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Bad Company

Aftershocks 30.2: The Value of Things

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Aftershocks 30.2: The Value of Things

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TITLE: Aftershocks: A Story in Shattered Pieces
SUMMARY: A couple of rounds with insomnia. 
CHARACTERS: House, Wilson
RATING:
R for language and themes (gen fic).
WARNINGS: Details the aftermath of events in Bad Company, a rough, violent story. Aftermath isn't always pretty; may distress some readers. Adult themes and adult language.
SPOILERS: No.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
NOTES: The pieces of this shattered story are numbered. The first number signifies the number of days that have elapsed since the original event in Bad Company; the second number signifies when the fic occurs during that day.


The Value of Things


Martin causes nightmares every time he shows up, but it's never been this bad before. Not even when House was a kid, after he had learned firsthand that this, his supposed best friend, had a fathomless, lightless abyss where he should've had a soul.

House doesn't even remember the dream. All he knows is that he wakes with a violent start, sick with anger and fear. It's no stretch to imagine what must've happened.

As if that weren't enough, it feels like someone's tightening a tourniquet around his leg. He's going to lose a couple hours' sleep, but that's just as well. If he drifted off now, the nightmare would reclaim him. His pills are on the nightstand; he takes two. He'd like to wait for the constricting pain to ease from his thigh before he moves.

He's not going to wait, though. He's going to make sure Wilson's okay.

It's stupid and paranoid, but it's how he is now. He can either check on Wilson, or allow his own imagination to twist him into knots until morning. Martin's still out there, way too close, and if he wants to come in, he'll find a way.

There's a weight in House's chest, a lead blanket on his shoulders, that won't lift until he makes certain. No point fighting it; he's tried before. He only hopes Wilson won't catch him.

House makes his way softly into the living room, his body sharply protesting every step. It's dark, but he can see quite well in the diffuse yellow light that comes from above the kitchen range. The first wave of relief comes when he gets close enough to see that Wilson's breathing, the slow, shallow breaths of deep sleep. He appears to be fine, but House saw Martin out for an evening stroll earlier, while they were driving.  The nightmare, whatever it was, is still hanging on in the back of his mind, in the inside of his ribs.  He has to know.

Moving closer, he slides two fingers carefully beneath Wilson's wrist, feeling a steady pulse and no sign of fever. The last of the terror dissolves quietly away. Still, the pills haven't kicked in yet, and he's awake now whether he wants to be or not. He settles on the sofa to wait it out.

Waiting is boring. He can't turn on the TV without waking Wilson, whose concern for him will piss him off. So he watches Wilson instead.

That's not as dull as one would think; he never has been able to figure out what goes on in the labyrinthine depths of Wilson's brain. It's interesting to study him in what may be his only truly unguarded state. When Wilson sleeps he looks like he's twelve. Of course, lately he looks like he's twelve and the victim of child abuse.

There've been moments in the waking world when House has seen Wilson with all his shields down, but those have never lasted long -- partly because House couldn't help firing shots at him. Wilson's a lying, slippery, shifty little bastard; House has rarely let himself forget that. There was never any reason to let him show his soft belly, thinking that he could get any sympathy or care. It didn't work that way, and as long as Wilson knew that, he was less likely to get disappointed. And if or when he went away, it would hurt less. That was House's theory, for all those years.

Martin shot that theory all to hell. Martin, with his unerring instinct for doing the greatest possible harm, had looked at House's life and chosen to take Wilson. While House had been pretending to himself that Wilson wasn't as important as all that, Martin had known better. He always did have a flawless sense of the value of things.

It's anyone's guess as to how he figured it out. Perhaps he visited the hospital, proposing to make a donation, and all the while charming the staff.

Oh yes, I met one of your doctors at the benefit last fall. House, it was, and his friend -- ?

To which the oblivious moron in question would surely have replied, Friend? Of House? That had to be Doctor Wilson.

He imagines Martin talking to Cuddy, watching the lively warmth that dances in her eyes, the genuine smile when she says Wilson's name. Dooming Jimmy with her gentle pride, her praise.

But there's no way to know if that's what happened, and it doesn't matter. He didn't know and couldn't prevent it, so this is reality: Wilson is here, his jaw still wired shut, his misshapen nose awaiting surgery to make it resemble itself again. Wilson is here. He's got seven tiny plates and twenty-nine screws holding his left hand together. And he's asleep. Here.

How long will this last? House wonders. Not how long before Wilson moves out, but how long before he leaves New Jersey and leaves no forwarding address. Wilson keeps so many secrets, hides things so well. He might already be making plans.

Wilson's laptop computer rests on the bedside table, its sleek outline shining faintly in the shadows. Information Central, in the shape of a small metallic slab. If Wilson's been looking for another apartment, another job, the laptop will remember.  Unlike its owner, it will definitely tell him the truth.





The leg pain is easing, but he's as cautious as he'd be if it were very, very bad.  His goal, Wilson's laptop, is only a few yards away.  The trouble is that it's on the wrong side of the bed, at Wilson's left.  House will have to navigate around the room in order to unplug the thing and remove it without being caught.

He stops in mid-sneak, just past the coffee table, because he notices that Wilson is in REM sleep, his eyes darting back and forth beneath the lids. It seems peaceful at first, but then his breaths lose their steady rhythm and his hand begins to twitch. A low-pitched noise issues from his throat, followed by a series of thick, indistinct syllables that all sound like No.

House backtracks quickly, grabs the remote, turns on the TV and raises the volume. At full blast it finally breaks through Wilson's dream; Wilson jolts and bolts upright, panting.  He's obviously in pain; he moans, clutching at his back, scrunching the t-shirt fabric in his ineffectual right hand. His frightened, confused expression barely changes when he sees House watching him. House hits the mute button.

"Stop freaking out. You're awake."

Wilson's calming down now, taking deep breaths through his teeth, rubbing his face with his hand. His brow's all scrunched up, either from the pain or from the nightmare. There's only one of those two things that House can help with.

"How bad is it?" he asks.

"Bad."

House turns toward the kitchen, intending to go mix an oxycodone cocktail.

"No." Wilson stops him. "Not that. Wha's bad is -- this. Almos' every night now. Like bein' a damn kid. Dreams. A night light, f'God's sake." He's looking at the silent television, not at House, but this is one of those times. All Wilson's barricades are down. He's out in the open where anything, anyone, could wreck him. House isn't even tempted. He leans hard on his cane and wonders what to do about this.

"You know you won't get whatever it is you want from me," he growls, and he's surprised at Wilson's low, knowing little laugh. "What."  It's a demand, more than a question.

"Look where I am." Wilson's glancing around the apartment. "Never seen you do anythin' like this," he says, turning his head to look House in the eye. "Y'thought I wanted somethin' else?"

House stands there and stares, stunned at the implications. All he can think is, It's enough? Of course he thought something else was wanted; something else was always wanted. Wilson in particular was always --

"House." Wilson winces and once again runs his hand along his spine, which seems to have objected to the sudden way he sat up. "Drugs'd be good."

That request brings immediate relief, not to Wilson but to House. This, he can do.

In the kitchen, he allows himself a little smile as he picks out a martini glass. He mixes Wilson's dose up in that; it seems appropriate. No plastic kiddie cup this time.

House can't help himself, though. When he approaches the bedside and Wilson reaches out, he pulls the glass away.

"You sure the pain isn't all in your head?"

Wilson's expression makes House almost wish he hadn't said that. It may not even be fair anymore, since Wilson seems to have gotten over that particular delusion. House steps forward, hands over the drink, and sits down on the bed right beside him.

"You were up," Wilson muses. "You woke me."

"My leg hurts, you nitwit. You gonna take that stuff? 'Cause if not--"

"Hands off, jerk." He drinks, and it's almost like the drug affects House too. He's done something, done what he could. Wilson knows he's trying. At least for now, maybe it really is enough.
  • So he watches Wilson instead.

    This? It's perfection! I adored this chapter. It's possible, until now, my favorite - but I'm sure I will end up changing my mind soon.

    I love House's little - and so fundamental - realization: Wilson doesn't need anything besides his best friend and he doesn't need anything except Wilson.

    Wonderful!
  • wonderful as always.
    love how house is thinking that he can't watch tv because wilson will wonder why he's up, but as soon as it's wilson that's unhappy instead of house, he turns the volume right on up, forgetting any consequences
  • Ah, it's rather sad that House expects everyone to leave, and wonderful that Wilson acknowledges what House has done for him.

    The whole passage with "You sure the pain isn't all in your head?" is so very House-like -- to say something obnoxious and then sit down on the bed beside Wilson. As always with House, it's what he does, not what he says, that matters.
  • (Anonymous)
    love this chapter...but what else does house think wilson wants?
    • He doesn't know -- which is why he says "Whatever it is you want from me ..."

      House simply assumes that whatever efforts he makes will not be enough to satisfy anyone.
  • I've been following this for a while and I don't think I've ever replied before but I had to now because that line about him watching Wilson was just so true-to-form. That's just... House. It's what he does.
  • I think I've gotten so embroiled in this story that your Martin/House backstory is becoming cannon to me. It explains so much of the mystery of House's personality.
  • (Anonymous)
    That wasn't the only one for today, was it?
  • (Anonymous)
    Oh, House. How screwed up are you that after everything Wilson has done for you, you still think he's going to abandon you? This was so moving. - Taiga
    • Other people would ask how screwed up is Wilson that, after House's reckless behavior has cost him -- at various points -- his job, his money, and very nearly his life, he would still want House for his friend?



      • MOST other people. Not me. I'm not sure Wilson is screwed up at all. I think he IS well aquainted with the concept of Grace. Undeserved favor, freely granted.

        Someone who loves you, not for who you are, but in spite of who you are.

        Mick
        • House, however, has a harder time with that concept. At least, he has a hard time accepting that anyone will apply that concept to him.

          Stepping out of the Collective for a moment here, I'll tell you that I believe Wilson is badly screwed up in many ways. His friendship with House, though, is not evidence of that.

          You know this; I know it; but House? House isn't so sure.
  • This part especially made me want to cry. When House details just how seldom it is that he sees Wilson with all his guards down, it made me wonder if Wilson feels the same way with him? This whole experience has made them both so raw. I doubt Wilson's seen House this vulnerable since Stacy left the first time.

    I particularly love this line: "All Wilson's barricades are down. He's out in the open where anything, anyone, could wreck him. House isn't even tempted."

    I read this whole behemoth two days ago and I think I've definitely been spoiled. Now I'm like, you mean I have to WAIT for a new part? What! Anyway, this is really fabulous and I can't wait to find out what happens next!
    • I doubt Wilson's seen House this vulnerable since Stacy left the first time.

      And maybe not even then -- considering the difference in circumstances.

      Wilson's been aware for a long time now, ever since House showed up in the hospital room with that electric razor in his hand, of the fact that House's defenses have been destroyed. What's interesting to us is what Wilson chooses to do about that.

      You got through this whole thing in a day? Wow.

      More tomorrow. Thanks so much for commenting. We love to know you're out there.
  • Wow! My day is not complete until I read a fic from this verse. I love this one particularly for Wilson's quietly understanding of House. And the conversation at the end:

    "You were up," Wilson muses. "You woke me."
    There is a thank you in here that is just implied, and maybe a question?

    "My leg hurts, you nitwit. You gonna take that stuff? 'Cause if not--"

    "Hands off, jerk."

    That's is classic House Wilson.
    Beautiful!
  • "Of course, lately he looks like he's twelve and the victim of child abuse."

    Please let me hurt Martin?! I REALLY really want him to know pain..


    I'm a NURSE, for petes's sake! I am NOT supposed to feel this way about any human being! It's against my values, ethics, morals!

    Oh, wait...Martin isn't human.

    Can I hurt him, pretty please!??

    Mick

  • Greetings!

    " While House had been pretending to himself that Wilson wasn't as important as all that, Martin had known better. He always did have a flawless sense of the value of things. "

    Oh, that razor-edged beauty you show in a turn of phrase!!! Exquisitely done! :-)

    I love that House immediately abandons his sneak when he sees the nightmare... and breaks it in a very Housean fashion. :-D

    And for everything to be enough... a comforting revelation indeed. :-)

    Love the snark over the drugs - the perfect way to ease the moment, both in their world and in ours.

    Thank'ee's for posting!!!
    -Katrina
  • *sigh* you posted so early I read this last night, and then destroyed my before-work schedule of devouring the newest installment because I have all the self-control of a basking shark.

    Awesome segment though. I love this story so much.
  • Okay, I know the other words, in combination, were great too, but my favorite has to be nitwit. That is, I've just realized, a totally underused word. It's fabulous. And perfect. And House. He was *so* close to the laptop. Maybe next time...
  • "Look where I am." Wilson's glancing around the apartment. "Never seen you do anythin' like this," he says, turning his head to look House in the eye. "Y'thought I wanted somethin' else?"

    It's like the whole fic has been building up to this moment - which is great, because Wilson has serenely know it for ages, whilst House can't accept it even when it's spelled out to him. Wonderful writing, as always ♥
  • Sigh. Still House doubts that Wilson wants to stay, still House blames himself for what happened, still House worries that Martin will infiltrate *both* their lives again instead of just House's now that Martin knows how deeply hurting Wilson can hurt House.

    I love the twin nightmares; both tormented by ghosts -- although House knows the ghost isn't so intangible.

    And this: He can't turn on the TV without waking Wilson, whose concern for him will piss him off. *g* House just can't let himself believe he's being generous, can he? Can't stop at "without waking Wilson" -- has to justify how it helps himself, and if it helps Wilson along the way, then fine. *shakes head*
  • So many good lines. "Moving closer, he slides two fingers carefully beneath Wilson's wrist, feeling a steady pulse and no sign of fever" and, of course, the last paragraph was pricelss. Lots of butterflies. I got chills when House imagined Martin talking to Cuddy. I loved the way House startled Wilson awake in the middle of a nightmare. Thanks!
  • Heartbreaking :( House IS what Wilson needs, but I don't know if he knows that...
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