Xander leaned against the wall beside the door he wanted to knock on, gathering himself to do what he needed to do. He didn't want to, but he had to, and this man was the only person he knew who *might* be able to help him. He forced himself off the wall and stood in front of the door, his left hand going to check the bandages around his stomach. His right hand tapped lightly on the door. It was four am, he wasn't even sure Wesley would get up. And he wasn't sure if he wanted him to or not.
The door opened and Wesley looked at the boy standing there, taking stock of him. "Is there a problem?" he asked, getting out of Xander's way. Remembering how they had related when he had been in Sunnydale, he couldn't imagine this was a social call, especially at this time of night. The boy walked in, which meant he hadn't been turned, but even he could smell the blood on him. "What happened?" he asked as he forced the boy onto the couch.
Xander looked up at him, starting to tear up. "They're all dead," he said quietly, "and it's all my fault."
Wesley's mouth fell open and he sat down beside him, automatically pulling him into his arms. "How?" he asked.
"There was this demon. He was trying to get me to use me against ...someone. So he took them out to get to me."
"I'm sorry," Wesley said, holding the boy tighter, wincing when he heard the scrape of bones. "Do you need medical attention?"
"No!" Xander said quickly, standing up and backing away from the couch. "He'll come back. I can't go anywhere else and you *can't* tell Angel." He started to do a short pace in front of the couch.
"I'll have to inform him that everyone's dead," Wesley said, trying to sound reasonable. He noticed the look of absolute fear in the boy's eyes and tried to appear non-threatening. "I'll do what I can for your injuries, but another of our group would be better able to help you. May I call him?"
"Can you trust him with your life?" Xander countered. Wesley frowned. "I'm serious, Wesley, can you count on him to save your life?"
"I can," Wesley said simply. "I'd trust Gunn with my life any day, even when we're fighting." He stood up. "May I call him, Xander?"
"Don't call Angel," Xander warned.
"If you would tell me why not, it'd be easier for me to believe that I'm not in danger," Wesley told him.
Xander stopped pacing and looked at him. "You are. Which is why I knew I shouldn't come." He ran his right hand through his hair. "I knew I shouldn't have come." He turned and headed for the door, but Wesley stopped him by putting a hand on his arm. "I can't let you die too," he said quietly.
"I won't," Wesley assured him, leading him back to the couch. "Xander, would you tell me *everything*? Please? I'd like to help you."
"I..." He looked so lost as he looked around the room, then up at the older man. "I shouldn't."
"I know you shouldn't, but telling me will keep me safer. If I know what's happening, I can act to protect myself and you."
Xander laughed bitterly. "Nothing can save me now, Wesley, nothing and no one. I know what they are and it's all my fault for not giving in to the voices."
"Then tell me so I can protect myself and my colleagues," he said firmly, sitting beside him. "What sort of demon was it?"
"I don't know it's name, but it's not like anything we ever fought before. It wasn't like smoke but it was, you know?" Wesley nodded and Xander looked down at the bandage he had wrapped himself with earlier. "It started at work. A little voice that said I was going to be it's finest present yet. I was going to be the one to get the too righteous one for them." He swallowed hard. "I told Giles and he asked me if I had taken any drugs recently."
"He could be a right prick at times," Wesley muttered.
"Yeah, well, it didn't save him when the thing came for him a few nights later." He swallowed hard. "It came for them while they were planning out a patrol schedule for the next week. I was running late because of work. I...I walked in just after it was done. That's how I know it was like smoke." He looked at the older man. "Which is why I had to know. I can't be sure it didn't infect me when it tried to take me."
Wesley took his free hand and squeezed it. "I'm sure you're not infected, Xander, but if you are, we'll deal with it. Tell me what it did."
"It *ate* them."
"Kinda," Xander said, starting to relax. Wesley was comforting. "They all had bite marks. Not great big ones, but little bite marks. All over them. Tara lost her nose." He sniffled. "Dawn was out of the store, she was with a friend."
"Where is she now?" Wesley asked.
"I sent her with Spike. He hadn't come in yet. It was still daylight." He coughed. "I stopped in and checked on Spike, but he wasn't doing anything more than trying to bat at the voice that was starting to bother him. I told him what had happened and had a small breakdown." He absently rubbed his sore cheek, the one Spike had slapped to calm him down. "He took Dawn and ran as far and as fast as he could."
"Good. Now, why can't I tell Angel?" Wesley prompted.
Xander looked at him. "Because they're trying to use me to get to him." He got free and stood back up. "Wesley, they want Angelus, not to rampage, but they want to kill him."
"So why not go after Buffy?"
"Because Angelus said Buffy was his enemy and he would only fight her. *I* was the one he was going to turn to use against the group. *I* was the one he had told everyone to leave alone because I was going to become his childe." He took a shaky breath. "*I* was the one who he came to as his bad-guy self and tried to get me to come with him and become the next Druscilla." He slumped in on himself. "I was the one he wanted the most, so they wanted me," he said quietly. "I was supposed to be the bait."
"So the demon went after the group to get to you," he finished. Xander nodded, giving him the most hurt look. "Why did you come to me, Xander?"
"Because I needed help and I couldn't go to Angel."
"But he'd help you."
"Yes, but I can't take the chance that they'll get him because of it." He swallowed again. "No one deserves to die like that, Wesley. You *can't* tell him anything."
"Then I won't," he lied. "May I call my friend to come help us?"
Xander nodded. "Make sure he's armed."
"He will be," Wesley told him, reaching for the phone and the button that was set for Gunn's number. "Xander, how do you know that Angel will die?"
"Because they said they were going to eat him too and bring about the end of the guardians of humanity."
"Oh, dear," Wesley said, standing up. He heard a voice on the other end. "Charles, I need you to come over right away and bring your first aide kit. No, not me, but there's a problem and we can't go to Angel with it. Because I said so," he said, then he hung up. "I won't go to Angel. Are you sure they won't come for him?"
"The one book Giles had left open had this demon in it." Xander walked over to the wall and took down a Watcher's handbook, flipping through the pages. "I know it was in here," he muttered when he didn't find it the first time through.
"That's a more recent copy than the one Giles used," Wesley said, quickly going for his old copy. He handed it over, watching as the boy flipped through it. He took the open book, reading the notice. "Oh, my," he sighed, sitting down on the floor. "This is what it was?"
"I think so," Xander told him, sitting on the arm of a chair. "It sounds the same. The same sorta- smoke body. The little bites. The knowing means it can eat you thing." He shuddered a little bit. "No one should die like that."
"No, they shouldn't," Wesley agreed, putting the book aside. "Xander, how badly are you injured?"
"The cloud surrounded me," he said weakly. "It tried to hurt me, but I started to swing wildly at it. I ran through a bookcase while I was trying to fight it." He rubbed his stomach again. "It got me a few times, but I still can't be sure it didn't infect me." He looked at the only person he trusted at the moment. "If you find it, you *have* to kill me, Wesley."
"If I can't, I'll let Charles do it," Wesley agreed, his heart sinking. He hadn't wanted this sort of responsibility, but he couldn't let this harm anyone else either, especially not Angel. "Let me reread this and get in touch with someone while Charles works on you. Maybe someone has the ability to see if you're infected."
"Someone knows," Xander said grimly, looking at his stomach again. "It was using someone and it let them go once it got into town. Find Ethan and he'll be able to tell you everything."
"It possessed him?"
"No, it pushed him out of his mind and forced him to do what it wanted, it took total control over his body, Wesley. He confessed to Giles that it was there. I heard him."
"The day before they got eaten. Two days after I told him that I was hearing the voice." He coughed and nodded at the door. "Someone's turning the knob."
"That would probably be Charles," Wesley said, getting up to let him in. "Good, it's you. We've got problems."
"I figured as much," Gunn said dryly, looking at the boy sitting in the living room. "What's the deal this time?"
"It's nothing I can say definitively yet," Wesley temporized. Gunn gave him a hard look. "If I tell you, it could make you a victim."
"Oh, I see," Gunn said, walking over to look at the book that was lying open on the floor. He frowned and looked up at Wesley. "You weren't kidding."
"No, I wasn't. It ate most of the Sunnydale group."
"It wanted me to get to Angel," Xander said quietly. "And you have to promise to protect him if it's in me."
"I will," Gunn told him, coming over and dropping a box on the chair. "Stand up, let's look at this." Xander stood up and took off his shirt. "English, the door," he sighed when he noticed it was still open.
Wesley quickly closed and locked the door, coming over to do what he could to help. He winced at the large open wound on the boy's side, but it was the tiny bite marks that distressed him the most. "How long did it have you?" he asked.
"About ten minutes. It didn't like the bookcase I went through. It had the ashes of someone on it and the ashes hurt it somehow."
"That's something at least," Gunn said as he finished cutting off the bandages. "Got any funky diseases?"
"Only this demon maybe," Xander told him.
"Good. Nothing bad in your past? Hepatitis or nothin'?"
"A ghost gave me syphilis for a day," Xander offered. "It cured once we got them to move on."
"Angel knew, ask him," Wesley told him. "It was done by the spirits they uncovered a few Thanksgivings back." He opened the box and took out the bottle of alcohol and cotton balls, preparing a dish full of both. "Do you have everything?"
"Everything but some antibiotics," Gunn agreed. He took the first soaked cotton ball and wiped over the first bite, ignoring the hiss. "Will this be holy water reactive?"
"No. It's not that sort of demon," Wesley told him. "Xander, can you still hear it?"
The boy gave him the hurt look again. "I can't tell if it's an echo or not. I think I'm insane."
"It's a possibility. Little things biting me would drive me nuts too, especially after it ate my friends." Gunn switched to another cotton ball, letting Wesley dispose of the first one. "Did that girl, Dawn, get it too?"
"No, he sent her off with Spike," Wesley told him before Xander had to answer. "He's guarding her. Buffy made him promise her to take care of the girl if something happened to them." He looked at the book then walked over to the phone. "I need to call on someone."
"Okay, I've got this," Gunn said, bending down to get another cotton ball out of the dish Wesley had poured them and the alcohol into. "You're well built. Construction?"
Xander nodded. "Yeah, I was," he said quietly. "I can't go back though."
"Hey, not an issue at the moment," Gunn told him quickly. "Let's just get you cured first and then we'll worry about the mundane stuff." He glanced at Wesley, then looked into Xander's eyes. "Why you and not the blonde?"
"Because Angelus was going to turn me to use against the group," Xander said quietly. "He put out word that I was going to be his next childe."
"So they figured you were the thing that would get him to fall for their trap?"
Xander shook his head. "No, they were thinking I was going to be the one able to kill him."
"Oh." Gunn bandaged a few of the small bites he had already cleaned. "Do you feel infected?"
"I can't be sure," he said, sounding lost. "I can't be sure if I'm sane or not either though, so it's not all good but it's comforting somehow."
"Do you hear the voices?"
"Yeah, but they've been plaguing me for almost a week now."
"Oh, man," Gunn sighed, starting on the large wound. "Lay down on your good side and let me check." Xander shook his head. "Why not?"
"I heard bones grating," Wesley told him as he put the phone down. He looked at Xander. "Ethan Rayne's dead also. The demons went for him again and he managed to take most of them out with him before they could possess him again." The boy simply nodded and sat down hard on the couch, whimpering in pain. "Charles, we've got to do something," Wesley said, pulling him away so they could talk. "He's right, we can't tell Angel or he'll be able to be killed by them."
"Do *you* know what you're talking about? All I saw was the cloud with teeth part and the knowing will kill you part."
"Exactly," Wesley told him. "That's why we can't tell Angel."
"Because he'll know and it can attack him?" Wesley nodded. "Good enough. Now what? He needs better medical attention."
"Yes, but he says he can't go. Something about someone coming to get him."
"Is he sane? I'm assuming you know him from your time in Sunnydale."
"I do, but I can't tell. I never saw him after such a tragedy before." He looked at the boy again. "Xander, why can't you go to the emergency room?"
"Because the doctor is there," he told them. "He's the bad guy."
"Was he connected to this bad guy?" Gunn asked.
Xander looked at him, then shook his head. "He was Glory."
"Oh." Gunn looked at Wesley for translation.
"Glory was the Goddess they took on that initially took Buffy's life," Wesley explained. "From the records Giles sent to us for safe keeping, I noted that she was a twin. The twin was a male doctor that she changed into." He sat down beside the boy. "I promise you, Xander, he's not here. I can take you somewhere very safe to get treatment and he won't get you."
"Will they be eaten?" he asked, still sounding lost.
"Maybe not," Wesley said, pulling him up. "Let's go see, shall we?" He looked at Gunn. "Would you please drive us? I know there's a pagan doctor at University Hospital."
"Sure," he said. "This is much more than I can handle. Should I call the Princess?"
Xander looked at him. "Cordy? She's still here?" Gunn nodded. "I have to tell her."
"Okay, we'll have her come to the hospital to talk about this," Wesley agreed, leading the boy out.
"But not Angel, right?"
"No, not Angel," Wesley soothed, helping him out to Gunn's truck. "We won't call him at all. I'll tell him that Spike's left Sunnydale but nothing else. I understand now." Xander nodded and rested his head on his shoulder, letting go.
The doctor walked out of Xander's room and ran into the two guards, giving them a grim look. "What bit him?" he asked them. "Do we need to worry about rabies?"
"No, you don't," Wesley told him. "It wasn't...."
"It wasn't an animal," Gunn told him.
The doctor simply nodded. "If you say so." He looked at Wesley. "Why did you bring him here and specifically ask for me?"
"We wanted your wife," Wesley told him, "but I knew we could trust you not to send him further into shock."
"I've called her," he admitted, leading them down to the waiting area. "I'll be honest, gentlemen, that boy's in bad shape. Whatever got him, did a damn good job."
"It was trying to get him to kill someone," Wesley told him. "Did you give her the message?"
"Verbatim," he agreed dryly. "Her answer was 'oh, damn, I'll look it up'." He blinked a few times. "I've patched him up for now but he needs rest and someone to talk to. You're right, he was in shock. Seeing his friends dead like that would do it to anyone. Have you contacted the town?"
"They put it down to rats," Gunn told him.
"Good enough." The doctor stood up. "He'll be staying here for the day so we can monitor him. If we need to, we can give him medication to take home with you. Who will be watching out for him? I'll need to give them some instructions." He saw them look at each other and sighed. "He has to be watched. He's not stable and even he's not sure he's sane. I can't let him go home alone."
"I'll watch him," Wesley told him. "I've got a pull out sofa, he can borrow it for now."
"Good. I'll make up the list. Come back tonight and we'll see if he can be released."
"Thank you. May I talk to him for a minute?"
"Sure, but he's been sedated."
"That will be fine." Wesley went down the hall and leaned down, whispering in Xander's ear. The boy moaned and shifted some, but he didn't wake up. "I'll see you tonight," he promised, touching the warm hand. Then he left. He needed something from the office.
Wesley and Gunn walked into the Hyperion, looking around the empty reception area. "Maybe we lucked out," Gunn muttered, following Wesley into his office. "What do we tell them?"
"The truth, without telling them about Xander."
"Oh, man, I can see that fit when they find out."
Wesley looked at him. "You have no idea. Cordelia used to date him."
"What happened to Xander now?" she asked from the doorway. "Oh, and the whole sneaking thing needs work."
"I know," Wesley said, looking at the index of one book. "There's been a horrible tragedy and we've got to talk to you, but not until I find something."
"Xander?" she asked, sounding pained.
"Yes, he's involved," he agreed, putting that book down and picking up another. "Ah, here it is." He turned to look at her. "Go get Angel up. He'll need to hear this too." She nodded and walked away, hurrying to Angel's room. Wesley looked at Gunn. "You cannot tell him about Xander or about the bite marks. He'll put it together. The very fact that you know exactly what they are and what their names are will bring them to you."
"Then why are we alive?"
"Because I don't know what their names are and I'm sure you don't. We know enough to garner attention but not to be attacked yet."
"So we're *researching*?"
"Yes, but I can force myself to skip over their names. Most books don't list it anyway." He put the book inside his jacket and zipped it up, heading out to the meeting area. "Angel, Cordelia, sit please," he ordered, sitting himself. Everyone sat and looked at him. "I've gotten news from Sunnydale. Everyone there was attacked."
"They're all right, right?" Cordelia asked.
Wesley shook his head. "No, they're not. The Sunnydale police put it down to rats."
"Wererats?" Angel asked.
"No, not them," Wesley said quickly. "I'm sorry, Angel, but everyone's dead."
"No, uh-huh," Cordelia said, jumping up. "You were talking about *Xander*, not Buffy and everyone else."
"He was with them," Wesley told her. "He was attacked also."
"Is he alive?" Angel asked. Wesley and Gunn didn't answer. "What aren't you telling me?"
"Enough to save your life," Gunn told him, standing up. "Yeah, Xander lived. No, you can't go near him, talk to him, or see him."
"He's not well," Wesley explained. "You can't go near him."
"Then let me," Cordelia suggested.
"Yes, he asked for you," Wesley agreed. "We'll take you with us tonight." He looked at Angel again. "You can *not* go looking for this, Angel. You have to accept it this time."
"Everyone?" Fred asked from her position behind Angel. "In the whole town?"
"No, not this time, thankfully," Gunn told her. "Just the ones who knew."
"Knew?" Angel asked, standing up. "They knew and didn't say anything? Was this the Hellmouth again? Where's Spike? And Dawn?"
"Spike took Dawn and ran," Wesley told him. "They left that same night. Xander managed to get to him in time."
"Is he gonna make it?" Cordelia asked.
"He's gravely injured and mentally unsure of himself, but he'll survive."
"Just not sanely, possibly," Gunn added. "We aren't sure of that part yet."
"I've taken the precaution of talking to one of the pagans I know and getting her to pass this case onto someone who might be able to do some good. I've taken all the precautions I can, but you cannot go near him, Angel, not at all."
Angel shook his head. "If you're sure."
"I'm certain." Wesley stood up. "I'm going to go home and start researching this myself. Cordelia, I'm due back there tonight, so I'll pick you up here about five?"
"Not on the bike?" she suggested.
"Of course not. Charles, may I borrow your truck later?"
"Sure," he agreed, following Wesley out the door, after waving at everyone. "That was tight lipped." He got in to drive.
"We had to ease that one fear. You were right, telling them that Xander had died also would have been rough when they finally saw him."
"What about when he sees Cordy?"
"He did say it was all right to bring her to him," Wesley reminded him. "I'm sure it will be fine."
"And she could have a vision if there's still trouble?"
"I was hoping so. My last resort would be to go to the Host and ask him for some help. Xander can hum at least."
"That might help too, but he might not be able to see these things. They're probably not native to his plane."
"No, but he might be able to see if Xander kills Angel."
"Hadn't thought of that," Gunn admitted as he started the truck and drove away.
Angel moved back further into the shadows, running into Cordelia. "I want to know what's going on," he told her.
"Wesley had his big book of folk cures," she offered. "I could call Sunnydale and talk to them."
"Do so, I'll be up in my room." He stepped back into the hotel, making sure he stayed out of any light as he went back to his brooding. This was not good. Wesley didn't lie very well.
Cordelia picked up the nearest phone and dialed Wesley's cell phone. "It's me. He heard you. What's really going on?" She listened, starting to frown after a few minutes. "But..." She sighed. "All right, I can understand that. You're sure?" She hummed and hung up, looking up the stairs to see if Angel was spying on her too.
"What's going on?" Fred asked.
"Something very bad," Cordelia told her. "But if I tell you, it'll kill you."
"Oh." She slumped in on herself. "I thought I was part of the team."
Cordelia looked at her. "No, I meant it literally. If you know about this thing, it will kill you. It can only kill the people that know about it."
"Oh." Fred brightened. "I can live with that."
"Yeah, me too." She bit her lip. "How did Xander get caught up in this?"
"Maybe he knew," she suggested.
"Probably," Cordelia agreed. "He always got into trouble, why should this time be any different?"
End, Part 1
to part 2