SUMMARY: There's more than one way to conquer.
CHARACTERS: Foreman, Wilson, Chase
RATING: R for language and themes (gen fic).
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 fighting is intense.
He’s always preferred guerilla actions – finely targeted goals accomplished with the ultimate in stealth and finesse – but this time the factions have amassed on all sides. There’s no choice but to press on with all-out war. After a skirmish goes horribly wrong, he gets chased out of Western Asia and has to fall back to his stronghold in Ukraine.
From there it’s a quick trip through Scandinavia to Iceland, dispatching the enemy as he goes. Rallying his resources from Venezuela, he’s able to rout the Black Forces, decimating and then obliterating them. Alberta is the last to fall, and he ignores the hiss of anguish as the lone final infantryman’s eleventh hour stand is crushed.
“Foreman, don’t be such a bastard; get Wilson his meds.”
“He’s got all the time in the world to get them himself now, seeing as how I’ve so soundly knocked him out of the game.” Foreman kicks his feet up on the coffee table to emphasize his point. Chase is a sucker if he thinks that sound of Wilson’s was anything more than disappointment at getting his ass handed to him.
The twinkle in Wilson’s expression as he rises carefully from the couch confirms Foreman’s assessment. Foreman watches him move with a clinical eye and concludes that much of the stiffness comes from sitting upright and in one position for too long. It’s a favor to Wilson, when you think about it, to give him an excuse to move by defeating him so he’s out of the game.
And it’s only a board game, not like it even means anything.
No, nothing at all. A child’s game, meant for pre-pubescent boys with nothing on their minds but silly tactics for sneakily swindling their way to achievement.
Chase’s ultimate win is conclusive proof of that.
Foreman snorts as his last country is taken by Chase: Argentina, the southernmost tip of the inhabited world. “They have some good skiing down there,” Chase notes, and Foreman rolls his eyes. Wilson is smiling at them from his spot back on the bed. He’s drawn a blue and white quilt around himself; Foreman wonders if he realizes he’s clutching the corner the way a kid with a security blanket would.
There are a few minutes of uncomfortable nothingness while Chase puts away the board game, and Foreman contemplates what to say next. Wilson probably hears all about the hospital from House, and Foreman can’t think of anything else they have in common. Different worlds. He can’t fathom why Chase has been at him to come over here.
“Well, while the two of us are here, want us to do anything for you?” Chase asks of Wilson, after stowing the game on one of the bookshelves. “Move the couch around? Push the TV further back?”
“Yer really askin’ for hard lab’r?” Wilson replies wryly. His lips are gleaming from the chapstick he just applied, and Foreman finds it disconcerting – too much like lip gloss. There are rumors that the first tube House got for Wilson was the little-girl glitter kind; Foreman shudders inwardly thinking of it.
Chase holds his hands out and shrugs in a what can you do gesture. “You should take advantage of strapping young men when you’ve got them.”
Oh, Chase. And you wonder why House makes ‘short shorts’ jokes around you. Wilson starts choking, his polite cough having become tangled with what was probably an involuntary laugh.
Moving immediately to Wilson’s side, Chase asks, “You OK?” as he rubs gently on Wilson’s back. Wilson nods, still coughing, and waves his right hand in fast, needy circles. Foreman spots a nearby water bottle and hands it over.
After a few squirts of water and a few attempts at deep breaths, the coughing fit subsides. Now Wilson looks tired, but he still manages to smile at the two of them.
“Don’ need any fu’niture moved, but thanks,” he says, sinking back onto the bed. Chase wanders back to the bookcase and starts idly reading titles.
“Good,” Foreman replies, as he sits on the couch, “because I’m a doctor, not a mover.”
Chase throws him a strange look, then catches Wilson’s gaze and adds, “Jim.”
When has anyone ever called Wilson “Jim”? His colleagues call him “James” – even his wife Julie, in the one time Foreman met her, called him “James.” Foreman’s still puzzling when he realizes Wilson is choking again, lighter this time.
“No,” Wilson says after a second, looking over at Chase’s ridiculously beaming grin. “Not gonna laugh. My ribs’ve bin tickled ’nough.”
What? What obscure thing –
“Star Trek,” Chase explains. “McCoy on the first Star Trek used to say that all the time. ‘Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer.’”
Lord, the hilarity never stops.
Chase turns toward Wilson again. “Seriously, though, anything you’ve been wanting to do that we can help with?”
Wilson sighs, a loud exhale through his nose. “Not really. Yer remindin’ me, though: bin a while since I cooked. Kinda miss it.”
Foreman’s never thought about it before, but now he puts two and two together. House waxed rhapsodic last year about Wilson’s pancakes and salads and other assorted leftovers, and to get a compliment out of House, you’ve got to be at the absolute peak of your game. But Wilson’s been living in a hotel, according to rumors, for months and months, no kitchen at all. Shame for a talent to languish like that.
“What’s your favorite?” he asks, sitting on the couch and kicking back.
“’talian,” Wilson says immediately. “Sauces, fresh pasta. ’N soups. I make a mean cioppino.”
Nothing better than homemade soup. Foreman can practically taste it. “My grandmother had this great beef stew she made. It was excellent. Every time I’d see her I’d beg for some.”
“Guess you can’t have stew now,” Foreman says sympathetically.
“Can have blend’d stew. Had a fried chicken smoothie one day.”
Foreman can feel his lip curling; Chase looks a little green. Wilson chuckles at them and points out, “Sweet shit gets old fast.”
He can imagine it’s true, but still. Liquid fried anything – ugh. Blended beef stew might not be too bad, though. Or even simply the broth base of Gran’s stew would be delicious. “Where’d we put your laptop?” he asks.
“What?” Wilson and Chase ask at the same time. Their expressions even match, and that’s weirder than Foreman wants to think about.
He repeats, “Laptop. I want to get my Gran’s stew recipe.”
“What, you have it in your email or something?” Chase asks.
Like he’s a woman, sharing recipes around. It’s on his cousin Tanisha’s family website. “Or something,” he replies, as Wilson gestures toward a table tucked into a corner. Chase obediently retrieves the computer.
“Wireless?” Foreman asks as Wilson awkwardly punches in the password.
“Yep. Here ya go.”
Foreman sits on the side of the bed, careful not to jostle Wilson too much, and pulls the computer onto his lap. Wilson draws his legs back, and Chase drops into the vacant spot and leans over Foreman’s shoulder.
As Foreman pulls up the website, intellectually he thinks that three men sitting on a bed together is odd and ought to be uncomfortable. But it’s not. It’s probably the Foreman family site that’s doing it – bringing up good memories of sleepover weekends with his cousins, piling into the same bed for warmth in the winter and to drive each other crazy with the heat in the summer. Good times.
He clears his throat to get rid of phlegm that’s appeared for no reason and clicks through to the right page. “Here it is, Gran’s beef stew. Oh, and her greens, too. Those are great. Kim makes them every year at Thanksgiving. Or, I assume she still does; I haven’t, um, been in a while.” He looks back, and is surprised to see Wilson’s face so close. He pushes the laptop back in Wilson’s direction. “Here you go.”
Wilson eagerly pulls the laptop close and settles it on his lap. “Looks w’nnerful.” He sighs. “I’d love to make it.”
Surprised, Foreman shrugs. “Well, go ahead then. It’s not copyrighted. Although I think Gran’s third husband tried.”
“Your grandmother was a slut!” Chase pipes up chirpily, and Foreman’s ready to kill him.
“Hey, hey, now,” Wilson warns. Foreman nods to thank him, and then realizes Wilson’s probably defending his own serial marriages. Widowed three times over sixty years is substantially different from divorced three times before age forty, however. And with the poor health care black men generally have received, it was almost a given that a black woman of his grandmother's age would be widowed at a fairly young age –
“Sorry,” Chase says, breaking Foreman’s train of thought. Foreman turns to glare, but Chase is doing that big-eyed, soft-faced Don’t kick little innocent me thing. Bastard.
Foreman’s holding himself back from shoving Chase off the bed just to watch him drop when Wilson distracts him with a loud sigh. “Thanks, Foreman. Can’t make the rec’pe yet but I’ll save it.”
“Why can’t you make it?” Chase asks.
Wilson pats the sling on his left arm, then touches his clavicle once. “Too hard t’chop with one arm.”
“There you go!” Chase says eagerly and bounces off the bed. “That’s what we can help you with. We chop, you cook.”
“Nah,” Wilson replies, but it’s wistful.
“Foreman?” Chase prompts.
“Sure, why not? As long as we can take some home with us.” He ignores the faintly disapproving look on Chase’s face in favor of the smile spreading across Wilson’s.
“Will you go get the ’ngred’ents? I should get some rest now anyway.”
Five minutes later they’re out the door on the way to Foreman’s grocery store, shopping list downloaded to his phone. There’s a butcher down the street that he’s heard is good; they’ll pick up the beef there.
Chase yammers the whole time about this and that, and some of it’s amusing and some Foreman tunes out. They manage to hit the produce section just as new stock’s being laid out, so the vegetables are fresh, and there are fresh-baked loaves at the bakery, too. Foreman’s not much of a cook generally, but he’s actually looking forward to this. Gran would be proud. Surprised, but proud.
Climbing out of the car in front of House’s, Chase frets that they might interrupt Wilson’s nap if they go back in too soon. “We’ll be quiet,” Foreman replies, trying not to roll his eyes.
Their hushed entry doesn’t wake Wilson up, but it does make him drop his phone and fumble for the remote. “– not your baby!” screeches out of the television before the screen goes blank.
Pinking slightly, Wilson retrieves his cell and says a hurried, “See ya later,” to whomever – House – is on the line.
“Jes flippin’ channels,” Wilson tries to explain as Foreman and Chase pass by on their way to the kitchen. They trade amused smiles and start unpacking the groceries.
The next half-hour is filled with peeling, chopping, and mixing. Foreman thought Wilson was relaxed before as they were playing Risk, but here, with the smell of fresh food and seasonings rising all around them, Wilson is truly in his element. He guides them through all the steps; gently corrects any mistakes; seasons, stirs, and samples.
As the soup is simmering, they kick back with beers and fruit juice, and Foreman finds himself telling them stories about when he was young. About his Gran, who was an excellent cook, and his Nana, who was most definitely not, and his mother, who could bake like no one else.
It’s probably just the soup steaming up the kitchen, but Foreman hasn’t felt this warm in a while. He thinks maybe he’ll call Tanisha tonight, or Rodney or Bill, and see how they’re doing.
He wouldn’t have imagined that House owned Tupperware, but when it’s time to go, Wilson manages to scare up two big bowls from somewhere so Chase and Foreman can each take some of the stew home.
“It smells exactly like Gran’s,” Foreman says as his farewell, and when Wilson smiles, Foreman can see his whole, healthy face behind the bruises, bumps, and wires.