Xander woke up, blinking at the bright lights over his head. "Gross," he said, licking his lips. He turned his head, looking at the man beside his bed. "How did I get here?" he asked Giles.
"It seems your heart stopped," the former Watcher said, putting down his magazine. "Blair and Jim left anyway, they decided you were in better hands with me." He smiled, moving the chair closer. "Oz left yesterday for the small tour he and the band was going on." That got a small nod. "How are you feeling?"
"Okay I guess." Xander frowned, looking down at his bound hands. "Why am I tied down?"
"Because they found a substantial amount of drugs in your system so figured this as a suicide attempt. Your physician showing up made that seem more plausible rather than less, I'm afraid." He smiled gently, running a hand through the dirty hair. "Would you like me to call the nurse?"
"Please. It wasn't what they think." He yawned, shaking his head when he couldn't cover his mouth. "Sorry, must have really gross breath."
"Yes, well, that's expected." Giles pushed the call button, sitting back before the nurse walked in.
"It wasn't what you think," Xander told the older woman in white scrubs almost an hour later, for the fifth time. "It wasn't an attempt. I use, yes, but not that much." He frowned at the test she held up for him to see. "Chronic user, make more sense?"
Philip walked in, shaking his head. "Yeah, mostly, but that's still a little bit much. I thought we agreed on weaning you off." He looked at the chart, smiling. "But this looks like you were in line so I'm not seeing a problem." He glared at the nurse. "He's being sent home, it's under careful monitoring." She walked out, slamming the door. "So," the Psychiatrist said, sitting on the edge of the bed. "You were out for almost three days. What does this tell you?"
"That I need to find a better way to control the damn things?" Xander guessed. He got a small nod. "If you'd just change the light bulb..." He winced as the hand gripped his ankle. "Easy, Philip. That hurts."
The doctor rubbed gently over the spot. "Was meant to. We'll do that tonight, once you're back in your own bed. Your friend," he waved a hand at Giles, "can be beside you and everything."
Xander nodded, yawning again. "Okay." He closed his eyes. "Tell me when it's time to go."
Xander looked up as he walked out of the hospital's front door, seeing the dark-haired man watching him. "Um, military guy?" he asked Giles, pointing him out. The older man shook his head after looking him over, but the sight of the man kept drawing his attention while they waited for Philip to pull his car around. Xander concentrated on his sense of smell, sniffing in the direction of the man, frowning. "He smells nice," he whispered, moving to the other side of his friend's still body to check him out farther.
"Xander, no," Giles said softly. "You cannot pick up someone right now."
"Not that," the young man said, obviously distracted. He was staring now, watching the man walk closer to them. "There's something... something about him that's drawing me." He blinked as the heavy hand landed on his shoulder, looking up at Philip. "Do you know him?"
"No, why?" the doctor asked.
"Because he's focused on him," Giles explained with a small roll of his eyes. "He doesn't know why but he is."
"Maybe he's the Guide," Philip suggested with a shrug. "Xander, no time to pick up strange men. Let's go work on your head." He nudged the young man but he was just standing there, staring. He walked around him, interrupting his view. "Damn, zone. Xander," he said quietly, touching the side of his face. When it didn't seem to be working, he nodded at Giles to take him to the car, turning to face the man walking toward him slowly. "So, who are you?" he asked, crossing his arms.
The young man's blue eyes flashed with hostility. "I was going to ask you the same thing. Why are you with my man?" He crossed his arms, staring at him, sneering almost.
Giles looked at this new young man as he walked back over to Xander's Doctor's side. Almost his height, dark wavy hair cut short to minimize the feminine look of the waves. Piercing blue eyes. Tanned, well-built, strong hint of muscle showing under his tight t-shirt and tighter jeans. Leather jacket, biker boots, all of it gray. He frowned, having seen him before. "Do I know you?" he asked, holding out a hand. "Rupert Giles, Xander's guardian."
"Xander huh? Like that name." The young man's voice held just a hint of Eastern, Northeastern if he were correct, accent. "I'm Darrien." He shook Giles hand, grunting at the strength. "I'm his Guide. The Wolf sent me." He smiled, showing off a row of even, white teeth. "How's the kid holding up?"
"Wolf?" Philip asked, shaking his head. "Never mind, I don't want to know yet. Get in, you can come back with us for a while." He started for the car, watching the young man get in back with his patient, who instantly woke up when the strong hand touched his bare arm.
Giles watched Xander watch the new Guide, studying his reaction. There was no fear, only curiosity and a small hint of relaxation. "So," he said to break the silence. "Which Spirit Guide sent you? Blair explained to me that they had sought intervention between Xander and his...other Guide but not what animal represented him."
"Blair's is the wolf," Xander said, turning to look at his former mentor. "I met both of them. But they said Oz was my Guide, I just had to wait." Darrien snorted. "What?" he asked, hurt.
"Just a little difference of opinion," the young man said, leaning forward, his tight jeans rustling as he forced them to bend some more. "A real Guide would have been beside you in the hospital. I'm sure this Blair is when his Sentinel's hurt. I was when mine was." He smiled sadly, getting up to sit on the arm of Xander's chair. "I had one once, a female, for almost five years. We didn't bond very well but I did the best I could. We weren't meant to be though. She died in an accident." He looked toward the door as Philip walked back in. "Doc," he said, nodding. "Get in touch with them?"
Philip put the phone back into the charger, nodding. "Yeah, and you can have a couch until they get back." He walked over to where his patient was sitting. "Xander, I want to put you under again. Will you let me do that with Giles here?"
Xander nodded happily. "Yeah, I trust Giles with my life. He's a good." He stood up, moving around the uptight body to go to his bed. "My room?"
"Perfect, go get comfortable. Giles, if you wouldn't mind? I'd like to have a talk with Darrien for a minute." He waited until they were alone. "Blair wanted to know if you were the wolf or not," he asked quietly.
"Close, but not quite. I'm Xander's, actually." He smiled, morphing instantly to a small animal, a small cat-like creature, then back to his human form. "Wolf saw how bad off he was but he felt his Guide wasn't getting it and he felt the truth of the words the young man said. He won't make it without a Guide and his is being tormented by his own Spirit Animal now." He rubbed his chin. "Been a long time since I had a calling like this one. Wonder why." He looked at the doctor. "Should I tell the sorcerer? I'm sure he'd understand."
"Oh, I'm sure he would too," Philip said. "After what he's done for the last few years I'm quite sure of it. Want to come help me? I've got to give him some sort of control." He walked toward the bedroom, tapping gently before entering. "Hi, Giles why don't you go talk to Darrien for a sec while I put him under?" He sat on the side of the bed, resting against the wall. "Okay, Xander, what's the codeword again?"
Giles followed the intense young man out into the living room, frowning. "What are you since I know you're not human or demonic?" He crossed his arms, hissing at the animal the man turned into suddenly. "Oh, I see then." He sat down, looking at the floor. "You're his?"
"Yup," Darrien said, turning back into his human form again. "But you can't tell him. Wolf said that he needed me temporarily to be this way so I'm here." He smiled, sitting down beside the man. "What does he need most? I know you know him more than anybody."
"He needs care taken with him and about him mostly," Giles told him, getting comfortable. "His boyfriend, before he left, said he needed someone who he could curl around and clutch tightly when the world got to be too much. I believe that might just be the thing that gives him the time he needs for Oz to figure things out." He smiled softly. "If one of you could see fit to talk to him, that is."
"Wolf is doing that. He said he'd understand him better." He smiled knowingly. "I'd say it'd be an interesting discussion." He looked toward the bedroom. "Go back to him. Help him find the levers."
Giles walked back in, sitting on the floor, watching his former student talk about things. "Philip," he said softly, "Darrien said something about levers?"
"Ah, must be instead of dials. Xander, I want you to look directly over your head. What do you see?"
"Like a light fixture?" Philip got a small nod. "Okay, in your hand is a new lightbulb, I want you to replace the burnt out ones."
Xander's brow scrunched up and his hands came up to mimic what he was doing in his mind. He smiled suddenly and relaxed. "Okay, nice and dim, that soft glow that says it's just right to read." He reached out blindly, toward Giles. The older man took his hand. "Okay, good."
Philip smiled at the older man. "Good, Xander, very good. Now, can you see a panel of things? There should be maybe five or so."
"Carnival levers," the young man said, nodding.
"Like they have on the rides?" Giles asked. He got a happy nod. "How many are there?"
"Um," Xander stuck his tongue out, his feet making walking motions. "Seven."
"Gee, Blair said he should only have five," Philip muttered. "Xander, do they have names?"
"Yup, five for senses and one that's got a bare plaque and one that's really dirty and nasty." He made a gross face, his hand coming up to try to touch it. "Nope, na-uh, I'm not cleaning it. My mind's not *that* dirty." He grinned at his own joke.
Philip held in his laughter, smiling at Giles. "Okay, well, how about finding a small brush or something to clean them all so you can use them?" Xander nodded and soon his hands were making cleaning motions. "Good, now what does that last plaque say?"
"Okay," the Psychiatrist said slowly, his brow wrinkling as he thought. "Do you have that pen you found last time?" He got a small nod. "Good, now, I want you to write under the word me. Put the words Self-Esteem under it." Xander nodded slowly, his hand coming up to write. "Good boy." The young man barked. "No, don't do that." He rolled his eyes. "I still want to know who did that to you."
"Willow," Xander and Giles said together.
"She had his absolute trust for his whole life. It could have only been her." The former Watcher shook his head. "What else did she do?"
"She put in some nice code words." Philip looked down at his patient. "Xander, where is your me lever set at?"
"Okay, on the wheel supporting the lever, the one that has the off and on settings, there should be some other stops." The young man shook his head. "Okay, how about some spots that you can punch out?"
"Yup. How many should I get?"
"I want there to be ten, is that okay?" He got a small nod. "Okay, I want you to punch out four, five, and six for right now." He paused while the young man did so, his smile happy as he did it. "Okay, now set the lever on six and lock it there." Xander made a clicking noise with his tongue. "Good, it's there, right?"
"Yup," Xander said, shifting his weight so he was partially on his side. "Back hurts."
"Hey, that's fine. Now, go to the ones for your senses and do the same thing, only knock all the holes out except off."
Xander's body showed his work, going to each one, popping out the little punched-out sections beside each of his sense levers. When he was done, he was sweating but he was happier. "Okay. Got all but sight, no holes there to punch out." He reached up, like he was going to turn off the light.
"NO!" Philip said, catching his hand. "You are never to turn off that light again. Do you understand me, Xander? That's very bad."
The young man gave him a small pout and hurt look but nodded. "Okay. I'll leave it on."
"Okay, now let's go work on your levers. Is one of your senses high?"
"Touch is. Hearing was but you're mean, you yelled."
Giles sighed, leaning closer. "How high is your touch, Xander?"
"Little better than normal." He squinted, then moved his hand to the lever. "It's at six."
"Very good," Philip said, patting his hand. "Okay, we can leave it there. Does it have a lock function? Like the small lever you have to push in so you can move it?" He got a small nod. "Good, so leave that one alone. Let's go across the board, what are the others set at?"
"Very good. Now, I want you to go to your levers from now on when one of your senses starts to go funny, okay?" He got a small nod and a concentrating look. "What's up?"
"There's a teddy bear in here." Xander hugged something to his chest. "Haven't seen him in years."
Darrien walked in. "Yeah, there is," he said, kneeling beside the bed. "He's your comfort until Oz comes back. Can you do that?"
"Yup, just so long as I can see him, we're gonna be fine," Xander said happily. "Who you?" His face scrunched up.
"I'm your Spirit Guide," Darrien told him quietly. "Wolf sent me to help until Oz came back."
"Could be here forever then. Oz runs away really good." Xander pouted at Philip. "He can stay? I like him."
"For a while, Xander," the doctor said softly, patting his hand. "Can you punch out some of the other knobs on the 'me' dial?" He got a small nod. "Okay, I want you to punch out seven, eight, and nine, okay?"
Xander nodded, handing the doctor something as his hands started on the task. He grunted as he struggled with a few. "Can't get one," he said, taking whatever it had been back. "Last one's welded I think." He snuggled down, rolling onto his other side. "Sleepy."
"Okay, we'll bring you back out. Pumpkin." Xander blinked up at Philip then smiled at Darrien, reaching for him. "Okay, we did good, but I want to see how this works for a while, Xander, okay?" The young man looked back at him, nodding, so he got up, walking around Giles. "Come on," he told the older man. "I'm sure they want to talk."
"I'm sure," Giles agreed, getting up with a small pat to his student's hand before he left.
"You're really a Spirit Guide?" Darrien nodded. "Mine?" He got another nod, this time with a small smile. "Cool. Now what do you do?"
"Now," Darrien said, crawling into the bed behind him and holding onto the young man tightly, "you need to rest. Your mind's had a busy day without you and you'll need your strength to wear me out later."
Xander rolled over, sniffing the light, leafy scent as he buried his nose in the thin gray t-shirt. "What are you?"
"I'm a sort of cat thing. The hyena is being held back so I don't look funny." Xander looked up at him in alarm. "No, hey, it's a small part. My tail actually. I thought it looked funny and it can't take me over." He kissed the Sentinel's forehead, pushing his head back down to his shoulder. "Cling to me, young one, that's what I'm here for."
Xander sighed, closing his eyes, wrapping his arms around the firm body. "Much better than a teddy bear," he muttered as he fell asleep.
Giles looked at Philip as they sat on the couch. "Well, that was interesting. Do you think it will work?"
"That's the Sandburg method." Philip shrugged, smiling slightly as he pulled a leg up over the arm of the chair. "He'll be able to control them himself now with less input from Oz, which should ease both their fears. No more absolute control for the Guide and no more dependence for the Sentinel." He frowned at the door. "Person." Giles gave him a shocked look. "I only have one and it's just better than average but we're getting a visitor."
The older man got up, walking over to the door. He opened it, frowning at the man standing on the other side of the door. "Yes?"
"Is Prof. in?" the kid said, holding his head with both hands.
Philip got up, walking over and hugging him. "No," he whispered, "he won't be back until tomorrow. He left me in charge." He pulled the young man, who couldn't be more than in his mid-teens, teen, over to the couch, sitting him on it. "Which sense?"
"My hearing," the teen moaned. "So many people."
"Shh," Giles said gently, stroking over the kid's shoulders. "I know it hurts. Let Philip work with you while I go make you some tea."
"Gee, new career, Giles?" Xander asked as he walked out. He sat beside the kid, rubbing over the side of his face. "You'll be okay. Blair said he got wind that someone was going to come today." He brushed over the slightly stubbled jaw. "Why don't you lay down until you get the tea? I'll go talk to them." The teen nodded, lying down instantly. Xander looked up at Philip and frowned. "He's not a full one either." The doctor looked at him. "I get funny feelings when Jim or another one of us is close, sort of an itch between my shoulderblades, but I'm not getting a Jim-sized one about him. He's only got a few, I think."
Giles brought the pot of steeping tea over to the living room, sitting the pot down on the table. "Give it a few minutes," he said, sitting down.
"Meds?" Xander asked Philip, catching his attention.
"When you need them from now on." They shared a hard look. "All of them, Xander." He got a small nod. "Give it a few days and we'll see, okay?" He looked back down at this new person, smiling at him. "What's your name?"
"Greg." He grabbed his blond hair as he talked, closing his eyes. "Hurts really bad."
"I know," Giles said, moving around Xander to get to him.
Xander walked back into his room, sliding down onto his animal skins to curl up into Darrien. "I remember that state well," he said quietly. "Hurts a lot."
"Yup," the Spirit Guide said. "But he's a natural, and his Guide is coming. Should be with him soon." He handed over the letter Willow has sent Xander through Giles. "She really should be okay."
"Her?" Xander squeaked. All he got was a small nod as the other man put him back to sleep.
END THIS PART OF THE SERIES.