Conduit

 

by Cynamin

 

Disclaimers: Not mine, never have been mine, never will be mine. Yes, it’s a sad state of affairs.

Content: As usual, B/A. Very few of my fics aren’t.

Rating: Er, PG-13?

Spoilers: Very vague Buffy season 5/Angel season 1. Nothing specific, seeing as how I haven’t watched in over a month.

Author’s notes: It’s a short story and it takes place this season – I think I may faint from the rarity of that. Aside from that, Angel’s good fairy is at play again. You have been warned. :)

Feedback: Tell me I’m great, tell me I suck – feedback and flames will both be cherished.

 

 

 

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Angel was in pain. His entire body was filled with a dull ache, but mostly it was the shallow slash across his abdomen he was feeling. It was from the claw of some demon Angel had never encountered before. Angel had won the fight, but he’d been left with this wound to remember the demon by.

 

His steps were getting slower by the time he reached the Hyperion Hotel. Instead of feeling better, he was feeling worse. Every step made his wound hurt more. I’ll be fine once I rest, Angel told himself. Heal.

 

By the time he got back to his room, Angel didn’t even have the strength to clean and bandage himself before collapsing onto his bed, instantly asleep.

 

 

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Dreams of demons, flashing claws, heat and pain chased Buffy back into the waking world. Upon opening her eyes, the pain didn’t leave her. Buffy groaned in misery. Rolling over and pulling the blanket back over her head.

 

“Buffy?”

 

“Mmm, g’away,” Buffy muttered from under the covers.

 

“Honey, what are you still doing here?” her mom’s voice asked from the doorway. “Don’t you have class today?”

 

“Mom?” Buffy asked, peaking up over the covers. “What time is it?” she asked groggily.

 

“It’s nine a.m.,” Joyce replied. “Are you feeling all right? You don’t look so well.”

 

Buffy sat up out of the covers a bit further. Her mom came into the room and sat on the edge of the bed, making Buffy wince as the movement made her hurt worse. “I don’t feel so well,” she said at last.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“I hurt,” Buffy said slowly.

 

“Did something happen last night? Did you get hurt?” Joyce asked even as she reached over to feel Buffy’s forehead. “You’ve got a fever.”

 

“Of al the times to come down with the flu,” Buffy groaned, sitting up higher. “Could you pass me the phone and my bag? I need to call my professors and tell them I’m not coming to class. And Giles to say I won’t be training today.”

 

“I’ll do it,” her mom said, standing. “You just rest, and feel better.”

 

Buffy smiled. “Thanks, Mom."

 

 

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Vaguely, Angel heard Cordelia enter the hotel. He could hear her calling for him from the lobby. “Hello, is anyone here?”

 

Angel groaned and looked up at the ceiling. He really should be getting up. Hell, he really should be feeling better. He wasn’t; if anything, he was in even more pain than before. Moving was not an appealing option.

 

“Angel?” Cordelia’s voice called again. She was up the stairs, in the hallway now. “Hello, somebody answer me here!”

 

Angel groaned and forced himself out of the bed. It took way more effort than it should have to even stand. Taking an unnecessary breath to steady himself, he then walked very slowly towards his doorway. “I’m right here,” Angel said from his room, discreetly leaning on the doorjamb for support.

 

“Thank goodness!” Cordelia said looking at him. “When you didn’t answer, I was worried... What the hell happened?!”

 

Angel suddenly remembered that he was still wearing the same shirt as he had during the fight last night. “It’s nothing,” he replied, trying to be nonchalant. “Just a scratch.” Angel stepped away from the doorjamb to go change his shirt...and his legs gave out from under him.

 

“Yeah, right, ‘it’s nothing,’” Cordelia said, hurrying to his side.

 

“I’m fine,” Angel tried again, struggling to his feet.

 

“No you are not ‘fine,’” Cordelia said with certainty, crouching next to him. She supported some of his weight and helped him stand. “Come on, you’re getting back to bed,” she said, helping him across the room. “Damn it, Angel, vampire’s can’t get sick, can they?”

 

“No, they can’t,” Angel agreed as he collapsed back on the bed.

 

“Well, you seem to be running a fever anyway,” she replied testily. “Come on, help me get your shirt off so that I can clean you up.”

 

Angel groaned as he rolled over slightly to get his shredded shirt off his shoulders. That sound was echoed by a hiss from Cordelia as she looked at his wound.

 

“Okay, that’s nasty,” she said. “Uh...I don’t think this is healing right. What did this?”

 

“A demon,” Angel replied vaguely. His head was starting to feel...fuzzy.

 

“Then I’m going to call Wesley and see if we can find out what sort of demon it was, okay?” Cordelia said moving about the room.

 

“Good...idea.”

 

“Meanwhile, I’m going to put a bandage on that.” She sat on the bed next to him, a washrag in hand. She hesitated a moment. “This may hurt a bit.”

 

“Just do it,” Angel said through clenched teeth. It couldn’t hurt much more than it already did.

 

A moment later he was proven wrong and screamed his way into unconsciousness.

 

 

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Pain blossomed in her midsection, coursing through her like nothing she could remember feeling before. It was waves of agony, crashing through her with no regard for anything else. The pain tore her apart from within...

 

And abruptly ceased.

 

Well, not completely. It faded back to the ever present, ever growing pain she’d been feeling since she awoke. It faded enough for her to be aware that she was gasping for breath and that her throat was raw from screaming. She whimpered in misery.

 

She’d been too caught up in the pain to hear the two people come thundering up the steps, but she couldn’t ignore them when they entered the room. “Buffy!”

 

Buffy looked at her visitor, blinking in confusion. “Willow? What are you doing here?”

 

“I came here to check on you and you started screaming when I entered the front door,” Willow replied quickly. “Come on, let me take a look at you.”

 

It was then that Buffy realized that she was curled up in a ball, protecting her stomach. With a supreme act of will she uncurled herself, going back to lie on her back, taking deep breaths to calm herself. “There’s nothing wrong,” Buffy said weakly.

 

Willow gave her a disbelieving look even as her mother spoke up. “You don’t scream like that if nothing’s wrong!” she said. “You scared me. We’d better take you to the hospital.”

 

“No!” Buffy yelled quickly, sitting up despite the pain.

 

Willow put a hand on her shoulder until she laid back down. “I know you don’t like hospitals, Buffy...” she began.

 

“You don’t understand!” Buffy protested, just coming to a revelation herself. “It’s not my pain!”

 

“Buffy...” her mom tried again.

 

Buffy shook her head and took a hold of Willow’s arm forcefully. “It’s not my pain,” she said again, calmer but with certainty.

 

Maybe it was something in Buffy’s expression, but Willow’s eyes suddenly went wide. “Whose pain is it, then?” she asked, believing.

 

The truth of it scared Buffy more than she cared to admit. “It’s...Angel’s.”

 

 

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Angel blinked slowly as he came to, his vision reluctant to focus. He could feel the bandage pressing against his wound, but he honestly didn’t know if the increased pain he felt was from that or simply because his condition was getting worse. Whatever his condition was.

 

He attempted to sit up, but that just sent the pain shooting back through his body, almost making him black out again. He barely stopped himself from crying out. Okay, no moving. Good idea.

 

“You’re awake,” Wesley’s voice came from near at hand.

 

“Wesley?” The fact that his own voice was barely a whisper didn’t do anything to comfort Angel.

 

“I called him, remember?” Cordelia said. “To see if we can find out what did this to you.”

 

“Oh yeah,” Angel muttered. “Any luck?”

 

“As of yet...no,” Wesley replied reluctantly. “Though it would help if you could tell us more about what happened.”

 

Angel swallowed. “Claws. The demon had claws.”

 

“That’s what got you?” Wesley asked quickly.

 

“Yes.”

 

Cordelia hurried from the room, likely to get on her demon database. Wesley sighed. “The thing is...from the reaction you’re having, it seems like there was some sort of poison...on those claws.”

 

It didn’t feel like the last time Angel had been poisoned, but he nodded very weakly anyway. There wasn’t much else that made sense.

 

“We will fix this,” Wesley said confidently. “You just rest easy.”

 

Angel nodded again. There wasn’t much else he could do, after all.

 

 

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Giles was in the house too, now, and Buffy could hear the group of them talking downstairs. She couldn’t make out any of what they were saying, but the fact that it wasn’t being discussed with her didn’t bode well. Buffy bit her lip to keep from making any noise as she sat up, then swung her legs over the side of the bed. Balancing herself against it, she stood very slowly. That accomplished, she took slow, deep breaths before going any further. Walking all the way downstairs was going to be the hard part.

 

Knowing that the pain wasn’t hers made it a little easier to ignore – and she did know it was Angel’s pain, despite what anyone else might think – but it was still there. Every step she took jarred her entire body, making her want to whimper in pain. She was the Slayer, though. She could do this. She could walk down the hall, and then down the stairs.

 

Yeah, you just keep telling yourself that.

 

Buffy was starting to be afraid she was going to pass out by the time she reached the top of the stairs, but she’d gotten this far and she was going to make it the rest of the way. It was taking all of her determination to make it. Vaguely, she began to hear snippets of the conversation below.

 

“...to the hospital. She should be...”

 

“...absolutely right...”

 

One stair...two stairs...

 

“...try and make Buffy go...?”

 

...three...four...

 

“...give her something...”

 

...five...six...

 

“...knock her out?”

 

“No!” Buffy said as firmly as she could from her place on the stairs. It wasn’t very loud, but they heard her nonetheless. “I’m not going to the hospital. I’m going to L.A.”

 

All three of them rushed towards her. Her mother came and wrapped an arm around her. Buffy was thankful for the support, but not for the direction it was intended. “You shouldn’t be out of bed!” Joyce said, trying to help her back up the stairs.

 

“I’m not going to the hospital, and I’m not going back to bed,” Buffy said clearly. “I’m going to L.A.”

 

“Buffy...” Giles began.

 

“I know what I’m feeling, Giles,” she said, shrugging out of her mother’s support to continue working her way down the stairs. “If I am feeling Angel’s pain, then there is something very, very wrong. So I am going to find out what it is. Now, you can either drive me, or drive myself, but either way I am going.”

 

The threesome seemed a bit shocked by her remarks. Finally, Giles seemed to give in. “Perhaps one of us should call first?” he pointed out.

 

Buffy glared at him with the last of her strength. “You do that, Giles.”

 

 

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He could hear their voices near at hand, but none of what they said made much sense anymore. Everything beyond the pain was hazy, dreamlike. The pain, though...that was too real, too sharp. Angel had even given up the illusion of breathing, because even that small movement was too much.

 

“....was Giles.... Buffy... symptoms as Angel... coming here....”

 

He heard them vaguely. “Buffy?” he asked, and it came out barely above a whisper.

 

Then Cordelia was there, trying to help the poison induced fever pass by wiping his forehead with a cool cloth. Angel didn’t have the strength to tell her that even that little bit of pressure hurt. It was nice that she was trying to comfort him, as fruitless as it was.

 

“I think he’s delirious,” he heard her say softly to Wesley.

 

Maybe he was. He could have sworn he heard someone mention Buffy...

 

 

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The drive to L.A. was tense and quiet. They’d taken Mrs. Summers’ Jeep, and Giles sat in the passenger seat, with Willow in the back taking care of Buffy as best she could. Much of the drive had been agony to Buffy, and she lay with her head in Willow’s lap, semi-conscious. The two hour drive had felt like days.

 

“How is she?” Giles asked, turning in his seat to look at Willow.

 

Willow shrugged. “She doesn’t seem to be in pain now, so she’s either unconscious or...”

 

“I’m fine, and thanks for asking,” Buffy interrupted.

 

Giles looked at her in surprise. “I thought you were resting. We’re almost there,” he said. “How are you?”

 

Buffy was silent for a long moment, feeling the gentle movement of the car on the city streets. “It doesn’t hurt any more,” she said at last.

 

“Which is good!” Willow replied happily. Both Giles and Buffy looked at her, similar concerns apparent. If Buffy was truly feeling Angel’s pain before, and now she wasn’t... “Or not,” Willow concluded.

 

“Mom?” Buffy asked gently. “How much longer?”

 

“Just a couple of minutes,” Joyce said. “I’m glad you’re feeling better, honey. You had me worried.”

 

“Yeah,” Buffy replied weakly. She was still worried...very worried.

 

When the car stopped at last, Buffy did her best to prove just how good a Slayer’s recuperating abilities were. The day’s ordeal had been quite draining, and she wasn’t quite able to run, but she was still the first one out of the car. She didn’t wait for Giles to unload the books he’d brought with him, or anyone else for that matter, but walked right up to the front door of the hotel. She was well ahead of her companions by the time she entered to see Cordelia and Wesley looking at her in surprise.

 

“How is he?” she asked without preamble.

 

“It’s nice to see you, too,” Cordelia retorted. Buffy just glared at her; she was not in the mood to play games. “Come on, I’ll take you to him.”

 

Neither Cordelia nor Buffy said anything as they walked up the stairs. In the second floor hallway, Cordelia stopped outside one of the doors. “He was in and out for a while, but he’s calm now,” she said. Her facial expression showed doubt that was a good thing. “I’ll...just wait out here.”

 

Buffy said nothing to Cordelia, nor gave her another thought as she entered the large hotel room. She made her way to the bed where Angel lay, shirtless and very still. They’d actually been almost on friendly terms when they’d last parted, and now, having felt what he’d been going through for the last day... Buffy was actually nervous. No, that was fear that was gripping her stomach. He was just so still.

 

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Buffy sighed. She wanted to say something, even though he wouldn’t hear her, but the words stuck in her throat. There wasn’t anything to say. So Buffy ever so gently, and with more than a touch of hesitation, reached to place a hand on the side of his face. His skin was abnormally warm – for him, at least – from the fever they had shared until only minutes ago. Buffy pulled back, and felt a fine coating of dust on her fingertips.

 

For a moment she stared at her fingers in blank incomprehension. Then she freaked. “You are not going to do this to me,” she muttered. “You are not going to...to crumble to dust while I watch after I got everyone out here to help you. After I got my mother to drive me here, for goodness sake!” Her voice was rising in volume with every word. “Angel,” she said sternly, and then it became a plea, as she shook him, hit him...anything to get a response. “Angel!”

 

Angel gasped, shocked awake, and then turned over on his side, coughing violently. “Easy, there,” Buffy muttered, now feeling very embarrassed by her outburst. I mean, that dust could have come from anywhere, Buffy thought to herself. I doubt he exactly has a cleaning staff...

 

Finally Angel calmed, and rolled back to look at her. “Hey,” he said weakly.

 

“Hey yourself,” Buffy replied with a very slight smile. She could not begin to explain how relieved she was to see him awake.

 

Angel grinned back, seeming inordinately pleased. He put a hand to his chest, then winced slightly. “Did you hit me?”

 

“Well, umm...” Buffy stuttered.

 

“And here I was hoping this wasn’t going to be a repeat of your last visit.”

 

Buffy felt herself turning bright red. “Umm...that is, I...”

 

Angel grinned once again. “That was a joke, Buffy.”

 

Oh, a joke. Buffy wasn’t sure how to deal with that... She looked away for a second to collect her thoughts. “So, you’re feeling better then?”

 

“Much better. Better than...a long time,” Angel replied. There was an odd note in his voice Buffy could not interpret. He didn’t elaborate, though. “So, what are you doing here? And why did you hit me this time?”

 

“I’m here...because I was feeling your pain. You being poisoned made me get sick,” Buffy explained, trying to shrug off the oddness of it all. “As for why I hit you, it was really silly, and I’m sorry...”

 

Angel looked at her patiently, smiling. “It’s okay. And I’m sure it wasn’t silly,” he said, prompting her to continue.

 

Buffy sighed. “I touched you, and I felt dust. I panicked, okay?”

 

Raising his hand to his forehead, Angel wiped some of the dust away and rubbed it between his fingers, thoughtfully. Then his smile got even larger than it was before, if that was possible. “That’s it...” he whispered to himself.

 

“What aren’t you telling me?” Buffy asked at last.

 

Angel turned his smile to her. “I understand why you panicked,” he said. “Some demons deteriorate in interesting ways when they die. Vampires...”

 

“Turn to dust,” Buffy said, rolling her eyes. She was the Slayer; she knew this. It was pretty obvious that was why she had panicked. “Do you have a point?”

 

Angel nodded. “I’m still here, Buffy,” he said calmly. “The vampire...the demon isn’t.” He was grinning from ear to ear.

 

Buffy just could not comprehend what he was telling her. “What are you...” Then, it slowly began to dawn on her. “Are you...?”

 

Angel nodded and took her hands in his own warm ones.

 

“How...?”

 

Before she could finish asking her question, or Angel could reply, Cordelia had enough of waiting and entered the room. “Hey!” she said. “How is...” She cried out suddenly, and stumbled.

 

“Vision,” Angel said quickly before Buffy could worry, and went to get out of the bed and help Cordelia. Before he could do more than get out of the covers, though, she stood back up...and her eyes had gone completely white. “What...?” Angel muttered.

 

“I take it this isn’t normal?” Buffy whispered.

 

Angel shook his head mutely.

 

Cordelia – or whoever she was – smiled at them softly and walked towards the bed. “The demon’s poison attacks through blood,” she said in a voice that was not her own. “Shared blood; shared destiny. Through that, it would have destroyed you both.”

 

“What...?” Angel began to ask, but the being’s blind glare silenced him

 

“Your tasks are incomplete,” she said. “We could ill afford to loose two Warriors at this juncture. That catastrophe has been averted.” She smiled then at the both of them and clasped their intertwined hands. “Live, Warriors, and fight as is your destiny. Love, as is your calling.” Then her eyes returned to normal and she dropped as if her strings had been cut.

 

Angel and Buffy caught Cordelia before she could hit the floor next to the bed. Cordelia groaned. “Angel?” she muttered.

 

“Yes?”

 

“You know I hate the visions, right?”

 

“I know,” Angel replied.

 

“If they ever decide to talk through me again, you can find yourself another vision girl, because I’m going to find out who they are and...” she faltered. “Well, I don’t know what I’ll do, but one of us won’t survive it.”

 

Angel chuckled. “I hope they’ll keep that in mind,” he said. He looked over Cordelia to see Buffy, smiling slightly at him. “So...” he tried to begin.

 

“So...” Buffy said, but couldn’t get any further either. Then they both began to chuckle.

 

Cordelia looked at them both like they’d grown second heads. “Okay, what did I miss?” she asked. “Who gave you two ex-invalids giggle pills?”

 

That just made Buffy and Angel laugh harder. They didn’t have any words to share at the moment, but they could share this laughter. And didn’t someone say laughter was the best medicine?

 

Shared blood; shared destiny, Buffy thought, remembering the words from just moments before. I think I’m beginning to like that deal.

 

...And I wonder what Angel looks like with a tan?

 

 

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The End



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