SUMMARY: House should have taken a smaller dose -- or a larger one.
CHARACTERS: Wilson, House
RATING: R for language and themes (gen fic).
WARNINGS: This is a very alternate universe. Adult themes and adult language.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
NOTES: The stories from this ficverse are numbered by chapter and scene. Links to all chapters are here.
Relief is slow in coming, because the merstellin has to push its way through so many heavy layers of pain. Finally it's enough, and then a little more than enough, as the larger dose makes the enveloping fuzziness keep building long after he usually plateaus. By the time Wilson's back with soap and water and washcloths and towels, House is feeling almost ... floaty.
"Leave it here," House says, pointing at the small table that Wilson's unfolded from the bed railing. "And get out."
Wilson frowns at him. "What? You're still pretty wea--"
"I'm really not," House growls and glares. "I'm fine."
To prove it, he sits up and starts pulling open the fastenings on his tunic. "I've been keeping myself clean since I was itty-bitty, so really, fuck off." He had thought he'd require assistance (and what a disgusting thought that was), but he knows now that he won't. That little blue merstellin vial was all the assistance he'd needed.
Wilson reaches for House's arm. "If you would just let me--"
"You get off on this, don't you?" House snarls and shoves at Wilson's hands. Wilson's expression closes off, turns cold and stony, and that only fuels House's anger. "The helplessness, the caretaking. You're a doctor only to feed your own need, and you can't stand it now that your entertainment wants to take care of himself."
"Entertainment? You flatter yourself."
"I haven't 'flattered' myself ... " He pauses and makes a lewd face and a brief but pointed hand gesture. "In at least a week. Why don't you go 'flatter yourself,' somewhere else?"
"Go to hell," says Wilson. He pivots on his heel -- so easy for him to move, to walk out of here.
As he leaves, House shouts after him, "Already there!"
Wilson doesn't reply or even slow his pace.
House lets his irritation burn for a moment before finishing removing his tunic and turning to the pan of soapy water. He's been trapped in this bed, resting, recuperating for days and he's itching. His skin itches, his scalp itches, his eyes itch. Mostly, though, he itches for the chance to move around. Maybe when he's done he'll even try to hop over to Wilson's much cleaner bed, so he can have fresh sheets.
He starts with his face, and the warm washcloth is satisfyingly rough. If there's any steri-gel on this old boat, Wilson hasn't found it; the bottle of liquid soap is the kind you might expect at a rich man's home. It's not exactly the best thing for surgery patients, but it's better than wallowing in filth. House squeezes his eyes shut, scrubs and rinses. Everything seems all right, so he tries to lean over the basin to wash his hair.
The problems of large doses of merstellin become immediately apparent. He can't balance himself, propped on his side like this; the bed is about to capsize like a rowboat and dump him. Quickly he lets himself fall back onto the mattress, and the rocking motion goes in the other direction, his stomach lurching along with it. Side effects. He'd been in such a hurry to not hurt anymore than he'd neglected to think about this. His hands grip either side of the bed, as if he could hold it steady. And maybe he can, because the motion's stopping. On the railing there's a button that will raise the head of the bed so he can sit up again, this time with some support. All he has to do is find the damn thing, while moving as little as possible.
There it is.
He smiles, pushes the button, feels the bed turn and spin. He's still in the rowboat, and now the rowboat's a toy being sucked headlong down a huge bathtub drain.
Instinctively he grabs the basin, holding tight while the nausea runs its course. By the time it's done, the water is a fouled mess and the violent spasms have awoken the beast in his leg. With the very last of his strength, he shoves the basin off the table, momentarily satisfied with the clatter and splash as it hits the floor.
He's still filthy, still itchy, still helpless, worse off than he was before. His throat's raw, his mouth full of bitter acid, his spent body barely able to move. Wilson will just love this, when he finds out. That may be a while, though, because House is sure as hell not going to call him. Why ruin the surprise? he thinks.
Maybe, answers a more reasonable part of himself, because the vomit-stink is going to make you sick all over again.
Sometimes, House really, really hates being right.
House says nothing when Wilson enters the room. He lets the volley of questions and accusations go flying past him, off into space. He keeps his face turned to the wall while Wilson figures out how to work the antiquated vacmop and then vacs up the gigantic watery mess from the floor.
Wilson may not actually deserve this, or maybe he does. He's certainly pathetic enough, and if he wants to be the caretaker, is it so wrong to give him some messes to take care of? House can do plenty of that. Keep them both occupied until they get killed. Or kill each other, whichever comes first. Have to be a murder/suicide, House thinks. You'd have to do it yourself. That righteous bastard won't.
A suffocating silence fills the room as Wilson shuts off the vacmop.
"It still hurts." House hears himself say the words, though he's not sure where they came from.
"Why don't you just bite yourself?" His voice fairly drips with exasperation.
House replies, squinting into the lights above the bed, "I was in the mud for two days before you found me. Think I didn't try it?"
"What stopped you? Reflex wouldn't allow it, or the stuff has no effect on you?"
"Some of both. Reflex, mostly. Prevents self-harm as well as self-medication."
"You ... tried to slit your wrists. Didn't you?"
That sanctimonious prick. "You have no right to judge me."
"Did I say it would have been wrong, under the circumstances? I'd probably have tried it too."
House is still watching the wall, rather than the vulgaris. There's a sound of running water in the sink; swishing, a few metallic noises, Wilson washing out the soiled basin and ... refilling it. "What part of 'get the hell out' did you fail to understand?" House asks, but he notices that the intimidation is long gone from his voice.
"Oh, I understand just fine." Wilson's voice is coming from very close range, mixing with the sound of a full water basin being set once again on the table. "Yes, it sucks. It's not fair, it's humiliating, you hate every second of it, and I'm the only target, so lucky me, I get to take all your shit. I'm sorry about your leg, but it's not my damn fault. Now shut up and cooperate."
The lecturing done, Wilson's hand goes to House's shoulder, lifting it to shove a towel underneath. The bed seems to rock again, the weak dizziness taking away any chance House might have had at fighting him off. Wrong merstellin dosage, thinks House. He got it wrong. Too much to handle while conscious; not enough to knock himself out. He may be hazy and sick, but he files that information for future reference.
Again and again he tries to stop this, tries to reach for the cloth and grab it away, while Wilson mops his shoulders and his chest. Half the time House's arms won't obey the command; the other half of the time, it's his hands. Each try destroys a little more of the meager strength he has, until finally he's reduced to just glaring at the wall while he gets washed like a newborn. Whatever relief there might have been in the release from the smell, the oily grime, the itching -- it's all lost, gone with his dignity.
The scrubbing stops. Wilson takes the basin away, but House can hear him dump and refill it before coming back to continue the assault.
Wilson picks up where he left off, working his way down House's left leg. "I come from Delphus," he blathers, while his washcloth-wielding hands go all sorts of places they should never go. "You'd hate it there. It's very ... neat. Everybody's polite, the streets are clean, there are cheerful flowers everywhere."
"Sounds like torture."
"It ... kind of is." Wilson smiles, and that's an oddity in itself. House can't recall it ever happening before. "You'd think a world that well-ordered would make a doctor's life easy. Have excellent patients." House snorts and rolls his eyes. Great, now the man's describing boring medical cases that were no doubt the highlight of his boring-ass medical career on deadly dull Delphus. He listens anyway; it might muffle the pain of what Wilson's actually doing to him.
"Idiots?" House prompts, though he knows the answer. Of course they're idiots. Patients usually are, and vulgaris patients must be much worse, which is precisely why he decides he wants Wilson to continue.
"This one guy came to me -- his wife forced him -- with chronic bone problems in his feet. He tried to say it was fine, but his scans were a mess, a couple years' worth of hairline cracks. Turned out that was because when she wasn't home, he was traipsing around in his wife's cute little shoes."
"And her lingerie?" House asks. He can't help himself.
"I didn't ask," Wilson admits, while he rinses out the washcloth and prepares to go after House's calf. "If you'd seen this guy, you wouldn't have asked, either."
"Yes, I would have. I'd have had to know. Now I never will, because you were too nice to find out."
"I said I didn't ask," Wilson replies, his face alight with a startling mischief. "She asked; I eavesdropped. The answer," he continues, while the warm cloth works its magic between House's toes, "is yes. And he was broadcasting himself on the subether. The thing I still don't understand," says Wilson, blinking at the memory, "is how he squeezed that huge butt into --"
The laughter escapes before House can stop it. He's picturing some fat hairy vulgaris trying to shimmy his way into a sequined bikini, tottering on tiny heels and fractured feet. "He was broadcasting this?" House gapes. "How many freaks does your planet produce?"
"We fill our quota," says Wilson, taking the basin away to dump and refill once again. When he comes back, he works on House's right foot without moving it, working his way up House's shin. "We had one case, a guy quit breathing in the middle of a rape fantasy with his wife. Interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, and then he broke out into a nasty case of hives; everybody was convinced it was lupus."
"It's never lupus," House whispers and tenses, waiting for Wilson to try and move the leg; he's going to have to, and it's going to hurt. "Heavy metal poisoning?"
The hands on House's leg stop, and House opens his eyes to see Wilson regarding him with a shrewd expression. "Tox screen came back clean. It was at this point he started screaming that his feet were on fire."
Wilson moves to pick up House's leg, and House is surprised to find the spike of pain isn't as all-encompassing as he expects. Wilson settles his lower leg on something, propping it up enough that he can reach the back of the thigh without too much fuss. "Neurological component is classic heavy metals. Tell me you broke out the expensive physioscanner."
"Turned out he also had a boyfriend, who worked in a circuit factory." Wilson's hands are fast but gentle; House takes the time to sort through the puzzle.
"Gold," House gasps out as Wilson lowers his leg back to the bed. "He'd have access to gold dust and no scanner is programmed to look for it."
"Very good, Doctor," Wilson says before he disappears, going to empty and refill the basin again.
"You manipulative ... son ... ofabitch." House works to slow his breathing back down, to calm the flare of pain the movement caused. He'd been surprised that Wilson hadn't pressed him about the doctor thing earlier, after he'd drawn up his own dose of merstellin. Now his suspicions about Wilson's suspicions are confirmed, and he fell right into it.
When Wilson gets back, House snipes, "I hope you don't expect me to roll over."
"I can't imagine you rolling over for Sister Mary Hadarah herself," Wilson snipes back, then he abruptly disappears again, this time from the room entirely.
House blinks, then finds a grin bursting free. "Well. That was interesting." He'd never expected the buttoned-down James Wilson to be familiar with one of the most undeservedly-obscure dominatrix-slash-pornstars in the galaxy.
By the time House's smile fades, Wilson's back with a tray from the kitchen. Not soup this time; something in a mug, steaming. House watches as he maneuvers several tables into various positions around the bed and pulls the pillow from his own bed. He arranges the pillow over the side table, then slides it in front of House's chest.
"If you lean forward over this, I can wash your back," Wilson tells him. House just nods; he doesn't have the strength to sit up, so he tries not to think too much when Wilson hefts his shoulders up and forward, draping his arms over the table. He lets his chin rest on the far edge of the pillow where it meets the table and tries not to be pleased that he can at least keep his head upright.
Suddenly the mug appears in his limited view, suspended over his knees on a rolling side table. "Think you can sip, while I wash?"
"If you drip any more concern on me, I'm going to vomit while you wash," House snarls, but he stretches his hand toward the cup.
The tea smells good -- the steam is sweet and minty -- but House's drugged fingers won't grip the heavy mug. If he picks it up he's likely to get yet another unwanted bath. Suddenly Wilson's fingers are right there, holding the mug up so he can reach it and take a cautious sip.
It's...not what House would choose to drink, but it's better than the taste of puke. Wilson mutters, "Looks like you could use a shave, too," which causes House to glare.
Unfortunately, House can't see above Wilson's collarbones, so he growls, "I'm letting you give me a fucking sponge bath. Try for a shave and I will bite you."
Wilson sets the tea down and throws out his hands in a conciliatory gesture. "I wouldn't go so far as to call it 'letting,'" he huffs, but his hands are no less gentle when they start on House's back.
The washcloth along his shoulders is warm, working back and forth in little circles, soothing enough that House can pretend he's getting a massage. He is actually getting a massage. From a vulgaris. And it feels ... pleasant, which is all wrong, but after all this lying around, his back is so sore that he decides not to bitch.
He says nothing while Wilson presses his thumbs into the stiffened muscles around House's shoulder blades. He hisses with the weird pleasure-pain that comes as Wilson pulls each arm up and around in a wide circle, stretching and loosening the knots in his back.
"The weirdest thing I ever saw," Wilson finally continues, "was a family of tourists from Elthaasen."
"Never heard of it."
"I doubt you've missed much."
"Never heard of Dolphus, either. Doofus. Diphthong. Whatever."
"Delphus. I'm ... not sure you've missed much there, either. Do vestigial tails ever occur in your species?"
House is glad he wasn't drinking that tea; if he'd been in the middle of a sip, the stuff would have gone everywhere. "What?!" he sputters, and hears Wilson's soft chuckle.
"This kid was two years old, and he had an honest-to-God tail. Eleven centimeters long. It had cartilage, nerves, bone, everything. I'd heard of such cases --"
"It's been documented, but it's, what? One kid in a couple billion? Why'd you have to treat the little mutant?"
"Because a tail that contains bones can be broken. The parents were distraught."
"Easy solution: remove the tail, before Junior becomes a freak of psychology as well as biology."
"Those weren't the words I used," Wilson says, while he goes to dump the basin once more, "but yes. Exactly my recommendation. I thought the father --"
"Mister Mutant," House supplies.
"Mister Mutant. I thought he was going to hit me." There's the sound of the basin refilling again. "Mrs. Mutant explained that the tail was a sacred sign that connected the kid to the Spirit-Goddess of Nature. Never mind that it was causing excruciating pain and that the section below the break was a lovely shade of black."
"Morons. They get medical attention when it first happened?"
"They tried. They had referral notes from four other doctors who wouldn't have touched the case while wearing a biohazard suit."
"Tails aren't contagious." What kind of doctors does Wilson's World churn out?
"Our culture treats any 'genetic defect' like a crime. Or a contagion." Wilson comes back to the side of the bed and holds the mug up for House to sip a bit more. "Hazards of having such a nice, polite, flower-growing society."
"You have to get rid of anything that clashes with the petunias." He should be fighting this, swatting those hands away, but combining the little bit of liquid in his stomach and the swift movement -- if he could summon the energy -- might be a very bad idea.
When House signals that he's done with the tea, Wilson pulls the whole table away and points at House's head. "I'm going to lean you back again, wash your hair." He waits for House's nod before carefully lifting him back against the bed.
House closes his eyes, unwilling to watch as Wilson arranges a fresh towel around his shoulders. Soon enough there's warm water seeping into his hair, the cloth gently scrubbing his scalp.
"We don't usually get rid of things that ... clash with the petunias," Wilson says softly. "Mostly what we do is ignore it and hope it goes away."
"I detect a note of resentment. Maybe a whole symphony of resentment. The kind you'd only have if you were one of the things everyone hoped would go away." Wilson doesn't reply, and House looks up to see his mouth set in a tight line. "You're some kind of misfit yourself, which is why you'd treat the kid nobody else would touch. What happened to him?"
"He tested positive for bacteremia, and I convinced the Mutants to let me remove the dead tissue before it killed him." Wilson grabs a dry towel and scrubs again through House's hair.
"What about the healthy part of the tail?" House asks as Wilson goes to dump the basin for the last time.
"Parents wanted me to save it," Wilson sighs and starts rearranging the tables and beds again. "Think you're up for a transfer?"
House doesn't, not really, but he's not about to tell Wilson that, so he nods his head. He doesn't actually do much beyond fight to stay conscious as Wilson manhandles him from one bed to the other, but it doesn't actually take that long before House lies panting on a bed that smells clean.
"I'd've ... cut off ... the whole thing," House says to the ceiling. "Told ... the Mutants ... get themselves ... a new spiritual connection."
Wilson pauses in his stripping of the other bed, pauses long enough to make House turn his head and watch.
"You did it, didn't you?" House can feel his breathing calming as the pain subsides a bit. "You lied to the parents." Then he yawns, deep and loud; as the pain scales back his exhaustion overtakes him like a starcruiser.
"He deserved a shot at a normal life." Wilson's quiet assertion follows House into sleep. Of all the vulgaris in the galaxy, House silently gripes as he slips under, I had to get an interesting one.