Xander was just about to watch some movies when his doorbell rang. Frowning at the door, he picked up a gun and went to answer when he decided to peek out the window. Biting back a squeal of joy, Xander flung the door open and let Tony and Abby in.
“Oh my God, when did you guys get in? I so would have picked you up at the airport, and why does Tony look like he’s about to kneel over and die on my front steps?” With that Xander dragged the quiet Tony to his living room and plopped him down while he turned to look at Abby.
“What happened and who do I have to kill for hurting him like this?” His tone was conversational, but both heard the threat and promise of pain in his voice.
“The perpetrator is in jail. He was a serial killer, and it was his reaction to Tony that’s got him so bent out of shape.” Abby babbled at high speed, and only years of listening to Willow allowed him to decipher it.
“Okay, so what did he do; better yet, what did he say?”
“He basically said that we were the same. I really liked the guy, he had a good sense of humor, understood me when I spoke in movies and scenes, and liked me for me. When I found that he was the killer and I was chained to him, I was having a mental breakdown as soon as Gibbs got me free. I decided to cash in on some leave time, and Abby decided to come with since she wanted to see the house. I just had to get away, ya know?”
Xander nodded; it was the same with Ezra every now and then. He had to retreat behind his mask after a bad sting or undercover operation. When he came out, Xander and Vin were there to put the pieces back together. I hurt to watch, but they understood that it was all about control, and a different way of processing.
“How do you unwind after a case? Do you go for sex, booze or a night in hiding from the world?”
“Never have time to unwind anymore. Gibbs call, I gotta go, no questions asked.” The monotone answer scared Xander and then he was pissed.
“You get NO down time? That stupid son of a bitch!” Xander growled and paced the room, letting Abby cuddle Tony. She didn’t know that Tony didn’t get down time, she’d have to tell Gibbs to give him some, or they’d lose him to a bullet and he wouldn’t care.
“I’m getting used to it.” Came the quiet reply.
“Yeah, and I got used to being my father’s punching bag. You are going to relax and go beach surfing. Abby will stay with you to keep you grounded, and when you get back to DC, I will hear if you get harassed by this Katelyn Todd or Gibbs. If they so much as bitch that you had to take a break, I will go to DC and bring Team Seven with me and so help me God, I will beat Gibbs into submission.”
“You don’t have too…” Tony’s eyes gave him away, and the joy at being held in high regard hurt Xander.
“You are going to the convention next month, right? If all else goes right, we’ll get you a new job, and away from this cycle of destruction you’re in. I don’t care if Gibbs’ begins to bitch and moan, if he keeps this up, I will do everything I can to get you away from that man. He’s going to get you killed much faster than the other Police Departments you were working at. I know Chicago is hiring, and so is LA. You have options Tony; I don’t want to go to your funeral because Gibbs was an ass and pushed too hard.”
Tony nodded and Abby petted him as they thought over Xander’s words. Gibbs had been getting tougher to deal with, and Kate’s remarks were getting too cruel to be considered playful teasing. She didn’t care about not hitting below the belt, and that is what made Abby and Tony agree to Xander’s plan.
“Now, the pair of you can come with me to work tomorrow, and I know Horatio would love to show off the lab. He’s geeky that way.”
Tony and Abby snorted at the thought of Lieutenant Horatio Caine being called geeky, and the tension of the conversation slipped away. Reigning in their thoughts, Tony and Abby watched the movie that Xander had picked out. Vacation sounded good, so did relaxing on the beach. Maybe he and Abby could scope out the clubs and let loose like they couldn’t in DC because of their ties to the Navy. Yes, it would be a good vacation, and Gibbs couldn’t call them back because they were out of state, and had put in the leave forms.
Xander had been happy until a week after Tony and Abby left. His happy, go lucky attitude wasn’t prepared for the violent nightmare that ragged through him. Waking and gasping for breath, Xander crumbled and cried as he remembered his family, his friends. Not pictures had followed him, no mementos, so he had to find and make his own.
He called Horatio, asking for a day off, and Horatio agreed from the sound of his voice that he could stay away. Dressing slowly and sluggishly making his way around his home, Xander needed to get wood and a good set of carving knives. He was going to bring his family back to life, the only way he knew how.
It took a good two hours to get the right pieces of wood. There were twenty cylindered pieces, extra in case he made mistakes, that were three inches in diameter and ten inches long, each. He found a good set of knives at a hobby shop, and got a pair of wet stones as well. As soon as he got home, he covered the coffee table in front of him in newspaper and began to carve.
Giles was the first one he did. His short hair, and glasses made the carving difficult, but he managed. Instead of having the glasses on his face, he put them in his hands, as if he had just gotten up and was resting his eyes and needed a good stretch. He kept him on a mount, and with a careful hand carved in “Rupert Giles: Teacher, Father, Friend” before beginning the one of Buffy.
With Buffy he started at the feet. He had to gauge the height of his friend, and she was too tiny to consider starting at the top. He put her in his favorite outfit: Black go-go boots, her dark blue mini-skirt and he backless top. She had been a vision of beauty and deadliness that night, and Xander was forever grateful that she was his friend. He kept her hair down, as it did more for her face than putting it up, and smiled sadly before carving her name, “Buffy: She chose her destiny, my Friend.”
He had begun crying after he had finished Buffy’s carving and looked at the clock. It had taken him three hours to make the two, and while he wasn’t hungry, he knew he had to eat. Xander also wanted to hear the voice of a friend, so he picked up the phone and, before he knew it, he had called Vin at home.
“Hello,” Came the tired reply.
“Vin, are you busy?” Xander couldn’t help but sound like a lost little boy, and that put Vin on alert.
“You know you can talk to me anytime pard.”
“Why did they do it?”
“Why did who do what?” Vin’s voice was coaxing and soon Xander was talking about everyone in his life and how they had either tried to push him away, or force him to change his mind.
“I mean, they were my friends, family, and it was like they couldn’t stand me. There were times that I just wanted to step out into the dark and die, but that wouldn’t have proved anything.” Tears were still flowing down his face and Xander had curled up in his lounge chair, just outside the door of the kitchen.
Xander had taken another piece of wood with him and he slowly carved out Tara’s face as he talked to Vin. Tara was the gentle witch, the understanding sister, and his confidant after Jesse had died. Xander told Vin all about Tara as he carved her into the wood, putting Miss Kitty Fantastico in her arms and putting her gentle smile on her face. The one thing that would stand out to Vin was what he would carve on her base, “Tara: My soul sister.”
As Xander began to tell Vin more about the people that had been in his life, he began another carving. It was only part way through that he realized that he was carving Jesse. A sob broke through and Vin asked what was wrong.
“Did I ever tell you about Jesse?”
“Who was she?”
“He was my best friend, and he was killed before his sixteenth birthday.”
“Damn Xan, are you sure you don’t want me and Ez to fly down?” His voice was filled with concern, warming Xander’s heart.
“No, we’ll be seeing each other soon at the convention, it’s just, I haven’t thought about him in so long, and I realized how much I missed him.” He was able to quickly carve out the features of his late friend, and gave him the engraving of “Jesse: The first who saw me, for me.”
Xander kept his hands busy as he spoke with Vin. It felt good to finally let it all go, and he knew that Vin would share it with the others if he asked. Joyce’s face began to form before him and Xander smiled though his tears. Joyce was the closest thing he had to a mother, and he loved her for just being there for him. She was always willing to sit him down and talk to him, letting him know that one person did still love him. “Joyce: Mother of my heart” was her engraving, and Xander couldn’t have put it better if he had to look for better words.
“Thanks for listening to me Vin, I know that you and Ezra want to be here, and trust me, that does help more than you know.”
“We can still pop down if you need us Xan.”
“No, I’m doing much better now. I’ll show you what caused the reflection at the convention, alright?”
“Sure thing pard and call if you need to, you know we’ll listen.”
“Thanks Vin, could you tell the others? I don’t think I could share this a-again.” His voice cracked once more.
“No worries Xander, I’ll make sure that the boys know what you just told me. You take care of yourself and we’ll see you in three weeks, alright?”
“Yeah, thanks again Vin.”
“No problem, take care.” With that Vin hung up the phone and Xander stared at the new block of wood in his hand. Picking up Jesse and Joyce, he put them with Giles and Buffy, who were placed on the other table, ready to be oiled to prevent the wood from drying out and cracking. He did miss them, and it still hurt to think of most of them.
Smiling down at the face of Dawn peering up at him, Xander decided that this would be the last carving he did today. He needed a bit more food and a nap after dealing with such dangerous memories. Hopefully, the people from work would let him be, he had to get his head on straight, or he’d say something that he shouldn’t.
The six statues looked at him, and Xander let a few tears fall. The last one brought a deep sadness to swell within him and he stared at her engraving, “Dawn: My Extra-Ordinary Girl”, reminding him of the time she just wanted to understand the world around her.
Wiping his eyes once more, Xander put a small tea light in front of each, and promised to light them that night. He would remember his friends, and maybe, just maybe, he should write out their lives so that he wouldn’t forget.
Word count is 37,364/50,000 --> weeeeeeeeeee!!
PS -- Clicky Clicky! there be dragons here!