SUMMARY: Eking out a few more inches
CHARACTERS: House, Wilson, OC
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 fact that the person standing on his doorstep is short – five-two at the most – is the only thing that keeps House from swinging his cane in that first second. “Who the hell are you?” he yells, stepping into the foyer from outside and slamming the door as adrenaline tickles under his skin.
The person jumps and then whirls around, barely managing to hold onto the box in her arms. “Oh, Mr. House,” she says, and House’s memory catches up – his mail carrier, this is his mail carrier. Doris or Delores or Melba or something.
“You scared me,” she accuses with a frown, scolding him as if he’s a child. After the day he's had, with his patient and his fellows and the frigging medical record auditor, House has had enough, and he considers swinging the cane anyway. He wouldn’t mind the assault charge, but tampering with the mail’s a federal offense, so he gives up the idea.
Shouldering her out of the way, he opens his front door. She’s opening up her silver-frosted lips to bitch again, when he snatches the box away and steps into the apartment.
“Your friend Mr. Wilson,” she begins, as the door is already closing. What does she know? News? Gossip? He lifts a hand to stop the door, turning back to see her face, when she finishes, “Is much nicer than you!”
The slam of the door right in her face is very satisfying.
In the kitchen he drops the box on the island and pokes through the refrigerator for any easy-to-nuke leftovers. He’s starving – four in the afternoon, skipped lunch – and that bastard Wilson is gallivanting about somewhere. Didn’t even tell House where, just “Don’t wait up.” He’s been like a damn teenager since he was cleared to drive.
House ignores the flutter in his guts and the whispers of worry in the back of his mind. Stupid.
As he shovels some stew-like-thing into his mouth, he regards the box. It’s for Wilson, from something called MaxiAids. It reminds him of that MegaDik spam that’s been going around. “Gush,” he quotes out loud, as he slices through the tape with one of the kitchen knives, “your penis is so small.”
The thought of Wilson, shamefaced and stammering, ordering a device in hopes of eking out a few more inches is the most hilarious thing ever, until House pulls out the paper at the top of the box and finds out that Chase and Foreman sent this as a gift. Bits of food spray all over the island as he desperately attempts not to choke from his laughter.
After that build-up, he’s hoping for tubes and springs and an AC adapter, but the box disappoints. It holds only a can opener, a couple of funky spatulas, a twelve-inch metal ring with a tall M-shape welded to the front of it, a rounded knife with wooden T handle that he’s pretty sure Xena used in a few of her adventures, and a cutting board with a couple of spikes sticking out.
“Make working in your kitchen safer, neater and more enjoyable with these tools designed for people with lower mobility,” reads the enclosed flyer.
Not a penis enlarger, then – an ego enlarger. Wilson’s been getting back in the kitchen more and more but hasn’t been happy with what he’s produced. Can’t have canned soup and sandwiches like a mere mortal, no. There’s got to be a million ingredients and two million steps and raw vegetables and fresh herbs, and House can’t help – even if he was inclined – because he does everything wrong, and oh my God just get out of the damn kitchen.
The enamel by the main switch on the big Waring blender is chipped a little.
House finishes off his food and then dumps the container in the sink. Washing dishes is good for increasing flexibility and range of motion, or so he’s heard.
The answering machine is flashing, so House hits the button. “James, it’s so great to hear from you!” The voice is a woman’s, excited but breathy, with a little bit of hesitancy that seems ingrained. It’s vaguely familiar but not in any interesting sort of way, and House floats back toward the box. “I can’t wait to meet up. You sound like you know exactly what you want, and I’d love to be the one to show it to you. Or if you don’t like what I’ve got, one of the other women here is sure to have just what you need. See you tomorrow!”
When did Wilson meet a whore? is House’s first thought. Must’ve taken the number from my Rolodex, is his second, because otherwise he has no idea why the woman sounded familiar. He could rewind the message, listen to it again, try to piece it together, but he only likes interesting puzzles.
It’s been a while for Wilson, as far as House knows, and if he wants to hire an escort, that’s probably his safest bet. No strings, no expectations, get what you need and go home. Or if you’re already home, kick the escort out.
He’s wondering idly how many hookers can say they’ve done it on a hospital bed, when he walks out of the kitchen and sees the thing itself still sitting in the middle of the living room. By this point, he's used to it; he hardly ever notices it when it’s empty, like now.
Except, he realizes as he sits on it to rest his leg, it’s not entirely empty. Wilson has left a bunch of crap strewn across it – newspapers mostly, a couple of stapled paper packets, and one of those free guides you can pick up at any grocery store. A real estate guide.
Of course. Of course. Wilson leaving had to happen at some point. Not leaving leaving; too much under the bridge for that. If Wilson hasn’t shoved House out of his life by now, he’s never going to. Probably. But they’re on top of each other here in the apartment, and Wilson’s getting better every day, and it was inevitable he would want to move on. Um, move out.
One of the stapled packets has a card from a local realty company attached, and the agent’s name is… Bonnie Wilson. That’s who was on the answering machine – wife number two. House hadn’t realized she was selling real estate, but then again yesterday he would’ve been hard pressed to remember her name if anyone had asked.
His fingers and the back of his neck feel strangely cold, like there’s a draft somewhere. A shower’d be good to warm up, he decides. Might ease some of the ache in his thigh, too.
He’s prepared to fling the monstrosity that is Wilson’s shower sling out into the hall, but it isn’t hanging over the rod. Actually, he realizes, he hasn’t seen it for a while. Wilson probably folded it neatly and stuck it in a drawer because he doesn’t need it any more.
The shower is as hot as House can stand, and still he feels a little chilled. He stands in the steam until the feeling goes away. By then his skin is a tender pink and his gas bill’s probably through the roof, but at least he’s not cold. Leg still hurts, though.
Sweatpants and a sweatshirt – he’s always wanted a “Pimps” tracksuit like Kevin Federline wore at his wedding, but has never bothered to go out and look – and a towel drawn across his hair, and he’s ready for some intense television watching. Early evening is the best time for syndicated fare.
He’s caught up in the pros and cons of Divorce Court vs. Jeopardy and doesn’t notice Wilson on the couch until he’s almost sitting on him.
“Christ!” Wilson yells, his fork clanking against the plate on his lap. His look changes from surprise to consternation, and he shoves at House’s hip. “I’m sitting here.”
“And why are you sitting there?” House snaps. He takes a step back, just enough to get room to gesture as widely as he wants. “That’s my cushion, my couch. You’ve got your own place to sit, which is taking up half my living room, by the way. Get over there.”
“I’m sick of sitting on that damn bed. I’m going to sit on the couch like a normal person, and eat my dinner. Well, I guess a normal person would have a dining room table he could sit at, but let’s just go with what passes for normal around here.” Wilson glares at him in a half-annoyed, half-confused, all-exasperated expression. House really isn’t in the mood for a Wilson Supreme at the moment.
“You’ll have a normal table in a normal dining room in a normal apartment soon enough. Spacious and tasteful and bland and beige, like every other place you’ve ever lived – until you marry the next aspiring interior decorator and give her a budget only slightly lower than the White House’s.” Turning his back on Wilson, House stalks to the piano bench, sits, and bends low over the keys.
Wilson’s glaring at him again. Or still. House can’t see him, but he can feel the disapproval radiating. He puts his fingers on the piano keys but can’t think of anything he wants to play.
“You’re an idiot,” Wilson proclaims. Flattery will get you nowhere.
A slightly crumpled page of newsprint appears in front of his face. “Yes, I’m planning to buy a condo. Now look at the places I circled,” Wilson says. “Look at them.”
House bats the annoyance away physically and verbally. “I get it; you want your own place, whatever.”
“I want my own bed,” Wilson says as he retreats across the room. “I don’t want to still be sleeping in our living room two months from now.”
“With your back, you’re going to need cripple bars in the bathtub; don’t forget that.”
“Did you listen to me?” There’s an oomph and a plop; Wilson’s back on the couch. “No, of course, you didn’t; you never do. I said our living room. Joint.”
House’s mind has gone blank; he presses middle C, then the F-sharp above it and the F-sharp below.
“You’re going to make me ask you?” Wilson continues. “Be that much of a bastard, to make me crawl to you, like a kid?”
Still blank. House turns in Wilson’s direction but can’t quite seem to look at his face.
“Fine,” Wilson says. “Fine. Hey, Greg, want to come have a sleepover at my new house? For, um, you know, ever? You can have my big brother’s room. He moved out, so you can decorate it whatever way you want. My mom’ll make us eggs and waffles every Sunday morning.”
House feels the twinges of a smile coming on. “Your mom would never make us waffles.”
“OK, I’ll make us waffles,” Wilson says indistinctly. He’s talking while he eats his food, which is gross. Once the novelty of chewing wears off, he’s really going to have to cut that out.
House gets up, shoves Wilson’s shoulder just for show, and takes a seat next to him on the couch. The remote’s right there, and he flicks on the TV. News, infomercial, news, Spanish game show, Jeopardy, Divorce Court. He watches the histrionics while Wilson smacks and chomps like a cow with a cud.
“You didn’t really have to ask,” House says at the next commercial. “I would’ve figured it out eventually.”
“I don’t know,” Wilson says and burps. “You’re kind of stupid that way.”
“Hey, if you’re going to be mean, then I don’t see why I should come have a sleepover.”
“Buttermilk waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.”
“With real maple syrup and slab bacon?”
Wilson shoves the newspaper in House’s face again, and this time he takes it to review Wilson’s selections. Wilson’s sure to have thought of location, and convenience, and resale value, but probably not the real factors that go into picking a new place. Jacuzzis and where a giant TV could go and how pretty the neighbors are.
Speaking of… “Used-to-be-a-dude nurse is moving in with her six-fingered fiancé and selling her condo. We should go see that.”
Wilson looks up from Divorce Court – he could probably narrate the show, with all his experience – and frowns slightly. “How many bedrooms does it have? Is it near the hospital? High-rise building or garden-style?”
“It’s a studio, and I don’t know the rest of that crap.”
The frown deepens. “Once again with the not listening. I said I don’t want to sleep in the living room, and where would you –”
“I said see it, not buy it. When are we going to get the chance to poke around in a place like hers again? Before and after sex toys, awesome.” House doesn’t even try to keep the grin from his face.
Wilson rolls his eyes and turns his attention back to the TV. “You realize if we look at a studio, people are going to assume we’re together.” House can hear the air quotes.
“We’re middle-aged men moving in with each other. People are going to assume it no matter how big a place we get. If that bothers you, we’ll have to re-think it.”
Wilson shrugs. “I’m not in the mood to date now, anyway.”
“And hookers don’t care,” House agrees. He waits a minute, then continues, “One little bit of it bugs me, though. That people will think –”
“I can’t do better than you,” he and Wilson say together.
Over the long weeks of Wilson’s jaw being wired shut, House had almost forgotten how broad his smile could be.