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Shattered

Page history last edited by nate 10 years, 1 month ago

Disclaimer: Neither BtVS, Angel or NCIS belong to me. No offence is intended and no money has or will be made.

 

 


 

 

Shattered

 

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Chapter 1

 

 

Xander stirred, he felt oddly detached from his body: like he was surrounded in cotton wool. His brown eyes blinked open and he looked up blearily. There was a man hovering over him: green eyes and messy dark brown hair, he had a worried look on his face but as Xan looked at him his lips turned up in an almost goofy smile.

 

“Hey there, good of you to join us,” the soft American accent told him; Xander couldn’t place it, perhaps it was a mixture. Had he really been in the US?

 

“Hey,” he replied, his voice sounding weak and scratchy, he barely recognised it.

 

His eyes fell tiredly shut for a moment before he forced them back open. “Where am I?” he asked, rather belatedly realising that it must be some kind of hospital, but not knowing where.

 

“Hospital, you’re safe now,” the gentle concerned voice told him.

 

Safe? Had he not been safe before? He couldn’t remember what had happened.

 

“Hospital where?” Xander asked quietly as his eyelids once again felt too heavy to keep open.

 

A little frown furrowed the handsome brow of the man that was peering down at him. “You don’t know or don’t remember? You’re in Washington DC.”

 

“I don’t know if I don’t remember or if I didn’t know to start with,” Xan tells him tiredly.

 

The man looks as if he understands just before Xan’s eyelids win again. How the hell did he get to DC, the last he remembered…actually he wasn’t sure what he last remembered.

 

“Who are you?” he asked, curiously. He was fairly sure he’d remember the handsome brunette if he’d known him before…fairly sure! He pushed his eyes open again.

 

"Special Agent Tony DiNozzo.” There was no flash of hurt as the other man told him his name so Xan concluded they hadn’t met before.

 

“FBI?” Xan asked, confused when he processed the whole name.

 

“NCIS,” Special Agent DiNozzo told him.

 

“Oh crap I didn’t go and join the Navy did I? That would so suck,” Xan groaned, closing his eyes, desperately trying to remember.

 

There was a soft amused chuckle, “No.”

 

“How can you be so sure?” Xan cracked a single eye to look up at him.

 

“We ran your prints, if you’d joined up it would have come up. We don’t know who you are. You got a name?”

 

The ex-scoobie rolled his eyes. “Duh, course I do.”

 

The amused chuckle became an all out laugh, it was rich and warming, Xander wanted to keep hearing it. Tony DiNozzo was both easy on the eyes and the ears.

 

“Care to share?” the Federal Agent asked with a teasing tone.

 

“Guess?” Xan cracked a small smile.

 

That laugh came again. “Gimme a clue, is it something normal or something out there?”

 

Xander’s eyes dropped closed and he took several shallow breaths. “My head hurts,” he told him in a pained whisper.

 

“You’re already maxed out on pain meds,” Tony told him sympathetically.

 

Was that a hand running through his hair, he couldn’t make his eyes open to look up. “Normal…fairly?”

 

Xander stopped fighting the tug to sleep and let the hand soothe him under, his breathing evening out.

 

“Damn,” Tony said softly, “Gibbs is gonna kill me.” Still, he couldn’t regret it, the boy had obviously been in a lot of pain and doped up to the eyeballs.

 

******

 

“Tony?” Xander asked when he came round again, he felt disorientated again but that one name and face were still in his head.

 

“He had to step out,” another voice said.

 

Xander forced his too heavy eyelids to open and looked up at the man. He was much older than Tony, had silvery hair and the most intense blue eyes. He looked as concerned as Tony had. “Why are you all so handsome?” he asked and then wondered where the question had come from.

 

The lips quirked up in a half smile. “Who’s all?

 

“Feds, well, NCIS Feds anyway, if I’d known you where all that hot before I mighta…well I dunno…stopped by to say hello or something. Is it the Navy thing, or a Marine thing? I can guess I can see it being either and oh my god what the hell am I saying?” Xander’s eyes widened comically in horror at the words that were falling from his lips.

 

“That’ll be all the drugs they’ve got pumping into you,” the man said knowingly, seemingly unbothered by the rambling.

 

Xander tried to lift a hand to pat the side of the smooth looking cheek but the hand was uncooperative…fortunately.

 

“What’s your name, Son?” the man asked.

 

“Xander,” he found the word just fell from his lips where he’d teased Tony with it. He gave a slow blink, lids too heavy to lift back up straight away.

 

“What happened? Am I in trouble?” he asked, not really wanting to know but figuring he should try and find out.

 

“You’re not in trouble,” the voice told him gently. “What do you remember?”

 

Xander’s brow furrowed even with his eyes still closed. A slew of memories flashed through his mind then but they were not ones he could share. Nausea welled up and he almost felt like he actually turned green. The man suddenly had him turned on his side with a bowl waiting. He retched up nothing but bile but it gripped tightly at his stomach and insides and wouldn’t stop like he was trying to throw up his liver.

 

A solid hand rubbed soothingly at his back and the urges started to ease. The man, whose name Xander still didn’t know, helped him lie back down and then wiped gently at his mouth.

 

“The others?” Xander asked, his mouth tasted foul and his voice sounded rougher than ever but he had to know.

 

“You were the only one we found there, the others were all gone. We think they thought you were dead.”

 

“Comforting,” he managed to quip, not really feeling the humour. “There were cages.”

 

“Gone.”

 

Xander tried to shake his head but it came out like more of a jerky rocking motion. Pain, sharp and intense shot through him and he gasped, tears prickling the back of his eyes. “Who’re you?” he asked, trying to focus on something other than what had happened to him…to all of them.

 

“Special Agent Jethro Gibbs,” he introduced himself, he knew he should have done it sooner but there was just something about the kid that threw him off balance. Tony had said the same.

 

“Ok, gotta ask, what’s the difference between an agent and a special agent. And how much did your parents hate you to call you Jethro?” His eyes widened again, “Goddamn brain filter…always fails when it’s needed most.”

 

Jethro just gave a small teasing smile in response though. “You’re pretty fun when you’re stoned, can’t help but wonder what you’re like normally.”

 

“Pretty much the same but with less pain and a slightly better ability to keep my mouth shut…not much…just slightly,” he tried to smile but his lips felt dry and cracked, smiling threatened to split them open and he knew that would hurt.

 

Gibbs chuckled; there was something likeable about the kid. He wasn’t sure how he was going to tell him about his injuries.

 

“How bad is it?” Xander asked suddenly. “People only go from laughing to serious face if there’s something bad.”

 

He hadn’t even realised his face had changed, maybe it hadn’t and the boy was just incredibly perceptive. Not many people have Federal Agents sitting by their bedside waiting for them to wake up.

 

“Pretty bad.”

 

Xander closed his eyes letting the weight settle a moment before forcing them open once more. “That’s gotta be the vaguest answer ever. Tell me, please?” He wasn’t above begging, no sirree.

 

“Ruptured Spleen, bruised kidney, broken leg, concussion…”

 

He tried to feel the parts that were meant to be damaged but couldn’t get past the fog of the drugs. Jethro had trailed off and he looked up at him. He felt like he would choke on the way his throat seemed to close up at the look in those blue eyes. “What?”

 

“Your back was broken in two places. They’re fairly sure you’ll never walk again.”

 

Dully, Xander could feel the hand that was wrapped around his, he thought he might be squeezing the fingers back tightly but he couldn’t be sure. Evil had taken his eye, but a shaman had given him that back accidentally, now he’d lost his legs and there’d be no such opportunity. He’d be more of a liability than ever. He was out of the fight permanently it would seem.

 

“Oh,” was all he could say.

 

“We need to know who they are, Xander, anything you can remember about them could help us catch them,” Gibbs gently prodded.

 

His eyes felt hot and his face felt wet. He was crying, he knew he was but he just couldn’t bring himself to try and push the tears away.

 

“You can’t touch them,” Xan told him quietly. “No one can, they’re a law to themselves.”

 

“Xander, I assure you, we will find them. They killed one of my Marines, I have every intention of making them pay.”

 

The brunette shook his head. “You don’t understand.”

 

“Then explain it to me?” Gibbs urged.

 

He shook his head and closed his eyes as the tears ran down his face. There was silence for a long time and then a soft cloth gently cleaning his face.

 

He wasn’t sure if he wanted to call the Scoobies and let them know what had happened. They’d be worried about him, but if he called then they’d come running and he wasn’t sure he could handle that right now. Besides, would they even know he was missing?

 

“I was in Texas,” he said softly, “I don’t know how they got me from there to DC. These are powerful people, Special Agent Gibbs; you can’t get to them. I don’t think you should try…they can make you disappear…you and all your friends. Make it like you never existed. You should let it go…they’ll have already moved on.”

 

“How can you say that?” Gibbs asked him angrily, “After what they’ve done to you? Still could do?”

 

“They’ve already done it, they can’t do any worse. Even if they find out I’m still alive, I’m not a threat to them anymore.” That was what had got him in this mess in the first place.

 

“And all the other’s that they still have?”

 

Xander squeezed his eyes closed, tried to pretend they weren’t his responsibility, like he didn’t have to do something to try and save them. “You’ll get them killed if you try.”

 

Gibbs was frustrated, how could the guy just lie there and act like he didn’t care. He could actually do something to help find those animals and he was refusing. “You don’t seem to understand, you’re our best chance…” he huffed.

 

“And you don’t seem to understand,” Xander opened his eyes and looked up at him. “There’s nothing you can do.”

 

Jethro gasped, the boy’s eyes were glowing green, what the hell?

 

“What?” Xander asked as he took in the man in front of him who was now looking at him like he’d grown an extra head. Maybe he had?

 

“Your eyes, they were brown…now they’re…” Jethro used to be a Marine and had then spent 15 years with NCIS, he’d seen some scary shit in his time, but that just took the biscuit.

 

“Fuck,” he said succinctly as he squeezed them shut and turned his head away. “I can’t help you Special Agent Gibbs, I won’t have people’s deaths hanging over my head.”

 

Gibbs frowned deeply but decided that now wasn’t the time to push it. “We’ll talk about this again,” he said determinedly. “You got anyone you need contacting to let them know where you are?”

 

Xander thought about it, he really did. Ever since they’d closed the Hellmouth, the Scoobies had slowly drifted apart. They’d grown up in a battlezone and their friendships were forged in a war…one they didn’t need to fight alone anymore. They each had their own special projects after: Willow had Kennedy; Buffy and Faith took it on themselves to train the new slayers; Giles discovered that Dawn was a mini-me and watcher-in-training; Xander took himself off to find all the other new slayers out there; and, Spike…he was gone. They drifted, each of them committing verbally to keeping in touch, but a couple of times a month or less was the reality. They got together at Christmas, that had been the last big thing and that had been seven months ago…or there abouts. They probably didn’t even know he was missing.

 

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been held while they tested and pushed him. He didn’t know everything they had done, but he felt different. And Gibbs had looked at him, had said his eyes were different and Xander knew what they’d done. They’d made him into something else, something no longer entirely human. He couldn’t handle the way he’d be treated, he’d be useless to them now and pity was one thing he’d had enough of when he’d lost his eye.

 

When the boy turned to look at him again, the green eyes were gone and those sad chocolate brown eyes were back in their place. Gibbs wondered if he’d imagined it all.

 

“There’s no one,” Xander told him.

 

Gibbs studied him a moment before nodding. He didn’t know if he believed him or not, or if he was running from something…someone. Hell after what had happened to him, he really couldn’t blame him.

 

“Get some rest, if you need something shout, we’ve got someone on your door just in case,” Jethro told him, his hand resting on the warm muscular arm.

 

Xander resisted the urge to snort, if they wanted to get at him they could, but they really didn’t need to now. They’d already had him.

 

*******

 

Xander swam towards wakefulness, it was like swimming through tar, and he ached from the mental effort. Finally his eyes fluttered open and without turning his head he could see that the chair beside his bed was occupied. A familiar handsome face with messy hair was down-turned reading a book. His eyes though looked like they were closed. He took a moment just to study him.

 

He’d been surprised that he’d fallen asleep the minute that Gibbs had shut the door, he’d been convinced that he was just going to lay there with the whole mess playing over and over in his head until he went crazy.

 

“It helps if you try reading with your eyes open,” Xander said with amusement.

 

The head looked up, eyes open, and his lips pulled up in a wide smile. “You’re awake…again?”

 

He was slightly taken back by the genuine pleasure in the man’s face and voice. “Nope, just thought I’d talk in my sleep…how’m I doing?”

 

“Pretty good,” Tony said with a grin, “I’d give you an eight.”

 

“Only an eight?” Xander pouted.

 

“Oh god, don’t do that. I’m powerless against that,” Tony’s face looked full of fake fear. “Ok… a nine, but I refuse to go higher, I’ve gotta leave room for improvement.”

 

He couldn’t hold the pout and smiled.

 

Tony laughed. “You’re bad,” he said as he wagged a finger at him.

 

“I try.”

 

Silence fell for a few long minutes and only the sound of the clock on the wall ticking could be heard. Xander became all too aware of it; each tick sounding like someone was banging a door in his head. His eyes captured Tony’s and he could hear something else, slightly faster than the ticking of the clock and more…thuddy. Between each thud was a rushing sound. And then the whoosh of air like a strong breeze. His own breathing sped up as he started to panic in realisation of what he was hearing: Tony’s heart beat, the blood rushing through his veins and his steady breathing.

 

Tony’s eyes widened as panicked eyes met his: wide in fear and now a vivid green in colour. His breathing was speeding up, hyperventilating and he was whimpering. Ordinarily, he would have run screaming but there was something about the young man’s fear that pulled him in and before he knew it he was gently stroking his hair and holding his hand firmly.

 

“Loud,” Xander managed to get out with a whimper. He was fighting hard to get his breathing under control. Tony’s touch grounding him.

 

He didn’t know how to handle this, thought his head would explode from the pain of each thump echoing in his ears. But despite the little skip and jump that Tony’s heart had done when he’d looked at him, it was even and steady. Instead of trying to block it out he focused on it, concentrating on letting it lull him, imagining that his ear was pressed against the solid chest.

 

His breathing started to even out and the tension in his body drained away as the panic subsided, but still everything was so loud. He could hear conversations outside as clearly as if he were taking part in them, the sound of traffic rushing by outside through triple-glazed windows, the sound of someone else’s heart monitor. He whimpered again.

 

Tony didn’t know what else to do except offer his strength and comfort. The grip on his hand was strong and he couldn’t help but wince slightly. The grip relaxed and the other man’s breathing calmed. He looked down at him, the younger man had tears running down his face and it just about broke his heart to see.

 

“Sorry,” Xander told him, not really sure why he was apologising, but it felt like he should.

 

“No need to be,” Tony soothed, his hand still stroking the long brown curls. “You wanna tell me what that was?” he asked.

 

Pained eyes opened, still green but slightly less vivid. “They did something to me,” Xan told him, unsure what else to say if he was asked to elaborate.

 

“No shit?” Tony snorted as he used his heel to hook around the leg of the chair and pull it closer. He sat back down without losing contact.

 

Xan gave a tiny smile and fell asleep.

 

 

 

 


 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

It was a whole week before Xander woke up again. Their case had stalled and was looking like it might be doomed to becoming one of their few cold cases. Tony didn’t like that idea and Gibbs liked it even less. It had taken Tony hours to pluck up the courage to tell Gibbs what had happened with their victim. Jethro’s reaction had surprised him as he’d given a heavy sigh and rubbed a hand over his face. Then he’d told him that he’d seen the eyes the day before. Neither of them could work out what it was caused by and they had wondered if Abby might shed some light.

 

They’d taken it in turns to wait by Xander’s bed for him to come round again and when he didn’t wake up after more than a day they started to worry. Tests were done, an MRI, CT scan, blood tests, they all came back as clear. There was no physiological reason for him to be unconscious. Tony had theorised that it could be to do with the eye thing but neither of them had told the doctors about that.

 

It was on the fourth day of Xander’s unconsciousness that Tony had finally broached the subject with Abby. She’d been fascinated, wanted to meet him right away and started pulling out all kinds of books and journals. She couldn’t find a theory that would fit though and they were no nearer to working it out.

 

“Good of you to join us,” Tony said with a teasing smirk when brown eyes fluttered open and met his. “Thought maybe you didn’t want to enjoy my sparkling personality.”

 

Xander snorted, then his brow creased and he asked, “How long?”

 

“A week. We were worried. The Docs couldn’t find anything to cause it.”

 

“They wouldn’t,” Xan murmured. He ached in places he’d forgotten existed, arching his upper back as much as he could, he stretched.

 

“Why wouldn’t they?” Tony asked with a frown.

 

“They just wouldn’t,” for the first time since he’d woke up and seen Tony’s face he could move his hand and his eyes didn’t feel like they were being pulled down by weights. He reached up to scratch his nose, but Tony’s hand caught his and stopped him.

 

“What?”

 

“Tubes, go gently,” Tony told him softly.

 

The finger that had been poised to scratch turned into a gently exploring hand and he felt the tube that had been put in through his nose. “Ok, the thought of that is gross, I bet I just look really attractive like this.”

 

Tony chuckled. “You look fine. They needed to make sure you were getting enough nutrients, the last thing you need is to be malnourished on top of everything else.”

 

“Agent Gibbs told me…I ache everywhere but I can’t feel my legs.”

 

The NCIS Agent looked sad and he wrapped his hand carefully around the one with tubes in. “They don’t think it looks good. The boss, Gibbs, said you don’t have anyone to call?”

 

Xander shook his head. “I’m a bit nomadic,” he told him. “Don’t really have a base. I’ve got funds though. I guess I’m gonna need them with the medical bills.”

 

“Don’t worry about that right now.”

 

“Wasn’t going to,” Xander told him with a weak smile. He winced as his lip split and he tasted a little blood. “My mouth is so dry,” he protested.

 

“I’ll see if I can get you some ice chips or something,” Tony told him and left the room.

 

Xander stared at the ceiling, then at the wall, then turned his head to look out of the window. He turned his hearing to outside his room and was surprised when he could almost tune it in to where he wanted. So he was right, the coma was mystically induced. He heard the approaching footsteps and the steady heartbeat he was surprised to recognise, just before the door opened.

 

True to his word, Tony had a cup of ice chips in his hand and picked a couple out. He held them against Xander’s lips and he dutifully opened to take them in. The ex-Scoobie couldn’t help but hum in bliss as the blessed ice melted.

 

“Marry me?” he asked Tony.

 

Tony snorted. “My partner would object.”

 

“Damn, still, can’t blame a guy for trying,” Xan smiled.

 

“The case is stalled, our evidence didn’t give us much and the boss said you didn’t want to talk. I can understand that you’re scared…”

 

Xander shook his head. “I’m not scared of what they can do to me, they’ve already done it.”

 

Tony frowned.

 

“He didn’t tell you everything I said, I take it?”

 

“I don’t know, probably not,” Tony told him as he studied the other man.

 

“They’re dangerous and I’m not talking mob level, I’m talking CIA level. You can’t get involved in this or they’ll chew you up and there’s no guarantee that they’ll spit you out. For everyone’s sake you need to leave it alone.”

 

“Xander, these guys broke your bones and left you for dead…”

 

“And they’ll do it to more if I talk. As long as it’s left alone they’ll be fine. They only did this to me because I tried to escape,” Xan told him, willing him to understand.

 

“But…”

 

“No buts, Tony, see this?” he pointed to his face, “resolve face, I’m not budging.”

 

“Gibbs is gonna be so pissed,” Tony muttered.

 

"Pissed about what, DiNozzo?” the voice asked from behind Tony.

 

Tony jumped and spun round. “Hey, Boss.”

 

Gibbs stepped into the room carrying a styrofoam cup filled with hot coffee. Xander breathed deeply, the scent of it tickling his senses and stimulating his olfactory.

 

“Oh that smells good,” Xander murmured.

 

“Someone want to answer my question?” Gibbs pushed.

 

"I just told Agent DiNozzo that I can’t give you any information, I’m sorry, I just can’t have that on my conscience,” Xander told him, sparing Tony.

 

As if the scent of the coffee wasn’t enough he could now smell beyond that; his nose twitched slightly and he looked from one to the other and had to bite back a smile. Oh that was typical. He sighed.

 

“You’re just going to let them get away with it and keep on doing what they’re doing?” Gibbs asked, ignoring the once again vivid green gaze.

 

“What you don’t seem to understand is that you can’t stop them. If I gave you names and addresses with enough evidence to arrest them and put them behind bars for life, it wouldn’t be enough. Not that I even have that information but if I did all it would do is get you and those you love,” his gaze shifted to Tony and back, “killed. But first they’d torture you until you were begging for it to end. When I say you can’t stop them…you really can’t stop them.”

 

“And if you end up charged with perverting the course of justice?” Gibbs pinned him with his steely gaze.

 

“Then so be it. I’m not changing my mind and I’ve been intimidated by far scarier men than you Special Agent Gibbs,” Xander told him as he didn’t even flinch from the glare.

 

Tony was impressed, it took real balls to stand up to his Boss like that, he should know because he couldn’t do it. He felt kind of sorry for the younger man, he was pretty much caught between a rock and a hard place. He was getting the idea though that when Xander said these were seriously bad people that couldn’t be touched, he wasn’t exaggerating and he wondered how high up this went for it to have that effect on him. When it came down to it, what Xander was saying was that he’d rather protect two men he’d only just met than see them try to obtain justice for him. It touched a soft spot deep inside him.

 

“Boss, maybe we should let Xander get some rest. He’s been through a lot,” Tony said, giving his lover a pleading look. He rarely let their private life influence work but right now he would use it.

 

Gibbs studied him for a long moment then shifted his eyes back to the young man in the bed, his eyes ringed with black circles and a weary look on his face. He gave a nod. “One of us will be back in the morning,” he told Xander. “Rest.”

 

Tony met Xander’s eyes and gave him a smile. “No more week long naps, ok.”

 

“I’ll do my best,” Xan winked and watched them go.

 

*****

 

“What do you think they did to him?” Tony asked as they headed down in the elevator.

 

“I wish I knew,” Gibbs growled.

 

They’d both been severely affected by the case, it was hardly surprising since they’d been the ones to find Xander’s battered and broken body. They’d both thought he was dead until Tony had found a thready pulse. It had taken two days for him to wake up the first time, but most of that was down to the drugs they’d pumped him full of. He had to be in pain but he hardly complained about it.

 

“Maybe it was some kind of brainwashing?” Tony mused, “Like a cult or something?”

 

“What makes you say that?” Gibbs turned to look at him, sipping at his coffee.

 

DiNozzo shrugged. “How many people do you know would risk their own life to protect people they’d just met… and Feds at that?”

 

“Most people wouldn’t,” Jethro acknowledged.

 

They fell silent, the doors opened and a couple of people got in with them. As the doors slid shut Tony commented, “I get the feeling he’s not like most people.”

 

Gibbs just raised an eyebrow.

 

*****

 

“Knock knock,” said a familiar voice from the door and Xander opened his eyes and looked across at him.

 

“You’re sitting up,” Tony observed with a smile.

 

“I am?” Xander mock-panicked and looked down at himself, “Oh my god, so I am. How’d that happen?”

 

DiNozzo rolled his eyes and pulled a chair over. “The nose tube’s gone too, definite improvements.”

 

“You said it didn’t look that bad?” Xander pouted.

 

“It didn’t,” Tony started to panic at the sight of the pout. “I just meant it’s a good sign…that you’re doing better.”

 

Xan smiled at him. “They took it out this morning, I had to prove I could eat ok before they would agree to remove it. I told them if they didn’t take it out then I’d rip it out myself. Funny how they become agreeable after that.”

 

Tony laughed, “Yeah, funny that.”

 

“So, are you back to try and get me to change my mind?” Xan asked, cutting to the chase.

 

“Nope, I’m here to see how you’re doing and if there’s anything I can bring you,” Tony told him with a smile. He’d spent a good hour the night before arguing with Gibbs over the wisdom of pushing Xander to get him to make a statement against his assailants. In the end, he’d won and the subject would be dropped, for now.

 

“Oh,” he hadn’t expected that reply, “I could use a few things. All my stuff was at my hotel in Texas. I expect they’ll have dumped it by now.”

 

“You want me to make some calls?” DiNozzo offered as he sat back and looked at the young man.

 

“You wouldn’t mind? It’s just… there’s sentimental stuff.”

 

“Not a problem. Just write down where you were staying and I’m gonna need a surname too,” he pointed out.

 

Xander hesitated as he took the pad and pen from Tony.

 

“What’s up?”

 

“Nothing, just…”

 

“You’re not on the FBI’s most wanted list are you?” the Special Agent teased.

 

He snorted, “Yeah, as if. It’s not that. I kinda lied about not having anyone. I have friends, in some fairly high places. With everything that’s happened to me I’d rather drop off the grid. I don’t want to be a burden to them…”

 

“Xander, if you’re their friend then they’re not going to care about your injuries, they’re just going to want to know you’re safe. You won’t be a burden to them…”

 

Xander cut him off mid-sentence, “But I will. You don’t know them; don’t know what they do. I’m no use to them now and I’d rather not see their pity. Believe me, I’ve had it before and I don’t want it again. It’s best if they think I’m dead,” he told him.

 

Tony took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I don’t know what to say.”

 

“You don’t have to say anything. I’m just asking for you to tread lightly, leave no trail back here,” Xan requested softly.

 

“I’ll see what I can do,” Tony told him, “But I can’t promise anything.”

 

Xander nodded.

 

“So, how are you feeling?” DiNozzo asked, relaxing back in the chair.

 

“The top guy and his crew have been round.” He lifted up his hospital gown and showed the rigid torso splint that he had on.

 

“Nice,” Tony smirked.

 

“Sexy isn’t it? Think I’ll get lucky in it?” Xan chuckled and reached stiffly for the orange juice that sat on the table.

 

“Without a doubt,” Tony said with a chuckle. “I’d give you my number any time.”

 

Xander snorted then looked at him realising he wasn’t completely joking. He took a long gulp of the juice as his cheeks heated slightly; he knew he had to look a complete mess right now.

 

“If you want I can get you some more attractive bed wear, some toiletries and stuff?”

 

He nodded and scribbled on the pad what he wanted and where he’d been staying. He wrote at the top the full name the room was booked under. At the bottom, he wrote in bold letters ‘twinkies’.

 

“You said they’d done something to you? I take it you have a clue, with the eyes?” Tony asked.

 

Xander looked down at his hands as he fiddled with the pen. “Yeah, but… it’s pretty unbelievable stuff, so…”

 

“More unbelievable than brown eyes suddenly glowing green and you being apparently able to hear a gnat fart at fifty feet?”

 

“Well when you put like that,” he smirked. “I’ll do a deal with you, bring me chocolate and I’ll tell you about it.”

 

“Sounds like a deal,” Tony said as he hopped up from his seat and snagged the notepad back. He snorted at the last word and headed out the door.

 

*****

 

Tony had been gone for almost half an hour and Xander had got bored waiting. He started to flip through the channels on the TV. He didn’t like to think too far ahead. The doctors had told him that the next few months would be hell, well he’d lived on hell and as far as he was concerned the worst thing would be spending all that time in hospital. He was used to doing things by himself, on his own schedule, and even having his meal times and choices dictated to him was grating on him.

 

The sneaking thoughts about what would happen after he got out of the hospital kept creeping in though. How could he go from wandering hunter to wheelchair bound? Sure he had savings but what the hell was he going to do with his life now? He’d always thought that with his lifestyle he’d get injured at some point, or killed outright. It wasn’t the end of the world, he knew that, but it was the end of the life he’d been living. And now he had to actually start planning for the future, he was actually going to have one rather than being six feet under before 30. That was a bit of a shock… he’d never thought about a pension or anything like that. It was scary stuff.

 

His hand kept flipping the channels, not really stopping on one long enough to get more than a passing gist of the programme subject. He wasn’t paying it any attention.

 

“Wow, you assimilate information at a formidable speed, and there’s me with a photographic memory…we could be one hell of team,” Tony teased as he walked in, kicked the door shut and set down a bag of shopping.

 

Xander blinked and looked at him rather dazedly. “I was zoning,” he admitted, slightly embarrassed.

 

Tony nodded seriously. “Sometimes it’s the best space to be in.”

 

He laughed and flipped the TV off, then rubbed his hands together. “So, whaddidya get me?”

 

“Yeesh, you’re like a kid that never got Christmas presents.”

 

Xan never replied, just raised his eyebrows.

 

“Please tell me I didn’t just put my foot in it?” Tony asked, rather desperately.

 

“There were presents, sorta…just not always from the people who were meant to give them.” His mind went to Willow and he felt a little guilty for wanting to drop out of her life, but it wasn’t like they even talked much anymore.

 

Tony looked confused.

 

“My best friend would share hers with me, when we got older she started buying me one out of her pocket money because she knew my mom and dad wouldn’t get me anything, they were usually too drunk to remember it was Christmas.”

 

“Well, I’ll just be taking my foot out of my mouth,” Tony said slightly chagrined.

 

Xan waved a hand as if batting the worry away. “Don’t worry about it, I’m so over it. I’m actually a fairly well-adjusted big boy now.” He smirked.

 

“I can see that,” Tony teased.

 

“So again I say…whaddidya get me?” Xan chirped and would have bounced if he’d been able to.

 

Tony pulled out a cellophane packet containing a pair of short pyjamas in blue and grey. “Approval or no? They said I could take ‘em back,”

 

“They’re good, better than this,” he said as he tugged at the gown.

 

“I got a bigger size on account of the splint and to make it easier getting it on and off and the shorts have a tie waist so they shouldn’t slip down.”

 

“Excellent,” he said already trying to get the gown off.

 

“Eager to get naked with me already?” Tony joked.

 

“It’s the hair, I have a thing about dark messy hair,” he smirked, thinking of his crush on Angel.

 

“Hey, this look takes a lot of effort to perfect.”

 

“I just bet it does,” Xan smiled innocently as Tony finally got the hint and reached around to undo the ties on the gown for him. “Now who’s trying to get me naked, does Gibbs know, cause he’s so not the sorta guy I wanna be pissing off.”

 

Tony squeaked and took a step back as if his fingers were burnt, eyeing Xan worriedly.

 

Xan sighed and rolled his eyes. “Relax, I was teasing.”

 

“Teasing, right. How did you know Gibbs and I…”

 

“I could smell it.”

 

“Oh,” Tony said as the gown finally came away and he set about opening the pyjama set. “That part of the eye glowing thing?”

 

“All part of the upgrade package, yeah,” Xan confirmed but didn’t elaborate.

 

Tony shook out the pyjama top, it looked like it could pass for a T-shirt and Xan was glad it didn’t look too pyjama-ry. “I got a spare set. I’ll take it home and wash it for you,” Tony told him as he pulled it over Xander’s head. “Arms through.”

 

“Yes, Dad,” Xan laughed and did as he was told. “You do this for all your paralysed victims?”

 

“Only the hot ones,” Tony grinned back.

 

“Yeah, I’m getting that. I’ll get a nurse to help with the shorts, if that’s ok. I don’t think I’m ready for that level of commitment.”

 

“Gasp,” Tony said with fake drama, “you’re not commitment phobic are you because I’m in this to the grand sum of twenty-six bucks”

 

Xander laughed. “When you get my stuff sorted, I’ll pay you back, promise.”

 

“I could collect in kind,” Tony said and waggled his eyebrows.

 

“And Gibbs really would fry my liver.”

 

“True… but not before he’d had mine.”

 

They both laughed and Xan reached for his juice as his dry throat made him cough.

 

“Ugh everything hurts too much,” he complained. “I almost wish I was still high on morphine.”

 

“They lowered your dose?” Tony asked as he unpacked toiletries onto the table along with a little bag to put them all in.

 

“Yeah, said they didn’t want me going all coma-boy again,” he rolled his eyes.

 

“Deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste,” Tony announced as he placed the items on the table like they were the greatest gift ever given. “I took a guess on the scent.”

 

“I’ll trust your judgement. You look like a guy who knows how to take care of himself,” he winked. The flirtation between them continuing and neither one knowing how serious it actually was or if it was just for kicks.

 

“Shaving stuff,” he produced them, “you looked like a wet shave kinda guy, but tell me if I’m wrong.”

 

“You’re not wrong, although I think the nurses must have been doing that as I’m all smooth.”

 

“Actually, I think it might have been Gibbs while you were unconscious.”

 

“Good job he doesn’t know about your secret designs on me then,” Xan teased not quite sure how he felt about the older intense man having been the one to keep him clean-shaven.

 

“Not exactly a secret, I put a bulletin out over the hospital radio. They’re all taking bets on how long it’ll be before you give in to me,” Tony grinned.

 

“Oh I’ll have ten bucks on that,” Xan said excitedly.

 

“Yeah?” Tony asked curiously.

 

Xander just rolled his eyes and laughed.

 

“I would have got you a book but I wasn’t sure what you’d be into, so I held off on that. I did, however, remember…” he paused for effect then held up a handful of twinkis.

 

“Oh I am so having your children,” Xander declared as he made grabby hands at the cream-filled sponge bars. “Come to Xander.”

 

Tony gave him one and then stashed the rest in the bedside locker. “Go easy on them, ok, don’t want you making yourself sick.”

 

“Sure thing, boss,” Xan said absently as he pulled open the wrapper.

 

It was Tony’s turn to roll his eyes and he started to put the bits and pieces in the toiletry bag.

 

“Thanks, Tony,” he murmured around a mouthful of spongy-creamy-goodness, “I’d have been lost without you, I mean that.”

 

Tony waved it away. “Wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t want to do it.” He didn’t know what it was about Xander Harris, but he couldn’t help but be drawn to him. He was fun even in the face of such tragedy, and he had an aura around him… he wondered if he was spending too much time around Abby with thoughts like that.

 

“So, the upgrade package?”

 

Xan held up his free hand to stop him while he savoured his twinkie.

 

Tony thought it was possible that the sounds of pleasure the other man was making might well make him embarrass himself in a way he hadn’t done since high school.

 

Xander was stalling, he knew he was, but he had the perfect excuse while he was eating his twinkie. He still hadn’t really worked out what he was going to tell Tony, how much of the truth if any. The last thing he needed was to be locked up in a straight-jacket on the psych ward. He knew that Gibbs would probably do that, but he wasn’t sure about Tony. They had a rapport going between them and the man had already realised that something not-normal was happening with him. How much more far-fetched could it get?

 

As he crumpled the wrapper up for the bin, Tony’s cell started to go off. The older man groaned and looked at the display. “Gibbs,” he told Xander and flipped it open. “Hey, Boss?”

 

Tony left pretty quickly after the short phone call; Xander knew what had been said but he didn’t let on, simply smiled politely and waved the other man away. They were working a case and it wasn’t his. He was somewhat happy for that. His craving satisfied and having drunk enough juice to drown a fish, Xander had closed his eyes and let sleep rush up to catch him.

 

 

 

 


 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

“Hi,” a husky female voice said from the doorway.

 

Xander looked over and smiled. Raven-black hair in high pigtails, smoky eye make up, blood red lipstick and hazel eyes, a black studded collar encircling her neck. She was tall for a girl but then as his eyes moved down he saw that she was wearing platform boots: black with lots of buckles. She was pretty, for a Goth.

 

“Hi, are you lost?” Xan asked.

 

“It depends, hospitals get me a little flustered, are you Xander?” she asked worrying her lower lip slightly.

 

“I am, I guess you’re not lost after all, to what do I owe the pleasure, Miss…”

 

“Sciuto, Abby,” she said with a bright smile and made her way into the room. She dropped a black rucksack to the side.

 

“Well, Miss Sciuto, Abby…what can I do for you?” he asked with a smile.

 

“I work with Tony, he asked me to stop by. They got caught up on a case and he was worried that you would be all…worried, because he hadn’t been in. So I asked if he wanted me to call in and he asked if I would and could I drop some things off for you, so here I am,” she babbled at him.

 

“Here you are,” he found himself grinning at her. “Why don’t you sit down?”

 

She flashed him a happy smile and perched on the chair carefully so that her skirt didn’t ride up. Her face took on a serious frown and she asked, “How are you doing?”

 

“I’m doing ok,” he said with a smile, wondering how convincing it was. He had been worried about Tony, worried that he’d got hurt or that he’d just been full of shit. But apparently the guy was genuine, really did want to be a friend to him, of sorts. Xander tried to imagine the woman in front of him working for an agency like NCIS and couldn’t picture it.

 

“It’s taking a bit of getting used to,” he told her, gesturing to his legs. “But it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with.

 

Abby gave him a sad concerned look. “I can’t even imagine,” she told him sympathetically.

 

She looked at him for a minute and then jumped into action, a cute smile tugging at the corners of her lips. “I brought you some books,” she told him, “Tony didn’t know what you’d like to read so I thought I’d lend you a couple of mine, see if you like… if not we’ll get you something else.” She rambled as she dug in the rucksack for the books she’d brought. “I hope you haven’t read them,” she said with a little pout as she held them out to him.

 

“The Dresden Files?” he asked.

 

She nodded enthusiastically. “It’s about a Wizard who runs a supernatural detective agency,” she gushed.

 

Xander couldn’t help but laugh, thinking of Angel and Wes. “Thanks, I’ll check them out.”

 

She smiled at him so brightly it lifted his mood massively.

 

“So, Tony and Gibbs tell me you have this glowing eyes thing going on. I’m guessing you’re not a wizard, but that would be cool, so what happened? I told them my theories but they thought I was a little crazy. Well, Gibbs did, but he’s so…Gibbs. Tony just flicked my pigtails and indulged me. So, what gives? You can tell me,” she prompted.

 

His eyes scanned her face and saw honest interest and no amount of teasing at all. Of course, she was a Goth so she probably already had a few fair bets on the existence of the supernatural.

 

“Do you believe in vampires,” he asked her as he sipped at his juice.

 

Her ever-smiling lips turn into a pout as she scowls at him. “Is that a dig?” she asked, slightly offended. Tony had told her the guy was nice and she’d been eager to meet him.

 

“No, not at all,” he hurried to reassure her.

 

“I’m not some vampire wannabe,” she told him unhappily.

 

“I never said you were, I just thought you seemed like the sort of person into the Supernatural, don’t be offended.”

 

Her scowl lessened slightly. “I believe in some elements of the supernatural,” she told him. “I’ve never seen a vampire so I won’t believe they exist until I do. I’m a Scientist, I deal in facts.”

 

Xander nodded and reached out with his senses. He’d been practicing a lot over the last few days, since Tony hadn’t come around. “Gunpowder,” he told her.

 

Her gasp told him that his eyes had changed. That was something else he’d figured out, his eyes glowed green when he was using the extra senses.

 

“Wow,” she said and started to move closer to get a better look, “that’s incredible.”

 

He gave her a smile. “The town I grew up in had a lot of supernatural activity. Vampire’s are very real, believe me I’ve known a few. They’re evil soulless creatures, fortunately quite a few are dumb as brushes. That’s beside the point. One time our High School went to the zoo. There was this keeper there who was performing a ritual to try and get the mystical spirit of some Hyenas into himself. It went wrong and a group of us ended up getting hit with them,” he looked at her face and she was rapt.

 

Abby was listening, her chin resting on the heel of her hand as her elbow rested on her knee: whether truth or fantasy, it was one hell of a story.

 

“The spirit was dominant, cruel and had a thing for raw meat… like still oinking,” he said with a shudder.

 

She screwed her face up slightly and made an ew face. Not much grossed Abby out but that pretty much hit the limit.

 

“I was friends with this bunch of people, smart people who knew about this sort of thing. Anyway, long story short they got rid of it. The others that had been affected all forgot everything they’d done. I remembered everything. The animal spirit wasn’t gone; it was just…dormant. The people that took me changed that, tortured me, experimented on me and a bunch of other things that I’m not even sure of. The result of which is that the spirit integrated with my own spirit…or soul I’d guess. Giving me all the benefits of the spirit but I’ve not yet experienced any negatives. And god you probably think I’m a complete fruitcake.”

 

“It’s hard to think that when I’ve seen the eyes,” she said, her face looking thoughtful.

 

Xander reached for his juice once again, hiding behind the glass.

 

“You told Gibbs you wouldn’t help them go after these people. It sounds like they knew what they were doing to you, that they targeted you?” Abby observed.

 

“Yeah. They knew,” he told her bitterly.

 

“Who are they?” She asked him.

 

He debated the wisdom of telling her, the more she knew the more it could bite her on the ass. But she was believing him, or so it seemed and he wanted to give her something that showed trust. “A secret organisation… government funded.”

 

Abby’s eyes widened.

 

“I know you work for a government agency, but…”

 

“No…it’s ok. I believe you, Xander. I’m just…stunned. You read about conspiracy theories and stuff and you think ‘no way’ and then you find out something like this and it’s like…‘way’. I’m sorry they did that to you,” she told him in all sincerity.

 

“Me too. I guess I’m just glad to be alive but I hate feeling so useless. My life is gone because of this. Everything that my life revolved around…now that I have the abilities that would have helped me… I’m unable to use it. I sorta wish they’d killed me, but at the same time I’m glad they didn’t,” Xander confessed.

 

Her face was sad.

 

“You can’t tell Gibbs, he strikes me as the kind of guy who’d try and go after them and believe me, they’d squash him like a bug…him and everyone he holds dear. You, Tony…everyone.”

 

“I won’t tell him.” She gave a little shrug with a small smile pulling at her lips, “he wouldn’t believe me anyway.

 

“Tony wanted to know what they did to me. You think he can handle it? Or will he have me whisked away to psychiatrics?” he asked with a worried smile.

 

“Tony is like, completely freaked out by vampires. You mention they’re real and he’ll totally flip out on you. The other stuff, I really don’t know. He can surprise me sometimes, but then other times…”

 

Xander sighed and leaned his head back against his pillow. “He’s going to ask again and I still don’t know what to say to him.”

 

“You should tell him the truth. He’s too good at spotting liars,” she explained.

 

He huffed and closed his eyes. “Then the truth it’ll have to be. Been nice knowin’ ya,” he joked.

 

“He’ll be fine, I’m sure of it.”

 

“Hope so. I kinda like having him around,” Xander said with a grin in her direction.

 

“Yeah, he grows on you…like fungi,” she said brightly.

 

*****

 

“Hey,” Tony’s voice said from the doorway.

 

“Hey back at ya,” Xander replied without opening his eyes. He was busy, listening to Tony’s comforting heartbeat.

 

“I’m sorry,” the other man persisted, stepping further into the room and closing the door. The background noises dulled and a smile tugged at Xander’s lips.

 

“You solve the case?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Catch the bad guys?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

Xander could almost hear the frown on the NCIS Agent’s face.

 

“Then you’re forgiven,” Xan said brightly and finally opened his eyes to look at him.

 

Tony didn’t even jump or gasp at the sight of glowing green eyes this time. He did, however, stare unashamed. “You were listening for me?”

 

“Nah, not specifically. I was doing some meditative exercises that I remembered a friend of mine used to do. Thanks for getting Abby to stop by, I’d been getting worried.”

 

“Was it ok?” Tony asked as he finally sat down.

 

“Yeah, she’s fun. I like her. Tell her she can come around any time. Oh and here,” Xander paused as he dug in his locker for the two books she’d lent him. “I was really bored and finished them. Can you ask if she’ll send me some more? I actually really enjoyed them.”

 

DiNozzo looked down at the books he’d been given, feeling just a little jealous of the impact Abby seemed to have made.

 

“Man, I missed you. I mean, she’s good company but I swore never to be around someone who could babble more than me for very long. And besides, half the time I can’t understand a word of it,” Xander told him.

 

A fond smile tugged at Tony’s lips as he looked at him. “Yeah, that’s our Abs. She’s one of a kind.”

 

Xander chuckled and closed his eyes to dial down his senses. When he opened his eyes again they were back to brown. He looked at Tony with a smile.

 

“How’ve you been?”

 

“Kidney’s doing good, Doc’s impressed with the speed of my recovery,” Xander told him.

 

“That’s good, but not exactly what I asked,” Tony raised an eyebrow.

 

Xander sighed and looked over to the other side of the bed, in the corner out of Tony’s vision. Tony had to move to see what he was look at.

 

“Oh, Xander,” he said sympathetically as he took in the wheelchair.

 

“I knew it was coming, but still…” his eyes stung as the tears welled up. He hadn’t lied about the meditation, but he’d actually been using it as a distraction.

 

“I can imagine,” Tony scooted his chair up close and took hold of his hand.

 

“I didn’t even want to sit in it,” Xander blinked sad brown eyes at him and the tears broke free and fell down his cheeks. “It’s not fair, Tony. What the hell am I supposed to do now?” his breath hitched.

 

“It doesn’t need to be the end of the world…”

 

“No, I know…but it’s the end of my previous life. Now I’ve gotta try and make a new one that incorporates a large chunk of metal. I can’t even use it properly by myself yet. They said it’ll take months. The broken leg has to heal first,” Xan’s voice was thick with emotion as he looked blearily at Tony, clutching the hand wrapped around his. “And all I have is you and you’re just sorta doing your job, it’s not fair of me to expect you to help me pick up the pieces…you didn’t sign on for that.”

 

Tony moved to sit carefully on the edge of the bed and then gently pulled Xander in for a hug. “I’m not here because of my job, Xan,” he told him as he held him, one hand running through the back of the wavy brown locks. “I’m not going anywhere.”

 

He knew it was wrong to get so involved with a victim of one of their investigations, but he couldn’t help himself. Besides, the case had been shelved much to Gibbs’ disgust. Xander just pulled him in and Tony found himself liking him more and more. So far, he hadn’t seen anything that wasn’t to like. If he didn’t have Gibbs then he might have tried to make more out of it, but he did so he didn’t even contemplate it. More than anything he just wanted to be this boy’s friend.

 

Xander sobbed into the solid warm body. Tony was the only one who actually touched him with any sort of compassion. Sure the doctors, nurses and physical therapists touched him plenty but it was all clinical. He wrapped his arms around the other man and held on as he tried to pull himself together but all he kept thinking about was being stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, useless.

 

The sobs finally subsided and Xander pulled back slightly, scrubbing at his face with one hand while the other held on to Tony’s shirt.

 

“Thanks…and sorry. I messed your shirt up,” he gave a soft chuckle at the large damp patch that now sat on Tony’s shoulder.

 

Tony just gave a shrug and a soft smile. “You’ll be ok, I promise.” He reached up and brushed hair from where it was hanging in Xander’s eyes.

 

“Shouldn’t make promises that you don’t know you can keep,” Xander admonished.

 

“Anything you need, Xander, I’ll do my best to help you with it.”

 

Xander nodded and rested his cheek against Tony’s shoulder for a moment as he collected himself back together. “I know there are worse things that can happen to a person, I should be grateful, but I can’t stand the thought of being so damn useless.”

 

“You won’t be. You’ll just have to find your niche all over again. It could be fun, you can experiment and get away with it,” Tony said mischievously.

 

Xander snorted. “Yeah, I guess. I mean who’s gonna get pissed at a cripple? I think my practical joke days are over though, I can’t be sneaky enough.”

 

Tony laughed.

 

“Does Gibbs know about you coming to see me,” he asked curiously as he finally released the other man and sat back, still holding his hand.

 

“Yeah, I told him. No point in trying to keep anything from that man. He was cool. Actually he said “good”.” Tony said as he imitated Gibbs not half as well as Abby could.

 

Xander smiled at him. “That’s good, I’m glad. I might have said some inappropriate things to him when I was under the influence…before my prolonged sleep.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

He blushed slightly and smiled. “Yeah.”

 

“Cool.”

 

They both laughed.

 

“Thanks,” Xander told him again, seriously.

 

“Anytime.”

 

They sat a moment, looking at each other and then Tony smirked. “So, you were gonna tell me about the upgrade.”

 

Xander groaned and closed his eyes a moment. “Are you sure you really want me to tell you? Because I gotta say, if I hadn’t been there then I’d think I was nuts.”

 

“Government conspiracy? Oh, are you like the incredible hulk, was it gamma-radiation?”

 

Xander opened his eyes and stared at him. “Ok, and there was me thinking that I was the comic book geek.” He rolled his brown eyes.

 

Tony laughed.

 

“What do you know about the supernatural?” Xander asked as he reached into his locker for a couple of twinkies and offered one to Tony.

 

“That according to Gibbs there’s no such thing,” he answered easily as he accepted the packet and started in on it’s contents.

 

“And what do you think?”

 

Tony shrugged. “Just because I’ve not seen it doesn’t mean it’s not there. People believe in a God they’ve never seen so it’s not so farfetched to believe in things like psychics and the paranormal.”

 

“What about magic?” Xander asked as he paused in opening his twinkie wrapper.

 

DiNozzo paused and tilted his head to the side thoughtfully. “Not sure. Think most stage magicians use all smoke and mirrors crap. But, there are people who devote their lives to things like Wicca so… I’m not sure whether there’s anything in that.”

 

“There is, I’ve seen it,” Xan told him as he finally accessed his twinkie and took a bite.

 

“You’ve seen magic? Like real, honest to goodness, magic?” Tony asked, his voice a mixture of disbelief and awe.

 

“There are many kinds. Dark magics, which can actually sometimes be used for good, good magic, which can only ever be used for good or it just won’t work. There’s also Chaos magic and earth magic… some I’ve never even heard of,” he said and gave a half shrug.

 

“If you tell Abby she’ll want to have your babies,” Tony joked.

 

“I already told her.” At the flash of hurt on Tony’s face he quickly continued, “I wanted to sound her out… she seemed pretty open to weird stuff and I wanted her opinion on how you’d take it. I didn’t want to scare you away.”

 

Tony had looked away but the honest statement made him look back up. “And what did she say?”

 

“She said I should tell you the truth,” Xan told him and studied his half eaten cake.

 

Tony nodded. “So that’s what you’re doing now.” It wasn’t a question.

 

“Yeah, or trying to,” Xander rolled his eyes and the other man couldn’t help but laugh.

 

“So, magic’s real?” Tony confirmed.

 

Xander nodded at him. “Yup.”

 

“Like give me an example.”

 

“Ok. When we were sixteen, this chaos mage did a spell that turned us all into the Halloween costumes we were wearing. I became a soldier, my best friend became a ghost and my other friend…well, she was dressed as an eighteenth century lady and thought cars were evil demons,” Xan told him the first one that came to mind.

 

Tony started laughing. “That’s so cool.”

 

Xander shook his head looking deadly serious.

 

“Not cool?” Tony hazarded a guess.

 

“So not. When you imagine that some kids were dressed as demons and vampires.”

 

A shudder ran down Tony’s back and Xan remembered what Abby had told him about Tony’s nightmares.

 

“It was pretty crazy, but luckily I was able to protect my friends until one of our grown up friends, who knew all about magic and stuff, could get the mage to reverse the spell. It was actually hell for a night.”

 

“Sounds like it. How come there’s never been this big thing in the press then, I mean a town goes to hell for a night and no one notices?”

 

“Where I used to live, they became very good at repressing all the weird stuff that happened almost ever day,” Xander explained.

 

“So, magic. Is that what happened…to you…the upgrade, I mean,” Tony hedged back to the original subject.

 

“Sort of,” Xander sighed at the inevitable. “We went on a school trip to the zoo. One of the keepers was trying to perform a ritual to harness what was meant to be a powerful animal spirit from one of the groups of animals. But a few guys and me got in the way and ended up with the spirits instead. I got the strongest one. It was pretty bad, I became a total bad ass, and well, normally I’m just the class clown. The grown-up friend who stopped Halloween-hell managed to sort this mess out too. The spirits went back to where they belonged and everyone forgot what they’d done.”

 

“Except you?” Tony guessed.

 

Xander nodded. “I still remembered it in such detail and I could feel it in the back of my mind. Oh, it was caged or asleep, but it was still there.”

 

“But something happened to release it from the cage? Are you going to go all bad ass again?” Tony asked, slightly worried but trying not to show it. He’d hate to have to lock Xander up. He had no idea why he was believing the story, but Xander had no reason to lie and he’d witnessed the effects for himself.

 

“No,” Xander said as he shook his head and then explained, “It’s not like before. Before it had complete control and I was just a passenger watching as it used my memories and body to do what it liked. This time, what they did, it some how integrated it with me. It’s a part of me now. I get all the benefits but get to keep control. You don’t think I’m insane?”

 

“Oh I totally think you’re crazy, but not for this,” Tony grinned.

 

Xander rolled his eyes. “Gee, thanks, you’re a true friend.”

 

“What exactly are all the benefits? The hearing I get, the sense of smell?”

 

“Yeah, enhanced hearing, smell, eyesight and strength: all really handy things. Except for the fact that I can’t do anything with them anymore,” Xander told him with a sigh.

 

“What exactly did you used to do before?” Tony asked with a frown.

 

“I sort of…helped with solving and sorting out the weird,” Xander hedged.

 

Tony’s frown deepened. “Now you’re lying to me.”

 

“No… not lying, not exactly, just… downplaying perhaps. I think what I’ve told you is enough for you to be digesting for now, you really don’t need to know more.”

 

“There’s more? Of course there is, you already said there was dark magic, which means there’s people out there wielding it. Do you know how to do magic is that what you do?” Tony asked suspiciously.

 

Xander shook his head. “Not really. Magic tends to go wrong around me. I’m just usually its butt-monkey.”

 

Tony snorted. He could tell the other guy was telling the truth. “Not literally, I hope.”

 

It took a moment for Xan to work out what he meant and then his eyes widened. “Hey! No! So no!”

 

The older man was laughing so hard he couldn’t help himself. When it finally died down he was holding his ribs. “Couldn’t help it,” he admitted by way of an apology.

 

Xander pouted at him and looked offended.

 

“Oh come on, not the pout…” Tony looked helpless. “Yeesh, the power of the pout, I bet that thing can stop wars.”

 

The ex-scoobie laughed.

 

“So, we’re cool?” Xander asked worriedly.

 

“Yeah, we’re cool,” Tony told him. “Probably best not to tell Gibbs though. I doubt he’d be so quick to understand.”

 

They were quiet a moment, there was no strain in it, just both of them sitting there thinking: one assimilating, the other acknowledging his relief.

 

“There’s just one thing I’m not clear on,” Tony asked eventually.

 

“Just one?” Xander smirked.

 

“For now… I’m focusing on this one to stop my brain imploding.”

 

Xander barked out a short laugh.

 

“Why did they do it? I mean, what was in it for them to do this to you? I know you’re not going to tell me who they are, and I’m not going to push you. With what you’ve just told me I can hazard a guess and I’m pretty sure you were right to keep us out of it. But, it just doesn’t make sense for them to do that to you and then…leave you for dead.” Tony told him.

 

“I know. I don’t really understand it myself,” Xander was thoughtful a moment and Tony gave him that time. “I guess they were wanting to create a warrior against the supernatural. They beat me because I tried to escape, and I would have taken as many as I could with me, they made an example out of me. It’s possible that they thought they’d failed and that’s why they left me for dead,” he shrugged.

 

“Oh. Well, I guess I can see that,” Tony told him, not really sure what else to say. “What about the dead Marine, the one that started the case off?”

 

The younger man shrugged. “I’m not sure. I doubt he was the only one they disposed of though. Maybe they discovered he was resilient or they’d got the wrong guy. I’m not sure, I don’t know why they’d taken him… could have been because he was a Marine or because he was like me and had been exposed to something in the past.”

 

“Damn.”

 

“Yeah, pretty much.”

 

 

 

 


 

 

Chapter 4

 

 

“Well, look at you!” Tony’s voice interrupted his brooding.

 

He looked over at the other man. “Yeah, look at me.” Xander swept his hand through the air to take in the picture he made. He was sat in the wheelchair. The brace keeping his back rigid with his broken leg in its cast stuck out in front of him, propped up on a rest.

 

“Not good?”

 

“Uncomfortable,” Xander told him and pointed at the leg. “It makes the sitting awkward and pulls on the muscles in my back, but they said I need to keep it raised.”

 

“Sucks. They say how long ‘til it comes off?” Tony asked as he sat down on the bed and dropped his black rucksack beside him.

 

“Couple more weeks. They said they have to be careful because I won’t be able to do the physio to build things back up,” he gave a shrug. “Not sure what the big deal is, it’s not like I’m going to be running round on it. I can’t even feel it.”

 

Tony nodded, he looked out of the window a moment and then smiled. “Wanna go for a …roll?”

 

Xander raised an eyebrow.

 

“The sun’s shining, it’s warm and the grounds have some beautiful gardens. It’ll do you good to get out of here. If you’re really good I’ll buy you a burger,” he enticed.

 

“A burger?” Xander’s brown eyes lit up.

 

“Oh yeah, and fries with a milkshake if you want.”

 

“What are we waiting for?” Xander grinned.

 

He was in his pyjamas but he didn’t care as Tony wheeled him out of his room towards the nurses’ station. A quick check that it was ok was greeted with the nurse’s happy smile that she was glad he was getting out of his room.

 

The ride down in the elevator was interesting. He’d never really done that in a sitting position before and it felt strange as it pulled at his insides. As they left the building Xander realised that Tony had been right. It was a beautiful day and he’d almost forgotten it was summer with being stuck in that room for the last few weeks. He breathed deeply and filled his lungs with fresh warm air. It felt so good to be outside.

 

“Should have brought a picnic,” Xander told him with a grin, tilting his head back to look up at the man pushing his wheelchair. “Ew, I can see right up your nose.”

 

Tony laughed and rolled his eyes. “You’ll hurt your neck like that,” he chastised good-naturedly.

 

Xander rolled his eyes and then straightened up. “Yes, Dad,” he teased; it had become a common theme.

 

He couldn’t help but laugh at the young man in the chair. Xander seemed to have a real knack for putting him at ease. They walked mostly in comfortable silence, interspersed with the occasional comment, following a path that took them into the heart of the gardens surrounded by flowers and the scents of summer.

 

They finally reached an unoccupied wooden bench. Tony parked Xander’s chair up and then sat down on the bench, sprawling comfortably with his arms draped along the back and sunglasses covering his eyes.

 

Xander laughed.

 

Tony’s eyebrows flickered up in question. “What?”

 

“You, man, you’re this weird mix of…weirdness. Half the time you’re this big goofball, then you’re like mr.intense cop man and now you’re sprawled their like you should be on the front of GQ or something with your designer shades, Versace suit and shoes that are probably more expensive than my entire wardrobe put together…times ten,” Xander explained as he chuckled, shaking his head in amusement.

 

“Takes a lot of effort to be able to pull this level of stylishness off, I’ll have you know,” DiNozzo boasted.

 

“Oh, I just bet it does.” Xan grinned. “So, tell me about Gibbs. How long you guys been together?”

 

Tony’s smile lit up his face, there was no mistaking the way he felt about his boss. “Just over a year. Wasn’t so easy getting together.”

 

“Yeah, I can imagine that. What with the Marine thing and the cop thing…”

 

“Yeah, but…it’s been worth it.”

 

“What’s he like? I didn’t get to spend much time with him. He seemed to find me quite amusing though as I continually put my foot in it by flirting with him,” Xander flushed at the memory.

 

“Gibbs is very…”

 

“Gibbs?” Xander supplied.

 

The older brunette snorted. “That come from, Abs?”

 

He nodded with a bright smile.

 

“He’s the boss at work… and then at home…he’s the boss there too.”

 

Xander laughed. “I can’t imagine him being anything other than.”

 

Tony snorted. “No, me either.”

 

They talked for what seemed like hours with the sun warming them. Xander enjoyed being away from the scent of antiseptic and even though the gardens weren’t quiet as such, the noise was different than the bustle of the hospital in a way that soothed his frayed nerves. He’d never been a fan of hospitals, actually that was probably an understatement: he loathed them, and if he’d had a choice in the matter he wouldn’t stay in one. Sometimes things were just unavoidable.

 

As promised, Tony bought him a cheeseburger for being a good boy and he inhaled it before being returned to his room. Xander was in decidedly better spirits when he got back there than he had when he’d left.

 

“Right then, so I’ll stop by in a couple of days,” Tony told him as he gathered up his things. “Which reminds me, I made those calls and they said they’d pack your stuff up and courier it. Should be here soon.”

 

“Cool, thanks,” Xan said with a smile. He was actually glad to be back in his bed, it was good to get out of the room but the chair was hellish uncomfortable for his back.

 

*****

 

Xander frowned and his eyes shot open, he turned them towards the man stood in the doorway. Gibbs tensed but didn’t flinch away at the sight of green eyes staring at him.

 

“Hey,” Gibbs said as he stepped in, his face serious.

 

Green eyes dropped to the reddish brown stain on the man’s shirt and he felt a wave of nausea well up. He could tell whom it belonged to.

 

“What happened?” he asked quietly, tears starting to prick the back of his eyes.

 

“Goddamned hard-headed SOB took a bullet for me, completely ignoring the bullet-proof vest I had on and he didn’t,” Jethro told him.

 

It was hard to get air into his lungs and he idly wondered if that was what it would be like trying to breath in a vacuum. “Is he…?” he choked out.

 

Gibbs frowned slightly then understanding dawned and he realised how what he’d said could be implied. “No…god no. He’s fine… well, not fine, he has a bullet stuck in his shoulder, but he’ll be fine. He’s downstairs, he told me he was only staying if I would come up and explain to you what had happened.”

 

Air rushed into his lungs easily and Xander relaxed visibly. “Oh, thank god. I thought. Jesus… I thought I was bad enough but he’s an even bigger trouble magnet.”

 

“Personally, I think he chases it rather than attracting it,” Gibbs’ lips tugged up at one corner.

 

Xander laughed feeling the release of tension. “Are you…how are you doing?”

 

“Me?” Gibbs asked, “I’ll live,” he said and pushed a hand roughly through his silver-grey hair. It was more than could be said for Tony when he got him home. “I should get home, shower and change.” He indicated the bloodstained shirt.

 

Brown once again, Xander’s eyes dropped to the stain and he almost started to panic all over again. He told himself repeatedly that Tony was ok.

 

“Tell him to take care of himself,” Xan told him.

 

Gibbs nodded and replied, “I will. No doubt he’ll stop by before he’s discharged…probably be tomorrow.”

 

Xander nodded. Gibbs looked older than when he’d first met him and it had only been a few weeks; the weight of his lover’s injury was weighing heavily on him. It seemed to be more about what could have been than what was. He guessed from his words that it wasn’t the first time that Tony had been prone to heroics. It was also obvious to see, in that moment before the man turned and left, how much the older man loved Tony.

 

******

 

It had been ten days since Tony had been shot and apart from visiting when he was discharged a couple of days after, Xander had only seen him one other time. It had left him just too much time to think and the conclusions that he’d reached left a bitter taste in his mouth. That was why he’d decided that he had to do this and as a familiar heart beat reached his ears, Xan had to steel himself against what he knew would be hard as hell.

 

“Hey, what’s going on?” Tony asked from the doorway as he took in the chaos of the room. He dropped his backpack to the ground with his good hand; the other was still up in a sling.

 

“I’m being moved to a spinal injury rehab unit,” Xander told him, casting a glance his way in between packing his stuff up into a holdall.

 

“Yeah, that’s great…it is great, right?”

 

Xander flashed him a smile barely missing a beat in his task.

 

“When do you go?” Tony asked as he sat down on the edge of the bed.

 

“Today.”

 

“Wow, that’s…sudden.” Tony reeled a bit from the suddenness of it. He wasn’t sure what to make of the declaration and move.

 

“Yeah. I got the cast off a couple of days ago,” he pointed to his bare leg. “And the Physical Therapist said that it would be fine for me to be transferred.

 

“You need me to help you with something?” Tony asked as he picked up some odds and ends off the bed.

 

“Nah, it’s ok I’ve got it,” Xan told him.

 

“You know which unit?” DiNozzo asked as he picked up one of the comics he’d brought the other man and flipped through without really looking.

 

“Yeah, it’s out in the ‘burbs, nice though apparently,” he said trying to sound upbeat about it. It was hard when his insides were turning to stone.

 

“Well, I’ll come out and visit. Course, Gibbs will have to drive me out there for a couple of weeks, but that’s no big deal, he likes to drive. Fairly sure you’ll need rescuing from their hard-ass regime,” Tony chuckled.

 

He straightened in his wheel chair and turned to look at Tony. “Actually,” Xander started, the word falling from his mouth and forcing himself to go on before he chickened out completely. “It’s ok. You don’t need to come visit.”

 

Tony looked at him. “What?”

 

“Y’know, it’s been great of you to help me an’ all. I really appreciate it. But you’re absolved of your responsibility. I’ll be fine, you can get back to catching the bad guys.”

 

The older brunette got to his feet, feeling like his insides just dropped through the floor. “Xan…”

 

“Tony, it’s fine. I’m fine. This…I’ll adjust and move on. I appreciate that you felt like you had a job to do but I don’t need you anymore,” Xan told him evenly.

 

Tony opened his mouth to tell him it wasn’t like that, that it wasn’t about the job but a connection he’d felt the minute Xander had first looked at him. But the last words were driven into him like a blade; he wasn’t needed anymore. And in that moment he felt so completely and utterly used. How could he have been so wrong about the man in front of him?

 

“You don’t need me?” he managed to ask through the pain that twisted in his gut.

 

“Nope, I’m told there’s a great team out there and I’ll make a bunch of friends and stuff so…” Xander had to make himself ignore the completely lost and desolate look on the other man’s face. It took every inch of willpower not to take it all back and confess all, but he knew it was all for the best.

 

“Right, ok then, I’ll be going,” Tony told him, already emotionally shutting down. He picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder. He moved slow, waiting…hoping…that Xander was just teasing him but the look in his eyes told a different story.

 

“Ok, see you, Tony, and thanks again for everything.”

 

Xander watched him leave, focusing on the sound of the receding heartbeat. He could swear he was able to smell the hurt that had been coming off the man. But it was all for the best in the long run, he told himself. So, why did it hurt so damn much?

 

Packing was suddenly the hardest thing he’d ever had to do. It wasn’t like he had that much stuff since the stuff the hotel had shipped him had mostly remained packed up. But what he did have to pack had mostly been brought in by Tony; it all held memories of the last few weeks. How he had not only been someone to support him but someone to laugh with and give him a kick up the ass when it was needed. He was going to miss Tony so much but he knew it was the right thing to do. It had to be.

 

Of course, the problem was that he was now completely lost to the void of what his future actually held. He could pretend all he liked, but when it came down to it, he had no idea where his life was going to go from here. He threw the toiletry bag across the room in frustration and the tears spilled down his cheeks. Xander had never met anyone that he’d clicked with so fast and so completely and he was giving it all up.

 

It had taken Gibbs five minutes to work out that there was something wrong with Tony. He’d returned to the car looking like someone had boiled his puppy alive. Except, Tony didn’t have a puppy. He couldn’t get him to tell him what was going on though and concluded that they must have had some kind of row. He asked about Xander and just received no response at all. He wasn’t worried, he figured with two personalities as similar as they had they were bound to argue sooner or later, he was just surprised it had taken six weeks for it to happen.

 

 

 

 


 

 

Shattered Chapter 5

 

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