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Shattered Chapter 5

Page history last edited by nate 10 years, 11 months ago


 

Chapter 5

 

Several days had passed and Jethro had expected one of them to call the other, but the phone call never came. After a full week had past he’d asked Tony if he wanted driving to the hospital to visit. The reply had been a firm no. He started to think that the falling out must have been something spectacular.

 

Jethro watched his boy slowly spiral further and further into a pit of depression. He wouldn’t eat and he hardly slept. He didn’t complain when he had to report to the doctor for a check on his shoulder, in fact he said hardly anything at all at any time. It was like the spark that made him Tony had gone out in him.

 

After two weeks of silence, Gibbs had had enough. He made a stop at the hospital only to be told that Xander had been discharged. He wasn’t ashamed to admit that he abused his badge in order to obtain the name and address of the unit he’d moved to, quoting that he was a witness in an ongoing murder investigation.

 

Gibbs hadn’t gone home, he’d taken himself straight out of the city and into the suburbs. The Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Unit was fairly easily found. It was an impressive, sprawling single storey building set in its own well-established grounds and he sort of wondered why he’d never noticed it there before.

 

The woman on the reception desk had looked at him with an analytical frown when he’d asked to visit Xander. He hadn’t even demanded it in his ‘Boss voice’ as Abby called it. She’d been reluctant at first, so he’d flashed his badge and once again abused his position. Jethro didn’t care, some things were more important.

 

 

It had been two weeks since Xander had sent Tony away after having let him believe that he had been using him. Xander was miserable. The first few nights he’d cried himself to sleep, then he’d run out of tears and settled on just sitting staring out of the window. He was eager for the fall weather to close in so that it would match his miserable mood. He was sullen, he knew that, but he just couldn’t bring himself to make conversation with people. It wasn’t that he was outright rude; he just limited his responses and didn’t bother trying to build relationships.

 

The days were spent doing the exercises he was given and meeting with the various specialists. There was a routine, rules and stages, things that were expected of him. One of the assistants had decided that he hadn’t dealt with his injury and that was why he was so compliant. He’d told her rather succinctly that he’d dealt and just didn’t care. It was true.

 

He was sat in his wheelchair staring out of the window when a familiar scent caught his attention. Xander turned his head to look at the man that was stood looming in his doorway.

 

“I’m not sure if it’s a comfort that you’re obviously as miserable as Tony is or not,” Gibbs told him as he entered the room without being invited.

 

The door was pushed closed with a click; this wasn’t really a conversation he wanted people overhearing.

 

“I’m not in the mood for visitors,” Xander said, feeling bad that he’d hurt Tony, but not about to admit it or regret it.

 

“You wanna tell me what happened?” Jethro asked as he sat down.

 

“Would it matter if I said no?”

 

Gibbs snorted. “I look like the kinda guy that regularly takes no for an answer?”

 

“Can’t blame a guy for trying.”

 

Blue eyes studied him carefully. “He’s hardly eating and sleeping, the boss won’t ok him to come back to work because he looks a mess. He’s lost weight.”

 

“Shouldn’t you be asking him?”

 

“Y’think I haven’t tried?” Gibbs told him, frustrated. “He’s pulled so far away from me he hardly says a word.”

 

Xander closed his eyes against a flash of pain, it didn’t sound like the Tony he knew. He made himself open them again though, made himself meet the intense gaze.

 

“It wasn’t meant to be like that,” he admitted quietly.

 

“What wasn’t?” Gibbs asked, slightly confused.

 

“I,” Xander hesitated, idly wondering if Gibbs would hit him when he told him. “When I told him I was being moved. I told him not to visit me.”

 

His confusion grew, that didn’t make sense. “Why would you tell him that? I thought you two were friends?”

 

“We were.” It hurt him to admit that, Tony probably hated him now. He couldn’t miss the questioning look on the other man’s face and he finally realised why the man was so good at his job. Special Agent Gibbs could interrogate you without hardly saying a word.

 

“You love him, he loves you…the two of you belong together, you fit. I told him I didn’t need him anymore and a bunch of other stuff so that he’d leave. I thought it was for the best all round,” Xander tried to explain.

 

Gibbs stared at him a moment and then he let out a short sharp laugh that wasn’t really filled with humour. “That’s the stupidest goddamn thing I ever heard. And I’ve heard some doozies.”

 

It was Xander’s turn to frown in confusion. It wasn’t the reaction that he’d been expecting unless Gibbs had completely misunderstood.

 

“He fell in love with you and it was pretty damn easy to see you fell in love too. I’ve only ever seen a person react to news that someone was shot like that when that someone was a loved one. And you broke off the friendship for what? You trying to be all noble and heroic?”

 

“Hey, I was trying to do the right thing so I didn’t mess up your relationship,” Xander protested.

 

“My relationship with Tony was safe, Xander. All you did was break his heart and that’s so ironic it’s not even funny.”

 

“But…you’re not angry with me?” Xander asked.

 

Gibbs shook his head. “For falling in love with him? How the hell can I be? It’s Tony, you either love ‘im or you hate ‘im. For hurting him? I’m not sure whether to be angry or pity your sense of logic. Why the hell didn’t you just talk to him like an adult?” Jethro asked.

 

“I… it would have been the sensible thing to do, wouldn’t it? I’m not really the type that does sensible, you mighta noticed.” Xander’s lips lifted slightly in a not-quite smile.

 

“Yeah, I’m getting that.”

 

“He’s really miserable?” Xander asked a mix of worry and awe that someone could actually feel that way over him.

 

“If a mood could make it rain then we’d be having flash flooding,” Gibbs elaborated.

 

“God, I didn’t mean to hurt him. I’m such an idiot. I thought he’d just get over it,” Xander pushed a hand through his shaggy brunette hair.

 

“Well, he hasn’t.”

 

They sat in silence a moment.

 

“C’mon,” Gibbs said as he got to his feet and a gesture.

 

“Where?” Xander asked even as he wheeled himself around the bed.

 

“I’ll take you to him and you two numskulls can talk things through. Hopefully normal service can be resumed,” Jethro told him.

 

 

They never spoke all the way to the car, not even when Xander paused at the reception desk to sign the ‘out’ book. It was only when they were seated in the car and Gibbs was starting the engine that Xan finally spoke again.

 

“I don’t understand,” Xander said as they started leaving the grounds.

 

Gibbs glanced at him. “Tony’s my boy. You know what I mean by that?”

 

The brunette studied the side of the man’s face as he concentrated on the road. He knew a nod wouldn’t be enough right now, maybe that had been the plan? “Yeah.”

 

The man’s eyebrow flicked up without even turning to look his way.

 

Xander gave a soft sigh as he rested his head back against the headrest. “It means you’re his dom.”

 

“He tell you that or do you have experience of domination and submission?” Gibbs asked, keeping his voice even but interested.

 

“Experience. My ex, Spike, and I... we sort of dabbled but it was a difficult time with other stuff going on,” Xander said and then immediately could have kicked himself for it, he’d told himself he wasn’t going to name any of his friends to them.

 

Jethro nodded as he indicated and made a turn. He was working hard at driving within the legal limit in deference to the recovering injuries of the boy in his passenger seat.

 

“It didn’t work out?” he asked softly.

 

“He died.” The brunette’s voice was so quiet that Gibbs almost missed it.

 

“That’s rough,” Gibbs told him, he could identify with losing a loved one.

 

“Yeah.”

 

There was a lull in the conversation before Gibbs picked it back up again. “I never saw myself looking at the possibility of a polygamous relationship before. Not that I thought I’d have a problem sharing, just that it never really crossed my mind as something to be interested in.”

 

Xander swallowed. “Poly?” Oh, he knew what he meant but in this instance he wondered where Jethro was going with the subject.

 

“We don’t know each other very well, Xander, and I’m certainly not head over heels in love with you like Tony is. But, I find you attractive,” he paused and shot him a smile, “And I know that it’s mutual after your little…ramble.”

 

The brunette had the good grace to flush at the vague memory of the drug-induced babbling about how handsome Gibbs was. “Yeah,” he practically squeaked out.

 

Jethro chuckled, a smile tugging up one corner of his lips.

 

“I’m not about to slap a collar round your neck, but if you’re going to be with Tony then you’re also with me, that acceptable to you?” he asked.

 

“You mean…? I…” Xander’s cheeks felt hot and he focused on the other man’s face a moment. “You’re encouraging Tony and I?”

 

Gibbs shrugged one shoulder as he made another manoeuvre. “At the moment, Tony is my number one priority. I want what makes him happy. If I didn’t like you then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’d rather share him with someone who feels the same about him as I do than risk losing him altogether; because right now I don’t think either of us have him,” he explained.

 

Xander nodded. “I can handle being yours,” he said simply. His stomach flipped at the idea. Gibbs was strong, a worthy man to consider belonging to.

 

“Good,” Jethro said and flashed him a smile.

 

“I… the paralysis, it’s… I don’t know if I can even…y’know…it’s been two months and nothing.” Xander’s cheeks burned at the admission, he hoped that the other man understood because he really didn’t think he could spell it out.

 

Gibbs nodded his understanding. “We’ll deal with that when the time comes.”

 

Xander was surprised at the sympathy that was in his voice…no, it wasn’t sympathy, it was something else, like he really cared that Xan was worried about it.

 

“Ok.”

 

Another ten minutes past in relative silence and they were actually pulling into the drive Gibbs’ house when Xander spoke again. “You think he’ll actually want to see me?”

 

“He doesn’t get a choice,” Gibbs told him with a grin as he released his seat belt.

 

“I’ve no idea what to say.”

 

“I’m sure you’ll figure something out,” he told him simply and climbed out of the car to retrieve Xander’s wheelchair from the trunk.

 

“What if he hates me?” Xander asked as Gibbs opened the passenger side door and placed his wheelchair for him.

 

Jethro paused at that and moved closer to the young man, he was little more than a boy in his opinion, but then he himself had been in the marines at that age; he knew better than to judge a book by its cover. Crouching down, so they were eye level, he gently cupped Xander’s face. “He doesn’t hate you, if he did then he wouldn’t be so miserable. It will be fine but you have to make the first move to find that out. And it really can’t be worse than how things are right now, can it?”

 

Xander shook his head, his face was still a picture of misery but he knew the other man was right: if he didn’t try then he’d never know and nothing would change. He took a deep breath to steady himself and gave a nod of readiness. “Ok, lets do this.”

 

“Atta boy,” Gibbs smiled.

 

Xander felt his insides flip and thought he definitely could get used to that.

 

The transfer from car to chair was still a little shaky but he’d improved a lot since he’d been at the rehab unit and before long he was being pushed up the path to Gibbs’ front door. His insides were a jumbled mess of nervousness. Jethro told him to open the front door and then he manoeuvred him in over the threshold until he was sat in the warm hallway. Immediately, he was assaulted by the scent of overwhelming misery; it made him feel even worse because he knew that he had caused it.

 

Gibbs unnecessarily pointed towards the room where Tony was. Xander could already hear his heartbeat, but it wasn’t its usually soothing sound: it was sluggish as if it was representing his depression.

 

“I’m going to make coffee,” Jethro declared and headed for the kitchen.

 

Xander watched him go, feeling helpless, but he knew he had to do it by himself. Slowly, he wheeled himself towards the open doorway and turned into the room. His heart just about broke at the sight in front of him: Tony was rumpled and unkempt, not in the stylish way he’d managed to perfect, he was unshaven and looked like he hadn’t slept in weeks. Xan just about choked on the emotion that welled up in him.

 

“Oh god, Tony, I’m so sorry,” he said before he could check the words, his voice as pained as he felt.

 

Dull green eyes turned towards him and Xander realised belatedly that there was wetness on his own cheeks.

 

“Xander?” Tony frowned.

 

“Yeah,” he dared to push himself further into the room. “Gibbs came for me. Christ, I… Tony…” His eyes fell away unable to look at the pain he’d caused. “I’m such an idiot, I thought… it seemed like the right thing to do but I never really was one for the smart plans, and when I realised that I was feeling what I was feeling it just seemed unfair to you so I said what I said but I never meant it, I really didn’t.”

 

Tony blinked a couple of times. “You’re babbling,” he teased half-heartedly.

 

“I know, it gets worse when I’m nervous. I didn’t mean what I said, I didn’t want you to go away, I just…I realised how I felt and I didn’t want to risk upsetting the relationship you and Gibbs have, only…I seem to have done that anyway,” Xan explained and gave a small wave of his hand.

 

The older brunette turned and tilted his head slightly, a frown fixed on his face but his eyes looking slightly lighter. “What?” the question was undemanding but full of confusion and hurt.

 

“I fell in love with you,” he admitted, “I only realised after you got hurt. I was trying to do that stupid heroic self-sacrificing thing. Y’know, being all noble and bowing out of things.”

 

Tony snorted and the first signs of humour and the old Anthony DiNozzo started to reappear. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

 

“I’m sure I mentioned that I’m not one of the smarter types,” Xander’s lips flickered into an almost smile.

 

“Yeah, but there’s not smart and then there’s…” Tony shook his head, “Why the hell didn’t you just talk to me about it?”

 

“Gibbs. I didn’t want him making sausages out of my entrails, and besides that would have meant admitting how I felt and risking rejection and all those other non-noble things,” Xan felt his cheeks heat up in a blush. “I’m so sorry, please forgive me, I wanna be friends…well, actually more than that but if all I can get is friends than that’s more than cool, but then there’s Gibbs and his kinky threesomeness and… I just…miss you so much.”

 

“Gibbs and his what?” DiNozzo asked, as he was unable to hold back a small laugh.

 

“He told me that he’d be willing to share if it was what it took to make you happy, but that if you and I do then I’m also his…of course, that depends on whether you do the sharing thing…the kink thing really doesn’t bother me…and I’m shutting up now.”

 

“Have you been back on the morphine?” Tony asked him with a mock-suspicious look.

 

“N-uh, they hide the good stuff,” Xander pouted.

 

“Damn… no pouting; you know I’m powerless…” Tony protested.

 

Xander responded by upping the pout wattage to doom level until the other man actually whimpered. “Say you forgive me?”

 

“Fuck, Xan, alright, turn it off, I forgive you; you’re an idiot and crazy but I forgive you.”

 

The pout melted away and was replaced by a small triumphant smile. Tony breathed a sigh of relief.

 

“So…kinky threesomeness?” Tony asked, humour dancing in his eyes. “I could get behind that…or in front…”

 

“In between?” the ex-scoobie suggested.

 

The candid question was accompanied by a waggle of eyebrows and surprised a bark of laughter from Tony.

 

Gibbs waited a moment, and then took it as his cue to interrupt. Stepping into the room and bringing the aroma of freshly brewed coffee with him.

 

“Oh man, I think I might love you,” Xander commented at the sight of the coffee mug that was held out to him, and then he blushed furiously.

 

Jethro smirked and Tony chuckled.

 

“You’ve not tasted it yet,” Tony grinned.

 

Gibbs levelled him with a glare.

 

“I…I mean, you might want to keep the declaration to give it ‘after’ you’ve tasted it,” Tony back-peddled rapidly.

 

Blue eyes danced with laughter at the attempt.

 

Xander wasn’t really listening; he was deeply inhaling the scent from the cup, his eyes flaring green as he did so. Then he took a sip and hummed loudly in satisfaction.

 

“At least someone appreciates my coffee,” Gibbs said triumphantly, as he took a sip of his own.

 

Tony just stared at Xander as if he was some sort of traitor. It was truly unprecedented that anyone who wasn’t a marine liked Gibbs’ special blend of coffee. Then the memory of his confessions about Halloween-hell hit him and he rolled his eyes, it all made sense; Xander had been a soldier…or possibly a marine, for a night. However, if the Hyena spirit hadn’t skipped off when it should have then what was the betting that something of that marine had stuck around too.

 

“So, at what point is someone going to fill me in on the eye thing,” Gibbs asked.

 

Xander stalled in his coffee appreciation and his eyes skittered from Tony to his lover and back. The other brunette had an equally rabbit-in-headlights look.

 

“Well? I think I need to know what I’m getting into here,” Jethro prompted.

 

“It’s…pretty farfetched,” Xander told him reluctantly.

 

“More farfetched than brown eyes that turn a glowing green colour?” Gibbs asked simply. He sat on the couch and cradled his coffee mug.

 

“Um…yeah?” Xander replied, was it? He was fairly sure it was at least on an equal footing.

 

“You don’t sound so sure,” Gibbs told him.

 

“Well, er… I’m not sure, y’know on scales of 1 to 10 of weirdness and all that, they’re both kinda up there.”

 

Jethro was studying him carefully and it made Xander shift slightly uncomfortably.

 

“Why don’t you try me?” the ex-marine told him.

 

“Well, hmm, what are the chances that you believe in magic?” Xan asked.

 

Gibbs studied him carefully, “Hocus pocus or mumbo jumbo?”

 

Tony snorted out laughter and tried desperately to cover it with his hand but failed.

 

“Er…more mumbo jumbo,” the young man said after careful consideration.

 

A one shouldered shrug from Jethro and a hand wave indicating for him to carry on.

 

“Well, there were these Hyenas at the zoo, and on a school trip myself and a few classmates got between some mumbo jumbo and a zoo keeper that was trying to harness the Hyenas’ spirits for himself. A friend was able to reverse what had happened but I was left with the dormant spirit, unlike the others who were all fully released. The people who captured me, they did things that caused the dormant spirit to not just reawaken but integrate with my own,” Xander told him.

 

Gibbs was quiet for a long moment as he considered that information. “Hyenas are pack animals,” he said simply causing both the other two men to stare at him.

 

Xander nodded dumbly.

 

“And hierarchical,” Gibbs continued.

 

It was like standing and watching a train coming towards you, he could almost see where the thread of the conversation was going, but was powerless to find a way of heading it off.

 

“I assume the spirit reflects that?” the ex-marine asked, finally.

 

He squeezed his eyes closed. “Yeah, but…”

 

The older man’s eyebrow rose enquiringly.

 

Xander sighed. “The spirit was alpha, I’m not.”

 

Gibbs’ other eyebrow joined the first. “So it’s not going to be a problem here?” he asked, “in kinky threesomeness?” his lips quirked in a slightly teasing smirk.

 

A groan was pulled from his throat and Xander looked to Tony from help. The smirk on the handsome face told him he was on his own. His cheeks heated up and he wished he had a desk to bang his head on. “No, the spirit isn’t in charge, I am. And Xanders are used to being bottom of the pile…so-to-speak.”

 

A frown flickered across Jethro’s face but was quickly gone. “Good, anything else I need to know can wait. Pizza or Chinese?”

 

“Um…” Xander started hesitantly, the sudden change of topic completely throwing him for a moment. He looked at Tony, “Pizza?”

 

Tony grinned. “Sounds good to me, meat feast?”

 

“I could eat meat feast,” Xander confirmed, feeling a little more confident, a small smile finding its way to his face.

 

Gibbs was already getting to his feet and groaned, he was fairly sure the two of them would be the death of him.

 

*****

 

“She sounds like a complete idiot,” Tony told Xander as he munched happily on his slice of pizza. It was his response to what he’d been told about the therapist from the rehab unit.

 

“Understatement. I mean, sure there are people there who are all ‘oh my god my life is over now’ but that’s not me. Sure, it’s kinda unfair that I have to change my life but really I should be more pleased because I might actually get to have an old age or something now. Though knowing my lucky I’ll get hit by a bus next week,” he smirked.

 

Gibbs chuckled, “You sound worse than Tony. If there’s trouble to be had…”

 

“So not my fault,” the man in question started to protest.

 

“That so? Who opened the envelope containing the plague?”

 

Tony opened his mouth to protest.

 

“And then, while still recovering from aforementioned plague, decided that he would be the one to attempt to outrun a bomb blast?” Gibbs persisted, his eyebrow raised, enquiringly.

 

“Well…” Tony started to object.

 

Xander had already started laughing, he couldn’t help it: the idea that someone was worse than him was infinitely amusing.

 

“And lets not forget being drugged and kidnapped…” Gibbs persisted, the amusement evident in his tone.

 

“Ok Ok… enough of picking on the DiNozzo… I’m a trouble magnet, I think Xander gets the picture now,” Tony huffed, knowing that if he didn’t stop him then he would just carry on and on; there were enough instances to keep his lover going all night.

 

“Oh look… he can do his own version of the pout of doom,” Xan grinned, his laughter subsiding temporarily.

 

Tony rolled his eyes and his lips twitched up into a matching grin.

 

It was all relaxed and natural, like they’d been hanging out together for years. In ways, it was easier than it had ever been with the Scoobies: Xander didn’t feel like he constantly had to prove his worth.

 

“So, Tony told me you’re building a boat, that’s so cool, I’d love to see it. I used to work construction, mostly carpentry though. I was good at it too. But then things happened and I had to give it up,” Xander babbled at Gibbs.

 

A warm smile crossed Jethro’s face at the idea that they might have something in common. Without thinking he proudly replied, “She’s in the basement.”

 

“Oh,” And like someone had flipped a switch, Xander fell silent.

 

Tony glared daggers at his lover for a moment and the other man had the good grace to look apologetic.

 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think,” he apologised, knowing that Xander wouldn’t realise the significance or rarity of him actually doing so.

 

Xan gave a little shrug and started picking at the slice of pizza. “Don’t worry about it, I’ve barely got used to it myself yet. Don’t tread on eggshells, I’d hate that even more,” he told the other man.

 

“Anyway,” Tony cut in, “I’m not the only one who attracts trouble. Gibbs has as much of a thing for the femme fatale type as I have in the past,” he crowed trying to lighten the conversation once more.

 

Xander glanced at his watch not really seeing and had to look again.

 

“We keeping you from something important?” Gibbs asked, mildly sardonically.

 

“What?” Xan asked as he looked up from picking at his pizza slice.

 

Jethro nodded towards where he’d been looking and Xander followed his gaze. His cheeks tinged with a slight pinkness as he shook his head. “No. Just, we have a nine pm curfew and if you’re late they ban you from going out for two weeks…it’s like a prison sometimes, I swear.” It wasn’t a lie, even if it was being used as a cover for the action the sudden feeling of discomfort had caused.

 

It was ironic that earlier that day he wouldn’t have cared about having such privileges revoked, but now the idea of not being able to get out and spend time with Tony…and even Gibbs, was almost enough to make him hyperventilate.

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll smooth it out if we’re late. After all, they can’t punish you for something that’s not your fault,” Gibbs reassured him, but his intense blue eyes said a million other things about how he knew there was more to the frequent watch checking.

 

Xander nodded. “Ok,” he told him and then inhaled the slice he’d been picking at. “So, what other stories have you got about Tony?” he asked with mischief suddenly sparking in his eyes.

 

As Jethro smirked, Tony groaned.

 

“Well if you’re gonna start picking on me then I’m gonna go and make some normal peoples’ coffee,” Tony pouted and got to his feet.

 

It was easy to give the other man an affectionate smile as he looked up at him and Xander felt yet another twist in his stomach at what he’d almost thrown away.

 

 

“That was good,” Xan told them as he finished off his last mouthful of pizza. It had been a big one that should have done four or more people, but since it had been a while since he’d had food that wasn’t all carefully balanced and nutritionally counted he had polished off not just his own share but half the other two men’s as well.

 

Gibbs was giving him an indulgent smile and it made him feel ridiculously pleased. Xander was fairly sure that things could work with the three of them but it would be slow progress and he was still feeling fairly fragile about things.

 

“Time to get you back to the asylum,” Tony replied with a grin. Even with Gibbs driving they wouldn’t stand much chance of getting Xander back by his curfew. It annoyed him really; they were adults for god’s sake why the hell did they even need a curfew? At least they had the excuse of Xander being part of a federal investigation, but Tony suspected that they would only get to use that excuse once.

 

Xander paused as he started to wheel himself towards the hallway and turned to Tony, “I really am sorry for being such a prat,” he said with a wry smile.

 

“Yeah, well, you’re forgiven so long as you don’t let it happen again,” the older brunette told him fondly.

 

“Oh,” Xander’s brow creased, “hmm, well, I wouldn’t count on that,” he said with a cheeky grin.

 

“Someone care to tell me how I some how ended up with two brats?” Gibbs said from the doorway, his lips twisting up at the corner gave away his amusement though and softened his words.

 

“Nope,” Xan told him, “if you can’t figure it out, we’re not gonna tell ya,” he chuckled.

 

 

 

 


 

 

Chapter 6

 

The staff at the centre had wondered what had happened in a day to transform the sullen young man that they were used to Xander Harris being. He’d gone out for the evening and come back a completely different person in many respects; although some wondered if it had anything to do with the frequency of the visits from the handsome young man.

 

Of course, many of them weren’t sure which Xander they would rather have: the one who hardly said a word but did everything he was asked, or; the one that talked none-stop a mile a minute and who had lamer jokes than were found in Christmas crackers. He still did everything that was asked of him; actually, he did more than was asked and did it more eagerly than a kid who’d been told to be good or Santa wouldn’t come. Several of the other unit residents had complained that he was making them look bad. He’d told them no-offence, but he wanted to spend as little time as possible in the place as possible.

 

Just two short weeks later and his case manager was smiling at him, full of pride and no amount of surprise.

 

“Your progress has been beyond what anyone expected of you Xander, in fact you’re weeks ahead of your personal action plan. I had a meeting with a couple of my colleagues and we agreed that as a reward you can have a weekend at home,” she told him.

 

In all her time doing her job, she had never seen a person’s face fall at being told they could have a weekend out of the centre. She was confused by the way his mood had suddenly done a complete turn around.

 

“Thanks,” he told her and without giving her chance to say anything in response, he wheeled himself from the room.

 

It was only a couple of hours later that Tony turned up, he had a bag containing all manner of goodies and Xander had immediately felt his mood lift. He made out that the excitement was for the comics and twinkies that the other man had brought him when in actual fact they both knew it was all down to Tony’s presence.

 

“So, how’s it going? Do anything interesting today?” Tony asked as he pulled off his jacket and sat on the comfy chair in Xander’s room.

 

Xander was staring glumly at the X-men comic when Tony finally looked at him again.

 

“Hey, what’s up? They find something wrong?” he asked, suddenly concerned and moving quickly to grab hold of the younger man’s hand.

 

Shaking his head, Xander gave a little half shrug. “They said I can have a weekend home,” he told his friend.

 

“Well that’s great,” Tony burst out with an enthusiastic grin.

 

Sad brown eyes came up to meet Tony’s.

 

“It’s not great?” Tony asked in confusion.

 

“I don’t have a home, T-man, not much point in getting excited about the prospect of a weekend in a hotel, it’s just swapping one dull soulless room for another,” he explained.

 

“You know how we said that you would try not to be a prat anymore?” the older man asked.

 

Xander’s brow creased in confusion and nodded, not knowing where the question was leading.

 

“Well, you’re being a prat. You can come home to us; Gibbs will be thrilled to have both his brats in one place so he can keep an eye on us,” Tony told him, and the look on his face suggested that taking no for an answer wasn’t an option.

 

“Really?” Xander asked carefully. “You’re sure he wouldn’t mind?”

 

“You’re kidding, right? He’ll be happy to have you there, promise. Oh my god, it’ll be great. We can pig out on junk and watch movies then on the Saturday we can go shopping and get you much needed new clothes…oh…Abs can come, that’ll be great fun. I bet she’ll try and Goth you up,” Tony rambled with a grin on his face.

 

Xander started to relax and smiled; he was getting a weekend at home!

 

*****

 

Dr. Lewisham looked up at the whirlwind on wheels that entered her room spot on the turn of three pm. “Xander, you’re on time?” her voice was laced with a faint hint of amusement; it was the most Xan had ever managed to get out of her.

 

That was all it took and he was off in a stream of words that only key phrases could be picked out of.

 

“Someone’s in a good mood today,” she commented when he paused for breath.

 

And that set him off again talking about how he was off for the weekend and that they were going to have movies and shopping with a heap of junk food at suitable intervals. At ten to four her alarm went off to signal that they were nearing the end of the session and Xander stopped mid sentence.

 

“That was quick,” he commented as he checked his watch. “Wow.” Then he turned puppyish brown eyes on her. “I don’t suppose you’ll let me go early, it’s the weekend an’ all and I’ve not even packed a bag yet.”

 

She gave him a smile that looked rusty from lack of use and waved her hand. “You’re free to escape,” she told him. It was hardly a hardship for her. She wondered if listening back to the tape might actually give a clue about anything he’d said during the whole session.

 

Xander had noticed a distinct increase in his upper arm strength in particular and he was able to push himself from the room quicker than most would be able to; he suspected it was related to the Hyena upgrade. He didn’t want to risk that she would suddenly think of something to ask him or another reason why he should stay the last ten minutes so he beat a hasty retreat.

 

Those ten minutes were used well and he had a bag packed in record time. He was waiting in the reception area when Tony arrived to collect him at dead on four.

 

“Hey,” Xander told him with a soppy grin. He thought that the man had never looked so good as he did right then.

 

“Hey yourself, you ready to go?”

 

“Does the pope crap in the woods?” Xander asked, deliberately mixing it up; it had the desired effect and surprised a sudden bright laugh out of the other man.

 

He was smiling like a loon as he signed out and gave Tony’s cell phone number as a contact. He really had to get himself a new phone. He would have thought it wasn’t worth it when he’d lost all the contacts, with the exception of the few he had memorised for emergencies, but there was always Tony and Jethro, even Abby.

 

“You get to choose movies and what we eat,” Tony told him as he climbed in the car after stowing the wheelchair in the trunk.

 

Xander smiled at him. “Is it stupid that I’m looking forward to this so much when I’m gonna be sleeping on your couch?” he asked with a smirk.

 

“Not in the slightest, it’s a very comfy couch,” Tony quipped back.

 

The amused chuckle broke the tension that had started to build in Xander at the thought that he might be imposing. Suddenly, a hand was cupping his cheek and Tony was leaning in to kiss him with heart-stopping tenderness. It was slow and careful, it left Xander gasping for breath in a way that the most intensely passionate couldn’t.

 

“Wow, that was…” his voice trailed off as he realised that he couldn’t come up with an adjective to describe exactly what it was.

 

“Yeah,” Tony said, an almost smug look on his face as he settled his shades over his eyes and started the car.

 

*****

 

Tony’s phone rang and he looked at it like it had offended him. It was sitting on the coffee table just out of reach and the only way to answer it was to move. He was comfortable though, with Xander resting against his side. It just kept ringing despite the death glare. Before he could reluctantly nudge his couch mate so that he could move, Jethro was sweeping into the room and sweeping the phone up.

 

Xander’s eyes left the screen to look up at the older man, watching as his face turned serious while he was listening to the caller. A moment later he uttered a few words of reassurance and then covered the mouthpiece.

 

“It’s Callum,” he told Tony.

 

Resisting the urge to sigh, he planted a soft kiss on Xan’s temple and got to his feet to take the phone from his lover.

 

Xander watched as Tony left the room to take the call, closing the door behind him. “Should I pause it for him?” he asked the older man.

 

“It’s one of his kids from the Y,” Jethro told him as he sat down on the far end of the couch, “he’ll probably be a while.”

 

The brunette pulled his lower lip between his teeth and gave a small nod.

 

“Besides, he’s seen it at least half a dozen times,” Gibbs said with a slight smile.

 

“He never said,” Xan frowned.

 

The silver-haired man patted his lap and Xan looked from there up to meet the steady blue eyes that seemed to ask everything and yet nothing at the same time. A slight pink tinged his cheeks as he shifted on the couch, pulling his legs up and laying down with his head on Gibbs’ lap. It was strange how it instantly felt so right and the feeling only grew as the older man’s hand gently started to stroke his hair.

 

“It wouldn’t bother him,” Jethro said, “he likes movies, ya might have noticed,” he said softly as he settled back into the seat. “I’ve not seen it,” he said significantly.

 

Xander caught a hint that wasn’t actually there and quickly filled the other man in as to what he’d missed. Up to speed, they fell silent and then the gentle hand lulled him until his eyes started to fall closed.

 

When Tony returned almost an hour later, it was to find Xander fast asleep with his head resting on Gibbs’ thigh and his lover part watching the closing minutes of the movie and part looking down at the boy with fondness.

 

Jethro raised an eyebrow in silent question.

 

“He got kicked out of school, again,” Tony whispered and contentedly sat himself down on a cushion at his lover’s feet and rested against his leg.

 

The movie finished and Tony found himself being pulled towards sleep. He had to shake himself awake and stood up to retrieve bedding for their guest. He regretted that Xander would have to sleep on the couch because of the stairs and he pondered that, if it looked like things were definitely going to continue to develop the way they had been, they should probably look at a single storey house.

 

Carefully, Gibbs and Tony worked together to swap the former’s thigh for a pillow so that they wouldn’t disturb Xander. Then Tony gently laid the duvet over the top of hi before they crept out, switched the light off and headed up to bed.

 

*****

 

Xander awoke with a start as a scream of “Tony” was ripped from him. He pressed a hand against his chest and fought to bring his breathing back under control as his heart beat wildly. A moment later there was a thunder of footsteps on the stairs and Tony appeared in the dimly lit room.

 

“Xan?” he asked tentatively as he crossed to the couch.

 

“Bad dream,” Xan managed to gasp out.

 

Strong arms helped him sit up and then wrapped around him, pressing a warm solid body against him. Grounding him. He dialled up his hearing to focus on the soothing sound of Tony’s heartbeat and heard Jethro crossing the upstairs landing and descending; he was fairly sure it would have been silent to any normal ears.

 

“It’s ok, I got you, you’re safe,” Tony whispered, burying his lips in the soft brown hair to press a reassuring kiss there.

 

Xander’s breath hitched. “Wasn’t about me,” he replied just as softly.

 

Tony’s strong hand rubbed over his chest encouraging him to relax and it started to work its magic. “Wanna talk about it?”

 

“They took you,” he murmured as tears stabbed at the back of his eyes.

 

“Shh, it’s ok. I doubt they even know I exist, Xan. Besides, can you see anyone getting past Gibbs?” he said trying to lighten the young man’s mood.

 

He wrapped his hands over the one Tony had pressed to his chest and shook his head. Xander couldn’t bring himself to say that he doubted even Leroy Jethro Gibbs could stop these people. The scent of coffee drifting through the house distracted him though. It was all so familiar and he finally sagged against the other man and sighed. They were both here and they were fine.

 

They sat in silence for a few long minutes before Jethro appeared and held out a steaming mug to Xander and set down a cup for Tony on the coffee table. Gibbs didn’t say a word; he simply ruffled the younger brunette’s hair and then leaned in and pressed kisses to the top of both their heads. A silent message that didn’t need voicing: you’re fine, I take care of what’s mine and if you need me all you need to do is say. They were left alone again and Xan blew his coffee before taking a sip.

 

“I didn’t mean to wake him up, you think he’ll be mad?” Xander asked, slightly worried.

 

Tony gave a soft snort. “You’re kidding, right? The man can survive on around five hours a night, he’ll go do down and work on his boat, it’s as relaxing to him as sleep is.

 

Xan nodded. “You ok?”

 

“I’m fine, but I’m not gonna touch that tar he calls coffee or I’ll never get back to sleep,” he teased and kissed Xan’s head again as he shifted carefully to a more comfortable position that he could still hold him in but the other man could drink from his mug.

 

*****

 

Abby was like a force of nature when it came to shopping and no person had any right to be that bright and bouncy at nine-thirty on a Saturday morning, even without the interrupted night’s sleep they’d had. Xander and Tony had at least managed another few hours before having to get up for the time they’d arranged to meet her at. She was so damn excited about it all too.

 

For the first hour they blew threw store after store, she alternated pushing his chair with Tony and chattered at them constantly the whole time. The stores they visited were not Xander’s kind of thing and he was glad when they took a ‘no’ for an answer when it came to the that he’d rather not be seen dead in.

 

Finally, they reached the younger stores that held jeans and T-shirts that didn’t look a decade out of date. He’d already gathered a fair pile of things that he liked onto his lap, then he realised another problem: he’d have to try them on. He’d lost weight around his waist and the pants he’d owned before were too big now where as his shirts were too tight around his shoulders. He took a deep breath, remembering one of the earlier counselling sessions he’d had about not being afraid to ask for any help he needed.

 

“I’m gonna need some help…to try them on,” he admitted to Tony who was leaning on the back of his chair and looking at the T-shirt Abby was examining.

 

Gibbs was hovering nearby, close enough to have heard even though he was far enough away to be giving the ‘young ‘uns’ an appearance of space.

 

“Not a problem, you done gathering stuff?” Tony asked as his green eyes met the approaching Jethro’s blue.

 

Xander tried hard not to blush but it was a losing battle. “Done for now, they probably wouldn’t let me in the dressing rooms with anything more,” he replied as they started to move towards said dressing rooms; he only hoped they had a big enough one for his chair and the two men to fit in.

 

Tony and Gibbs had been wonderfully discreet as they’d taken him into the specially fitted out disabled cubicle. He wasn’t sure why he was so worried about it, it wasn’t like they weren’t heading towards a relationship…hell, it almost seemed like they were in one already and he’d blinked and missed the bit where they’d got there. He smiled at the thought, even though his cheeks still flushed with a hint of embarrassment as they helped him. He could manage his upper half just fine, but changing his jeans was a slightly more complicated manoeuvre.

 

Between the three of them they managed and even though it had taken nearly thirty minutes for him to try the clothes on, he felt like he was gaining more than just a new wardrobe from the experience. Xander was trusting them and they were taking care of him without asking for anything back in return. It made his eyes burn as he thought about the nature of what was developing between them. He remembered what Gibbs had said about how it was obvious that Tony loved Xander and that he loved him right back, it was rapidly becoming apparent though that he was falling for the older man too.

 

By the time they’d paid for the clothes that had made the grade, it was marching towards lunchtime.

 

“I could eat a horse,” Xander declared as he leaned back and smiled up at Gibbs who was now taking a turn at pushing him. He thought about how some of the people back at the unit had a problem with people pushing them, like it somehow impeded their personal space or ability to make choices. Xander had already decided he quite liked it, but maybe that was just down to the way that the two men and Abby did it; the way they talked to him like they were all family and had been forever.

 

“You’re always hungry enough to eat a horse. It’s a wonder they’re not extinct,” Tony teased back.

 

Xander straightened and smirked at him. “It’s on the approach to lunchtime,” he said and held up his watch arm for Gibbs to see, “see, it’s already gone past eleven fifteen. The crowds will start to pick up if we wait longer.” They’d had a good breakfast but that was several hours and many shops ago.

 

“He’s got a point,” Abby chipped in, “And I could use a soda.”

 

Tony laughed and Jethro’s lips tugged up at one side.

 

“Save the pleading, I’m already heading that way,” he told them.

 

 

Xander held up the palm of his hand and Abby dutifully gave him a high-five with a matching grin.

 

“Three brats,” Gibbs was muttering so quietly only Xander could hear him.

 

He laughed at that and looked up at the older man, vulnerability in his brown eyes, “yeah, but you love us for it.”

 

“Yeah, I guess I’m a glutton for punishment,” Jethro responded with a fake put-upon sigh.

 

Xander laughed more as they arrived in the restaurant and made their way to a free table that would accommodate his wheelchair and not get in peoples’ way.

 

The drinks were easy enough to order, three coffees and one highly-caffeinated soda. The waitress handed them a menu each and the topic of conversation focused on food. Xander and Tony decided they couldn’t decide, it all sounded just too good. They were firmly debating that fact when Gibbs interrupted them.

 

“If you don’t decide then I’ll order you both salads,” Jethro told them with deceptive mildness, never looking up from his own menu.

 

“I’ll have the bacon double cheeseburger with fries and no pickle,” Xander said hurriedly.

 

“Me too,” Tony concurred and they both simultaneously folded their menus and set them down while glancing at Gibbs.

 

The devious SOB had a smirk tugging at his lips, but Xander couldn’t fault Jethro’s plan; the threat had worked after all.

 

“Well then that makes three,” Abby told them.

 

“Better watch you don’t put all that weight back on so you don’t fit in those new pants of yours,” Gibbs commented dryly as he folded his menu shut.

 

The conversation flowed freely both while they waited for their food and while they were eating. Tony teased Abby about her love life, or current lack of. And Xander grinned and chimed in every once in a while that at least she didn’t find herself dating demons. They’d clamoured for more details but Xander had told them it wasn’t the sort of conversation for where food was concerned; not that it bothered him, but they were new to the gross world-of-weird that was his dating history.

 

They were just over half way through when Tony’s phone rang. He looked at the display in confusion, not recognising the number, before flipping it open.

 

“DiNozzo?” he listened a moment, a frown creasing his forehead.

 

Xander would have listened in if it wouldn’t have meant the sounds of the rest of the mall crashing in too. However, it turned out he didn’t need to.

 

“Hang on, I’ll pass you to him,” Tony said and handed the phone off to Xander, “It’s a nurse from the unit.”

 

It was Xan’s turn to frown at that as he answered. He listened…and listened and the colour drained from his face.

 

“No, you did right to call me, thanks,” Xander said, his voice thick.

 

He turned his attention back to the table and the other three were staring at him in silence. It was Gibbs’ hand that rested on his arm and managed to break the words free from where they were stuck in his throat.

 

“They’ve found me,” he told them. “I…I didn’t think they would bother…but…” the fear was obvious in his eyes as he looked at them.

 

Without waiting for another word, Gibbs had signalled for the check, paid it and was carefully placing his jacket over Xander’s lap before starting to push him towards the parking lot.

 

“I’m sorry,” Xander said softly. The move with the jacket had confused him at first and then he realised that some time during the phone call he must have lost control of his bladder.

 

“Nothing to apologise for, Darlin’,” Gibbs told him quietly as they hurried their way towards his car.

 

“There’s plenty…” Xander started to protest but was cut off by Tony.

 

“I’ll take the bags ahead,” he said as he slipped the keys from Jethro’s pocket.

 

When they reached the car, Tony had not only stowed the bags of clothes in the trunk but had placed a blanket over the passenger seat. Wordlessly, but gingerly, Xander transferred himself into the car as Gibbs protected his embarrassment by making sure the jacket stayed put, seemingly uncaring if it got wet in the process.

 

Once they were all in the car, Jethro turned to look at them. “There’s no way Xander can go back to the unit and we have to assume they either know or will figure out that we can lead them to him,” he said and the occupants of the backseat nodded.

 

Xander just sat there feeling numb as he half-listened and half-zoned out, the memory of the nightmare reasserting itself.

 

“I know a place we’ll be safe. I’ll call Ziva to sort out collecting Xander’s things and Ducky to collect anything of ours of sentimental meaning.”

 

He was dully aware of how intense Gibbs could be when he took charge and he barely registered the phone calls that were made, from his brand new untraceable cell phone, to the rest of the team. All he was aware of was the increasing smell of urine, blushing he hit the button to lower the window. Arrangements apparently all made, Jethro soon had them heading towards somewhere he deemed as safe.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Chapter 7

 

Xander discovered that despite all trouble-magnet status, Tony was one hell of a strategist. He laid out a complicated plan that would get them to safety with the least chance of detection.

 

“I have money,” Xander piped up.

 

“If they’re as powerful as you say then they’ll be watching your accounts,” Gibbs protested; he knew because it was what he would do.

 

“Not these ones,” Xan said with a smirk and held up the three fake ID’s. Even Willow didn’t know about these.

 

Abby immediately snatched them from him to examine them. “Wow, they’re good, I mean, really good; they’d get past customs no problem,” she enthused.

 

Gibbs smirked, completely unfazed by the declaration. Xander had been only slightly worried, considering the situation they were in, that he’d be slapped in handcuffs of the non-fun kind. He’d cast the older man a brief nervous glance but upon seeing his face he had relaxed. If the situation was as bad as he thought then they were going to need his access to funds.

 

Driving by Abby’s apartment, they stopped a short while for Xander to clean up a bit and he changed into one of the new pairs of sweatpants they’d just bought. Then the three men swapped into her hearse and she took the keys to Gibbs’ car. The idea being that she would drive it to NCIS and park it there, anyone seeing it would assume that Gibbs and therefore probably Tony were either in the building or would have to return there. As she was the least likely to be associated with Xander, on her return to her lab she would start on setting up a contingency plan of new identities for them.

 

“Cell phones off,” Xander told them and the two men obeyed without question, going so far as to remove the batteries to prevent them being remotely turned on.

 

Of course, Abby’s hearse didn’t have GPS, which was part of the reason they’d taken it instead of one of the NCIS fleet cars. All the same, they couldn’t run the risk of being spotted in something that would link them to Abby. So, the next part of the plan was put into action.

 

They drove up to Rockville in the north west of Washington; it was far enough up that the assumption would be that it was direction they would continue heading in. They exchanged the car for a new one using some of Xander’s funds. It was only a few years old but was a real bargain because of the number of miles on the clock. They didn’t care about something like mileage; it would get them where they were going regardless of how far it had travelled before.

 

They pulled onto the road from the forecourt and continued north on small back roads, that were unlikely to have any kind of CCTV, until they were almost at Derwood. From there on they headed for the I270 and turning the car back south. They skirted a wide clockwise circuit around the city on the I495 and I95 until they were heading south again. The I95 took them past Richmond on onwards.

 

They drove for almost four hours; Xander suspected Gibbs would have driven faster if he wasn’t still recovering from a broken back. They were on barely-there roads as they neared the end of their journey in some kind of national park that came complete with incredibly remote cabins. He figured that, even with binoculars, you wouldn’t be able to see a neighbour waving at you; of course the trees helped with that seclusion.

 

The wooden cabin that they stopped in front of was something of a surprise to both Xander and Tony.

 

“No one knows I’ve got this place,” Gibbs explained. “Marine buddy gave me the deeds a few years ago.”

 

Xander nodded. “Remote enough,” he concluded as he waited for Tony to shake himself out of his stupor and bring his chair round from the trunk.

 

The cabin looked in fairly good condition from the outside, large enough for the three of them and maybe a bunch of others too. He suspected that it was Gibbs’ skills with woodworking that kept the place looking so good. Finally, his door opened and broke him from his external inspection and he hoisted himself over onto the chair, glad that the entry porch was level with the dirt road.

 

Inside, the place was equally neat and well maintained. Gibbs quickly set about starting the wood burner and Tony went to make coffee, leaving Xander to settle himself on the couch. He gave a sigh of relief as he brought his legs up and stretched out, it was good to work the kinks out after being in one position for so long; he’d sit up when he had a hot coffee to hold in his hands.

 

Xander had been surprised that the cabin had an electric shower with running water. It was good to get clean after his accident back at the mall, even though he’d had the cursory clean up at Abby’s he’d still felt dirty. The thought of it still mortified him, he was just glad that Gibbs had a chair that he was able to use in the shower.

 

Feeling better once he was properly clean, and wearing a pair of the older man’s sweatpants while his were washed, Xander was able to think more clearly about what needed to be done. After Tony had helped him settle back on the couch, he reached forward and picked up his cell phone. Looking at it in his hand he weighed it thoughtfully, he was surprised they could even get a signal out where they were; but apparently they could. Slowly, he dialled a number that he’d memorised a couple of years ago.

 

“Who you calling?” Tony asked as he sat down beside him.

 

Xan’s finger hovered over the ‘call’ button as he looked up at the other man. “The one person that I’m least likely to ever go to for help,” he said with a wry smile.

 

He watched the other brunette frown in confusion and he leaned into his side and hit the call button without elaborating.

 

It rang three times before it was answered.

 

“Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless,” stated an almost exasperated, and all too familiar, British voice.

 

Xander blinked and pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it a moment, before hitting disconnect like it had done something to offend him. Spike? His mind whirled. It couldn’t be…could it? No, Spike was dead; it had to be some kind of auditory illusion. Or maybe Wes had been practicing his ‘Mockney’. Shaking his head and resolutely ignoring the concerned look he was getting from Tony, he hit call again.

 

Two rings. “Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless,” the voice said again, ever so slightly more frustrated by the intrusion.

 

As if burned, Xander hit the disconnect button instantly.

 

“What is it, Xan?” Tony finally answered.

 

“Spike,” he said on a whispered breath.

 

“Spike? The ex? The one who died?” confusion coloured the other man’s tone that reflected some of what Xander was feeling.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“But…you said he died,” it was all confusion and not a shred of accusation.

 

“He did,” Xander said, almost distracted as he stared at the phone.

 

“So, if he’s dead, how’s he answering a phone?”

 

‘The ten billion dollar question,’ thought Xander. Then his lips twisted up slightly, half smirk and wry smile. “I guess he got better,” he told him, glancing up into Tony’s green eyes.

 

Tony was still shaking off the confusion he felt when Xander hit the call button again.

 

It answered on the first ring and, “Look if you’re not bloody going to say anything why the hell do you keep ringing?” the snappy voice demanded in his ear.

 

“Spike,” Xander stated as if it was the first realisation all over again.

 

There was a pause filled with silence. “Xander?” the confused vampire asked softly.

 

“The one and only,” he tried to quip but it fell flat. “Thanks for letting me know you’re not dead,” he tried not to sound bitter but couldn’t quite manage it. A gentle hand wrapped around his free hand and squeezed lightly. He looked up at Tony gratefully.

 

“Was complicated,” Spike hedged.

 

“Yeah, I can imagine,” he said as he closed his eyes against the onslaught of remembered pain from that first couple of years after he’d lost his blond menace. “I need to speak to Angel,” he told him.

 

“Pet…” Spike started.

 

The response was a low growl. “You don’t have the right to call me that anymore,” he told him darkly.

 

Tony responded by squeezing his hand again and rubbing his thumb over the back of it.

 

There was no reply but Xander could hear Spike cover the mouthpiece and shout for Angel. A moment later the smooth familiar baritone of the long-suffering older vampire filled his ear and, surprisingly, he found it calming.

 

“Xander?” There was concern in Angel’s voice; there was no getting away from it.

 

“I need your help,” Xander told him without preamble.

 

“Not that I’m refusing, but wouldn’t you be better calling Giles?” the confused vampire asked.

 

“No. I need your help,” he repeated but emphasised the relevant word.

 

“I don’t understand. Why me? I’d have thought I’d be the last person you’d ask for help.”

 

“That’s exactly why I’m asking. No one would ever expect me to come to you, and that’s what I need right now. Can you come?” Xander asked.

 

“Sure, where are you?” a stunned Angel asked.

 

“Virginia,” he said with a half-smirk and squeezed Tony’s hand back.

 

“Xander, we’re in Kansas.” There was a heavy sigh and Xan could almost see the man composing himself. “If we take turns driving and sleep as we go, it should take us… well…ordinarily around twenty hours, but with Spike’s driving maybe sixteen?”

 

“Good, that’s good,” he nodded even though they couldn’t see him. “It’s important or I wouldn’t ask.”

 

There was a pause, followed by, “Yeah, I know.”

 

“Head for Chesapeake and call me on this number when you get close. Please don’t tell anyone you’ve spoken to me.” Xander barely recognised the pleading in his own voice.

 

“You have my word,” Angel told him, solemnly.

 

“Ok, I’ll speak to you soon. And Angel…thank you,” he hung up before the other man could reply and turned his face into Tony’s shoulder.

 

“Sixteen hours or so, with Spike’s driving…providing they don’t get locked up for every traffic violation in the book,” Xander told him feeling a mixture of relief and dread.

 

Jethro appeared then and looked at them for long moments without saying a word. Tony had an arm wrapped around Xander’s shoulders and his other hand came up to gently stroke his cheek.

 

“I need to go and fetch more wood,” Gibbs told them, eventually, “We’ve enough groceries for a few days, nothing fresh but tins and the like but the wood is running really low.”

 

Xander looked up at him and nodded, he knew his eyes were reflecting his emotional turmoil right now but there was nothing that he could do to try and cover it up.

 

“I’ll be as quick as I can,” he told them and stepped forward to kiss them both on the top of the head.

 

*****

 

When Gibbs carried the stacks of firewood in, Xander was asleep with his head pillowed in Tony’s lap. He gave them a fond look and dusted himself down before heading to the small kitchen.

 

It wasn’t long until the smell of coffee once again filled the cabin making Xander’s nose twitch even in his sleep. He slowly came to wakefulness with a smile as he became more aware of the hand that was gently stroking his hair.

 

“Hey sleepy head, thanks for joining us,” Tony said with a soft smile as he looked down at him.

 

“Hey, sorry, guess I was more tired than I thought,” his eyes drifted around the living space and noticed the new pile of wood and smiled. “Looks like Gibbs has been busy.”

 

“Yeah, I think it was a substitute, he’d rather have been sanding his boat,” Tony grinned, “it’s therapy for him.”

 

A guilty look flashed over Xander’s face before he could stop it.

 

“Hey now, none of that…” Tony told him gently, as he lightly tugged on a soft curl of hair.

 

“I can’t help it, it’s my fault you guys have been pulled into this.”

 

“We’re big boys,” Jethro interrupted as he entered the room with three mugs of steaming coffee, “and we’ve been in worse situations; ain’t that right, DiNozzo?”

 

“Sure is, Boss,” Tony grinned up at his lover.

 

The change in dynamic was subtle but still obvious to Xander: they were talking work rather than personal life. Just like that, it was gone though, and Gibbs was helping him to sit up and placing a mug in his hand.

 

“Ok, I get it, you’re capable of getting yourself in shit without my help,” he gave them both a grateful, meaningful look, “but this is on a whole other level.”

 

Before either of them could reply, his eyes flared green and he focused his hearing on what had alerted his other senses.

 

“A car’s coming,” he told them before it was close enough for them to hear it.

 

“It’ll be Abby with our things. I called her while you were asleep,” Tony reassured him.

 

The sound of a car door closing was followed by the opening and closing of another, then came the crunching of footsteps. Xander focused on the steady beat of the approaching person’s heart and smiled.

 

“You’re right,” he told him, just before there was a knock and the door opened.

 

“Hey guys,” Abby said with a smile as she placed three duffel bags down to the side of the door. “I borrowed Palmer’s car,” she explained and, after a moment of uncertain hesitation, she almost bounced across the room and hugged him.

 

Xander had seconds to hold his mug out of the way to prevent spillage as her arms were flung around his neck. He hugged her back with his free arm for a second before she was gone and hugging the others. He smiled at her; it turned out that Abby gave good huggage.

 

“They’ve been at HQ,” she told them anxiously, “They were sneaky bastards, apparently they fronted up, flashed some kind of ID and asked who was running the investigation into Sergeant Cameron Morgan. Of course, the poor woman on reception had no reason to think anything suspicious of it.” She rolled her eyes.

 

“Did you tell anyone what’s going on?”

 

“I’ve met with the Director and it’s been discussed, the four of us are being killed off.”

 

Xander’s mouth hung open as he watched her positively bouncing with excitement at the prospect. “God, I’m sorry,” he choked out.

 

Tony gave a shrug. “I’m not losing anything, everyone I care about is right here.”

 

“Same here,” Gibbs nodded.

 

Xander looked at Abby, she had family that cared about her; how could she be so pleased.

 

“I like adventures, she explained. Besides, I get to decide all our new identities and pasts. I have the power,” she grinned wickedly.

 

She was so chirpy Xander couldn’t help but wonder if she was covering her real feelings on the matter.

 

“This is my choice,” she told him seriously when she saw the look on Xander’s face, “they could have left me out of it but my life would have sucked without my three favourite guys. I’ll miss my family but they know my work can be dangerous and they have my brothers. I need you guys more than I need them.”

 

“It’s all fine,” Gibbs promised Xander.

 

The young man nodded, he could believe it when a man like Gibbs told him, but at the same time he knew they needed help and was glad that he’d had the courage to phone Angel.

 

“We still need a plan though on how it’s all going to work. I mean, we can easily set up the scenario of blowing us all up, but how do we get out?” Tony told them.

 

“We’ll have a way out,” Xander told them all before directing at Abby, “just get them to set up the explosion,”

 

They looked at him curiously but never asked him to elaborate.

 

“Has to be something they’ll see,” Tony interjected after a moment of silence. “We’ll get Xander to a property, fake safe-house, the three of us will come to visit. We can assume that they’ll be following Jet’s car in the hope we’ll lead them to you,”

 

“We can also assume they won’t want to make a move until we leave,” Gibbs cut in.

 

They all nodded in agreement.

 

“They’ll see you answer the door, as we’re waiting for you to answer we’ll have a mailman hand us a padded manila envelope to deliver. We’ll pass it to you as we come in. Minutes later and boom.”

 

“I kinda like boom,” Xander said with a slight grin, it all reminded him of plotting to blow up the school.

 

“Official report will say it was a letter bomb,” Gibbs said, “remains found inside identified as the four of us. We’ll have Ducky do the autopsy. He’s the only one I’d trust.”

 

Abby and Tony nodded. Xander only knew what he did about the man from what they’d all said, he’d never actually met him, but he sounded like a good guy.

 

“Ziva and McGee were brilliant,” Abby told them as she sat down and took a sip from Tony’s coffee mug. “They pretended that Ziva was a patient at the unit and McGee took her in a wheelchair, made nice with the receptionist while writing a note to them and then he left her while she went to gather Xan’s things. She climbed out the window, crossed the grounds, over a seven-foot fence to their waiting getaway car.” She told them gleefully. “Of course, that was after Ducky had stopped by your place and gathered some of your things. Ziva had this gleam in her eye; I think she enjoyed being all spy-like again.”

 

Gibbs’ lips were quirked in a smug smile of pride; he knew what his team were capable of, after all. Tony was openly laughing and even Xander had a grin on his face as it eased some of the tension.

 

“Sounds like the plot for the next Mission Impossible movie,” Tony grinned.

 

Xander laughed. “Oh great, my life just became a movie, I guess it’s unbelievable enough,” he snorted. “Throw in a couple of demons and a conspiracy theory and I think we’ll be on to something.”

 

“I should be heading back, it’s a long drive,” Abby told them. “I’m gonna need to be killed off after all this backwards and forwards,” she grinned at them to let them know she was just joking, and then promptly hugged them all again.

 

“Be careful, Abs,” Tony told her.

 

She gave them all a bright smile before heading back out to her borrowed car.

 

It was nine pm; the sun had long gone from the sky. The cabin was cosy but Xander was suddenly hit by a wave of boredom. He sighed and rested his head on Tony’s shoulder as they watched Gibbs cross to the bags and start to look through them.

 

“Here,” Jethro held up the shiny flat object. “Looks like they know you well enough,” he told Tony as he placed the laptop on the coffee table and went back to retrieve the cable and the case of DVD’s that he’d seen.

 

“Remind me to tell Abs that I love her,” Tony grinned.

 

Jethro sat with them a while before taking himself off to bed; but only after making Tony promise to wake him when he was ready to sleep so that he could take over the watch.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Chapter 8

 

As it turned out, neither Tony or Xander were feeling tired enough to sleep and they sat up watching movies until almost three in the morning. Xander had fallen asleep during Backdraft and Tony hadn’t wanted to wake him up to get him to bed, so he’d eased himself out and left him to sleep on the couch while he headed for the bedroom.

 

Minutes later, Jethro was easing himself under the sleeping young man’s head, pillowing his head on his lap with a book, his flask of coffee and his non-service weapon to hand.

 

 

The phone had rung at just before nine am and Gibbs had answered it, he didn’t explain who he was, just that Xander was asleep. Directions given, he hung up.

 

Half an hour later, the sound of a car engine and the crunch of wheels announced visitors. He knew he should wake the sleeping young man but he’d been awake on and off through the night and Gibbs thought he could use the sleep; he just couldn’t bring himself to disturb the now peaceful sleep.

 

As if taking the decision out of his hands, Tony appeared washed and dressed. He helped Gibbs slide out from under Xan’s head while he took his place. Fingers playing through the soft curls as he watched his lover go to the front door, gun in hand.

 

Cracking open the door, he watched in confusion as a blond man climbed out of the driver’s side and stretched while another man, wrapped in blanket, climbed out of the passenger side and dived for the porch. His finger twitched ever so slightly on the gun as the passenger reached the covered porch and stopped his mad dash. He pushed the blanket back and looked up.

 

Jethro looked into soulful dark brown eyes and a handsome face. He hadn’t been expecting that, and he also hadn’t been expecting those eyes to look so much older than the man’s apparent age.

 

“Xander didn’t warn you?” the man asked as he took in the look on his face.

 

Gibbs shook his head. “Nope, since I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’d say not. Jethro Gibbs, we spoke on the phone.”

 

“Angel and the blond is Spike,” the dark-haired man told him seriously.

 

Intense blue eyes immediately shot to the bleached-blond man who was swaggering casually up to meet them. He wanted to hate the man for the hurt he’d caused his boy, but it wasn’t his place to hold that grudge.

 

“Guess he did tell you about that,” Angel said with a barely-there wry smile.

 

“Yeah,” Gibbs replied flatly, “You better come in, Xander’s still sleeping, he had a rough night,” he told them.

 

Angel shed the blanket as they entered the cabin and tossed it to one side out of the way. Both his and Spike’s eyes immediately fell on the sleeping man, his head resting on the lap of another good-looking brunette. The vampire’s nostrils tickled at the hint of the relationship between the man stroking Xander’s hair and the man who’d let them in. One of the first things they noticed was the missing eye patch; but the thought was quickly dismissed as Gibbs directed them to sit down on the separate chairs.

 

“Tony,” the man whispered and indicated himself with his free hand.

 

Angel gave a nod and asked, “What’s going on? It sounded important and Xander would only come to me if things were really bad.”

 

“Tony and I are federal agents,” Gibbs started as he moved to perch slightly on the arm of the couch nearest his boy. “A couple of months ago, we were investigating a homicide, following a lead that took us to a warehouse, the only thing there was Xander.”

 

They all looked at the sleeping man with varying different expressions. Gibbs recognised the look on Tony’s face: if they’d have been ten minutes later then Xander would probably have died; the knowledge bothered him just as much.

 

“He’d been beaten severely and left for dead,” Tony told them softly and looked up quickly when he heard a growl coming from Spike. He frowned and watched as the dark-haired vampire reached across and rested a hand on his arm. “We were just in time.”

 

“Who’s responsible?” Spike asked darkly. “I’ll rip ‘em apart.”

 

“Xander’s been incredibly cagey about that. All he’s told us that they’re powerful and that he didn’t want to put us in danger. Unfortunately, whoever they are, they found out he wasn’t dead and they came looking, either to take him again or finish what they started,” Gibbs told him, his piercing blue gaze saying quite clearly that if he had the chance he’d be right beside Spike on that.

 

“I know Xander can be annoying, but why would anyone do that to him?” Angel asked quietly.

 

“Whelp’s always been more of a threat than given credit for. Look at all he’s done in the past,” Spike said fondly, not taking his eyes off the sleeping face.

 

Angel nodded, “True, there was the judge, the mayor…Angelus.”

 

There was a moment of silence.

 

“What I want to know is why the Scoobies didn’t tell us anything was wrong,” Angel spoke again.

 

Tony frowned and met the worried brown eyes. “Who are the scoobies?”

 

“He hasn’t told you?” Angel asked, his forehead creasing in concern.

 

“He’s told us bits…but nothing…no names, Spike’s was the only name we knew until he called you,” Tony replied, a mild accusation in his tone as he momentarily shot the blond a look.

 

Angel looked like he’d just been handed another piece of the puzzle.

 

“He mentioned they had government backing,” Tony told them, suddenly remembering some of what he’d said. “CIA level.”

 

“Fucking wankers!” Spike exploded.

 

“Spike!” Xander cried out, jerking awake as his eyes shot open and looked up into Tony’s face. He gave a sheepish smile, “Sorry.”

 

Tony grinned at his friend and would be lover and let his gaze shift to their guests.

 

Xander turned his head and followed the direction he was looking in. “Oh. It didn’t take you long to get here,” he said, confused.

 

“We let you sleep, it’s gone ten,” Tony told him with mild amusement.

 

“Oh,” he looked from Tony back to Spike and Angel. “Hey, thanks for coming.”

 

“Your friends were just telling us a bit of what’s happened,” Angel said, while resting a calming hand on Spike’s arm.

 

Xander squeezed his eyes shut a moment and then reopened them before nodding. “They took me in Texas. I’m still not even sure how long they had me for, but they underestimated me and I finally made a break for it when they let their guard down. I was out when they caught me. They decided to use me as an example for the others.”

 

“Why you?” Spike almost growled out; it was obvious he was still riled up.

 

Gibbs got to his feet, ruffled Xander’s hair and then disappeared into the kitchen to make more coffee.

 

Xander’s eyes met Angel’s. “You remember the Hyena spirit?” at the vampire’s nod he continued, “it was never really gone, it just sat dormant, these guys knew about me, knew stuff about what I’d been through. They were doing experiments to try and bring it out,” Xander fell silent a moment.

 

“Initiative?” Spike asked, fear and anger vying for dominance.

 

“No,” he shook his head, “Similar, but not…” he trailed off mid-sentence. There was a moment where something was tickling the back of his mind and then his eyes widened. “Oh…OH! Fuck. Remember the invisible girl?”

 

Angel’s brows knitted together. “The one that tried to kill Cordy?”

 

Xander nodded. “They took her, said they’d help her or something… remember that?”

 

The older vampire looked like he was considering the information very carefully and he wasn’t sure he liked where it was leading him.

 

“We need wards and we need them quickly,” Xander told them. “Can you do them?” he asked Angel pointedly.

 

Angel nodded. “Wouldn’t you be better getting Willow to do it?”

 

A sad look flittered across Xander’s face. “When was the last time you heard from them?” he asked simply.

 

The dark-haired man frowned. “About six months ago, I suppose, they needed some advice about a ritual involving a Ra’clangth.”

 

“Point made,” Xander said as his eyes dropped.

 

Angel shook his head. “What are you trying to say?”

 

“I was missing, Angel, gone for at least two months and probably a couple more. They didn’t call you to help look for me because they didn’t even realise that I needed looking for,” he told him as the two sets of brown eyes met.

 

“You were always so close,” Angel pointed out.

 

For some reason that surprised a snort out of Xander. “Yeah, but Sunnydale took care of that. Afterwards, we just weren’t the same. Anya was gone…Spike,” he paused, “was gone… We barely keep in touch. Still, I would have thought after no contact for three or four months they would have started to worry and rally the troops.”

 

Spike couldn’t bring himself to look at his ex: sure, he felt guilty, but Xander didn’t understand his reasons for not letting it be known he was alive. Still, he knew that the subject would be dealt with soon enough.

 

Angel gave a small sigh and a nod. “Good job I brought books and supplies. Spike, give me the ring and I’ll go get them from the car.”

 

A frown furrowed Xander’s brow as he watched Spike hand over a ring he’d been wearing. “Is that…?”

 

“Yup,” Spike said with a smirk.

 

“But Oz said he watched you destroy it,” Xander told Angel, confusion clear on his face and in his voice.

 

“I did. Apparently the translations were a little off and there was actually more than one,” Angel told him with a half-smile.

 

“How did you find it?” Xander continued to question as his confusion melted away to intrigue.

 

“Internet. Was on Ebay,” Spike smirked.

 

“What stupid idiot would put one of them on Ebay?” his tone was part disbelief and part disgust.

 

Tony had no idea what the hell they were talking about; he didn’t know what was special about the ring, it was pretty hideous.

 

“Harmony,” both Angel and Spike answered together.

 

“I guess I rest my case,” Xander sighed.

 

Angel was actually laughing as he headed outside to the car.

“So, cosy little arrangement you boys seem to have here then,” Spike said with a sniff as he looked from Xander to Tony and back again.

 

Xander’s anger flared. “You have no fucking right, so don’t even dare. Have you any idea how long it took me to even look at another person that way…four years that’s how long and I finally found something…people who care about me, Spike. So don’t you even go there. You have Angel, I have a right to have someone…two someones even.”

 

Spike looked like he’d been smacked around the face with something wet and nasty. “Four years?”

 

“Four…you can do the math, I’m sure,” Xan spat at him angrily. He’d still not moved from where he lay with his head in Tony’s lap.

 

“I…”

 

“You died, Spike,” Xander accused. “And as painful as that was, it’s nothing compared to finding out that you’re not dead and didn’t tell me. Was screwing Angel that much more preferable?”

 

“Wasn’t like that,” the bleached-blond replied almost sulkily.

 

“Then how exactly was it?” the anger was still evident in Xan’s voice.

 

“Came back as a ghost. Stupid amulet did something, sucked me into it or whatever. Then someone sent it to Angel at evil inc. And the next minute there I was…all ghostly. We couldn’t work out how to make me corporeal again and whenever I tried to leave LA I ended up right back in Angel’s building. Then someone sent this package that sort of went ‘poof’ and suddenly I was solid again. But then other stuff was happening, Angel was in the middle of his plot against the Black Thorn. And after all that crashed down around our ears…literally…well, Angel needed me.”

 

Xander’s anger hadn’t really eased, but he looked at the blond in confusion. “Huh?”

 

“The senior partners had to have a link to this plane, it came in the form of the Circle of the Black Thorn,” Angel’s voice cut in from where he stood near the front door. He set his supplies down and came back over. “No one knew who they were unless you were part of the circle too, so you couldn’t destroy them without being on the inside. They had me sign a clause just in case, they stupidly thought that by signing away my claim on turning human that I would some how not betray them.”

 

“So you went inside…which is why the others were always on about you turning all evil again,” Xander guessed.

 

Angel nodded. “Between us we took out the circle, but there were casualties and the senior partners were not happy.”

 

“When you say not happy…?”

 

“He means they sent hoards of demons after us. LA literally went to hell for the night. If it hadn’t been for ‘lyria…” Spike trailed off.

 

“Who’s Lyria?” Xander asked in confusion.

 

“He means Illyria, she and Spike became sort of close, she thought he was her pet,” Angel said, clearly amused by the idea. “You remember Fred?”

 

“The sweet, smart Southern girl that was going out with Wes?” Xander asked.

 

Angel nodded. “She,” he sucked in an unneeded breath, “she was infected by an old one called Illyria, it hollowed her out until she was just a shell and then took over. Her powers were incredible.”

 

Xander shivered and was grateful for Tony’s hand that came to rest on his chest. “I’ve heard of the old ones, there’s all kinds of stories in Africa.”

 

Spike nodded and cut in, “ ‘xcept a human body wasn’t designed to contain that much power, so we had to siphon some off before she went nuclear.”

 

“She could still kick your ass though,” Angel smirked.

 

“Yeah yeah,” Spike rolled his eyes. “Anyway, she built up enough energy some how, that in the middle of the fight, she was able to rip open a portal and suck them all in with her. Saved us and another apocalypse averted.”

 

“Must have been hard on Wes, losing her twice,” Xander said softly, knowing how it felt to lose Spike. His observation was met with silence and he looked from Angel to Spike and back again.

 

“Wes didn’t make it,” Angel said softly, “I think seeing him die was what gave Illyria the impetus to do what she did when she saw that we were losing. She felt grief and I don’t think she could handle it.”

 

Xander felt the wave of sadness wash over him. “I’m sorry, I know you were friends.”

 

Angel gave a nod of acknowledgement and started to gather his supplies. “What sort of wards did you have in mind?” he asked; back to business because he really didn’t want to think of all that he’d lost that night in Los Angeles.

 

“We need to ward against magical spying and also approaching with ill intent,” Xander nodded decisively.

 

He was starting to feel a building pain in his back and closed his eyes as he winced. It was then that the others seemed to stop in silence and Xander tuned his ears to the sound of the approaching car. He heard the two vampires start to move but he just smiled.

 

“Relax, it’s only Abby,” he told them.

 

His eyes were still closed so he didn’t see the way the other two looked at each other in puzzlement.

 

A few minutes later and the cabin door opened. Xander opened his eyes and turned his head to smile at the Goth girl.

 

Spike and Angel gasped as they saw the glowing green eyes.

 

“Err, pe…Xan, how…”

 

“It worked, didn’t it?” Angel guessed, “what they were doing to you, it worked.”

 

Xander nodded. “Yeah,” his eyes faded back to brown as he let his new abilities ease off: so that Tony’s comforting heartbeat wouldn’t distract him. “Fully integrated.”

 

Angel studied him. “So it’s not a threat?”

 

He knew, that if he had to, he could rely on Angel to do what he needed. He smiled at the man and shook his head. “No. But thank you,” Xander knew what Angel was thinking and he was glad that the other man wouldn’t give him the chance to do what he’d nearly done to Buffy all those years ago.

 

There was a husky impatient cough and Xander let his eyes swing across to the raven-haired girl. He grinned, “Hey, Abs. Tall, dark and broody is Angel and the annoying blond is Spike. Guys, this is Abby our resident genius.”

 

Gibbs chose that moment to finally appear with the much-needed coffee. He handed out mugs and set Xander’s down on the coffee table.

 

Xan smiled up at him almost sweetly. “I don’t suppose you could get me a couple of painkillers, please?” he asked.

 

Jethro could see the pain in the boy’s eyes and nodded. “Sure,” he replied and ruffled his hair again for good measure.

 

Spike snorted. “Lazy git, could’ve gone and got ‘em yourself. Ain’t like we’re gonna maul your friends.”

 

Xander felt Tony tense and was about to open his mouth to say something but was beaten to it by Abby. She moved right into Spike’s personal space and glared at him. “If I were you, I’d be very careful what you say,” she said darkly, “I know at least a dozen ways of making sure there’s nothing left of you when I’m done.”

 

Spike blinked and was about to laugh it off when she added the final punch. “I suppose you think that is for decoration,” her eyes flickered to the corner where Xander’s wheelchair was folded up out of the way.

 

They watched as both Spike and Angel looked and saw the chair and understanding registered clearly on their faces.

 

“Fuck,” Spike hissed as he looked back at Xan, “I didn’t…”

 

“No…you never do…” Xander said with only slight acidity. “But by the way, she means it, and you wouldn’t stand a chance against her.”

 

When Xander looked at Angel it was to see he was smirking behind his hot mug of coffee.

 

*****

 

Tony and Abby had helped Xander to sit up, and then had bracketed him on either side on the couch. He sipped his coffee and watched as Angel went through the spells that were needed to mask their position. Gibbs was perched on the arm of the couch again, keeping watch over them all; he’d barely said a word. Xander wondered what he was thinking but knew he wouldn’t get chance to ask, besides, he didn’t want to sound like a girl.

 

“I can protect the house,” Angel told them, “but the spell for individuals requires supplies I don’t have.”

 

“Such as?” it was Abby that asked, and all except Xander had looked at her in surprise.

 

Angel looked from Abby to Xander and back. “Amulets for a start off, something to which the spell can be attached,” he paused. “It’s that or tattoos.”

 

Xander gave a soft snort, he wouldn’t mind the tattoo but he wasn’t sure how Tony or Gibbs would feel about them. Of course, he was sure Abby would love the idea of a magical tattoo.

 

“So long as the amulets are inconspicuous and masculine for us three and Abby will probably go for the tat,” he said with a grin.

 

She grinned right back at him. “So long as it’ll go with the ones I already have.”

 

Xander couldn’t miss the way that Spike’s eyebrow quirked in interest. He would just love to see the reaction to the one that adorned her back.

 

“I know a place,” she declared, “it stocks most things. I was surprised actually, and they had quite a lot of voodoo stuff too. Not the stuff that’s associated with bad things and curses but the proper voodoo stuff. I sent some to my aunt in New Orleans for her birthday.”

 

“We’ll head out after I’ve finished these,” Angel told her. “I need silence to work, now,” he told them softly as he’d finished arranging the candles around the pentagram he’d drawn in the centre of the floor.

 

“Thought pentagrams were evil,” Tony whispered to Xander.

 

Xan smiled at him. “Only if they’re the wrong way up.”

 

They all fell silent as Angel went round and lit each candle one by one, and then he chanted a few lines in Latin. The marking on the floor flared white for a second, while the pile of crystals that were piled in the centre began to glow. A rush of cool air swept through the room and extinguished the flames.

 

They all continued to sit in silence until Angel looked up from where he was sat.

 

“One down,” he said with a smile as he collected up the crystals. “Want to help?” he asked Abby.

 

“Sure, what do we do?” she asked as she took a couple of the small warmly-glowing crystals from him.

 

“We bury them around the perimeter of the cabin and they prevent anyone with ill intent from entering,” he explained.

 

Abby smiled and bounced to her feet. Then she paused and frowned. “How are you…I mean, it’s the middle of the day, I thought you were…” she trailed off with a barely noticeable glance at Tony.

 

“What, Abs?” Tony asked curiously.

 

Xander swallowed hard, it was looking like the cat was about to jump screeching out of the bag and he wrapped his hand around Tony’s gently.

 

Angel looked at Xan like a deer caught in headlights.

 

“Yeah, it’s ok though - magic,” Angel explained as he saw the warning look on the youngest man’s face.

 

Unfortunately, Tony wasn’t just a fed, he was one of the best agents NCIS had and the answer only captured his interest more. “Why do you need magic to go out during the day?” then his eyes narrowed speculatively, “is this to do with the ring?”

 

Xan groaned and let his head fall back a moment before turning to look at Tony. “You trust me, right? I mean, you know that I would never do anything that would put any of us in danger, especially you?” Xander watched him carefully.

 

Tony nodded, “Of course.” The ‘but what’s that got to do with anything’ was clearly tagged on the end without being spoken.

 

“Spike and Angel are both good guys, they’ve saved the world a bunch of times and done lot of good stuff. But…well, they’re not human,” Xander said and waited for Tony to take that in.

 

Xander had tuned his hearing to the sound of Tony’s heartbeat and he heard it skip and then race. A moment later Tony’s eyes widened and a look of fearful realisation crossed his face. Xan tightened his hold on his hand.

 

“They have souls and everything, I’ve given them both a hard time about what they are in the past but…things change and I’ve grown up. Besides, what’s that they say about people in glass houses?” Xander hurried to try and explain.

 

“But they’re…?”

 

“Yeah, they are, but I’m not exactly fully human anymore, am I?”

 

“But you don’t… I mean…”

 

“They don’t kill, at least not good guys, they don’t feed from humans at all,” Xander could hear the racing heart and he cupped Tony’s face. “You might not trust them, and that’s ok because you don’t know them. But, trust me,” he told him.

 

Tony looked at him for a few minutes more before he nodded and let out a shuddering breath. “Abby knew?” he sounded slightly hurt.

 

Xan shrugged and gave a small smile. “Yeah, but she didn’t really believe it.”

 

Tony laughed, and just like that, the tension evaporated from the room.

 

*****

 

“How are you at portal spells?” Xander asked Angel as he came back in from placing the crystals.

 

Angel stopped in his tracks and looked at Xander with a frown. “I’ve only ever assisted with one. You’re not wanting to go to another dimension are you?” he asked worriedly.

 

“Oh god, no,” Xander almost choked. “I know how that can turn out,” he shuddered as he thought of the things Anya had once told him. “No, just between here and a house near DC…only problem is that I don’t know the precise location so it would have to be tied to an individual instead maybe.”

 

“Why would you need a portal?” Angel asked curiously.

 

Abby proceeded to explain the letter bomb plan to the two vampires at the same time confirming for the other three men what was going to happen.

 

Spike snorted. “Hope your wills are all up to date,” he told them with a smirk.

 

Xander looked around his new friends and shrugged, “We’ll sort it out later.”

 

Angel was looking at Spike like he hadn’t seen him before.

 

“What? Just being practical,” he sniffed and went back to examining his black nail polish.

 

“So, you’re thinking that a portal is the perfect way out?” Angel asked as he shook his head and turned his attention back to the pressing subject.

 

Xander nodded. “Seems the best way, it’s not like I can go climbing over walls.”

 

“If there’s something in the books then I should be able to do it, but it’ll take a lot of energy and I’ll not be able to do the amulets for a day or so after,” Angel told him, already picking up the book again and sitting down to start going through it, “I don’t have much in the way of magical reserves.”

 

“That’s ok, we’ve got the house covered and enough supplies to see us through. I assume you brought all you need?” he asked significantly.

 

“Yeah, didn’t know what we were driving into so we brought enough in case there were injuries,” Spike interjected, as he took one of the books from Angel.

 

Xander tilted his head slightly to look at Tony. “Got a pad and pen, Angel will need to make a list of supplies.”

 

“Oh, I packed one,” Abby bounced. “I know what Tony’s like for scribbling,” she said as she rooted through his bag and came up triumphant with the notepad before offering it to Angel. She proceeded to watch over his shoulder.

 

Abby’s mouth moved slowly before her brow creased. “What kind of language is that?”

 

Angel smiled up at her. “Not any that you would have ever heard of,” he told her.

 

“Probably either some kind of dead archaic language or else demonic,” Xander guessed and knew he was right when he received a smile from Angel. It was a weird kind of situation that they were not just being civil, but actually friendly.

 

******

 

Abby took Angel shopping for magic supplies while Tony and Gibbs stayed to play guard dog over Xander; making sure Spike behaved.

 

“So, what happened with your eye?” Spike asked as he sat back with a mug of blood.

 

Tony looked at Spike and then Xander in confusion. “There’s nothing wrong with his eye,” he told him.

 

Xander simply smirked and rested his head on Tony’s shoulder. “That’s sort of the point…there should be,” he told Tony.

 

“I don’t follow,” more confusion.

 

“Crazy preacher guy squished it just before Sunnydale fell,” Xander explained to Tony and Gibbs. The older man didn’t look like he was paying much attention but Xander knew that he’d be listening.

 

“Ouch,” Tony winced.

 

“I’d have guessed it was a side-affect of whatever those government guys did but if that were the case you wouldn’t need that,” he nodded towards the chair in the corner.

 

“Shaman in Africa. It was actually an accident and he apologised because he hadn’t intended it to happen,” Xan told him.

 

Spike snorted. “You and mojo,” he murmured. “What exactly was he trying to do?”

 

“Soul walk. They wouldn’t consider letting the mini-slayer go with me until I’d proven I was to be trusted. Was all quite surreal…and then damned painful,” he shuddered at the remembered pain.

 

The blond shook his head. “Dru was obsessed with them back in the sixties, was ridiculous, had to keep explaining to her that she didn’t have bloody soul. Course then she’d start her cryin’ again.”

 

“Dru’s Spike’s sire,” he explained to the other two men. “She’s a seer but more than a little barmy.”

 

“Had a thing for the whelp here too, her dark kitten,” Spike smirked.

 

Xander flushed and rolled his eyes. “To be fair that all happened because of that stupid love spell.”

 

“Oh this sounds good,” Tony grinned. “And completely fair since you got to hear all the dirt that Abby and Jethro have on me.”

 

The younger brunette shook his head and laughed. “My girlfriend dumped me, I asked a witch friend to help me do a love spell. But apparently you shouldn’t mess with love like that, especially combined with me being jinx boy when it comes to being involved in a spell. Every woman except Cordy suddenly found me irresistible.”

 

“And he was already a demon magnet,” Spike cut in.

 

“You should know,” Xan snarked back.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Shattered Chapter 9 

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