SUMMARY: We'll go somewhere.
CHARACTERS: Wilson, House
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.
Cinco de Mayo was months ago, but the owners of this place haven't bothered taking down the yellow plastic banners or the tiny Mexican flags that flutter in the blast of air conditioning above the bar. He glances up -- the eagle's wings seem to ripple as it devours the snake, both animals perched precariously on the cactus spines. This, Wilson thinks, is definitely House's kind of atmosphere.
It's like Christmas lights, left up till Easter by homeowners in the running for Laziest Human Ever.
Some things don't change.
Some things do: this time, House didn't try to get him drunk on tequila. Apparently House is only reckless with his own liver. Wilson's, so recently damaged and repaired, House guards with almost comical care. No sooner did they step through the door than House announced -- as if he had to -- that he was holding Wilson to a one-beer limit.
Eventually, that will change back again, and House will resume his occasional efforts to get his best friend pleasantly bombed.
Sometimes Wilson wonders whether other things will go back to the way they were -- that is, whether House will return to gambling; whether his own hand will ever stop hurting; whether certain fences between himself and House will ever be rebuilt.
Wilson knows exactly when it changed. He'd looked longingly at that electric razor and invited House across a boundary line. At first he hadn't thought of it that way; he'd wanted to get rid of that awful scruff and he'd wanted to make House understand.
Then he'd felt House's fingers resting over his throat, over the carotid, and there was the warmth of a huge exhaled breath. Every motion House made seemed so much steadier after that, and some small, insistent part of Wilson's mind alerted him to the shift.
He'd given House an inch. House would take, if not a mile, at least several yards. Not because House was a bastard -- not this time -- but because he needed this.
So Wilson had allowed it. House would check his IV line, or inspect his mangled hand for any sign of trouble. Once, he had even run the nurse away and changed the bandages on Wilson's splenectomy incision himself. "I want to see it," House had said.
He'd proceeded to inspect Wilson's whole torso, his fingers investigating every bruised and swollen inch. There'd been severe bleeding beneath the skin, and it would take many months before the dark colors faded and the inflammation went away. Wilson wasn't sure how, in the midst of all that mess, House could tell if something were truly wrong, but he was certain House would know. House always knew.
Now, Wilson thinks that it must be a matter of lifelong practice, a result of the way House intersects with the world. He feels the texture and weight of things, almost compulsively; he's the most physical person Wilson's ever known.
House loves motorcycles and skateboards; alcohol; food; constant movement. He twirls that cane like a graceful baton. Any object that catches his interest, House will pick up, like a child who has to explore with his hands. He doesn't often touch people, though, and he especially doesn't -- or didn't -- touch Wilson.
All the same, Wilson had often thought he could see the dirty, sticky, grape-jelly smudges all over himself, the fingerprints that mark him as House's friend. He knows that everyone else sees it too, and that when he's not in the room they smirk and tell jokes to each other. He's overheard a few remarks, embarrassed a couple of nurses who didn't realize he had walked up behind them.
He's more covered in those House-marks now than he ever was before. Now that he's been living with the man, subjecting himself to House's care and House's need. He's been accepting House's touches -- some of them clinical and some not and a lot of them both at once -- because if House's hand is on Wilson's shoulder, or on Wilson's back or inspecting his injuries, then it isn't on the bottle of pills or the tumbler of scotch.
House probably thinks that he doesn't notice, doesn't see the restless movements and glances, the guilty desire for reassurance. He probably thinks Wilson's not aware of it when he makes a decision and either draws near or pours a drink.
That's how it's been, or how it was until he'd hit House and knocked all those needy, careful touches right out of him. The distance returned, and Wilson had to realize that he'd been lying to himself, pretending to indulge House. He'd been beaten and violated, broken, sedated, sliced open and stitched back together. He'd wanted the touch of a friend. He had needed, still needs, some kind of contact that involves neither pain nor pity. From someone who's not getting paid to be there, and who doesn't want gratitude or sex or anything except permission.
Only one person fits that description, and Wilson punched him in the mouth.
Now they've had this second fight and House has lost again, because he couldn't answer the questions. He didn't know what he'd expected Georgie Reno to do. He didn't know what made him think his own death would be no great loss. He'd stood there hunched at the shoulders, trying to make himself into a smaller target, waiting for a chance to run.
Wilson hadn't given him one. It'd been four days since that punch, and House had been making cautious arcs around him, keeping himself safely out of reach, and it was wrong. It was wrong, and only one of them could fix it. So Wilson had let his anger fall away like a heavy coat, and stepped forward, stretching out a hand when House could not.
It worked, he thinks, and smiles a little over his mug of Dos Equis. House had been right; it hadn't mattered where they went. Still, House's choice had been just the thing. The Casa de Guerrero is all dark brown walls, dim lamps and neon signs, scuffed tile, smoke. Full of chatter and old rock songs and people who won't stare too long at a cripple and a guy with a smashed-up face. Pool playing had been out of the question, but Wilson had found himself surprisingly good at right-handed darts. Good enough, in fact, to best House's left-handed efforts; the beer tastes that much better because House had to buy. It was the agreed-upon prize for the winner of the Special Dart Olympics.
House perches like a vulture on the barstool to Wilson's right, grumbling that the jukebox lacks his favorite Van Halen number, but Wilson's not listening. He's noticing that House is sitting where he belongs, close at hand, leaning in to be heard above the racket.
They stay, enjoying their drinks and the parade of colorful, sad humanity, until someone flips the channel on the TV behind the bar. There's a dirt track, a dozen horses running headlong down the stretch.
"I think that's our cue," says House, laying down a twenty to cover their bill. It soaks up the rings of water on the counter, while House makes a one-legged hop off the barstool, balancing himself with a hand on Wilson's back.
They go home.