Title: Breaking the Fever
Fandom: Being Human
Spoilers: To end of Series 4
Warnings: Swearing. Detox. General unpleasantness.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters (I wish!), or make any money writing this stuff.
Summary: Blood, sweat and tears: it was never going to be easy detoxing a 500-year-old vampire. (Picks up where 4x08 left off.)
It almost feels good at first, surrendering to the red rush of his fury and letting go. He wrenches so hard against the restraints that the others flinch back; he snaps with teeth, and fangs, whenever his captors come near.
They watch him night and day.
Sometimes it's just the ghost. Hal tells her exactly what he's going to do to her father and brothers when he gets free – a piece of skin with a misspelt tattoo will make a nice trophy – but she's not the easy target that he'd hoped.
Sometimes it's the wolf.
"Where's the bitch?" he sneers. "Has she gone to get your leash?" His voice rises into a mocking falsetto. "Walkies, Tom. Heel."
The wolf's knuckles whiten around the stake he carries and, for a moment, Hal thinks that he just might do it. He's almost disappointed when the wolf turns and walks away.
Hal shouts himself hoarse for the pleasure of watching them flinch, for the possibility that a neighbour will come knocking. Maybe even the police. They punish him with their patience, and the anger surges through him stronger than before.
It burns itself out, eventually. He sags, too tired to care, as the straps burrow deeper. His head droops; his eyelids sink under their own weight.
Hal wakes with a hazy memory of soft arms enfolding him, and his flesh aches for that fading warmth, the simple comfort of a human heartbeat. For a past so buried he only visits it in dreams. He shivers, and his conscience stirs in its uneasy sleep.
He waits for the fire to re-ignite in his veins, but the heat of the stolen blood has faded and his body feels achy and strange. He feels vulnerable, but that's fine. He can use it against them – no, not them, it's just her now, and that's even better.
"Please," he whispers, with just the right amount of trembling in his bottom lip. "Please, it's fine. I'm fine now."
He looks up at her, perfect, unshed tears in his eyes, and she takes a step closer. He holds himself still, ignoring the burn in his muscles as it deepens and grows more insistent. The withdrawal is coming; he should have tried this sooner.
The suspicion is ugly on her face. It's unbecoming – such a waste. His eyes devour those long legs, that ripe young body. What was he thinking, letting her go when he had the opportunity? He won't make that mistake again.
He dredges up an echo of the guilt, lets it seep through into his expression. "It's over," he tells her. The words catch in his throat, and he's got her.
She kneels, right between his legs, and for a moment he can't take his eyes off that pale stretch of throat. Then she's leaning forwards and he can see right down her cleavage; it's close enough to lick, to bite. The taste of her bursts nostalgically on his tongue, and he barely manages to stifle his groan.
She tugs at the strap across his chest; he holds still, not even breathing. She's fumbling with the buckle, but the stupid cow is just so slow and he's struggling to suppress the jitters in his arms and legs. The buckle gives; the restraint slips away. He fills his ribcage with sweet air and he arches his back in relief. The ghost is already reaching for the strap that holds his waist, and – oh, that's unfortunate.
She snatches her hand away. "I don't fucking believe it."
He was so close, so damn close. Why couldn't she have untied his hands first?
"Oh well," he shrugs. It was almost worth it to see her nose wrinkle in disgust, her eyes dart to his erection and away again. He grins, and thrusts his hardness up towards her. "I told you we could have sex. Hop on." His laughter chases her out of the room.
Her boots clatter up the stairs: she's forgotten that she has the power to teleport. A small victory, a little pleasure in the face of the pain that's on its way. The first twinges make their presence felt just as the hound walks in.
"Did she tell you what happened?" Hal taunts.
The dog stays silent, just stoops to refasten the strap across his chest, but he pulls too tight – nipping fabric and the skin beneath – and that betrays him.
"There's no need to be jealous," Hal purrs. "There's plenty to go around."
Something flares across the boy's face, but it's gone before Hal is certain what it is. He frowns. He likes to know which of his barbs strike home, and the boy's face is usually an open book. It's a fine time for the dog to learn new tricks.
"Don't be shy, Tom. You must have sucked a few cocks in your time. I expect McNair used to have you suck his."
There's nothing ambiguous about the hand that slams into his shoulder, about the stake that digs into his throat. Hal chuckles, but it sounds forced, even to his own ears. And he has to clutch the arms of the chair as his muscles tighten to the point of pain.
"Why don't you just roll over and play dead?" he hisses through clenched teeth. Then the cramps rip through him, tearing the breath from his lungs, and it's a long time before he's able to speak again.
He sweats, he shakes. He pants his way through each blessed respite, but still the convulsions return and shake him to the core. The straps bite into his straining muscles and grind away the skin. The smell of his own blood is maddening.
He contorts until the chair squeals in protest, until its joints begin to give and his tormentors have to release him. The sudden freedom makes him dizzy. He wants to lash out, to pay them back with a measure of what he's suffering, but his knees give way. His body clenches around its pain and he presses his cheek to the cool plastic on the floor.
His vision blurs, but he hears their voices: the audience to his weakness. The wolf smell thickens – the boy is close, although Hal can't see him – and he spits blindly at where the stink is strongest. He blinks his eyes into focus and sees the wolf's face, a fat gobbet of spittle on his chin. Hal laughs, and then the pain drags him under again.
When the worst is over, he rides out the aftershocks. He's exhausted, a quivering mess, but he feels more like himself. The self he's struggling to be. Tom moves in for a closer look, Alex a couple of steps behind. She's still afraid of him: that's good.
"Are you done now?" Tom asks.
They think it's finished, but he can feel it inside him – the hunger, the need – coiling for one last assault, scrabbling for control of his nervous system.
Hal unclenches his jaw, gets the aching muscles working long enough to say, "Strap me back in."
They do. It's only when he's seated again, when he can relax into the security of the restraints, that he realises he's wet himself.
They weather the storm. And when Tom finally unties him, he wonders how they know – that he's in control again, that he's safe – when even he can't be certain. The young man helps him to his feet, drapes an arm across broad shoulders and braces him up when his legs wobble beneath him. Hal winces in shame when Alex takes his other arm, but he's worn out and he can't do this alone. He clings to her, to them both, as they manoeuvre him upstairs. He sinks into bed and he sleeps, truly sleeps, for the first time since this started.
The next day dawns brightly and his eyes wince shut. The house is quiet. It's a watchful, listening hush: the others are waiting, but he's not yet ready to look them in the face. He pulls the covers snug around himself, but a chill settles in his bones.
He sleeps his time away, fretful but exhausted. He wakes himself and stares at the ceiling, trapped inside his thoughts. He picks at them like scabs: the things he said, the hurt – the disappointment – on their faces.
He contemplates the prospect of the next five hundred years. He's been here before; he'll be here again. If you live long enough, sooner or later you betray everyone. Including yourself. He knows there are no depths to which he will not sink.
One night, he startles awake to find Tom fidgeting in the doorway.
"You were –" Tom clearly doesn't want to say the word, but Hal can feel the wetness on his face and he knows that he was crying.
"I have nightmares." Not quite a lie, but not quite true: they're memories, not the inventions of his sleeping brain.
Tom takes a step into the room. "I could stay with you."
Hal hesitates, uncertain what he's being offered.
"Watch over you, like," Tom blurts, his cheeks turning the faintest pink.
It's terrifying, the thought of sharing his sleeping space with someone warm, someone with a heartbeat. He thinks about all the ways it could go wrong.
"I don't think that's a good idea, do you?"
"Why? In case you wake up in the night feeling peckish?"
In spite of himself, in spite of everything, Hal smiles. The boy's friendship is relentless; he just might be able to do this, after all.
When the next day dawns, Hal squints into the brightness and drags himself out of bed. A quick peek shows him the landing's clear; he ventures into the bathroom. He turns the shower as hot as it will go, and lets the water scald his skin clean.
His fingers rasp against stubble, so he soaps his face and picks up his razor. He's quite capable of shaving without a reflection, but today his hand shakes. A brief sting, the tang of iron in his nostrils. A single ruby drop falls into the basin and hangs for a moment, perfectly suspended in the water. He continues to stare long after it's dispersed.
His stomach churns, but it's not nausea. He flees downstairs.
He finds them both in the kitchen, trying to pretend that they haven't been waiting for him. Alex takes her feet down from the table without having to be told; Tom busies himself at the stove. Bacon sizzles saltily in the pan. The hunger is hollow inside him, as inexorable as the tidal pull that cracks Tom's bones every month and drags the wolf out of his flesh.
Hal sits at the table and lets them bring him breakfast. Sausages, bacon, eggs, tomatoes: he eats it all, his throat convulsing as he gulps it down. Alex smiles, approving, oblivious – she sees only the surface hunger. Sweat prickles on his forehead but he keeps on cramming food into his mouth, unable to stop, desperate to fill the void inside him.
"Feeling better, then?" Alex asks.
He can't answer, can't even ask to be excused. His chair topples, but he's already running. He makes it to the toilet before he brings it all back up.
At least Tom has the good grace to wait until he's finished, until the vomiting has subsided into retching and he's finally flushed the mess away.
"I thought you were stuffin' yourself a bit much."
It's almost an I-told-you-so, but there's no malice behind it and Hal takes it in the spirit in which it was offered. He settles on the floor, his back shivery against the porcelain tiles.
"I've been thinkin'."
It's the perfect opening – a retort rushes to his lips – but the vomit is still sour in his mouth, and he's lost his taste for cruelty.
"You've spent a lot of time just lyin' around lately." Tom pins him with a stare. He's twitching with suppressed tension, like he's here to pick a fight. "There's jobs need doin', you know."
Is this what they want, then: to set him to work? Penance or payback. As though their silly schemes will do them any good.
Tom's eyebrows pull down into a hard line. "When was the last time I saw you with those dominoes?"
Hal's mouth opens, then closes again. He looks at Tom – looks closer – and now it's obvious that that nervous energy is hope, is expectation. That there was a question running beneath the surface of his words. That there was concern.
Hal feels the corners of his mouth tugging upwards. Tom never ceases to surprise him.
"Come on, then. It's time we made you a new rota." Tom holds out his hand. "You haven't been out joggin' for ages. And I could do with some 'elp down the caff."
Outside: Hal shudders at the very idea. But Tom is waiting, so he grabs his hand and hauls himself to his feet.
Little steps – that's the way this is going to work.
"Why don't we start," he says, "with defrosting the freezer?"