolfram & Hart files about custom viruses or bacteria."
"Whoa, whoa," Gunn stood outside the door, grinning.  "I got a proposal."
"And who's the lucky lady?" Buffy joked.  They had spent some time talking the previous evening while dancing.  She found Gunn to be easygoing, fun, and intelligent. 
"Man, I wish.  But no, since I'm sure all of you, along with me, are suffering a severe case of party interruptus, I move that we continue the festivities tonight at Lorne's."
"I don't know," Angel replied, glancing at Buffy.  "We don't even know if Buffy will be up and around by then."
"Nothing medical stopping that."  The doctor stepped in the room, again looking at his chart more than at Buffy.  "I see no reason that she can't go about her normal business.  Here's some more Valium.  This should help to ease the lessen the impact of your emotions on your body.   Take one every 4 hours, or if you feel particularly overexcited.  Other than that, there's nothing more we can do for her here."  And leaving the pill bottle on her nightstand, he wandered out again.
"That's settled, then," Gunn continued.  "I believe, Ms. Summers, that you have a boast to live up to?  Shall we settle the question tonight?"
"You're on.  But believe me when I tell you, that I learned from the best of them."
"Wait, what are you two talking about?"
Buffy smiled.  "Gunn here seems to think that some alcohol may loosen my tongue regarding the singing for Lorne bit.  I told him that it takes a bit more than 'some.'   He seems to think that he can outdrink me."
"No!" Angel said firmly.  "I saw what happened the first time you got drunk, I don't want to go there again."
Buffy looked at him quizzically.  "You weren't there the first time I got drunk," she said slowly.
"Yes I was," he insisted.  "You and Cordelia at the frat house."
Buffy laughed briefly.  "That wasn't drunk.  They put a Minnie in my drink."
"Excuse me?" Wesley questioned.  "A Minnie?"
"You know, where they put something in your drink to make you pass out."
Angel groaned.  "A Mickey Finn?" he suggested.
Buffy shrugged.  "Sure, whatever.  But I wasn't drunk."
"Oh, so they drugged you two for…" Fred trailed off, looking shocked.
"Oh, nothing like that.  They just wanted to feed us to a giant snake thing."
Angel felt that the entire conversation had gotten too far off the point, which was that he didn't feel like watching Buffy get drunk, and… "So, who exactly was teaching you to drink the first time you got drunk?"
Buffy looked anywhere but Angel when she said softly, "Spike." Maybe it was the Valium working, but she didn’t feel the same pleasure at taunting Angel with her relationship with Spike that she had the night they went patrolling.   Angel got up and walked across the room to try to give himself time to collect his thoughts and not hit anything.   He knew how Spike drank and a whole host of unwelcome images came crashing through his head. 
Buffy shrugged, suppressing the uncomfortable feelings.  "Anyway, sounds like a great plan.  I didn't quite get to finish my relaxing last night."
Angel returned to his office, preparing to meet with Buffy and Wesley.  Buffy had to stop by her suite and change her clothes.  The ones she had worn the night before had been cut off in the emergency, and she had left the infirmary wearing a set of Wolfram & Hart scrubs.  Wesley was stopping by his office to check in on his other cases.
As Angel stepped in, he saw Nina sitting in his chair.  Noting that he should have expected this, he closed the door behind him.
“Angel, we need to talk.”
“I know, Nina,” he replied.  “It’s just not a good time right now.  I have some people coming for a meeting in a few minutes.”
She summoned up a smile as she thought, “What a surprise.”  Aloud she said, “I understand.  How about you come up in a couple of hours and we’ll have lunch?”
Angel hesitated.  He had been expecting an argument, not an invitation.  Changing gears, he nodded.  “Of course.  Lunch.”
She smiled again and as she stood up and headed for the elevator.  “Have a good meeting.”
He stared after her wondering what the hell had just happened.
Over the next few hours, Angel, Buffy, and Wesley discussed the implications of their new knowledge regarding the emotional impact of the spells on Buffy.  As Angel had expected, the conversation kept returning to Buffy’s reticence to remain on the valium regimen. 
"Wesley, I can't stay on the valium indefinitely.  A) it dulls my reflexes; 2) I'm not staying here, so I can't keep getting it from your doctor; and lastly, even if you do get me some kind of never-ending prescription for the stuff, I can't afford to constantly be buying pills."
"That brings up a question I had, Buffy," Wesley responded.  "How do you afford things?  I mean, how do you buy the things you need to survive?"
Buffy shifted a bit uncomfortably in the big armchair for a moment, before straightening up and assuming a look that Angel had begun to associate with the 'hard' side of Buffy that he had been seeing in the past few days.
"However I have to," she said bluntly. 
"Well, yes, but what does that mean?" Wesley prompted.
"What are you asking me Wes?  Would I kill for food?"
Wesley sat up, taken aback at her brusque attitude.  The reports from Gunn's contacts hovered in his mind.  He reminded himself that this was not the same young girl he had met years ago.  That her nature contained violent and intense passions and, at times like this, she was not at all a team player.  "Yes… have you killed?" he questioned, deliberately changing the question from a hypothetical to a factual nature.
She stared at him for a minute, then forced a laugh.  "Come on, Wesley!  No, I haven't killed for food, or shelter, or clothing.  When I think that the creature is more than a few days behind me, I try to get a job.  Something that pays cash.  I use that for as long as possible.  But, honestly, it's not always an option.  So, yeah, I steal some things – food, weapons – but most everything else, I just make do."
"Where do you sleep if you don't have money?"
She shrugged.   "Anywhere that affords me decent protection.  You've seen me; I don't sleep a lot, so it doesn't make sense to spend money on a motel or anything for just a couple of hours."
Wesley wondered if it was worth it to pursue her interactions with humans over the past few years, but thought perhaps now was not the best time. 
Suddenly, Angel looked at the small clock on his desk and groaned.  He got up, speaking as he walked toward his private elevator.  "I just remembered I have an… appointment," he hedged, referring to his agreement to talk with Nina.  He looked back as the doors slid open to find Buffy looking pointedly at him.
"An appointment," she snarked.  "In your apartment?"  Angel couldn't really think of a way to answer. 
"Say hi to Nina for me," Buffy cooed as the doors closed.  Angel slumped against the back wall of the elevator and closed his eyes.
Wesley continued to press his assertion that Buffy should remain on the valium treatment until they could devise a more permanent prognosis.  Before he could make any headway, his assistant came in to remind him of an appointment that was waiting in his office.
"Oh, go on," Buffy answered in response to Wesley's concern at leaving her alone.  "I promise I won't snoop," she continued with a facetious wink.
After Wesley left, pulling the door almost closed behind him, Buffy moved over to sit on the couch by the window and look out at the city as she thought.  The valium was wonderful, as far she was concerned.  It really took the edge off her tumultuous emotions.  She could feel the pain as she imagined Angel and Nina one floor above her, but it no longer was the icy knife through the heart.  She realized she would have to leave soon, however.  Magic pills only worked for so long. 
She didn't know how long she had been sitting there, when there was a slight tap on the door as Connor pushed it open.  "Angel?" he called.
Buffy looked up and smiled thinly.  "He's upstairs, meeting Nina for a nooner."
Connor walked over to Angel's desk where he left a pile of paperwork on the chair.  He shrugged.  "Oh well, it wasn't anything urgent.  Although, that doesn't really seem like him," he mused. 
Buffy shrugged listlessly.  "I wouldn't really know."
Connor looked at the woman staring unseeingly out the window.  She was so different from the one he had seen the night before, prior to the medical emergency anyway.  Last night, she had been so sexy and sensual and full of life; now, she seemed to have to concentrate just to remember to breathe.  He wondered how much of last night was just an act.
"Hey, you like movies?" he asked suddenly.
She looked at him quizzically.  "I haven't seen many recently," she chuckled dryly.  The few times she had the money to see a film or had been able to sneak into the theater undetected had mostly been used for naps.
"Well, you wanna?"
Buffy glanced at the ceiling.  "I promised to play by Angel's rules while I'm here.  He'll lose it if I leave the building."  Connor detected a note of regret underneath her nonchalant response.
"You don't have to leave the building," he said smugly.  "Lorne's got a great theatre room all set up.  Plus, he's got promo copies of all the new movies coming out in the next month or so.  What do you say?"
Buffy brightened just a bit, and a genuine smile crossed her face.  "I say, what are we waiting for?"

It was a few hours later when Angel finally managed to track down his missing charge and missing employee.  He shook his head as he viewed them in a full-blown popcorn fight while the latest Bruce Willis action flick moved across the screen.  Angel sighed and called Wesley to let him know to call off the search.  He shook his head; Connor may be very responsible and have abilities above and beyond normal humans, but he was still a very young person who could 'forget' to mention where he would be for hours at a time.
Angel stuck his head through the screening room door.  "Guys?" he called.
The giggling stopped suddenly and they each looked up at him with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes.  Then suddenly, a rain of popcorn sailed through the air pelting him from head to toe. 
"Yes?" Buffy replied finally, when the latest round of laughter had subsided. 
"Well, I wanted to let Connor know that he's off the clock and can remove his nose from the grindstone, but I guess that's not really necessary," Angel said, with a pointed look at Connor.  Connor didn't say anything, but decided there was something on the floor requiring intense scrutiny.  "And, for both of you, Gunn's post-party party should be starting in about an hour.  I thought you might want some time to wash to the popcorn grease out of your hair." 
Connor and Buffy started trudging toward the door, both trying to suppress the smiles and laughter that kept threatening to break through when they looked at Angel's gelled hair adorned with his own set of popcorn kernels.  Buffy had no problem with the not smiling after Angel pressed another Valium pill into her hand as she passed him on her way out. 
"Well, a shower does sound good, so I'm off to my room.  I'll see you guys at Lorne's."  With a wave she headed down the hall.
Conner started to try to slide by Angel but was stopped by a hand on his arm.  He looked guiltily into Angel's stern face.
"One, you are going to go back in there and clean that mess up.  You know Lorne will have a fit if you leave his room like this.  And two, Connor you're on the clock!  What are you doing watching movies all afternoon?" 
Connor shuffled his feet.   "Well, she's kinda like a client, isn't she?"  Angel just looked at him.  "No, really.  I came by your office while you were off on your little lunchtime adventure, and she looked so down, I thought it would help if she could just chill out for a bit."
Angel saw a bit of sense in that, but, "Wait, what lunchtime adventure?"
Connor blushed a bit.  "Buffy said you, umm…" he cleared his throat and mumbled quickly, "went up for a nooner."
Angel eyebrows raised in surprise.  "A nooner?"
"Yeah, you know.  When you go at lunchtime to get…"
Angel cut him off.  "I know what a nooner is.  Why did she say that?"
"Well, where were you?" Connor asked.
"Upstairs, with Nina."  Connor gave him a ‘duh’ look and Angel stammered, “Talking, just, just talking.” He recalled the vaguely surreal conversation where Nina reaffirmed her commitment to supporting Angel and his work.   Angel faltered, remembering the look in Buffy's eyes when he said he had an appointment.  Did she really believe he would take a break from working on her case to go have sex?  "Oh," he said.