SUMMARY: This is not how it was supposed to be.
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: Part of the Distress Call universe. Links to all chapters of this story are here.
In Wilson’s dream, he’s teaching an impossibly large pan-bear cub to dance. A simple reel, any child can learn it, and the cub’s not doing too bad in spite of his size, a half-head taller than Wilson.
Wilson’s laughing, enjoying himself, and the pan-bear’s chuckling in a growly sort of way. His russet striped fur shines in the sun. The pads of his paw are soft where they press against Wilson’s hand. One more turn, and a step, and a bow, and now the cub should come around to Wilson’s other side, but he bumps into Wilson instead.
“That’s OK; that’s OK,” Wilson says, wanting to reassure the bear. They’ve only practiced that part of the dance a few times; mistakes are to be expected.
But the cub knocks into Wilson again, more aggressively this time, surprising the gimbles out of him. “Hey!” Wilson yells, to no avail, as the cub keeps pushing, and pushing, and then he’s falling off a cliff, down a canyon, and –
“Ow!” His head is killing him, but the searing pain from his elbow jamming into the floor is sharper. “What the hell?”
House’s face, peering down at him from over the edge of the bed, is as fierce and unforgiving as it’s ever been. “Get out,” House snaps.
"What?" Wilson demands.
Well, kind of whines. His head is pounding, his stomach's not too steady, and his brain is grinding slowly, unlubricated gears catching against each other. He vaguely remembers enjoying himself, being content for the first time since ... ever, but now he can't tell if that was the dream or it could've possibly been his time with House last night.
House's expression leads him to believe it was only a dream. "Get out," he repeats. "You stink, and I'm sick of your face."
The day does not get better after that.
"Relax." Norian yawns, but smiles at the monitor. He's been half-expecting this call, but it's still impressive that young Wilson had enough balls to actually do it. "You do know I can't bite you from here."
"I know. It's ... I'm sorry." Doctor Wilson stops shifting on his feet and lowers himself into a chair, rubbing hard at the back of his neck. "I didn't mean to wake you, I just -- there's nobody else." He takes a breath so deep that Norian can hear it all the way across the galaxy.
"You were rambling a little too fast for me, kid. Start over. You said he ... hit you?"
"He whacked me in the leg with a crutch. Because I dared to say he needed food and pain meds. He said he doesn't need a damn thing I can give him, which, under the circumstances --"
"Seems a little unrealistic, doesn't it?"
"Just a little. I've left him alone since then, and he hasn't taken any painkillers, and we ... we haven't ..." Wilson looks away.
"Got it." It's surprising to Norian how at ease he is with this bizarre conversation. Practical matters, he thinks, just like with any other animal. "How long's it been?"
"Thirty-six hours, I think. I was, ah, pretty wasted the last time. We ... got drunk. I actually thought things were getting better." He scrubs his face with the palms of his hands. "I'm all right for now, but right around sixty hours I ... I probably won't be."
"You want to know how to entice a haemovore to bite you?" An amused smile creeps up on him, and Norian shakes his head. "Oh, Doctor. I doubt he'll let you suffer too much. Your species and mine -- we have a long history of these strange alliances."
"Really." Wilson leans forward, tired brown eyes full of worry and hope.
"Leppa Post Colony; Karosia; Hasni. That's just a few. The survivors are legends, in a way, but nobody wants to be one."
"So it's not totally unheard of. Is there someone I could talk to? Someone who's been through this?"
"You two are the first I've met," he says, and in a way they really are. They're the first he's met whose bond was the legendary kind, the result of a mutual need to survive. There are haemovores who keep vulgaris slaves, but that's something Wilson doesn't need to know right now. "Listen, son. If it starts to get bad, just go to his quarters and don't leave."
"I did tell you he hit me."
"So hit back. He's injured; easiest way for him to win is to bite you."
"And if that brilliant plan doesn't work?"
"Then you act like a damn doctor." If Wilson always frets like this, it's no wonder House whacked him. "You get a trank gun, knock his ass out, and draw voracin with a syringe. But you're worrying for nothing, because it won't come to that."
"You think it won't?"
"In your gut you know it won't."
"Well ... my gut is on drugs." Wilson keeps rubbing his neck, awkward and uncertain as a boy -- and then Norian watches him change. There's a shift like a stage-actor slipping smoothly from one character to another. "I hope you're right," he says. His voice is still soft, but now there's something blade-sharp beneath the surface. "I'll do whatever I have to. Good night, Captain, and thank you."
It occurs to Norian, as he shuts down the link, that it may be House who needs to worry.
It's been something like forty-five hours.
Standing outside House's room, Wilson can hear heavy objects hitting the walls. The crutches, perhaps. Or House's fists, if House is that stupid.
Shattering glass: probably the mirror above House's dresser. That low, beastly howl: House, going out of his mind.
Wilson wonders what Reginald Norian would say about this.
In the clinic, there is a filter mask and a palm-sized orb of trank gas. The gas is gentler than a stun pulse. He could open House's cabin door, pull the pin on the orb, pitch it in. House would go down harmlessly, and then Wilson could do something for him. Administer the merstellin House has been refusing to take. Grab that new hand-scanner, find the voracin glands and --
No. Not unless he absolutely has to, and by his calculations he's at least ten hours away from that.
Wilson walks away, heading not for the clinic but the library.
The antique stained-glass lamps cast colored mosaics of light, making the gilt titles on the shelves glow as if lit from within.
He likes that, and he likes the way it smells in here. Leather and treepaper, a scent Wilson recalls from the last summer he spent in his dad's house as a kid. He'd hidden out from the universe in his father's library, keeping company with people who lived only on the page, while his bones knit and his body slowly healed.
That old refuge still comforts him. He's been reading ancient tales of murder, losing himself in the puzzles of another time and place. Christie and Doyle enthrall him, even though he has to bring his ethertab and look up historical references, arcane figures of speech, Old Planet customs.
Wilson stays there, embraced by the library's big curving sofa, drowning every other need in the need to know what happens next. He doesn't come up for air until he hears House scream -- not the bellow of rage and grief from a few hours before, but a sound of pure, raw pain. How he can tell the difference, Wilson doesn't care to speculate. He just can.
He threads the silk ribbon across the pages of the Orient Express, setting the beautiful volume aside.
House is on the floor, on his side with one hand gripping his leg and the other hanging onto the carpet like he might fall off. His face is scrunched like a gyrhog's, his hair's all soaked, and the room reeks of sweat and haemovore-musk and ... and blood. Wilson fumbles for the dimmer on the wall, and brings up the lights.
House did indeed destroy the mirror; the carpet's full of shards. It's full of them, and House has been lying there for who knows how long, and --
No response. The only sound he makes is a hollow rush of air as he breathes.
"I'm going to get what you need. Try ... try not to kill yourself before I get back."
"Fuck you," rasps House. "I told you to fucking kill me. I told you."
No, House, you didn't. You told me to choose, and I chose. He shakes his head and turns away.
Yesterday, Wilson had guessed that House might do something like this. Wilson had therefore prepared for it. The bag he made ready has syringes, merstellin, sedatives, a couple tubes of clotting agent, and enough bandages to wrap a mummy. All he has to do is walk into the clinic and pick it up.
That's the easy part.
"I said," House pants, "fuck you. Go to hell. Pathetic ... bloodless ... fucking idiot."
Wilson plucks a few shards of glass from the rug, clearing a spot to kneel beside House and inspect the damage. The palm of House's right hand is lacerated, covered in blood. The crutches have been flung to opposite sides of the room.
This is not a safe place for Wilson to be, and he knows it. House's mind has run sideways, and House has fangs. Absolutely anything could happen.
"Yeah," Wilson says, "I'm an idiot. Give me your arm."
"Go to hell," House snarls, but his eyes are watering from the pain.
"Already there. Your arm, please." Fifty hours or more without his fix, and Wilson's skin is prickling, his bones starting to ache. He can feel himself reacting to the chemistry, blinking, inhaling it. His concentration slips; he winces and drags it back.
House holds out his right arm, shaking and stiff, and dear God that hand needs help. Later. Right now, ease the pain.
Wilson holds House's arm steady while he slowly, slowly pushes in a heavy dose of merstellin. He's back to using old-fashioned needles; he dislikes them, but the jet syringe bruises the hell out of House's exotic haemovore hide.
House lies still while the drug takes effect. Other than an occasional gasp of relief, he's silent, but since all he's really said these past two days is "fuck you" and "go to hell," Wilson doesn't mind. The problem is how to get this big muscular cripple safely up off the glass-littered floor.
Wilson gets up and plucks one blood-smeared crutch from its resting place. "You're getting into bed," he says, "before you cut yourself any more." Crouching at House's right side, Wilson lets House throw an arm around his shoulders. He takes the weight as they struggle to their feet.
Just as he did when they were drunk, Wilson serves as the right-hand crutch, moving in sync with the one House uses on the left. It's so much harder this time. Not only because they're navigating a sea of broken glass but because each moment in House's presence is making the craving worse. The ache in his bones has spread into his stomach. His head hurts.
It's only four meters from here to the bed. Wilson keeps his arm wrapped around House's back, feeling the tight, uneven breaths. House's feet are bare, and one of them trails a faint shine of blood on the red rug. With each step House's weight feels heavier, like there's an ever-increasing pressure from within him.
Then they're at the bed, at last. House looks down at the mattress, then at Wilson, then at his own ruined leg. The mute fury is clear on House's face, and Wilson understands: the simple act of turning around to get into bed will be an ordeal. They have to stand there and think about it.
House flings both arms around Wilson's shoulders and makes an awkward, hopping pivot on his left foot. He ends up facing Wilson, and what Wilson sees would make him step backward if he could. It's like looking into a quicksand pool. He can't fall in, but he can't walk away. He'll help House get into bed, try to get him to take a little blood. Wilson bends his knees, a request for House to take the support, lower himself onto the mattress.
House begins to do it, and then --
A howl erupts from his chest. His arms jerk downward off Wilson's shoulders, crushing Wilson's torso instead, pinning his arms at his sides. House rolls him sideways, pulls him down, and they fall into the quicksand and there's a dark blur of movement and then pain. House thrusts his head over Wilson's shoulder, plunging his fangs into the left trapezius, biting down harder and it hurts it hurts it hurts.
"HOUSE! Dammit, House! House -- "
House is roaring out his anger into the bite. Wilson yells, struggles, thrashes, but House has got him. He's lying on top of the crippled haemovore and he still can't get away. The man's arms are too powerful and his teeth cut the flesh every time Wilson moves. He forces his body into stillness while his face twists up in pain. House might do anything. House might knock him out and slash his throat and then let himself die in misery.
Wilson tries again to get free and -- can't. Can't, dammit.
At last House releases the bite, but keeps him immobile in that predatory grip. His chin is still hooked tightly over Wilson's shoulder. Wilson can hear him swallow, can hear and feel his irregular, heaving breaths. The drug -- injected into the muscle where it's slower to take effect -- has barely touched Wilson's system yet. He could still get up and run, if only House would let go.
If only his own body didn't want more than anything else to be right here.
House tightens his grip as the minutes pass. The bite wound goes numb, the stinging melts away, the warmth unfurls itself across Wilson's skin. House can tell, damn him. He can tell. Wilson hears himself let out a small hitching sound as House rolls him sideways, onto the mattress -- but still holds him down.
Wilson does the only thing he can think of. He looks at House's face, wondering if this is the last thing he'll ever see. "Don't kill me," he says. "House, no. Don't kill me."
"No," House repeats, and he is ... in every way that matters, House is crying. No tears, no whining or weakness, but the sorrow, fear, hurt are all there. It's all there, in the ragged breathing and the fierce, lost eyes. Wilson's not sure if he's looking at a fully grown, dangerous haemovore or if this is a wounded six-year-old kid. "No," House says again. "Wilson, I ... no."
And then the anguished face is hidden in the crook of Wilson's neck as House pulls him in. At first he tries to push back, but he's growing ever weaker, warmer, more pliant in the haemovore's hands. He should be afraid, shouldn't he? Wasn't he just afraid? Wasn't there a reason that ...
"Quiet now," says the rough, sad voice in Wilson's ear, and the fear recedes further. A large hand has curved around the back of his head. House is holding onto him, and that's not so bad. He feels a nuzzling at the base of his neck, just above the collarbone; the prickling warmth travels upward and settles with a faint, gentle pinch.
Wilson gives up his attempts to remember, and lets himself sleep in the vampire's arms.
House's prey is trapped, helpless, but it seems bizarre that he should fear for his life. It would never have occurred to House to kill him. Wrong, wrong, wrong; House would never kill his source. House has quieted this terrified creature, spoken softly in his ear, felt him slip more deeply under the influence.
When House looks again, Wilson has shut his eyes. Good. Good.
House searches with his mouth until the heat on his lips leads him to a vein, a little jugular branch just above Wilson's collarbone. He follows that warm thread, letting it lead him into a comforting curve at the side of the neck.
With his left hand -- the one that isn't sliced open -- he cradles the back of the head, pushing it forward, inward, releasing the tension on the neck muscles. It'll be easier for both of them that way.
He can feel it when Wilson's mind gives over the trust House is taking by force.
House nuzzles, and cuts, and drinks as if he's dying.
Fifteen minutes later
He knows now that he has underestimated his body's will to live. His mind may not give a shit, but his mind is not the ruler it claimed to be, and so here he is -- finished feeding and still holding onto his animal, panting short and sharp like a man who's just avoided being shot. Taking in that scent, his own mark, letting it work its magic.
His pulse and blood pressure are easing downward, but not far enough yet. Wilson sighs in his sleep, a damp exhalation against House's throat, and his arm finds its blind way around House's back.
House doesn't remove it.
He shoves his nose into his animal's hair and takes a deep breath, and another, until his body calms down. This is treatment: there's no synthetic med that can do the same thing as this custom-fitted chemical cocktail. This is why people in the depths of grief will throw down their pride and sleep in the straw, curled around the strong backs of their sorels. What his father called weakness ... it is.
It's also scientific fact.
"You attacked me!" Wilson -- who has unfortunately woken up just a little faster than House has -- shoves House into the wall and stumbles out of bed. It's pretty much what House expected. The only surprise is that Wilson hasn't actually punched him.
"I bit you. Which you needed and wanted me to do."
"Not like that, you asshole! That was -- was worse than unprovoked. It was --"
"Oh, stop whining! You'd have been fine if you hadn't been thrashing like an eel."
"So is this how it's going to be?"
"Nope. Sometimes I'll hit you with a stun gun first." House sits up, stretching out his mangled right hand. "Now bring me the damn suture kit. Unless you'd rather punish me."
"Great idea," says Wilson. He's turning around, though, because he's the good guy and he's going to do his doctor thing no matter what.
Or ... maybe he's not.
"I'm done here," Wilson says. He leaves his Space Scout First Aid Bag right where it is, in the middle of the floor, and walks out.
The back of his shirt bears a wide bloodstain like a dark, broken wing.
Fourteen hours later
Wilson's been everywhere today, except for House's cabin, and House hasn't demanded his presence. House, for once, has been silent. That might be worrying, if Wilson were allowing himself to worry about the son of a bitch. Whatever House may have wanted or needed, he must have either done for himself or gone without.
About damn time, Wilson thinks. It's good to be alone, taking care of no one but himself.
His quarters are pleasantly dark, the shadows softening the bare walls and filling the empty shelves. A single golden desk-lamp glows like a candle.
"Callie." He's slipping into his nightclothes, doing his best to ignore the way they smell faintly of House. No blood on these; he'd been in his shirt and pants last night when House attacked him. "Could I get some music?"
"I have a database of over fourteen million titles. Are you requesting shipwide playback or room-specific?"
The notion flashes through his mind that he could play something cloying and loud -- the Brindleharp Trio, maybe -- just to piss House off. But then House would have to be dealt with. "Just here in my quarters. I think ... do you have Ve'esh Viol, from Tuuvi?"
Apparently Callie does. Soft strings begin to play, gentle as an incoming summer tide. Wilson lies back on his bed, trying to ease the twinges in his bones, rubbing the skin on his neck and his hands where it tingles and pricks just so slightly. Weird -- it hasn't been long enough for the craving to kick in. Yet that's how it feels. He can feel insomnia heading his way like a rail-tram, fast and unswerving.
He'll have to drug himself if he wants some real rest. There will be no voracin dose tonight; he's not ready to go crawling back, and the arrogant bastard will never --
"Moping in the dark won't help."
"Not moping," Wilson says, and winces; he'd meant to say Go away. "Relaxing. In my locked room. How'd you get past my key code?"
"Easy, and not important. You can't sleep." House is standing in the doorway, a silhouette with crutches. "You need me."
Much as Wilson wants to argue, his craving won't let him. House is right. "It's ... it hasn't been that long. Why is it already starting?"
"You went without for two days, and your system is ... depleted. Stress made it worse." House shuffles closer, the right crutch awkward in his injured hand. He halts at the edge of the bed, meeting Wilson's eyes. "Stress made both of us worse."
"Callie, give me some light in here."
She does, so much light that House blinks and squints while his eyes adjust. He shoves Wilson's inert body until it rolls sideways, and then yanks Wilson's nightshirt up over the ribcage until he can work the damn thing off.
Wilson has applied knitsalve -- the same kind House used this morning on his own hand -- to the bite wound. It's healing, but it's larger than House thought it would be. The cuts go in several directions, forming a lopsided double starburst that records Wilson's desperate fight. The scar, House thinks, will look like a pair of cave-crawlers.
He's never scarred an animal before in his life.
"Kill those lights, Callie." He lets go of Wilson's shoulder and lets him fall onto his back in the sudden darkness. House's hand and his head and his leg are all throbbing. He stretches out and stares at the ceiling, too tired to make the return journey to his own bed. He'll just sleep here. It's not like Wilson will know.
And you want to be near your animal, accuses the same part of him that, three days ago, said I hope so.
"Shut up," whispers House. "Will you please just fucking shut up."
It's another eighteen days before they'll make Exeter Prime. By then he'll be using that cane. No more crutches. He'll be mobile enough soon to take care of something on four legs. Mobile enough to leave Wilson in the vast dust of space.
House promises that to himself, and shuts his eyes.