Dr. James Wilson didn't know why he had let his best friend and lover talk him into this. Maybe it had been his mother, too. Both had, independent of each other and surely not in collaboration, suggested he go and get his abilities re-evaluated by the Seeker he had visited once before. Wilson had argued with House for days that he didn't need to do this. He was a low level empath; end of discussion. Everything else was just glitches because he hadn't realized his powers until his late thirties.
In the end he had relented. Just to get House off his case and his mother to stop making subtle suggestions.
Wilson had called ahead, apologizing for bothering the police detective, asking if he had an hour or two. Detective Mac Taylor had been surprised, but he had agreed on today. He had given Wilson an address and the oncologist had cursed New York traffic for the last hour or two while making his way there.
It was an apartment building and there was, surprise, surprise, a parking space not far away. Wilson parked the Volvo and got out, wondering again why he had actually agreed. House would have run out of nagging power one day, and his mother couldn't keep calling him forever.
He was wondering, too.
At least a little.
Wilson found that the apartment building had a doorman, who checked his name against a list, and then he was allowed up to the fourth floor. The doorman was already on the phone to announce him.
Taylor awaited him and he was given a smile.
"Detective Taylor. Thank you for taking the time."
Taylor chuckled. "I think you invested more time driving around with New York traffic. Come on in."
Wilson walked into the apartment, struck by how clean and structured it looked. Not that he had expected something dirty, but looking at how cluttered House's place had been – and how cluttered some areas of the loft were, especially those House had laid claim to as his personal areas – this was weird.
"So you think something happened to your abilities?" Taylor asked.
"I'm not sure," he answered hesitantly. "You said I'm low level, but the abilities have been fluctuating. I get very strong emotions from some people, especially hatred, others I can't get a blip from and they aren't paranormal or shielded."
"And specific people? Special people?"
Wilson hesitated. "Yes, one. He's my best friend."
Taylor's gray-blue eyes narrowed briefly. "And?"
A sigh. "His emotions are very intense. I can read his moods, I can actually feel when his temper is about to get the better of him and I almost automatically go to him. We work at the same place. I mean I did it before, too. Go to him, talk to him, but back then I didn't know I'm an empath. Now… My powers are there, but…"
The detective gave him a long look, then gestured toward the couch.
"Let's sit down. I'll give you a new scan."
Mac frowned as his senses scanned over the younger man, took in the markers only a Seeker could see. Or a Trigger, but Seekers saw a lot more while Triggers only pushed the markers into place. The markers were strong, stronger than the last time, but there were the fluctuations Wilson had mentioned. It was as if the powers reacted to something, to an aura, to a presence, and flared. Basically, Wilson was low level, yes. But there was something that wanted to grow.
"You're stronger than the first time I scanned you," he finally said.
Wilson didn't look happy. There was shock in the boyishly handsome face, denial even.
"N-no," he stuttered. "That's impossible!"
"Maybe not as much as you think. There are paranormals who can't be put into one category or another," Mac told him calmly.
"You must be wrong!"
Mac saw the rising desperation and he understood it, but he also wasn't wrong, which he told Wilson with a firm, even voice. Mac Taylor wasn't just a good CSI or had been a good Marine. He was an exceptional Seeker, had trained his abilities hard, and he knew what he saw didn't fit the low level category. Wilson was more.
"Paranormals don't have… glitches!" Wilson argued, getting up from the couch in a move of nervous energy that needed to get out. "I know. I'm… was an ally. You can't just skip categories when it comes to… magic or…or…"
"Empathy?" Mac supplied softly.
"There is the matter of mutation."
Mac waited until the nervous energy had run its course and Wilson collapsed back onto the couch.
"No…" he murmured. "It can't be. I can't be so strong…"
"You weren't a normal empath to begin with, Dr. Wilson," Taylor told him. "You can become invisible to the perception of others, you can soothe. Empaths are usually only receiving, not actively influencing others."
Wilson pinched the bridge of his nose with a thumb and forefinger. He looked pained.
"Thanks," he finally only said. "For the… diagnosis."
Mac smiled. "You're welcome. Can I invite you for a drink?"
Wilson gave him a tired look. "I'm not sure I should have alcohol right now, Detective."
"It's Mac," Mac said. "And I got soda."
"James. And soda sounds great, actually."
* * *
Shikon Enterprises. A world-wide corporation with its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. Few knew more about it than what stood in business magazines, was printed in articles in major newspapers, or what was given to the journalists by the public relations office. To the outside, Shikon Enterprises was multi-national, was successful, dealt in alternate energy sources, supported national park projects, protected habitats for animals, tried to keep the wild in the world. It developed software, it was in the new technology market, it was a major player at the tables of many branches, but few people ever got into Shikon from the outside.
It was run by a tight-knit group and no one from the outside had ever advanced higher than a normal worker. In Japan, only temporary aid was hired. In the US or Europe or Australia every employee was carefully interviewed and singled out. Those who didn't make didn't know what made the other person who did special.
Because Shikon Enterprises was more than met the eye. It was the last haven of the paranormal as it had been in Japan. Five hundred years before human civilization had started to push the paranormal, the demons and their kind, into a small niche of the world, those mystical creatures had been part of daily life. The youkai – demons -- and the hanyou -- half-demons -- had been among normal human kind. Some good, some evil, some without sides.
Humanity had proven to be more resilient than the beings that now only appeared in myths and local lore. Some had interbred with humanity, some had fled, others had been erased. Very few full-blooded demons remained.
One was Sesshoumaru, once the Great Demon Lord of the West, now the head of Shikon Enterprises. There were no great youkai like him left. The lower class ones either worked for him or had retreated into Shikon's sanctuaries, protected and away from a world that still scared them.
It had been a long way from the Feudal Era and their fight against Naraku, their victory over the ultimate evil, to this day. Throughout that time they had discovered the Western world and the paranormal there, and in the last decade Shikon had made slow contact with something called the Nexus.
Not long ago Shikon Enterprises had become part of the Nexus, the Asian
branch so to speak. Inuyasha and Miroku had become involved with the people
in Salt Lake City, broadening their knowledge, making comparisons between
two very different kind of development in the paranormal gene, building
The decision to fly to the US had come more or less all of a sudden. Miroku had just been back from a long conference in Tokyo when Sesshoumaru had announced his plans to leave for Salt Lake City the next day. A rather bewildered Miroku had been informed that he would accompany his old friend and boss, and he had just had time to call Inuyasha in San Francisco and pack a few things.
Like Sesshoumaru, Miroku came from a time long forgotten if not for the history books. Unlike Sesshoumaru he was human, though. Human and in possession of paranormal powers. That he was still alive was not because of being paranormal – a shaman no less – but because his life force was interwoven with that of his lover Inuyasha. Neither could die if the other did not die at the exact same moment. This being close to impossible had given them a life expectancy that was… nearly unlimited.
Sesshoumaru wanted to meet with Hugh Farnham over business deals, and if everything worked out, he would also talk to Ezra Standish about their cooperation in paranormal matters. Well, it would most likely be Standish and Tanner, since Vin was heading Nexus matters.
The flight had been long but uneventful. Miroku had caught up on sleep, had read over the files Farnham had sent them and then talked to Inuyasha for a while, catching up on matters with their little patient, Zoe Chester.
"She's making progress," his lover told him over the phone while the private jet was closing in on American air space. They had been taking the 'scenic route' as Miroku had joked, making a brief stop in London, then going to New York next. "She's still in her own world, but she keeps reacting more and more to us."
"Sounds like good news," Miroku agreed.
It had been months now and he doubted that Zoe would get better in the next year to come. This was a long, slow process and every little success might be destroyed by a wrong step. Inuyasha was patient, Kagome was there to help him with the little girl, and Zoe seemed to like being around his hanyou lover. She could see him as he was, dog ears and claws and canines and amber eyes. It fascinated her.
"Let me know when you're here," Inuyasha told him. "I'll pick you up."
Miroku smiled. "Sounds like a plan. See you, love."
Five hundred years had done nothing to stop the emotions he had for the half-demon. They had spent decades at a time apart, only to come together in a flurry of passion and need. Miroku had traveled the world, had learned from shamans all across the globe, and Inuyasha wasn't the most spiritual of beings. He had gone up the walls when he had accompanied Miroku the first time, back then in Tibet, and ever since he had voluntarily stayed back and waited for Miroku to come home.
Immortality gave you a whole new perspective.
Throughout their flight, Sesshoumaru had been his quiet self. He had read, he had probably slept a little, but he wasn’t made for great conversation. That hadn’t changed in all those centuries.
Miroku checked the time and found they were already approaching New York. They had a layover and he had plans to use those hours. He might not be in the city long, but it was long enough to drive to Princeton-Plainsboro and drop in on someone who had caught his interest months back.
Dr. James Wilson. Empath. And more. Miroku had seen the man’s aura,
had felt the strange power fluctuations, had briefly checked the man, but
at the time Zoe had been his primary patient and Wilson had just been a
curious addition. Now he wanted to see that addition again.
The plane touched down on time and Miroku turned to Sesshoumaru. “I’ve planned on driving to Plainsboro for a quick check-up on someone.”
“Want to come along?”
It got him a raised eyebrow, but the youkai rose gracefully. Miroku took that as a ‘yes’ and left the plane, descending the steps to find a limo waiting for them. He cocked one eyebrow at Sesshoumaru, but only got the same gesture in return.
He should be used to demons by now, but even five hundred years were not enough it seemed.
“Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital,” Miroku told the driver when they had both sat down.
And the car drove off.
* * *
It was interesting what money could buy. And what doors it could open. Miroku had to suppress a smile at the behavior of the Dean of Medicine of the Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, Dr. Lisa Cuddy. He hadn't met her the first time he had come to this place. Actually, all of what had happened then had been very much undercover.
Right now wasn't any different, but he officially introduced himself to the slightly baffled woman. She was attractive, had a very classic face with a Greek nose, a slender figure, and quite a personality and will, especially if she was faced with opposition. But she was also only a woman when it came to attractive men, and Sesshoumaru was drop-dead gorgeous in many cultures. He wasn't classically Japanese, like most of Miroku's friends. He could blend in, might be judged half or quarter Japanese, and women truly liked his presence. As did men.
"Miroku Takayama," he now introduced himself. "This is my boss, Sessue Fukushima, head of Shikon Enterprises."
Cuddy blinked, unable to understand the good fortune that had brought a wealthy man into her hospital. Especially without an appointment. Miroku had used a good portion of charm and a sizable amount of flaunting around the money issue to get into the Dean's office.
"How can I help you, gentlemen?" she asked, gesturing at them to sit.
"We are on our way to a meeting and had a layover in New York. Mr. Fukushima would like to talk to you Dr. House."
Another blink. "House? Why?"
"Private reasons," Miroku only said diplomatically.
Sesshoumaru hadn't said a word so far, was only watching Cuddy, and the woman was trying not to fidget under his scrutiny. She had probably dealt with powerful and wealthy men before, but there was also the attraction factor. And Cuddy was attracted.
Miroku bit back another smirk and turned a serious face to the hospital administrator. "Dr. House is a very busy man," Cuddy told them.
Sesshoumaru raised one eyebrow. "I understand." He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his check book, quickly and efficiently writing some numbers onto the crisp paper. "I would like his consult for an hour."
And he handed over the check.
Cuddy took it and when she looked at the sum, her face first lost color, then gained some again. "I… that is very generous of you…"
Sesshoumaru inclined his head. "Should we need longer, I am willing to add to the fee."
Cuddy stopped for a moment, trying to gather herself. Here was a man who might be willing to donate money, big money, and whatever he wanted, she would give him. That it had to be House… damn. The check was a good start and if Fukushima was willing to pay even more…
“We just want to talk to him,” Fukushima’s assistant, or whatever he was, replied smoothly.
The man had a ready smile, looked handsome and like Fukushima didn’t strike her as Japanese. More like his ancestry was Asian and he came from a long line of Caucasians. Unlike his boss, he wore his black hair short and his eyes were a striking blue.
“I see. I’ll call him.”
And she did. With a little reluctance, though not because she didn’t want to give them whoever they needed for whatever medical problems they had. It was because this was House. And Wilson wouldn’t be there. House without Wilson was an unbuffered problem. Cuddy had hired House not only because of his background, because of his genius, but also because James Wilson would keep him as tame as possible. Without the other man she knew there was only havoc coming her way. Cuddy had no idea what Wilson was to House, aside from the obvious, but something within the oncologist kept House manageable.
As for the obvious, she couldn't care less. It had actually gotten better since the two men had become an item, and who was she to look a gift horse in the mouth?
* * *
As not otherwise expected she didn’t reach House personally. It was Chase, and Chase told her House was with a patient. She didn’t believe a word the Australian said. The younger man had had too much of House in the past years and despite growing up and becoming a strong and independent personality, someone who didn't bow down when faced with possible repercussions, he was becoming a chip off the old block. Cuddy grimaced. As long as Chase didn't copy House that was fine with her, but sometimes she wondered if the decision to give him a permanent residence in House's department had been all that good.
Then again, you never knew. So many factors contributed to that. House was mellowing ever-so slightly, though never when she was around. Chase was growing stronger. She doubted House exploited him. Wilson was there for the damage control. As for Foreman and Cameron, she congratulated them for surviving so long.
So next came calling House over the intercom and when that failed, she
sent for him. There was slight embarrassment on her features as she waited
with the two visitors. Fukushima was almost stoic, barely twitching a muscle.
Miroku was smiling pleasantly and attempting small talk.
When Gregory House walked into her office, Cuddy swallowed a sigh. Old jeans, sneakers, rumpled shirt over a black t-shirt, unshaven… House as she knew him. Not even Wilson could change that style. At least he now and then had an ironed shirt, though the infrequency told her it wasn't because Wilson did the ironing. Cuddy rose from her chair and was about to say something when House’s eyes fell on Miroku.
“You know each other?” she blurted.
“Yes,” came the brief answer. “What do you want?”
“We’d like to talk to you, Dr. House. In private.”
House’s eyes narrowed and his gaze lingered on Fukushima. Blue eyes bore into the darker ones.
Cuddy felt those gazes now rest on her and she unconsciously started toward the door.
“Behave,” she hissed at House as she walked past him.
It got her a dark smirk and she sighed softly.
Outside she stopped for a moment, then wondered what the hell had happened that she had been kicked out of her office because someone wanted to talk to House.
Then again, this someone came with money. Big money. Money they needed for new equipment, for expansions, for hiring new doctors and nurses.
But it was House.
House didn’t care about money and donors and sponsors.
Cuddy groaned as if in pain and turned back to gaze through her glass doors, watching the drama unfold.
House looked at their visitors. Miroku he knew. He could handle the information the Diagnostic in him was receiving. But the other guy was… interesting to say the least. Tall, slender, face expressionless, though the eyes were intense and watching him with as much curiosity as he was checking him out. The most striking feature was the white hair, though. Not at all age-related, House mused. And if his Diagnostic senses were not completely screwed, the guy felt a lot like Kouga.
“Who are you?” he asked gruffly.
“Dr. House, meet Sesshoumaru. He’s a friend of mine.”
“Like your other friend?”
Miroku smiled. “Yes.”
“A bit more powerful, though.”
“You could say that.”
House studied them silently. “What do you want?”
“We have a lay-over in New York on our way to Salt Lake,” Miroku explained. “I wanted to talk to you about Dr. Wilson.”
House felt everything inside him slam shut and lock itself down.
"Who doesn't? Stand in line," he only replied. House looked at Sesshoumaru again. "And you?"
"I'm accompanying a friend."
The man’s voice was calm, deep, his manners very polite, but something grated on House. There was something cold about this Sesshoumaru character. He appeared collected and confident to the point of arrogance. Yes, that grated. Especially since this was about his best friend and lover, and here his protectiveness came to the forefront.
Wilson had come back from New York a month ago, looking rattled, strangely close-mouthed about what Mac Taylor had told him, and House had left him more or less alone. Now and then he tried to dig a little, and he had been given a little information over time, but not everything. This was truly getting under Wilson's skin and he wasn't ready to share just yet.
House would wait. This was something major and every push too soon or too strong would only clam his lover up more.
Now there was suddenly someone interested in Wilson again. House felt his tension rise.
"If you have questions, ask the man himself," he said emotionlessly.
Cold brown eyes regarded him, then the tall form rose gracefully. Sesshoumaru seemed to gather his aura around himself as he attempted to walk toward the exit – attempted because he was suddenly confronted by House’s cane blocking his way. Miroku had hurriedly gotten up as well, but he stopped and almost froze when the human and the youkai stared at each other.
House’s face was almost as expressionless and cold as Sesshoumaru’s, though the youkai was a lot better at that particular facial freeze. Dark eyes traveled along the cane, the arm holding it, up to look at the man who had dared to stop him.
No words were spoken.
House held the frosty look, not backing down. Suddenly he lowered his cane, the rubber end making a soft thumping noise.
"You don't even know where he is," he only said.
That got him the Spock eyebrow. Really, add a shorter hair-cut and pointed ears and you had a Vulcan. Then again, the man had pointy ears. Half-Vulcan then.
"And you would tell me?"
"No. I'll do you one better. I'll show you."
House turned and limped out of the office, past Cuddy, who only stared at him. It was clear to House that she had seen the confrontation, had sweated about losing whatever money she hoped to get, and now she looked a bit dumb-struck at the change of events.
"Going to see Wilson," he only told her.
She kept staring after the three men, completely bewildered.
House was very much aware of the looks they were getting. Not himself. No, he was part of the inventory. A very much ignored or cursed at part. Miroku, while handsome, wasn’t the babe-magnet Sesshoumaru had turned out to be. Everyone, patient or nurse or doctor, was looking at the tall man, eyes slightly glazed.
“Is that infectious or are you showing off?” House asked, smirking.
Again the eyebrows twitched up a little. “I fail to see what you’re getting at.”
“Cut the crap. I can see and feel the aura you project. People stare. Even if you’re a lot stronger than Kouga, you don’t just radiate charm and drip attraction. Then again, you might be a junkie in that regard.”
Sesshoumaru gave him an inscrutable look while Miroku had a wary and slightly cautious expression. House smirked more when no answer came forth.
"I do not radiate what I am," Sesshoumaru finally said, voice level.
"Oh, you do. Not the paranormal part. Not the demon you are." House's face held a wry smile. "But you radiate the sex. You have people look at you, lust after you, and I bet you could stop it with a simple little spell."
"I'm not a wizard."
"No, just some insanely old and powerful supernatural being."
They stopped at Wilson’s office
"You like this," House only said. "You really like this."
Dark eyes regarded him, the smooth and handsome face unnervingly unreadable, and Miroku watched them like two combatants in a game show. There was this curious, slightly amused, maybe a little wary expression, like he was ready to interfere.
House smirked more, then pushed the door open and stepped into Wilson's office, but no one was home. House didn’t comment on the absence of their head of oncology. He just limped on and followed his instincts. Part of those instincts was his knowledge of James Wilson. Another part was this strange little fact that he could sometimes pinpoint his lover’s location when looking for him.
Like this time.
He found him in an empty examination room. The patient had apparently just left and Wilson was busy scribbling notes into a file.
The two visitors had followed without comment.
“Hey, Wilson, look who I found,” House called, limping into the room ahead of the two visitors.
What happened next came totally out of the blue.
Wilson looked up. His eyes brushed from House to Miroku and Sesshoumaru, widened, and he staggered back.
"W-what…" he managed.
His pupils seemed to dilate explosively and a gasp left his suddenly bloodless lips. He was pale as a sheet and if there hadn’t been a wall, he probably would have crashed to the ground. Instead he was leaning heavily against that wall, palms flat against the white surface, and the pen lay lost on the ground.
House flashed a look from his lover to the two men he had guided here, and he found Miroku staring at Wilson like he had just gotten the biggest shock of his life. He was even paling, though not as dramatically as Wilson had.
“Sesshoumaru, leave,” Miroku suddenly said, voice flat.
The taller man’s eyes narrowed briefly, looking from the shocked oncologist to his companion, then he just turned and left.
House limped over to Wilson and placed himself directly in his line of sight, blocking out Miroku, and he caught the dilated eyes.
The eyes blinked and if House didn’t know better, he would have thought Wilson was on drugs. Painkillers. Barbiturates. Something like that.
“House?” came the faint question.
“At my most charming self.” House reached out and touched the pale neck, feeling the pulse beat strongly against his seeking finger tips.
Wilson’s hands came to clench into his already rumpled shirt and a tremor went through the empath. House had learned to read the signs and he knew when his lover was trying to gather his shields. This was such a vulnerable moment and he hated to think that he had brought it on by dragging the two visitors along.
Looking at Miroku, who hadn’t moved an inch, he found he was watched closely.
"What the fuck was that?" he demanded.
"Sesshoumaru’s aura was too much for your friend."
"I can see that!" Furious blue eyes were close to slicing and dicing Miroku into small parts.
“Your partner also decided to protect his mind by throwing up massive shields. He felt threatened.”
House froze. “Threatened?”
“I could feel his mind defending itself against mine as I probed him. Those shields are like granite walls, layered in titanium and protected even more by vicious guards.” Miroku looked curious. "I have seen such reactions in powerful magic users, even a strong empath, but never so sudden and so airtight.”
House’s fury rose unbidden again and Wilson’s grip on his tightened as the empath desperately tried to anchor himself.
“Greg,” he whispered.
He clamped down on his fury and felt Wilson relax a little, the shields healing and growing stronger. The Diagnostic could see the frayed energy lines and he longed to be able to truly heal them. But he couldn’t. He was only able to Diagnose.
“Dr. Wilson?” Miroku addressed him.
Wilson seemed to tense a little, then steeled himself.
“Are you aware of what you did?”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“You defended yourself. When I touched your mind you cut me down by bringing up a defense that is unlike any I ever saw in an empath. Telepaths maybe, but not you.”
“I did no such thing!” Wilson protested.
He had straightened more and House could almost see the shields rising. Good. Wilson had gotten a lot better at this.
Miroku inclined his head a little. “I beg to differ, Dr. Wilson. I could
Wide eyes stared at the man. “But I’m… I’m only an empath!”
“That’s why I came here. As I explained to Dr. House, Sesshoumaru and I are on our way to a business meeting and have a lay-over in New York. I decided to come here, to meet with you, to see whether your powers have developed. And they have.”
Wilson stared at him, stunned. “I can’t develop,” he finally argued weakly.
“One would think so, but the last time we met I already felt you were different. Your powers are fluctuating. You shouldn’t be able to sense so much if you are a low level empath. But you do, don’t you? You could explain away why you are touched by Dr. House so strongly, but what about others?”
Wilson shook his head again. He had released his grip on House, but House was now resting a gentle hand on his lover’s back. Blue eyes still watched Miroku with wariness and anger.
“If you agree, Dr. Wilson, I would like to check your power levels.”
“Just let me scan you. It’s painless.” Miroku gave him a smile.
Wilson hesitate a moment, then nodded. “Not here,” he decided. “I don’t have any appointments right now, so we can use the office.”
He glanced at House, and House understood the silent question. He wouldn’t leave his lover alone. Not even all the Hounds of Cuddy would get him to go anywhere else.
A Diagnostic was normally not an instant diagnostician. He couldn’t look at a patient and tell what was wrong with him or her. It was a slow process of getting to know this patient, of growing used to him, and to have a certain amount of empathy. Not empathy like Wilson, of course. There had to be a connection, the relationship between doctor and patient, for all of it to work properly. It was a natural safety switch for the paranormal involved. Otherwise Diagnostics would soon overload on all the information around them, about each and every person they met.
House was not the most sociable of doctors or even human beings. The time he spent with a patient was as brief as possible, and if he really had to be in the same room and actually talk to the sick person, he made it short and to the point.
He was a Diagnostic, but he would never voluntarily try to log on to someone.
Aside from Wilson. James Wilson was the only exception – a major one.
But House was known to make exceptions to his rules and Miroku was such an exception now. They had met once before and he had been intrigued by the man. Not only did he claim he was over five hundred years old, there was also the mysterious ‘injury’ on his right hand. Like back throughout their first meeting, Miroku wore a black leather glove that covered his palm and left the fingers free. Motorbike glove, House mused, but a designer one. This one fit perfectly.
Curious, he stretched his senses. He hadn’t tried it the first time because he couldn’t be bothered back then, but now, with his second chance to get a look at this injury, he did just that.
Diagnostics could focus their powers to connect to a patient by sheer will and House had used that ability before his infarction, so he knew what it could do and where the limits lay. He would be able to scan briefly, a surface diagnosis so to speak, and then he would have to withdraw or risk draining himself.
What House saw was frightening, disturbing and immensely interesting.
Miroku’s hand looked… alien. It had changed color from a normal skin tone to blackish-blue, right up to the elbow, and there were vein-like energy line, thick and pulsing sickly, coming from the center of the man’s palm and going up his arm. Their color changed from pink to purple farther up the arm. The palm, covered by the leather glove, had a golf-ball sized hole in the middle. A hole of nothingness.
It looked alien. Like it didn’t belong to a human body – and Miroku was human otherwise, no doubt about that. It was a sickness, a curse, definitely not natural.
House blinked and the image disappeared, briefly replaced by a full body image of Miroku, looking otherwise healthy.
And then those strange eyes met House’s. Miroku had been aware of the scan. He smiled briefly, inclined his head and turned to Wilson.
House steadied himself, feeling the wall behind him, and he drew a deep breath.
What the fuck…? ran through his mind.
* * *
The examination was painless, but it was strange. Wilson had never felt a shaman’s power touch him personally, though he had run into shamans. Miroku himself and then the NYPD detective, Dee Latener. Neither man had ever actively scanned him and right now it felt like he was surrounded by some kind of wavering shield that pulsed and sizzled now and then.
Wilson was aware of House close by, though his lover wasn’t touching him, but the empath just knew when Greg House was close. It was rather reassuring.
Suddenly the strange feeling was gone and Wilson opened his eyes, meeting the strangely purple-blue ones of the shaman. Miroku looked thoughtful.
“Your powers have developed, Dr. Wilson. I can’t say what it is, but I have a few theories. I can’t check them all in a hurry because Sesshoumaru and I need to get back to the airport, but I want to come by on my way back, if you don’t mind.”
Wilson stared at him. “W-what?” he stammered. “What are you talking about?”
“It seems that you defy categories. You are an oddity, like a mutation among the paranormal. That was my first impression when I met you so briefly months ago, and it is my impression now. I wish I had more time.”
Wilson shook his head, feeling his stomach tighten painfully, his throat constricting.
“I’m not different,” he almost-snapped as he rose from his seat.
Miroku gave him a calm look. “All paranormals are different. You just opened a new category.”
“I refuse to believe this! My family has the empathic gene, my brother is a strong telepath, but I’m nothing special among them!”
“I can’t tell you any more right now,” Miroku tried to soothe him. “I will be back, but in the meantime I advise you talk to someone who can help you, too. You met him already. Dee Latener. As a shaman himself he can teach you a few things until we can find out what triggers your power fluctuations.”
Wilson gritted his teeth, feeling the tight knot of his stomach turn even more into a rock. He instinctively reached out for House and found the simple presence soothing and calming for his fraying nerves.
Miroku took out a card and wrote a number on the back, then handed it to Wilson.
Wilson didn’t say anything, just pocketed the card, which had ‘Shikon Enterprises’ printed on the front, together with a cell number and Miroku’s name.
Miroku smiled at House, nodded once. “I know the way out,” he only said,
Wilson felt something inside of him shiver with relief that the shaman was gone, while another was simply trembling with fear at what he had been told.
House touched him and Wilson leaned into the contact, for a moment allowing himself to break the rules. House’s lips pressed against his forehead, the stubble scraping along his skin, and he drew a shuddering breath.
"You okay?" he murmured.
"Yeah. This was… strange."
Wilson tilted his head up and their lips met in a sloppy kiss that deepened and turned a lot hotter than House had intended.
"As much as I like making out with you," House rumbled after they separated, "I think we should move this somewhere… nicer."
"I can't go home yet!" Wilson immediately protested.
"You can and you will. I'll get Chase to cover." He pressed another kiss to his lover's forehead.
Wilson closed his eyes and shivered briefly, then pushed away, shoulders squaring. He drew a deep breath, the brown eyes showing a strength House had admired so often before.
"Get your stuff. I'll call our ally. He has to earn his keep."
Wilson was about to protest again, but House held up a finger.
"No arguing. Go, Jimmy. Now!"
There was a flash of anger, but the empath left the room. House sighed deeply and limped after him a moment later. He had Cuddy to evade, Chase to beep, and Wilson to get home safely. He wasn't happy about what had happened and if either of those two Shikon guys happened to come by again any time soon, he'd probably personally kick their butts out of his hospital. For now, he had a lover to take care of. And for now, that was his priority.
* * *
Despite his earlier words of knowing where the door was, Miroku hadn't left. Actually, he was in House's office when House came back from the examination room to pack his own things.
"Couldn't find the exit?" he asked gruffly.
"Something like it. I wanted to talk to you before I left for the airport, Dr. House."
House watched the man in his office, feeling strangely annoyed that Miroku had come to see him. There was even a sliver of anger at him for hurting his lover, but he suppressed that reaction as best as he could.
“You scanned me,” Miroku remarked calmly.
House didn’t lower his gaze, still met the strange eyes head on. Some people called it stubbornness, too much for his own good, but he called it not backing down. Authority didn’t impress him, powerful paranormals didn’t faze him, so Miroku would have to give him more than a look to make him crawl into a hole and hide.
“So?” he challenged.
“You are a curious man, Dr. House.”
“I’ve been called worse.”
“Curiosity comes naturally. It’s a human trait.”
“Can we stop the mystic babble and get to the point where you tell me this is a secret and if I spill a word you’ll come back and make my life miserable?” House asked glibly. “Oh, wait! My life is miserable already. Mainly because you walked into it!”
Miroku smiled and it wasn’t that infuriatingly serene smile. It was genuine amusement.
“I’m not threatening you, Dr. House. I just wanted to explain to you what you saw.”
House frowned. “I don’t need an explanation.”
“No? Then what did you see?”
House refused to fall for the bait. He glared at the shaman.
“My life,” Miroku told him, “was complicated from the start. My grandfather had been cursed by a powerful creature and because of that he was left with what we call a kazaana in his right hand. You could call it an airhole. It sucks in everything, be it alive or dead, big or small. Only if the creature who cursed my grandfather would die, would the curse be lifted. He couldn’t kill it and the kazaana destroyed him in the end. All that was left of him was a huge crater.”
House listened with rapt attention.
“The kazaana was inherited by my father then. He was just a child, but he swore to continue his father’s search. His end came just as suddenly, in the same way. He could no longer control the curse and was destroyed by it.”
Miroku raised the gloved hand.
“It was my turn next. My family tamed the kazaana with magic, covering the airhole unless we needed it to defend ourselves. But it drains you. It kills you little by little. All I could do was look for the creature and pursue the prospect of having a family, solely to father a son to fulfill my family’s work one day. I would give him the curse, yes, but maybe he would slay the demon who had done this.”
“You’re still not dead,” House remarked.
“No, I’m not. I also never had a family like you would think of it. I never had children. I found someone to share this doomed life with." Miroku smiled softly. "You never met him, but like Dr. Wilson is for you, he's everything to me."
House raised an eyebrow.
"We killed the thing eventually," the shaman went on. "The kazaana disappeared. It its stead came my true powers, those who had been almost leeched and dried out by the curse. I lived without the curse for five hundred years. Last year it came back.”
“I don’t know. The only reason it could was the demon’s rebirth.”
“You said it’s dead.”
“Even the dead survive,” came the philosophical answer.
“I wear the glove as protection. Not my own, but the world’s. I spend my time looking for traces of this evil that has come back, but so far there is no sign.”
House’s eyes were on the hand again, the curse. Miroku raised it, a grim look on his face.
“I’m stronger than I was back then. I have a lot more control. As for
my dying… there are special circumstances in my life now that keep death
from being permanent."
House's eyes narrowed. "Immortal?"
"Nearly. I don't age. I live as long as my lover does and vice versa. When we defeated the creature, something happened. Our life energies are bound now. Death is only permanent if we die in the exact moment of time together."
"Which is near-impossible."
"Not something to crave… living forever," House said, sounding almost philosophical. "Man is not meant to be forever."
"Maybe. But it's nothing I can change. I'm not suicidal and the last five hundred years didn't change that."
House regarded him solemnly. "Still sucks. And you got your curse back."
"Yes. The thing that gave me the kazaana might be in hiding, but only for now. We know it. It will be back and I will destroy it once more.”
“For the next half millennium?”
“For good,” was the soft answer.
House felt a cold shiver run through him. It weren’t just the words, it was also the power and the promise that came with them. It was the state of Miroku’s hand.
“It doesn’t hurt, Dr. House, and no one, not even a healer or a shaman, can help me. My friends and I are doing what we can, and will find this thing again. It’s only a matter of time.”
“Good luck with that.”
That got him a smile. “We can always need a little more.”
* * *
Wilson walked into their shared home and dropped his coat and bag, then headed straight for the kitchen. He took out a beer, twisted off the cap and took a deep swallow. House leaned against the door jamb and raised his brows. Wilson took another swallow and finally leaned back against the kitchen counter, closing his eyes.
"He got you good," House remarked.
"Miroku didn't attack me."
"I'm talking about Sesshoumaru."
Wilson shrugged. "It was… unexpected."
Like so many things. Like having Miroku almost repeating exactly the same thing the Seeker Mac Taylor had told him already. Wilson was special. Wilson was something new. Wilson needed to train his abilities more than he had thought.
"What did you see?" House inquired.
Wilson's eyes opened and he took another swallow. "I'm not sure."
House waited, but when nothing else was forthcoming, he limped to the fridge and got himself his own beer.
"He's like that Kouga character. A demon."
"Stronger," Wilson murmured.
"Yep." House took a look swallow, then looked expectantly at Wilson.
The oncologist just shook his head. Right now he needed to deal with this by himself. He had to work through what he had seen and felt and especially what he had been told – about himself.
His lover didn't stop looking at him with that infuriatingly half-sarcastic, half-serious smile. It was this knowing look that had Wilson sigh. House came closer and placed his bottle next to Wilson, then fixed that intense look on him.
"So?" Wilson echoed.
"Want to have sex?" House asked casually.
Wilson blinked, stared, then laughed softly. "One track mind."
"It's easy maintenance."
"Nothing with you is easy."
House slipped an arm around his waist and pulled Wilson close. "You are easy," he said roughly.
The taller man leaned down and kissed him, pushing against him. "You are," House purred. "Easy when it comes to sex. Eager, too." A long-fingered hand brushed over the stirring arousal. "I like that in my playthings."
"You've got only one," Wilson remarked dryly, trying not to move too desperately into the maddening tease.
"And you're so good," House murmured. "So… sex?"
"I just had a life-altering moment, House."
"It's not going to be any more life-altering after sex."
"You really are persistent."
"There are many good sides to me."
Wilson quizzically tilted his head. "Oh really? When do I get to see at least one of them."
House chuckled. "Get naked and I'll show you."
Bottles clinked against each other as House leaned further against the other man, pushing a knee between his legs. One of the almost empty beer bottles nearly toppled, but Wilson couldn't care less.
A million thoughts were running through his mind because of Miroku's words, but they were slowly drowned out by the quite talented hands and lips of House. He knew everything would come back, but forgetting, at least for a while, was good. So he surrendered, giving himself to the emotions, to the need.
House gave his neck a little bite, making Wilson shudder. "Bed?"
He pulled back and the grin was almost wolfish, the blue eyes heated. Wilson didn't try to think anymore as they made it to the bedroom, as clothes were peeled off and House took control. Right now he only wanted to feel and forget what he had heard and seen and felt today.
* * *
The flight to Salt Lake had been uneventful and when Sesshoumaru was
in his meeting with Hugh Farnham, head of Farnham Enterprises and a paranormal
in his own right, Miroku placed a call.
Miroku lay in his lover’s arms, feeling Inuyasha’s strength seep into his own body. For all his magical powers, Miroku was still just a human being with all the needs that came with that. One was the closeness of his bonded partner.
Inuyasha nuzzled his ear and neck, sharp teeth biting lightly. Miroku shuddered and moved to roll onto his prone lover. Inuyasha smiled up at him, his silvery white hair tousled, giving him a decidedly roguish appearance that was enhanced by the light glinting in the amber eyes. Here, in the privacy of their place in San Francisco, no deception was needed. He always saw Inuyasha as what he was – thanks to being a shaman. When his lover used the projection that let him appear human, Miroku had a flickering image sometimes, though.
“How’s the hand?” the half-demon murmured, his left hand sliding up Miroku’s elbow to entangle their fingers.
Even in bed Miroku wore the glove. Inside the deceptively innocent black leather was a complicated and very powerful magic that kept the kazaana at bay. Before he had used enchanted beads. This was less bothersome.
“Fine,” Miroku murmured, catching Inuyasha’s lips in a hungry kiss.
Inuyasha responded in kind, tightly holding on to the cursed hand. He slid his palm up to lay flat against the leather-covered one, then folded their hands together. Miroku shuddered as those teeth grazed over his neck and he moaned.
* * *
He wasn’t special.
He had never been special.
All his life people had tried to tell him he was, but he wasn’t. James Wilson was a normal human being. And he was a simple empath, not some kind of freakish mutation. His family had the gene, as he had told Miroku, and Derek had been the extreme version of what could happen, but that could have been prevented if he had sought help. Derek had sealed his own fate by refusing help. He had a familiar to keep him sane, but he would never be who he had been before.
Wilson wouldn’t share his fate. He was low level. Everything else, the fluctuations and the spiking receptiveness, was easily explained.
House was his best friend and lover. He knew him inside out. That was why he was so susceptible to his emotions. That was why House could both hurt and soothe him. It was why Wilson latched onto him as his balance and stability.
Foreman’s emotions when it came to Wilson were simply too strong. He had this hatred inside, something that wasn’t there because of Wilson but because of his own past.
House’s father… well, that hatred had been solely directed at Wilson, and back then he had just come to deal with shields and what he could do.
So there. Easy. Nothing special.
Wilson closed his eyes and exhaled softly.
Nothing special. He wasn’t a freak, a mutation, out of the ordinary. If he could just train his shields and do his meditations he would be fine.
But ‘fine’ had gone out of the window pretty quickly on occasions and a small voice niggled in the back of his mind, telling him that what he could do couldn’t be explained as low level empathy.
Not any more.
Wilson pushed away from the sink and walked into the empty room. House was out with his bike, enjoying the sunny day, and Wilson had decided to stay inside and catch up on his paperwork. House had just scowled and called him a workaholic.
The business card glared at him from where he had pinned it next to the phone. It had been there for a week.
A hellish week where Wilson kept thinking about what Miroku had told him, where he relived that strange sensation, that almost-pain, that surprise, of touching Sesshoumaru. He kept losing himself for a few hours in work every day, then in sex with House, but not even his lover could stop his brain from somersaulting with all that ran through it.
No, he wasn't special.
The business card seemed to snicker at him. Yeah, right.
Call Latener. Call someone who could help.
He didn’t need help! He was normal! He wasn’t sick and whatever anyone could do, no one could neutralize his paranormal powers.
Wilson rubbed his forehead, feeling a headache creeping up on him. So he walked back into the bathroom and opened the cabinet, eyes scanning over the assorted bottles. They fell on House’s fake Vicodin bottle. He stared at the medication, transfixed, a slow thought sneaking into his mind.
With a snarl of denial he closed the cabinet with a resolute bang and stalked out of bathroom.
It was a nice day.
He shouldn’t be in here, alone, where he felt thoughts creep upon him
Fifteen minutes later the Volvo pulled out on the streets and into the traffic.
* * *
It was no great surprise for Wilson that he finally stopped outside Chase's place. It was still the same apartment Chase had rented when he had come to work at the hospital and it was rather small for two people, but as far as Wilson knew, John had yet to make a decision to permanently move here. Right now he was still recovering, still getting back on his own two feet. His office had been rebuilt, but he hadn't moved back. Wilson understood the psychological problem behind it, understood the trauma, and he understood that something profoundly had changed between the two men. Pyre was coming to a decision as to his life with Chase.
So far he was only taking consult cases. He had money, it had been his own firm, and maybe he would stay in Plainsboro. Maybe Chase would move to New York, though Wilson hoped he wouldn't. It was nice to know an ally so well, to trust someone with their difficult situation.
It was late afternoon and if he was lucky, Chase was already home. If not, maybe Pyre was. Right now he needed to talk to someone who knew about him, who wasn't House, and who just listened.
John was home – Chase wasn't – and the lawyer gave him a surprised look. He was dressed casually, the glasses firmly on his nose. It had taken some getting used to, but glasses were better than being blind.
"James," he only said tiredly, shooting a hopeful look past the taller man.
John blinked, then stepped aside, letting the oncologist enter. "What brings you here?" he asked when he had closed the door.
"I… needed to get out… and when I stopped driving… well, I was hoping to find a friendly face and an open ear." He smiled apologetically.
The blond chuckled lightly. "You can also find a coffee or whatever you prefer."
"Coffee sounds fine."
Ten minutes later Wilson sat on the couch of the living room, a coffee in hand, eyes roaming aimlessly through the room. He knew Chase wanted to move somewhere bigger, was actually house hunting, but so far nothing had really come up. He and John were living together while the environmental lawyer was trying to make a new life after his terrible accident. The glasses were testament to the changes in Pyre's life, whose eye sight had only been restored because of a healer's intervention.
"I guess Chase already told you," Wilson finally said.
"About Miroku's visit? Yes. I'm… surprised."
"Yeah, well, me too."
"Tell me what happened, James," John said softly.
Wilson gulped down some coffee, almost burning his tongue. He took a moment, then started. Right from the beginning and Pyre just listened. For the first time, Wilson told someone outside his home the exact emotions rushing through him, the sheer power he had felt, and he skidded along the dangerous area of thought that had split open at the seams at Miroku's words of 'being special'.
John listened. Blue eyes intense, never interrupting, he simply listened.
"Every one of us is special, James," he finally said into the silence after Wilson had finished.
"You sound like my mom."
"Well, she's a wise woman, and an ally, and your mom." John smiled a little. "And you're an empath. A lot of things happened to you, James. Like House. Like your brother. Like discovering your powers. Miroku said you're a change among the known paranormal. That isn't necessarily bad. I know there are paranormals out there no one has heard of in decades or even centuries. One of them is in Las Vegas. He's so rare, he's one of his kind. Maybe you are one of those unknowns, too. Maybe there were others like you centuries ago, but for a while the bloodline fell dormant."
Wilson rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I don't need this, John. I really don't. It was bad enough to discover I'm empathic, but I can't control it! And now this guy from Japan tells me I have to find a... a teacher?!"
John gazed at him, silent, thoughtful. "If you don't learn, this might destroy you."
"I know. But I'm not special, John. I'm not…"
Pyre didn't reply to that. Their conversation trailed off into areas of ally work, Wilson sharing stories of his work, John of his. It was a nice way to pass an hour, almost two, and Wilson left before Chase came back. Apparently he was working over-time.
Wilson drove home and parked the Volvo, then sat in the car for a moment longer. His mind was still awhirl with everything and nothing.
I'm not special, repeated over and over in that chaos.
* * *
House wasn't prone to cleaning up around their shared home. He made sure he couldn't trip over scattered stuff, like journals or clothes, but still kept books stacked next to his favorite reading chair in an untidy and dangerously swaying heap. He still piled dirty dishes in the sink. He still wadded up his shirts and played hamper basketball. Only Wilson had stopped cleaning up after him. It had become an unspoken agreement that as long as nothing moldy or semi-alive came out from under the piles, Wilson would let House live.
But House wasn't a complete slob. At least not intentionally. He might try to get a rise out of his lover with some well-planned teasing and taunting, but he didn't just ignore pressing matters. And he once in a while cleaned the critical areas of the loft home.
Now and then a cleaning lady came by. Rose or Maria or Annabella or whatever she was called. She wasn't the same woman from before – House had vetoed that – but she was nice, efficient, didn't give a rat's ass about who was sleeping with who, and she was gone before either man got home.
It was when House was rooting through a stack of old things, looking for a particular journal everywhere, that he found the orange prescription bottle. He frowned and dug it out from underneath old journals that would probably be boxed soon and placed in the attic room.
His name was on it.
It said Vicodin.
It was rather recent.
And half full.
He rattled the white pills and finally unscrewed the top, shaking a few out on his palm.
Vicodin. The real stuff. A pro could tell. The sugar tablets did look the same, but they weren't identical. He cold tell them apart.
What the fuck were they doing here? Sure, Wilson still signed the prescription and he had bottles filled, but he had a contact, probably some ally or other, who provided the cover of this being real Vicodin.
So what was this stuff doing here?
He still had his own 'cover' bottle. He knew he had.
Had someone messed up? Had Wilson ordered a refill and gotten the real stuff accidentally?
Even though, why was the bottle already half empty?
House put the pills back and rolled the plastic bottle around on his palm. The contents rattled loudly in the otherwise silent room. His frown deepened and he placed the bottle back in the stack of old magazines.
Something was going on.
And he would get to the bottom of it.
* * *
House was good at hacking. Maybe he wasn't a pro, but he knew enough about the hospital computer system to get where he wanted. It wasn't something he did regularly, nor did he spy on anyone, but it had its advantages to enter files and see what interesting new cases there might be – cases Cuddy might withhold from him. It had happened before and it would again.
So House hacked in his free time. He had a lot of it since there were three people he could throw the boring stuff at. In Chase's case, stuff was thrown back more often now. The Australian had truly developed a backbone. There wasn't a lot of open-mouthed staring and bitching and whining – like Cameron – or dark looks and lowered eyebrows, accompanied by visits from Cuddy -- like Foreman. Chase had developed his own way, a silent, strong and sometimes rather nasty way. He probably took lessons from Wilson, House mused as he scanned recent prescriptions made by the oncologist.
It was amusing, it kept him on his toes, it was really a challenge, and he loved it. Cuddy man-handling him into accepting Chase as a permanent member to his non-existent department staff had ruffled his feathers for a while, and he had taken it out on his ally, but that had smoothed over. Now it was day-to-day arguments.
Yeah, that was fun.
House stopped at the prescriptions for Vicodin, made for one Dr. Gregory House. He knew his last prescription date, so he scrolled to that. It was signed and then delivered to the hospital pharmacy. A Tyler Rose had filled it.
House checked back. Yep, Rose had always filled it. So that had to be Wilson's ally there.
The next one after his latest batch had the date House had seen on the mysterious bottle among Wilson's journals. A month ago. For him. But he had never gotten it. And his own stash was still good for another two weeks. Since he was officially down to his old quota of pain medication, a bottle usually lasted six to eight weeks, depending on how much House play-acted upon his 'pain'.
But Wilson had written another prescription. It had been filled. It hadn't been Tyler Rose.
He checked the name. Samuel Ito. Another pharmacist.
House frowned and leaned back, sharp eyes on the information on his flatscreen.
Maybe Tyler had been sick? Ito was his stand-in? Ito had no clue about the paranormal world and had just filled the prescription?
It all sounded like a huge accident, but Wilson was a former ally and he was anal in his work for House, in covering his healed nerves in the damaged leg. They had been play-acting for over a year now and there had never been a mistake. Wilson didn't make mistakes like that. Not with something concerning the paranormal.
House exited the program and logged out, not happy.
He would check out Ito next. Could be the guy was an ally. Could be
he had botched up the prescription deal. Could be Wilson had shoved the
bottle somewhere and forgotten.
But that sounded weak. Not like Wilson logic. Not like Wilson.
Pushing himself to his feet, House limped over to the glass door that separated his office from the larger meeting room.
"Chase!" he snapped, startling the younger man out of his reading.
They didn't have a case right now and Chase was catching up on back-log bureaucratic stuff, like bills and patient files.
"In here, now!"
House let the door swing shut and waited for the other man to come inside. Chase's blue eyes were narrowing a little as House indicated that he lock the door and close the blinds.
"How many allies work in this hospital?" House simply asked when they had their privacy.
Chase's features shifted from curious co-worker to cautious ally. House was always amazed at the changes. Throw something out of the paranormal world at Chase and he became a totally different person. Fascinating. He wondered if all allies were like that.
"We don't have lists," was the level reply.
"I'm not asking names. I want a number."
House exhaled sharply, trying not to snarl. "Just answer the damn question, Chase. How many allies?"
"That I know of? Five. Well, four. One moved to New York last month."
House frowned. "You included."
"John doesn't work here."
"Okay, four. You included. You know them?"
"By name. I never had to work with them. Their names were given to me by the vampire community, just in case, since hospitals tend to have more paranormal foot traffic where our help is required than most places. Police stations excluded."
House tapped his cane onto the floor, thinking. "How many at the pharmacy?"
"One. What's this about?" Chase asked suspiciously.
"Samuel Ito?" House went on, ignoring the question.
"What about him?"
"Is he an ally?"
Chase frowned more. "No. At least I don't know if he is or not. He's a new guy, right? I haven't seen him before very often."
"The ally is Tyler Rose?"
Now the suspicion was clearly written over the young face. "House, what's going on?" he demanded.
"Nothing. Yet. Check into Ito. See if he's an ally. You can do that, right?"
"Why should I?"
House glowered. "Because I'm your boss."
"Not when it comes to ally business. What's it about Ito that has you interested?"
"His boyish good looks?"
That got House a grimace. "I'm not going to investigate into a man who might or not might not be an ally just because you want me to on a whim!"
"Fine, then don't. I'll find someone else."
"John won't help you either."
"I won't need him."
Chase shook his head, mild exasperation in his eyes. "If you would just tell me what got you interested in the man…"
House was silent as the Australian trailed off. He studied his only staff member, took in the serious eyes, the scar in his face that was the only visible reminder of the near-fatal accident the man had had so long ago. Chase had come out alive, and he had changed a little after that. Not just because he now had a male lover. Not just because House and Wilson knew he was their ally here. Not because of the medical facts. Something inside Chase had grown, had matured, had made him a bit different to before.
As much as House had been furious about not knowing that the man was an ally, he had overcome that emotion and he had come to trust him. But this was a lot more personal than revealing what his powers were. This was something that concerned Wilson and whenever that came up, House felt a wave of protectiveness. Wilson was more to him than just a way to pass his time, to get laid, to have great, mind-numbing sex.
"Fine, don't tell me," Chase growled and turned to leave.
"Chase," House called softly and the blond froze. He glanced back over his shoulder. "I have my reasons. I can't tell you because it concerns something… very private. I'm asking a favor."
Chase was silent. He just gazed at him, unreadable, looking tense.
"I'll see what I can find out," he finally said stiffly, then left the room.
The blinds swung gently as the door snapped shut and House watched them like someone would the ocean's waves. Finally they stilled. Chase was clearly annoyed, close to pissed, but he would do what House had asked. And he would have to deal with the fallout.
Well, nothing different to annoying him because of a medical situation. It would blow over. And it would hopefully get him an answer.
* * *
Chase wasn't a happy ally. He had worked for the vampire community of Melbourne for a very long time, he had contacted the New York community when he had come to the States to work in Plainsboro and he had done his share of case works, but he had never been asked to spy into the personal life of another paranormal. Especially by the paranormal's partner.
Because that was what this was. Chase wasn't stupid. When House had asked him about Samuel Ito and whether the man was an ally, he had done his own detective work. Ito wasn't an ally. That much was clear after one quick phone call. Tyler Rose was still Wilson's primary ally contact when it came to the pharmacy and the man gave the oncologist the sugar pills in trade for a prescription signed by Dr. James Wilson.
So House was suspicious about something concerning Rose.
At least that had been Chase's thoughts until he had given this a lot more thought, had called up prescriptions in House's name and come across one filled by Ito instead of Rose.
"Maybe it was a mistake," John had argued.
"Not like this. Wilson wouldn't make the mistake to give the prescription to anyone but an ally. Rose was on the second shift and Wilson picked up the Vicodin just an hour before shift change. Something is wrong."
And so it was something between House and Wilson. Chase simply hated to be the middle man.
Sitting at home, trying to distract himself with a crime series that was currently on TV, he didn't hear his lover come home until Pyre startled him with a soft, "Hey".
"Geez!" Chase exclaimed.
John gave him an amused look. "Deep thoughts?"
He gave the blond a dark look. "If you really need to ask… yes."
"House and Wilson?"
Chase nodded and sank deeper into the couch. "He caught me before leaving, demanded I tell him what I found out."
"Are you sure he isn't a telepath? How did he know you already had something?"
Chase grimaced. "He just does. He's House. Anyway, I told him Ito's no ally. Looks like he knew somehow or at least heavily suspected."
John sat down beside him and gently rubbed one jeans-clad thigh.
"Something's going on, John. I just don't know what it is. "
"We'll hear about it, Robert. Don't worry."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
The lawyer chuckled and stole a kiss. "It's our job."
Chase sank even deeper, which gave his lover the perfect opportunity to lean over and turn the stolen kiss into a deep and hot one. Chase wrapped his arms around the broad shoulders and pulled him closer.
"Hm, so how was your day?" he purred.
* * *
Wilson didn’t know when it started for real. First there was the thought. Maybe… he could… it would help, right? He knew it. It had helped Derek… And House’s own paranormal abilities had been influenced by it.
He used Tylenol in the beginning. A normal headache medication. No one questioned him, not even House, when he took one. But then that wasn’t enough any more. The headaches increased, the fluctuations grew more random. He couldn’t predict them any more, and when he almost broke into tears over the pain coming from a distraught family over the death sentence of their only child, it had only been Chase’s interferences that had saved him the embarrassment of breaking down in the middle of a hallway.
He was becoming more and more sensitive, and he could no longer battle the sensation with his worn shields.
He needed help. Shamanic help. Anyone’s help.
But that would be confessing to being different. Special.
And he wasn’t. He had accepted he was a paranormal, a late blooming one at that, but that was about it.
Chase had gotten him home that day, given him a shot of something stronger than Tylenol, and had stayed with Wilson until House had come home.
It was after that that the lure of painkillers had become stronger.
Wilson knew it well. He knew all its effects, and in the past years he had also learned that it neutralized paranormal abilities. In House’s case the Diagnostic ability had been numbed for years. In Derek’s case it had made him lucid enough to talk to him until the familiar had been back, had taken over that role.
There was no familiar for Wilson, and to be truthful: he didn’t suffer like Derek had. He didn’t see murders through the eyes of the victim. He wasn’t raving mad. He wasn’t a total lunatic.
But his powers were apparently going out of control.
He never called Latener. He told House he did, but it was a lie.
Just one of many.
The other was that the weekends he spent in New York were meant to train him. Yes, he drove to New York. He never saw Latener or anyone else, though. He spent the time in a hotel of his choice. Since the breakdown at the hospital was the only one in that time and since he appeared to gain control of his powers on the outside, no one questioned him.
It ate at him, the lying and deceiving. His lover wasn’t his enemy, and House knew pain and the pleasant numbness when the Vicodin took effect, but Wilson knew he wouldn’t be very understanding of his choices.
But the drug was his only way out.
The drug was his help.
That Miroku couldn’t stop by on his way back was a huge relief. Something had come up and the shaman had to excuse himself. Wilson lied to him, too. He didn’t know if shamans could see lies as easily as they saw energy lines, but Miroku never said anything.
Neither did House, who, as a Diagnostic, probably checked those energy lines. Whatever the Vicodin did on a paranormal level, it was either not very tell-tale or House wasn’t looking too closely.
Whatever. Wilson was just glad no one called him on his lies. To the outside he appeared normal. No more pain, everything under control. No one knew what it looked like on the inside, not even Wilson. He was simply relieved.
He wasn’t special. He didn’t need a teacher. The empathic headaches
Simple solution. So simple… so dangerous… and so very addictive.
No one questioned him when he walked into the pharmacy and presented a prescription for Vicodin. Wilson was House’s doctor and he had handled the Vicodin prescriptions ever since the infarction. That House no longer needed Vicodin was a secret only known to Wilson and Chase, lately Pyre, since he was Chase’s partner and equally an ally, and of course House himself.
No questions asked. No suspicions. The perfect ruse.
Wilson wasn’t proud of himself, and he was aware that he was fast spiraling into addiction, but the numbness was so very pleasant. No more shields, no more fear, just normalcy.
It was bliss.
* * *
Every good thing was accompanied by a bad thing. Wilson had known it for all his adult life. Every marriage had come with the threat of divorce, and every time it had happened. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later. Every time he had thought that this was it, it wasn’t. His friendship with House had come with the man’s sometimes antisocial attitude. Well, he was more of a bastard than antisocial. He could be malicious, he could be misanthropic, he could be downright nasty, but there was also a side very few had ever seen. It was a side Wilson had seen often, closely, and lately intimately. So he accepted that with the friendship and later with the love came a price of enduring the snarky side of House.
The Vicodin’s bad side was whomping big. Sure, he was pleasantly numb, but there were also the side-effects. Wilson had seen them with House, and now he could see them with himself. He wasn’t on the same level of dosage as his lover had been, but he was higher than mere temporary medication should be. He was approaching the high levels faster and faster.
Wilson didn’t have the whole list of side-effects, but some were enough already. He was dizzy sometimes, felt weak, and he was glad House attributed his sleepiness to late hours or the fact that he wasn’t really a morning person. He needed an hour to be up to working levels when it came to conversations. He had vomited once, but he had told himself it had been the food.
The wooziness had him cut back on biopsies. He assigned those to his department’s doctors and no one asked twice. He was the head of department and was only asked on consults, but no one truly expected him to perform a mere biopsy. Thankfully House didn’t ask for a favor either in that regard. His patients weren’t biopsy cases.
So he could hide the effects
And he continued the lies.
Until no lie in the world could keep him from getting decked by an enraged husband over the fatal diagnosis of his wife and unborn son. Leukemia, final stages, and the unborn child wasn’t old enough to survive on its own should they remove it from the dying mother.
Wilson had seen the rage build up, had almost felt it like a physical thing between them, and then the fist had connected with his jaw, and a second one had clipped his cheekbone before two male nurses had held back the desperate man.
Another nurse, female this time, helped him over to an empty room and they tried to stop his bleeding nose. There were shouts, there were flashes of security uniforms, and Wilson thought he could hear Cuddy, but his mind was foggy and he felt sick. He didn’t even know if it was the Vicodin or a possible concussion.
When there was finally some quiet, Wilson looked up and found himself under scrutiny from intense blue eyes.
“I thought they taught you doctors how to duck,” House grumbled.
“Yeah. Too slow. Didn’t see it coming.”
House frowned, but he didn’t say a thing because of the nurse – and a second later Cuddy – in the room.
“Dr. Wilson?” she queried.
“I’m fine,” he answered the unspoken question.
His nose had stopped bleeding and the dizziness was receding.
“How is Mr. Miller?”
“Security had to drag him outside. What happened?”
“Wilson gave his wife the death sentence,” House answered and Wilson grimaced.
“In a way,” he agreed, shooting House a warning look. “She has an aggressive form of cancer and she is five months pregnant. Neither she nor her child will survive the next four to five weeks. Mr. Miller lost it when I told him.”
Cuddy pursed her lips. “Are you going to press charges?”
Wilson frowned. “No.”
She simply nodded, then looked at House. “Take him home.”
“Yes, boss,” he mocked.
Cuddy just gave him a threatening glare, which House answered with a bright smile, then he shooed the battered looking oncologist out of the room.
"C'mon, Tyson, let's get you home."
Wilson gave him an annoyed look, but he didn't comment.
* * *
“This must be a first.”
Wilson looked up from the couch where he was still keeping the ice pressed against his abused cheek.
“You,” House added. “Unable to talk your way out of a fight.”
Wilson evaded the blue eyes.
“Too much meditation?” House dug deeper.
“Then again, if this is yours, since it isn’t mine, I guess we can lay blame that way,” House went on conversationally as he pulled an orange prescription bottle out of his jacket pocket. He shook it a little and the pills bounced around the plastic container.
Wilson felt himself tense, but he refused to fall for it. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play with me, Jimmy. Vicodin.”
“That isn’t Vicodin. It’s sugar pills, and you know it. House, stop playing around, I’m not in the mood.”
“Those little helpers are pure Vicodin, Jimmy my friend. Not sugar pills. I know what my bottle and my former drugs look like. This is the real stuff.”
“Maybe a botch up in the pharmacy. Did you take them?” Wilson rallied for normalcy.
“I know where mine are. I can tell the real stuff from the placebos. I also looked into the prescriptions. For over a year, you had my refills done by your reliable ally friend, Tyler Rose. Suddenly you switch to Mr. Samuel Ito. And bang! I get real Vicodin?"
Wilson stared at him, open-mouthed, disbelief in his eyes. "You… you spied on me?!"
"No, I wanted to know why you hid Vicodin in your old journal stack."
"You snooped around my office!"
"Maybe I did. Maybe it was just by accident." House fixed him with a hard look. "I know Ito's no ally."
Wilson gestured weakly, mouth opening and closing as he tried to come up with an argument.
House's brows drew down. "Stop lying!” he snapped. “I know you wrote a prescription, in my name, and took the pills yourself! I haven’t needed a refill lately and there is a paper trail that says I have!”
Wilson swallowed hard, feeling dizzy again. “I’m not…”
“You are!” House almost yelled. “You lied, Wilson! Like you lied about Latener. The man hasn’t heard a peep from you! At. All!
Wilson rose unsteadily. “This is my business,” he snapped. “Stay out of it!”
“The hell I will. It’s my business, too!”
“You’re not responsible for me!”
“Because you’re oh-so grown up? You’re drugging yourself out of your eyes! Why? You like the high? The buzz? Let me tell you, the higher you go, the harder you fall! You keep pushing off real doctor work to your minions, you stay in your office, you do the paper work – you know you can’t be a doctor any more because you’re becoming an addict!”
“Shut up!” Wilson yelled, trying to flee, but his equilibrium was way off. He clutched at the wall to keep from falling. He felt so dizzy. "I'm not like Derek! I'm normal! I can deal with this!"
"By drugging yourself into oblivion?"
"Look who's talking!"
"Yes, look! I know what I'm talking about!"
Wilson was breathing hard, eyes dilated, hands shaking. "You don't know what it's like…"
"No, I don't. But I know an addiction when I see it. How many have you taken, Wilson? One a day? Two? More? And for how long? Months?"
Wilson flinched and House exhaled sharply. Months. Probably ever since Miroku had given that fateful diagnosis.
"Months," House repeatedly, almost to himself.
Silence descended. Wilson wasn't looking at him.
"You lied to me," House only said.
"Without being cheeky here, but drugs don't solve your problems, Jimmy. They never solved mine."
House had never been this outspoken about his former addiction, that the Vicodin had ruined so much for him in the past, had driven people away. Everyone but James Wilson. And now his best friend and lover was taking it, too. For different reasons, but no reason justified this.
Wilson closed his eyes. He felt tired. Exhausted. Bone-deep, no longer just physical, and the once pleasant numbness was nothing but a dulled sense that had been there before. Did he miss empathy?
He didn’t know.
It had been part of him for a while now, had been there even before, in a mild sense, and now there was nothing any more. Just the drugs.
Wilson leaned heavily against the sideboard as if it was the only thing that kept him upright. He finally raised his eyes and looked at House, wincing at the stony expression.
“Help?” he asked softly.
House didn’t move for a moment, then he nodded briskly. “Good first step. Second one is you tell me all about your secret stash, take the rest of the week off, and I’m calling Latener.”
“Take it or leave it!”
He lowered his eyes again. “Okay,” was the barely audible answer.
* * *
The phone call came by cell and woke Chase in the middle of the night. He fuzzily groped for the annoying device and flipped it open without looking at the caller ID.
The voice answering the sleepy drawl had him awake in seconds and he sat upright, jostling the man next to him into awareness. Pyre groped for his glasses and sat up. He didn't say a word, just watched.
Chase listened to the caller, asked several questions, then affirmed that he had understood. After he got disconnected he let the cell sink to the bed cover.
"Damn," he cursed softly.
"Robert?" John inquired.
"We have a problem."
* * *
It was the middle of the week, a Wednesday Detective Dee Latener would rather forget than remember for all his life. As it was, he would be reminded of it for at least the rest of the week since his colleagues liked to make fun of the incident. It had been a simple chase, him after the bad guy, the bad guy stupidly thinking he could escape, and it had ended with Dee in the middle of a stinking pile of old garbage.
Ryo hadn’t been much help. His partner and lover had been hard pressed not to laugh, and while Dee would have found it amusing any other day, on that day he hadn’t been in a humorous mood. He had smelled – stank, was more like it. The bad guy had escaped, probably laughing his ass off, and Dee didn’t want to think what it would cost to detox the car.
All in all, a really bad chase.
That his friends and colleagues hadn’t been able to keep their laughter to themselves had been salt in the wounded pride. Dee had spent a good hour scrubbing himself clean until his skin felt like it was bleeding, and then he had added liberal amounts of deodorant.
Not that it had helped much.
“Lemon,” he heard someone say.
For all his senses as a shaman and warlock, for all his magical abilities, Dee almost yelped in surprise. Blue eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses lit up with amusement and the thin lips in the narrow face quirked into a smile.
“Don’t sneak up on me!” Latener hissed.
“You either don’t train hard enough or you’re easily distracted,” Lieutenant Ross Barclay replied amiably.
They were alone, Dee noticed, and the whole posture of the man had changed from the sometimes distant Lieutenant to the a lot more companionable and friendly one of Ross Barclay, his brother and their ally.
Both men were as different as they could be, at least physically. Where Dee had black hair, Barclay was blond. Dee had green eyes, Barclay's were blue. Dee had perfect sight and needed no glasses or contact lenses, while Barclay wore glasses daily, but mostly to read. He was only mildly short-sighted. Physically Dee was slighter and a bit smaller, his hair was wilder, and his temper was legendary. Barclay could have temper outbreaks, but mostly he was calm and controlled. He wore suits and he had the air of a supervisor and man in charge.
Their relationship as siblings had settled with Dee and while he had had trouble accepting the friendliness that came without nether thoughts, he had now grown accustomed to the other man caring about him. Barclay had lost his baby brother over thirty years ago and had never given up hope of finding him, and Dee had never believed that there was really a family out there for him, waiting, hoping, and searching still.
Now here they were.
Sometimes it was strange, and aside from Ryo, no one knew, but it felt… nice.
“Lemon?” Dee now repeated.
“Lemon,” Barclay agreed. “Use lemon juice to wash off the stench. Works wonders.”
“I know a pathologist who told me their secret. Sometimes the stench won’t leave, clinging to the skin and hair, and they use lemon.”
Barclay gave him a pat on the shoulder, then walked away. Dee shrugged and went in search of his partner, who was already writing their report.
“We good to leave?” Dee asked, putting a little pleading and whining into his voice.
Ryo glanced over his reading glasses and frowned. “We need to finish our report.”
“No, we don’t. I need to get home and shower with lemons. You need to be there for an abysmal-day-cuddle.”
Ryo rolled his eyes, but he saved the file he had been working on and rose. He sniffed a little and Dee shot him a warning look.
“Not. A. Word,” he growled and grabbed his jacket.
It was the one he kept in his locker, together with the change of clothes
he was already wearing. He had thrown away the others. They stank.
There was a light blinking on the answering machine when they got home, but Dee ignored it in favor of a second shower. He had bought a large amount of lemons and he would put them to good use.
While Dee was under the shower, Ryo made tea, then rewound the answering machine’s tape and listened to the messages.
There was only one.
Dee came out of the shower, a towel slung low around his hips, smelling of citrus, and looking rather happy with the result. His dark hair was wildly tousled from drying it. Ryo didn’t stand a chance as his lover wrapped an arm around him and pulled him into a kiss.
Dee tasted of lemon, too.
“You got a call,” McLane laughed when they parted.
He could feel Dee’s arousal through the thin barrier of the towel and his own blood stirred a little.
“Do you recall Dr. Gregory House?”
Dee’s brows shot up. “The Diagnostic? Sure.”
“He asks for your help.”
The brows lowered into a frown.
“Well, more like ‘demands it’,” Ryo added. “Looks like something happened back with him and Dr. Wilson. Mostly Dr. Wilson. They need a shaman.”
Dee was still holding him in an embrace, not inclined to let go, and Ryo enjoyed the touch. Latener let his head sink onto one t-shirt clad shoulder and heaved a sigh.
“Man, I hate having two jobs.”
Ryo stroked him soothingly. They had talked about this before and Dee had argued he wouldn’t give up being a police officer. It was what he had wanted to do all his life, growing up, being raised indirectly by a cop whose last name he had taken. He would never dishonor his oath. Ryo understood only too well.
“We got the weekend off,” he reminded Dee.
“I didn’t want to spend it in Plainsboro,” the other man whined.
Ryo smiled. “Neither did I, but you know you won’t be able to resist this call for help very long. You want to go and see what happened.”
Of course Dee did. After meeting the Diagnostic and the empath all those months back, his shamanic side had been intrigued. Especially by Wilson. He hadn’t scanned him at all, but his strong senses had been tipped off by his aura.
Ryo placed a small kiss on his pouting lips. “I’ll make dinner, you call Dr. House.”
Dee didn’t let him leave it at a small kiss. He captured his lover’s lips and left Ryo slightly flushed when they parted. Latener smirked. For all the time they had been together by now, sometimes he could get his partner to look as stunned and bothered as he was now.
“Dinner,” he only teased. “You were saying?”
Ryo just smiled. “Dinner,” he repeated, then slipped out of the embrace.
Dee gave a deep sigh, then walked into the bedroom to get dressed. Next on the list was placing a call to one Dr. House.
* * *
Barclay had not been happy, of course. How could he, with one of his detectives needing personal time off. Since it was Thursday already, the two days wouldn't matter, but Barclay was aware of the fact that Dee might very well be needed for some time.
And Dee knew he would sooner or later have to come up with an option
for his future.
If he continued to work as a detective in New York and as a shaman, one would always suffer. But he couldn't bring himself to stop working a job he loved. He had friends and colleagues he liked, he had people out there, on the streets, who relied on him, who trusted him to a degree. He wanted to make New York a little safer, solve crimes.
Barclay understood. He really did. As a brother, as an ally, as his superior officer, but he also told him that he needed to decide whether this was worth it. He couldn't stop being a shaman. It was in his blood, in his genes. He had the abilities and people relied on him there, too.
Ryo had told him he would be there for him, whatever he decided. As had Barclay. He had the support of his lover and of his family.
But for now, it wasn't time.
Barclay had dropped a hint that he might want to look into a desk job, into becoming a lieutenant, and while Dee had grimaced, he had thought about it himself.
For now he wouldn't think of complications and trouble because of his personal time. He had a consult to do, so to speak, and he would.
* * *
The trip to Plainsboro had been fast and rather boring. The roads were mostly free, just one intersection clogged after a truck had lost its load, and Dee had no trouble finding the exit or the hospital since there were enough signs. He parked his car in the visitor parking lot and got out, stretching. Two nurses walking by shot him appreciative looks and he smiled back at them. There was nothing flirtatious about it. He was faithful to Ryo, the man he had pursued so long and so hard to gain his trust and love.
Looking at the impressive hospital building, Dee started to head over to the walk-in clinic. He passed through the glass entrance doors into the huge lobby that led both into the clinic and deeper into the hospital, and stopped at the receptionist's desk. A nurse looked up with a smile.
"Hi. I'd like to talk to Dr. House, please. We have an appointment."
There was a mild grimace reflected in her eyes, but she picked up the phone and dialed an extension.
"Dr. Foreman? There is a visitor for Dr. House."
"Dee Latener," Dee supplied his name.
"Mr. Dee Latener. He says he has an appointment with Dr. House." She listened to the answer, then hung up. "Dr. House is apparently busy and he has no appointments at all."
Dee thought for a moment, then nodded. "Okay. Thanks."
He turned as if to leave, then called upon a little bit of magic and slipped by the nurse without her seeing him. As much as Dee hated using magic for daily matters, right now he had someone to find who obviously didn't want to be found by his colleagues.
Stretching his senses, he started to scan.
It took him about thirty minutes to locate House. There was some paranormal interference in the hospital, meaning there were either latent or active paranormals working here, or staying as patients, though that wasn't surprising. All of humanity carried the Sidhe genetic codes, were their heirs, but only a fraction of them truly ever realized their powers. Singling out House was easy once Dee had gotten accustomed to the weak echoes of possible paranormals, and he found the man in an empty room on the third floor.
House looked up from watching a soap on the wall-mounted TV, frowning.
"Hey," Dee said as a greeting. "You called?"
"I didn't ask you to come by the hospital," House growled and switched off the TV where the end credits were scrolling past. "Your patient is home."
"And you are here."
"Forced to work as a slave," House sighed theatrically.
"How much longer?"
"Twenty years if I don't win the lottery first."
Dee smiled a little. "How much longer for today?"
"Leaving now," was the brisk answer. "And before you ask, I have a baby-sitter for Wilson. He's not up to much anyway."
"It's why I came here first. I want to hear your side of it now before talking to Dr. Wilson."
Blue eyes bore into him and Dee looked openly back. House was clearly not in a good mood, but that had little to do with Dee and more with what had happened to his lover. House finally just frowned and sat back onto the bed.
"Ask your questions, Latener. You have five minutes. Then I'm out of here."
Dee simply smiled.
It actually took them an hour to finish their conversation and House had made no moves to break it off any earlier than that. Dee was secretly amazed at the passion the man held, the fear he had for his partner, and there was a determination there to see Wilson healed and whole again.
He couldn't make any promises, but he would give it his best.
* * *
Dee had never been at the House-Wilson home, but the moment House pulled up in front of the old warehouse, Dee whistled softly.
He parked the car outside while House pulled into the first floor garage. Then he followed the man to the elevator.
"Nice," he said out loud what he had thought.
House shrugged. "It's sufficient."
Dee looked up the large building. Sufficient, huh? It was huge. He had no idea how many people lived here, but lofts tended to be very large. He was given an idea how many when he saw only one door leading from the hallways into the loft.
Okay, this was fucking huge. His own apartment fit in here several times.
House opened the door and limped inside, Dee trailing after him. His senses stretched automatically while his eyes roamed around the large inside. Very, very nice. And then his senses touched Dr. James Wilson.
Dee didn’t have to ask what was wrong with the man – it was plain obvious. At least for a shaman. Looking tired and pale could be written off as a bad day, or even a bad week, but a gray aura and next to flat energy lines were something else. Wilson’s aura was dampened enough to be close to comatose, and it was affecting the whole man.
“Hello, Dr. Wilson,” he said calmly.
“Detective,” Wilson answered warily.
He sounded tired, too. Whatever the man had been thinking, the medication had literally dampened his spirit.
House just gave him a narrow-eyed look. He could feel the tension in the other man.
"Relax," he said, smiling. "I'm not going to bite."
"You called me, James," Dee continued, using Wilson's first name, his voice very calm.
Anyone who knew him would have laughed at the very idea of the temperamental detective being able to exude such calmness, but he could. Ever since discovering his own legacy and training it together with his partner and shield, Dee had been able to trade hot-tempered outbreaks and a rather roguish and mostly childish behavior for a more balanced one. He could still have his moments, but he had matured.
"You said you wanted my help. And I talked to Dr. House," no first name here, "which means I know what happened. I can also see it in your aura."
Wilson shifted a little, looking uncomfortable.
"Please tell me about what happened to your powers," Dee prodded. "About the fluctuations."
Brown eyes, looking hurt and slightly dull from the drugs, met intense green ones. Dee was aware of House moving silently into the background while still staying close to his lover, and he appreciated it. Wilson didn't trust him, truly didn't want him here, and Dee's presence was a matter of a hard-won deal between both partners. Not the best basis for eventually treating the underlying problem, but it was better than coming here against Wilson's will.
So when James started to talk, it was with a level voice, sounding distant, and Dee listened to what the paranormal had experienced in the past months. With every recollection, the terrible suspicion that Miroku's comment about an evolutionary nature of the empath's power was behind all this grew into conviction.
* * *
Chase and Pyre had worked together to create the perfect illusion of Dr. James Wilson coming down with a flu bug currently sweeping through the neighborhoods of the east coast. It usually hit from one hour to the other, presenting with nausea, throwing up, headaches and general misery. Three days and it was usually gone. So far there wasn't an epidemic but it was building up to be one major drain on the working population.
Chase had doctored up the lab results, had sent everything to Cuddy, including lab work to confirm it was nothing worse, and the doctor's orders to stay home, drink lots of fluid and rest.
She had believed it. Everything was simply perfect.
John wrapped an arm around his younger lover's waist and pulled him close. A kiss was pressed to the nape of Chase's neck.
"You're worried," the lawyer remarked.
Chase shrugged. "Yeah."
"There's nothing more we can do. I called New York, talked to a guy called Ross Barclay. He's the ally in contact with the Shaman Pair. He assured me Latener would do everything he can."
"I know he will. I met him before. He's a good guy. It's just… I can't understand… after everything… and Dr. Wilson even came to talk to us as allies… and still…"
Pyre tightened his hold. "We can only be allies as long as the paranormal in question lets us. He has to ask for our help. We can't force him."
Chase nodded. John drew soothing circles over the t-shirt clad stomach.
"We wait," Pyre said softly. "The hardest thing to do. Wait and cover their asses as best as we can."
"I know. And I hate it."
John was silent, just offering his support in every way he could think of, and Chase took it.
* * *
Dee had decided to drive back to New York the same day, even though it was late, and when he stumbled into his apartment, Ryo was still awake. Dark eyes regarded him curiously, quizzically, and with a hint of worry.
"I think this will be harder than I thought," Dee murmured as he plopped down next to his lover on the daybed. "Wilson's a wreck."
Ryo was silent, just waiting.
"And Miroku had to dump this on me," Latener added with a sigh. "Bastard! I'd kick his five hundred year old ass from here to New Jersey if he were here!"
And he would give Miroku a piece of his mind by email. He had his contact data and he would tell him what he thought of the whole mess. Dee had no illusion about spiritwalking up to the other shaman and doing the whole ranting astral form to astral form. Miroku could be a hard man to find on the spirit plane if he didn't want to be discovered and Dee was in no mood to traipse around this dangerous place just to blow off steam. The Net was safer for that.
"Why couldn't he have called me?" Dee ranted on. "He knew Wilson was something special! He knew I was needed! Fuck, he could at least have had the courtesy to give me the heads up! All this mess could have been avoided!"
He angrily punched the pillow, fuming. A little bit of magic arched over his fist and he swallowed a curse, reigning in his powers.
"Tell me?" Ryo prompted.
Dee felt his Shield's shield caress him, Ryo calming his frazzled nerves and he sank back into the pillows. He scrubbed a hand over his face.
"I think Wilson is a new form of paranormal. He's an empath, but there's so much wrong with saying 'just'. His powers fluctuate, he can't always shield, his shields grow and adapt, and suddenly he's confronted by something else. Reminds me of myself." He smiled dimly. "Only I knew I was something out of the ordinary – even if there are seven other Shaman Pairs. Wilson… he thought he was a low level empath because a Seeker told him so. That Seeker couldn't see the evolution."
"Evolution is a natural occurrence," Ryo agreed. "Paranormals aren't an evolutionary step of man-kind. They are human, too. All of us have the paranormal gene and only some can truly develop powers." His brow furrowed a little. "It stands to reason that paranormals had to adapt. They have become more flexible. He's no longer part of a category. He is what he needs to be."
Dee nodded. "I know there's a Mimic in Las Vegas and that he should be able to copy another paranormal, but Wilson isn't a Mimic. He's basically an empath, but his powers are all over the place. His additional abilities to be a Soother and to remove his presence from someone else's perception should have been a clue, but there was no one to actually see it, to take it into account. He was a late bloomer and everything else was attributed to a strong family line. His brother is a full blown telepath who needs a familiar to keep him sane."
Ryo rose and paced a little, obviously needed to move to think. "He's an empath, he might be able to become even a telepath, he can be the whole spectrum of that category," he mused out loud.
"If he trains. But before that, he needs to detox. And he needs to accept what he is," Dee sighed. "House has two allies who can take care of Wilson having some off-time from the hospital. One of them is a doctor on his team. This will be bad, Ryo."
McLane walked over to him and Dee wrapped his arms around the slim waist, burying his head in his lover's stomach. He sighed contentedly when Ryo carded long fingers into his unruly hair.
"Want me there?" the blond asked.
"No. No, I'll be fine. And it'll be too obvious if you disappear, too. I think Barclay's idea about taking a desk job is becoming more and more attractive." Green eyes lit up mischievously. "Lieutenant Latener. Sure has a ring to it."
Ryo laughed softly. "It does. But first, take care of Dr. Wilson. Ross and I will keep everything running smoothly."
Dee frowned. "Uh-huh."
"And if you need help, call."
"Depends on how stubborn Wilson can be."
As it was, he could be very stubborn…
* * *
"I don't want this!" Wilson snarled. "I'm not special! I never wanted these powers!"
Dee watched the other man with calm eyes, refusing to give Wilson the rise the doctor was looking for. "But you have them."
"Not any more!"
Latener had returned Friday morning, still angry about Miroku, but he knew his whole concentration was needed for this case. Wilson had already gone and done it, taking drugs to numb his abilities, and it would need some heavy detoxing, aided by magic, to remove all remnants of the drugs from his system. Unlike House, who had been on the pain medication for years, Wilson was a mild case and it would take Dee less time than it had taken Sunkeeper to rid House of the Vicodin addiction, but it would be difficult.
It already was. Wilson was argumentative, fighting it with tooth and nail while already suffering severely.
The man was a fighter, in both ways, which gave Dee hope that he would get over the detox process quickly. Afterwards, with his powers recovering, Wilson would have to fight even more to train his new abilities.
"No, you still have them. It's in your genes," Dee told him, voice without mercy. "Using drugs only suppresses them."
"Don't you think I know that?!"
"I believe you know a lot about what you did, and you knew about the consequences."
"Because I don't want this any more! I don't want the pain and the emotions from other people! I don't want to end like my brother!" Wilson yelled.
Dee regarded him silently. Finally he said, "Rarely any paranormal wants his or her powers."
"Usually those people are young when they get their heritage slapped into their faces!" Wilson argued heatedly. "I was twice as old!"
"As was I," Dee told him.
The empath stared. "W-what?"
"I didn't know what I was until a few years ago. I'm not a normal shaman, James. I didn't inherit my powers. I'm a shaman-warlock, a mix of both, and while I have a lot of power, no one gave them to me. I had them all my life, but my parents blocked them until everything broke through. I wasn't very amused, believe me."
"You don't feel someone else's emotions cutting into your brain!" Wilson snarled. "You don't have to be on your guard all the time because someone might hurt you just by thinking!"
"No. I have my own fears and nightmares."
Wilson looked like he was about to argue, but Dee cut him off.
"You were an ally for all your life, then your paranormal side broke through. I didn't have that luxury, Dr. Wilson. I was thrown into a world that I didn't understand, gaining powers I couldn't control. I had more on my plate than being a paranormal with awesome, fantastic powers. I had fallen in love with my partner, another man. I was suddenly told I'm not an orphan, that I had siblings who loved me, looked all their lives for me. I discovered my parents hadn't abandoned me. No, they had died for me, James. And that the man I hated because he had been lusting after my partner was actually my older brother."
"How do you think that makes you feel? Especially when your powers are
just as reluctant to follow your orders as your own are."
Dee had come to an understanding with his older brother – well, sort of. He had begun to see Ross Barclay as a man dedicating his life to one single goal, had seen the man, not the lieutenant, able to feel pain and hurt, and all of it because of two people – him and Ryo. Genes or no genes, Ross Barclay had risked his life protecting Ryo, and some part of Dee had no doubt he would do just the same for him; especially after he had read the diary of a six year old Barclay.
What a life.
I never asked him if I was the brother he would have chosen…
Dee looked down on the still sleeping form of his lover. They hadn’t had much time to spend an entire night together, and some part of Dee was thankful for that.
Because just after the time Ross had been shot the nightmares had begun.
The first time a dream had hit, Dee had woken up gasping, the pictures before his eyes still as vivid as if he had really lived them.
The precinct’s basement. Him following a bloody trail to the evidence room, only to stumble over a body. Lifeless brown eyes staring into nothingness while the man had waited for a rescue that would never come and probably pleaded for his life.
Fury and agony had taken over and this time there had been no Ryo to hold him back – because there had been no Ross to save him.
Dee hadn’t gone back to sleep that night, and had even gone back to an old habit, managing to find a neglected pack of cigarettes. Ryo would probably smell it on him the next morning, but Dee didn't care. The images had followed him the entire day, even keeping him awake the next night, until he had fallen into a restless slumber as the sky had already started to lighten.
It had been a downward spiral from then on. The nightmares would stay, providing him with scenarios they had been through in the past – the explosion where Ross had thrown himself over Ryo’s body as a shield, but this time there had been no Ross and the force of the explosion slammed into Ryo’s unprotected body; when they had gone to England for a vacation where they had first met Ross Barclay, but this time there was no Ross, and this time he had come too late only to find his lover’s body dead and bloody, abandoned in a dark basement with a slashed throat…
And each and every time he dreamed the large brown eyes were open, looking at him, all life gone.
Dee sighed. It was a sheer miracle Ryo hadn’t picked up on his distress lately, given the fact that emotions tended to leak through the bond they shared. Even when he woke up in the morning and found the place beside him already empty, Dee had just smiled at him and kissed him ever so gently, handing over a hot mug of coffee and declaring he had woken just a few minutes ago and decided to prepare breakfast.
And Ryo smiled at him, dark eyes lighting up.
The smile that always made his heart melt in his chest, the warmth directed at him worming itself into his cracking façade. God, how much he loved the man.
Dee gently ran a hand through the soft sandy strands covering said warm eyes, enjoying this fleeting moment of peace when the whole world outside was so far away, when it was only them. No crimes, no demands, no paranormal either. Ryo sighed softly and shifted into his touch as if seeking his warmth before settling back into deeper sleep again. Dee didn’t even try to join him, he knew it would be fruitless anyway. And this way he could be here on this little tranquil island watching his lover’s sleep.
He knew he was losing it. He had lost control of his life lately, finding that every attempt at regaining it had been slammed back into his face with a vengeance. Falling in love so completely had just been the beginning. Ryo had started to control his life without even trying to, subtly worming himself into it and staying.
Then there had been the fact that the man he trusted had been an ally, hell, that there was such a thing as a paranormal world co-existing with the one he thought he knew. Finding out that he was an active part of said world had given his life another twist.
Nobody had ever asked if Dee Latener wanted to be a shaman.
Finding out about a family he had thought he didn’t have, a brother he couldn’t stand at first and was only slowly making progress in getting to know had been another hard blow.
Nobody had ever asked if Dee Latener wanted to have a family.
The amount of his powers as a shaman, truth be told, had overwhelmed him. The sudden way the power and the knowledge of what he was had presented itself was nerve-racking, to say the least.
Nobody had ever asked if Dee Latener wanted that power.
And even if he had control over it he had none at all. His shield could choose when he used that power, Ryo had even done so once in the past. It had only been to protect him from becoming a ruthless killer, but still… it looked as if things were happening to him lately without him even having a bit of a say in it.
And nobody told Dee Latener why he was so special all of a sudden, nobody had ever asked if Dee Latener wanted to be special.
Ryo shifted at his side and a short glance toward the clock told Dee they still had some time before the hard reality out there demanded their attention again. Ryo stretched out an arm in the process of waking up and Dee snuggled into the warm embrace.
“morning,” he whispered into his lover’s ear, hearing Ryo make a soft sound of acknowledgement, sending a small shiver down his spine.
This was what counted.
The rest of the world be damned.
Dee cocked an eyebrow at Wilson. "Sound familiar?"
The exhausted man shrugged a little. "Kinda."
"For me, all of that was only the beginning. My powers grew and I didn't have a clue. Yours, in comparison, became just as erratic, but on a less dangerous scale. I embody a shaman and a warlock. Both have to train their magic as it amasses in their bodies. I have a natural depletion process that leaks magic safely into the environment, but untrained, not knowing what to do, it got worse."
Dee scanned Wilson once more and the empath flinched a little. The shaman smiled apologetically.
"Shields are important to both of us. I have Ryo as my final buffer and my Shield. It's what he is. A Shield. We're a Shaman Pair. He can keep me out of trouble, too. For you, House is your stability, even if he can hurt you."
"You never asked for his help."
"I'm not dependent!"
"No. Neither am I. But these are the men we also love. They aren't strangers. Ryo is my world and I know you love House very much, too. You would fight for this."
Wilson looked at his hands, worrying his lower lip.
"You need to heal, and to heal you need him. Let him back in again,
James," Dee said softly. "I learned the hard way that your partner is that
important, that dealing with the pain alone will only make it worse. You
can't erase what you are, by drugs or any other means. You are an empath,
have been for a long time."
Dee watched wide-eyed as the perp stumbled out into the stairwell, heading toward the roof. The entire time the unsecured gun wouldn’t waver an inch from Ryo’s temple –and he hoped the man wouldn’t accidentally stumble over something and pull the trigger…
Officers were everywhere, guns pointed at the man, negotiators tried to get through to him, but Dee had been able to take a look at the man’s eyes – and he knew the guy was high as a kite. Unpredictable. Dangerous. He might give up in a second, but he might as well want to go out in a blaze of glory, who knew? Unfortunately such a blaze would scorch his lover, too.
They had reached the edge of the roof and the guy still hadn’t made any demands. Dee looked at Ryo, saw the large brown eyes directed at him, read the fear in that oh so trusting gaze. Training or no training, having a madman point a gun to your head made you afraid. Dee wished he could reach out with his powers and annihilate the threat to his shield and lover, but there were too many other people present.
And then everything happened in slow motion.
Ryo’s eyes widened with a sudden realization and with a swift motion tried to free himself from the restraining grip around his throat.
The gun roared.
Ryo’s body stilled.
The sickening sound of something wet hitting the concrete railing.
Ryo’s huge brown eyes were still glued to him as he slowly sank onto the ground, red fluids and other unspeakable things pooling around his head – or was what left of it.
Denial… rage… agony… it all welled up inside him, leaving his vision blurred as red hot fury was crashing against his own barriers, seeking for an outlet… and with a roar he let it.
When his vision cleared again, he was cradling a body in his lap, hot tears streaming down his face, and he looked around for help, suddenly realizing the usual hustling after such an incident wasn’t occurring.
Terror froze him.
There was nothing left of New York in the vicinity of two kilometers around the only building still standing – the building on which roof he knelt.
Dee woke screaming, fingers still dug into the pillow beneath him. He pulled the pillow into a tight embrace, burying his face into its soft depths, letting it swallow his cries as he felt the last of his barriers crumble and break under the onslaught of his latest – and worst – nightmare.
* * *
Ryo drove as if the hounds of hell were after his hide, almost missing a stop-sign and barely making it around two turns. He couldn’t care less.
Something was wrong with Dee.
The jolt of panic had cut through his sleep like the proverbial knife, pushing him into action and he was dressed and slipping behind the wheel before his conscious mind even realized what he was reacting to.
Dee’s emotions were screaming.
The panic had subsided to a dull throbbing of despair in the background, so he was fairly sure there hadn’t been an attack. Besides, even then Dee was more than capable of defending himself. So it had to be something else. Bringing the car to a screeching halt in front of Dee’s apartment house – miraculously there was a free parking space, too – Ryo didn’t even bother with the elevator, rushing up the stairs as fast as he could, already fishing for the keys and his gun. No need to shoot caution into the wind. Slipping the key into the lock he both empathically and vocally called out for Dee, should his partner be alert. And then he stepped in. The apartment was dark except for the whitish light of a TV displaying only snow. And there, on the couch in front of it, lay his partner, huddled under a blanket and clinging to a pillow – and magic was starting to crackle around him on an already dangerous level.
Being at his lover’s side in a split second Ryo saw Dee was shaking like a leaf, the distinctive sound of sobs silenced by the pillow he was embracing.
“Dee, what’s wrong? Dee… C’mon, give me that… Dee?”
Ryo’s worry turned into outright shock as he slowly managed to pry Dee’s ice cold fingers from the pillow and got to see his lover’s face. Unfocused, huge green eyes, underlined by dark lines as a stark contrast to a ghostly white face.
“ … oh god, Dee … what happened … ?”
And then he found himself with an armful of desperately crying Dee Latener, clinging to him as if he were his lifeline. Ryo tried to soothe him, stroking his hair, talking to the man and trying his best to calm him down, his ally training already providing him with the possible and probable solution, but much to his despair he found Dee didn’t react to his voice. His lover kept a tight hold on his shirt and the sobs had subsided a little, but he still sounded very much like a lost child.
Ryo sighed sadly as he realized there was only one solution left. Fishing out his cell phone he speed-dialed a number and waited for the other side to answer the call.
“It’s Ryo. Emergency call, code yellow.” He knew there was no need for further explanations. “Yes, I’m at Dee’s place… yes. Thank you.”
Then he started rocking the man he dearly loved, still whispering
to him, stroking his hair, holding him and trying to get through to him.
Professional help was on its way.
Ryo kept holding Dee until he heard a sharp knock on the door.
“It’s open,” he called, not daring to leave Dee for even a minute.
“Ryo?” Barclay asked, stepping into the still semi-dark apartment, followed by a worried looking man with a medical bag. “Ryo, this is Dr. Goldstein. He’ll take a look at Dee."
“What happened?” Dr. Goldstein asked, crouching at Dee’s side and Ryo looked at his superior questioningly.
Ryo nodded, watching as the physician carefully examined his still shaking lover.
“Code yellow. I don’t know what happened, I just … felt his panic all of a sudden. Was enough to wake me. When I arrived I found him like this, but he was crying, too.”
“I see. Well, Mr. McLane, your partner went into a shock caused by a trauma, I’d say. He’s not responding at the moment. He also shows signs of dehydration and exhaustion. Did he have a lot of stress lately?”
“I … uhm, yes, I think so.”
“Fits. All right, I give him something to calm him and help him sleep. Did he lost control over his power?”
“He was about to. I .. took care of that.”
“Hm. Not good. He’s not in immediate danger, nor are you, so I’d say the best for him at the moment will be to let him get some rest and sleep. I’ll take a look at him in the morning again; see if I can talk to him. Until then, he shouldn’t be left alone.”
“I’ll stay,” two voices said in unison, and Dr. Goldstein smiled at that.
* * *
Ryo sat down on the bed at his lover’s side, watching the man who had fallen into a deep, though drug induced sleep. Dee’s face looked as white as the sheets around him, and Ryo noticed the somewhat haggard look, the dark shadows under his eyes. Reaching out Ryo tenderly stroked through the black strands of hair, silently screaming inside ‘Why, Dee? Why didn’t you just say something if you were feeling bad? Why didn’t you trust me enough to tell me?’
And why had he himself been too busy to notice?
“I’m sorry, Dee,” he whispered, placing a gentle kiss on his lover’s
forehead. “From now on I’ll watch over you.” That was what a shield was
supposed to do, what a partner was supposed to do, wasn’t it?
Back in the living room he met worried blue eyes. Ross Barclay was sitting on the couch, not looking too good himself. It had been just a few weeks since the man had been shot himself – by a screw – to save Ryo’s life.
“He’s sleeping now. “
Ryo sat down opposite his superior.
“I don’t know what had caused that … I… I should have seen it coming … “
“Ryo,” the soft tenor voice interrupted. “You couldn’t have known. It…“
“It was to be expected! You know sometimes a young paranormal is overwhelmed by his powers, especially when he hasn’t grown up with the knowledge and when he is as powerful as Dee. A warlock…“
“We all know what havoc a warlock out of control could cause. But Dee is no warlock.”
“No, he’s a shaman-warlock! Who knows what he can do!”
“And you’re his shield. You suppressed his magic once before. He can’t do anything with you around, Ryo. Don’t blame yourself. Besides, he’s not a young warlock – Dee has all the knowledge he needs to manage his powers appropriately. ”
“When I came in and… and found him like that, he didn’t have any control at all. He was cracking … “
There was a warm, comforting hand on his shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly.
“We’ll get him through this, Ryo. We have all the help in the world. First of all, the two of you are on sick leave for the next three days, I’ll see to it. And then we have to see what to do next. You hadn’t had any vacation lately, right?”
Ryo shook his head.
“A prolonged weekend here and there, but no vacation since we’ve been in England.”
He heard Barclay inhale sharply.
“That’s been two years, Ryo. Giving what had happened throughout this time, especially in the last few months, no wonder he has broken down. I’ll take a look as how much vacation time you two have left and then you’ll take it. And that’s an order.”
Ryo smiled faintly.
* * *
Ryo woke with a start when he felt a stab of rising panic run through his mind, and the next second Dee was stirring beside him, soft tremors running over the man’s body, and he was moaning something.
That explained it.
Ryo rolled over quickly, shaking the man obviously caught in his dream.
“Dee, wake up. Dee!”
The soft scream, in addition to the sharp twinge of terror, was a clear indication about what Dee was dreaming.
“Dee, I’m here. Dee, damnit…“
Green eyes flew open, unfocused at first, but then finding his face. His hand shot up, fingers strongly wrapping around his arm.
“I’m here, Dee. I’m fine, I won’t go anywhere.”
It was more like a sob than anything else, and Ryo wrapped his arms around his lover, holding him and whispering reassuring words that Dee seemed to hear this time. The other man had buried his face in the crook of his neck, breath hitching as if he were suppressing sobs, his entire body wrapped around his. Ryo could feel Dee relax minutely, and then even breaths indicated he had fallen asleep again.
This time Ryo kept holding him. The nightmares didn’t return.
Ryo placed a mug of freshly brewed coffee in front of his lover. Dee just glanced at him, otherwise continued to stare out of the semi-circled window, resting on that makeshift bed and wrapped in the warmest blanket Ryo could find for him. Ryo cuddled closer, sipping on his tea, noticing the immediate way Dee shifted to get them as close as possible. It was worrying Ryo a little that his lover showed his need for comfort and closeness, on the other hand – he was showing it finally. Resting behind him Ryo pulled his lover close.
“What were you dreaming about?”
The body in his arms stiffened slightly.
Huh? What had that been? Ryo was accustomed to getting flashes of emotions through the bond they shared, was accustomed to sending them himself, but this had been – no, not a word, more like a concept, a sudden knowledge that wasn’t his own. Dee’s true answer to his question? Only one way to test a thesis …
“And what was I doing?”
“I said it was nothing.”
Pain, and //dying … you were dying … every time …// pictures, more like feelings came as well, splashes of red blood and whitish matter on a concrete wall, lifeless eyes, debris, the smell of gun powder, smoke and something like – burned stone?
And a large hole in the ground where once the block of the precinct had been …
No wonder Dee’s mind had shut down – in his dreams he had seen what he was capable of. At least the warlock-part of him could do such a thing with ease. And why had he … Ryo concentrated.
It was more than a simple ‘yes’ he received in return, yet it wasn’t a single emotion either. But in a way Ryo knew Dee had heard him.
//I love you. I'll never leave you. You’re my Shaman//
//I love you. You’re my Shield//
And then Dee turned in his arms, puzzled green eyes bore into his.
“What were you doing?”
Ryo smiled and bent his head to claim his lover’s lips.
//We’re a bonded Shaman Pair. Who knows what we can do?//
Wilson sat cross-legged on the bed, eyes on the cover. His hands were resting on his knees. There was a mildly confused, strangely thoughtful expression on his face.
"You're bonded?" he finally asked.
"Yes. All Shaman Pairs have a bonded partner. Ryo feels my distress, he is there for me. In a way, you and House are bonded as well. He is your lover, you feel him more than others. He was the first person you touched as an empath and he was there for you all the time."
"At least you're not alone in what you are," Wilson argued weakly.
"I never met one of the others, James. I know there are more Pairs and that we are powerful. I'm more than a shaman and more than a warlock. I'm neither nor. It's strange. All my life I was a cop, I fell in love with my new partner, we finally got together and wham! I find out about the paranormal and suddenly I'm one of them." Dee chuckled. "Believe me, it was really bad for me. Having nightmares about death and destruction didn't help. I didn't know a thing about what being what I am meant."
Wilson played with a corner of the cover.
"You're an empath, James. Your powers only hurt yourself. I'm a magic-user and my powers still scare me sometimes. I could erase a city if I lose it."
"Your warlock side."
Dee nodded. As an ally, Wilson would know a thing or two.
"How can you handle this?"
"Being a magic-user? I have to, James. There is no alternative. Being so rare," a shrug, "hell, why should I bother with being rare? It's not a curse. It's not written on my forehead."
"But not knowing so much about yourself…"
"You know who you are," Dee said firmly. "You are James Wilson. You have a partner, you have friends, a job, a home. You already accepted that you have empathic powers. This is just a new step."
"But no one else had this happen to him before!"
"No one you or I know of," Latener corrected.
Silence descended between them. The shaman finally broke it, startling Wilson with his words.
"Disabling your powers with drugs is not the answer, James. It never is."
"Wouldn't you want to be free of something you never wanted to have?" Wilson challenged.
Dee laughed softly. "Truthfully? In the beginning, yes. The nightmares were hell, my fears were mounting, I lived in terror of hurting people with my magic. I even attacked my own brother and held a letter opener against his throat with magic."
Wilson's eyes widened.
"But I learned that having these abilities is not only amazing, it also comes with responsibilities. Everyone hates something about himself. Some hate to be blond, others want to be slimmer or gain weight and can't. Some want to get rid of freckles, another colors his hair. Some wear colored contacts, too. Then there are those born with disabilities. You made yourself into a disabled person, James. You're hurting yourself for no reason. You had control of the empathy and you can get control of the fluctuations, if you let me help you."
James chewed on his lower lip, hands twisting into the sheets. He looked tense, ready to bolt, but he was far from able. Dee suspected House had severely reduced the Vicodin because denying the oncologist any drugs would result in a sudden withdrawal.
It was Dee's job to monitor the detox – if Wilson would only agree.
"Okay," the other man suddenly murmured. "Okay… I'll try."
"No, you won't. You won't just try, James. You will either do it or leave it at the status quo!" Dee answered harshly. "If we start this, there will be no turning back. I will go through with it, you will go through with it."
Those dark brown eyes, so much like Ryo's, widened.
"You won't fail," Latener added softly. "Trust me."
There was another moment of silence as Wilson studied him, as if he could still read him emotionally, and then, to Dee's amazement, there was a soft but firm "I trust you".
* * *
House knew what detox had been for him. One word: hell. Complete and utter hell. He had gone through it not only once but twice, and the second time had been the hardest. His only advantage compared to Wilson had been that his powers weren’t connected to human emotions.
And it was slamming into his detoxing mind with the force of an eighteen wheeler. With each hour as the Vicodin left his system, his senses stuttered and clawed their way back to the forefront. Wilson hadn’t been under the influence for long enough to make this a gradual process. House had taken the Vicodin for years, in Wilson’s case it had been a little over three months.
Latener's presence was an itch House really needed to scratch, but he had wanted the shaman to be here, so he had to suffer the presence. It wasn’t Latener as such, but the power that now roamed through their shared home. He was a powerful shaman-warlock and it showed.
House’s eyes were on the closed doors of the bedroom where Wilson was tossing and turning and suffering through withdrawal and all the fun stuff associated with it. Latener had told him he would help the process, which was both a relief and painful.
He sighed and let his tired eyes roam around the silent, semi-dark living room. It seemed gigantic, part of it in deep shadows, and cold. Lonely, even. House heard nothing from inside the 'treatment room' and it bothered him. It bothered him even more that he wouldn't be allowed to be with Wilson even through the night. Dee would be that person. House had been banned to the other bedroom.
At least he hadn't been asked to move out.
* * *
By the end of the second day, Wilson had gone through bouts of cold shivers, sweating, joint pain, headaches, shooting, blinding migraines, and he was constantly nauseous. His empathic powers were all over the place and it was agony to just have another human being in the room.
Latener was doing his best to dampen the input, but he himself was only human too, so he had an aura of emotions even if he tried to suppress them. He was supervising the withdrawal, giving Wilson little of what he craved and a lot more of what he needed. They hadn't done a cold turkey, a sudden seizure of all drugs entering Wilson's system, but something similar. While Wilson no longer took any Vicodin or related drugs, Dee's magic was keeping the human body from reacting with the force of a cold withdrawal. But what the oncologist went through despite that was bad enough.
His mind was a raw wound, aching, each thought hurting, and James was ready to just die. He sobbed softly as another spike buried inside his overtaxed brain.
"Make it stop," he begged.
There was no pep-talk, just the soothing cool presence of the shaman-warlock. Dee rarely spoke, just filtered the toxins in a way a Healer could have done, too. But Latener had the advantage of going one stop further, he could erect magical shields. He kept House out, too.
Things were getting better when it came to the Vicodin withdrawal, but now his powers were back.
And Wilson discovered a whole knew pain.
* * *
Chase had spent the last hours on the phone or writing emails, setting up and continuing James Wilson's official cover. Experience told him to expect more than the few days a normal flu would give the man. Considering that he was an empath whose powers were now coming back and with a vengeance, this would be longer. A lot longer.
His contacts could either help him directly or gave him the number or email address of the person who could. John was using his own contacts to aide where Chase required help, and together they spent the better part of an evening and half a night weaving a complicated and pretty much perfect net of lies.
There had been no further calls from House or the New York shaman, and Chase didn't know what to think. It could be good, it might be bad.
"Don't worry," John told him, pulling his lover into an embrace. "House will call. He knows you can help. He already asked for that help. He won't just shut you out now."
"Hope so," Chase murmured.
"I know so, Robert."
Chase only shrugged. He truly hoped so. He was an ally. He needed paranormals to trust him – even someone as suspicious of lies as House.
* * *
Wilson's eyes snapped open and he bent over, moaning, hands clasping his aching head. He felt the aura around him caress his shivering senses, and while he tried to draw away, he couldn't move an inch. Finally, when the headache dissipated, he blinked his eyes open and looked into the calm but concerned eyes of the shaman monitoring and guiding his return into the world of the paranormal.
He blinked again, swallowing hard against a jittery little pulse behind his eyes. He felt's Latener's power rise and the pressure was gone.
"Thanks," he croaked.
"You're welcome. I can't shield you like this forever. Your powers need to get reacquainted with, well, you. It'll get worse before it gets better."
"I know." Wilson shivered again. He felt wrung out, miserable, really bad…
"How well are you in sync with your partner?" Dee suddenly asked.
"Dr. House is your best friend, he is your lover, he is a paranormal, and I was told that he is connected to you on an emotional level as an empath."
"Kinda," Wilson confessed. "I… in the beginning he was the one who could hurt me the most. His temper outbreaks, his anger and fury, I felt it, and when it was directed at me, it hurt. He never hated me. Otherwise it would probably have knocked me out immediately. I could always somehow feel him, across corridors…"
Dee nodded. "I think Dr. House would be best in the next stage – getting you back on your feet as an empath."
"House? But… he's a Diagnostic."
"He's your lover, James, and a lot more. You need him. You reach out for him without knowing, without realizing it, and he helps you in his own way. You need to get to know him again before you can touch anyone else, before I can let you go out into the world, so to speak." Dee smiled calmly.
Wilson drew a shaky breath. "Okay," he said weakly, looking washed out and pale.
Dee couldn't fault him for that. The man had gone through hell and it was only going to get worse.
"I'll talk to your partner. You stay put."
It got him a nod and Dee rose, leaving the bedroom.
* * *
House had never been the touchy-feely type, at least on the outside. In the privacy of his own home it was different. He would let Wilson close, very close, intimately close, and he would touch him tenderly, gently, without ever becoming rough. Their relationship was based on a deep-routed trust that neither man would hurt the other intentionally. It had evolved over time, from acquaintance to friend to best friend to lover, to being… connected. House didn't want to talk about this strange connection that had started to bloom, with Wilson aware of his emotional state, with House strangely aware of where to find his lover.
Now Dee Latener was telling him his presence would give Wilson the boost to get back on his feet – while hurting him.
"No," he ground out.
"It's the only way!" Latener insisted. "If we use anyone else, if we let him go out there," he gestured toward the door, "he'll break. Completely. I can't shield him from the world, House! I can only help him adjust, find the triggers and switch them on and off as he needs them! I can teach him about his Soothing and everything else, but his powers will always make him vulnerable, unless he starts to truly train them! And it has to start with someone he trusts with his very sanity!"
"Me?" House laughed roughly.
"You," the shaman confirmed. "He can shield from you, he knows you, and you're also the one who can always be the most powerful factor in hurting him."
House glared daggers at him. "I would never hurt him!" he snarled.
"I know that." Dee met the irate gaze calmly. "Help me, Dr. House."
House was drawn between kicking the younger man out of his home and agreeing. His eyes were drawn to the bedroom door where Wilson was sleeping. He so badly wanted to see his lover, but Latener had kept them apart, had refused him anywhere near, and some magic shields or whatever were taking care of that.
"When?" he finally asked.
Latener just smiled.
* * *
Wilson had drifted off into a light doze for a while, the exhaustion of the last days demanding that he shut down, and he woke once or twice, but each time he went back to sleep. Latener was gone, there was only silence in the room, and the bed felt wonderful to his aching body. When he woke the third time, he felt a bit better, but still, his brain was like a big piece of mush, each thought sloshing through and failing to make a connection with the next.
Latener had put him through the equivalent of a fast detox. He lay in bed, gazing at the door, his mind strangely numb. Empathically speaking he was deaf. Not even the slightest twitch. It was unnerving. With the Vicodin he had been put into cotton balls, he had barely perceived anything, and he hadn't been bothered. But now, with the relaxing effects of the drug gone, there was this… anxiety. He was missing something that should be there.
He hated being special. He hated being something new paranormally speaking. He had never hated being an empath.
Wilson curled up a little, feeling something miserable shiver through him. Being an empath was… him. He had always been this empath, even when his powers hadn't broken through completely. He had been good with people… empathic… He had been able to soothe their emotional upheavals, had been able to make them feel better with words, he had been… the Soother.
And he had killed that ability with the Vicodin. It was now back, but Latener kept strong shields around his weakened and unprotected mind. He would have to start again and he would have to learn to live with his powers, as strange as they were.
James Wilson didn't want to stop being an empath, he just wanted to be a normal, run of the mill one. That was now nothing but wishful thinking.
I'm something else. I'm new.
An evolution, Latener had told him. Like a mutation.
Welcome to the X-Men, part of him joked weakly.
* * *
House hadn't seen his best friend and lover for almost three days, only a brief peek now and then, and he was shocked by Wilson's drawn appearance. He was pale, face hollow, eyes sunk. He didn't look as bad as a cancer kid after chemo, but he looked wasted nevertheless. Dressed in sweats, hair disheveled, he looked like a little kid and all House wanted to do was walk over to him and touch him.
"Go," Latener just said softly as if he reading his mind.
It was most likely rather visible in his every fiber, his eyes, his very aura.
"Hey," Wilson said weakly, his smile a far cry from confident.
"Hey," House replied roughly.
He walked closer, careful, like approaching a skittish animal. He didn't know how shielded Wilson was.
"James has no natural shields at the moment," Dee supplied that answer as if he had asked out loud. "I'm keeping him from overloading. You're the anchor, Dr. House. You have to help your partner back on a firm basis where his natural shields are concerned."
House's eyes were fixed on the brown depths of his lover's. Wilson was biting his lower lip, trying to draw his gaze away, but House wouldn't let him. He limped the last step, still not touching the other man.
But he wanted to.
He had this need to reach out and reassure himself that James was still there, still alive, still… simply James.
"Do what comes naturally," Dee only said calmly. "I'll lower the shield around James and I'll leave you two alone. You can't harm him. You both know that. James trusts you, Dr. House. You love him. Just do that. Get used to each other again."
Wilson swallowed. He finally tore his eyes away from House, lost and small. House lowered himself onto the bed, still not touching.
"You want us to have sex?" he asked gruffly.
Latener laughed. "No. I doubt that would help us not overloading empathic senses. Touch would be a good idea. Do what you did in the beginning. Get to know each other."
"So, you're the blushing virgin, Jimmy, and I'm the gallant prince, hm?"
Wilson chuckled. "You're a bit too late for the virgin part. And the gallant… was never your style, House."
He reached out and ran a tender caress over one stubbled cheek. It was so rare that he saw his lover with a stubble, aside from early morning. James was always clean shaven, he always looked smooth and smart and simply… simply Wilson. Even without a tie. Even in sweats. Even in bed. House could rumple him all he wanted, there was this innate neatness that nothing could destroy.
Now it had cracked and it looked… not like he knew his lover.
"You need a shave," he murmured.
"And a shower."
House smirked. "I can smell that."
It got him a grimace. House leaned closer, looking into those chocolate brown eyes.
"Think you're up for shower?"
"You want Latener?"
Wilson pulled a face. "I'm not into pretty faces."
House leaned even closer and brushed their lips together, barely even touching. "You wound me, Jimmy."
A hand, Wilson's hand, rested on his chest, not pushing him away. It was just there.
"Shower," House simple said roughly and got to his feet, pulling away reluctantly.
Wilson crawled out of the bed and stumbled to his feet, swaying a little. House saw no trace of Latener as they entered the bathroom. House's hand briefly touched his lover's back as the man wobbled a little.
He didn't care where the shaman was or wasn't. For all it mattered to him, Latener could be gone, back home in New York.
Right now, all his attention was on his recovering friend. On James.
* * *
Dee had made himself comfortable in the second half of the large loft apartment. Since the place consisted of two apartments that had been put together by tearing down a wall, there were two bedrooms and a very large living room where he could keep an eye on matters while not hanging out in the front row.
His shields gave the two men some privacy. The presence of the two spirit animals told Dee how they were faring. He had seen them on and off in the last day or two. Mostly throughout the time of Wilson's detox. The serval had been a weak, pained presence, reflecting all the empath he represented felt. The mink, House's spirit animal, was always there, always close. It had never left the serval's side, not even when the cramps and pain had started. Dee had been the only one to see the spirit animal cringe and hear it whimper in shared pain.
Right now the two of them lay curled up together. The larger serval looked exhausted, the much smaller mink was all fluffed up and protective. He licked his companion's face, little paws apparently petting the tired cat, then just buried close to its mate.
Dee didn't think that anything sexual was going on between House and Wilson, aside from maybe some kisses and caresses. Wilson was a total wreck. The detox had cost him a lot and he would have to regain not only his shields but also his strength. His eyes didn't leave the two spirit animals, smiling as he listened to the soft sounds the mink made.
Latener couldn't blame the man for trying to get rid of wildly erratic empathic powers. He had come into his paranormal inheritance later than anyone Dee had ever heard of, even himself. And his own powers had been shielded by his parents for his safety. Wilson had suddenly become an empath, and not just a low level either, like first diagnosed. His powers had developed, were fluctuating, and he had no way to adjust to them because he hadn't known what he was. The pressure had gotten to him.
Now he had help and Dee would make sure those shields were back before the man went to work again. He would also have him train to recognize a fluctuation and shield against that.
Latener dug out his cell phone. He had a lot of work ahead of him. Punching in a number, he waited for the other to pick up.
"Hey," he said jovially. "It's Dee. Am I interrupting something?"
He grinned when Robert Chase gave a negative.
"We need a cover for the rest of the week," Dee told the ally. "James is getting better, but he'll need time." He listened to Chase's questions and answered them calmly and precisely.
Chase was their ally and he and Pyre were needed to keep Wilson's cover.
They talked for a few more minutes, then Dee hung up and redialed to talk to his partner in New York. Ryo was probably dying to know what was going on.
* * *
In his apartment several miles away from House's place, Chase gave a sigh of relief as Dee hung up. He leaned heavily against the wall and let his head thump back.
"Good news?" John asked, walking into the tiny place Chase called a guest room or part-time office. It was actually all and a storage space on top.
"Yeah, kinda. Detox is through and Latener is pretty confident that Wilson's over the first big bump in the road. He says he'll help him get back his basic shields, which involves House to a degree, and then they'll start working on his powers and control."
"Sounds like a long-term assignment."
"Anything we should do?"
"Cover Wilson as long as he needs to be covered. For now, the flu has extended. It might even get a hold of House."
John shrugged. "Okay. Flu it still is. Let's get to work."
And they did.
* * *
House was drawing gentle lines over smooth, warm skin. It was pale skin. Skin that hadn't been exposed to a lot of sun in the past six months. Not with their work schedule and Wilson's problems.
House was exploring. Getting to know again. Reacquainting himself. This was still the same man as before. Still athletic but not overly so. Still slender but not on the thin side. Not a six-pack bearing superman but his lover and a normal human being. There was the softness around his stomach, there were the scars that marred the perfect skin.
Wilson moved a little, making soft noises of content, and House smiled. He leaned forward and placed a kiss between the shoulder blades. His fingers skipped over the backbone, tracing each vertebra, until they circled over the faded remains of a scar.
"How much do you feel?" House rumbled.
"Feel you. Feels good," was Wilson's lazy reply.
"How much?" House repeated.
"Almost everything. All of you. But I'm fine. You… you are familiar, Greg." Wilson turned his head, sated, calm eyes on House.
They hadn't had sex. They hadn't even come close to sex. It had been a shower, together, with washing Wilson clean of sweat and grime and general sickness, toweling him off, blow-drying his hair into a completely wild and crazy style, and then herding him off to bed.
Just kissing and touching and having him close. House could live without sex if he had this amazing man at his side as his friend, as his confidant, as his ally in so many crimes. Of course he would miss the hot sex, but he could make due without.
Placing a kiss at the nape of the smooth neck, he made Wilson shudder a little.
"No. Just right."
Wilson rolled onto his back, gazing at him, completely naked before House's appreciative eyes, and the Diagnostic couldn't but lean down and add another kiss to his collection. His paranormal powers told him just how bad Wilson was off, how raw everything was, and how badly he needed his shields back. He was completely vulnerable now, not unlike Derek had been without his familiar.
House grimaced. That would make him… some kind of cat or bird? Bah…
"Think it's working?" he asked out loud.
"Ask me when we run into someone." Wilson regarded him steadily. "Does it bother you?"
"Not going out? Nah. I like holing up with you in a snuggly bed."
Wilson's brows dipped a little in that cute little frown.
"Oh, you're talking about you in my head?" House continued flippantly. "Nope. I'm more worried of what a bad influence I am on you now."
Wilson chuckled. "You were always a bad influence."
"And I succeeded." House leaned down and nibbled at his lips. "I made a bad boy out of you, Dr. Wilson. Sleeping with grumpy old men. Damaged."
Wilson wrapped his arms around him and deepened the kiss. "I never was a blushing virginal soul to begin with."
"Hm, you're right about the virginal part."
"I don't blush!"
"Wanna bet?" came the husky growl.
Wilson was far from ready for a hot encounter, but he probably picked up on House's horny thoughts and from the expression in those dark eyes, it was a bull's eye. The pale face flushed and House grinned triumphantly.
"Oh, I'm gonna love having you in my head, kid," he drawled.
"Shuttup!" Wilson growled and claimed another kiss.
House was only too happy to comply to the need.
* * *
Calling the parents had been inevitable. House had drawn it out as long as possible. Actually, he hadn't lost a thought about it at all. It was Rose Wilson's call that had him bite back a curse concerning the woman's timing. She was on the answering machine, voicing concern that her last call hadn't been returned.
House bit back another curse, though it came out as a low rumble of annoyance. Rose had called a week ago, just when the whole mess had started to culminate into one big super-mess, and he had simply pushed everything irrelevant aside. Irrelevant, in House's vocabularly, included whatever didn't help Wilson get better and beat the addiction.
Including the parents.
"I have to call her."
House turned away from the answering machine, giving his pale and exhausted looking lover a narrow-eyed look.
"No, you don't."
"She's my mother, Greg. She knows about my powers. She knows something was off lately."
"You want her to know about your addiction to Vicodin, too?" House challenged
Wilson winced a little, but he didn't look away. "I want to talk to her," he only said.
House regarded him steadily, not backing down, then he finally took the portable receiver off the cradle and tossed it at the recovering empath. Wilson nearly didn't catch it, fumbling for a moment. He glared briefly, then walked over to the couch and sat down. The Wilsons were on speed dial and House watched silently, almost angrily, as the other man hit the button and waited for the call to connect.
Rose and Arthur Wilson weren't his parents. They were nothing like his parents, he told himself. They were allies, they had three sons, of who two were paranormals. Rose understood more than John or Blythe ever would. Hell, even without that they were a lot more open-minded than his own parents. House hadn't talked to either parent for a long time, ever since his father had stormed out of the loft. It had been the day House had more or less come out to them, when they had discovered he had a male lover and that it was his best friend.
House couldn't care less what they thought. It was his happiness and it came in form and shape of a man. So instead of a strained contact there was none at all. His mother had tried to talk to him, but he shut her out.
Listening in to the soft conversation, one-sided for him because he couldn't hear the answers, he mused on how lucky they were that Wilson's parents accepted their son's decision. A note of distress caught his attention and he limped over to the couch, standing behind it, without touching his lover. Wilson was explaining the circumstances, his reactions, and it was making him audibly and visibly uneasy.
House remained where he was, listened, watched, and a small smile crept over his unshaven features when Wilson laughed softly at something his mother said. He sounded exhausted but he wasn't tense.
"Yeah, he's here," he suddenly said and now House almost groaned.
He did glare at Wilson when the receiver was held out to him. Brown eyes, filled with a multitude of emotions, met steady blue ones.
"Mom wants to talk to you," Wilson said.
House sighed theatrically and took the phone. "Hello, Rose."
"Greg," she answered, sounding rather composed. "Tell me about my son."
He glanced at Wilson, grimaced, then limped over to the couch chair. "What's there to say? I keep him around because he can cook, clean and is a bombshell in bed."
House could almost imagine her amusement, eyes lighting up, mouth twitching.
Wilson rolled his eyes and shook his head, annoyance and embarrassment warring for domination.
"It's in his genes. Like everything else," she replied. "How is he, Greg? Truthfully."
House was silent for a moment, then looked at Wilson as he said, "He's been better, but we're getting there. He's strong, Rose. And he isn't Derek. Even if he tried to run, he'd have me beating him down. I can promise you that."
Wilson looked startled.
"And we have help."
"He told me. I never met this Dee Latener, but Jamie told me about him. I trust you to help him in every way possible."
"You have my promise, Rose," he answered solemnly.
"I know. Thank you. And if you neglect to inform us about something like this ever again, I'll personally come down there to rip your head off, Gregory House!" she added forcefully.
House had to laugh at that. It was so very much his mother-in-law, as he sometimes joked.
"Yes, Mom," he smirked.
She huffed a little. "I lost Derek to his abilities because he tried to hide what he was, because he couldn't accept it. I'm not going to lose Jamie."
"Good. I'll hold you to that promise."
House smiled, looking at Wilson, who was probably getting a whole range of emotions. He smothered a yawn and House jerked his head at the bedroom, indicating for Wilson to get to bed.
"Gotta go, Rose. Jimmy needs his beauty sleep."
"Take care," Wilson's mother only said. "And call me again to let me know, okay?"
"I will. Bye."
He hung up and followed Wilson to the bedroom where the other man was already under the covers.
"She ripped you a new one?" came the tired question.
"You more than me, I suspect. Rose and I just came to an agreement about you."
House patted Wilson's chest. "Sleep, Jimmy. Don't worry your pretty little head."
"With you, I always worry."
"Well, now I can say the same about you."
Wilson's eyes closed and House stayed until he felt nothing but the echoes of sleep. He scanned the gray and frazzled aura, sighing to himself. It didn't look much better than before, and the energy lines were a mess. Even a pot of spaghetti looked more untangled.
Time. They needed time. Chase and Pyre would do their best to give them that, but Wilson would have to brave the great outdoors one day or another.
But not today.
Leaving the bedroom, House closed the door and went over to his desk. It was a mess of loose paper and books. Well, no time like the present to answer some mails and pay the bills, he mused. Latener would be back this afternoon. He had gone wherever shamans went in this town, and had given them some necessary alone-time. As of tomorrow, he would start the real training with Wilson.
* * *
Wilson had slept twelve hours straight. He hadn’t woken, not even to the sunlight streaming through the windows, and only the need to go to the bathroom had finally roused him enough to set foot out of the bed. A shower revived him a bit more, but he still felt like packed in cotton wool, on top of being bundled up in a very thick blanket and buried in fluffy feathers. His brain was mush, but not in the bad way it had been a few days ago. He felt no pain, just groggy and sluggish. Dragging himself into the kitchen, he decided against black coffee and rummaged through the kitchen cabinet until he found instant cappuccino. While the waffles were in the toaster, he emptied a glass of orange juice, feeling better for having something to drink.
Wilson waited for his mind to unclog and his body to decide to start working. He had survived detox, he had survived the psychological addiction to Vicodin, and he was finally ready and willing to expand his abilities, to learn. Dee had told him that it wouldn't be a walk in the park, but since Wilson had always been able to handle and use basic shields, the 'upgrade' wouldn't be as bad as if he had to learn anew.
Sometime around five House walked in, Dee in tow, and Wilson could feel the shaman's powers touching him. He gave the detective a wan smile.
"I can see that. You're doing well." Dee gave him an open smile of his own. "I think you're ready to start learning how to use and control what you are, James."
"I'm calling for pizza," House only quipped and limped over to the phone to make just that call.
Dee's eyes followed him with an amused expression. Then his full concentration was on Wilson once more.
"So, let's get you started…"
* * *
House had absolutely no clue how Chase had made it possible. Whatever the Australian had done, it worked. He was providing a one hundred percent fool-proof and perfectly faked-to-be-real cover for Wilson. In the beginning it had been three days off because of a flu bug. That had turned into a week because the symptoms were getting worse, then ten days. Afterwards he had added another week because of a relapse.
And everything was medically documented, signed not only by Chase but another doctor as well, and there was even a prescription trail to follow.
Amazing. House had to confess to this being absolutely fucking amazing.
He would never say so out loud or even in front of Chase. He had treated their ally like he always did: snapping and snarling and teasing and taunting. He would gruffly admit that this was working well, but he had yet to lose a word of thanks.
Wilson did that for him.
Of course, Cuddy had been all worried and motherly – or sisterly, depending on your interpretation – and she had inquired about Wilson. House had answered her briskly and with the right amount of annoyance.
That the flu was close to epidemic this time of the year helped along in a way. Especially since it had hit hard and fast, claiming several victims among the staff of the hospital. Cuddy had skirted the edges of a full blown bug, so she was more sympathetic than ever. Cameron had even called Wilson once or twice, asking how he was, and House had quickly taken that call and told her to leave recovering invalids along.
She hadn't spoken to him except when she had to for two blessed days.
Latener had been there the whole time, teaching James how to handle his recovering shields, how to recognize triggers to keep fluctuations under control. House was acting as Wilson's anchor and while the Diagnostic didn't feel or see or sense otherwise a single thing, the simple thought that his lover was seeing him as his stability tickled him a little. It felt… strangely nice.
Three days after Wilson had finished his sped-on detox, aided by a shaman-warlock, Dee upped the ante by bringing in Chase as a possible trigger and a test for Wilson's shields.
House felt a wave of anger, of protectiveness, but he bit back on his snarls when he saw Wilson wince a little.
Anchor, he told himself. I'm supposed to help him, not hurt him.
Chase looked decidedly unwell, as if he didn't really want to be there, but Dee had asked and he had followed.
"Trust me, James," Latener murmured when Wilson tensed. "If this gets too much, I'll shield you, but this is what will happen once you leave the protection of your home. You meet people. Not just those you already know, but those who suffer and whose pain might reflect back on you."
"I know," was the soft answer.
"You might still feel raw, but natural healing is taking care of the basics. What you need to do is reestablish what you had before the drugs numbed you."
The oncologist inhaled sharply, meeting the hesitant blue eyes of Chase. "Okay," he finally said.
And it began. Chase was the first, then John came next, soon followed by Chase once more, both men testing the empath's shields.
After that came brief visits to the outside. Always further and further from home, then among more people, then in coffee shops. Wilson looked like death warmed over on some days and House was hard pressed not to kick Latener out or do something worse.
But Wilson was growing stronger.
He could feel it, as a Diagnostic he could see the recovering energy lines, and only those small successes kept his temper at bay.
This was a learning process, not unlike House learning to deal with his bad leg right after the infarction. Wilson felt no shooting pains, no. That was the good side. He simply tried to keep other people's emotions at bay. He was no longer low level. He was an empath who could control how much he could and wanted to feel, how much he would influence someone. And he was a Soother on top of that. All that had to be trained.
When James managed to make himself invisible to a waitress who was serving the order of coffee on their table, it was the first real step and the first triumph. House would never forget the expression of awe, amazement and surprise on his lover's face when the woman went away, not even aware of him any more. The invisibility wasn't a physical matter. Wilson didn't really become translucent or anything. He just removed his presence from another's mind. He gave the illusion of either being totally harmless, so he was ignored, or he would suggest to the person in question that he didn't exist at all. He had done it with Cuddy on numerous occasions when the Dean of Medicine had stormed into House's office to rip him a new one.
She had never really taken notice of him. And Wilson had never really thought about it. Now he knew.
Dee simply nodded his congratulations and drank his coffee.
And House smiled devilishly at Wilson, radiating his pride and how much he wanted to kiss the living daylights out of him right now. Wilson had the good graces to cough and avert his eyes, his shields coming up, and he turned to his White Mocha with a frothy top.
Yes, they were getting somewhere.
It was about time.
* * *
Wilson walked into the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, tense and wary of the people around him. He was smiling at the nurses greeting him, but he tried not to linger too long. He made straight for his office, without encountering too many people, and sighed in relief.
His head was pulsing gently with a lingering headache from the drive here, but otherwise he was still fine. His basic shields were up and running at full power. Dee had confirmed it, as had House. His lover had spent the night holding him close until sleepy movements and general tossing and turning had broken the physical contact. Still, Wilson had woken with his nose buried against House's back in the morning.
It was his first day back at work and if anyone hadn't believe in him coming down with a nasty flu bug, his pale complexion and tired looks only added to the lies told by Chase.
The balcony door opened and House slipped inside, blue eyes roaming over Wilson like he was checking him for open wounds or nasty bruises.
"I'm okay, House," Wilson said before House could even voice the question.
There was no answer, just a frown and those intense eyes apparently trying to penetrate his body right down to his soul.
"Seen Cuddy yet?"
"No, but I guess she'll either be here or call me into her office some time today," he sighed.
"You lucky boy, you." House grinned.
Wilson walked up to his taller lover and suddenly leaned in, seeking a kiss. Startled, House kissed back, blinking in astonishment.
"Why, Dr. Wilson! Making out on the job?" he exclaimed.
"Shut up, House!" he growled and fisted a hand into the rumpled shirt, pulling him closer once more.
"Shuttingupyessir," House murmured and complied with Wilson's need.
James just rested his head under House's chin when they separated, inhaling deeply, feeling his nerves settle. He wasn't in pain, just so completely apprehensive of this day, coiled tighter than a spring, and he wished he had Latener here as a back-up. The shaman had told him he had to brave the storm and do this. Should he fail, he would be there.
So far, no failure.
A knock had them move apart and Wilson schooled his features when the door opened to reveal Cuddy. Her eyes moved between the two men and she grimaced briefly, aware she had apparently interrupted something more intimate.
"Good to have you back, James," she said in ways of a greeting.
"I'm back too," House sang.
"And I missed you like a sore," she shot back.
"Oh, I'm hurt. I'm the center of your universe!"
Wilson had to smile at the banter, at Cuddy's suffering expression, at House's wide-eyed, vulnerable look.
"You're the reason for my migraines, House. Having you down with the flu was actually a relief."
"Why don't you kick the invalid some more," he growled.
"It was the flu, House. Any kid would have more grace in suffering it than you." With that she turned to Wilson. "You still look a bit pale."
"So do I, but no one cares," House supplied sotto voce.
Cuddy ignored him.
"I'm fine," Wilson reassured her.
She accepted that. There was nothing she could argue about anyway. Wilson was a doctor himself, so he would know how much he could demand of himself after a serious flu bug that had had him down for a little more than two weeks.
"Welcome back," she said once more, then left them, but not without a "Behave" at House and a stern look.
"Is it me or do I get the blame each and every time?" House asked philosophically.
"Because you are to blame most of the time," Wilson told him with a smile.
"Oh, you wound me, Jimmy. You're supposed to be on my side!"
"I am. Always was, always will be."
House closed the distance again and cupped the still too pale face with his free hand, their lips meeting in a soft kiss.
"You'll be okay?" he asked in a low voice.
"Yes. Don't worry. Doesn't suit you. And I can work on my abilities here. Blending in, becoming invisible." Wilson smiled. "Soothing relatives and patients."
"The perfect playground for the boy wonder," House murmured, claiming another kiss.
Wilson's hands rested on the narrow hips, one wrapping around House's waist to keep him steady and close.
"I'll give you the Bat Signal in case something happens," he promised softly when they parted.
"Good. I'll root around my locker to find the tights and cape," House answered with a grin.
Wilson chuckled and stepped back, breaking the contact.
It was time to face the world alone.
House regarded him silently, solemnly, then nodded once and turned to go back the way he had come – the balcony.
Wilson stayed where he was even after the balcony door had closed, then he finally walked to his desk, switched on the computer, called up his email, and sighed softly at the amount of emails in his inbox. He would have to talk to his staff later on, get an idea of what was currently priority and how his old cases had fared.
This was going to be a long first day.
* * *
All things considered, the day wasn't too long. It was unpleasant now and then, especially when Wilson made the first rounds and faced the suffering patients and their distraught relatives.
You can control your shields. You know where they are. You have access and you have the means to make them as strong or as weak as you want them to be.
Dee's words. So he concentrated on his shields, remembered the training, and it was a relief to note that it worked. He still needed a lot of concentration to remove all interference from his mind, but it was doable.
As was Soothing. He was still a bit wooden in how he did it and this would require more exercise, but it worked. For the first time he was using these powers consciously, not just as an instinctive reaction.
House broke him free of his colleagues by lunch and they took their food outside. The sun was shining, but the cloudy sky made it almost impossible to catch more than ten minutes in the sun as such before it was hidden behind the clouds once more. It wasn't too warm and Wilson breathed a little sigh of relief at the fresh air.
"How's it going?" House asked between bites from a steak sandwich, no pickles, extra fries.
"It's going," was the evasive reply.
"Don't lie to me, Wilson!" Hard blue eyes glared at him.
Wilson played with the straw of his soft drink. "I'm getting there, House. It's more difficult than I thought, but I'm not a screaming wreck."
"Good, 'cause Cuddy would skin me, seeing she blames everything on poor little me."
That got him The Look, something he had missed dearly in the last weeks, and a grimace.
"Patients are no bother as long as nothing spikes. I'm not having any appointments until tomorrow, so I can work on that, too." Wilson ate some fries, eyes roaming over the open eating area. "I'm fine, House, really."
House clearly didn't believe him and Wilson couldn't fault him for it.
He wouldn't even put it past his lover to check into prescriptions filled
by him today – of which there were none -- or counting Vicodin pills in
the pharmacy to ensure none had been taken by him.
By the end of the day, Wilson was ready to go at the drop of a hat. He was almost radiating his relief when House stuck his head in, all ready with his backpack slung over one shoulder.
"Up and at 'em, tiger. We're going home!" he sang.
Wilson had never before been so fast in leaving his office. He barely remembered to switch off the light and House chuckled when the elevator doors closed after them.
"Shut up, House."
House smirked. Wilson glared more. House doubled the smirk potential and was the first to limp in wide strides out of the elevator, doing his best to clear the open space before the predators could get a whiff of him.
"Scared of Cuddy?" Wilson teased, getting back at the earlier remarks.
"The day I'm scared of Dr. Cuddy is the day I hang up my cane," House declared.
Wilson just smiled knowingly.
"Funny guy," House snarked.
"Funnier than you."
"Everybody's a critic," he sighed.
As it was, Cuddy was in a meeting, so when he checked out there was no one hovering over his shoulder. Aside from Wilson, who was nervously checking and rechecking his shields.
They took the Volvo home. House, who normally rode his bike even through the first snow of winter, had wordlessly joined his lover in the car this morning. Wilson appreciated the company, but it also irked him that House thought he needed a baby-sitter.
"Just car pooling," had been the light reply at his dark look.
* * *
House didn't just leave it at hovering on the first day. He kept on
hovering and shadowing Wilson for the next five days. It was flattering,
but it was also annoying and seriously interrupting his work schedule.
"You're scaring me," Wilson said as they walked into the loft two weeks after he had come back to work.
He felt House right behind him, very close, almost touching him but not doing so. Opening his mind he felt the warmth of his lover's mind, the protectiveness, the worry. He hated the worry. He wasn't going to break! He wasn't that fragile! He wasn't some kind of delicate flower! He had made a mistake and he was coming back from that.
At House's quizzical look, Wilson sighed and shed his coat, hanging it up with an almost angry gesture.
"This…" he gestured widely, "this whole sticking to me thing! This running interference thing! This picking me up and treating me like a god damned China doll thing!"
"What kind of thing do you want instead?" House asked.
He was too calm. Wilson hated it when he was calm. He hated the glint in those blue eyes, the set to House's mouth, the lingering smirk that didn't really make it to the forefront but he just knew it was there.
"I want you to treat me normally! I'm not going to… to.. relapse just because you took your eyes off me!" he yelled.
House tilted his head, shifting his weight to rest it a little more on the cane. He hadn't lost that even though his leg was pain free now.
"How can I know?"
"Because I'm telling you!"
"Not good enough, Jimmy. I trusted you to know that Vicodin is bad for you, especially you. It didn't stop you from taking it, though."
"It was a mistake and I know it! I was under a lot of pressure…"
"So what will happen when you're under pressure once more? When someone dies on you? When relatives sob their heads off? When the beautiful cancer girl wants a last fuck?" House demanded.
Wilson's face contorted briefly, then something like resolve and strength flashed over his features. "I know how to handle this now, House. I'm not some kind of recovering drug addict like…" He stopped.
House smiled darkly. "Like?" he taunted. "Like me, for instance? Like the bastard with the bum leg?"
"But you're right," he went on. "I was that addict, Jimmy. I know of the lure of the rush. I know what it's like. I *know*."
Blue eyes bore into dark brown ones.
"I know," House repeated softly. "And I know how bad it is to remember what it's like, how easy it is to take this pill. For me it was pain, for you it's your empathy."
"I'm not going to take them again! Why can't you trust me?!"
He limped closer. "I can trust you, Jimmy. I know that. Can you trust yourself?"
Wilson opened his shields again, scanning, and he saw House's smile grow slowly.
"I can feel that, lover," he drawled.
"I know what it feels like to have you touch me, Jimmy. Up here." He touched his head. "So, read enough? Good intentions? Horny vibrations?"
"House… I'm not an addict. I won't have a relapse. You can stop hovering."
"I like to hover."
"You hate it," Wilson stated matter-of-factly.
"Okay, so I hate it." House shrugged. "The things I do for you."
Wilson smiled a little. "You can stop sacrificing yourself. And knowing you, you'll scan me in turn every other day."
"Twice a day, but who's counting?"
He sighed and shook his head, massaging his neck. This was House being House.
"No more hovering?" Wilson asked hopefully.
"Does that include no more lunch dates?"
"We always had lunch."
House smirked. "Okay, then I'll stalk you at lunch."
Wilson chuckled. He leaned forward, hesitating, giving House the chance to say no to a kiss, but there was no negative. There were only lips and stubble.
"I won't stop caring," House murmured, gazing into his eyes.
Wilson smiled. "Neither will I."
"And dinner's on you." House stepped back and grabbed one of the many take-out menus he kept near the phone. He tossed one at Wilson. "I want numbers 5 and 76."
Wilson chuckled and shook his head. He picked up the phone as he read through the menu, then ordered their dinner. He changed from his work clothes into something comfortable next.
Dinner arrived within twenty minutes, he paid, and they dug in, sitting on the couch, watching TV. It was companionable, it was what they always did, and Wilson enjoyed it. He kept shields at their basic levels, secure in House's presence and with his lover's emotional state.
"You are asking for it," House said in a low growl when he had finished his food.
Lips were on his. House tasted of Chicken Gong Bao and beer. Emotions skittered over his shields, strong and seductive and so very familiar. Wilson groaned into the possessive kiss, clawing at the old sweater House wore, desperate to feel skin. He slid a hand underneath as House pushed him back, straddling him.
Watching him like a predator its prey, House smiled wolfishly. "Yeah, asking for it," he commented.
He leaned down and resumed the kiss, and Wilson was only too happy to respond.
* * *
Chase had tried to keep an eye on Wilson throughout the first day, then the first week, and when it became clear that the oncologist was doing better by the day instead of worse, he finally let up on his ally duties to protect the paranormals under his watch. Of course House was teasing him mercilessly, but at least he kept it out of the team and only in private. Wilson himself only shot him a thankful little smile, sometimes gave him a nod, and Chase knew his relief was probably quite openly readable for the empath.
The Australian had talked to Dee, getting the abbreviated version of what had happened and what to expect, as well as how to interfere should anything go wrong. There was nothing Dee could help Wilson with now. It was up to the empath to learn control of his powers, adjust them to his environment, and Chase saw it was working.
Dee would return on his weekends off or on those days off he could manage, to train Wilson once more, to check on his progress.
"It'll take time, Robert," Dee had told him when they had met for a coffee in town. "James is just now taking his first steps and each day his mind is confronted with people and their needs, it learns how to handle it. He learns how to handle it. I expect him to be fully trained by the end of the year, but he has to stay at it. Should he try and numb his abilities once more, everything we did will be destroyed."
"I doubt he'll make that mistake."
"Stronger men have succumbed to the lure of drugs solving their problems. There are so many addictions out there, even for paranormals, and James is only human. There will be times in the next few weeks when he will feel like all of this is choking him again, is tearing at him, and there will be the temptation. Dr. House is one big factor in keeping him on a straight and narrow path. The moment James beats the need, he has won."
So Chase watched. And he saw the signs of stress, the creeping tension, especially after bad cases, and he saw House.
It was after witnessing a particular stressful day for the empath that Chase almost walked into a very private moment. There were no kisses, no fumbling, no caresses, just Wilson sitting on the chair House used to elevate his leg – even now that the pain was gone. He had looked stressed and pale, and House had simply sat there, watching him. No touch. No visible connection.
Chase had stood there for almost a minute, reassuring himself that nothing bad had happened, and then he had left the two men alone. As an ally he knew enough about empaths to realize that Wilson could anchor himself in House even without a touch, and the scene he had almost disturbed had probably been just that.
He never mentioned it.
But House knew he had been there. The looks had been enough.
As were the remarks.
"I saw enough to know he's not regressing," Chase answered quietly as he poured two coffees.
He held out one mug, the red one, to House, who took it. There was no case pending and the room was empty, devoid of Foreman and Cameron. Foreman was at a neurological conference in Baltimore and Cameron had clinic duty.
House's sharp eyes pinned him down, boring into him, but Chase didn't twitch a muscle. It was late already and dark outside, but House was waiting for Wilson to finish up with a board meeting. Chase had cleared several bills and would leave after the coffee, which would hopefully keep him awake long enough to get home.
Wilson walked into the silence between the two men who were sipping their coffees, and he frowned as he picked up the residual vibes. Chase doubted that Wilson actively scanned anyone. His powers were reserved for times of need, mostly patients and other hospital-related issues. Then there was the still lingering hesitancy to become that active without knowing his shields could fully protect him against backwash.
It was one reason why he still evaded Foreman. While the neurologist had stopped shooting dark looks at Wilson, the two men were only civil on a day-to-day business level. Consults, information exchange, a hello here or there. Nothing more, nothing less.
House placed the half empty mug on the table and picked up his backpack.
"We're leaving," he only said and limped past Wilson, who frowned minutely.
Chase gave him a little shrug and a faint smile, indicating there was no trouble. Just House being House.
With his boss gone, Chase decided to leave as well. He rinsed both cups, then left them to dry, and picked up his shoulder bag. He was just exiting the hospital when his cell rang.
He smiled and opened the cell phone. "Hey. I'm on my way."
"Took you long enough. Trouble?"
"No. It's actually looking up."
Pyre chuckled. "So when can you beat a few days of vacation out of your boss?"
Chase smiled, laughing softly at the words. "Give it a few more weeks to get Wilson firmly back on his feet, then I'll breach the subject. Say, you in the mood for Chinese?"
He knew John always was. It was one of the food categories he adored. So Chase drove past their favorite Chinese restaurant, picked up enough to feed twice as many people, and finally made it home.
* * *
They lay together on the bed, House nuzzling the warm, slightly sweaty skin of his lover. It was their first time of full blown sex ever since Latener had walked into their lives to help Wilson's detox. It had been fast but gentle, House taking his time. Still, Wilson had been wound so tight, he had spilled prematurely, gasping, radiating embarrassment. House had remedied that by taking him on the second ride not much later.
Now they enjoyed the afterglow, House feeling every breath his lover took, enjoying the feeling of not just a physical contact but also that of the Diagnostic as well. Wilson's energy lines were still tangled, but a lot less than before. There was definite healing there, definite strengthening, and it was good to see. A relief to see.
"So I guess you don't need a fuzzy furrball then?" House murmured into James' neck.
"Quite prolific. Sex kills more than a few of your braincells, huh? I'm so proud of myself."
Wilson turned to face him, a lazy, sated expression in his eyes. "Yes, you're that good, Greg."
House grinned widely.
"And I don't need a familiar. I got you."
"Meow, Jimmy, scratch my belly," he purred.
"After I get my beauty sleep. I'm wiped."
"Oh, yes, I'm soooo good!" House chortled.
Wilson rolled his eyes and pointedly closed his eyes. House grinned and spooned up to the other man, to the warmth of his body, and he kissed the bare neck. Wilson murmured something as the stubble scraped over his skin, but he moved into a more comfortable position.
House sighed softly and switched off the light.
In a corner of the room, lying on a bed of clothes that had been tossed
randomly around the bedroom, the mink was licking the serval's face, then
proceeded to one large ear, until the cat playfully nuzzled the smaller
animal back – upsetting its balance. It got him a squeak, then the white
mink settled down, snuggling close. The serval lovingly licked him, then
curled around him, going to sleep. A soft, almost-purr escaped the recovering
spirit animal. It was echoed by its mate.