- Abuse - Domestic
- Explicit Sex
- No Beta
House had excused himself to go putter around Ben’s small office and library, leaving Robert alone with the sentinel and guide pair. He felt a little exposed before the two men, but figured it was unfounded considering they had already witnessed one of the worst nights in his life. His own sentinel had been using him, and he had gone along with the fairytale perfect match blindly. He was done with that now.
Robert thought he should be feeling more emotion over the whole thing—anger, sadness, something—but he was wrung out and just wanted to move on. If he could have cut out the part of him that was a guide with a scalpel and sewn himself back up cleanly, he would have. Being a guide had only brought him intense pain in the end, and made him doubt so much about himself and the unhealthy bond he participated in for so long.
Ben directed him to the living room, and they both sat cross-legged on the plush area rug.
“If you feel we’re moving too fast, let me know. I know it seems abrupt, but the best thing for you now is to get the process started so you can begin to heal.” Ben’s voice was kind as he spoke.
“I want this done. I don’t want to be a guide anymore.”
Ben’s response held no judgement, even though the idea had to be untenable to a happily bonded alpha guide. Chase now understood why House had brought him here. The S&G Center would have undoubtedly pushed him toward remaining a guide no matter what he wanted personally.
“Okay. I can’t tell you exactly what will happen to your guide gifts after the bond is severed, but it’s likely that you won’t have to bear the burden in this way much longer.”
Ben instructed him to close his eyes, and led them in meditation. Chase was typical of most guides and spent time meditating regularly, though he didn’t feel the need to do it as often as some. He fell easily into rhythmic breathing, and tried to relax in the moment and shed the stress of the previous night.
“Okay, Robert. I want you to visualize your shields, however you usually do.”
Chase visualized his shields in the way most guides were trained to, as a series of semi-transparent walls around an open space.
“Now, I’d like you to visualize your bond as it connects to your mental shields,” Ben continued.
Robert opened his eyes abruptly. “I’ve never been able to visualize my bond.”
“Never?” Ben questioned. “That could be a result of the unbalanced nature of your situation. My bond with Eric is something I can visualize as a tether flowing with our auras.”
“I feel it. I feel this presence of the bond, but it’s always been indistinct. The only times it wasn’t, was during our initial bonding, and last night.”
Ben seemed to take a moment to himself to think, then spoke again. “Though your bond is weak, this might actually make it harder for you to sever. Without a specific point of focus, your mind may not be able to cleanly shut down your link to the bond and maintain your empathic shields at the same time.”
Upon hearing this, Eric, who had been standing casually against the wall near the door up until now, left the room and returned momentarily with House in tow.
“I want you around in case this gets more intense than we were originally thinking,” Eric explained to House.
He then sat down next to Ben, close enough that he could place a hand on his back as a grounding presence.
“Intense?” Chase questioned.
Ben had a serious but open expression as he spoke. “If you aren’t able to maintain your empathic shields, then I’ll step in to shield you. Eric is here to stabilize my gifts, and if he is busy doing that, his sentinel instincts will feel better if there is someone looking out for us while we are more vulnerable.”
Robert took the information at face value, not wanting to think too deeply about the implications of what that would mean for him.
Ben quickly lead him back into meditation. Robert tried to let go of the logical part of his brain, and just follow the instructions being given. It was difficult. He was simultaneously deadened emotionally, and logically aware of the multitude of emotions he should be having over this situation. Finally, after several minutes, he sloughed off the circling thoughts and focused on Ben’s voice.
The smooth baritone was calming, and Ben’s natural presence as an alpha guide made it easy to trust him to get him where he needed to go. Robert wasn’t even fully processing the words guiding him, but he knew it was working as he instinctually felt each move they made. Suddenly, he felt a clarity of both purpose and emotion as his mindscape coalesced into an almost tangible thing.
Chase was angry. Angry that this sentinel had taken the pure bond they should have had, and sullied it. Angry that she had torn him down to the point of barely functioning as a guide, and brought him to the precipice of losing even that. Worse than all that, Robert was angry at himself for never seeing Cameron for who she was, and allowing the abusive bond to happen.
The intensity of his rage scared him, but it was like a thing growing inside him out of control. He was rushing faster and faster down a hill with no way of stopping, and, if he was honest, no desire to either. The pressure of the raw emotion built inside him until he felt it snap. He knew his bond was broken in that moment, but he couldn’t keep himself from tearing his shields down with it. He registered the broken shout reverberating in the room as his own before blackness swamped his consciousness.
– – – – –
House felt like a creepy old man as he watched Chase sleep. Just a few days ago he’d heard the gut wrenching cry of the man’s world falling apart, and here he sat wishing he could lean down and kiss away the lines of tension in that face. This whole business had made him sappy. House was getting restless with none of his usual distractions on hand, but he couldn’t leave the sick and shaking empty shell of his friend here alone. So, he contented himself with admiring his Bobby and catching up on reading recent medical journals.
He’d pulled a chair close enough to the bed that he could prop his feet up on the mattress. From that vantage point, House noticed the moment Chase opened his eyes and slowly focused on him.
“Fuck,” Chase’s voice scratched out.
“Well, aren’t you just a little ray of sunshine this afternoon.”
Chase furrowed his brow. “Afternoon? Did I sleep through a whole day again?”
“Pretty much. Although, in your defense, wombats usually stay in their burrows all day and come out to find food at night,” House replied dryly.
“Did you research wombats for the express purpose of harassing me, or do you just happen to have an encyclopedic knowledge of marsupials?”
Greg smirked, and was happy to see a small smiled echoed on Chase. “I’ll never tell.”
Chase sighed, and they lapsed into silence. House wanted to offer comforting words or ask how the other man was feeling, but he knew from experience that both those things would feel trite and useless in the face of Chase’s injury. And it was an injury. Maybe not in the tangible sense, but it was a fact that the biology of who Robert Chase was had been forever altered.
Maybe platitudes wouldn’t help, but he could at least make sure his physical health didn’t suffer any more than necessary.
“You think you could eat?”
He wasn’t expecting a positive response. The past few days when Chase had been awake, he’d been too nauseous to eat or drink much of anything. House was beginning to worry about dehydration.
“Good. That’s a start.” House turned his head toward the bedroom door and yelled, “Hey Eric, can we get something to drink up here?”
Chase just rolled his eyes, but House felt his mission was accomplished when it was followed by an affectionate smile, however small.
When Eric had come and gone, grumbling at Greg the entire time, Chase sat up and began sipping at some juice. House settled back in his chair to continue his reading, but was keeping a casual eye on the man in the bed. It was a good thing he did, because he saw the wince before Chase could cover it up.
“Headache?” he asked softly.
It had been another main symptom the past few days. At this point the dehydration could be the cause just as easily as the broken bond, but it didn’t matter much. House stood and made his way to the other side of the bed, climbing in to sit against the headboard next to Chase.
“Story time. What do you want to hear?”
“Story time?” Chase looked confused.
“Distraction as a form of pain management. Trust me on this. I’ve made an art of it. Besides, I like to hear myself talk.”
“Yes, that’s quite apparent,” Chase said drily.
House poked him in the arm. “Rude. Now pick something.”
“I honestly don’t really care.”
Greg watched as Chase set the juice aside and moved to lay down again on his side, facing away from him. He couldn’t blame the man for his moodiness and depression. It did prove his point that distraction was needed, and for more than one reason.
“Okay. How about I tell you about how I met our dear friends Eric and Benedict? I know you’re just dying to swoon over our meet cute.”
House was pleased when he heard a small scoff from the lump under the covers next to him.
“Maybe you’re feeling guilty, because you know you owe me an explanation,” came the partially muffled reply.
“Yeah, well. You aren’t really wrong.” House lapsed into silence for a moment as the significance of their changing relationship weighed on him. Shaking off the complex thoughts, he began.
“Listen up under there, because I’m only going to tell it once. So, back when I was a budding young genius, I did my residency at Johns Hopkins. I started out in infectious diseases. It was boring, but probably the least boring of all the specialties.”
“Why am I not surprised that you think infectious disease is boring?” Chase interrupted.
“Shush, you. So I had to do rotations in the ER, and one night this girl walks in. She was 16, and had a severe skin rash. I didn’t think it was a typical rash so I started asking questions, and got her to admit that her father had been keeping her from leaving home because she came online as a sentinel. She had come online a few weeks previous, but her father wouldn’t let her register or get help at a Center. She’d finally walked to the hospital that night when he went out with his buddies.”
Chase interrupted again. “Well, shit.”
“Yeah. It sucked, but it got worse. I knew she shouldn’t be treated as a mundane, and was already on the run from her father, so I took her from the ER to the Baltimore S&G Center. That’s where our friends Eric and Ben show up.
“They both worked at the center at the time and were on duty. The girl was clearly in distress and had no formal training on handling her senses. Ben immediately began helping her, while Eric contacted child services to get protective custody. That was the biggest mistake we could have made, because in all the wisdom of their system, they couldn’t allow her to stay at the Center because she wasn’t a registered sentinel.”
House paused to take a few slow breaths. His voice was hoarse with emotion when he continued.
“The State took custody of her that night, and released her back to her father because they couldn’t see physical signs of abuse. A rash doesn’t count in the mundane world. While the S&G Center scrambled to wade through all the red tape necessary to get her out of her home, her father beat her to within an inch of her life for the embarrassment of it all not even a day later. She ended up in a wheelchair and eventually went dormant.”
Greg pulled his focus back from the point he had been staring at on the opposite wall when Chase rolled over to face him.
“I’m sorry, Greg. That’s…horrible doesn’t even seem a strong enough word.”
He looked down at Chase. “Yeah. Sometimes people are really shitty to each other. It’s not like you don’t have experience with that.”
“Maybe, but in the end I’m still all here.”
“Don’t,” House snapped back. “Don’t belittle what she took from you just because your injuries aren’t physical.”
A moment of awkward silence stretched between them, as it seemed neither man wanted to wade into that emotional mine field.
“So tell me how you all ended up here, and why you’re masquerading as a sentinel,” Chase said as he relaxed back into the pillow.
House blew out a breath. “Well, Ben and Eric were angry. I was too. I talked to them after it all. They hated the system, and I figured I could use that to fix my boredom problem. I talked them into helping me stage coming online as a sentinel, and falsifying my registration so I could practice sentinel and guide medicine. I told them a lot of flowery bullshit about being able to help from the inside. They bought it, and then they left the Center and came up here to be able to help sentinels and guides without adhering to the usual bureaucratic nonsense. They liaise with the Albany Center sometimes, but otherwise are outside the system.”
Chase was quiet for a moment before commenting quietly. “You’re forgetting how well I know you if you want me to think your motives were purely selfish. I’m sure you’ve been able to help a lot of people doing what you do, even if you’re technically doing it illegally.”
“Yeah, well the rule that only sentinels and guides can practice S&G medicine is dumb. It’s way more interesting than another case of measles on a mundane kid whose idiot mother didn’t get him vaccinated.”
They lapsed into silence again for a few moments.
“It worked,” Robert said softly as he lay with eyes closed.
“Story time. Headache is gone.” Chase rolled to his side and appeared to settle in for another nap.
“Good,” Greg replied softly. He couldn’t stop himself from reaching out to lightly brush a lock of hair that had fallen forward off Bobby’s forehead. He was a creepy old man.