SUMMARY: It can always, always get worse.
CHARACTERS: House, Wilson
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: Links to all chapters of this wild AU are here.
"This is pointless." House is propped up in his bed in the control room, his right side loosely aligned with the wide crescent-curve of the console. Its surface is paved with keyboards, jeweled with levers, knobs and buttons, embedded with flat monitor screens that raise and lower and swivel for easy visibility. Too bad they never seem to show anything worthwhile.
The place is colorful, he'll give it that; and above the long, solid bank of the console is a huge sloping viewport that makes him feel a bit less confined. All these things are useless, but interesting, unlike the interior of the infirmary. "Tell me again," House says, "why you dragged me out here?"
"I can't get enough of your charm." Wilson the Undaunted sits in a chair to House's left, having another argument with the nav console. And losing. Again. "Actually, I was hoping you'd have a flash of vampire genius."
"Haemovore, and here's my flash: you're being stupid. You screwing around with a broken guidance system is like a technician doing heart surgery."
"This patient's dying anyway."
"You mean we're dying. How fast do you want it to happen? How long before you accidentally disable life support? How much worse do you want it to get?"
"It's already worse!" Wilson's almost squawking now, his hand thumping harmlessly atop the console. House wonders whether he's aware that his eyes cross a little when he's really worked up. The sight makes House smirk, which of course just irritates the vulgaris even more. This is ... kind of fun. "Last time I checked, I was trapped with a vampire -- oh, excuse me, haemovore," Wilson interjects, forestalling House's annoyed correction, " -- on a crippled, rudderless ship that could just possibly drift into a nebula or fall into a black hole at any moment. We're alone in the ass-end of nowhere, and if anyone else is out here, they're sure as hell not answering our distress signal."
"It wouldn't happen at any moment," House snaps. "We'd have plenty of warning. And we don't know that this ship is crippled. If you hadn't been so busy pressing buttons like a lab rat wanting a reward maybe I could have figured something out! And -- " he glares malevolently at Wilson. "You can shut down the distress signal. There are worse things than this, trust me."
Wilson glares back. "Such as?"
"Being rescued. Shut down the beacon."
House groans in response. Must he explain everything? "Shut it down. Rescue is the last damn thing we want."
For a moment Wilson doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. It's happened so suddenly, this psychotic break in House, and here he'd thought he would have more time --
"You idiot," House growls. "What the hell happened to you, that you want to see the good in everybody? You even got sentimental over a dead guy you hated." He runs one hand through his hair, and it stands up in spiky, scruffy tufts. Wilson opens his mouth to protest that the makeshift funeral wasn't about sentiment; it was just a basic respect for human life -- but then House continues, his tone quieter but no less forceful.
"You think," he says, "that the only ships who'll hear our signal are the good guys? The cavalry? The Space Scouts?"
"Well ... " Wilson begins, but it's clear House isn't done yet.
"You think that any ship that can receive our signal will drop everything and rush to our aid? Your ship was stupid enough to do that; a ship with a real Captain would give us as wide a berth as possible."
Wilson stares at him, for a half-second seeing not House, but crazy Ellis Senegal, whose calls for help went unanswered far too long. "I know. Most of them won't, because they'll ... they'll think we could be -- "
"Pirates." House settles back onto his bed. "And who's least likely to be afraid of pirates?"
Other pirates. Shit. Wilson says nothing, and House obviously takes that as an invitation to continue.
"This rustbucket," House says, nodding toward the console, "is broadcasting what, exactly?"
"Our coordinates. And an SOS. I couldn't figure out how to--"
"Oh, perfect." House adopts a shrill falsetto, "'Please sir, we're helpless, won't you come and save us?' Anyone with half a brain knows we're either a fruit ripe for picking, or a trap for the first compassionate rubes who happen by. Why this boat's makers didn't demand a better protocol is anyone's guess. Maybe there weren't any pirates in the Dark Ages when they built this thing. Shut it off."
"And then what?" Wilson challenges. "You keep talking about pirates, but have we seen any? You're exaggerating the danger because you're blinded by self-pity. I'd like a better plan than 'sit here and wait for death.'"
"It's probably too late." Hope' doesn't seem to be in House's vocabulary. He looks at Wilson. "I'm not exaggerating. This quadrant isn't policed, and it's full of the bastards. They call themselves private enterprise ships." House's lips twist, as if he's suddenly tasted something sour. "They're probably already on their way." He appears to be faintly amused at what Wilson assumes is the look of horror on his own face.
"Relax," House drawls. "If we're lucky they'll be slavers."
"If we're ... lucky?" Wilson hates the squeaky upturn his voice takes at the end of his sentence.
"Won't kill us out of hand," House says. "Or torture us to death just for kicks." He thinks for a moment. "Well, they'd probably kill me, since a crippled slave is worthless. Unless they find out I'm a haemovore; then they'd sell me to a lab. Or a collector."
"And ... me?" Wilson is starting to feel sick.
"Depends," House allows. "I'd imagine there are markets for private physicians in some of the less-civilized quadrants. You'd be wearing a pain collar the rest of your life, though, and if you happened to be purchased by some sicko who likes to use it, then that probably wouldn't be very long." He blinks innocently. "Wow, that doesn't sound very good, either. Maybe it would be best if we were boarded by gunrunners or drug dealers. You know -- guys who'd just put an electron burst in the back of our heads."
"You really don't care if you die?"
House shrugs and scrubs at his face. He suddenly looks very tired. "I was ready to go when I realized the Medusa was crashing. That hasn't changed."
"The Medusa? That was -- "
"Yeah. For all the good it'll do you, you now know the name of the ship I was on."
"Wish I knew the name of this one. For all the good it'd do me."
"Look, if you're that desperate to live, roll me over to the subether console. There should be a way to stop calling to people and start listening to them."
Wilson blinks, and a new spark of insane hope flickers in his chest. "We could ... try to filter out the pirates, contact only the ones who might help? How could we tell the difference?"
"We couldn't. I can. I've done more traveling than you have. Shut down that broad-channel signal before you get us sold to the highest bidder."
In a bitchy, griping half hour, House has figured out how to set the subether console to a full-spectrum open channel, incoming only. Static only, Wilson snipes to himself, though that's not really true. They can hear faint conversations, snatches from ships passing who knows how far away. The wide-spectrum receiver isn't as sensitive, doesn't have the range that a targeted channel does, but that might be in their favor; they won't be trying to hail people who're too distant to come and find them.
"I need dinner," Wilson says. He's hungry, and he's tired of walking aimlessly around the control room, watching out the viewport for ships that aren't there. He's also tired of listening to House's predictions of doom.
"How long will our food supply last?" House demands.
"Four weeks. I think. I've only explored a fraction of --"
"And after that, instead of dying quickly, we'll starve." House never lets up. "You might have more time, if you weren't letting me --"
"What?" snaps Wilson, spinning on his heel to face his impossible patient. "Letting you live? I'm obviously an idiot. Question: will it kill me in four weeks? Being your ... daily protein supplement?"
"You won't even get anemic, but that's not the point."
"So that ... venom of yours --"
"Voracin," House interrupts. "It has a name. Yes, it prevents anemia, but you're not listening. It's not about whether you get sick; it's about one of us maybe living instead of both of us --"
"I'm not going to kill you, you asshole!" Wilson's nearly yelling now, unable to contain the frustration. "You're crippled; life stinks; boo hoo. But if you want help committing suicide, no. Fuck you. No."
"You don't even know what I'm doing to you. You're being pushed into a state of symbiosis. It's --"
"Addictive. Isn't it?" Damn it, he's not as dumb as House seems to think. He's a doctor, for crying out loud; he knows about powerful sedatives, analgesics, their seductive Siren calls.
House heaves a loud breath. "Symbiosis isn't addiction. It's--"
"Something I can't stop once I've started, without severe repercussions. Yes?"
"And I'm already hooked?"
"Not yet. One more dose, maybe two, and it's a done deal. That's why I'm telling you now."
"You could ... get what you need without dosing me." Wilson's pacing again, trying to sort fear from anger from reason. "Draw the blood into a sterile container, and --"
"That stupid trope about vampires robbing the bloodbank? Never happens. Using containers is like trying to take blood from a corpse, which natural selection has made us unable to do. We gag and puke. Only way around it is to run a nasogastric tube, which is what we do when one of us is too sick to feed."
"You'd never let me do it." Wilson kicks the legs of his chair, sending it rolling into the console a few meters away. "And even if you did, without that ... serum of yours ... voracin?" He glances at House, who nods. "The daily blood loss would make me sick."
"It would. I don't take that much, but it adds up. If you stopped now, you'd need a couple days on pain meds and sedation, but you'd be fine."
"And you would die." Wilson pulls his thoughts together; he's the one in control here, for now. "I told you, I won't help you kill yourself. Ask again and I'll bring you broccoli-cob soup for your dinner."
Wilson snorts at him. "I think that's your department." He walks out the door to go deal with the question of food, the only easy problem he's had to solve all day.
Wilson sits in his mobile bed and stares out the control room's giant viewport. They've moved both beds in here because House is a pain in the ass, because House is stable and bored, and because he has rightly pointed out that:
a. the spacious crescent-shaped room is plenty large enough and
b. if they set up camp out here, where they're surrounded by audio grids, they'll stand a much better chance of hearing anyone who might actually help them.
Wilson, however, knows that the real reason is:
c. House hates the infirmary. It's kind of hard to blame him; Wilson doesn't like it either, and he's not even the patient.
"This is ... better," Wilson admits, his voice seeming softer in the dim light of their artificial nighttime. It is more pleasant to look at stars than to look at walls, except for the mind-numbing awareness of infinity brought on by this view. Pleasant or not, it may not be what his mental health requires.
Over dinner, he'd tried to get a little more information out of House, mostly without success. He still doesn't know where the haemovore comes from or why he was on a ship in this backwater quadrant of the galaxy. He still doesn't know all the implications of being bitten each day by his unlikely companion.
All House would tell him was that voracin is similar to true serum venoms in that it's comprised of a dizzying number of compounds, many of which have functions only poorly understood, even by House's own people. And that it's blindingly addictive -- House insists the correct term is symbiogenic -- and Wilson really ought to reconsider. Think it through a little better.
The trouble is that Wilson has tried to think it through, and has found that he cannot. First of all, he'd have to actually believe that this is happening. Which, yes, it is; he knows it is, but all his space for believing things seems to have been filled with sabotage and corpses, pirates and vampires, starvation and rescues-that-aren't. He tells himself he's becoming an addict and the words bounce harmlessly off the great mound of other concerns, other realities much more pressing than whatever future trouble an addiction might bring, in a future Wilson's unlikely to ever see.
"Let's get it over with," says Wilson. "I'm tired of having to think about it." Their two beds are already in place, side by side, so he stretches out facing House as he did the last time, and tries to make himself relax. Quickly Wilson pushes his shirt sleeve up past the elbow. It's loose, soft white cotton, an old fashioned luxury, one of the many things he likes about being alive. He almost laughs when he catches himself worrying that House might get blood on it.
Wilson thinks that if there's such a thing as cosmic retribution, perhaps this is it. He has never had much sympathy for addicts, and here he is, choosing to become one. At least no one back home will ever have to know. It's strange, though. House is just lying there staring at him, not moving.
At last House says, gruffly, "I don't get it."
"This whole ... willing self-sacrifice. What kind of person does that?"
"The kind who doesn't have a choice? And don't tell me again that I could kill you. Not an option."
"It is an option, and most people would opt for it. And then kill themselves before they died of starvation, or worse. If you did get rescued, nobody'd prosecute you for murdering a vampire. They'd probably give you a medal. Don't tell me you hadn't thought of all that."
"I think about a lot of things I'd never do."
"It's not rational," House insists, his frustration obviously rising. "I'm rotten company. I eat half the food. I'm just using you; you know that. If someone does find us and figures out I'm not what I seem, I'll be the noose around your neck. They'll punish you, maybe kill you. You're about to ruin whatever chance you might have, and I want to know why."
"House, in my place, what would you do?"
"This isn't about me. Answer the question."
Wilson meets House's stare. "I think you know exactly what kind of person does this, and why. It's the same choice that -- OW! You bastard!"
He's been struck, hard, and he'd never seen it coming. It's somewhat frightening, how House could move his head and hands that quickly, even while lying down. "You could've warned me," Wilson grouses. The bite wound is halfway up his forearm. Already the pain is fading. There's just the pressure of House's fingers, their heat seeming to travel with the soft tendrils of the drug. No going back now.
The voracin spreads rapidly through Wilson's body; his breathing slows, his muscles relax, and all the while House waits, watching intently.
"What's it like?" House asks, his voice low and quiet, like a boy who's awake in the dormitory after lights-out. "The effect. I always wanted to know."
Wilson can't help chuckling. Of course House doesn't know. His animals couldn't have told him. "Warm," Wilson says, "and ... drifty. 'S that a word? No pain. It's ... not bad," he murmurs. It's actually much better than 'not bad,' but House doesn't need to know that. Wilson thinks he sees House smiling, a slowly curling smile, and then that dark head bends against his wrist.
The last thing Wilson thinks is that House has cut him, and he can't even feel it.