SUMMARY: It was a carefully measured decision.
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 new knife fits perfectly into the palm of his injured hand, rocking smoothly back and forth as Wilson chops vegetables.
He loves this thing, even though House saw it and immediately began to quote Xena the Warrior Princess.
Well, not quote exactly. What House did was make that ridiculous high-pitched battle cry, grab the knife and pretend to strut around in a leather bustier -- a mental image Wilson finds very funny and deeply disturbing.
He works quietly, accepting the soreness and the sharp twinges that come with the motion. His grip isn't what it should be, but it's improving. He can do this.
Mushrooms, celery, onion, garlic. The evenings are getting cool and he wants slow-baked chicken with all these good things in the stuffing. Lots of stuffing -- Wilson will need it, because his jaw is still so sore and weak that soft foods are all he can have. There'll be no gnawing of meat off the bones. He'll have to slice and mince his portion of the chicken, but that's all right. It's worth the effort.
Anyway, he likes it in here. The kitchen is a place to focus, small and bright, warm and safe -- and when he's alone in the evening, as he is right now, that's what he wants the most.
Actually, what he wants the most is for House to get home.
It's hard to believe that their impending move is actually going to happen -- that House is willing to give up his familiar, comfy apartment. This old brick building has been House's refuge for so long that it fits him like his own skin. He rarely used to come to Wilson's other places and when he did he fidgeted and groused as if the carpet, the pale vanilla walls, the inoffensive furnishings were all sandpaper, rubbing him raw.
Wilson wonders what the new place will look like once House is done with it.
It won't be like any other place I've lived. Of course, that's kind of the point.
He had expected House to think it over, groan and mutter about it for several days and then say he'd do it or he wouldn't. House's easy acceptance had come as an enormous shock. A welcome shock, yes, but could it really be as simple as, Cool?
It wasn't a decision Wilson made lightly, to invite House to live with him and, well, be House. With his silences and his music and his extremely questionable taste in television. Wilson had weighed it out very carefully -- more so, he thinks with a wry twist to his mouth, than he ever did for any of his marriages. It's definitely not going to be all sunshine and daisies.
He'll have to see it when House's pain is at its worst.
Pranks will be played.
Tempers will flare and have to be soothed, and most of the time it will be Wilson doing the soothing.
House will push at him, seeping into every corner of his life. When Wilson finds a therapist, House will know. Any meds Wilson ends up taking, House will know. All the things he's been accustomed to hiding from House -- and Wilson himself had been startled to realize just how much he does hide -- will come out sooner or later. It has already begun.
And you know what? says that quiet little voice in his mind. It's not that bad, is it?
He gets the chicken out of the fridge, rinsing the cold flesh in the sink. The bird is plucked, bare, and has lost its head.
"Know how ya feel," murmurs Wilson, and then bends at the knees (because his back won't cooperate) to get the roasting pan from the lower cabinet.
It never was much of a pleasure, cooking just for himself. If he didn't know that someone else would be there to enjoy the results, he'd probably be living on microwave meals and other convenient junk.
He lifts the cutting board with his right hand and uses the knife blade in his left, shoving all the chopped veggies off the end. They fall neatly into the waiting skillet, sizzling and popping a little as they hit the melted butter. The scent rises immediately, and Wilson smiles. He's glad he can smell at all. People with badly broken noses risk losing that sense, and some never regain it.
The bread crumbs go in next, pulsed to a fine shred in the blender, along with the sea salt, the sage and oregano. He shakes a little pepper into the mix -- he wishes he could grind the corns fresh, but the little mill is still just beyond his capabilities.
He pushes the vegetables around in the pan, cooking them just enough to blend their flavors, and adds chicken broth and a splash of white wine.
He stirs, turns the burner off (a gas range like this one will be an absolute necessity in their new place) and lets the stuffing set while he arranges the chicken in the baking pan. The bird's interior gapes open for all to see, evoking another ridiculous twinge of sympathy.
It's after seven, fully dark out, and it's getting hard to breathe in here, even with the scent of food filling the room. Perhaps he should call House. He could find out how things are going with the patient, whose symptoms refuse to make even a little bit of sense -- yet. He could do that, but he won't.
Instead of reaching for the phone, he spoons stuffing (awkwardly, carefully using his injured hand) into the chicken and around its sides, filling the pan completely.
People talk about depression, but he's never heard anyone describe what is happening to him. Nobody ever said, Well, as long as it's daylight you might be able to distract yourself. You might even be more or less okay, but then at night it can seem like there's nothing solid in the universe. Like the floor and the walls will dissolve away, leaving you stranded in space with nothing to hold onto.
Like you're going to fall down into your own well and never come up.
People talk about Prozac and counseling. Wilson figures he will need both, but suspects that the problem he has isn't the kind everyone else seems to recognize. They don't mention the physical chill that sets in right around sunset, the fear that won't go away even though he knows the worst is over. The way his chest constricts, the way he sometimes can't make himself give a damn about anything. The way he shivers.
These things hit him in waves, in cycles, up and down and sideways -- but the changes are slower and far less severe when House is around. That's the other thing nobody talks about -- the remarkable degree to which a single friend, another warm living presence, can keep the horrible darkness at bay.
It's not like House is a genie; it's not like he can wave his magic cane and Poof! Everything's fine!
What House does is much more subtle, much more real. His movements, words, even his breaths all feel like strong threads that bind Wilson into reality, right here and now, where he can cope. House distracts him and helps him focus, makes him connect and helps him escape.
There's no one else who can do that. No one else's mere presence would be enough to drive off the chills, to give Wilson's mind something to grasp before he falls any farther. House understands what it is to be in pain, depressed, afraid. He accepts it. He knows how to joke and play and be obnoxious instead of tiptoeing around trying not to say the wrong thing. Instead, he says the wrong thing on purpose, and Wilson smiles, or even laughs, in a way he could never do if he were alone.
House may not realize it, but every night he holds Wilson back from the edge of a terrifying chasm.
House probably thinks they're just watching TV.
Wilson opens the oven, enjoying the surge of dry heat that rushes outward and engulfs him. He balances the chicken dish carefully in his right hand and slides it onto the rack. This is going to be very, very good.
I told you I wanted you to stay, House had said, back in a former life.
Apparently he'd meant it.
Now if only he'd hurry the hell up and get home.