black_cigarette (black_cigarette) wrote,

Aftershocks 16.5: Shrapnel

TITLE: Aftershocks: A Story in Shattered Pieces
SUMMARY: What a mess.
CHARACTERS: Wilson, 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.


They let go of each other when Wilson looks down and notices something.

"Yer bleeding," he says. House follows his gaze and makes a soft noise of irritation. The blood is coming from his left foot, and apparently it's been like this for a while. There's a broken red trail leading into the bathroom, and the floor where House is standing looks sort of like a child's finger-painting.

House puts the lid down on the toilet, and then slides open a drawer and digs out a pair of tweezers. He sits down and proceeds to extract a shard of glass from his sole. Wilson, meanwhile, bends awkwardly over the sink, trying to lean at just the right angle so that his damaged spine will stop screaming at him.

"I'm an idiot," House gripes, while stuffing toilet paper between his toes to absorb the blood. Wilson doesn't argue.

"You're th' king. First aid kit?" Things are only getting worse; Wilson can hardly stand up straight. His back, collarbone and jaw are all competing for the title of Most Painful Injury.

"You need morphine," House remarks, as he levers himself to his feet. "Go lie down. Oh, and Wilson?"

Wilson raises an eyebrow at him.

"Watch your step."

Wilson snorts, and that hurts too—his throat and sinuses are so raw—but it's good to think of something else, something other than that. He hobbles out of the bathroom, stooped over and moving at a snail's pace, doing his best to avoid both the glass and the bloody footprints. 

This time, he thinks, House will have to clean up the mess himself.

The first aid kit is on the floor between Wilson's bed and the sofa. Wilson stretches out oh so carefully on the bed, forcing himself not to moan and whimper the way he would if he were alone.  He wonders how long it will be before getting up and lying down are once again thoughtless motions, taken for granted.

It occurs to him that House has not taken these things for granted for several years now.

He shuts his eyes and listens to House rummaging for bandages, tearing open a packet of gauze, ripping a length of tape off the roll.

"I'm not feeding you oral meds," House says. "Don't trust you not to projectile vomit all over my apartment."

"I might as well." Wilson opens his eyes long enough to glance around the place. "Complete the new decor style. Th' 'drunken rampage' theme's really hot now. Damn," Wilson moans, shutting his eyes again. "Damn. Hurts. Hurry up."

"God, you're bitchy. Remind me to sedate you." There's the sound of House moving around and then a distinctive, soft metallic squeak. He's getting the IV stand. Wilson's eyes fly open.

"What?! I don't need that. Be fine. Need meds and—aaaah!" Wilson's back muscles spasm, cutting off his thought in mid-sentence. 

"Yeah. You'll be fine, the way you always are. Until you're not." There's a black bag slung over House's arm.  That'd be the Ringer's solution in there, and the tube and cannula. "You know how much you hate it that I take pills and don't drink water?" says House. "Turns out, I'm a hypocritical bastard. Just like you."

Fighting House would be senseless, even if Wilson had the energy. He's so tired, his stomach still aches, and House is right. There's not much chance that he could keep down anything that he drank, and he does need the fluids and electrolytes. And morphine. Don't forget the morphine, House. He shouldn't worry about that, really. If there's one thing House will always keep in mind, it's the need for drugs.

Without further protest, Wilson stretches out his arm.

When it's done—the cannula inserted into a vein on the back of Wilson's hand, and a bolus of morphine injected through the IV port—House raises a hand above Wilson's stomach and waits. This is part of their routine, House's sign language for I need to check you over now.

He knows that he hasn't done himself any real damage tonight, but he also knows House. He's too sore to sit up, so Wilson uses his right hand to scrunch the fabric of his t-shirt upward, baring his skin with all its bruises and incisions. They've done this so many times, but Wilson's never felt as exposed as he does now. Perhaps he's always been this much at House's mercy, merely as the result of being his friend, but he's never been so aware of it before. 

He doesn't even know how much morphine House gave him. Rescue dosages are tricky to calculate, a matter of instinct and experience as much as science, and Wilson had simply let House do whatever he thought was best. Though that was certainly the right decision, it's still frightening how easily Wilson made it.

House's examination is thorough, and neither comfortable nor painful. By the time House is satisfied that there are no new signs of trouble, the morphine is taking a powerful, welcome hold. 
"We'll let the experts replace your rubber bands tomorrow," House tells him, "because you can't do it right-handed, and I am not sticking my fingers in your mouth." Wilson's getting fuzzier by the second, so much so that he's only faintly surprised when House pulls the t-shirt back down, covering him first with that and then with the ever-present blankets.

"Thank God," Wilson sighs. "Hope you'd change your mind if I was choking to death," he mumbles.

"You're a doctor. You can Heimlich yourself." House unwinds a long elastic bandage. "Hold still," he commands, "and don't freak out." He wraps the bandage around Wilson's head, beneath his jaw, to keep it in place through the night. The coarse, stretchy fabric is so unlike silk that the only memory it triggers is that image of Jacob Marley's ghost. The support does make Wilson's jaw feel better, or maybe it's just the morphine. He'll take the relief, either way.

House settles back on the couch, remote in hand, and clicks on the Magic Box of Forgetfulness. They're in time to catch the second half of an episode of The X-Files. The last thing Wilson hears is Scully trying to rationally explain why frogs just rained down from the sky.

Wilson wakes up with the single remaining, unbroken lamp still lighting the living room. The clock on the bedside table indicates that it's almost four in the morning. House is passed out on the sofa. He looks for all the world like a drowned sailor washed up on the shore, and for a moment Wilson can't quite recall which one of them is hurt.

It's absurd, and probably pathetic, but he's glad he's here with House. He'd been furious when House walked into his hospital room and decreed that this was the plan. It had seemed that House's decision was tyrannical, selfish, and grossly inconsiderate.

Of course, at the time Wilson had been lying in the hospital for days with little to do other than stew in his anger at House. Had he been consulted about the move, he'd have told House to go straight to hell. House would have expected that kind of response, so he didn't ask. Instead he had operated on his default premise, which was that it was easier to get forgiveness than permission—especially from Wilson.

House had done what he felt was right, knowing that he'd get his way because Wilson's anger wouldn't last. It hadn't.  It never does, not even when Wilson desperately wishes that it would. He can no more hold onto that feeling than he can pin down a wave on the seashore. Inevitably his rage slides backward, receding out of his grasp and then losing its form completely, its energy spent. House knows that about him, knows it well and counts on it.

The other thing House knows is that Wilson truly did not have any better option than this. The hotel -- which he never wants to see again anyway -- was obviously out of the question. He'd have been completely miserable had he stayed much longer in the hospital, and there was no one else he would have allowed to take him in. His parents, he thinks, would have driven him literally insane.

Had he stayed anywhere but here, he'd have had to lie constantly, sticking to his story about the mugging. There's no way he would have been able to do it.

It's a relief that, for the most part, he doesn't have to deal with anyone but House. And if that isn't funny, then Wilson doesn't know what is.

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