Guilty Conscience

A/n: In case people are curious, my good friend and frequent co-writer Diane (mlle-relda) and I have given Doc Andover the full name of Victor Phobos Andover. We've given Nurse Owens the full name of Elizabeth Lavenza Owens. The names Victor and Elizabeth Lavenza being references to the novel Frankenstein. I have a habit of slipping in Frankenstein references in my Fear Clinic stories, as I couldn't help but notice similarities between the novel and Fear Clinic.

Dr. Victor Andover yawned and gazed at his watch. Ten minutes past midnight…he sighed and slid his hand under his glasses, rubbing his eyes. Sleep had been a rare prize lately-he hadn't gotten a decent night's sleep in days. Andover was sure he was living off at least three hours of sleep tonight. He yawned as he turned his journal to a blank page.

Sleep has become a luxury of late, he wrote. I cannot recall the last time I'd gotten a full eight-hours…I want to believe it was two days ago, but I can't recall. Villatoro continues to be problematic with the patients and I am beginning to feel concern for my own safety around the man…even more so if exhaustion were to take a toll on my health or, God forbid, my analysis of the phobias of those I have sworn to cure…

"Victor?" said Elizabeth Owens, a nurse and the only female among the meager staff. "Are you still up?"

"Obviously," Andover replied, looking up from his journal and over his glasses at her. "And so are you, apparently."

Elizabeth smiled at him, trying to appear casual while masking her concern. She walked over to her employer's desk and sat in the chair in front of him.

"Word around the Fear Chamber is that you've been having trouble sleeping lately," she said.

Andover was quiet for a moment, staring at a single phrase in the journal entry he had just written. God forbid…

"And what if I have, Elizabeth? It's nothing for you to worry yourself over," he said, closing her journal and eyeing her with weary intrigue.

Owens' smile fell a little and she swallowed audibly before she spoke.

"It because of those three isn't it?" she asked. Victor froze and Elizabeth continued. "Ever since three out of the five patients we had here died, you've rarely slept, haven't you?"

"The…price of a guilty conscience," Andover whispered. "I blame myself for what happened to them."

Elizabeth shook her head, reaching forward hand taking Andover's hand in hers as she slipped behind him and wound her free arm around his neck.

"You know it wasn't your fault. They were weak and let their fears consume them. Because of that they-"

"-paid the price," Victor finished with a weak smile, swiveling around in his chair to face her. "That's what I keep telling myself…that's what I want to believe…"

Elizabeth let go of Andover's hand and put her hand to his cheek affectionately.

"You didn't fail them, Victor. They failed themselves," she said.

Andover sighed and rose from his chair, winding his arms around Nurse Owens' waist.

"You remind me of an old saying," he told her. "'When the hero falls, his shadow is always there to come to his aid.'" He pressed his lips against hers, feeling slightly betrayed when Elizabeth suddenly broke the kiss and slipped out of his arms.

"Get some rest, Victor," she said. "I don't like having to worry about my employer's health more than that of the patients." Her tone of voice on the word "employer" was seductive. What was she getting at?

Pricktease, Andover thought. He was well aware of her teasing glances, the way she toyed with her skirt whenever they were alone. If he wasn't exhausted, he would make her scream. Fear was something that rarely touched Elizabeth Owens…Victor Phobos Andover, the Doctor of Fear, on the other hand…

"Good night, Doctor," Nurse Owens said, flirtingly caressing Andover's shoulders as she made to the door.

"Good night, Elizabeth."