Fic: Broken, Part 1
Author: Neena (varsconapalyahoo.ca)
Rating: FRM (mature readers)
Pairing: House/Wilson, pre-slash
Archive: If you want it, let me know :)
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters—they own me. I make no money off of them, and I have the empty wallet to prove it.
Spoilers: Babies and Bathwater. I took some liberty with the timeline in this episode, squeezing this story between the lines.
Summary: In the battle between House and Vogler, some things were bound to get broken.
Warnings: mention of rape, angst.
A/N: I always wondered what happened to House's first cane.
Wilson was dreaming. Not pleasant dreams of sunshine and red corvettes, but corrosive dreams with razor-sharp edges. They slashed at him in rapid succession…running away from an unseen attacker…the earth opening up under his feet…hands clawing at him from freshly dug graves…treading water in a black ocean with eerie white spectres of sharks swimming just beneath him…a phone ringing, jangling and discordant, just out of reach…
A well-aimed elbow caught him in the kidney, and Wilson awoke with a yelp. The telephone part of his nightmare had been real, and Julie had apparently decided it was his fault it was ringing at…2:15 am.
She gave him a sour look before rolling over to go back to sleep. She was mad at him because she'd also decided it was his fault that he had no job to go to in the morning. They'd argued about it at length—he'd brought up Vogler, she'd countered with House, and they'd both gone to bed angry. And now Wilson found himself longing for the nightmares—at least you could wake up and forget about those.
Julie gave him a warning sigh and Wilson reached over to his bedside table and picked up the phone mid-jangle.
"Hello? … Hello? …House is that you? …Jesus, Greg, what's wrong? …Of course, I'll be right there."
Wilson dropped the phone, his feet hitting the floor before the phone had even landed on the bed. He felt panicky—he hadn't heard his friend this shaken in five years. Not that he'd said much over the phone—he'd simply said he needed him to come over—but the lateness of the hour and the strain in his voice spoke volumes. For a moment Wilson debated whether or not he should change out of his pyjamas, but in the end urgency won out over decorum.
"You're leaving?" said Julie, not bothering to turn and face him.
"He needs me," Wilson replied simply.
She didn't have to say she thought he was a fool to stay friends with the man who'd just cost him his job. She didn't have to say that he'd been spending more time at Greg's house than his own. The bitter retorts were implied in the icy silence that hung in the air between them as he walked out of the bedroom.
There were no lights visible in the windows of House's condo as Wilson pulled up front. And as he approached and noticed that the door had been left slightly open, his heart rate kicked up a notch.
Wilson pushed open the door and stood in the dark threshold. He could hear House's raspy breathing and his eyes followed the sound to a shadowy silhouette leaning against the wall about ten feet away. Icy light from the windows frosted one side of his lean frame, leaving the rest in utter blackness.
"You shouldn't have come."
"You called. I was worried." And he was still worried. He'd known Greg long enough to know there was something seriously wrong.
"It's two-thirty in the morning. You should be in bed trying to patch things up with Julie."
"Yeah. Well, I'm here now," said Wilson, reaching his hand up to flick on the lights.
"Leave them off," said House, but it was more of a plea than a demand.
Wilson sighed, hanging his head briefly in consternation, then walked into the dark room, closing the door behind him. When he turned to face House again he noticed a change in his friend's posture. He was more alert, leaning less, and he kept checking over his shoulder like he was mapping out an escape route. The closer Wilson got, the more rapid House's breathing became, and Wilson couldn't help feeling that he was afraid of him. But that was ridiculous—they both knew he could never stay mad at House for what he'd done. It would be as pointless as being mad at the Mona Lisa for not breaking into a toothy grin on demand.
"Are you going to tell me what this is all about?" asked Wilson, stopping a few feet shy of his friend.
"It's nothing. I shouldn't have called you," said House, taking a shaky step backwards, using the wall for support and guidance.
"Uh huh," said Wilson sceptically. He took a quick lunge to the left and clicked on the lamp sitting on the nearest end table.
The flash of anger on House's face couldn't disguise the redness of his eyes or the dark smudges underneath them. And it did nothing to hide the blooming bruise on his jaw, either.
"Another disgruntled patient?" asked Wilson, trying to ease some of the tension.
"I don't suppose you'd buy the old 'I slipped getting out of the tub' excuse?" Wilson simply raised an eyebrow at him. "I didn't think so. Look, it's no big deal… I got mugged."
"My God, are you alright?" asked Wilson.
"I'm fine," House assured him. "But when I got home I started feeling a little jumpy… I shouldn't have called you."
"You keep saying that," said Wilson. "You're allowed to call me, House. Anytime. I mean—you were mugged! I think that warrants a late night phone call."
House hesitated, his sharp blue eyes darting anxiously towards the door and then back to Wilson, as if he was afraid someone might overhear him. "It was Vogler," House said in a hoarse half-whisper.
"Vogler did this to you!" Wilson exclaimed, and House winced at his raised voice.
"No," said House. "But he's the reason it happened."
Wilson shoved his hands into the pockets of his pyjamas and shook his head. "Just because you messed up with the Vogler thing does not mean you deserve to get mugged."
House looked away to hide the flash of hurt in his eyes. The implication was that, at least on some level, Wilson believed he had good reason to feel that guilty. And maybe he was right. He cleared his throat, and then fixed Wilson with as steady a gaze as he could manage. "I'm not talking about karma. I meant what I said literally—Vogler is responsible for what happened tonight. The guy who attacked me said Vogler sent him as a warning."
Wilson stood there gaping at House. He knew he wasn't lying, but at the same time it just seemed impossible. "Are you saying Vogler hired a thug to beat you into submission?" he asked at last, still struggling to believe it.
"Must be nice to have that kind of money," House replied flippantly, but the tiny twitch that accompanied the words betrayed a much deeper emotional undercurrent.
"Let me have a look at you," said Wilson, advancing a step. House tried to back away again, but the lazy-boy chair behind him blocked his retreat. "Please, let me look at you," he repeated softly as he slowly invaded House's space.
House stood stiff as a board as his friend prodded the bruise on his face, doing his best to avoid looking him in the eye.
"Was it just the one punch?" asked Wilson.
House didn't answer. What would be the point? It wasn't like Wilson would have believed him if he said no. Instead, he let Wilson read into his silence whatever answer suited him best.
"Alright, then. How about we get you to the bathroom and get you cleaned up?" said Wilson. "Where's your cane?" He looked around, but the familiar wooden limb was nowhere to be seen.
"Broken," said House.
Wilson nodded briefly, an unspoken acknowledgement of House's reluctance to discuss it. "Take my arm," he said, holding it out for House. House rolled his eyes dramatically at him, but he didn't hesitate to take him up on the offer.
It was obvious from House's heavy reliance on Wilson as a crutch that he'd been hurt a lot worse than he was letting on. Wilson said nothing, but with every painful step towards the bathroom he had to fight the urge to wrap his arms around his friend and carry him the rest of the way. Such a thing was out of the question with House, however. Stubborn autonomy was the rule of the day.
When Wilson flicked on the lights in the bathroom, House squinted into the harsh glare. It was a cruel light, highlighting every flaw, every wrinkle, and every bruise with blunt, unforgiving honesty. House turned away from the mirror, preferring the kindlier sight of his closest friend…who was currently getting a lot closer. House tried not to flinch as he allowed Wilson to strip him of his t-shirt. He hated being treated like an invalid, but his friend had a way of doing things for him without a fuss that somehow made it okay.
Wilson stood back and looked him over critically. It didn't look too bad, all things considered. There were two distinctly reddened areas on his abdomen—two gut punches aimed to knock the air out of him. Painful, sure, but the damage was most likely minimal. Wilson figured the guy was probably paid to put a scare into him, not to really hurt him.
"Satisfied?" House asked, eyeing his discarded t-shirt with longing.
Wilson shrugged. "I guess. You haven't noticed any indication of internal bleeding?" he asked, not yet willing to let his patient off the hook.
"None. Feel free to poke me if you want…but watch the left flank—I'm ticklish."
"Fine," said Wilson with a dry chuckle. "You can put your shirt back on." But when House turned around to grab his shirt from the counter behind him, Wilson saw something that set the alarms going off again. Without thinking, he reached out and touched the oddly shaped bruise that striped its way across his friend's back. House reacted as if he'd been prodded with a hot poker.
Wilson, trying his best to calm House down, physically manoeuvred him over to the toilet seat and attempted to get him to sit. He ended up with House clawing his way up his arm like a kitten who'd just discovered what pant legs were for.
"Relax, House," said Wilson. "I just want you to sit down so I can get a better look at your back."
"No!" House bit back furiously—his eyes were glassy, and he was teetering precariously on the verge of losing control.
"Would you rather I take you to the hospital?" Wilson asked calmly. "Maybe you'd feel more comfortable if someone else…"
"No," said House, locking eyes with Wilson. "No one else."
Wilson nodded, aware that what House was really doing was swearing him to secrecy—something he knew he might very well regret later.
House finally released his death grip on Wilson's sleeve, redistributing his weight over his good leg so he could stand on his own. He started undoing his belt, keeping his eyes downcast so he wouldn't see the inevitable look of confusion and concern on his friend's face. He hated that he couldn't keep his hands from shaking, but at least Wilson knew better than to try and help him. At last the buckle came loose, and the rest was easy. Wilson steadied him as he stepped out of his jeans, and House winced. It wasn't because of the pain—he was more than capable of dealing with the pain—he winced because he knew it was too late to turn back.
Wilson shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other as he watched House strip out of his underwear. He could sense his friend's embarrassment, but he had no idea what he was supposed to be looking at. And then House turned around and he had his answer.
The bruise he'd seen on his back was only the first of many. House's buttocks and upper thighs were criss-crossed with long, angry red welts, all of them uniformly straight and about an inch thick. It was a fair bet that House's cane had made those marks. That alone was enough to make Wilson blanche, but when he noticed the specks of blood dotting House's inner thighs…
Wilson felt so outraged he wanted to scream, but he held his tongue—right now House needed him to remain calm. He took a deep, steadying breath and asked; "Did this…mugger…wear a condom?" It was hard to keep his voice neutral and detached when the turmoil in his soul was pitching a fit to get out.
"I'm not sure," House answered. "I think so." There was more than a trace of relief in his voice, as if he'd done more than just share his burden—he'd handed it over to Wilson entirely. He didn't even seem to mind Wilson's gently probing fingers as he examined him.
Wilson checked him over quickly and carefully, and then handed him a towel from the towel rack. House wrapped himself up in it and calmly watched his friend pace back and forth in the tiny room.
"Greg…I need to get you to a hospital."
"Is it that bad?"
"The tearing is minimal, but we need to run tests. If he wasn't wearing a condom, we have to make sure…"
"No," said House flatly. "No hospitals. No paperwork." Then, in an almost inaudible voice, he added, "Please."
Wilson's shoulders slumped and he stopped pacing. There was no sense arguing with him—under the circumstances it was a minor miracle he'd opened up to him at all.
"Alright," Wilson agreed. "Just promise me you'll run the tests yourself at work tomorrow."
House gawped at him as if he'd gone mad. "I can't go back there! Not tomorrow, not ever. I'm quitting—first thing in the morning I'm faxing my resignation in to Cuddy."
"I can't believe you're not going to fight this," said Wilson. "If you quit, then Vogler wins and all this was for nothing. What are you gonna do—vanish off the face of the Earth until Vogler dies?"
"That was the idea, yeah," said House, starting to feel uncomfortable again. "I can't do it, Jimmy," he added quietly.
Wilson felt like a heel—the man had just been raped, and here he was trying to bully him back into the lion's den. He was so used to thinking of House as invulnerable that he sometimes forgot it was only a façade, and a flimsy one at that. He was every bit as vulnerable as the next man, whether he let it show or not. Wilson nodded his understanding and let his eyes do the apologizing—vocalizing his thoughts right now would only serve to poke more holes in House's already-tattered defences.
They stood facing each other awkwardly for a moment, until House cleared his throat and broke the silence. "If you don't mind, I think I'd like to take a shower now," said House, his eyes glued to a nice, safe spot on the tiled floor.
"Of course," said Wilson. "I'll, uh…I'll be outside if you need anything." He made a discreet exit, despite his hesitance in leaving House alone.
Half an hour later, House got out of the tub, steam billowing around him in a thick cloud. He looked disdainfully down at the pile of clothes on the floor. He wanted to burn them, and if he had a lighter, he would have, but he settled for bundling them up and tossing them into the little wastebasket beside the sink. He was about to call out to Wilson to get him something to wear when he noticed the t-shirt and sweatpants—his preferred choice in p.j.'s—laid out for him by the door. The extra vicodin he'd popped before getting into the shower was kicking in nicely. He felt exhausted and doped up, and, thanks to Wilson, he had fresh clothes on, which made him feel almost human again.
Wilson smiled kindly at him as he emerged from the bathroom. He'd probably been standing there waiting the whole time, House thought, and he tried his best to return the smile. But he knew the smile never reached his eyes—the best his eyes could offer was his undying gratitude.
"You look like you could fall asleep standing up," said Wilson. "C'mon. Let's get you into bed."
"What would your wife say?" House teased lightly.
Wilson's smile broadened, relieved to see a touch of the old House peeking through. "Nothing she hasn't already accused me of," he said. Then the thought occurred to him that House might have been using the joke to mask what he really wanted to ask. "House…do you want me to stay with you tonight?"
Put so bluntly, House was tempted to deny that that was exactly what he wanted. But he'd already let Wilson in this far—it seemed silly to shut him out now. So he nodded, swallowing against the lump of raw emotion that had lodged itself in his throat.
House once again used Wilson as a crutch to get to his bedroom, but he was walking much easier now that the painkillers had kicked in. He climbed gingerly into bed and turned over onto his side—it was immediately evident that he wouldn't be sleeping on his back for the next few nights. Wilson tucked him in, which House thought was sweet, and then he turned off the light, went around to the other side of the bed and climbed in next to him.
House lay there blinking at his friend in the blue-grey darkness and Wilson's dark eyes blinked back at him. He was both terrified and comforted to have him there—terrified that he might not be able to stop himself from crying; comforted knowing that Wilson would take it in stride and not make it worse if he did.
Wilson carefully studied his friend's face in the dim light. He saw the panic and the need in those expressive blue eyes, and decided to act on his gut instinct. Slowly closing the gap between them, Wilson wrapped House in a loose hug. To his relief, House didn't shrink away. Instead, he pulled him in closer and laid his head on Wilson's chest.
Wilson planted a motherly kiss on the top of House's head, and then rested his cheek against his still-damp hair. When the tears started they didn't come in torrents or wracking sobs. The only indications that he was crying at all were the tension in his muscles and the telltale dampness soaking through his pyjama top where House's head lay. Wilson stroked tiny circles across his friend's shoulders until he felt him relax into a deep sleep. He lay staring up at the ceiling, knowing that he wasn't going to get a wink of sleep for the rest of the night, but thankful, nonetheless, that House had asked for his help.