SUMMARY: Desperate times call for desperate measures.
CHARACTERS: Wilson, House
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: The stories from this ficverse are numbered by chapter and scene. Links to all chapters are here.
Ever since he found that his colleagues were all dead, Wilson has been reliving the day, so many years ago, when he met Ellis Jansen Senegal. Senegal wouldn't remember Wilson, but Wilson will never forget him, no matter how hard he tries.
"Mr. Senegal, here," said Dr. Waterman,"was on the crew of a small merchant ship that was apparently raided by pirates. He evaded capture, only to find himself alone on a vessel so badly damaged that he couldn't control its flight path. We estimate that he was out there seven months on his own."
The man in question cowered in a corner as the doctor and his students approached. "You're not real," he said. "Not real, not real, ghosty ghosts." His soft speech became a chant, "Ghosty ghosts, go away. Ghosty ghosts, go away ..."
"During the time of his stranding, the patient became severely delusional."
"In ... what way, precisely?" Wilson did want to know; 'delusional' could cover a lot of ground.
"He started seeing people who weren't there. Now he can't tell who or what is real."
"So he thinks we don't actually exist. There's nothing you can do for him?"
"He's been here fifteen years. He's not going to get better. The best we can do is keep his panic attacks under control." Waterman turned to address the rest of the small group of students. "Cases like these have never been common," he said. "Stranded individuals are very rare, and when a stranding does occur, the person usually dies by suicide or starvation, if the slavers don't pick them up first."
"We have hyperspace drive and subether communications," Wilson insisted. "This shouldn't happen at all."
"You know how many captains will answer a mayday if they're not absolutely certain who sent it? Almost none. The records recovered from Senegal's vessel indicate that's how it got attacked. They decided to go help somebody, dropped out of hyperspace and right into a trap."
"I don't mean to be disrespectful, Doctor Waterman, but if this almost never happens and there's no help for the victim when it does occur, why are we studying this patient?"
"Good question, uh, Wilson, is it? Wilson. Cases like these are interesting for what they tell us about basic psychological functioning. Planetary stranding victims -- lone individuals marooned on a habitable world -- rarely develop psychoses, but deep space isolation is infinitely more dangerous. Mr. Senegal provides an extreme example of the importance of companionship and environment to human ... "
Wilson never heard the rest of Waterman's impromptu lecture. He could focus only on Ellis Jansen Senegal, cowering barefoot in the carpeted corner of the pale little room that would encompass the rest of his life. He saw watery eyes being hidden behind white hands. Fearful eyes and fearful hands, and a fearful stream of murmuring, the man talking to himself because he didn't know who else was really there.
Wilson stares for a long while at the unfamiliar starscape outside the console room. It's anyone's guess where they are now. They're well off any usual route of space travel; that much is certain.
The ship he's on -- he can't recall its name -- dropped out of hyperspace to answer the SOS from House's crash. I guess, thinks Wilson, no one told it that it might become the victim of pirates.
Wilson's attempts to reset the nav system have been laughable. He has ended up opening and shutting doors, accidentally adjusting the thermostat, turning the lights on and off. The heater unit in the kitchen works beautifully, and the shower in the ship's master suite is a thing of luxurious joy. Spaceships, he thinks, have no sense of priorities. Every hour, he hates this bucket of rust a little more. He's sending a plea for help addressed to Delphus, Capinari, and anyone else who might listen, but he isn't even sure if the transmissions are leaving the ship. He won't know until -- unless -- someone answers.
They've got plenty of food, but physical survival is the least of Wilson's concerns. He knows why stranding victims so often kill themselves; there are fates worse than death, out here. He'd put an electron pistol to his own head rather than end up like old Senegal, with all his wires forever torn loose.
He rubs his jaw, which has bloomed with a purple bruise in the hours since House punched him. Trauma, nightmares, the effects of all that narcophilin; I might have done the same thing.
Instead of taking revenge, he had given House drugs -- and then an oxygen mask, as the hours spiraled past and House's condition grew steadily, inexplicably worse.
Wilson gets out of his chair, walking away from the console. There'll be plenty of time later to screw around with the ship's worthless controls. He'd best go keep the company of the living, while he still can.
Wilson scowls at the clinic's monitor, but the little red numbers refuse to change. Liver and kidney function are at 51 and 46 percent. Lung function at 63.5, steady, but probably not for long. He's had House on pure oxygen for eight hours now, but it's only slowing the process, not turning it around.
Every test he could run, Wilson has run, and still he doesn't know what's wrong. It can't be the leg wound; there's no more bleeding, no sign of infection or decay. No nutritional deficiencies are showing up in House's blood, either. There must have been some kind of pathogen on that planet -- a protozoan, perhaps. In his weakened condition, House would have been susceptible to damn near anything. Whatever it is, the obsolete equipment on this ship can't detect it.
Of course. The two things we need most, navigation and medical facilities, are the two things that don't work.
House sleeps, his mouth slack beneath the oxygen mask, dying despite all Wilson's care. House hasn't even seemed to be upset about it -- but then he's not the one who'll be stranded.
Wilson's head still throbs. The headache he had upon waking from hybersleep has shrunk, but it hasn't gone away, and he's starting to think it never will.
Hours of staring at his ethertab, searching medical databanks for something to explain House's condition, have proved fruitless. He gives up at last, his eyes so tired that the words seem to bounce around the screen, doing a wildly uninformative jig.
House is waking, his spasming leg muscles making him groan and curl in on himself like a frightened child. Rising wearily from his chair, Wilson draws up another dose of merstellin. His hands tremble, slipping the needle into the IV port. Palliative care. Hydration, electrolytes, pain relief. Pulse at 82, too fast, too weak.
When he imagines that pulse going silent, Wilson thinks he's already a little insane. He wants to fight, to grab hold of House and will him to stay alive. House is a stranger, a miserable bastard -- and the only thing between Wilson and all that empty, deadly black space. But House will live perhaps another forty-eight hours. He'll go comatose soon, and then Wilson will put him on life support and it will only buy a bit more time before that angry heart stops beating.
"I'm sorry," Wilson says, "I'm ... so sorry. I don't know what else to do."
"I told you," replies House, uncurling his body as the pain subsides. He lifts his oxygen mask a little so he can talk. His tone is dry, resigned. "Told you to kill me when you found me."
"No. You said either kill you or get you out of there. I didn't kill you; it's one of those 'doctor' things."
Wilson suspects that House is a physician too, but that's just one of many questions House won't answer. It's been two days and Wilson doesn't even know the man's full name.
"Brave Doctor Wilson just wants to help," says House. "You're full of shit." He takes the mask off entirely, holding it in his hand so he can alternate inhaling and talking. "You're lost in the wilds of space; you're scared."
"Okay. Okay, yeah; I'm using you to keep me sane. Didn't think you'd mind, if it meant that you'd live."
"You ... overestimate my affection for existence." House sighs, inhales deeply from the oxygen mask, and relaxes a little more. The pain must still be receding.
"This may sound weird, but I think I might actually miss you once you're dead."
"Not for long. You'll be too busy going berserk."
"I take it back," Wilson snaps, turning his back before House can see just how frightened he really is. He takes a breath, calms himself as much as he can. "You're not dead yet. We can ... we can test again for infection."
"Won't find it," growls House. "No more tests. It's not a damn infection. Just ... go away. Leave me the drugs I need and let me die."
"Wait. What the hell? You ... you sound like you know what it is."
"If I tell you, you'll kill me yourself." House smiles at him, a sharp-edged, caustic little smile. "You'll decide -- correctly -- that the only thing worse than being stranded is being stranded with me. 'Course ... since I'm dying anyway ..."
"You know what's wrong?" It makes sense; House has been talking about dying this whole time. He knows, damn him. "Is it contagious? Is that why you didn't tell me?"
House shakes his head. There's something in the motion that speaks of absolute certainty. Wilson leans over the bed. "Then what? Why didn't you tell me?"
"Hoped it wouldn't come to that," House says. "I didn't mind that you'd kill me; I just didn't want to find out how you'd do it. If I could've, I would have just ... taken what I need. Instead of having this conversation."
"You're not making any sense." Wilson steps away from the bed, pacing in short steps, like an animal in a too-small cage. "You ... you obviously know how dangerous it is to be stranded alone, and even if it wasn't, I don't kill my patients. I'm a little picky about that kind of thing. What exactly is going on?"
"I'm not exactly the same species as you."
"You're not -- don't be ridiculous." Wilson's shoulders drop. "Humans are all there is."
"Never said I wasn't human," House answers. "Subspecies. Homo sapiens haemovorus."
Oh God, no. It wasn't House who was supposed to go crazy.
"Haemovore?" He can feel himself flying into a fit of frustration, the words tumbling out, waved on by his frantic hands. "They're a myth, or ... or long extinct, if they ever existed, which they didn't. The vampire's just an archetype, representing fears about death and the loss of free will. And," Wilson pauses, pointing a finger as he locates the flaw in House's argument, " -- and you've been eating."
"You're gonna make me explain. While I'm dying." House tips back his head, opening his mouth. At that angle, Wilson sees that there is something odd about House's upper teeth. He steps forward to get a better look.
It's not the canines that are different, the way one might expect if House's impossible claim were true. It's the next set forward, the lateral incisors. They're much thicker than they should be, widening out dramatically at the base. Their inside surface appears to be deeply grooved. As Wilson leans closer, blinking in curiosity, the most astonishing thing happens.
Two thin, sharp white needles -- fangs -- slide downward through those grooves. Wilson can't suppress his gasp of surprise. The fangs extend about two centimeters from the edge of the incisors, and are not spectacular except for the fact that they exist at all. He stretches out his hand and House obliges, holding still so Wilson can actually touch. Gingerly he places a fingertip behind one of those amazing teeth.
"Ow!" He jumps backward with his fingertip cut cleanly open. "House! What the hell?!"
House gives a weak chuckle as the fangs retract, out of sight. "Sharp interior edge," he says, as if Wilson hadn't noticed. "Probably should've warned you, but ... nah." He puts the oxygen mask back over his face and inhales.
Wilson stands there looking from House, to his own bleeding hand, and back. He's not sure which part of this is the most absurd. House is dying, and he's antagonizing the only person who can help at all; also, he appears to be a ... vampire.
"Bandage that," commands House, lifting the mask again for a moment, "and then decide. Kill me, let me die, or give."
"You mean ... you want --"
"No, you moron, I don't want. No choice. My bloodstock -- animals -- died in the crash. It won't hurt you." He pauses for more oxygen. "You want me to live, do it. While I still can."
In a daze, Wilson searches for gauze and tape for his finger. It takes only a minute to tend the cut, and then he returns to House's bedside. The room is spinning; he leans against the bed and waits for it to stop. He knows full well he's being manipulated -- not that he can fault House for that. The man is completely at his mercy.
Still, this is madness. Haemovores don't exist. Except -- 'crazy' doesn't even begin to explain about the fangs.
With his rational mind shrieking at him all the while, he rolls the chair into place beside House's bed and sits down. He can barely seem to feel his arms and legs.
"Unbelievable," scoffs House. "You're gonna do it? I was kinda hoping you'd just put me out of my misery."
"You mean this? You're seriously a --"
"Haemovore. If you're gonna do it, shut up and do it."
"If you hurt me --"
"Then I'm an idiot, and I'll die. You realize I'll need to ... do this again."
"How ..." Wilson takes a deep breath and swallows. It's really not like he's got much to lose. His chances of survival are slim anyway. "How ...?"
"Wrist. Should work," says House, but he grimaces as Wilson scoots closer, pushing up his left sleeve. House doesn't look pleased, or even hungry. Wilson's chest is tight; his mind is screaming at him, Crazy! This is crazy, crazy, crazy.
He thinks about pulling back as House's hands, weak but insistent, wrap around his wrist. But he doesn't move. It's as if he's dreaming, forced to suspend disbelief while the story unfolds.
The first bite is swift, almost like the strike of a snake. The fangs pierce his skin so quickly it hardly even hurts. After that, House waits several seconds before beginning again. Wilson watches, transfixed, his heart pounding. House uses one of his needle-teeth to make a cut, and then both fangs retract as the blood begins to flow and House ... starts to take.
Where's the blood? he wonders. Thought there'd be blood running down, a mess. There's nothing; no red on the sheets, none on his skin. I've seen too many movies, haven't I? House told the truth when he said it wouldn't hurt. It doesn't. There's just a feeling of mild numbness at the site, and the prickle of House's cracked lips and unshaven jaw.
A feeling of sleepy warmth washes over Wilson. His head doesn't hurt any more. Wasn't he afraid about something, a minute ago? He can't remember. It seems like everything is all right. It's all right.
He leans forward, rests his head on the mattress, and passes out.