black_cigarette (black_cigarette) wrote,

Aftershocks 15.3: Down Time

TITLE: Aftershocks: A Story in Shattered Pieces
SUMMARY: Between the motion and the act ...
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.

Down Time

Wilson is released at five that afternoon.

The ride back to the apartment is mostly silent, with House concentrating on his driving and Wilson dozing, the passenger seat tilted back a little. Traces of vomit-stink still linger in the 'Vette, despite the extra fifty House had slipped the guys at the carwash to get it all out.

Probably smell like this forever, House thinks sourly. Same as spilling a quart of milk in the car.

He brakes for a light a little more abruptly than necessary, but Wilson doesn't stir.

At home, Wilson shuffles around like an old man, and House is painfully reminded of the morning he'd spied on Wilson as he and Jerry had taken tiny, halting baby steps just to get to the bathroom.

What am I doing? he thinks. I can never fix this, never undo what was done. Why am I even trying?

He says none of these things, and is silent as he helps Wilson into the hospital bed.

House eases down to a comfortable position on the sofa, intending to catch up on some JAMA articles he's bookmarked. Soon enough, though, he's surfing the Web, looking for more nutritious Wilson-chow recipes. It's when he realizes he's been staring at the same recipe for almost ten minutes—pumpkin pie smoothie, a Thanksgiving treat for the geriatric set—that he gives up and leans back.

He dreams of Wilson handing him a pad of paper.

Wilson is whole and undamaged in the dream, but he holds a forefinger to his lips in the universal gesture of silence. Puzzled, House looks down.

The pages in the pad are blank. Every one of them.

When House opens his eyes, the shadows are long and the light dim. He hadn't turned any of the lamps on when they got back, and now full evening has come on and taken them unawares. Wilson is sound asleep.

With a weary grunt, House levers himself up off the sofa and picks up his bike keys. He's not spending another minute in a puke-perfumed car if he can help it. He retrieves the small paper bag with the obnoxious printed pattern from behind the stereo where he stashed it the other night, folds it up tight and tucks it under his leather jacket. House zips the jacket closed; the paper rustles and crinkles next to his t-shirt as he reaches for his helmet, and he smiles just a little, anticipating the expression on Cuddy's face when she sees his cheeky, sleazy surprise.

Maybe it's time to start talking, he thinks. But not right now.

Wilson's awake when House returns, but he doesn't bother asking where House has been. All he does is turn and look once as House walks in. That's part of their routine now. Wilson has to make certain that it's only his friend. He's never spoken of it, but his body betrays the release of tension every time.

The carefully wrapped (thank you, Lisa Cuddy) little box is hidden uncomfortably beneath House's jacket. He stumps into the kitchen and puts it away in one of the upper cabinets, the way you'd hide cookies from a child. That trick had never worked on House when he was a kid, of course, but then he was never in Wilson's condition.

Wilson's condition. Those two words bring back a flood of images that snuffs out the fragile, happy sparks he'd trailed home from his visit to Cuddy. Somehow, while he was over there, he had allowed himself to feel like it would be all right. He'd been so pleased about devising a gift that Wilson never should have needed in the first place.

Shouldn't he know better than that by now?

It's almost ten at night and the two of them sit in what has become their usual fashion: Wilson's in his bed, with the head raised so that it forms something like a big reclining chair. The better to eat—well, if you can call that eating—and watch cable. House is to Wilson's right, slouched on the end of the sofa, firmly in possession of the remote.

Nothing that's on is interesting enough to provide a good distraction. Nothing covers Wilson's deafening silence, and his dark eyes offer no hint as to the reason he's so quiet. It might simply be due to the wires or it might be something else on Wilson's mind. They did so much to him, damn near slaughtered him, and all on account of House; how could he be anything but furious? And yet there's so little evidence, because Wilson can hide practically anything. House can't tell, no matter how hard he tries.

House finally gives up on his manic channel-flipping. The random search has stopped on a re-run of Baywatch, but it doesn't matter. He turns down the sound and prepares to do what feels like walking through a minefield in the dark.

"He told you he knew me," says House, and the slow venom in his tone surprises even him. There's no need to explain to Wilson who "he" is.

Wilson blinks in surprise, then nods slightly and waits. Okay then, House thinks, and takes a breath, preparing for another blind step.

"That," he continues, "was thirty-three years ago." He looks over for a moment to make certain that Wilson's following, understanding him. Wilson's following, all right, those sharp eyes showing little emotion but plenty of comprehension: House has tried to put as much distance as possible between himself and this part of his past. "Never believe what people tell you," he says. "Especially when they say they're your friend." I learned it early, Wilson. You can do the math.

"You 'ere—fourteen?" Wilson's doing that squinting, blinking, head-tilting thing that he only does when he's puzzled or concerned or both. "Fourteen."

"When I ran in terror, yeah." House shifts and squirms. All at once his leg is killing him. "Twelve," he says, and he can't look at Wilson when he says it. "I was twelve when I met him."

"He looked older'n you."

"Five years." House gets up, limps swiftly toward the door and snatches up his helmet. No, he thinks, I'm too tired. I'm too tired to ride and I'm way too damn tired to keep talking.

He puts down the lid and takes the keys for Wilson's Volvo instead. Safety and comfort are good things sometimes.

"I need beer," he growls, facing away to unlock the door. "Back in a while."

Wilson deserves better than this. He deserves so much better, but that will have to wait until House can find his way around the land mines.
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