SUMMARY: House sets his own visiting hours.
RATING: R for language and themes.
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.
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.
He stands at the end of the hallway, outside the ICU, too worn out to even tap his cane on the tiles as he usually does when he's thinking.
It's Monday night, the night when things were supposed to get better. House had plans for this night, damn it. He had plans and those plans did not involve Wilson in intensive care. They didn't involve being worried that Wilson might not live to see another Monday. That could happen; it could happen so easily in a case like this. It probably won't, but it could.
For 'lunch' and 'dinner' House has had a few pieces of junk from the hospital vending machines. Wilson hasn't had anything. His intestinal tract was so traumatized—first from the blows and then from the repairs—that they've put him on TPN for the next few days. All his calories and nutrients are going directly into his veins. They've got to make sure he can handle food before they give him any, but even then it won't exactly be prime rib.
House has seen the x-rays, the cleanly snapped left side of Wilson's jaw. He'll be eating through tubes and straws for at least six weeks.
Martin's probably dining like a king tonight, wherever he is. House can't help wondering: How close? Is he eating lobster with Reno, spreading a little of that blood money around? Is he down at that pricey little restaurant that Reno's cousin owns? Ordering the filet mignon and planning the next execution?
Maybe he and his goons are somewhere on the outskirts of town, down in some clammy middle-class basement, already busy killing some other poor sap.
The truth is that House doesn't give a damn, just as long as Martin stays away from here. He doesn't care about the next victim, whose name and face he will never know. He can't care, because his whole scant supply of caring is bound up in Wilson's bandages, tucked between Wilson's blankets, dissolved invisibly into Wilson's IV. House wants to go in and see just how bad it is, but he can't, not with so many people around. This is a private hell; no spectators and no other sinners allowed.
He turns away from the ICU, leaving a trail of crumbs as he chokes down the dry cookie he bought with his last two quarters. In the Diagnostics lounge there's a little stale coffee to wash it down. It'll do.
He waits in Wilson's office, sprawled on Wilson's sofa and toying with Wilson's expensive collectible baseball. He waits, because people do go home to their own little hells, eventually. They'll go home, and then he can go see Wilson.
Waiting turns into sleeping, quite on accident. He dreams again, waking with a jolt, a sharp inhalation and no memory at all of the nightmare. It had to have been a nightmare, because that's all his life consists of now. Still he lies back and tries to sleep just a little more.
When that fails, he gets up and turns on Wilson's computer. His snooping routine is comforting, familiar, and it pisses Wilson off; it is precisely the distraction that House wants.
It's 1:57 a.m. when House finally approaches the nurses' station. He smiles because Daria is there. There is a reason why he remembers her name, and that reason is a good one. This will be so easy, like shooting a pretty blonde fish in a barrel.
"Doctor House?" She's almost gaping at the sight of him, here so late at night. Her hair catches glimmers of green from the fluorescent lights as she bobs her head in disbelief.
"Nope. Not here," he snaps. "And if I hear about this, I'll know who gossiped. I can gossip too. I've got some luscious morsels about you and Doctor Lyman."
Her little pink mouth falls open and House smirks as he turns toward the ICU. She's got a husband, and it's not Lyman. Daria will not be a problem.
He slides the door open carefully, just a few inches, and peers in. Dark as the room is, it's still possible to tell that Wilson's deeply asleep. Too bad it's not possible to tell that this is Wilson. He might as well be a victim of some third-world regime, a casualty of war.
House moves toward Wilson's side and stares at his exposed right arm and hand. This is one of the few uninjured spots on his body, and so they had to stick a nice wide IV in there. Wilson's throat wasn't messed up either, and that's got a trach tube. As if they were finishing the job Martin started.
He notes that Wilson's got his morphine drip ramped up as far as it will go. Good for you, he thinks, and then can't help wondering whether Wilson will learn anything from this.
Of course he will, replies a smooth, light voice in House's mind. He'll finally learn that friendship with Greg House is never worth the trouble.
House quietly clicks on his penlight and uses it to read and re-read Wilson's chart. He already knows the devastation, because Chase has gotten him copies of every scrap of Wilson-related paperwork. What he's after is any evidence of change in any direction in the last few hours.
There's nothing much. Wilson's stable, for now.
He hangs the chart back in its place and lifts the soft covers from Wilson's feet. He's been wondering about this, but he couldn't ask without raising questions that he does not want to answer. House was a military brat and he learned about interrogation techniques whether he wanted to or not. Wilson's feet are clean, though. The soles are pink and pristine; there are no bruises, no cuts, nothing. One less horror on his conscience, although there are already so many that he's not sure one more or less would matter.
He straightens up, holding the light like a candle, cupping his fingers around it to guard the flame. It's silly, of course. That glaring little pinpoint wouldn't wake Wilson, who's got enough drugs in his system to knock out a rhino. All the same, there's no reason to take the chance. House leaves his cane hanging over the railing and limps slowly along the side of the bed, holding the light as near to Wilson as he dares.
Wilson's left hand is invisible, swathed in cotton, held immobile in a complex molded brace. House shines his small spotlight upon it, and the metal components gleam softly back at him. That's the hand that rolls joints for cancer patients. It's Wilson's pancake-flipping hand; it's the one that signs prescriptions and restaurant checks. House hasn't seen the x-rays of it yet. He doesn't want to see them, but the moment he can get ahold of them he will. He shades his little light again and turns toward the head of the bed.
The light bleeds through House's fingers, gently illuminating the erratic curve of Wilson's mouth, the lips chapped and cut, misshapen, hinting at the wired-shut jaw underneath. His nose is bandaged, splinted, and so badly swollen that he can't breathe through that, either; it's why the trach tube is still there. A few more minutes lying in that alley and it would have been all over. It would have been death, or enough brain damage to amount to the same thing.
Wilson's inflamed, bruised, broken face is as stubbly now as House's. It seems so wrong for that raw, abused skin to be sprouting hair. It makes him look like a slaughtered animal, rather than the beautiful traitor that House knows him to be. And Wilson is a traitor, though that was never his intent. If anything, Tritter betrayed Wilson. But it was still Wilson's own stupid fault for not seeing what the man was, wasn't it? That was what House had been telling himself, excusing the retaliation he was taking on his friend.
He had wanted Wilson to suffer, to understand. He was supposed to learn how it felt when you'd screwed up and then found that nothing you could do would ever be good enough to fix it. How it felt to be House.
So he talked to Wilson about patients, and about his fun new friends, and nothing else. He had loved watching the jabs hit home, seeing those subtle flickers of hurt in Wilson's eyes when he'd tell a joke he heard from someone in that shark pool. It was good to watch Wilson's posture crumble a little with every report of a winning hand of poker or an accurately called horse race. Good to see him cringe at the wallet full of cash, the winnings House would flaunt but never share.
It was good for a while to rebel against clean, shiny Wilson. None of Reno's guys cared how much House smoked or how many pills he took. The only time those men ever talked about a liver it was because they were ordering one, with grilled onions.
Once—and it was only once—Wilson huffed at him in that edgy voice of his, telling him it was a bad idea. Those are dangerous men, said Wilson. They're not your friends. You're going to get hurt.
He'd laughed in Wilson's face and walked away.
He wasn't going to get hurt. He was just about done with those morons anyhow; they kept telling the same jokes over and over. They didn't even get half the jokes House told in return. They ate liver and onions. They thought his name was funny, and they'd call him Hotel or Condo, laughing like it was the most original thing ever.
There was just that one more irresistible bet House wanted to make. He'd win that, he was sure of it, and then he'd saunter off and that would be the last those guys would see of him.
Now it's Monday night—well, Tuesday morning, as if it matters—and it's all wrong. Wilson didn't know it, but he was supposed to have slept on House's sofa tonight. He was supposed to have brought food and beer, and stayed and ridden out the last waves of House's wrath. That anger had to run its course, but the truth was it did matter why Wilson made all those stupid mistakes. It mattered that he'd been trying to save House's ass, and that he'd done the only thing he thought he could do. As long as you're trying to be good, you can do whatever you want. Or, he amends the thought, whatever you think you have to.
And House had meant to forgive it all, but only after he made certain that Wilson wouldn't be such an idiot ever again. So it's all gone perfectly, hasn't it? Because there's no way in hell he'll try anymore. He shuffles toward the door in silence, picking up his cane from the railing of the bed, pausing to carefully re-cover Wilson's bare feet.
Oh, Jimmy. I should've been more careful what I wished for.