SUMMARY: They take out old pieces of metal, and put new ones in.
CHARACTERS: House, Cuddy, Wilson
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.
Wilson hasn't had breakfast or coffee this morning, on account of being scheduled for surgery. The longer he's awake, the worse he gets.
By the time they get into the car -- which House insists upon driving because he has had plenty of hot, fresh, delicious caffeine -- Wilson looks as bleary and pale as an animated corpse.
"Bet you can't wait to see the Fabulous Doctor Nightingale again," snarks House. Everyone's treating Alan Hollister like he's the Eighth Wonder of the World. The Pioneer of Titanium Rhinoplasty! And he's coming all the way from New York City to fix Wilson's nose. Like it's really that much of a stretch.
"House, shut up," moans Wilson. He's no fun at all when he's like this.
"I'm just saying that the gallant white knight is a selfish bastard just like everybody else."
"And this matters because?" Wilson's leaning back in his seat, with his eyes closed.
"Because it's true. It's not about giving you back your pretty face; it's about making himself look pretty for his colleagues. And the media. You know he'll get at least two newspaper articles out of it. I bet he'll even get laid."
"Yes, and you're jealous, but did it ever occur to you that maybe he also does want to help?"
"Only to make himself feel good."
"That's how human beings are wired, House," Wilson replies, yawning. "It gives us pleasure to do nice things for other human beings."
"How would you know? You've never tried it."
Now that's the Wilson he knows. House smiles, because Wilson's eyes are still closed and he won't see it.
God, how long does it really take to give one little oncologist a nice new bionic honker?
They've been in there for two hours. Two hours and ... seventeen minutes, to be precise. Not that House is counting. He's just bored.
He has thought about going into Wilson's office, waiting there. But it feels like opening Pandora's box, letting loose a dangerous hope.
House has found himself unable to walk into that space for weeks now.
There's the library, but that's all the way across campus and after last night, with the excitement and the sleeping on the sofa, no way in hell is he walking that far.
He forces himself off the bench, down the hall and into the elevator. Forces, because there are invisible chains that want to keep him right there, in the "waiting area," as close as possible to the room in which James Wilson lies unconscious, having his nose rebuilt (Stronger. Faster. Better.). Out of titanium.
Like there's anything House could do if something went suddenly, absurdly wrong. He's being an idiot, and he knows it.
It won't take long to get to the gift shop newsstand and back. If he's going to be an idiot -- and it seems that he is -- he may as well be an idiot who's got something to read.
The sound of clicking heels makes him look up from the Enquirer. There's a distinctive rhythm to Cuddy's stride; he wonders if she knows. She stands in front of him, close enough so he notices that she's wearing a new scent, spicy and subtle.
"Whatever you want, take a number," he says. "Busy here." He looks back down and tries to ignore her, tries to lose himself in the latest sordid adventures of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
Her silence bothers him so much that he has to look up again. She's smiling at him, her gentle and genuine smile -- not that calculating one she gets when she's about to go all Spawn of Satan on him. He blinks; he'd expected the Spanish Inquisition, perhaps, but not ... not whatever this is.
"How long before they're finished?" she asks, her voice soft.
"Not sure. At least another hour before he's awake. Why? Is he behind on his staff evaluations?"
"House," she sighs, sitting down on the padded bench beside him, "if I haven't been around it's --"
"You're a busy woman."
"It's because I didn't think either of you wanted me hovering. I did what I knew I could, gave you the time when you needed it. Like today."
Today, he'll be playing taxi just as soon as they clear Wilson to go back home. That might be several hours. House just wants to see him when the surgery is done -- just to make sure that Doctor Do-Right didn't screw anything up.
He rubs his eyes; he's so tired. "So you're hovering now because ...?"
"I want to help him come back, but I don't really know him that well," she says. "I never thought of that very much until this happened."
"He's been your accomplice, your mole, your double agent enough times."
"Only because he worries about you. That part, I know. I know the guy who comes in to work every day, and ... that's not enough."
She looks so lost right now, sitting there trying to figure out what to do about, or for, Wilson. Her eyes are wide and sad, the way they often are when she's not playing Wonder Woman or pretending to be a hardass.
"You're asking me how to handle Wilson." Wonders never cease.
"He called to talk to me about getting back to work, but when I asked what he'd need he --"
"Said he was Superman and told you not to worry, because he's a moron."
"I preferred the way you came back, after your leg. Pushy, bitchy and demanding, I can deal with. At least it's telling me something."
"Fine. He needs a really hot new assistant, and season tickets to the Jersey Devils for himself and a friend."
"I'll think about it. I might even attempt to talk to him, but I can't make any promises."
"On one condition."
Her eyebrow quirks up. Now she looks more like the Cuddy he knows and irritates.
"You make dinner tonight. Or buy it and bring it; I don't care. But he'll be flat on his back, and I am not playing both chauffeur and cook in one day."
"See? Pushy and demanding, I can handle."
"I'll give that clue to Wilson, and tell him to go collect the rest. He needs a hobby."
"See you at seven-thirty, House." She smiles again and gets up to leave, trailing that scent -- jasmine and sandalwood -- in her wake.
"You know, darling," says House, looking down into Wilson's glassy, barely-open eyes, "if we keep meeting like this, people will talk."
Wilson's face makes a strange maneuver that appears to be a badly drugged attempt at a smile. For a moment House can see the edges of his upper teeth, pink with a film of blood. That would be from the dozens of little holes in his gums, where the wires were just removed. The guy who yanked 'em out was one of Princeton's own -- the same oral surgeon who put the things in. He had to "assist," as if Hollister the Plastic Surgery God couldn't have handled a simple pair of pliers.
Surgeons are so damn territorial. Each one thinks they own a little piece of Wilson.
"You're never gonna get through airport security again," House continues, just trying to make up for Wilson's seeming inability to talk. "It'll be buses and trains for you from now on."
"Housh," mumbles Wilson, "shud up."
House does shut up. He may as well, because Wilson has drifted right back to sleep.