"i've heard nothing if it wasn't the wind"
with: Danny/Mac, Danny/other
herein: Mac dreams; Danny waits
disclaim: I only own the dvds; everything belongs to Zuiker, CBS, et al.
note: for all_hallows_fic; a part of the BSI verse; my tags || stellaluna_’s tags
thanks: to stellaluna_—without her this story never would have gotten written
Mac dreams of Danny, dreams that Danny smiles like the angel of death.
In the dream, Danny shrugs into his labcoat, and it splits and thickens into great wings. Danny smiles, nods, walks down the hall trailing his hand along the lab’s glass wall. At his touch the world bursts into flames. The glass melts, a slow wave. The flames lick gently towards Mac. Mac knows that he is dreaming.
Behind Mac stands a charred black skeleton, and he knows that it is Claire. It is always Claire. He is tired of this dream. This dream is tiresome. Claire’s hand reaches for his shoulder. Her flesh has turned to ash and smudges on his shirt. This dream is tiresome.
Mac wakes, sweating as if the flames were more than a frightfully literal expression of his irrational anxieties. His heart is staccato in his chest. He kicks the sheet aside and struggles to keep his eyes open. He has no wish to slip back into sleep immediately. His eyes sting and ache, and sweat dampens his temples, his chest, the small of his back. He wonders how he can look Danny in the eye during the day knowing what his own unfettered subconscious does with Danny’s smile at night.
But he does look Danny in the eye. Last year’s trouble has well blown over. In the evening, Mac goes to Danny in his office, finds him catching up on paperwork.
Danny leans back in his chair and smiles easily at Mac. “The boss coming to me, huh? And to what do I owe the pleasure?” Danny’s learned to restrain the impulsiveness that led to a dead agent and inquiries from the Board of Mages.
“Murdered man in Chelsea. It sounds like they took at least the thyroid and thymus, left glyphs all over the body.” Mac hands off the report from dispatch. “Stella’s on back-up. I’ll page her, have her meet you there.”
“Black market maybe?” Danny frowns. “All right, I’m on it.”
Mac himself stays late into the night, reviewing the unsolved case files on his desk. He knows the dreams are nothing more than dreams—the charms protecting his apartment from psychic attack checked out secure, as they do every week—but all the same he’d rather take a break from the dreams tonight.
The phone rings, and if Mac weren’t so eager for distraction, he might let it go to voicemail. At this time of night, his cell would ring first if the call were important.
“We killed him.” The voice on the other end shakes.
“Who am I speaking to?” Mac asks. “Who was killed?”
“We sacrificed him to Mammon, consecrated his remains.”
“Where and when was the ritual performed?”
“The endzone of Giants stadium. He was alive when— I can’t get it out of my head. I’m sorry.”
The sharp retort of a gun follows, then silence. Mac hangs up the phone, then dials to order a trace on the last call.
The image of a ritual sacrifice in Giants Stadium is almost absurd, but large gathering places tend to be built on ley lines, intentionally or not. The concentration of energy makes them perfect places for all manner of tributes and summonings. He pinches the bridge of his nose, but feels gratitude deep in his chest.
After Sid pulls the Tanglewood marks from their suicide, Mac tracks Danny down in the depths of the building. It’s penetratingly quiet here, and the high strip of windows, dark with night, remind Mac of a bunker.
Danny nods with recognition and looks Mac straight in the eye. “Yeah, I knew Czabo from the neighborhood, but I never hung out with that crowd.”
That crowd is a nice euphemism, but Mac bites his tongue. Tanglewood has long been the gang most involved with dark magic. There’s a cool shift in the air, and the BSI’s pet residual materializes at the far end of the hall. It’s the trace of Howard Sumner, the man who’d commissioned the building eighty years ago. Now he flickers up and down the halls, hurrying into nowhere. If Sumner weren’t a residual, Mac would be tempted to call it something more than coincidence. He and Danny watch silently as it passes them by.
Mac clears his throat. “I believe that you were never involved with Tanglewood, Danny, and I’d like it to stay that way.”
“You’ll get no argument from me,” Danny says, eyes wide.
Mac feels something in his chest unknot.
Danny knows there’s something wrong by the way Adam’s chewing at his lip. He’s waiting for Danny in the wide corridor at the back of the labs.
“Hey, Adam.” Danny shifts his weight from foot to foot and wonders if anyone is listening in. “What’s the bad news?”
“We recovered a cigarette butt from the ritual murder site down in Giants Stadium.” Adam takes a deep breath. “I pulled an etheric print off of it. It’s old, but it’s definitely yours.” He over a folder, and Danny glances at the bright lithograph inside.
“Okay,” Danny says. He feels weightless, like he’s watching himself from freefall. “You came to me first?”
“Um, yeah.” Adam nods.
“Okay,” he says again and walks away.
“Danny?” Adam calls after him.
Danny moves through the building blind; Louie had told him they’d only put the fear of the devil in that kid. Louie had lied, and in some corner of his heart Danny had known it all along. God damn it, he had been a stupid kid, and now his feet are carrying him to Mac’s office.
Mac looks up when Danny walks through the door. Mac looks a bit hardworn. Danny’s learned to tell when people aren’t sleeping well because it leaves them vulnerable to a whole host of nasty things. He barely hears what Mac says and sits down on autopilot.
When Danny opens his mouth to speak, the bottom drops out of his stomach and he’s hit with a wave of heat prickling over he’s skin, like he’s going to be sick. Danny swallows, looks down at his hands, and tries again.
“The cigarette found at your ritual murder.” He tosses the folder onto Mac’s desk. “Adam got a psychic hit off it. It comes back to me.”
As soon as Mac pulls up to the diner in Queens, he spots Louie standing outside. Louie’s chainsmoking right in front of a lit sign, and the neon halos him like a lurid blessing. Louie’s eyes are sharp on Mac; clearly he’s already been made as a fed. Mac feels desperation tug like hooks in his skin. He tries not to let it show.
Louie shrugs off questions about the murder and Czabo. “Maybe that’s why Sal offed himself. I wouldn’t know.”
“Your brother’s in a lot of trouble,” Mac says. “We can place him at the scene. Unless someone comes forward—”
“You just sit tight, Agent Taylor.” Louie pinches off the end of his cigarette and sticks it behind his ear. “Let blood take care of blood, the way it’s supposed to be.”
Hours later, when Flack bursts in with the news that Louie Messer’s in the ICU at St. Vincent’s, burnt and cursed to near death, all Mac can think is my god, what will Danny do?.
Mac can’t begin to count all the things which that thought may mean.
Danny feels hollowed out. His eyes are raw, and his throat is thick. He stands by Louie’s bed and can’t look and can’t stop looking. Two-thirds of Louie’s skin is mottled purple and black, and the rest is cracked raw and oozing beneath the purified bandages. Danny’s seen this sort of curse before, knows his brother is leaking yellow poison every place his skin is split. Knows that there’s a ninety percent chance his organs will start to rot while the machines still pump air into his lungs.
“Louie. I know what happened now. I understand why you did what you did.” Danny’s voice cracks, and he takes a deep breath. “You’re my brother, and you’re the only family I got left. I love you. Even though you could’ve told me, instead of letting me think— All these years,” Danny says and wonders if it’s all the truth. “All these years. You could’ve told me.”
The machines sigh and beep. Danny closes his eyes for a moment and sees the afterimage of Louie burned onto his retina.
“I’m going to get a breath of fresh air, but I’ll be back soon, okay?” Danny rests his hand carefully on Louie’s bandaged wrist.
Outside, he sucks in deep breaths of night air and tries to shake off the unbearable tightness in his chest. Mac finds him like that, hands in his pockets, lightheaded because he feels like he’s not getting enough air. Mac touches his shoulder, and Danny manages to stop his unsteady pacing.
“Sonny Sassone is in custody,” Mac says. “Louie cleared you. If it hadn’t been for your brother, I don’t know what would’ve happened.
Danny almost laughs. Sonny’s so obsessed with dark magic that a fucking wire did him in. Miracle that the power from the curse didn’t wipe the tape, though. Danny squeezes his eyes shut, and a few tears drop down his face.
“My brother, Mac. They—” They’ve killed him. He’s dying, he’s dying. Danny can’t say it. He starts to shake, and Mac pulls him close until Danny’s sobbing against Mac’s shoulder. Mac anchors him with hands at his neck and back, and part of Danny just wants to hide here for a while, huddle against Mac until the world sets itself right again.
It never will be right again, though, and once Danny thinks he won’t fly apart at the seams, he wraps his arms around Mac’s waist for a moment then lets go. Mac steps back slowly, letting his hand trail down Danny’s arm.
“I want you to take as much time off as you need,” Mac says. “I don’t want you to show back up for work before you’re ready.”
“Right, thanks.” Danny nods sharply.
“I mean it, Danny. We both know how emotional vulnerability can leave a person open to all manner of dangers in the field.” Mac holds Danny’s gaze. “I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“I know. Thanks, Mac.” Danny’s shoulders relax. “I should be getting back inside.”
“Okay. Call if you need anything.”
“I will.” It’s hard for Danny to turn away, but he does, heading back into the hospital, where Louie is waiting.
The lab walls crumple, jutting deep shadows across the floor. The shadows sting Mac’s skin. As he walks down the hall, the walls shift and slide with a horrible grating sound.
He glimpses Stella for a moment. Her smile is broken before she vanishes behind a sharp angle of glass and steel. At a corner he sees Danny, face wrecked with tears as it had been the night at the hospital. A crumbling piece of drywall swings out and sweeps him aside. Through the spiderfine fractures of a window, Mac sees Hawkes and Adam; they are carefully turning a large crank wheel.
The lab crumbles beneath Mac’s hands, and the sky opens up above his head. He’s crawling through debris now, stumbling over a field of brick and twisted metal.
He almost doesn’t recognize Claire.
She leans back against a slab of concrete, smiling at him. She is whole and unburnt, perfect and white among the blooms of debris. Her pale summer dress flutters in the wind.
Mac reaches out, half afraid she’ll turn to dust at his touch, but she presses his palm to her cheek. Relief flows through his chest, and he refuses to notice how cold she is, how his hand burns at the touch.
They lie down together. Mac sinks into her. She smells like jasmine. Her hair slides through his hands. They are on a cold metal slab in the morgue. Her eyes are clouded over with death. Her lips are blue, but she smiles and smiles.
Mac wakes, shivering. The blanket is tangled at the foot of the bed. He remembers the smell of jasmine.
Five days later, Louie’s still lingering on this Earth, and Danny has come to accept that he can’t live at the hospital. He goes back to his apartment, showers, tries to sleep for a few hours. There is the chance that Louie will die while Danny isn’t there, but the hospital promised to call.
Danny’s hair is still damp, and he’s walking around the apartment in only an old pair of sweatpants when there’s a knock on the door. It’s past midnight, and Danny almost ignores it. He quietly goes to look through the peephole and is startled to see Mac waiting outside. He neutralizes the security charms, invites Mac in, and stands there, shirtless and disoriented.
“I went to the hospital to see how you and Louie were doing, but you had left.” Mac shifts his weight. “I should’ve just called. If you want to be alone right now—”
“No, Mac.” Danny wants to reach for him. “You can stay for a little while.” They look at each other for a moment. Danny’s stomach growls, and he smiles a little, nervously. “Yeah, I was just going to figure out something to eat. Can I put some coffee on for you?”
Mac follows him into the kitchen and shakes his head. “I’m fine Danny, thank you.”
“Suit yourself.” Danny opens the fridge, which is mostly bare, and shuts it again. He doesn’t actually feel hungry, and if he did he’d just order in. He has to eat something, though. It’s hard to think with Mac here. It’s surreal, and he should’ve gone to put a shirt on. Danny bites his lip, afraid what his laugh might sound like.
“I’m not that hungry.” Danny crosses his arms.
“Everyone at the lab is thinking of you,” Mac says awkwardly.
“How is everything?” Danny asks, even though it hasn’t even been a week. Mac seems to get it though, and starts telling Danny about the case he’s working with Stella. Danny pulls out a bagel and picks it apart, eating it with peanut butter straight from the jar. He feels stupid, standing in his kitchen while Mac talks idly about a banshee haunting the Upper West Side.
Mac runs out of things to say around the time Danny finishes the bagel. They stand there in silence for a moment. Danny wants to close his eyes and sink to the floor.
“How are you, Danny?” Mac asks.
“I don’t know.” Danny’s voice is ragged, and he stares at his feet for a long moment before he can meet Mac’s eyes. “Distract me, Mac. Please.”
Mac’s eyes are dark. He crosses to Danny and presses a kiss to his lips. Danny gasps, opening his mouth for Mac to slide his tongue inside. Mac’s hands are hot as they slide up Danny’s bare skin. He never thought it would happen like this. He never thought it would happen at all. Danny tugs at Mac’s shirt, but Mac cups Danny’s face and breaks gently away.
“Not in the kitchen, please,” Mac murmurs against Danny’s lips.
“Yeah,” Danny sighs and almost smiles.
Mac keeps his palm flush against the small of Danny’s back all the way to the bedroom. They kiss again as Mac shrugs his shirt off, and Danny begins to map Mac’s body. Mac dips his hands beneath the waist of Danny’s sweatpants, sliding down to grip Danny’s ass. Danny moans, melting against Mac.
“Fuck me,” Danny says.
“Yes.” Mac turns his head and kisses Danny on the mouth again, kisses him deeply, almost possessively.
Once they’re both naked, Danny stretches out on his stomach. Mac’s hands range down Danny’s back, and Danny turns to liquid beneath them. Mac opens Danny up slowly, not teasing so much as being exceptionally thorough. Danny closes his eyes and drifts on the tide of his own heartbeat, the waves of pleasure that Mac is drawing up from his body.
Mac thrusts into Danny just as slow, draping himself over Danny’s back. Danny threads their fingers together, lost in the slow boiling heat within him. He groans when Mac mouths kisses along his neck and shoulder. Finally, Mac reaches his hand beneath Danny, and Danny comes, shuddering. Mac draws it out gently until Danny is trembling, then Mac stills and comes. Danny feels the heat of it inside him.
Mac pulls away and settles next to Danny on the bed. He gives Danny a searching look, then wraps an arm around him. Danny goes with it, feeling warm and pleasantly quiet for the first time in ages.
Danny wakes to the feel of the mattress shifting.
“Go back to sleep,” Mac whispers against Danny’s lips.
A week later, Louie succumbs. There is no funeral. Danny rents a boat for a few hours and lets the ashes drift into the Hudson. He does this alone.
When Danny comes back to work he expects to feel different, but he doesn’t. He only feels wrung out, his body heavier than usual.
At work, Mac keeps his distance, but Danny expected this. The only sign that they’ve slept together these past two weeks is in how closely Mac watches.
“How are you?” Mac asks almost every day.
“All right,” Danny answers, or “I’m hanging in there,” or “I miss him now.”
He didn’t miss Louie before.
Once, the morning after Mac had fucked him into the mattress, Danny smirks and says, “tired.”
For Mac’s part, he puts Danny with Stella for the entire first week that Danny’s back. Danny figures that Mac is still worried in the pessimistic way he has. That he’s also kind of freaked out about both working with and sleeping with Danny. Danny has been expecting one of them to have a major freak out ever since he woke up the first morning. Mac was long gone then, which was probably for the best.
Two nights later, Mac had shown up without warning, his face pale and drawn. He had reached out like Danny might disappear beneath his touch. They fucked again, more desperate than the first time, and Mac was gone again in the morning.
That set the pattern for what was happening between them. Danny’s glad for it. It’s enough.
It is enough, Danny knows that, and he doesn’t want to screw it up.
But one afternoon at the bureau, when he’s alone with Mac in Mac’s office, Danny lets himself feel happy for a minute. Consequently, it all goes to hell.
They’re talking about an infestation of poltergeist over in SoHo, and the conversation pauses. Mac looks into Danny’s face.
“How are you?” he asks, the way he has been.
Danny’s shoulders drop. He’s tired. Last night he’d dreamt of when he and Louie were kids, and Louie taught him how to throw a curveball. The dream keeps returning to him in spare moments.
“Danny?” Mac’s voice is pitched low.
Danny smiles weakly. “I’ve been better. I could really use a distraction right now.” He could. He could gladly hide in his bed for a while with Mac, and he knows that’s a problematic feeling.
“Danny, if you’re having a hard time concentrating maybe you should talk to someone.” Mac’s face is blank.
For a moment Danny goes stone cold, sure that Mac is going to tell him to take more time off. Mac stays silent, though, laying down that distance between them. Danny clears his throat, hands ready to reach out and shake Mac. It’s an effort, but Danny stays still.
“Yeah, I’ll think about it,” Danny says. If Mac doesn’t want to talk here, Danny can play it cool. Danny can play it ice fucking cold.
That night, Mac shows up at the door, and Danny almost slams it in his face. He’s got some things to say though. Got some things not to say, too.
“Gee, Mac.” Danny takes a big step back. “What a surprise.”
“Danny?” Mac has that searching look on his face, so much like the one he gave Danny earlier today, right before he went blank. He steps closer to Danny.
“Don’t,” Danny says, backing away again. “Just don’t for a minute.”
“What’s wrong?” Mac puts his hands in his pockets and stays where he is.
“What the hell was that this afternoon?” Danny’s voice is high and strained, and he hates himself for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” Mac says automatically, and Danny laughs.
“Look,” Mac starts.
Danny shakes his head, cutting him off. “I know better than to out us at work, Mac. Even if someone else was there, they wouldn’t have understood what I was really saying.” Danny takes a deep breath around the knot in his chest. “I’m not looking for flowery declarations and a relationship or anything, but you could have the decency not to treat me like a goddamn stranger.”
Mac is silent for a long minute, looking at his feet. Danny waits, anger curling through his bones. Mac’s mouth is a deep crease.
“I am sorry, Danny, but I can’t—” Mac shifts his weight and finally looks up. “I can’t think about you at work. I can’t let myself. I have to compartmentalize what we do. It’s the only way I can do it.”
Danny nods slowly, but the anger’s still there, humming inside him.
“I’m sorry,” Mac says again. “If I allow myself to think about you like that while we’re at work, I don’t know what would happen.”
“Okay.” Danny crosses his arms. He doesn’t forgive Mac, but he decides it’s okay.
Mac takes a step closer, reaching for Danny. There’s something uncertain on his face, and it keeps Danny from pulling away. Mac sighs a little against Danny’s mouth. Slowly Danny relaxes and starts to kiss back, meeting Mac’s tongue with his own. Something shifts inside of Danny, and he fists Mac’s shirt, taking over the kiss. Danny shoves at Mac until his back is against the wall, then yanks his pants open, reaching for his dick. Mac’s hips stutter forward, and his fingers dig into Danny’s shoulder.
Danny sinks to his knees and doesn’t bother with teasing. Mac whimpers, nails pressing against Danny’s scalp. His cock hardens and fills Danny’s mouth, and Danny hums, laving his tongue along the underside.
Once Danny’s got Mac where he wants, he slows it down. Mac shudders and makes desperate little noises each time Danny brings him to the edge and backs him off again. Finally Mac tightens his grip on Danny’s hair and starts carefully fucking his mouth. Danny takes him as deep as he can, and Mac comes with a groan. Danny swallows, trying to memorize the feel of this, of Mac trembling and helpless above him.
Mac pushes Danny to the floor and jerks him off quickly. Then they move to the bedroom and manage to do it all over again.
Mac knows that he’s still watching Danny more closely than usual. Perhaps too closely. Danny doesn’t look good.
Last night, Mac dreamt of Claire again. She was smooth and cool, and she tasted of strawberries. Danny watched with dead eyes as Mac fucked her in a field of daffodils.
Today, Danny looks startlingly like he had in the dream, pale and weary. He’s lost some weight in the past several weeks. Mac asks him regularly how he’s doing, and Danny must sense the sincerity of the question because he always answers.
“How are you sleeping?” Mac asks this morning, the words out of his mouth before he can think to stop them.
Danny makes a strange face, his mouth tightening. “You know how it is, Mac,” he says, and they leave it at that.
Mac tells himself that he needs to know how Danny is doing. He tells himself that he needs to know if Danny’s going to be a risk to himself in the field.
Mac walks back into the bureau several feet behind Hawkes and Danny. They’ve been out working on more reports of poltergeist, this time spreading up into Greenwich Village. They’re crossing through the inner set of security charms when Mac feels the air shift. A wave of magical energy hits him in the gut. He sees the barrier shimmer into place as the alarms begin to wail.
Danny falls to the floor.
They move Danny to one of the secure medical rooms, deep in the building. Mac watches dumbly from outside. Danny remains unconscious through the initial examination, and Mac is glad to have Hawkes here. Hawkes, with the magical and medical knowledge of an adept, is trustworthy. He’s not quick to share his suspicions with Mac, though.
After an hour Danny wakes, and Hawkes immediately has him drink a tincture that leaves him nauseous. Mac steps inside the room and waits beside Hawkes while Danny hangs his head and breathes. When the worst of the nausea seems to have passed, Danny looks up, glancing between Mac and Hawkes.
“What’s wrong with me?” Danny asks.
Hawkes takes a deep breath, and Mac feels his stomach plummet.
“Danny,” Hawkes says. “I need to know the names of every person you’ve had sex with in the past month.”
Mac bites his tongue, already narrowing the diagnosis to several bad options.
Danny pales. “What? Why?”
“I want you remain calm and remember that there is a way to fix this.” Hawkes puts his hand on Danny’s shoulder.
“Doc, you’re scaring me here.”
“You have a demon growing inside of you,” Hawkes says. “Almost certainly an incubus, since that is the only creature that can impregnate a human male in this fashion.”
Mac closes his eyes, heat spiraling in his gut. He grits his teeth and waits for Hawkes to continue.
“Breathe, Danny,” Hawkes says, and Mac opens his eyes.
Danny has paled even further. His stare is vacant, and Hawkes rubs his shoulder.
“Danny,” Mac says. He’s already thinking of the resources he’ll have to reassign if they’re going to catch the incubus quickly. “Who have you slept with?”
“Don’t know how much that’s going to help.” Danny grimaces. “It can take the form of the last person who screwed it, right?”
“Yes, temporarily, but it gives us a place to start,” Mac says. “Do you have a point?”
“No.” Danny laughs. “I’m brushing up on my parenting skills.”
“God damn it, Danny!” Mac snaps. “How could you have been so stupid to let a demon fuck you?”
“I don’t know, Mac.” Danny twists his hands together. His knuckles are white. “How could you have fucked some demon?”
“What?” Mac flushes, remembering the dreams—nightmares—of Claire, cold and perfect, her mouth like ripe fruit. “I—I didn’t.” His dreams are a common enough occurrence that he didn’t think. He didn’t think anything of it. He hadn’t wanted to think about it, to remember. The security charms on his apartment had been secure.
“Yeah? Well, you’re the only person I’ve had sex with in the past six weeks.” Danny rubs his face. “At least that’s what I thought.”
“That’s not.” Mac’s stomach bottoms out because he hasn’t. They’ve never. He’s never allowed himself to want that.
“Fuck, Mac.” Danny wraps his arms around himself. “You think I go around offering my ass up to strange men? You think I don’t know how to use a condom?”
“All right,” Hawkes says, voice calm. “Mac, I need you to sit down, so I can draw a blood sample.”
“Why?” Mac asks.
“Incubi and succubi can’t reproduce on their own, you know that. They need genetic material from two humans, then add their own.” Hawkes is unruffled, professional. Mac focuses on that, so he won’t find something to break. “I want to make sure it didn’t do anything more to you than gather a DNA sample.”
“It was never you, not once, was it.” Danny’s voice cracks. He ducks his head. When he looks up he stares right through Mac.
“There must have been some strong enchantment involved,” Mac says, distracted. Hawkes gently directs him into the room’s only chair. In his mind’s eye he sees it, a demon wearing his face for a mask and pressing Danny down onto the bed. It would have been rough, all sweat slick and blood thunder.
“Doc, you said you can get this out of me right?” Danny’s huddled in on himself, voice creeping toward hysteria. His fingernails draw sharp red lines across his biceps. “Because I’m not looking forward to having my guts torn out by my demonspawn kid.”
Danny knots his hands together. He can feel the thing churning in his guts. Hawkes tells him it’s still too small to feel like that, but he can.
“Danny,” Hawkes says. His voice is careful and calm. Don’t spook the horses. Danny flinches at his touch. “I need you to look at me, Danny.”
Danny flushes. Everyone knows. Everyone will know soon enough. Mac knows. Danny’s skin crawls.
“Look at me, Danny.” Hawkes cups his face and bends down so there’s nowhere else to look. “I need you to stay calm. It will only complicate matters if I have to sedate you. Understand?”
“Yeah.” Danny licks his dry lips. He keeps his head up. Mac has disappeared, and when did that happen? Danny almost asks.
“I also need you to promise me that you won’t do anything to hurt yourself.” Hawkes retrieves an antiseptic and some bandages from the cabinet. “Danny?”
“Sure. I won’t.”
“Good.” Hawkes begins to clean and bandage a few raw spots on Danny’s upper arm. Danny doesn’t remember doing that. Hawkes’s hands are cold. “Your immune system is compromised right now. We need to make sure you don’t get an infection, it would complicate matters.”
“Pretty much anything is going to complicate matters, isn’t it Doc?” Danny flinches again as Hawkes smooths down the bandage.
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“Then let’s go ahead and get this thing out of me,” Danny says. He goes back to knotting his hands together, watching his knuckles whiten.
“It’s not as easy as that.” Hawkes sighs and reaches for the printout from the MRI and God knows what else they did while Danny was still out cold.
“Not helping, Sheldon.” Danny pulls his knees up to his chest, not caring if it makes him look like a five year old, not when he has a thing fucking growing inside of him. “And I don’t want to see pictures of it.”
“Okay.” Hawkes drops the folder on the foot of the bed and hops up to sit right in front of Danny. “I can only imagine what you’re going through right now. Keep in mind that we can and will abort the fetus, but first we need to wait about two more weeks.”
“What? Why?” Danny feels it clawing inside of him again, a sharp bile sickness. “And stop talking about it like it’s a goddamn baby.”
“I’m sorry Danny, but it is a fetus,” Hawkes says, smooth as can fucking be. “When an incubus impregnates a human male this way, the gestation period is short. Consequently, the fetus attaches itself much more intimately to the makeshift womb. If we were to operate right now, you would die on the table.”
Danny closes his eyes, heartbeat thundering in his ears. He bites his tongue until he tastes blood but manages not to laugh. If he starts, he’s not going to stop. Not supposed to get sedated, after all.
The room is terribly empty without Hawkes in it.
Finally Danny starts pacing. It makes him feel a tiny bit better. Maybe it just gives him something to do. They haven’t left him shit—not a book, not anything—but he doubts he could concentrate anyway.
He throws up twice, the second time nothing more than bile and flecks of bright blood from where the acid has burnt his throat. Hawkes comes in afterward, bringing another tincture that tastes like sulfur and gutter water. This time it only makes Danny lightheaded. He doesn’t want to know what’s in it.
Mac starts carrying out the procedure for tracking an incubus. It must be working in tandem with a succubus. Mac sits stiffly at his desk. Perhaps it would be better to start with the succubus, but they can use the energy scan of the fetus to help locate the incubus.
He can’t help but remember the curve of Danny’s back as he sat huddled on the bed.
In the afternoon—about the time Danny decides this feeling he has that he needs to rip out his guts bare-handed is not going to wear off—Flack shows up with a duffle bag from Danny’s apartment.
“They tell me you’re going to be in here for a little while,” Flack says, putting the duffle on the foot of the bed.
“That’s what they tell me, too.” Danny hears his voice like it’s a stranger’s.
“I brought some stuff from your apartment.”
Like Danny couldn’t see that already.
“Tell me,” Danny says. “Tell me, do they have charms set up so I’ll get knocked unconscious if I try to walk out that door?”
Flack shakes his head. “I don’t know anything about the security in this place.”
“They told you, though, how this all happened.” Danny’s fingernails bite into his palm. “It’s probably all over the building and halfway through the NYPD by now. Everyone will be laughing at it over dinner.”
“Danny,” Flack says, hands up. Danny’s sick of it already, this don’t spook the crazy person voice. “All they told me is that you got infected by some demonic parasite and had to wait here before they took it out. That Mac might have been compromised too.”
“Parasite—exactly!” Danny finally lets himself laugh, and it feels good. It sounds mad, but he doesn’t care. “That is exactly what I wanted to call it.”
“I don’t understand.” Flack licks his lips, concern written plain on his face, and Danny laughs again, a strangled little giggle.
“Hawkes insisted on calling it a fetus.” It’s hilarious really, and Danny feels his knees going weak.
“How?” Flack starts. “Okay, you need to sit down.” He goes to Danny and pushes him into the room’s only chair. “What’s wrong, Danny?”
“Didn’t you hear me, Flack?” Danny gasps. He can’t quit giggling. “I’ve got a goddamn fetus growing inside me.”
“Yeah, I heard you.” Flack squats in front of him. “Breathe, Messer.”
“Hawkes keeps telling me to do that.” Danny feels bile rising in his throat again, and he grabs Flack’s shoulder, ready to shove him out of the way if it comes to that.
“It’s a fetus? Does that mean you slept with a demon not realizing it?” Flack asks quietly. “That seriously sucks, but I understand how it could happen. I don’t do a full scan and check on everyone I sleep with either. I mean, it sounds like Mac made the same mistake too, didn’t he?”
“Something like that.” Danny can’t meet Flack’s eyes. “Incubi and succubi can change shape depending on the last person they fucked. I didn’t think I needed to check out their identity.”
“Who—?” Flack pauses. “Sorry, you don’t have to tell me.”
“Who do you fucking think?” Danny bites out before he can stop himself. He looks up in time to see the penny drop.
Flack takes a deep breath and rocks back on his heels.
“And now that I’ve outed myself to everyone, you can fuck off,” Danny says.
“You think I give a shit about who you want to sleep with?” Flack snorts. “Please.”
Mac doesn’t want to hear it.
“You have to let me have the case,” Stella says. “You know I’ll keep you in the loop, and if you don’t, D.C. will take it away from all of us the second they find out.”
“You’re right.” Mac sits back down at his desk.
“Hell yes, I’m right,” Stella says gently. “Soon I’m going to grab Adam and go over to your place. See if we can’t figure out how they breached your security.”
“Good.” Mac straightens a few papers. “I’m curious about that myself.”
“Mac.” Stella sits down opposite him. “Is there anything you can tell me about the succubus.”
“It came to me while I was dreaming. Check for—”
“Jasmine, passion flower, valerian and other soporific agents.”
“It came to me in the guise of Claire,” Mac finally says. “None of the dreams were particularly good. She always tasted like fruit.”
“So, pretty standard for a succubus in that respect.” Stella nods, a wry smile on her face. “The dreams didn’t stand out to you?”
“No.” Mac sighs. “I dream all the time, and it almost always means nothing. These dreams fit in well.”
“It’s possible that whoever is behind this has been stalking you and Danny for a while.” Stella frowns, staring off into space. “If they were able to bypass your personal security, integrate into your dreams so well, and initially cloak the fetus from the bureau’s security—this must have been targeted.
Mac shakes his head. “It’s possible.”
“Possible?” Stella asks. “Come on, Mac, it’s quite likely. There’s too much coincidence involved otherwise. Can you think of anyone with the resources to do this and a grudge against you?”
Mac pinches the bridge of his nose. “Plenty of grudges, but it would take a deft hand to pull this off.”
“Well, you should go through old cases anyway, come up with a list of possible suspects.” Stella steeples her fingers. “Is there any possibility it could be personal to you or Danny?”
The smell of jasmine.
“I doubt it,” Mac snaps.
At night, Danny dreams of a house with wood floors and picture windows. A comfortable house, perfect for a family.
Mac avoids the section of the building where Danny’s being held. He keeps busy with other cases—still looking for the source of the poltergeist in SoHo—and goes home at night to a blank, dreamless sleep. The new protections Adam cast around his apartment make Mac’s skin tingle every time he walks through the door. No creature can enter without Mac’s explicit permission.
Mac imagines that Danny won’t want to look at him, not after what that demon did while wearing Mac’s face.
After a week, Mac finds himself outside Danny’s room anyway.
“Well, look at what the cat dragged in.” Danny looks up from the newspaper he’s been paging through. He’s unshaven, wearing a t-shirt and faded jeans. “Nice of you to visit me, Mac.”
“How are you?” Mac asks.
“Who, me?” Danny frowns. “Hawkes says I’ve got a certain glow about me.”
“It’s not funny.” Mac grits his teeth.
“Do I look like I’m laughing here?” Danny stands up and glares at Mac. “Then again, maybe I’m just worried about being a single parent.”
“I understand that it’s not every day you find out an employee will bend over for a demon wearing your face,” Danny says, smirking. “But I thought you’d care more for your child.”
“I’m sorry,” Mac says. “I figured you wouldn’t want to see me after—everything.”
“Don’t be silly, we need to pick out names. What do you think of Linda if it’s a girl? It was my mom’s name.” Danny pats his stomach, his mouth twisted in the parody of a grin. “Hear that baby? Your daddy’s a stand-up guy after all.”
“This was not my fault,” Mac says sharply. “I’m not going to speak to you if you’re going to behave like this.”
“Say goodbye to Daddy.”
Danny blows a kiss after him.
Mac is alone in a field of debris. Neither Claire nor Danny appear. He smells jasmine on the wind.
The house in Danny’s dreams has dark wood floors and plush furniture. It’s expensive but not cold. It has a master bedroom, a guest bedroom, and a nursery.
Someone is crying. It’s not a baby; it’s the cat. Danny finds him writhing around the kitchen. The cat has been flayed open along his spine, his skin and fur peeled down to reveal a brittle column of bone.
A tow-headed boy, about five years old, looks calmly up at Danny.
“Do you know who I am?” it asks.
“Yeah.” Danny can’t look away from its eyes, which are old and startlingly like Mac’s.
“I don’t have to kill you any more than you have to kill me.” It plays with a patch of cat skin in its hands.
“Oh, I think I have to kill you.” Danny nods to get the point across. He’s hot all over. The walls are roaring silently at him.
“No, you don’t.” The child tilts its head. “I’m his son as much as yours.”
“Excuse me for not caring.” He’s hot, and his heart is thundering.
“You do know that I’m all you’ll ever have of him,” it says.
Danny only half pays attention to his twice-a-day talks with Hawkes. Hawkes always says the same things anyway.
“Remember, the fetus may try to establish a psychic link with you,” Hawkes says.
“Yeah, considering you’ve mentioned it about twenty times, I think I got it.” Danny rubs his forehead. He’s getting a tension headache.
“What were your dreams like last night?”
Mac frowns. Stella and Hawkes are waiting for him in his office.
“How have you been sleeping?” Stella asks.
“Well.” Mac circles to the other side of his desk.
“Have the dreams returned?” Stella crosses her arms, like she expects him to try to get away from the question.
“As the fetus comes to term, it may be able to establish a psychic link with you and Danny,” Hawkes says. He sits but stays perched on the edge of the chair. “Moreover, its other set of parents, the incubus and succubus, may be able to reach out to you and Danny through it.”
“Why wasn’t I informed of this sooner?” Mac asks.
“It was hypothetical at best. Male pregnancies like this one are extremely rare.” Hawkes leans further forward. “As I’ve said before, the fetus develops differently, much more quickly than it would in a woman. It does this by drawing on the strength of both sets of parents.” He puts a folder on Mac’s desk. “I had no idea a fetus could be this strong until I ran this morning’s tests.”
“Danny takes the brunt of it, doesn’t he.” Mac leans back in his chair, taking a deep breath.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Danny is experiencing vivid dreams, but if so he isn’t talking about it.” Hawkes has deep circles under his eyes, and for a moment Mac imagines that the whole bureau is under siege.
“That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to ask you about your dreams,” Stella says. She perches on the corner of his desk. “If you’re at all being affected, Danny must be as well. I’m sorry to pry, Mac, but we need you to tell us about whatever dreams you can remember.”
“What’s the other reason?” Mac asks.
“You said the possible psychic link was only one of the reasons you wanted to ask me about my dreams.” Mac is tired and wants this conversation over with.
“Right. You know we’re having a difficult time locating the demons involved.” Stella takes a deep breath. “Mac, someone went to an awful lot of trouble to impregnate Danny with a child that has some of your genetic material. To pull this off, it has to be someone with close ties to Lilith—unless you or Danny have royally pissed off Lilith herself and forgotten to tell me—but we’ve exhausted all the leads we had.”
“Your point?” Mac feels his bones turn to ice.
“Is there any clue in your dreams that might help us pinpoint a suspect?” Stella asks.
“Why do you think it’s personal to me?” he asks quickly.
“We don’t necessarily,” Hawkes says. “I’ve been asking Danny these questions for several days now, but I’m being stonewalled. I don’t know if it’s intentional on his part or not.”
Mac sighs and shuffles papers on his desk, feeling Stella watch him.
“Mac,” she says. “There’s something you’re not telling us.”
Mac presses his hand to his eyes for a moment. “Yes, I’ve been dreaming, the same simple dream for a few nights in a row.” He stares at the sharp right angles of the case files on his desk. “I’m standing in the wreckage of the Twin Towers, and I smell jasmine. That’s all.”
Stella reaches down briefly to squeeze his hand.
On the ninth morning, Danny notices his belly is swollen.
He braces himself against the bathroom sink and hyperventilates. A drop of water slowly rolls down the stainless steel curve. When Danny looks up into the mirror his face is grey. This isn’t his body anymore. They changed him, took his body away. The swell of his stomach—not his stomach—it doesn’t belong to him.
Danny presses his knuckles against the counter. His hands are a stranger’s. He fumbles for the razor he’s been neglecting and breaks it against the side of the sink to get at the blades. Pinpricks of blood well up on his fingertips. The blade shines against his dull skin—not his skin. He draws a fine red line on the inside of his left arm, and it stings. Danny’s surprised that it stings.
Deep inside this body—not his body—sits a poison apple. He wonders what it would feel like to press harder with the blade, cut his way out of this body.
Somewhere in the distance he hears Hawkes’s frantic voice.
The weather shifts, and the sky hangs heavy and grey over the city. Mac goes about his day with a low-grade headache that neither aspirin nor caffeine can touch.
Stella catches him in the hall outside the weapons and artifacts lock-up. The ceiling here is low, the walls dark. Glyphs are carved into the floor.
“How are you?” she asks.
“Fine.” He stops beside her. Stella’s asking for a good reason, and he tries to accept the question graciously. “I’m tired, but I’m all right.”
“Are you sure?” Stella’s eyes search his face, and he should know better than to think he could hide something from her.
“Worried, too.” He glances down at the evidence bag in his hands. “I’m worried about all of it, but considering the circumstances, I’m as good as could be expected.”
“Still the same dream?” Stella asks.
Mac nods and shifts his weight. He feels suddenly exposed, and he’d like nothing more than to cross the threshold into lock-up and never come out again.
“Okay.” Stella squeezes his arm. “Let me know if anything changes.”
Danny is in the backyard. White clouds chase each other across the sky. The child sits on the swing of a small jungle gym. Its face is serious.
“You can stop trying to change my mind,” Danny says. His hands are trembling. Daffodils nod at him. “It’s not going to happen.”
“Humans are stupid,” it says.
“Yeah, you’ve got us all figured out.” Danny shoves his hands into his pockets.
“Do you think I can’t reach him as easily as I reach you?”
“For all the good it does you.” Danny smiles with a confidence he does not feel. “Two or three more days of fucked up dreams, and we never have to think of you again.”
“But you will.” Its voice is smooth and echoes in Danny’s skull. “He wastes so much energy trying not to think of you.”
“I’m sure.” Danny grimaces. The daffodils nod again and begin to leak blood from the center of their blooms.
“Believe what you want!” the child shouts. “But take me to my grandmother!”
“No.” Danny can barely hear himself over the thud of his own heart. He smells jasmine even though there’s none planted in the yard. “Never.”
It frowns and kicks its legs. “That was your last chance to save your life.”
Mac watches himself go about his day as if nothing is out of the ordinary. He does paperwork. He checks in with Stella. He investigates a djinn with Flack. Nothing is out of the ordinary.
Danny lies on his back and watches the ceiling. He feels heavy, has felt heavy for several days. The weight of the thing bears down on his body (not his body). He keeps his hands at his sides. It’s well past midnight, but he has the lamp on. He doesn’t want to fall asleep.
Waiting. He’s just waiting.
When Mac opens the door, part of Danny is not surprised.
Danny sits up, tugging his shirt down over his waist. He stares at Mac, half-expecting the child to show up too. Half-expecting that he’s fallen asleep and finally they can all be together in the same dream. They’re not in the house though.
“This has got to stop,” Mac says. He has a knife in his hand.
“Mac. I was waiting.” Danny’s tongue is dumb in his mouth. He feels drugged. “Didn’t realize I was waiting for you.”
“You stupid shit.” Mac’s face is hard. His eyes remind Danny of the child. “You can’t do anything right, can you?”
“I guess not.” Danny blinks, trying to wake up. “What?”
Mac crosses the room and presses the knife to Danny’s throat. Danny starts to back away, but Mac catches the back of his neck, holding him in place.
“How the fuck could you mistake a demon for me?” Mac laughs, a ricochet sound. “Not just for one night, but for almost three weeks?”
“Something’s wrong here, Mac.” Danny’s voice breaks. He fists his hands in the sheet. He should be begging Mac to do it, to cut the child out and take it away. He’s ready, ready to be split open, ready to leave this body behind. “Don’t,” he chokes.
Mac leans down. His breath is hot against Danny’s face. “We could’ve been together if you’d just taken the deal.” His voice is quiet, and his thumb rubs against the base of Danny’s skull. “We could’ve been together forever. I would have liked that.”
Danny feels the child moving in his stomach. “You’re not Mac,” he says. “You’re just using Mac’s body to fuck with my head before you kill me.”
“No.” Mac presses his lips to Danny’s forehead. “I promise you it’s me.”
Danny wraps his hand around Mac’s wrist but doesn’t try to resist. The rhythm of Mac’s pulse thrums beneath the fragile skin there. “Then do it,” he says.
The lights flash red and energy crackles through the room. Danny crashes into unconsciousness.
When Mac regains his senses, he’s in a secure room, tied with soft restraints. The anger fades slowly. The want doesn’t. He wants Danny so badly that it makes him gasp. He wants Danny underneath him, blood hot. He closes his eyes, sick with himself.
Stella is there, and she sits with him in silence.
“Did I hurt him?” Mac asks when he can trust his voice again.
“No.” Stella sighs and shifts in her seat. “When you neutralized security, you triggered a back-up charm. Adam was on nightshift and caught it in time.”
Mac remembers every moment. At the time, he’d meant every word, the violence rising up from the dark corners. He had wanted to feel Danny’s blood on his hands, to taste it. To smear it on Danny’s lips. He turns his head away from Stella. His throat is thick, and his eyes sting.
Eventually, Stella’s cell beeps. She checks it, then moves to unfasten the restraints.
“That was Hawkes. The operation was successful,” she says. “The fetus is dead, and the psychic link is broken.”
“Good.” Mac chafes his wrists then folds his arms together.
“You still have to stay here for another twelve hours.”
Mac nods. “I remember when Hawkes told you. I was aware of my surroundings.”
“I’ll keep you company a while longer.” Stella sighs again. Her eyes are dull. “Unless you want me to go?”
“No, stay.” Mac closes his eyes for a minute, shutting out the flat fluorescent light. He can feel it buzzing in the back of his brain, and suddenly he understands why mages are always bitching about fluorescents. His mind has been blown open by the psychic link, and it makes him feel small. It’ll fade soon enough.
When Mac opens his eyes, Stella is sitting in the chair next to the bed again.
“After Claire died,” he says. “I couldn’t accept it. I wouldn’t accept it. I went looking for a way to bring her back. At one point I received information from one of Lilith’s acolytes.” He waits, but Stella remains silent. “I didn’t renege on any deal. Everything was void because I didn’t—I was too afraid she’d come back wrong. I didn’t do anything wrong.” Mac is sure of this point. The clock on the wall ticks on. He clears his throat. “Nevertheless, the connection is there.”
Stella’s face is a mask, but she silently reaches out and takes his hand. “It’ll be okay,” she says.
Danny’s head aches. He swims back toward consciousness, counting the beep of the heart monitor. He hits one hundred at least a dozen times before he manages to open his eyes.
Hawkes is sitting by the side of Danny’s bed. Danny watches him page through a folder. After a few minutes he looks up and blinks at Danny.
“Hey,” Hawkes says.
“How are you feeling?” Hawkes scrambles to his feet and starts checking the monitors that Danny’s hooked up to. Danny considers the question.
“Weird,” he says and begins to cough. It feels like a knife through his gut. Hawkes raises the bed so Danny is half-sitting and holds a glass of water with a straw while Danny sips slowly.
“We operated early,” Hawkes says. “The risk of physical damage was outweighed by the certainty of psychic damage to both you and Mac if we waited any longer.”
Heat washes down Danny’s body. Mac and the knife. Lips pressed against Danny’s forehead. Danny grits his teeth. “So am I cured or what?”
“We were able to destroy the fetus with minimal injury to your body.” Hawkes looks down at Danny’s torso. “Still, I’m not going to lie to you, Danny. You’re being held together by a lot of stitches right now, and you’re going to have to take it slow. With time and treatment your body will return to normal.”
Danny takes a deep breath and an ache pulls deep inside him. “Good.” Beneath the sheet he slides his hand over to rest on his bandaged stomach.
In Mac’s dreams, he touches Danny all the ways the demon might have. He strokes Danny’s chest and bites Danny’s hipbone. He leaves marks across Danny’s shoulder. Squeezes Danny’s cock. Fucks Danny’s mouth and ass. Sometimes Claire watches.
Mac dreams inside a secure room at the bureau. With the fetus dead, there’s no way his dreams could be coming from an outside source. He pushes these thoughts away as well as he can.
Danny does little besides sleep for the first three days he’s out of surgery. Mac waits until the fourth day, when Danny is able to sit upright without assistance. They’ve barely spoken in the last two weeks—they’ve barely been themselves—and Mac braces for anger, for distance, for anything but the lost look on Danny’s face when Mac walks in the room.
“Hawkes says your recovery should be slow but smooth.” Mac stands at the bedside with his hands in his pockets.
“That’s what he tells me.” Danny looks thin and small. Mac has a sudden flash of the last time he stood next to Danny’s bed, and it turns his stomach.
“Danny.” Mac closes his eyes, not sure what comes next.
“It wasn’t your fault,” Danny says quietly. “It wasn’t my fault either. We got played by some demons. It happens. It was their fault.”
Mac takes a deep breath. When he opens his eyes, Danny is staring at a spot on the floor. Mac licks his lips. “I hope this won’t affect our working relationship,” he finally says.
Danny frowns but doesn’t meet Mac’s eye. “I’d just as soon forget any of this ever happened.”
Relief hits Mac as a physical blow, blocking his voice so all he can do for a moment is nod.
“Good,” Mac says. “Of course you’ll have to remain inside the building until your body has returned to normal, but as soon as you’re up and about, I’ll find some work for you to do if you’re interested.”
“Yeah, that’ll be great.” Danny smiles weakly. “I’m liable to go stir crazy otherwise.”
“Well, take care.”
“Don’t be a stranger and all that.”
Mac turns to go, remembering the feel of Danny’s forehead beneath his lips.