SUMMARY: Now he knows how lucky he is.
CHARACTERS: House, Wilson
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.
As he'd expected, it hadn't taken much talking to get Wilson to consent to the U-plates for his ribs. In fact, it hadn't taken House any talking at all. He'd dropped one of the plates on the conference room table that morning before anyone had arrived. As soon as he walked in, Chase spotted the plate, grinned like an idiot, grabbed it up and practically bounded out of the room.
House let him have his feeling of victory. It had been Chase's contact that got him the plates, after all.
Now House sits, silently turning the latest gift in his hands. He listens to the monitors and watches as Wilson slowly comes back to consciousness. The nurses took advantage of his sedation for the surgery and gave him a quick sponge bath before putting him back in bed; he smells better than he has in days.
House hasn't spoken to Wilson since the night before, since Wilson told him the real story.
But he's been watching, he's been seeing Wilson all along. He's been watching the swelling go down and the morphine go in. He's been watching Wilson breathe like a drowning man.
He's been watching Wilson's beard grow.
Wilson's eyes find him almost as soon as they open, and Wilson breathes in a long sigh.
"Hey," House says softly. "Okay?"
Wilson's eyes well with moisture, and House leans forward to reach for the morphine pump.
"Mmmmm," Wilson says and shakes his head, very slightly. House pauses and looks over at him. Wilson takes in another deep breath, lets it out in a long sigh. "Dudn't hurt."
House leans back, breathes a sigh of his own. "That's...good."
Wilson's lips curl up, just a little at the edges, and he whispers, "Yeah." He breathes again, and it's hard to read his expression, but he looks almost...content. Like he's suddenly found himself flopped on the beach, soaking up sunshine instead of seawater. "Really goodh. Anks."
"You should thank Chase," House replies. "He called in the favor to get them."
Wilson grunts in response, then sniffs. "A bath?"
"Yeah," House says. "While you were under." He fidgets a little in his chair and looks up to see Wilson watching him. It's unnerving, the way Wilson watches him now. He only follows with his eyes.
House clears his throat. "Anyway, I thought you might like the full-service treatment. You haven't looked in the mirror lately, but your beard is bad." He holds up his gift: An electric razor.
Wilson's eyes go wide, then crinkle around the edges like he's trying to smile. He looks down at his arms, the one freshly bandaged, braced, and strapped, the other with a pulse-ox and stuck full of IVs. He looks back at the razor longingly, then at House, and says, "Woudju?"
House fights down the surprised bubble in his chest and presses his wrists into his knees to stop his hands from shaking. He's not sure he can do it, not without causing Wilson more pain.
"Are you—" House clears his throat, "—you sure?"
Wilson nods, just a little. "Itches," he says. "Drivin' me nuts."
"It might hurt." Because House has already hurt him enough. Because House doesn't want to hurt him again.
Wilson's eyes track over to the morphine pump, then back to House's face. "'M on the goodh shtuff." He raises his chin a little, indicating the razor. "C'mon."
House draws in a deep breath, then hauls himself out of the chair to stand next to the bed. He starts to lean over, but quickly straightens up as a spike of protest from his leg warns him the position won't be tenable for long. Quickly, he locates an adjustable stool in the corner and hobbles over to retrieve it. Before long he's settled back next to the bed and pushing up his sleeves.
He reaches toward Wilson's face slowly, hesitantly, giving Wilson ample time to back out, to tell him to back off. He tries to slow his breathing, to not give away how very shaky this makes him. He can't explain the nerves, can't explain why he's so certain Wilson's going to scream and tell him to get the hell out.
All the while Wilson simply watches him with those dark eyes.
House feels the razor start to slip in his fingers, and he quickly pulls back so he doesn't drop the thing on Wilson's chest.
Wilson lets out a huffing noise between his teeth. "Anytime, Housh."
With a huff of breath that could have been a nervous laugh, House looks back at Wilson. "Sorry. Okay." He wipes his hands on the blanket and turns the razor on. Wilson doesn't move as he reaches for his chin.
Gently, House ghosts the razor close to Wilson's cheek. He glides it along the jawbone, back toward the ear, and pulls it up toward the cheekbone. The razor floats against the abused skin; the buzz drowns out the noises of the monitors and House is glad it drowns out the sound of his breathing, too.
A few tiny hairs litter Wilson's pillow and stick to his ear in the wake of the razor. House brushes at them twice, ineffectually, before giving up and deciding to ignore them. If they bother Wilson, he can always get a nurse to change his pillow.
The terrain of Wilson's cheek is altered considerably by the wires in his jaw, so House has to go over it a few times. He cautiously places two fingers on Wilson's cheek to tighten the skin as he brings the razor back toward his ear. Obediently, Wilson turns his face away slightly, to give him access.
House nearly drops the razor again when Wilson tilts his head back for House to shave the underside of his jaw. Instead, he turns the razor off and tries to meet Wilson's eyes, but they're closed.
"That's gotta hurt," he says.
"Not bad," Wilson whispers and opens his eyes. He turns his head toward House and glares. "You shtop now an' I make shure Cuddy sendsh you with th' mobile hoshpital on its nex' tour down south."
House puts on his most wounded look. "You wouldn't!"
Wilson simply tilts his head back again and closes his eyes.
Nothing else could have conveyed Wilson's trust in him so completely; Wilson could have talked through his wires for hours and not been as eloquent as those closed eyes and that bared, bandaged throat. When House starts the razor again and lightly grips Wilson's chin, Wilson is warm under his fingers, vital and solid and real.
The skin beneath Wilson's jaw is just as dark as the rest of his face; the bruising travels down in dark streaks, reaching for the bruising rising from his collarbone. House makes short work of the side closest to him, slowing the razor when he gets close to the bandage from the tracheotomy. Wilson responds to the slightest pressure of his fingers and rolls his face toward House so he can reach the far side of his jaw.
House repeats his pattern across Wilson's other cheek, more confidently resting his fingers against the skin but careful of the pressure. When he gets to Wilson's chin and mouth, he pauses the razor in midair, considering. Wilson has two stitches in his lower lip, which will be hard to avoid, and there's very little flesh stretched over the wires and teeth, so even the slightest pressure will be painful.
House bites his own lip in concentration. Gently, he lays his thumb over the stitches and splays his fingers just below Wilson's jaw. Wilson's breath puffs warmly across his knuckles, and House pauses, just a moment, surprised to feel Wilson's pulse beating beneath his fingertips. House breathes a little sigh of relief; the beep of monitors has never been as reassuring as this, as feeling life under his own hands. During every visit to this room, he's been watching the monitors, reading the chart, telling himself that Wilson's alive, but he hasn't touched, hasn't let himself know. Now he knows how lucky he is.
Carefully, he works the razor in small circles over Wilson's chin. He flips the sideburn trimmer open and starts the hardest part: between Wilson's lips and nose. House frowns as he rests his fingertips over Wilson's dry lips; he has to pull them a little to get all those pesky whiskers and he knows it has to be uncomfortable. Still, Wilson's breathing stays even and strong.
When he sits back and turns off the razor, House is surprised to see Wilson watching him. "There," he says loudly. "There's only room for one scruffy sexy doctor in this hospital."
"Should'na shaved me, then," Wilson replies quietly, just before his eyes slip closed.
House chuckles. "Goodnight, Wilson."
"'Nigh, Housh," Wilson murmurs without opening his eyes.
House watches as Wilson relaxes into sleep. After a few minutes, he exits the room as quietly as he can. He stands in front of the door, watching nurses and doctors bustling around the nurses' station, patients and visitors wandering the halls. He looks down at his feet and makes a decision.
House steps over to the phone on the wall before he heads for the elevators. "Chase," he barks. "Get me the number for home healthcare, and meet me in the lobby."