Mental Screwings.

Xander looked up at the ceiling, considering his own mind. He knew that something had transferred over when he had been attacked, and it was time to find out if he was sane or not. "I'm going with not," he muttered, hearing the voices again. "Either that or infected." The voices were a low hum now, but he could still hear them. He shifted until he could lay on his uninjured side, staring at the wall instead. He knew he was going to start having mental problems soon. He just had to figure out what sort he was going to have. There wasn't any way for him to get through this without a bad breakup with his mind. He considered that option. "How bad would it be?" he asked himself. "I could handle it if the voices went with it." He decided to try that, to push the voices and the last few days, out of his mind and into another mind. Another personality he could deal with, the voices he couldn't.

He pushed hard, wanting them out of his mind. He knew this was supposed to have happened naturally if it was going to happen, and usually right after the trauma, but he wanted it so bad. He could deal if he didn't have to hear the little voices anymore. And thinking about that night was still making him nauseous to an extreme he'd never felt before. He felt something starting to happen and concentrated harder, pushing it away. Finally, the voices stopped. He could sleep now.


Wesley tapped on the hospital door, walking in and sitting beside the bed. "Xander?" he asked quietly. The young man opened his eyes and looked at him. "Would you like to see Cordelia? I've told her what happened, but only enough so she's still safe." The boy on the bed nodded. "She'll be up in a few moments. How are you feeling?"

"Better now that I pushed the voices away," he said weakly.

" did what?"

"I pushed them away," he said, putting the bed's back up so he could sit up. "I can live with two of me."

"He's still probably drugged," Gunn said as he walked in. "Hey, how's it going?"

"I ache, I remember that they're dead, but the actual memories went with the voices," he told this man.

"Oh, man," Gunn said. "Can you force yourself to break off a piece of your mind?"

"Probably. The mind is an incredible organ that no one knows the limits of," Wesley opinioned. He smiled at Cordelia as she walked in. "He's awake."

"I can see that. Go get some coffee." The guys walked out, closing the door behind them. "Xander," she said as she sat next to him. "Are you all right?" He shook his head. "But are you getting toward all right?"

"On the freeway and there's a few signs saying that exit's coming up," he admitted weakly.

"Well, that's something. Can I try something?" He nodded and she laid a hand on his arm, shuddering as she was taken over by a vision. Her moans of pain brought a nurse, a doctor, and the two men into the room. "Migraine," she panted.

The doctor got her up and moving down the hall before she knew what was going on. "Visions?" the doctor asked as they rounded the nurse's desk. The younger woman gave her a funny look. "My nurse gets them, she's precognizant, but hers come in dreams."

"I get horrible visions of problems that need to be fixed, complete with shooting, brain tearing pains."

"Ah. Here, try this," she said, opening the medicine cabinet on the floor and pulling out a little white pill. "It's for migraines, and it helps my nurse."

Cordelia took the pill, not expecting much, but the pain started to ease off after a few minutes. "Wow. That helps."

"It should. It's meant for brain tearing pain," the doctor said with a smile. "Now, what's going on?"

"He isn't infected, he sucked up the knowledge of the things that got him," Cordelia said, looking around to make sure they were alone. "And he's split himself up in his mind."

"I figured as much would happen. He really didn't want to remember it."

"Yeah, but the knowledge is this little voice humming in the back of his mind, telling him about everything around him. If he was small enough to fit into the cloud that this thing travels in, he could be part of the swarm." She looked at Wesley as he came around the corner. "He split his mind up."

"I'm starting to realize that. What's this about becoming part of the swarm?"

"He's not infected, but the little hum he's hearing is the creatures' knowledge. They can tell things about people. He sucked all that up when it attacked him."

"Oh, no," he sighed. "Will it harm him?"

"Wesley, he created another him to get away from it."

"Stupid question," he agreed. "Now what do we do?" he asked the doctor, the one he had originally wanted on this case.

"Well, he's probably in good enough shape to go home, but I can keep him here for another night."

"He doesn't have insurance," Cordelia noted.

"He had some through his work," Wesley corrected. "He had the card in his wallet. Are you keeping him tonight?" She nodded. "All right then, I'll work on setting up my apartment for him to stay with me for a while."

"Angel knows now, he can come back to the hotel," Cordelia offered. "He and Fred might get along."

"Angel knows enough to want to find him and pump him for information," he corrected. "He'll die if he knows what's going on though. We've got to keep the two of them apart. Xander nearly panicked last night when I suggested that Angel could help him."

"Okay, I'll go with that," Cordelia sighed. "Did you leave him with Gunn?"

"He's fine. They were talking about construction when I left," Wesley said with a faint smile. "He's managed to separate out the bad things to this new personality."

"Which isn't really healthy," the doctor reminded them.

"Good point," Wesley agreed, "but it's easier for him to cope with it this way for now. Is there anything we should watch out for?"

"I'll have a go at him tonight," she sighed, heading back to the room. "I'll write you out a 'scrip for that medicine too," she threw over her shoulder.

"Medicine?" Wesley asked.

"There's a migraine medicine she had me take. It took away the brain ripping pain."

"Ah, I see. As long as you're not put into a catatonic state by it, I'll gladly even pay for a month of it." He patted her on the arm. "Come, let's go back to him. We've got to help him work on some things before I feel comfortable leaving him alone."

"Oh, he shouldn't be alone," she agreed. "He's going to turn into Dru pretty soon. Pushing the voices away just made it a slower process." She walked beside him down the hallway. "There's many forms of self-torture, Wes, and he's just hit on a big one. Guilt."

"I know, but we'll support him the best we can." He held the door, letting her go in first. "Fred?" he asked in shock. "How did you get here?"

"Angel brought me. He's up on the roof brooding because Xander freaked out when he saw him." She looked up from where she was cuddling him on the bed. "Gunn went after Angel and the doctor went for drugs."

"All right," Wesley said, sitting down in the chair. "I'm sorry, Xander, I don't know how he found you."

"Easy, he had me call all the hospitals in the city to see if he had been admitted," Fred told him.

"Oh, man," Cordelia sighed. "He's so gonna get it when I see him. Xander didn't need this." She bent down and gave him a hug. "I'll make sure Angel stays away from you, 'kay?" she whispered. He nodded, clinging tighter to Fred. "Can you stay with Wes for a few days? Just until we can figure out how to help you get back on your feet?" He nodded again and this time his eyes closed. "Okay."

"Well, for tonight, you'll be staying here, but we'll be dragging Angel with us," Wesley told him. "I promise, Xander, I'll have a talk with Angel."

"Thank you," he said quietly. "Can I keep her?"

"Sure, if she says it's okay," Cordelia said, looking at Fred, who shrugged. "Okay, she'll stay for now and we'll come back for her later. Want us to leave?" He shook his head. "Cool. So, now what?"

"Now, we let him rest," the doctor said as she walked in, handing Cordelia a slip of paper and pushing up Xander's sleeve so she could swab his arm. "This will put him to sleep," she told him. "Come back later and get this one." She smiled at Fred. "You're fine, dear, and if you want to stay for a while it's fine with us." She turned but everyone else had left. "They're quiet."

"They're used to sneaking around," Xander told her, yawning. "Sorry, Fred."

"It's okay, Xander. Everyone gave me comfort when I needed it, I can share it now." She rubbed his arm, watching as he fell asleep. "Will he be okay?" she asked the doctor.

"Hopefully. He seems like he's a guy I'd like to have as a friend." The doctor pointed at the buzzer. "Use that if either of you have any problems," she said quietly, then she left them alone.

Fred continued with her passive comfort. This guy needed her. It was a first for her and she wasn't going to let him down.


Xander looked around the apartment, seeing it not in pain this time, but with the enhancement of his drugs. "Cool," he said, drawing it out.

"You're quite high, aren't you?" Wesley asked tolerantly. Xander nodded at him, but he couldn't quite smile. "Would you like to nap for a bit? I can make up the sleeper sofa."

"Sure," he said, flopping down into the nearest chair and promptly falling asleep again. These were good drugs.

Wesley shook his head and went to pull out the sleeper, making it up for the younger man. He was interrupted by a knock on the door and went to answer it, smiling at Fred and Cordelia. "Is there something wrong?"

"Angel is being a putz," Cordelia said as she forced her way in. "Oh, how cute," she said. "Fred, let's get him onto the bed."

"It needs a new set of sheets," Wesley told them. "I was about to remake it."

"Let us," Cordelia said, going to grab a set of sheets. "You get him undressed so he can sleep."

Wesley blushed but he started to strip Xander's jacket off him, waking him back up. "Xander, the bed's almost ready. Let's get you out of some of these clothes so you can sleep, all right?" Xander nodded and held up his arms, letting the older man pull off the jacket and shirt. "There we are. How about your shoes?" A foot was held up so he undid the worn out sneakers also. The boy switched without prompting so they were down to the jeans. "Stand up."

"No," he said sullenly.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," Cordelia sighed. "Xander, stand up. It's nothing some of us haven't seen before." She helped him to his feet, letting the other two get the bed while she stripped him of his jeans. "There," she said, walking him over to tuck him in. "Stay there."

He nodded solemnly. "Okay."

"Major good drugs?" she asked him. He nodded again. "Okay. You nap and we'll be over here. We won't leave you alone yet." He nodded and curled up on his uninjured side and went back to sleep. Cordelia sighed and pointed at the table. "I yelled at brood guy for you," she told Wesley. "He claims he went there because he wants to know what happened to ...*her*. Oh, and we're not allowed to say Buffy's name around him ever again. He vamped out on me and nearly attacked me when I said I was looking up something from her life."

"That's reasonable at least. He'd not want to hear anything about her yet, the pain's too raw at the moment. Any other news from Sunnydale?"

"Just that the funerals were held yesterday," Cordelia said as quietly as she could. "Dawn was there, and Spike was reported to be hiding in a nearby crypt. They left again as soon as it got dark enough for him to climb onto the bike and head out of dodge." She glanced at the bed. "There was a question about what happened to him, Giles left the store to the remaining group members. I told the police officer who I talked to that he was deeply grieved and he was badly injured. He said everything's going to be probated in the next week and Xander will have to have someone to represent him."

"I'll go if you'll watch him," Wesley told them.

"Gunn?" Fred asked.

"He'll be here in case Xander needs a bit of...male help with something." Both females nodded. "What about Angel?"

"I called in a favor," Cordelia said with a faint smile. "He's being bothered right now."

"By?" Wesley asked but the girl just smiled. "I see. Maybe it's best if I not ask that question." He cleared his throat. "For now, he needs to rest. Between the medicine and his mind, he's not going to be able to get much, but we should encourage him to spend as much time resting as possible."

"Are you bringing him over?" Fred asked. "I can help him hide far away from Angel."

"We might need to," Wesley agreed. "Cordelia, have you gotten a report from the doctor? I gave her your phone number instead of mine as it's on the fritz again."

"What happened to your phone?" she asked.

"Charles backed over it the other day. It fell from my pocket," he explained at the frustrated look.

"Whatever, but nope, haven't heard from her. Does it matter?"

"Xander's not sure that he's not infected by this swarm," Wesley told her. "As it wants to kill Angel, I think it best to regulate their contact." He shrugged at her frown. "Your vision aside, we've still got to convince him of that fact and he's still reacting badly to Angel."

"Which means he can't come over," Fred said, looking a little depressed.

"I'm sure he can soon," Wesley told her, patting her on the arm. "We have to make sure it's safe first."

Xander sat up and screamed, holding his head.

"Gee, I know that feeling," Cordelia said dryly as she got up and walked over to try and calm him down. "Nightmare?" she asked smoothly.

He shook his head. "No," he moaned. "I can't get rid of the voices."

"But I thought you pushed them into your new self," Fred said.

"This is the new self," Xander told her, glaring at her. "Why do you read like a demon?"

"She was trapped in a demonic plane for a bit," Wesley told him, coming over to look down at him. "Are you really the new one?" He got a patient nod. "Then can you tell me if you're infected or not?"

"No," he grumped, pulling the covers up around his shoulders again. He really wanted to hide. "I can't tell you anything other than...." His voice drifted off as he looked at his former teammate. "When did you get bitten?"

"Last year sometime," Wesley told him, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Can you tell that?" He got another nod. "How?"

"The demons, they could tell," Xander told him, squeezing his eyes shut as tightly as he could.

"What's wrong?" Fred asked, turning her chair around to look at him.

"Everyone's been infected."

"By what?" Cordelia asked, trying to calm him down by rubbing down his bare arm.

"By *demons*," Xander groaned, pulling the covers over his head. "I'm going to hide now."

"All right, we'll talk when you wake up again," Wesley said, nodding Cordelia back to the table. He got up and walked over to his bookshelves, bringing a book with him back to the table and opening it so he could show them. "This is what bit him," he explained. "Nothing in this text is enough to make you a target," he told Cordelia when she opened her mouth.

"It says that the demons can sense what their prey is," Fred noted, reading the fine print. "Can he?"

"He's definitely been infected, but by their knowledge, not their essence. He won't suddenly shrink and start turning others to become part of a new swarm." He smiled at the boy on the bed, who was trying to appear to be asleep while listening. "It looks like Xander's pushed this new knowledge to his second personality."

"Which is really freakworthy," Cordelia agreed, "but why him?"

"Because he was going to be the bait to get Angel so they could kill him," Wesley told her again.

"Why him?" Fred asked.

"Because, at one time, Angelus wanted me to be his next childe," was said from the bed as Xander uncovered himself. He wrapped the sheet around him, covering his head again.

"Does that help?" Wesley asked. "The picture in the book shows a creature of the swarm and it appears to be wearing a cloak."

"Yeah, it might," Xander told him, curling up as much as he could without hurting himself. "The sheet seems to be blocking it. Did you know one of your neighbors was a plant demon?"

"No, but it doesn't surprise me any," Wesley told him, getting up to go get a cloak from his closet. "Here, put this on," he ordered, handing it to the young man.

Xander shuddered as he touched it, but he put it on and he did look happier. "Thank you, Wesley."

"You're welcome." He sat on the edge of the bed. "We shouldn't have to worry about you killing Angel, no one could find a trace of more than the knowledge in you when they checked you out for me." He put a hand on Xander's knee. "We will protect you though, and if you don't want to go near Angel, then we'll not push you to the hotel."

"I just have this *urge*," Xander told him, looking into his eyes. "I know that if I see Angel, especially like this, then he won't be making any long term plans." He looked at Fred, then back at Wesley. "Have you seen anything yet, Cordelia?"

"Not about this," she admitted. "When I touched you, I got jumbled images that didn't make a lot of sense."

"Like watching scrambled porn?" he suggested.

She frowned but nodded. "Basically, not that I've ever done that, but yes."

Fred stood up and walked over to him, giving him a hug. "It's okay. Angel's a big boy and he can protect himself. Even against you."

Xander snorted. "This new stuff, it's telling me all sorts of plans to get Angel," he told her, taking her hand to hold again. "You're very comforting."

"We know," Wesley said, pushing the boy back down. "Fred, would you be willing to stay here with him? I'd like to go talk to Charles and he's back at the hotel." The young girl nodded and gave him a shy smile. "Thank you." He stood up and grabbed his book, Cordelia following him out the door.

Fred smiled at Xander and tucked them both in. "Here we go," she told him. "All safe and snug."

He relaxed, eventually letting the cloak fall off him as he fell asleep.


When Xander woke up, it was still the two of them, but it was dark and he ached. "Pills?" he asked, not opening his eyes.

"You can't take one for another half an hour," Fred told him, giving him a gentle hug. "Wesley took them with him."

"When will he be back?"

"In half an hour."

"Oh. Okay." He cuddled up against her, taking comfort from having someone there. "Did you feel like this?"

"Yup," she agreed. "When I first got back, only Angel could get me to open my door. He coaxed me out of the room he had put me in, and down the stairs to talk to everyone. Everyone's been really helpful while I'm adjusting."

"That's what we do," he said, then he went white. "What day is it?"

"The same day it was earlier," she told him.

"I mean in relation to me getting out of the hospital."

"Same day."

"Good. What was Cordy talking about? The probate thing?"

"That's where a judge goes over the estates and sees if the wills everyone left are fair."

"Oh." He blinked a few times, then decided to close his eyes again. "I'll have to go back for that."

"Or you can send someone," she suggested. "Wesley would go, he said he would."

"It's my fault, I have to do this," Xander said softly.

She gave him another squeeze. "Don't be silly, the swarm could have come after any of them and they'd be the ones in your position. Or in a worse one. You never know, whomever it picked instead of you might already be dead. And Angel, which wouldn't make me very happy. I like him. He's been very nice to me."

"Yeah, he was okay when he was in Sunnydale too," Xander told him, wrapping his arms around her. "Can I do this?"

"I don't mind. I've had much worse people hug me before, and always for the wrong reasons." She let him snuggle in closer, pulling the blankets up around them again. "I know what it's like to be alone, and if you need me I'm here."

"Thanks, Fred."

"You're welcome, Xander." She kissed him on the forehead as the door opened. "Wesley," she said, giving him a smile. "He's awake and wanting his pain killers."

"It's probably the pain that woke him," Wesley said, handing over the bottle of pills. "He takes one." He watched as the boy dry swallowed a pill. "How are you feeling, Xander?"

"Crappy," he groaned. He blindly searched for the cloak and it was handed to him. "Thanks. Um, if I switch, can you please tell the other one that he needs to keep this on?" he asked as he wrapped it around himself. "It's blessed."

"I know," Wesley told him, sitting on the edge of the bed. "It seems to block some of the voices from him so that's why we gave it to him, but you can wear it if you want." Xander nodded and wrapped himself up in it. "Need anything else?"

"Something to eat?" Xander suggested lightly.

"I hadn't thought of that. We'll order out tonight." He looked the two younger people over. "Pizza?" he suggested.

"Chinese," Fred argued.

"Anything's fine as long as I don't have to eat too many veggies," Xander agreed.

"They're good for you, make you heal faster," Fred told him, sounding very much like a mother.

Xander patted her on the shoulder. "Veggies are evil, Fred. Trust me on this, I've been fighting them for many years."

Wesley smiled. It was good that Xander was able to make jokes, even weak ones like that one. "I agree, Chinese would be fine. Xander, any idea what you want?"

"Chicken Lo Mein and Shrimp and Broccoli. No carrots."

"Fine." Wesley went over to the pile of Xander's things and tossed over his wallet. "This one's on me, but I thought you might want that," he said at the confused look. "Your jacket's over here also, but I'll hang that up."

"Oh. Okay." Xander snuggled down again. "How long am I on bed rest?"

"For a few more days. The doctor wanted you to stay in bed for at least a week, but I argued with her." He smiled at the young man again. "I'm sure we'll be able to figure out what's going on soon enough." He picked up the phone and the menu from the stack beside it. "Fred, the usual?" he asked.


"All right then." He dialed and walked into the kitchen to put in their order.

Xander looked at Fred. "How long have you worked with Wes?"

"For a few months. He's been very helpful too." She patted him on the stomach. "What are you going to do once you're better?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "I guess I'll have to go back to Sunnydale sometime."

Wesley walked back in and sat on the edge of the bed again. "Xander, Cordelia's gotten some information from the town if you'd like to hear it."

The boy shrugged. "I heard most of it."

"Well, all right. They did put the attack down to rats." Xander snorted, earning a smile from Fred. "Yes, they're going with the obvious again, but it's probably for the best that way. If they actually went looking for the cause they wouldn't be much good to anyone." He patted the covered foot. "Also, there's the matter of the probate. If you'd like, I can go back for you." Xander nodded, looking serious. "Cordelia said that Giles' will left you the store as you're the last remaining member of the group."


"No one's sure where he is," Wesley reminded him gently.

"Yeah, but he could run it. He's better at that sort of thing than I would be. I always screwed up the register."

"I see. We'll see if we can find Oz in the next few days then." He patted the foot again. "Do you know if Willow and Tara had a will?"

Xander nodded. "We all made out a new one each year, had a big party and everything. Willow made one out with Tara and me. Buffy left everything to her family." He suddenly looked shocked. "Dawn? I'm not sure she's not in the wills."

"I know where Spike went," Fred told him, shocking both men. "He called to talk to Cordelia, but she wasn't there."

"Oh." Xander looked up at her. "Are they safe?"

"Yup. Dawn's in a very safe home. Spike took her to the biggest good guys he could think of and told them everything he could." She rubbed Xander's stomach some more.

"Fred, he's not a puppy," Wesley said delicately.

"But it feels good," Xander told him.

"All right, then I won't intervene." He stood up. "Xander, was there anything else worrying you?"

"What can I do to help?"

"After you're better, we'll talk about your future," Wesley assured him, heading over to answer the door. "Charles," he said, letting him in. "Is there a problem?"

"I couldn't stand being around Angel anymore," he said as he took off his jacket. "Hey, Xander, Fred." He walked over and looked down at the cloak. "That make you feel safer?" The boy nodded. "Okay. As long as it's okay. Fred, you okay? Cordy wanted to know if she should stay there so you could get back into the building."

"She'll be staying I think," Wesley told him. "She seems to be able to calm Xander down. There's nothing carnal between them," he said when Gunn looked at him. "It's perfectly safe. Even if Xander were in good enough shape to be doing something of that nature, I doubt he would on my sleeper."

"All right," Gunn agreed, sitting down in the chair. "So, kids, what's up for the night?"

"More sleep," Xander told him, curling up around Fred again. "Charles? Is that your name? I didn't quite catch it last night."

"Most people," he frowned at Wesley, "call me Gunn. English here has a problem with last names."

"That's cool," Xander said, yawning. "I think I'll eat it cold," he told Wesley as his eyes started to close.

Wesley checked his watch. "Twenty minutes for the medicine to kick in, that's a good time." He smiled at Fred. "Tell us if you need to get up and we'll peel him off you." She nodded, tucking him in better. "Why did you come over, Charles?" Wesley asked.

"Cordy found someone that used to be part of the group too. Another guy."

"Is that the Oz person?" Fred asked. "Xander mentioned him."

"Probably," Wesley agreed. "Is he here?"

"He'll be in tomorrow. She had to do some real fast talking to get him here though. Seems he had separated himself off."

"Bad things," Xander whispered. "Bad things and bad people."

"Huh?" Gunn asked.

"Oz wasn't good when he came last time," Xander told him, opening his eyes as far as he could, which was nearly halfway. "He's a were and his girlfriend moved on. The bad guys got him and he left once he was safe again."

"Oh. He'll be here tomorrow," Gunn told him. "Want to come in and talk to him?" Xander nodded, and fell asleep again. "Okay, I'll lock Angel in his room if I have to," he told Wesley. "Did you meet this other kid while you worked there?"

"Yes, Oz is a most interesting young man. Turned by the bite of a child. A musician. Very quiet if I remember right. He's one of those people that are *there* but aren't really in the picture."

"Then we'll have to see what tomorrow brings," Gunn said. "Will he wolf out?"

"Probably," Wesley sighed. "There's an indication that extreme emotional stress can cause that complication." He sat down at the table. "Charles, you'd best warn Angel to stay out of the way tomorrow. We don't want him to get hurt anymore than necessary and if Oz does change, then we'll need someone to come down and hold him until he calms down."

"Would drugs help?" Fred asked.

"It would," Wesley agreed. "We used to keep a tranquilizer gun around during high school but I'm not sure Angel has one of those."

"If not, I can get us one," Gunn said, standing up. "I'll go back to the office and prepare everything, in case." He waved at Fred. "Call when you're ready to go home and I'll come pick you up." He walked out, walking past the delivery man.

Wesley got up and went to pay for the food, bringing it over to the table and handing Fred hers so she didn't disturb the sleeping man.