Summary: They're playing with fire, and there's no turning back.
Characters: Wilson, House, OCs
Rating: R for language and themes (gen fic).
Warnings: This is a very alternate universe. Adult themes and adult language.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Never will.
NOTES: This is the end of the Cierros Transgression arc, finally posted here now that LJ is working. The next, shorter arc will be coming your way following the season finale on 5/23.
It would be so easy, he thinks in the split-second after jumping.
They've landed in a tumbled heap on the floor of the California's control room, tangled in a cushioned nest of blankets and medical supplies. The 'gary is moving feebly beneath him, whimpering like a small wounded animal, and the scent, the all-powerful stink of blood and sweat is rolling up from its body like a moist, seductive fog, and in this moment, there are nothing but ancient instincts in the haemovore's brain.
Because underneath the sweat and grime and blood, there's another scent, a rich musky odor that only the haemovore can detect, and he knows it the way he knows forest from sky.
It makes no difference that the prey is human.
This one is his. His bloodstock, to take, and he does want to take. He'll sink his fangs into the human's throat and drink so deeply he'll never be thirsty again.
It would be so easy, he knows -- the 'gary bound and helpless, he could clamp down on the neck, feel the prey's back arch in the unequal struggle, the whimpers die on its lips. He can already taste the blood, more and more of it, and he can feel the fullness, satisfaction.
Do it, an ancient voice murmurs. Take your prize. The haemovore leans forward, his strong hands grasp the prey's shoulders --
A gleam of silver on the human's chest.
The haemovore stops and blinks. A brightly polished insignia, two crossed harrowleaves like thin crescent moons. He touches his collar -- bare fabric meets his fingers on the right side.
The harrowleaves seem to wink at him in time with the rising and falling of the bloodstock's chest.
The haemovore takes a deep, shuddering breath. Not bloodstock.
The longest second in the haemovore's life ends with a snap! as space and infinity crash back into each other and reintegrate in a vertiginous sense of free-fall.
"Shit!" House snarls. He catches himself before he collapses completely on Wilson's half-conscious form, and how stupid would that have looked? He pulls away with a growl, scrubs his hands over his face. He has to care for Wilson, but there's something even more important he has to do first in order to save them both.
"Callie!" he shouts, "get us the fuck out of here! Now!"
"Initiating exdock," the ship's automatic nav replies calmly. "Accessing preset course for Bradbury Station."
House's fingers, normally so dextrous, are clumsy as they fumble with the gag buckle at the back of Wilson's head. Wilson's eyes have closed, and his skin is cool and clammy.
"HC two five five." It's a new voice, and it takes House a moment to recognize the ship code assigned to the Hotel California. "HC two five five, this is Cierros Traffic Control -- are you departing early?"
"Affirmative on that, Cierros," House says, jerking Wilson's gag free at last and hurling it into a corner.
"You should've filed an amended flight plan, HC two five five," the voice chides.
"I would have, you moron, if I'd wanted you killer fucks to know where we're going," House mutters under his breath. Crap -- he needs to get these handcuffs off but he doesn't have the key. Or does he? The Alchemist's given him everything else --
He straightens from his crouched position over Wilson and begins to quickly pat down his uniform pockets. In a louder voice, he says, "Ah, sorry about that, Cierros. Just got an etherburst from home -- my ... my mother's sick. Very sick." He forces his voice to crack. "Dying." Here -- what's this in his breast pocket?
"Oh," the voice replies in a chastened tone. "Sorry to hear that, HC two five five. You're cleared for immediate departure."
It is a key. House rolls Wilson onto his side; the cuffs snugged tight around Wilson's wrists spring free and he yanks them off.
"Departure sequence complete," the California's nav reports.
"You have a green light," the Cierrosian traffic controller confirms. "Green light, HC two five five." A pause, then --
"Have a safe trip now."
Wilson's breathing is quick and shallow, his pupils dilated. He's exhibiting piloerection and tachycardia, and his systolic BP is severely depressed. Tremors shake his body, and his ADH is elevated. Half of these are symptoms of a Class III hemorrhage, half of voracin shock. He's bruised and bloody, the rope burns standing out against his pale skin. Wilson's left hand has sustained multiple fractures, and he keeps trying to cradle it against his sweat-grimed chest.
"Hooouuuse?" he slurs, obviously trying to focus as the haemovore takes more readings from his handheld quark.
"Right here," House murmurs.
Wilson hitches in a breath. "You ... the Angel of Death?"
House freezes, the quark still whispering its readings through his earbud. "What?"
"Black," Wilson wheezes. "All black."
And House understands then. Cursing, he lays the quark down for a moment and straightens again, tearing open the tunic of the I.S. uniform he wears. He pulls it off to reveal the plain white undershirt beneath; tossing the tunic to the floor, he quickly bends over Wilson.
"Um," Wilson breathes. "Hurts."
"I'm sure it does."
"Bite." It comes out as a whisper, so soft at first that House doesn't recognize the word. "House. Bite."
"Hold on. I will. I'm checking you for internal injuries."
"You hit me." Wilson squeezes his eyes shut. He'd probably be crying if he weren't so damn dehydrated.
"Yeah, and I'll do it again if you don't shut up." House tugs the blankets closer around Wilson's groin and legs and pulls a universal bloodbag from the cluster of medical supplies he carted here from the infirmary the night before. He'd wrapped his arms around Wilson and jumped them both directly into the California's control room instead of the little ship's hospital.
There are fewer unpleasant memories here.
House swabs the inside of Wilson's right elbow with a sterile pad and uncaps a syringe with his teeth. He has to dig for a suitable vein in the dry, chapped skin -- it'll leave a bruise, but there's plenty of other bruises to keep this one company.
He slips the needle gently into the vein, primes the pump on the bloodbag and flips the switch to power it on. The kit secured with a quick loop of surgical tape, he prepares for the next step.
The voracin shock has to be addressed; untreated, it will kill Wilson just as inevitably as the blood loss, but in Wilson's depleted state a full dose might send him into cascade failure. House has decided he'll administer a large enough injection now to send Wilson off to Fun Happy Dreamland; the other, smaller doses can follow at regular intervals to gradually level out the amount of voracin in Wilson's system and give House time to get him cleaned up.
Because really? Wilson stinks.
"Wilson?" House asks. "Come on, Wilson, stay with me here."
Wilson's eyes are glassy and that's not a good sign but there's not much else House can do right now.
"Can't move ... m'feet," Wilson observes, his voice trailing off into a mumble.
"That's because you're still wearing ankle bracelets," House replies, reaching for Wilson's left arm. "A few things more important going on right now, okay?"
"Wanna keep me from ... runnin' away," Wilson whispers.
House rolls his eyes. "Going to bite you now, Wilson." And he sinks one fang, as gently as possible, into the widest branch of the brachial artery in Wilson's wrist.
He holds it there, injecting a slow, steady pulse of voracin as Wilson's broken hand warms in his grasp. Wilson moans softly as the sedative begins its gradual spread throughout his system.
"Oh," Wilson whispers. "Oh." The cramps and tremors ease, his tense muscles begin to relax, and he sags back onto his mounded pillow of soft, fleecy blankets.
House holds his wrist for a moment more, then withdraws his fang and carefully touches his tongue to the droplet of blood from the tiny wound. He closes his eyes for a moment.
He's missed this taste.
Then he's laying Wilson's hand back down and pulling Wilson's shoulders and head into his lap. He eases Wilson's head onto his left arm, holding him close to warm him, and uses his right hand to take a presoaked antiseptic cloth from the dispenser beside him.
Working slowly, he gently wipes Wilson's face, cleaning away the caked blood and filth, swabbing carefully around his nose and over his cracked and bruised lips. Wilson makes a tiny whining sound and tries to snuggle closer, turning his face and attempting to bury it in House's stomach.
"Hey, c'mon," House protests softly. Nevertheless, he gathers Wilson in fast and loops his right arm around Wilson's shoulders so that he's enclosed in something most closely resembling a bear hug. Wilson's breath hitches and House tightens his grip, pressing Wilson's face into his chest and rocking him very gently back and forth.
"It's okay," he murmurs. "It's okay."
It isn't okay, of course. Maybe, eventually, it will be.
Wilson's finally, deeply asleep, lying back on the pillows where House has arranged him. Covered from toes to chin in four layers of blankets, and the bloodbag replaced with a steady IV of electrolyte solution.
House struggles to his feet, groaning, and limps to the console where he left the array of drugs he might need. The one he wants is known as Remeril, where House comes from, but when Alton Jerome's medical staff restocked the Hotel California's infirmary, they imported a generic, called Hypsolis. Same manufacturer -- Oneiroi Labs, on Eos Four -- but a blue liquid instead of green. Still decent enough as a painkiller; better, it turned out, for suppressing the effects of recent trauma. It won't wipe Wilson's memories; it'll just make them easier to live with.
Damn shame he can't dose himself, too.
Wilson sleeps the whole shipnight through and into the next morning, giving House ample opportunity to give him a thorough cleansing and inject small doses of voracin every few hours. And to doze, replenishing some of the precious sleep he's lost in these past few days.
The handcuffs key had unlocked the ankle fetters also. House couldn't look at those without seeing the sets of horse-hobbles he'd just bought, so he sent them sliding across the polished control room floor, skating along until they fetched up with a discordant rattle against the wall. Wilson hadn't moved, not even when House had carefully picked the splinters out of his swollen, skinned knees.
He hadn't moved all through the long, slow sponge bath either, although his penis had twitched in House's hand as he'd lifted it to clean the abraded, bruised skin. A simple autonomic response, but it had made House smile just a little.
House had inspected Wilson's broken left hand, manipulating the fingers, looking for the unnatural stretch of torn ligaments and tendons. There didn't seem to be any, and finally House had sighed and reset the bones before spraying the affected area with Flexi-Cast. They could check it more thoroughly in the infirmary later; if Wilson needed further attention they'd have to find a specialist on Bradbury Station. House may be many things, but an orthopedic surgeon isn't one of them.
He'd turned Wilson gently onto his stomach so he could treat his back; Wilson had muttered something and tucked his face into the soft blankets.
Wilson's shoulders and ribs had been black and blue, shading to various tints of green in some areas. The execution stake had rubbed a long strip of ugly raw flesh from the nape of Wilson's neck to his L4, at the top of the iliac crest, and the guards' truncheons had landed hard enough to break the skin. In the end he'd cleaned the cuts, using dermal glue and bridging bandages to close the worst of them. A soothing knitsalve gel would cool the pain and inflammation, so perhaps Wilson wouldn't have too much scarring. Bandages over it all, of course, and never mind how House's own back ached with all the bending and tending. He'd re-arranged the blankets, folding under the stained and bloodied portions so Wilson wouldn't roll back onto them -- tomorrow he'd simply toss them into the ship's sub-atomic incinerator along with all the other medical debris.
He'll throw in the midnight-black uniform, too, but first he'll go through it carefully, turning every pocket inside out to see if the Alchemist has left any other items to ponder over. Just in case.
House sighs at long last and gingerly stretches his long length beside Wilson. His leg aches from all the unaccustomed squatting and crouching; he tries not to think of the agony he'd be in if he'd been tied on his knees for two days. He'd get up and find his own pills, but he's so tired.
House scrubs a hand wearily across his face; he'd given Wilson two more careful bites as he'd tended to him but still refrained from taking in return. Maybe tonight, or tomorrow morning -- Wilson should be recovered enough for just a small feeding by then.
Wilson has turned onto his right side and House moves a little closer, squaring his shoulders until their chests are almost touching. He lays a hand on Wilson's left bicep, feeling the warmth and the long muscle beneath the skin. A memory returns unbidden, the first lesson all Ursori children are taught, when they're given their own first sorel to care for --
Hand and heart, hoof and paw -- your source animal is your responsibility, first, last, and always.
Wilson stirs a little, seeming to sniff the air. Apparently catching the scent he (needs) seeks, he sinks into deep sleep again. House squints at the chronometer on the wall. Another dose soon, but not now. Not on top of the Hypsolis.
"Yes, Admiral Lord Emperor?" The ship's voice is low, echoing House's soft tone.
"Wake me up in another couple of hours."
"Yes, sir," Callie murmurs
House closes his eyes as the control room lights come down and artificial twilight falls. He'll have to change that protocol setting.
But not just yet.
Lunch time ... or late breakfast, or something. They're measuring days in dosage schedules, rather than food as they usually do, but food is still required.
House heads toward the console room with a rolling cart and some freeze-food greenduck for himself. He can cook, despite what he lets Wilson believe, but cooking takes time and effort, and he's too worn out to bother. Particularly since he's the only one who could eat anything he might make. The various flavored broths in the kitchen's stock were probably meant as ingredients, but right now, for Wilson, they're as close to meals as he can handle.
"Need you back in that kitchen," House gripes, wheeling the meal-cart to a stop. "This premade crap is ... crap."
"Bite me," Wilson retorts, and House will. But first he hands Wilson the bowl of broth from the cart, and lets him drink.
With Wilson stable but mostly out of commission, House is bored out of his mind.
The shipboard afternoon and evening drag on in back-and-forth of dozing, doses, cleaning the sorel pen in the hold, snacks from the kitchen, learning new games with the trivid goggles he found on the rec-deck.
It is intensely disappointing that the trivid programs do not include any immersion porn.
Even more disappointing that in his current condition, Wilson's wits aren't sharp enough to make him a worthy opponent in the games. He keeps nodding off as they're about to get slaughtered by a raging Eracettus.
House sighs and pulls the goggles off. He's too hungry to keep playing anyway, and it's time to see if Wilson's poor bruised digestive tract can manage something a bit more substantial.
He ought to go bite that sorel, too, but that can wait until after dinner.
When House wakes again in the middle of shipnight, he doesn't fight it. Insomnia is a much longer acquaintance than this vulgaris of his, and he has learned to entertain it until it's satisfied and wanders away.
Wilson inhales, stretches his legs beneath the blankets, and whimpers his way into consciousness. No doubt it's still painful for him to move, but he needs to do it.
"You have to pee," says House, knowing that the instant he plants the thought, it will become true. "And get showered, because sponging you off helped, but not enough. Then, and only then, will I deign to sink my perfect teeth into your mangy hide."
"I hate you," Wilson moans, but he stretches his right arm out so House can help him to his feet.
While Wilson's in the master cabin shower, House peels the sheets off their makeshift bed and replaces them. He's not sure if the smell is enough for a vulgaris to notice, but for a haemovore, the reek of injured flesh, antiseptics, sweat, and ointments is significant. Just because he can't take from Wilson yet, doesn't mean he wants to lose his appetite.
Wilson emerges clean, looser-limbed by far than when he'd gone in, but wobbly and slow like a very cautious drunk. His face is pale and pinched, his breathing shallow. Moving around like this, he's disturbed a hundred bruises and cuts; it must hurt like a bitch.
He says nothing, and House walks him back to the control room, so close that their shoulders are touching.
They ease back down into the control-room bed together, House taking enough of his patient's weight to prevent him falling. He's got his fangs deep inside Wilson's trapezius, pushing in a good, heavy dose, before Wilson's head ever meets the pillow.
This is how he does what has to be done, while Wilson sleeps. He turns Wilson's head to the right, tipping it until he can get a few drops of disinfectant into the ear canal. How those bastards managed to give Wilson an ear infection on top of everything else, House doesn't know, but the redness and heat are unmistakable.
He spreads another round of skinsalve on the cuts across the cheekbone and brow, his fingers tracing the ridges and planes of the facial bones. Picking up the handheld scanner, he checks the broken left metacarpals. They seem to be staying in place pretty well. The hand won't be usable for some time; still, Wilson's healing at an accelerated pace, like the acclimated animal he is.
For the rest of Wilson's body, House puts the scanner aside and uses his hands and his instincts, feeling his way around the ribcage, over the liver, spleen, kidneys, and all the bruising and inflammation -- fading, again, faster than it ought to in this species. He doesn't have to touch like this, when he could scan for these changes, but with his source animal, only one way feels right. Like this, taking a direct sensory inventory no scanner can provide.
Like this, with Wilson bitten into peaceful oblivion, willingly.
By morning, Wilson's putting off too much heat. Way too much, enough to wake House just a few moments before Callie's voice chimes in to let him know something's wrong.
What's wrong is a simple opportunistic bug, but the moments between knowing the problem and knowing the cause -- and thus the solution -- are longer than House would care to admit.
He puts Wilson on a mild antipyretic, a potent antiviral, and a programmed dialysis loop for good measure. It's the same kind of equipment he'd used to clear the poison out of Evo Krater's blood. He straps the unit in place on Wilson's left arm, since that hand is useless anyway, and Wilson watches silently while House inserts the upper and lower cannulae and starts the flow of blood.
"Good at that," he finally says.
"Sharp stuff comes naturally to sharp minds," answers House. "You, on the other hand, missed your calling in the waste recycling field."
"Maybe so." Wilson lies back with his mouth curved into a faint little smile. "I do seem to pick up space flotsam."
It's early afternoon before House feels comfortable enough to leave Wilson sleeping in his warm nest of blankets and visit the ship's cargo hold.
The animal penned in the California's hold seems surprised to see him again. House checks on her twice a day, yet she never seems to expect him. She doesn't have a name; House hasn't named an animal since the day he lost Sasha, so long ago.
She's a tall, rawboned specimen, her deep brown coat not nearly as fine as that of the exquisitely bred creatures House once owned. Her neck is long and slender, with a graceful downward curve, and she has the docile brown eyes of all her kind. A sorel, the species James Wilson has temporarily replaced.
Those doe eyes turn toward him, the animal thoughts behind them unfathomable. She won't run, it's not in her nature, but she doesn't know him well enough to come to him either. Instead she continues munching her dry fodder as he makes his approach. He doubts she even remembers the last time he was here, the experience of becoming the first-ever Sorella sorella familiaris to leap through space and time.
He needs this, and he's already running through the familiar old routine in his mind. He strokes the sorel's neck, makes sure it's not about to panic. The animal hair is soft beneath his hand, but it won't be a pleasant texture in his mouth.
When she stiffens her posture, he begins to rub and scratch her large, delicate upright ears. The sorel enjoys that for a moment, relaxes, and then urinates, the pungent liquid soaking into the bedding of her makeshift stall. House can't expect anything else of her; she's an animal, after all. It's not her fault that she doesn't know his name or his nature or what he intends to do.
He bends and sinks his fangs into the crest of her neck, just behind her head. She lets out only a momentary bleat of surprise before the voracin hypnosis starts to set in. It's different for her than it is for Wilson, who chose it and ... it's just different. The sorel folds her long legs beneath her and lies down, too close to the pee spot for House's liking, but he settles down next to her. He presses her head against his chest and makes a cut to the large, protruding vein at the base of her ear. The velvet-soft ear flicks against his cheek, as if trying to shoo away a bothersome insect, then lies still.
The sharp, strong flavor fills his mouth. He drinks, grimacing at the undertone of metallic bitterness, like when he did electronics work for Eggie and used to hold old corroded wires in his mouth. When he stops -- and he stops sooner than he should -- she's still dazed but awake, her elegant convex face showing no more understanding than it did the day before.
House shoves the thought away and uses the sorel's shoulders as a brace to push himself to his feet. There are more important things that deserve his full concentration right now.
He brushes away some of the animal's bedding straw that's attached itself to his pants and retrieves his cane.
Time to check on Wilson.
It is now the third day post-insane-rescue, and House is sure he's going to lose his mind, pick up a blaster, and start burning graffiti into the walls.
The sneak infection had been vanquished by shipnight, but Wilson still isn't well enough to be out of bed more than a few minutes at a time. He is, however, well enough to be utterly medically boring. He sleeps the sleep of a healing source animal, his body using all available energy putting itself back in order so it can once again sustain the demands of a full-grown parasite. Haemovore. Sometimes when he looks at the marks on Wilson's body, House isn't sure the Cierrosians are entirely wrong about vampires.
As often as he can, House escapes.
He prowls through the decks of the California, edgy and feeling like he's about to jump out of his skin. Occasionally his right hand slips into his pocket, and he fingers the TeeDee nestled there. He wants to take it out, to use it again, to take it apart and spread its tiny temporal gears all over a desk and see how it works. But he can't do any of that.
He has to send it back, he knows that. But it doesn't stop him from thinking about it, from contemplating, from continuing to run through a set of starchart coordinates in his mind -- the coordinates for his own homeworld. Could he jump there? Is there a limit to the distance one can travel? And if there's not, why stop at Ursoria Nel? Why not jump out of the galaxy -- hell, why not out of this universe? House's hand closes tight around the small device.
What's on the other side?
"But I'm on this side," he mutters to himself. "We're on this side. And the Alchemist was right -- Wilson and I might need their help again."
So leave Wilson. You don't need him. He's slowing you down, holding you back.
House hesitates. A vision of the unnamed sorel in the ship's hold rises in his mind, its tame brown eyes fixed on his. Its domestic eyes. Meek, obedient, dull, housebroken eyes.
"I don't want that," he whispers. "I don't."
"Don't want what?" a soft voice asks, and House looks up in surprise. The trail of breadcrumbs, the skein of yarn, the hoofprints in the maze -- all the human and haemovore stuff of legends, has led him here.
Wilson is awake.
Not only is Wilson awake, but he's alert, and he is alertly watching something on one of the control room monitors. A newsvid, the very sight of which makes House turn away.
Wilson has punched enough buttons to get Callie to play him the recorded feed off Cierros, and he is watching himself almost die.
Hearing a new surge of noise, House looks again, and there he is, the vidcams zooming in on him -- damn, maybe he won't destroy that uniform after all -- while he orders Wilson cut free, cuffed again, and ... oh, shit. It's not the magic trick with the flash of light that House didn't want him to see. It's the part just a moment before.
As the light fades and the crowd segues from shock to outrage, Wilson stops the playback.
"You hit me," he says.
"You said that the first time. Wilson, I -- "
"Because you needed ... a diversion. You threw their brains out of gear long enough to get a grip on me and trigger the ... uh ... device."
"Do you have any idea how hard it is for me not to say it was because you're so annoying?"
The hint of a smile ghosts across Wilson's face, but he doesn't say anything. Instead, he taps absently at the control panel, bringing up different camera angles, shots of the crowd, a close-up of the macabre Punk'n Judi puppet show. Wilson freezes the playback again, stopping Punk's club in mid-descent.
"Why?" he says.
House doesn't look up. He's studying his cane again -- he lost his good black-burr cane in this crazy stunt, and has had to make do with a spare from Callie's infirmary. It's an ugly thing, all shiny nu-alloy and scuffed everplast, and it practically screams cripple here! House hates it.
Now House does look up. Wilson's got that troubled expression on his face, his eyebrows drawn together and his lips set in a thin, pursed line.
"Why me?" he says again. "They never ... they never told me anything, except that I was a ... a feeder." He turns in his seat so that he's facing House. "What did I do? Why did they pull me out of line? I was just -- "
"It wasn't anything you did," House says. "It was what they thought you were." His shoulder is starting to ache and he sits down. God, he hates this cane.
"That bastard Westerberg," Wilson says. "He told me ... a story, right before he ... before he ..." His voice stutters to a stop, and his eyes take on a trapped, panicky look.
House doesn't know who this Westerberg is, but he's not going to ask. "Let me guess. The vampires of Newland."
"Yes!" Wilson's right hand comes up, rubs at the back of his neck. Probably not even aware he's doing it. House thinks about biting him, but Wilson's a stubborn animal and the question would just come up again anyway.
"History gets written by the winners," House says. "It's a cliche, but there's a reason cliches exist." He settles back in his own seat, carefully stretches his leg, and tells Wilson the story of the Newland colony, this time from the losers' point of view. When he's done, Wilson is sitting quietly, staring off into space.
"Thank you," he says at last, and swipes awkwardly at his eyes with a hastily-gathered hank of t-shirt sleeve. Oh, crap, House thinks.
"I'm hungry," he announces. Wilson blinks at him.
"Not for that," House snaps. That faint smile returns, and House relaxes.
"Then get us some food, House."
"See? Annoying." He hauls himself to his feet, turns in the direction of the kitchen and hopes that when he returns, that image of Clocktower Square will be gone from the monitor, never to return.
"So tell me again what this thing is, and why you took it upon yourself to ... jump ... us into the control room instead of the infirmary?"
It's close to midnight. Wilson's voice is still a little raspy from his bruised larynx, but the hot soup is helping. There's rice in this version, a few soft vegetables and a little finely chopped meat, and it's the only thing he's been able to eat without feeling sick for the past couple days. House has propped him up with spare red plushy cushions from the Bijou, stacked against the wall so that Wilson can sit almost straight up and not choke on the rich beef broth that House is making him sip, spoonful after spoonful.
"I told you," House says dismissively. "It's a transmolecular dematerializer. A TeeDee. And I don't like the infirmary."
"I see," Wilson observes, taking another spoonful as House holds the bowl steady, compensating for the hand Wilson can't use. "You don't like the infirmary, so even though I'm the injured party, you put us here."
"You say that like it's a bad thing."
"Oh. Forgive me. I thought -- " Wilson is suddenly caught up in a coughing spell, grimacing with pain. House quickly sets the soup bowl down and grabs Wilson's right wrist. The pulse is steady and strong, and House allows himself to relax.
"Listen to you," he grumbles, not letting his relief show. "I've got you all fixed up -- soft pillows, spoon-feeding -- just like a pasha on Semiramis Prime. And what do I get in return? Don't know why I bothered saving your sorry ass."
Wilson makes a sound that resembles a muffled snort of a laugh. "I don't look like a pasha," he says ruefully, indicating the worn t-shirt and loose pajama pants he's wearing. "House ... why did you? That was a crazy stunt you pulled; if they'd caught you -- "
"Then I would have been dead," House snaps. But first they'd have made me watch you bleed out like a butchered cow. "But they didn't, and I'm not. Now. More soup. Doctor's orders."
Wilson smiles then, just a little. "A doctor prescribing for a doctor? That works both ways, you know." The dark eyes turn serious. "Take a little from me with my next dose."
House almost drops the soup bowl but recovers quickly. "You're not strong enough yet."
Wilson shakes his head. "I can read my own chart as well as you. I may still feel like something the cat hacked up, but one of the side effects of your voracin is to increase my hemoglobin production -- between the transfusions and my own bone marrow, I'm almost back to normal."
"Almost isn't good enough."
"It is if you only take a little bit," Wilson argues. "Come on, House -- you think I haven't figured out you've got some kind of animal on board? You're feeding from it; otherwise you'd be sick by now. Planning to acclimate it?"
There are times House wishes Wilson were less perceptive. What's the right answer to this question? No, I don't plan to keep the sorel, because I'm breaking my promise and keeping you instead? Or, yes, I plan to keep the animal and dump you, the guy who saved my miserable life, at the soonest opportunity?
"That would be a no," Wilson deduces. One eyebrow quirks up in a wryly sardonic expression. "So you're probably not taking as often as you should."
"Taking care of two source animals is a pain in the ass, and you're not in any shape to pull out of symbiosis."
"Huh." Wilson's giving him that oh, hadn't thought of that look. "I had actually started to imagine that I just ... tasted better."
Shit. House replies with the good old snort-and-eyeroll combo, and holds one hand to his forehead in mock pain. That ought to --
"I do. Oh, God, I didn't think I was right."
"Don't flatter yourself. You haven't been eating processed animal food for years. It has. Trust me when I say it matters."
"Fine; I believe that." He leans back, studying House in a way that makes something tighten inside him like the string of a guitar. "But the fact remains. I need your bite, and you prefer my blood. Face it -- we're an ... almost matched set."
House realizes the bowl of broth he's still holding has gone cold, and sets it down on the floor. "Is that all I am to you?" he grumps, trying to regain control of this conversation he doesn't want to be having. "A walking pharmacoepia?"
Wilson looks at him thoughtfully. "Well, the walking part's debatable ... "
House opens his mouth to point out that he'd be walking a lot better if this so-called medical diplomacy scow bucket had been stocked with an up-to-date complement of supplies in the first damn place, but the voice of the ship overrides his.
"Admiral Lord Emperor House?"
House gloats a little at Wilson's exasperated sigh. "What?"
"It's time for Scut-boy's next dose, sir."
The two men stare at each other. Wilson is the first to break the silence.
"Scut-boy? What ... never mind. I don't want to know." He takes a deep breath. "Let's stay on track. What are you so afraid of?"
"Nothing." House looks away. I'm afraid I'll smell you again. I'm afraid that primal urge will come back. I'm afraid I'll drain you dry and finish the job those thugs started. But he can't say any of this, so instead he says, "You're not ready."
"We let it go much longer and I'll have a blood pressure problem on top of the injuries. I am ready," Wilson insists gently. "And so are you." He settles himself more comfortably into the sanctuary of cushions and blankets and tilts his head back, exposing a bare curve of throat. "You need this, and it's all I have to give you right now."
House watches Wilson's pulse beat under the vulnerable skin. It's a little fast, and he realizes with a jolt that Wilson is just as nervous as he is.
I controlled it once, I can do it again, he thinks. He crawls into the blanket-nest and leans into Wilson's space.
Up close, Wilson's scent is unmistakable -- a musky, faintly spicy identifying marker, unmixed this time with sweat and blood. House closes his eyes and inhales deeply; when he re-opens them he sees that Wilson's eyes are now shut. He puts his nose to Wilson's throat and inhales again; Wilson shivers faintly beneath him and House hesitates only a moment before baring his right lateral incisor. Need. This is need, as deep-rooted an instinct as the one he'd felt before, but ... different.
With a flickering strike, he sinks the incisor's fang into Wilson's neck and injects a measure of voracin, but this time, instead of holding a callused thumb over the site, he presses his lips to the warm, hairless, human throat.
"Ah," Wilson murmurs, and then falls silent, but not asleep. House has been careful, holding back the dose, enough to do the trick but not knock him out. A bite to the jugular is a delicate thing, always, let alone with an injured animal, and House needs to know if ... Wilson needs at least a hope of being able to stop him if something goes wrong.
As a safety net, it's flimsy, but it's all House has.
He's on top of Wilson now, slung carefully over that damaged body, propping himself in the cushions on his forearms and knees. He can feel Wilson relaxing, the muscles loosening and becoming still. He makes the bloodcut and closes his jaws. The blood is warm, and familiar in his mouth, and House makes a small noise -- of pleasure or of gratitude, he can't say.
Wilson shifts in a sleepy, languid motion, turning his head more to the side, and House follows, suckling gently, taking what Wilson is giving him. Something touches the back of his neck, and House freezes for just a moment in the age-old wariness of the predator caught unawares before he realizes what it is. Wilson's right hand, clasping House's neck, pulling him closer.
Hand and heart, House thinks. He feels dizzy, euphoric, like he's flying or soaring, which is totally wrong because he's not the one giving freely of his own life-essence. Hoof and paw. Except this isn't a hoof, or a paw, or any part of the lesser kingdom. This is --
And he can't complete the thought, because it feels like free-fall into a black hole or a white star, like pushing through the skin of the universe itself. He's so far off the charts, there's not even a name for what this is.
He senses a wetness on his cheeks, just as a brilliant white light blazes into the Hotel California's control room and tracks across the floor and walls like an incandescent neon beam.
Callie's banked across the solar fields, keeping on course for Bradbury Station, and is now oriented towards a star so bright its sunlight is streaming into the little ship.
The light creeps closer, until House feels the warmth on his back, and both he and Wilson are annihilated in a fierce blaze, as if they were both on fire in a furnace of their own making.