SUMMARY: Simple things aren't that simple now.
CHARACTERS: Wilson, House.
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.
The water feels so, so good. Heat seeps like sunlight into the shadowy bruises that still cover his body; it's been almost two weeks and he's still several shades of red, purple, yellow and green. He remembers a piece of sodden newsprint, a ruined page of comics in a puddle on the asphalt. Standing beneath the spray, he shuts his eyes tight and wills all those images to wash down the drain.
House has brought him a bottle of blue shower gel that smells—blessedly—more or less like soap. Wilson's thankful for that; House might have picked lavender or freesia or something. There are two of those girly, fluffy scrubby things to go with it. One is just the puffball, and the other is attached to the end of a long, curving plastic handle. A back-washer. All these items sit in easy reach on a small shelf in the shower. This, Wilson thinks, should be no big deal.
Very shortly he discovers that he's wrong. House had helped him out of the sling, and Wilson was supposed to simply hold his left arm immobile in that same position while he got cleaned up. Tomlinson had said it would work. But the moment the restraint is gone, old patterns re-emerge. He starts to wash with his right hand, and it's awkward, and his left arm automatically begins to move. It wants to take over the task. To keep it still requires a level of concentration which he, drugged and damaged, currently does not possess. Soon, despite all his efforts, that collarbone is throbbing so hard that it feels as if the skin will break.
He stops just for a moment and stares at his surgical incision, a dark red line all the way down his belly. As badly as he's bruised, the cut doesn't stand out the way it otherwise would, but the staples that hold it together make it look like a zipper—either that or a weird miniature railroad. Train wreck, he thinks, and snorts a little, trying to scrub his stomach without letting the mesh pouf snag on the staples.
There are lumps all over his body, swellings beneath the darkened skin. By feel he finds seventeen tender, inflamed spots where he was kicked by someone wearing pointy-toed boots. That damage is deep. Those kinds of bruises take months to go away.
Everything he does hurts in one way or another, but Wilson's not willing to quit. He's not ready to give up on the heat and the lather, or on the satisfying abrasiveness of the scrubber. It's so good, and he feels filthy, as if there's an oily grime clinging to every inch of his body. He knows it isn't really that bad, but for some reason he can't stop trying to get rid of whatever is on him. He ignores the pain that's reaching outward from his spine, ignores the sharp reprimands from his ribs, and shampoos his hair twice.
His abdominal muscles rebel just as the shampoo is running down over his face. The spasm doubles him over, which sets off those chipped vertebrae. The combined pain makes him forget about his arm, and gravity pulls it downward, taking the broken clavicle out of its assigned position.
He isn't aware that he's howling until the water abruptly cuts off and a large white towel flops across his bent back. He doesn't want to be rescued, and he'd protest if it weren't for the pain, which has overthrown both modesty and pride. The howls degenerate into whimpers and gasps, but he still can't straighten himself. He can see his lower legs, his feet, and the pale wet tiles. House's feet are wearing gray socks, which are getting wet now, and House's hands are working the towel quickly downward. The cloth encircles his waist. He perceives only vaguely the small pressure of one towel-end getting tucked beneath the other; at present his main objective is to breathe and not pass out. Still, some small part of his brain issues a silent thanks that House is attempting to preserve whatever dignity he's got left.
There's a stuttering sound, the rubber-tipped feet of the shower chair being pushed into place behind him. "Sit," commands House, and that seems like a pretty good idea. It's painful and it's slow, and he's wobbling at the knees, but he sits. Almost at once, his stomach muscles begin to relax, and the cramps subside into irregular flutters and tugs. It's a small relief; his collarbone and back are not at all ready to forgive him.
A second white towel appears, falling across his shoulders. House leans down into Wilson's field of vision.
That isn't a problem, since movement equals agony right now. He knows he's crying—the tears of pain are mixing with the water dripping out of his hair—but he doesn't dare try drying his face. He'll do what House said. Hold still. It hurts every time his heart beats, and he'd hold that still, too, if he could.
He's got his eyes shut, but opens them again when he hears House approach. When he tries to look up, his back protests the shifting weight. With a moan, he lets his head tip downward again.
"Told you to hold still," says House, and without further comment he pokes a straw into Wilson's mouth. He's holding a small cup of something or other—and who cares what it is, as long as there's morphine in it. Wilson doesn't ask, doesn't question the dosage or fret about addiction. He drinks until the straw will bring up nothing but air.
"I'd ask what you did to yourself," grumbles House, "but I don't wanna hear it." House had tried to tell him he'd need to use the shower chair, and Wilson had foolishly declined. "Don't move until the morphine kicks in. Gonna listen to me now?"
"Good." House's voice has softened. The towel lifts from Wilson's shoulders. He sits there, in too much pain to be as astonished as he should be when House dries his hair and his face. "Gonna take a few minutes," he says, "and I have better things to do than stand here and wait." He drapes the towel across Wilson's back again and gimps out of the room. Wilson can hear him moving back and forth in the hall.
For once, Wilson's thankful that his liquid diet leaves him constantly hungry. The fuzzy opiate warmth spreads through his system with surprising speed. By the time House returns, sling in hand, he's able to straighten up enough to accept it. House leans over him and works quietly, putting the arm into its proper position. He stops, though, with the sling only halfway on. He's staring at something. Looking down toward his left shoulder, Wilson sees that the skin is inflamed. The areas that aren't covered in bruises are a vivid, startling pink.
"Either you're having a reaction to the morphine," House says, "or you were trying to strip off your skin."
"Dunno," mumbles Wilson. The drug is dulling everything, including any sensation from the harsh scrubbing he gave himself. "Fel' greasy. Couldn' get clean."
"If you'd gotten much cleaner, you'd have been bleeding." House finishes fastening the sling in place, and holds out his hand. "C'mon. Back to bed, moron."
That, Wilson thinks, is a wonderful idea. They hobble together into the living room, as Wilson's pain is shrouded ever more thickly in the incoming fog. That must've been a pretty good dose he took. He's practically sleepwalking by the time they get to the bed; he doesn't even notice when the towels fall away from his body as House helps him slide beneath the blankets.
At last the world is soft and warm, and all he knows is sleep.