black_cigarette (black_cigarette) wrote,

Aftershocks 19.1: The Observer

TITLE: Aftershocks: A Story in Shattered Pieces
SUMMARY: Chase puts in a few unusual hours.
CHARACTERS: Wilson, Chase, 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.

The Observer

House's place is remarkably clean, but it's dim in there. There aren't enough lamps; the darkness is going to make poor Wilson even more depressed. Chase remembers this, the way it looks in a house where someone's falling apart.

He quietly steps to the window to let in a bit more light, but stops as Wilson says, "Don't."

Immediately he understands. Safety, shut blinds, locked doors. A little agoraphobia is probably to be expected, for a while.

"Light makes m'head hurt," explains Wilson, and it's all right if they both know that he's lying. "So House sent you on Wils'n duty, mm? 'S not much fun. Sorry." Wilson's sitting in that semi-reclined position in his bed, trying hard to look as if he's content, as opposed to hurting, tired, and bored out of his mind.

"Don't be," Chase replies. "I needed a break from him. So what's on daytime television these days? I never get to watch any."

"Not missin' much." Wilson hands him the remote and Chase tries to focus on the faint gleam of humor in his eyes, rather than the healing cuts on his brow, the splint on his nose and the bruises that still remain along his jaw. This does not look like the Wilson he knows, except for those eyes, warm as ever but darker now than they used to be. Something's been taken from this man, and there's no way to say if he'll ever get it back. Chase has some idea about how that feels. He starts to flip channels and finds that Wilson's right. There's nothing to watch, and they're watching anyhow.

"Look," says Wilson, "this' weird. I know. W'd you get me a Coke?" Chase is glad to have something useful to do, so he goes.

It's astounding, what's in House's fridge these days. The Coke isn't a surprise, but the couple dozen bottles of water are. There are also cans of Ensure, six-packs of V8, and enough fresh fruit to operate a New Age smoothie stand. Mangoes, berries, peaches, pears, and every flavor of yogurt imaginable. There's whole milk, chocolate milk, and a huge plastic jar of protein powder, the kind bodybuilders use, which is sort of funny.  He snorts softly at the thought of Wilson mixing protein shakes.

On the counter top there's a bunch of bananas, a big jar of peanut butter, and an old-fashioned Waring blender. Chase blinks at that, because he knows it's expensive and he knows who must have bought it. Wilson would've gotten some plastic Black & Decker thing with 37 useless settings. This is enameled steel, glass and chrome; simple, heavy and solid. And it's newChase spots the empty box sitting near the kitchen trash can. He stops his curious mental inventory and brings Wilson the bottle of Coke.

"So it seems he's feeding you as well as possible," Chase says, "which isweird, since that usually seems to work the other way 'round."

Wilson snorts and gratefully drinks. He tips back his head and Chase notices how much the lines of his face have sharpened. He must have lost fifteen pounds. It's an inescapable side effect of the wires.

"We could do this the polite way," he says, and Wilson gives him a mute, questioning look. "I could offer food, and you could lie and tell me you aren't hungry. Then after I left, you would have to make it yourself, because who knows when House is going to get back. And I know that you're capable, but it's stupid. Just tell me what you want."

"Steak, medium rare," quips Wilson, who seems more articulate now that his mouth is no longer dry. "I'm starving." He leafs through a small notebook on the bedside table and presents Chase with a recipe. It's amazing, thinks Chase, how well this tactic of bluntness works. Everyone always looks to Wilson, trying to figure out how to handle House, but they don't consider what House knows about dealing with Wilson.

Chase blends everything up and takes a taste. It's not bad, really, but it sure isn't steak. The recipe involves bananas, peanut butter, protein powder, milk, heavy cream, and Nestle's Quik. Apparently Wilson's weight loss has been noticed. Of course it's been noticed. House notices everything.

On his way back through the living room, Chase pays more attention. He realizes that there are stacks of journals, magazines, and books of all kinds on House's shelves. It looks as if House has pillaged the local Barnes & Noble. The subject matter ranges from the New England Journal of Medicine to paperbacks of Isaac Asimov. Chase hands the banana shake to Wilson and settles himself on the edge of the sofa, but he keeps looking around. There are even a couple of Captain Underpants books and three volumes of something called Mad Libs. Wilson's laptop is in easy reach, on the hinged tray table that's attached to the left side of the bed. The other table, to the right of the bedside, holds pain meds, more books, remote controls, and a tube of Incredible Hulk lip balm. It's watermelon-flavored and it's green. The cap is missing, probably because Wilson can only use one hand. The coffee table is clear except for a pile of red Netflix envelopes.

"You're right," Chase says, tapping his foot. "it's boring here. Not as boring as the hospital, but still. What's a Mad Lib?"

Wilson swallows his sip of liquid lunch and adjusts the straw so that he can talk. "Word game. House bought it 'cause he's tireda me beatin' 'im at Trivial Pursuit."

"You play Trivial Pursuit?" Chase feels himself truly smiling for the first time since he got here. "Up for a round?"

"You don' hafta work?"

"I quote: 'Go. Fetch and carry; entertain, amuse, and cater. I'll whistle when I need you.' Who am I," Chase asks lightly, "to defy him?"

Wilson smiles crookedly and nods toward the piano, where a familiar dark blue box sits on the bench. Chase surveys the apartment once more as he gets up to fetch and carry, entertain and amuse. He was wrong, he thinks. He'd been looking at this place through the smoky old lens his mother left him. Wilson's not falling apart in here at all.

"So how's House treating his hostage?" asks Foreman, the moment Chase gets back. He's prepared for this interrogation, having seen the looks his coworkers gave him when House sent him out on this mission. He wonders if this is sort of how House feels every day, bracing himself against everyone's concern. Against their suspicions. Cameron hasn't said anything yet, but her pointed look echoes Foreman's question, while also implying that she would take better care of Wilson than House possibly could. Chase knows better. Put Wilson in Cameron's care, and they'd find him dead of well-meaning suffocation within twenty-four hours.

"He's fine," replies Chase, trying to put into his tone all the weariness he already feels. They blink at him. "Well, considering, of course. But it isn't a torture chamber in there," he says, and heads for the coffeemaker. "Despite what you seem to think, House is"

"Starving him to death.  Making him watch re-runs of Saved by the Bell!" barks House, and they all startle because they hadn't seen him come in. Saved by the bell, indeed, Chase thinks. He breathes a quiet sigh as House sends the other two out to check their new patient's home. House is especially interested in anything that could've caused heavy metal poisoning. "And I don't mean her brother's Iron Maiden collection," he snaps, throwing the keys at them. "Oh, don't give me that look. I got permission this time," he whines, in that special pitch he reserves for mocking Cameron. "But it'll be way more fun if you pretend that I didn't."

Chase waits, patiently sipping his coffee while House pours a cup for himself. It looks as if the man hasn't slept in a week, and Chase remembers how it was after he found his mother's body, the nightmares he had. He can barely imagine what it's like for Wilson. Or what it's like for House, to have to be there and watch it happening.

"So, talk to me," House demands. "Obviously you made it out of there alive."

"Barely. He thrashed me soundly at Trivial Pursuit." There's a flash of relief, the faintest hint of a smile from House.

"Foolish child," he intones, "Wilson is the God of Useless Information. You made sure he ate something?"

"Food for the gods," Chase assures him, and House breaks into an unfamiliar song:

"She put me throooough some changes, Lord; sort of like a Waring blender ..."

Chase blinks at him in curiosity, and House heaves a frustrated sigh. "Warren Zevon, you ignorant kid. Werewolves of London?"  That means nothing to Chase, though it sounds somewhat interesting.  "Z-e-v-o-n. Look it up. There'll be a quiz tomorrow morning." With that, House wheels and careens out the door, howling out what Chase guesses is more of the same tune. "Poooor, poor, pitiful me. Poor poor pitiful ..."

He shakes his head and goes to visit their current patient. Maybe he can spot something that everyone else has missed. It's been known to happen.

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