A/N: Hey! Just a bit of fun fluff. FYI: I mean NO disrespect with the whole diabetic thing. R&R!
Mason was having a waking nightmare. All day everything had gone wrong-the hot plate in the lounge had blown up (again); the video game console kept glitching and freezing his score; and Gray had barred him from entering Niko's little secret study. And now he was seeing things!
In a whispery silvery form was Niko Jovic in the coil lab in that horrible, ugly, I-Don't-Have-a-Wife-or-Even-Girlfriend-And-No-One- Will-Tell-Me-to-My-Face-I-Have-No-Fashion-Sense Christmas sweater.
"This isn't happening! This isn't happening! You're just having a hallucination," Mason said out loud. "It's just Niko's ghost, and he really isn't here."
Niko looked at him. "Mason! About time! I need you to get on the computer in my study."
Not wanting to anger his nightmare, Mason replied, "I can't. Gray won't let me in."
Niko smiled thinly in his way, amused. "Like you weren't trying to figure out how to get around him. I need to ensure Gray hasn't deleted the video just yet. It took me forever to find it and squirrel it away. And I'd like to ensure the courts get their hands on it in several locations."
"I-I th-think Nancy and Ryan took care of that," Mason managed, trying to figure out if his coffee this morning had been drugged. Ellie HAD made it, he supposed...
"Yes, well, thank you."
Niko turned to go.
Suddenly, without thinking, Mason said, "You selfish jerk! I can't even get away from you when you're dead!" What was he saying? Did he actually even believe in ghosts?
Niko turned back, even more amused. "I'm not here for you." He paced forward. "I'm here for Victor. I chose to remain on this plane to always remind him of just what he has done."
Suddenly, Ellie came on the intercom.
"Mason, just who are you talking to? If you're going to tell me it's Niko..."
"It is!" he replied in a high pitched voice. "It really is Niko!"
"Oh, no..." Niko moaned. "That figures. You're probably the only one who can see me. And I thought you would blank out because you were diabetic and just wouldn't tell me! You're actually sensitive to ghosts."
"You thought I was diabetic?" Mason asked.
"No, Mason, I KNOW it," Ellie replied, deciding to ignore his tense shift and the fact it had nothing to do with their conversation.
"Yes, I did," Niko answered.
"What on Earth gave you that idea?" Mason asked.
"A lot of things," Ellie and Niko chorused.
"I need to go," Mason said abruptly. He hurried out of the lab back to his cubicle. Hastily calling Gray, he requested some time off the next day to go into Canyon City.
"I need to talk to Victor."
"You couldn't have done that at his trial?" Gray asked.
"And why would you even want to see him anyway?"
"It's none of your business!"
Gray sighed heavily. "Fine. I'll give you two days to make your peace with it, or whatever. But if you're going to kill him, don't tell me." He hung up.
Victor couldn't remember the last time he had seen the sun without steel bars and Plexiglas between him and it. Well, of course he could, but those had been the giddy days when he had been covering up his little piece of handiwork with Niko. Niko! How he cursed him now! If he had let himself be a little swayed, a little bent to sell the technology, then he would still be here, and Victor wouldn't be currently staring up at a machine gun turret.
"You have a visitor," the guard interrupted.
"Fine. I have nothing better to do."
He walked down to the visitor booth.
To his surprise, Mason came in. He seemed uneasy, jumpy. Not surprising considering. He kept glancing over at a spot where there was nothing at all.
"I have a message for you," he stammered. He waited a beat, staring at the empty spot, and then said, "I want you to know Niko feels very betrayed right now. He thought you were his friend. Oh, wait. He's going on about it now. 'Victor, you no good dirt bag, you have caused me nothing but pain ever since you decided your wallet was more important than saving this world. I thought you were my friend. But the moment you walked into the lab that night, I realized that you were not.'" He paused. "I am NOT repeating that!"
Victor was trying to decide if Mason was crazy, delusional, or both. Of course, low blood sugar might be making him like this. Victor was personally sure Mason was diabetic and was in-denial of it.
"Mason," he sighed. "You should really carry sugary candy around."
"I'm not diabetic!" Mason responded shrilly.
Mason pulled a Ko-Ko Kringle out of his pocket and opened it. Suddenly, the candy floated out of Mason's grasp. It waved around animatedly, like someone was gesturing wildly with it.
Victor paled. Was he losing it like Mason? Had such a not-so-long stretch in the slammer knocked more than a few fillings loose?
"Hey! Give it back!" Mason wailed. "This isn't funny, Niko!"
The chocolate bar started to move away toward the door. Mason chased after it and snatched it out of the air.
"I need some feel-good food right now." With that, he crammed it into his mouth. "You're not exactly easy to deal with as a ghost that only I can see! What do you mean, you don't think chocolate is 'feel-good food?' I knew you weren't human! Don't start that with me! Just because Ann said it doesn't make it true! I will insult her if I want to! Just because she fell so hard for you doesn't make her the be all end all expert in you! What do you mean you two had dinner every night almost every week? Is that where you always went?" Mason pulled open the door. "Get back here! I have a lot of questions for you!"
Victor shook his head. He had always known there was something strange about that boy. And he had nothing but time to figure it out.
For three days, Mason looked with dread for Niko. He had been gone when Mason had woken up from a nap after getting back from the prison. Some part of him wanted to see the ghost again, but another part of him hoped Niko was gone forever, for real this time.
That was when he heard a crash from Niko's office on the way to the lounge to play a few rounds of Aggregation.
"Get out!" Gray screamed. Gray had taken over the lab as the most qualified, so he had moved from the security closet into Niko's office. Mason hurried up the few stairs and opened the door. He saw Niko in Gray's coat, safety goggles, and gloves. He had a piece of chalk in his hand and was trying to write on the wall. Gray was staring at Niko, bewildered, fearful, and, for some reason, angry.
"Niko!" Mason said sharply. The ghost turned to look at him. "You should be ashamed of yourself! Look at how you're scaring Gray!"
Gray watched as Mason approached the strange... thing standing by the wall. The kid was seeing something, and it looked like he believed it was Niko.
"I know you only want to communicate, but you have to see it from his POV. We're going crazy, and you're gone," Mason added. It was surprisingly observant and selfless of him.
The coat and everything else dropped to the floor. Gray watched amazed as Mason turned to him. "You shouldn't have any more trouble. Sorry for that."
"What just happened?" Gray asked.
Mason gave him a crooked smile. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Too X-Files."
And with that, he walked out with his ghost in tow.
"What's the point of this game?" Niko asked as he watched Mason play the video game in the lounge.
"Well, you shoot blocks and try to make matches of three or more."
"I know that. I've actually looked at it once or twice and tried to play. But why do you keep playing?"
"It gives down-time. It's distracting. It drowns out the world. It becomes just you and the blocks off in some parallel universe where only the matches count." He got poetic about it at times.
Niko gave him the Look, that I-Can't-Believe-You-Actually-Just-Said-That-And-Th is-Is-Why-I-Don't-Socalize Look.
"Besides, it's either this or screwing around with the hot plate, and look how well that went last time," Mason pointed out.
"That was you?" Niko demanded. "You DO realize you nearly burnt down the lab?"
After that incident, Grey had stolen the knob for the thing and made it very clear no one was supposed to use it any more. The crew had complained once they found out their staple ramen would have to be replaced by anything they could get their hands on they could eat right out of the package, and there was little in their budget that would allow for that, so they were given enough of a budget to buy canned foods. Once Nancy had recovered the knob, it had opened up new possibilities, but Mason had to stop messing with it if they wanted to get any use out of it. It looked like his privileges to use it were going to be revoked rather quickly (again).
Niko sighed and looked around for anything else to occupy his attention. Then, finding none in the lounge, he melted through the door to take up a little idea that had just occurred to him. Mason sprang up, worried about what he might get up to. He couldn't see what had happened to the ghost, but there was some kind of bang from upstairs. Mason raced up to the office he shared with Ellie. Ryan was running in his direction, and he yanked open the door, dreading what he might find.
Sure enough, he saw Niko wiping down his white board and writing up the equations that Mason had been recently beating his brain over. Ryan screamed, but Niko and Mason weren't paying attention.
"What are you doing?!" Mason demanded.
"What you aren't," Niko shot back and continued in his scrawl. He started solving for one of the missing values, but Mason interrupted him.
"Well, at least do it right!"
The physicist looked at him. He stepped up to the board and wiped part of it away with his thumb.
"This has to be root-19; otherwise you won't get any voltage out of it."
Gray had come up when he had heard Ryan, and they watched entranced as Mason interacted and debated with a floating marker.
"Go get Ellie," Gray said quietly, and Ryan backed away to go find their night-shift worker. When she came back, the board was rapidly filling, and all three went white when they recognized the handwriting as that of the man they had all given so much too and gotten so much over with his death: Niko Jovic.
"Mason...?" Gray asked quietly.
The researcher turned and looked at him. "Would it be too much to ask I get some quiet? I've got a lot of work to do." He turned back.
Gray said sharply, "I think you have some explaining to do."
He sighed. "Explain what?"
"What do you think?" Ellie demanded and gestured to where Niko stood.
Mason sighed heavily. "You won't believe it."
"Well, give us something!" Gray replied sharply.
"Fine. It's Niko." Mason, satisfied, turned back to the board.
"Niko? You had to go there," Ryan said.
"Do you think I'm somehow rigging this? What would I have to gain from that? Besides, there's no explanation for this much crazy." He actually managed to get down a few more numbers before Gray stepped forward and cleared his throat.
"Well, Niko, you have certainly caused the crew a lot of heartache." He couldn't believe he was talking to something he couldn't see, let alone believe in. "Why did you come back?"
There was a moment of silence, and then Mason said, "He says his work isn't done."
"We're finishing it in your name," Ellie said. "We're nearly done."
Mason replied, "'Really? It doesn't look like it.'"
"We've been taking it slowly," Ryan said. "We don't want another accident."
"We should be done in a few months," Grey said. He took another step forward. "And I think it's about time you let go. At the very least, haunt Victor, but let us do our jobs." He looked where he figured Niko's face was. "Please."
Mason say Niko consider it, and then he nodded once. His figure started to fade, and the marker fell to the ground.
"Please tell me it's over. Really over," Ryan said quietly.
It was Mason who answered her: "Yes, I think so."
Victor woke up with a jolt. Water from no discernible source was dripping on his face.
That couldn't be a good omen.
A few months later, the National Enquirer ran a story that an inmate in the Canyon City prison claimed he was being haunted by a dead co-worker. Of the mainstream audience who read it, only four scientists took it seriously.
Served Victor right!