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Bad Company

Aftershocks 16.5: Shrapnel



Aftershocks 16.5: Shrapnel

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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.
  • 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.

    I like this detail a lot. That and Wilson's confusion about which of them is hurt, as if they both aren't. Also his wry observation at the end that he can't even stay angry at House when he's responsible for everything.
  • I love the image of House looking like a drowned sailor. What they've just passed through has been like a mighty storm. There's a kind of lift here at the end with Wilson's analysis of what House has done, and that's most welcome.

    It's as if Wilson finally being able to let House know what truly happened (and House's own revelation of what happened to him) has swept away something that was blocking Wilson. It wasn't just that he couldn't talk with his jaw wired shut -- he literally seemed unable to talk even to himself about what he's been feeling.

    • The interesting thing here is that all House has done is admit that something happened. Wilson doesn't know what it was that House saw, back then.

      And yet that vague admission is enough for Wilson, at least for now.
  • Greetings!
    "And if that isn't funny, then Wilson doesn't know what is."
    Yeah, well, irony's a bitch too.... *rueful smile*
  • Of course, the first thing that I think is that, tomorrow when the endorphins have worn off and the pain kicks in, House is really going to have a difficult time getting around. Ouch! It should make for an interesting gait, anyway.

    And of course the best place for Wilson is with House. I am just glad Wilson is beginning to see this. ;^D
  • Brilliant as usual. My favorite part was Wilson's insight into his own character as revealed by House's actions toward him. House seems to know Wilson better than he knows himself. Even though House usually chooses to reveal only the worst about anyone, including Wilson, he certainly bases his actions on a much deeper, broader, and complex understanding of Wilson's character, which is good to see. Wilson seems to know that he does too, which explains why he feels the way that he does. Seems to me, House has been changed dramatically by what's happened, and Wilson is becoming more focused about what he truly wants, making it easier for them to get what they want. Loved it, of coue.
  • Um. perspi? For this one. For the other--erm... blackmare?

    Fantastic weekend update.

    Finally--let the healing begin. Slowly. One step forward, two steps back. But they'll get there.

    Wow. I'm sorry I never seem to have a more intelligent (or coherent) comment for you guys.
  • (no subject) -
    • We really appreciate your taking the time to comment. Thanks so much. It's always great to hear that someone else is enjoying reading this as much as we've been enjoying writing it.

  • you kill me. you kill me with your brilliance.
  • I am so in love with this story. Fantastic two chapters. And this -

    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.

  • Oh this is oh so sweet!! And I love the banter especially this ridiculously funny line "You're a doctor. You can Heimlich yourself." . House really knows Wilson. There's the banter but he's still very careful with Wilson. Oh so much love for this chapter!
    Oh I promise not to pester you on Monday :)
  • Love this chapter's calm-after-the-storm feel, with the boys' bantering back and forth and Wilson letting go of some of his own anger towards House, almost as though House's rampage released it for him vicariously. That Wilson feels comfortable with House is such a testament to how deep his affection for House really is. I think Martin would be surprised.
  • Well, I'm exhausted for them both, so much to have gone through and so much more to go through. And that Wilson, feeling as vulnerable as he does, will let House lay hands on him to examine him; that image just chips away at my stony heart.
  • This time, he thinks, House will have to clean up the mess himself. - Perfection.
    "Turns out, I'm a hypocritical bastard. Just like you." - So nice to hear House admit this at last.
    "Th' 'drunken rampage' theme's really hot now." - Wilson has emerged from this most recent ordeal with his sense of humor intact. Some of us lesser mortals may need more time...
  • I'm glad House just kind of made the decision for Wilson, too... And Wilson is very well taken care of by House <3
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