krislaughs: (BHUS cafeteria love)
[personal profile] krislaughs
Title: Overnight Shifts (1/2)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] krisomniac
Rating, Warning, Pairing, Disclaimer: G, none, none, not mine, just having fun
Summary: (Post- S1 season finale) Nora gets help from an unlikely source in dealing with the repercussions of seeing Josh transform. All is well and good until Josh figures out that something’s up.
Wordcount: ~3000 this half
Author’s Note: This has been sitting on my hard drive pretty much since last season ended. I figured I’d clean it up and post it before it gets swallowed by canon on Monday. YAY new season!


Sometimes the early morning hours, on those rare nights when the most critical patients are sleeping soundly and the ambulance bay echoes like an empty concrete cathedral, are the best, most serene moments of his day. Aidan stalks the linoleum halls under dimmed fluorescent lights, peering into various rooms as he passes, listening less to the blipping monitors than to the steadily ticking hearts of the patients themselves, lost in their rhythm and regularity, absently contemplating pouring himself a cup of coffee from the somewhat-burnt pot in the nurses’ station and carrying it around to warm his hands as he makes his rounds. Perfectly normal.

Lost in these blissfully mundane thoughts, letting the steam from his re-microwaved stale coffee caress the edges of lips as he pretends to drink, he doesn’t hear the footsteps from behind until a hand closes over his upper arm.

Call it instinct, call it survival; Aidan whirls, ready to fight. Hot coffee spills onto his wrist and hits the floor with a caffeinated splash.

When he sees Nora, blond hair pulled up into a messy bun, he hastily retracts his fangs. Her eyes are wide with the things she’s seen these past few weeks, and he knows intuitively she’s not coming to ask about work, that sooner or later, they were going to have to have a capital ‘T’ kind of talk, and apparently the time is now. Before she can speak, however, he motions her into an empty room and shuts the door quietly behind them. Absently, she hands him a towel for the spill.

“You’re looking… well,” she starts. He never imagined three words could be so loaded. She’s staring at the spot on his scrubs where just a few nights ago a wooden stake so nearly ripped through his heart. She meets his eyes, both questioning how such a thing is possible and challenging him to deny it.

“I guess I never thanked you,” he replies, glancing down, blinking slowly and wondering how much Josh actually told her about what happened and why, how much he’s going to have to lie, and he suddenly feels an overwhelming urge to screw it all, forget responsibility and secrecy, and to tell her anything she wants to know. “For helping out back there. I know you didn’t have to—“

“That’s not why I’m here.”

“It’s not?” Aidan almost smiles. After two hundred-odd years of mixing with humans, he knows how special it is to find one who surprises him.

Nora worries at her lower lip and runs a hand through loose strands of hair. “I mean. I did it for Josh, but I did it for you, too. You’re good at what you do. You’re good here; I mean I don’t entirely understand what happened, but it did. Right? Happen?”

“It did.” Aidan pauses for a moment before reckless curiosity takes hold of him. “Josh didn’t tell you? About me?”

She shakes her head. “We had… other, more important, things to talk about. And he made it clear that it was your secret to tell.”

Aidan briefly wonders what more important things Josh has had going on, and makes a mental note to corner him in the morning. He’s been so distracted by his own—by Bishop’s death, by Hegeman’s offer and poorly-disguised threat—to wonder why, but suddenly he realizes how little time Josh has been home the past few days, how he avoids Aidan’s eyes when they pass in the halls at work. “And you’re not curious?” he asks, because suddenly he’s very interested to know what’s on Nora’s mind.

“Of course I am,” she says simply, “but like I said, that’s not what I want to talk to you about.” She walks slowly around him, maneuvering herself towards the door, giving him wide berth, and suddenly he imagines Nora as a lioness guarding her den, watching over her cubs. He has no idea where the idea came from, but it takes root in his mind and he finds the hair rising on the back of his neck.

“Josh told me what he is.” She says quietly, yet somehow those words fill the space in the room.

What, the word hangs in the space between them. She meets Aidan’s eyes. “He showed me, really, though I guess I didn’t give him much of a choice.”

The shock must have registered on Aidan’s face.

She frowns. “He didn’t tell you I followed him that night?”

Mutely, Aidan shakes his head. A conversation to be had over Kale.

“I heard him talking to himself, then screaming in that creepy room downstairs, so I went in.” As she talks, she looks away, lost in her own thoughts and memories. “I didn’t understand. I wonder if things would be different if I had. I went to him, but he pushed me out, slammed the door. The moon was already up.” Her voice is monotone now, the monotone of words whose emotion is too deep to fit into them. “I lost the baby that night,” she says unceremoniously.

Before Aidan can speak, she rolls up the sleeve of her shirt. “And I got this.”

Aidan steps back, reeling. The wound reeks of werewolf, though the skin is healing well. He meets her eyes.

“Does Josh know?”

“About the first, yes. About the second, no.” Nora lets her sleeve fall back down. “But I—he said he was only scratched when it happened to him and—I need to know if it’s going to happen to me. I can’t tell him until I’m sure.” She’s staring at him, defiant, terrified. He can almost feel her heart jackhammering against her ribs. Everything else falls away. “I thought you could help.”

“I… whew.” Aidan runs his hand through his hair, stalling. “I mean, yeah, of course I will,” he finally tells her. He doesn’t add that he’s already pretty sure, that he recognizes the scent clinging to her, the one that reminds him of things older and more powerful than Nora or anyone else he’s met over a very long lifetime, of things not human.

“Are you… like him?” she asks.

“No.” He sighs, then he half-smiles. “Vampire.”

“Vamp—? Oh. Okay.” Nora sits down hard on an unmade hospital bed. “Of course you are,” she says with a hint of her old sarcasm returning. “And I bet your neighbors are witches, too.”

Aidan figures her reaction probably a good thing, at least one that doesn’t involve pitchforks and silver crosses or laughing herself silly and perches himself on the corner of the bedstand beside her. “Never met one, actually.” He smiles. It’s probably too soon to tell her about Sally.

Sally He wonders if she could see Sally now—and a part of him wishes the ghost was here to help diffuse this conversation. It feels wrong to talk about this—with Nora—behind Josh’s back. But she’s here and it’s a little past four in the morning, and good judgement was never one of his strengths, so he shrugs and says, “You want to know if you’re a werewolf, too?”

“Yes. No.” Nora rubs a tired hand over her face. “I don’t even know anymore. I don’t even—didn’t even believe they existed. Not until last week—”

“I don’t know everything about werewolves,” he begins. She flinches a little when he says the word. “I don’t think anyone does. They’re secretive—especially around us. Loners, mostly. The things I do know… they’re not all pleasant.” He pauses and takes a breath. Nora looks like she’s holding hers, so he goes on. “The first thing you have to understand is that werewolves and vampires don’t… traditionally, get along.”

“So you and Josh?”

“Kind of an exception.”

She nods.

“I met him over a year after he turned. He doesn’t talk much about that time.”

“He said he was camping with a friend. The friend didn’t survive.”

Aidan files that bit of information away. He tells Nora, “It wasn’t until later, that he met the one who attacked them,” but doesn’t explain any more about the situation with Ray.

“What else do you know?”

“He always thought it was a curse, a disease and that he could find a cure. He’s trying so hard to find a way to stop it. Watching him—it isn’t… comfortable. Turning.”

She nods. He can tell from the look in her eyes that she’s seen it and that she’s afraid. “It looked painful as all hell.”

Aidan can only nod. “There aren’t words to describe. But now I’m not always so sure it’s a curse or a sickness, not in the way he thinks it is. I think it’s just another kind of life, one he maybe didn’t ask for, but life all the same. Tradition says a person has to be bitten to become a wolf.”

“But Josh said…”

“I’m not sure he remembers everything about that night so clearly,” Aidan tells her. “That said, your scratch, it… it smells wrong.”

“Smells?”

“Sorry, we—Vampires, I mean—have a strong sense of smell. Werewolves smell different from humans, to us. And you? You smell different again.”

Absently, she rubs the place on her arm where Josh scratched her. “He wasn’t a wolf yet, when he scratched me, not completely.”

“Did you see him, when he changed?”

“It was—”

“Horrible. And...” He thinks of the night of Bishop’s wolf-fight, the first time he was close enough to see Josh turn, in the mortuary basement, in the bloodstained cage. After Josh’s body broke, when he couldn’t stop the screams or just didn’t care to hold them in any more, when his bones finished crumpling and reforming like so much clay, the creature who was his best friend was… all quivering muscle and instinct, dangerous and magnificent, like a raging bonfire or a fall from a mountain cliff.

“—beautiful.” Nora shrugs. “I don’t know how to explain it, but as awful as it was to see, it was still Josh.”

Aidan nods. His pager begins to beep, and he glances down at it. “Mrs. Williams is seizuring again, I have to go.” He rests a hand on her shoulder. “But, if you need to talk, you know where to find me.”

She doesn’t move as he shuts the door quietly behind him.

~

“Aidan, wait up!” Josh’s voice echoes down the stairwell. There’s no way Aidan can pretend he hadn’t heard, so he waits at the bottom for Josh to catch up. Apparently, he wasn’t as stealthy as he thought when he finished his shift and tried to slip away.

“Man, you walk fast.” Josh is barely out of breath, however, when he reaches the door, heightened strength and speed on his side this time of the month. Outside, the air is clear and fresh. The moon is set, and the corners of sky he can see between buildings are grey with the first light of dawn. “I’ve been trying to corner you all night.”

And, yeah, Aidan had noticed. Luckily, three car accidents and a bar brawl had kept him from slowing down for the last few hours. He shrugs. “Busy night.”

“Or,” Josh grabs his shoulder and pulls him around, surprisingly strong. “You’re avoiding me.”

Aidan ducks out of his grip. “Nah.”

They walk a few more blocks in silence as the city starts to wake. Streetlights wink out and busses honk their horns. “Okay, then,” Josh finally says, “I noticed, er, I saw you had time to speak to Nora.”

“So that’s what this is about?” Aidan smiles at Josh’s signature awkward-face.

“What? This what?”

“This attempt to be jealous in the middle of the street. Relax. We were just talking about a case.” Aidan almost feels badly for how easily the lie rolls off his tongue, how easily Josh believes it and how relieved he looks when he does.

“Am not. Jealous, I mean. How could I be? With you? It’s just that Nora—does she seem different to you recently?”

“No.” If Aidan answers too quickly, Josh doesn’t seem to notice that lie, either.

“Okay. Good. Because I, uh, might’ve told her. The secret. About what I am.”

Aidan stops, then claps him on the back and grins, wide with real relief and fake surprise. Even after centuries of hiding, all this pretending and false-facing isn’t something he’s used to doing with Josh. He sighs inwardly, knowing it’s for Josh’s own good and hoping it doesn’t have to go on much longer. Out loud, he says, “Good for you. How’d she take it?”

“Better, definitely better than I thought. I mean she didn’t dump me or threaten to lock me up in an institution or anything. So that’s good, right? At least it’s better than my family, I guess. I think she just needs some time to get used to it. It’s a lot to take, you know, learning all at once that the world is a way crazier place than you ever thought, that fictional monsters are real, and that your boyfriend is one of them. And that’s even without knowing about vampires or ghosts…” He walks a few seconds in silence. “It’s been a weird few weeks, huh?” he asks.

Aidan nods. “It’ll all be back to normal soon,” he says, and he’s not entirely sure who he’s trying to protect any more, but Josh smiles like he believes it, and Aidan decides to keep walking and just hope it comes true.

~

The doorbell rings, and Aidan starts.

“I’ll get it!” Sally materializes by the foot of the stairs.

“Just because more people can see you now—” Aidan steps past her and takes the door “—Doesn’t mean you can go around answering doors. Besides,” he pauses, looking at her meaningfully, “it was only once, and the bar was dark and smokey. We can’t even be sure they were really seeing you, or just some kind of apparition.”

“He was definitely flirting, and it was definitely not meant for the transvestite standing behind me.” Sally huffs. “Fine,” she says as the doorbell rings again. “You’d better get it, then.”

Aidan opens the door. He’s expecting a delivery for one of Josh’s science experiments or the electric guy to read the meter, maybe a Jehovah’s Witness he can tease for a little while—nothing like watching the religious try to convert a creature of darkness.

What he doesn’t expect is Nora to be standing in front of him, nervous and expectant, with a jacket and pair of jeans pulled hastily over her scrubs, large leather handbag over a shoulder.

“Hi,” she says in response to his silence. “Um. I’m sorry, I needed to talk to you. Can I come in?”

Aidan steps aside for her to pass and closes the door behind her. “Josh is at work,” he finally says.

“I know.” She absently brushes a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “Oh! I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you had company, didn’t… didn’t mean to interrupt. But I had to talk to you. Today. And I figured…”

Sally looks from Aidan to Nora and back, silent. For once.

Aidan recovers first and clears his throat. “Right. Company. Nora, this is Sally. Sally, Nora. Nora,” he says, pulling her into the living room before she can reach out to shake Sally’s hand, “come in here. Sally, upstairs.”

He guides her to the couch and flips off the TV. “What’s up?” he asks, pretending about as successfully as Josh usually does, to play it cool.

“I had to talk to you alone. About tomorrow night.” Nora runs a tired hand over her face. “I barely had a chance to the other night at work, and I need to know this is going to be okay.”

“Yeah, alright.” Aidan sits down. “We need to find you a safe place to be in case… well, just in case. Do you know anywhere that’s secure, pretty indestructible, and that locks from the outside?”

“No.”

“Okay.” Since the only place he can think of, other than the hospital basement, is the room Bishop set up under the mortuary, and since he’s pretty sure Josh would kill him if he locked Nora down there, he makes a decision. “We’ll have to clear the room in the hospital. I’ll convince Josh to use the woods at the north end of the park.”

“But that… is it safe for him out there?” she asks. “It’s cold and unprotected.”

“He’s done it before. He manages.”

“Oh. Okay.” She nods. “I guess that’s all settled. Tomorrow. Shit, I can’t believe a month goes by so fast.” He can smell the fear rolling off her in waves. She stands and glances up the stairs, but Sally isn’t there. She holds her bag like a leather shield. “Aidan,” she asks, “This is a little, maybe too much to ask, but—Can you stay with me?”

He smiles. “Of course.” Josh is definitely going to kill him when he finds out, but she’s so scared, he can’t say no. “Not in the room. I be waiting outside, to let you out if—when nothing happens.”

She looks relieved as she steps out onto the sunny street. Cars are driving and people are going about their business, and Nora looks like she’s trying to be just as normal, when he knows she feels like her life is falling apart. “Sunset, then, or a little after. Thank you. Tell Sally I’m sorry again.”

The aforementioned Sally appears by his side as the door shuts behind Nora. She’s staring at Aidan, and she does not look like a happy ghost.

“What are you doing?” She asks, pointing a finger at his chest. An otherworldly breeze kicks up the curtains. “What’s going on?”

Aidan backs into the living room again. “You heard all that?”

“It’s my house, I don’t think I can help but hear all that. What are you doing behind Josh’s back?” The wind picks up again, and he can hear dishes rattling in the kitchen sink.

“Woah, relax. Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Well, Nora might have walked in on Josh while he was changing last month—”

“He didn’t say anything!”

“I know, he didn’t tell me, either. A lot was going on.” Aidan stops himself before he can remember the rest of that night, Bishop and Hegemen and everything else he’s worked for these last few weeks to forget. “But he may have, er, scratched her a little at the time. And she didn’t tell him. He doesn’t know.”

“Scratched? Can that—is she a werewolf, now, too? Because you know Josh would never—”

“Forgive himself, yeah. That’s why we’re keeping it a secret for now. Until we know for sure.” Aidan sits down and presses the heel of his hand into his eye until spots dance in front of him. “I don’t know. It’s not promising that she can see you, though.”

Now Sally looks genuinely concerned. “But maybe people are just seeing me. Like I’m more solid or something since my door disappeared. Like that guy at the bar.”

“Maybe.”

“Does she—I mean you can smell wolves, right?”

“Yes. No. Maybe. She doesn’t smell exactly the same as the others, not exactly human, either. And maybe it changes after the first time she transforms.”

“Which is going to happen tomorrow night. In the hospital. And we have to keep Josh away.”

“Yeah.” The prospect makes his stomach churn.

“Aidan,” Sally is standing over him, smiling softly. “You’re doing the right thing.”

He closes his eyes. He just hopes Josh will think so too, because secrets like this one have a habit of letting themselves out whether he wants them to or not.

~

Date: 2012-01-08 03:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] burning-moon117.livejournal.com
This is great, I can't wait for the second part! Poor Josh :( And Nora

Date: 2012-01-08 05:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dp17.livejournal.com
Great story. Can't wait for the next chapter.

Date: 2012-01-08 06:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bluebanrigh.livejournal.com
Lovely interactions between the characters. Looking forward to part two.

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