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Chapter Data

Chapter Two

Fan Fiction: Lesser Men

Chapter Two: Exit, Stage Left

They'd left him alone again, with only the beeps and buzzes of the machines to keep him company. Wesley had heard them leave as the first twinges of lucidity began to wash through his mind. His first instinct had been to call out, to summon back whoever was leaving, but the sudden effort of opening his mouth had tugged sharply at the stitches in his neck. Consciousness subsided once more into a fog of pain and nightmare, and he spent another vague stretch of time in fitful sleep.

Wesley woke again, disoriented, somewhere in the depths of night. Something had startled him awake, but he had no idea what it could have been. The combination of pain and medication had slowed his thoughts to the consistency of treacle. He didn't even know where he was... or did he? Cautiously, Wesley sniffed at the air.

Hospital. He was in hospital. Why?...

A sudden cry split the air, the thin, despairing wail of a sick infant. Wesley was abruptly aware that this was the sound that had awakened him.

"Connor?" His voice was barely intelligible, roughened by the pain and hours, maybe days' worth of disuse. "Connor?..."

But no. Connor had been taken from him, hadn't he? Vague memories surfaced of those last few hours. The panic Wesley had felt as he looked up from his lullaby to see Lorne's knowing face. Nausea, as the anagogic demon crumpled under his blow. Guilt, as he lied his way out of his friends' company. Determination, as he levelled his gun at Justine. Horror, as Justine pulled the knife. Disbelief and despair, as the rented SUV drove away with Connor inside, while Wesley's lifeblood oozed between his fingers onto the grass.

Ah. That was why. Someone had found him there, dying by the pint, and conveyed him to the hospital. Someone with large hands? Warm. Not Angel, certainly. He had no doubt that if Angel had found him, if Angel had been coming after him, he would be dead now. Or possibly undead. Angel might easily have turned him, if only to have the pleasure of watching his son's kidnapper die twice over.

"He's gone, Wes." A soft voice interrupted his thoughts.

Wesley flinched. He was becoming accustomed to the pain, but the movement still made his vision swim a bit. When it cleared again, the room still looked empty. Not that he could see very much from flat on his back. "Who?" he managed to ask.

"Connor. He's gone." The voice was flat, and so quiet it was hard to decipher its owner, but the choked sob that followed was entirely feminine.

"Fred? I can't..."

Fred had apparently been standing in the corridor. She walked slowly into his range of vision, stopping an armslength from the left side of his bed. She looked worse than he'd ever seen her. The hollows under her eyes and the tearstains on her cheeks were bad enough, but it was the emptiness of her expression that hurt the most. She looked utterly defeated, something he'd never seen in her before.

"Wes, how could you? He's in a Hell dimension now. Why did you take him?"

Wesley closed his eyes, drawing in his features in a pained expression that had nothing to do with his wound. "Hell? Holtz said..."

"Holtz did it! He jumped right into the portal with Connor. Lorne told us you'd been to see him! What were you thinking?" Her voice had begun to shake.

It was too late, really, for an explanation, but he had to try. "The father..."

"The father? Oh, God, Wes, can't you even say his name? Angel's in shock. He's so devastated, all he says is 'Connor', in between cursing you and Holtz. We haven't told him you're here."

The tears were flowing again. Fred wiped them out of her eyes, then set her jaw. "And we aren't going to. Because you're not coming back."

"Fred... a prophecy!" Wesley tried to catch her gaze, finding it even harder to speak as his throat tightened with emotion. He had to get the message across. Not to be forgiven, for he knew he didn't deserve that, but for understanding, at least. "Father would kill son."

"A prophecy?" She looked startled for a moment, then made a choked, watery impression of a laugh. "Of course. This is you we're talking about."

"Taking him to Giles," Wesley said, sadly. "Not Holtz. Said if I took Connor... not attack."

"So you're saying Angel was prophesied to kill his son, and Holtz knew this? That you were trying to help Connor, and Holtz played you?"

She looked a little less betrayed, but given the disbelief in her tone, that was small comfort to Wesley. Tentatively, he moved his left arm. Upon finding it still present and not directly attached to the source of his pain, he reached out towards Fred, lightly touching one of her hands.

"Fred... I never..."

She looked away and pulled back a step. "Oh, Wes." She sighed heavily. "It's just, I just, Angel, and Connor's gone, and Gunn is so upset..."

"Gunn?" Wesley's brow furrowed. He hadn't had room in his thoughts for anyone but Connor. Had his friend been hurt?

"When we found you, he was so shocked. He kept saying something about you being gutshot, which must have happened before I met you, because I never... but he couldn't get you to the hospital fast enough. And then the doctors had you, and he started muttering about secrets, and a lecture you gave him..." Her voice faltered to a stop.

"Bloody hell." Of course Charles would feel betrayed. Wesley had forgotten about that. He'd forgotten about most things during the last few weeks, in his efforts to prevent his little family from self-destructing.

Ah well. If Angel had killed Connor, everything would have collapsed; in Wesley's absence, they could survive. Angel would plan Connor's rescue, and the others would fall in behind. Still, it stung, knowing that not one person would miss him when he was gone. Not even Cordy, when she returned, for she would automatically align with Angel. Wesley wasn't blind. He knew what was behind her Angel-ization of the Groosalugg.

He tried one more time. "Fred, I'm so, so sorry. We'll... you'll get him back."

She looked up again, anguish in her expression. "And if he's dead?" And then she was gone, flying out of the room as quietly as she'd come in.

No, Wesley wasn't going back. He had burnt all his bridges, and there was nothing to do but pick up the shattered pieces of his life and move onward. He was getting fairly good at that.

When? Wesley contemplated the thought. If he stayed, Angel might find him, after all. Cordy might get back, and read him the riot act. Gunn might come, and stand where Fred had, with condemnation in his eyes...

Now. Why not? He hadn't been through Watcher training for nothing. With a little concentration, a simple spell, and a timely raid on the pharmacy, Wesley might even make it out of the hospital sometime tonight.

Yes. Now.

It took him several precious minutes to locate what he needed, once he managed to haul himself upright. Painkillers were not just left out in the open, and many of the nurses' stations were still manned by watchful personnel. Stealth did not come easily for him on the best of days, and this day-- week?-- was one of his worst.

Still, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. He found his supplies, then studied the wall signs with blurred vision and aimed his tired legs for his next destination.

There was one final stop to make on his way out of the hospital. Wesley knew he didn't have much time before the masking spell would begin to wear off, and he'd have to resort to the painkillers. Nevertheless, he found his footsteps heading in the direction of the nursery.

Most of the infants were sleeping. Wesley flattened his free hand against the glass, leaning against it ever so slightly, and scanned the rows of bassinets with his eyes. No Connor, of course. He wasn't addled enough to expect that. But the child that had woken him up...?

There. At the far end of the room, a nurse was pacing the floor, with a blue-wrapped bundle snugged in her arms. Wesley smiled sadly at the pair. He hoped that Connor had someone to comfort him so, but he knew that was unlikely. Fred had said Hell, and she was unlikely to exaggerate on so important a subject.

If Connor weren't already dead, he could be suffering greatly; and Wesley rather thought he wasn't dead. Wesley was a pessimist, after all, especially on the subject of fathers and sons. If Angel hadn't killed Connor yet, then the true crisis must be yet to come. That meant, assuming Holtz had also survived the jump, that they could be anywhere now, or anywhen. Time passed differently in other dimensions, and whatever power had taken Holtz there could as easily send them to another place altogether. He needed to...

No. Wesley shook his head. Tonight was for getting out of hospital, and finding a place to lie down and heal in peace. There was nothing he could do in his present condition. Later, if there was a later, he could research for clues to Connor's present location, and find some way of letting Angel know. Or one of the others. Someone who would at least read a letter all the way through before doing anything rash.

Wesley blinked, and found the nurse staring at him with an alarmed expression. He pulled back with another half-smile, then turned and walked swiftly down the hall. The last thing he needed was to have security find him before he exited the building. He rather doubted they would look favorably on a bandaged man in bloodied clothing with a stolen doctor's bag in his hand.

Several minutes later, Wesley traced a careful path through the shadowed areas of sidewalk, thankful for the late hour. Very few people were about, and those that were, knew better that to look closely at a passing stranger. The natives of Los Angeles were not nearly as blind as those who lived in Sunnydale.

The journey from hospital to home might take one minute in a car, at average speeds; for him, now, perhaps a fifteen minute walk? The spell would probably last that long. The question was, whether he'd have time to retrieve more supplies from his apartment and take the motorcycle to a cheap hotel.

Perhaps a cab would be more wise...? Or perhaps not. He needed his own source of transportation, and he wasn't going to be back here anytime soon. Abbreviated packing, then. Books, a few changes of clothes, a weapon or two; his leathers, for the ride. That would have to suffice.

Cordelia had a key. The others could have anything he left behind, or burn it, as they pleased.


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