black_cigarette (black_cigarette) wrote,

Aftershocks 12.1: Catch and Release

TITLE: Aftershocks: A Story in Shattered Pieces
SUMMARY: Something's fishy.
CHARACTERS: Wilson, OFC, House
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.

Catch and Release

If House had been really smart, he'd have just called in today and stayed home where he could observe more closely. He doesn't have enough evidence to logically support his theory. Hell, he hardly even has a theory. What he has is a restless sense that something—other than all the obvious somethings—is the matter with Wilson, and has been since yesterday afternoon.

Through the morning he has sat at his desk, drinking coffee and pretending to work. Well, not really pretending to work. It's more like he has been pretending to not work in the same way that he usually doesn't work when it's Friday and he has no new case. He's been playing the usual games on his computer, and tossing that weird fuzzy ball around in the usual ways, while trying to make sense of a rather unusual problem.

Individually, each of the things that he's noticed is easily explained. Wilson didn't eat lunch yesterday? Understandable, considering how gross that fruit-sludge was. Blankets pulled up over his head like a little kid? It's not like you can blame the guy if he wants to hide out for a while. That extra dose of oxycodone Wilson needed last night? House knows all about the unpredictable nature of pain. 

Yet despite all these rational explanations, House thinks—he knows—that there's something wrong. It's something new, and Wilson isn't talking about it because he's Wilson and he hides everything important. He could amputate his own foot in a lawnmower accident, and he'd want to just get a prosthesis and tell everyone he sprained his ankle. House could simply ask what's going on, but experience tells him that Wilson would lie. 
Whatever is bothering him, it's so subtle he can't quite see it. It's like trying to follow the shadowy movements of fish beneath the surface of a dark pond. Some of the shapes might be real, some imaginary or simply bits of his own reflection. He has to know, and the only way to know is to throw in a net and see what he can catch. That would be so much easier if he were home.

He leans back in his chair and checks his watch. How can it only be noon? Will this day never end? At least it's time to get lunch, which will alleviate a fraction of the boredom for, oh, ten minutes or so. Meanwhile, he will continue to not know what's wrong. 

House decides he has two options, and the first one doesn't count. He gets up and shuts off his computer.


Great. He'd been hoping Cuddy would be somewhere else, eating lunch the way normal people do at this hour. 

"Sorry! Can't chat. Got a two o'clock flight to Istanbul." He doesn't turn around as he rushes past her. He's got his backpack on and his keys in hand; no way is she going to stop him.  

"I'm clipping your wings. You haven't got a case, and you have got hours to put in. Clinic. Now."

"Clinic: No. My case is your head of Oncology. Get Johnston to coddle the sniffling masses." He doesn't stop moving and she doesn't stop following. "Get Cameron; she loves that crap. With any luck she'll find a guy who's both cute and terminal, and she'll stop pestering me."

By then they're at the elevator and there's no escaping Cuddy, but at least she has to stand close to him in there. It's good to be tall, and to stand beside a short woman with a low cut blouse and a gorgeous set of—

"You are not going home to take care of Wilson," she says, pulling her jacket closed, maliciously destroying the view. "He's got a visiting nurse. He doesn't need you."

"But you do!" House crows. He tips back his head and presses a hand over his heart. "Oh, I thought you'd never confess!"

She stops the elevator, but she's not as angry as he had expected. Sadly, she doesn't seem aroused either.

"House, here's a novel idea. Tell me the truth."

Suddenly, he's just too tired to keep evading her. It takes too much effort. She's waiting, and she's not going to leave him alone until he explains.

"Something's wrong with him." 

"No kidding," she replies, but House sees her turn a little pale.

"Other than that. He's—it's probably not serious, and I need to make sure it stays not serious."

"You're paranoid, House," she sighs, running a hand through that lovely thick hair of hers. "You're going to drive him crazy. Don't make a puzzle where there isn't one."

"Yeah," he replies, hitting the button to start the elevator again. "That's what you said when I told you that two sick babies meant we had an epidemic. I was paranoid. I was bored. I was borrowing trouble. I was right. Care to take that gamble with Wilson? 'Cause I don't."

"Why do you think—"

"He's off his feed and—just trust me, okay? If it's serious, you'll be the first to know. Well, all right, the third.  Does that work for you?" The doors of the elevator open and he starts moving before she can answer. He knows he's won this round, and he doesn't have time to waste. 

Today, what House hears through the apartment door sounds somewhat like a talkative bird. He calls out Wilson's name as he enters the apartment, and this time there's a definite response.

"Howwwsh." Wilson's sitting up on the bed. He can't turn around, but the sidelong look he gives House says it all. "Glad yer here," he adds, and inhales in a way that suggests he's been holding his breath for a while. He must be glad indeed, if he's saying so. That's totally against their rules.

There's a tall, pudgy Amazon creature standing at Wilson's bedside. Her meaty hands are planted on her hips, putting creases in her pink uniform. She's so focused on her prey that she hardly notices House's arrival. She follows Wilson's gaze and seems startled at the contrast between her patient and his ... roommate. House can see her gears turning as she tries to assess the nature of this relationship. He could have such fun messing with her, but he has more pressing concerns.

"Carla Jean Fowler," she says, marching up to him with an outstretched hand, which drops when she sees his own right hand on the cane. "I'm—"

"The evil minion of Reliant Health Services."

"—his nurse."

"That's what I said. By all means, carry on with your evil minion duties. I'm gonna get a beer. TGIF and all that rot."  He turns toward the kitchen and immediately the nurse starts yammering on at Wilson.

"—this, because you of all people should know about hygiene. You don't have anything I haven't seen a thousand times. No need to be bashful about it."

House feels as if someone just dropped several ice cubes down his back. His feet stop moving of their own accord. He turns to watch the scene unfolding in the living room.

"Don' need it," says Wilson, jerking painfully away from the meaty hand that she has laid on his arm. "I'll do't m'self, jus'—"

"Hey! Nurse Ratched!" House snaps. She faces him with her eyes all wide and innocent.

"Excuse me, Mister—?"

"Doctor House," he corrects. "Are you trying to give Doctor Wilson a bath?" House is rapidly moving back into the living room. Got to get between Wilson and the enemy.

"Well, in the shower, you know, with a cloth and basin. It's just the routine like that. His mobility's so poor he just can't reach everything. But Doctor Wilson's being all stubborn," she says, turning back to Wilson. "It's perfectly normal for patients with these kinds of injuries to—"

"—want a sponge bath from a hot young babe. Which you are not, in case you haven't noticed." She gawps like a fish as he stumps around Wilson's bed and stops beside her, forcing her to look up at him. "Just how long did you work at the nursing home?"

"Fifteen years," she replies, lifting her chin like she's a proud veteran of battle. "Wait, now, how did you—"

"There's a characteristic disregard for human dignity. Get out." He points his cane at the door, watching her mouth drop open again. "Got a hearing problem? Out. If you have a bag, gather it. I'll take it from here."

He sits down on the edge of the bed, very close to Wilson, who has already managed to get his legs back onto the mattress and has pulled the covers over himself. House keeps his fierce gaze upon Carla as she picks up her kit and her big quilted purse and huffs her way out the door. The last thing he sees of her is a pitying glance directed at poor Doctor Wilson.

Once she's gone, House starts to get up to lock the door behind her. That's when he realizes that Wilson has grabbed onto his sleeve.

"Hey," he says, "you gonna let me bar the gates?"

Wilson's eyes are squeezed shut, and he's breathing harder than he should be. "Meds," he groans. There's already a familiar, empty cup on the bedside table.

"Didn't she give them to you?" 

"Mm. Yeah. But—"  Wilson's hand tugs at his sleeve. "Gimme y'arm. See," he says, and abruptly grips House's wrist, "gotta he'p ya get up."

"Uh huh," House says, glancing upward. "Looks like you didn't actually damage my ceiling. When you hit it."

Wilson's pale face and shallow breaths are all the answer House needs. "Morphine?" he asks quietly, and Wilson lets go of his wrist so he can get it. Wilson's standard medication is liquid oxycodone, but he's got a morphine scrip as a backup. In case of attack by nursing staff, take 8 mg by mouth. It's an oral solution, a small blessing; no needle is required. House wonders why he never thought of that for himself, as he hobbles over and locks the door at last. All dangers are certainly past by now, but Cuddy was partly right: he's paranoid.

In the kitchen, he chooses pomegranate juice to mix with Wilson's dose. In his previous distraction, he didn't notice that the ingredients for Wilson's lunch were still sitting on the counter. The blender stands empty and clean. Once again Wilson has missed a meal. House stops at four milligrams of morphine; given the lack of food and the oxycodone Wilson's already taken, that should be enough to do the trick. Lunch can wait. It's pointless to try and eat when you're hurting bad enough to need morphine. House would know.

"So," he says, as he hands over the spiked juice, "You didn't tell me you were starving to death. Taking up anorexia as a hobby? Or is this a hunger strike because I wouldn't let you watch Survivor last night?"

"I'll eat. Jus'—not righ' now, 'kay?"  Wilson's sipping down that juice with impressive speed.

"You don't have to. I mean, hey, you could always just take more drugs. Join the Junkie Doctors Club, get a cool hat and a secret decoder ring. The dues are a bitch, though. I can't recommend it." Of course it's not Wilson's fault he didn't get anything to eat, but where's the fun in admitting that?

"I'll try," sighs Wilson, and drains the very last of his drink. "Mebbe now't she'sh gone—you make sumthin'. I'll try."

"Not until your meds kick in, you won't,"  House grumbles, and sits down on the sofa. "You just don't know the joy of pain-induced nausea."

"Yeah,"  Wilson replies.  "Akshully, I do."

There is absolutely nothing that House can say to that.

They've got the weekend ahead of them now, and House will be right here. By Monday, Wilson should be doing a little better. He shouldn't really need these midday visits, and if he does, House will send one of his team. There will be no more Carla, no more strangers of any kind putting their sticky paws on Wilson. Reliant Health Services can go straight to hell.

He'll call and tell them so, just as soon as Wilson's sleeping.

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