“Agent,” Chris looks up at the call, easily spotting the middle aged woman standing in the doorway of the occult shop just off their crime scene. She has long ebony hair, dressed in jeans and flowing scarves and she beckons him over when he meets her gaze.
“Know her?” He asks King but the other man shakes his head, puzzled frown on his face. “Guess I’d better go see what she wants.”
“Might have seen something,” King muses and accepts the evidence bag he had been finishing with from Chris. He strips off his gloves, shoving them into his pocket, and passes over his camera.
Chris jogs over to the woman, glad for the early morning for once, as only a small crowd of onlookers have gathered. They pay him no mind as he passes them.
“How can I help you, ma’am?” The sweet smell of incense tickles his nose, makes him feel light headed despite the fresh morning air.
“It’s how I can help you,” a secretive smile passes over her lips and she reaches out for Chris’ hand. Her long, slender fingers drag across his palm and he shudders at the feeling. The air feels suddenly charged. “Hmm,”
“What?” He clears his suddenly dry throat, tries to remember why he came over there. “Did you see anything this morning? Something that could help us?”
He means in person but she just winks at him and says,
“I saw something in my crystal ball, but it’s your palm I’m truly interested in.”
The smell of incense seems to be getting stronger and Chris’ head feels like it’s full of cotton.
“Your love line is long and deep.” She murmurs, glancing up at him from under thick, black lashes. “They’re right in front of you.”
Her gaze goes over his shoulder and he twists, hand still caught in her surprisingly strong grip, but all he can see are Percy and Gregorio and King.
He tries to contain his disbelief when he looks back at her but it’s clear the woman can see right through him.
“What did you say your name was again?” He tries to get back on track but it’s hard to think.
Her eyes narrow, a knowing look on her face he doesn’t like.
“Maybe you need some help.” She muses and Chris has had just about enough.
“Thanks for your help ma’am,” he finally manages to extract his hand from hers and fishes out a business card. “If you can think of anything that will help us, feel free to give me a call.”
As she takes the card her other hand comes up and Chris has a moment to realize there’s something clutched in it before she blows and he gets a face full of powder.
He chokes, tries not to inhale any of it but it’s too late- its in his mouth, his nose, his eyes. It blinds him and he stumbles, trips backwards off the curb and gravity takes hold. He hears yelling but everything sounds muted, from far away. His vision swims.
He’s unconscious before he hits the ground.
“As far as we can tell there’s nothing wrong with you,” The Doctor glances over his charts for the fifth time in as many minutes, a coping mechanism Chris figures, cause as far as he can tell, this guys out of his depth. It’s not a reassuring feeling.
Neither was waking up in a hospital room, apparently six hours after getting a face full of whatever the hell that woman had covered him with. The silver lining in all of this though is having King by his side from the moment he opened his eyes until now, when the docs are at their wits end and all they can come up with is she hit him with some home made harmless attempt at voodoo or the like and he passed out from the incense. He doesn’t buy it for a second and neither, it seems, does King.
“And he somehow passed out at the same time as getting a face full of who knows what?”
“Could have been a negative reaction to the incense Agent LaSalle said he smelt, could have been panic, dehydration, any number of things.”
It’s amazing how un reassuring that is.
“The point is,” the doctor continues at their disbelieving looks. “That he’s in perfect health and I see no reason to keep him here.”
“You don’t want to keep him for observation?” King looks aghast but honestly Chris is just itching to get out of there.
“There’s absolutely nothing showing up in the tests we ran. And honestly, we’re short on beds and staff. I can make an exception if you insist of course, keep him here overnight,”
“That won’t be necessary.” Chris interrupts quickly. “I can crash on Percy and Gregorios couch if I need to be watched.”
“You can crash with me,” King corrects and Chris grins, victorious. He slides out of bed, intent on finding his clothes.
“If you come with me I can get you a pamphlet on what to keep an eye out for.” The doctor says to King and the pair head for the door to the hospital room.
They’re barely out of sight before Chris is on his hands and knees, heaving his guts up all over the floor.
The violent nausea passes as quickly as it came on as it seems like everyone comes running into the room. They get him away from the puddle of his own sick and he clings, weakly to King who’s holding him up as the mess gets cleaned up. It’s a blur as he gets helped into fresh scrubs and back into bed, hooked up to even more machines, feeling weak and off kilter. King hovers close to the door, out of the way of the doctors as they start a fresh round of tests and theories and its not until Chris is exhausted, ready to just pass out, that things quiet down enough for King to get close again.
Having him there is like a balm for his tired senses, as he pulls his chair close and links their hands loosely together.
“Damn,” Chris sighs, sinking back into his threadbare pillows. “Thought I was making a clean escape.”
“Think you might be stuck here a little while longer,” King’s gaze is heavy on their linked hands. “You weren’t feeling sick at all?”
“Nothing,” Chris promises. “I wouldn’t lie to you, King.”
“I know,” he scrubs his free hand over his face. He looks tired, probably as exhausted as Chris feels. He thinks about sending him home- or trying to at least. But selfishly he wants King there with him while they try to make sense of everything. There’s the sliver of fear he’s trying so hard to ignore that says what if . He remembers the last time an NCIS agent got a face full of powder, he survived but barely. And they don’t have a clue as to what this could be.
“I should call Loretta, see what she’s got.”
He remembers with a jolt that they still have a murder to solve.
“You should be with the team, working the case.” He says, reluctantly.
“Two cases.” King corrects him, gently. “And I think I can help just fine from here.”
He squeezes Chris’ hand, and uses his free hand to dig out his phone. Chris’s eyes feel heavy and despite being unconscious for hours he’s exhausted so he lets them slip closed, lulled by the steady cadence of King’s voice.
There’s another incident the next day when they try to take him for tests.
They sit him in a wheelchair, something he strongly protests. King is headed to the cafeteria to grab some coffee and some food- none for Chris despite his begging- as it looks like it will take awhile to get the tests done.
Chris is barely at the other end of the hallway before he’s violently ill over the side of the chair and his nurses shoes.
The nausea doesn’t go away this time. His stomach keeps cramping as they rush him through the tests and back to the room, until he’s curled up in a pitiful little ball, because his stomach feels like it’s literally trying to tear itself apart . There are tears in his eyes. It feels like the pain is never going to end.
And then abruptly it starts to ease.
A hand lands on his shoulder and suddenly it feels like he can breathe again.
His muscles feel shaky and weak from the pain and the cramps but he manages to uncoil enough to look up at King’s fearful gaze. He lets out a shaky breath as King sinks down into his visitors chair he’s barely moved from and surreptitiously wipes at his eyes.
“I won’t leave again,” King promises and the relief Chris feels is overwhelming, enough that his eyes burn and his breath catches in his chest. He doesn’t understand why . And then King says, “Do you believe in magic Christopher?”
“We haven’t been able to get a single good photo of her,” Percy’s perched next to him on the bed, shoulder to shoulder as she flips through the the tablet in her hands. She’s right, there are photos of the crime scene from every angle, even a few of Chris with her holding his hand, probably taken as a joke at the time, but evidence now. In every single photo the woman is out of focus, out of shot, or just plain missing. It’s not possible.
“And it’s like her shop just vanished into thin air.” Sebastian adds. “Like, high level magic, no one can just disappear like that. Although I knew a guy once who could make himself disappear for hours at a time, always came back though. Never really said where he went but I think it was Connecticut.”
“Sebastian,” King cuts him off gently.
Chris doesn’t need him to apologize though, this is the most normal he’s felt in two days, his family gathered around him, and feeling whole and healthy.
“So we’ve got no idea who the hell she is,” Chris sums up.
“Not exactly,” Gregorio adds. “I went around to a few of the older shops around town, the real stuff that people only go to when they’re serious. Turns out this woman’s shown up before, a bit of a trouble maker. She seeks a person out based on their troubles, gives them what they want in an unfavourable way, and then leaves it up to them to figure it out. She’s been known to be a little extreme.”
“Extreme? Like as in people have died from this, way?” Chris demands. Gregorio’s silence is telling.
“It’s not gonna come to that,” King reassures them all. He reaches out, grasps Chris’ hand. The effect is instantaneous, the relief, reassurance that washes over him leaves him boneless on the bed.
“What the hell was that?” Percy scoots away from him, alarmed.
Chris flushes as he realizes that he’s still holding King’s hand in front of the team.
“You literally just melted when King grabbed your hand.”
“Well not literally ,” Sebastian corrects, hastening to add at Gregorio’s glare. “What? We are dealing with magic here.”
“Yeah, about that,” all eyes are suddenly on King. “I think I know what kind of spell we’re dealing with here.”
“And you’re just telling us now?” Chris nudges Percy and she settles back against his side with a scowl.
“Wasn’t certain. And I don’t want to test it out either at the risk of hurting Chris further. But I think he’s been tied to me.”
The others all try to talk over one another, asking how, why- but Chris, oh god, Chris knows why. It’s all his fault.
“We should test it out,” the others all go silent at his announcement.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,”
“I mean, I’m not all that fond of it either,” he shoots Percy a crooked grin. “But at least this way it’ll help us narrow down a way to fix it, right?”
He refuses to think about what it means if there’s no way to fix it.
“He’s right,” King looks reluctant as hell. Chris squeezes his hand, tries to let him know it’s alright. He pushes to his feet and walks around the bed to the door, pausing there.
“Percy, you’re gonna want to move,” Chris sits up further as Gregorio shoves a bin into his hands. She hurries off the bed but doesn’t go far. He meets King’s gaze determidly, and then the other man disappears through the door.
A moment later Chris is hurling his guts out.
The cramps just have enough time to start before they’re gone and strong arms have wrapped themselves around his shoulders, holding him up as he shakes.
“Let’s never do that again,” he rasps, as someone deems it safe enough to remove the bin. He’s sweating, muscles seizing as they abruptly lose their tension but King holds him close, murmurs reassuring words in his ear and despite it all he’s grateful he gets to have even this.
“Okay,” Rita’s voice filters through the speakerphone, tinny and distant. “Walk me through it one more time.”
“She called me over, read my palm and then blew a bunch of white powder in my face.” Chris scrubs an agitated hand over his face. It’s late in the evening, the team has been forced home after a long fruitless day of searching, and now as a last resort they’ve got King’s maybe ex girlfriend on the phone from DC. He figures he should be more surprised that she’s a practicing witch- “District Attorney, Witch, it all involves contracts ”- but considering she dated King, he’s not.
“I got that,” she replies dryly and the amusement in her voice just frustrates him further. He knows he shouldn’t feel this way, she’s a lovely lady and helping him out, but right now all he can focus on is the smile on King’s face when he talks to her. “What did she read on your palm?”
He seriously considers lying.
“Christopher,” King warns, reading him like an open book.
“She said,” he avoids King’s gaze. “My love line is long and deep.”
He huffs out a defeated breath.
“And that they’re right in front of me.”
“Who is?” King asks. Chris shrugs and very carefully keeps the guilt off his face.
“I think we can fix this,” Rita announces and Chris straightens up.
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.” She assures him. And then ruins it by saying, “With True Love's kiss.”
Chris gapes at the phone for a minute. King is just as silent next to him.
“This,” he finally manages to pull himself together, still avoiding King’s gaze. “Is not a fairy tale.”
“And yet here we are,” she replies. He can practically hear the shrug in her voice. “Fairy tale’s all got their roots from somewhere boys. Chris you’ve been tied to King for obvious reasons, and the fix is just as obvious.”
“Who is he supposed to kiss?” King finally asks and Chris winces, dreading the answer he knows is about to come. True Love? He knows King loves him alright, they’re family . He just doesn’t love Chris the same way.
“Dwayne, just kiss the boy already and put us all out of our misery. I can practically hear you both pining over the phone.”
And then she hangs up.
Chris glances at King and accidentally meets his warm gaze.
“I think we might’ve been idiots,” he says calmly. Chris feels like his heart might burst out of his chest. It feels dangerous to hope.
“Yeah?” he clears his throat, gaze dropping involuntarily to King’s lips. There’s a tension in the air between them, charged, like the moment before he presses down on the accelerator, ready for the lurch forwards. “Maybe we can fix that?”
The smile on King’s face is beautiful when he leans forwards to meet him halfway. It feels just as amazing pressed against his own.
He gets out of the hospital two days later after a miracle recovery.
“Agent,” Tony looks up at the call, easily spotting the middle aged woman standing next to a large willow tree in the park they’ve been called to. She’s just outside the yellow crime scene tape, with long ebony hair, dressed in jeans and flowing scarves and she beckons him over when he meets her gaze. She reminds him of the older photos he has of his mother from long before she married his father.
“Stop gawking Tony,” McGee rolls his eyes though he seems just as affected by the strange woman.
“Agent,” she calls again and Tony can’t help but feel a strong pull towards her.
“Find out what she wants, DiNozzo.” Gibbs barely glances up from his notepad. “Try not to flirt too much.”
He grins, gives a quick on it boss , and crosses the space to the woman in a few quick strides.
“Very Special Agent DiNozzo at your service,” he holds out his hand and she takes it, turning it over to inspect his palm. It throws him momentarily but he rolls with it as she traces the lines of his hand. “Did you happen to see anything here today?”
“I see a lot,” she muses, and her gaze is playful when it meets his. “But what I’m intrigued by is what I see here,”
She has a solid grip on his hand he realizes and her perfume is so strong . It’s making his head swim a little.
“Right,” he clears his throat and tries to piece together his thoughts.
“DiNozzo,” is barked at him but it sounds tinny, far away.
“Hmm, your love line is deep, one of the deepest I’ve seen. And it runs long. But,” she taps one well manicured nail against what he assumes must be his love line. “It needs a little push .”
And then her other hand comes up and she blows a cloud of smoke at him. He stumbles back, free from her grip suddenly. He chokes, tries not to inhale any of it but it’s too late- it’s in his mouth, his nose, his eyes. It blinds him and he stumbles, trips backwards, and gravity takes hold. He barely registers the panic of no, not again .
“ Tony, ” everything sounds muted, from far away. His vision swims.
He’s unconscious before he hits the ground.