SUMMARY: Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.
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 Trojan Horse
"Hey! Wilson! Wake up!"
House watches as Wilson struggles up from his semi-reclined, drug-aided slumber. He waits patiently through these new stages of waking; with Wilson's physical recovery proceeding well, he no longer feels the need to rouse him and check for neurological damage.
Wilson moans softly and moves his right arm to cover his belly.
Trying to protect his vitals, House thinks.
A leg shifts restlessly under the white cotton sheet.
Trying to run. Trying to kick.
Wilson's right hand clenches into a tight fist; the muscles of his right bicep twitch.
Trying to fight back.
"Wilson," House says more softly. "It's okay. You're safe now."
It's been like this every morning. He thinks Wilson is dreaming, revisiting the place that's acquired a permanent address in his head. A barn, where the corners are always dark and there's a silver cigarette case lying open on an empty table.
He hasn't asked and Wilson hasn't said.
"House?" The name is slurred; it's difficult for Wilson to form the "ow" sound with his broken jaw. Wilson's told him it was the last thing Grey Eyes' men did, and House has wondered ever since if it was a random choice or another example of Martin's perverse sense of poetry to rob the man who counsels others in pain the ability to speak of his own.
"The one and only," House says, and forces himself to look into Wilson's eyes. The pupils are slightly smaller than they should be for the morning hour—the side effect of pain and being loaded up on assorted narcotics. "Want some water? Juice?"
"W'dr," Wilson mumbles, and that's been a new morning routine too. The bastards who'd held him (tortured him, call it what it really was) for twenty-four hours hadn't bothered to give him any, and Wilson had been seriously dehydrated by the time he'd been dumped in the alley. Even though he was pumped full of glucose and liquids in the hospital, he craves water—can't seem to get enough of it, like a sailor who's lost his compass and gotten marooned in a desert.
House makes sure now there's always a couple of bottles of fresh water within Wilson's reach. He grabs the nearest one and checks that the little blue nozzle is popped up. He hands it to Wilson, who tilts the bottle and squirts a long drink into his mouth.
"Y'know, you could squirt some of that stuff on your body too," House says. "You don't have another shower pretty soon, you'll start stinking up my apartment."
"Had one t'hospital."
"They wiped the puke off you at the hospital," House clarifies, "and that was two smelly days ago. You haven't had a complete shower since you fired Clarabelle."
Wilson looks around in annoyance. "Carla Jean. And I din't fire her!"
"Okay, so I fired her," House concedes. "My original point stands: you need a bath and there's no way in hell I'm giving you one."
"Can't showr." Wilson's eyes drop; he sets the water bottle down and gently touches his strapped left arm. "Can't keep this in place. Hurts. You saw."
House purses his lips out with a sigh. "Yeah well, as usual I'm the one who has to come up with the brilliant ideas around here." Ignoring Wilson's look of perturbation, he retrieves Cuddy's package from its hiding place in the kitchen. He tosses it in Wilson's lap.
"Got a present for you, champ," he says.
Wilson looks at the brightly-wrapped package like it contains a bomb, or rattlesnakes, or some infernal doomsday device that only House could come up with.
"Well? Open it!" House urges.
Wilson shoots him a look of irritation, and for just a moment House rejoices. That's my Wilson! he thinks.
"Izn't a tie, izzit?"
House tries to look as distressed as possible.
"What? No! If there's one thing you don't need it's another tie!" There's a flash of—something in Wilson's eyes then. Huh? House thinks, but then Wilson blinks and whatever it was is gone. "Trust me, this is way cooler than a tie."
Wilson makes a grumpy sound; he awkwardly wedges the narrow parcel under his left arm and uses his good right hand to laboriously untape the wrapping. The shiny paper unfolds, revealing the plain white box beneath. House waits for him to say something about the fact that the words on the gift wrap cheerily proclaim "FOR THE BAR MITZVAH BOY!" but apparently Wilson has already used up his quota of irritation this morning. He fumbles the lid off, and groans softly at the layers of tissue nested inside.
Nope, not quite his entire quota.
House waits, jiggling his cane impatiently as Wilson roots through the thin, crinkly blue paper. At last Wilson finds the prize, and lifts it out carefully. Wilson's eyes widen, and House can contain himself no longer.
"Isn't it great? Cuddy helped."
Wilson is staring at the length of fabric in his right hand.
"It's ... a bikini," he says at last. "You got me ... a ... bikini." He regards the object a moment, then looks at House. "An ... uhgly bikini."
House scowls. "It's not ugly, it's hideous. And it's not a bikini. Or rather, it was a bikini. Now it's a sling!"
Wilson gives him a dubious glance.
"It's colorful!" House protests. "It's Hawaii!" And it's true, the scene screenprinted on the material is Hawaiian—if Hawaiian beaches were populated by mutant orange monkeys picking monstrous pink coconuts off cherry red palm trees, while green hula girls splash in a sulferous yellow ocean. Naked green hula girls. With gills.
House observes that Wilson's face is turning a peculiar color.
"A ... sling?" he says faintly.
"Yeah." House shifts from his chair onto the side of Wilson's bed, forcing Wilson to scoot over a little. He takes the modified swimwear and holds it up. The mutant monkeys now seem to be reaching hungrily for the green-gilled hula girls.
"See? I took the padded shoulder strap from a regular sling, and Cuddy sewed it up in the bottom half of the bikini. Then—" he runs the fabric through his hands; now the lizard girls are chasing the monkeys— "she sewed the top half to the bottom, and voila! the cups provide the arm rest!" House fingers the material thoughtfully. "Soft, comfortable, practical, and it doesn't matter if it gets wet."
Wilson is still staring at the garishly-printed material.
"Cuddy made this?"
"She's a woman of many secret talents," House replies. He pauses. "And I've dedicated my life to finding out every one of them."
Wilson ignores him; he's smoothing out the soft spandex, gently rubbing one thumb over a ghastly pink coconut.
"Thanks," he says quietly.
House finds himself coughing. Dust, he thinks. Gotta get Lady in here once Wilson's back on his feet. He steals Wilson's water bottle and takes a quick swallow.
"Here," he says, "let's try it out."
Wilson sighs but allows him to undo the various buckles and snaps without a fight. House hides a gloating smile at the quick surrender; this new, helpless version of Wilson is an interesting study.
"Sheez, House—" Wilson is holding up the bikini top's bra cups. "These are huge. Who'd wear this? Keen Latifah?"
"You wish," House says. "Just like this is the closest you'll ever get to wearing Cuddy's panties on your head."
Wilson makes a grunting sound that's probably meant to be a laugh as House gently maneuvers Wilson's left arm into the sling. He unfastens the clip on the long neck strap and lifts one end, intending to loop it over Wilson's shoulders.
The soft, silky fabric brushes against Wilson's cheek.
Wilson gasps and jerks back; his eyes are wide with terror and he's grabbed hold of House's wrist, keeping it from going any further.
"No," he breathes. "Please—"
House sits very still. Wilson's grip is like iron; it's cutting off his circulation and already House can feel pins and needles in his fingertips. He keeps the pain from his face and schools himself to calmness.
"Wilson," he says softly. "Wilson, it's me. House."
Wilson stares at him. He's panting and there's a light sheen of sweat on his forehead. It's clear he doesn't recognize House or the apartment.
"Wilson?" House's hand is beginning to change colors, blooming a mottled red and white. He grits his teeth.
"James! It's me," he says again.
Wilson blinks. The vise-like grip slowly loosens, then Wilson's hand has fallen away. House is left rubbing his wrist, urging the blood to flow faster. I'll have bruises there, he thinks clinically. What the fucking hell was that all about?
"Sorry," Wilson whispers. His head is bowed and he's looking at his hands in his lap. "I'm sorry. Flashback."
"Yeah, I got that part," House replies dryly. "Don't worry about it." He takes a deep breath. "Want to try this again?"
Wilson nods, and slowly, carefully, House manages to loop the long strap over the back of Wilson's neck without touching his face. Once it's fastened, he sits back. Wilson's breathing has slowed to almost normal.
"Okay?" House asks.
"'kay," Wilson says.
"Good." House stands up and rubs his hands together briskly. Wilson's eyes flick quickly away. "Let's get you some juice and your morning meds and then you can give that thing a test-drive."
House listens to the shower run. He doesn't want to think about what he's just seen, but the analytical part of his mind won't let it go.
It had been the touch of cloth against Wilson's face that had set him off. At some point in his captivity his kidnappers must have gagged him.
Wilson had never mentioned a gag.
The pieces of the puzzle are there, jigsaw fragments scattered on a card table. Little pieces of pasteboard, that when fit together in the right way, reveal a complete picture—Stonehenge, a German castle, the Statue of Liberty. A cow. A horse.
For the first time in his life, House doesn't want to see the whole picture.