Author: sy dedalus
Summary: HW established relationship. The leg gets worse and our heroes must do something, but will the cure be worse than the disease? A look at addiction and enabling.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, etc.
Note: This story used to be called "Shorts" and included two chapters before this one. Those two chapters are now stand-alone fics ("Conference" and "Rosh Hashanah"). This story has been re-titled and partially reorganized because of the great, gaping chasm between its inception and what really happened as I wrote it.
Before you read, here's a note on setting and chronology in this fic, because I've been told it's somewhat confusing.
Setting: Two years and a few months after season 3.
The Original Hook Up Occurred: A few months after the end of season 3, shortly after House's first morphine rehab (which is a fictional event and part of this AU).Chapter Chronology:
Chapter 1 – Eh, day 1, let's say; note that House's leg has been noticeably worse, but not that worse, for about two months at the beginning of this chapter
Chapter 2 – Two weeks later
Chapter 3 – The next morning
Chapter 4 – Same day as chapter 4
Chapter 5 – Same day as chapter 4
Chapter 6 – Same day as chapter 4
Chapter 7 – About a week later
Chapter 8 – One night and one day later (or, the next night)
Chapter 9 – The next morning
Chapter 10 – That night
Chapter 11 – The next morning; Wilson's flashbacks skip to over two years earlier, pre-hook-up, during the first morphine rehab, and to the time shortly following chapter 4 (about two weeks prior to chapter 11's "present"); this is the most confusing part
Chapter 12 – The same day
Chapter 13 – That afternoon
Chapter 14 – Late that night / early the next morning
The whole thing happens over the span of about a month. There are a few other changes but nothing too confusing.
The thunk of a door closing startled Wilson out of a deep sleep. Automatically, he reached for his alarm clock, mistaking it for what had woken him. The LED backlight illuminated the time just as he realized the clock hadn't been buzzing, and as soon as his hand shot out to find House's side of the bed cold, he heard quiet footsteps in the living room.
He sighed, rubbed his face, and forced himself out of the warm cocoon of sheets and comforter. The alarm would have sounded in three minutes anyway. The part of him that wasn't immediately frustrated and upset that House was up again appreciated House's consideration. However, he was also chagrined that House hadn't woken him earlier. If House was in enough pain that he had to be up, Wilson wanted to know about it, not to be left to sleep while House gritted his teeth and waited.
Seeing the pool of light emanating from the kitchen and knowing that House was still trying to be considerate, Wilson detoured to the bathroom first.
A month. No, two months—this was April. For two months it had been worse than it normally was.
Wilson swished Listerine around in his mouth and avoided his reflection in the mirror. They were both getting older…but not that old. House wasn't even fifty yet. Wilson spat the mouthwash out, combing his memory for any stressful events that might have triggered a pain increase. He came up with nothing. Again. With another disheartened sigh, he left for the kitchen.
House was leaning against the island, holding his right foot a few inches above the ground. He glanced quickly at Wilson but said nothing, his grip tightening on the table. Wilson poured himself a glass of water and drank half of it before he spoke.
"How long have you been up?" he asked casually, leaning against the counter with the water glass.
House's head dropped a fraction of an inch. "Few hours," he muttered.
House's knuckles whitened and he bared his teeth and looked away. Wilson wasn't sure if he was reacting to the questioning or to pain. They'd put behind them the fact that House hated revealing the details of his pain and that Wilson had to know those details—was entitled to know those details or he couldn't be of any help and he'd become anxious and frustrated as a result—but it would never really be behind them. So when he spoke again Wilson kept his eyes fixed on the cabinet that contained the nice dishes Cuddy had given them as an anniversary present.
"How many since midnight?"
House expelled a breath and shook his head. "Four."
Wilson tried hard to conceal his surprise, but he realized House would pick up on it no matter how well he hid it, so he allowed himself a sigh.
"This is the third time this week," Wilson said, more to himself than to House.
House, to his credit, didn't turn on Wilson.
"I know," he began, stopping himself and shaking his head. He rocked back and forth on his left foot and glanced up. "But I don't want—it's only been a few months."
Since his last MRI, Wilson supplied. He dipped his head in acknowledgement. House picked up his cane and walked heavily into the living room. Doing laps around the furniture. Last week Wilson had noticed that House had actually worn a path in the wood flooring around the couch and coffee table. His track.
Wilson drained the glass and listened to him making the first lap.
After House had done five laps, Wilson put the glass in the sink and went to lean against the door frame between the kitchen and living room.
"You think you need it," he said. "I know you want it…and I wish you didn't want or need it…but I think you do. Need it."
Wilson saw the kitchen light reflected in the whites of House's eyes as they flickered toward him. House kept walking; waiting for the catch.
Wilson rubbed his face. "I don't want to—I'm not going to make it conditional. But if it's this bad…we both know you should get another work-up."
Wilson watched him, looking for any sign of a change in his pace or his step. Nothing. He was restless, scared. Really scared. Too scared to make some sniping comment about stating the obvious.
Wilson rubbed his face again, sighed, and reached between the refrigerator and the wall for the step-ladder.
"Go lie down," he said. "I'll get it."
He waited on the threshold for House either to continue pacing or leave the living room. When House didn't make a left turn at the couch but continued down the hall, Wilson's heart sank a little. House was really, really scared if he was taking orders.
Wilson turned on a lamp in the living room and unfolded the ladder. His entire being rebelled at giving House morphine—House had struggled too hard with the psychological side of morphine addiction for him to do this in good conscience—but he would rather know that House needed it and was taking it and, most importantly, how much he was taking than deny the pain and force House to deceive him.
His stomach clenched as he ascended the ladder. House's pain had never increased for any physical reason in the past. It always turned out to be stress. But they'd gone through all the possible stressors in House's life a few days ago when the pain had first gotten him out of bed early. Other than the usual work-related stress, House had been on a remarkably even keel lately. Everything seemed fine in their relationship. Wilson's stomach clenched more tightly at the thought that something wasn't fine between them and he didn't know what it was. Maybe House was bored, he considered as he folded the step-ladder up and put it back next to the fridge. His lip automatically tugged upward: the quality of the sex, even with House's extra pain, didn't indicate boredom. But just as quickly his mouth settled back into an unhappy line: he didn't know what was wrong. He was helpless.
He poured a glass of water for House, collected the box, and padded toward the bedroom.
House had turned on the lamp on his side of the bed and was viciously kneading his thigh through his pajama pants. Wilson noticed the sweatshirt House been wearing lying in a discarded heap on the bed and tried not to grimace: House hadn't even given it one of his characteristically inaccurate tosses toward the laundry pile. The deep lines on his face, the sick grey cast, the undisguised hurt that flashed in his eyes before he could mask it: Wilson knew he'd made the right decision.
He nodded for House to lie down and took the sweatshirt to the laundry basket.
"It's not your mom's birthday," Wilson began as he entered the lock's combination. "Not your dad's birthday. Not their anniversary. Not our anniversary. Not your birthday. Not my birthday. Not Stacy's birthday. Not that anniversary. Not that anniversary. Not the anniversary of the break-up. Not the anniversary of her coming back. Not their wedding anniversary."
He collected a vial, syringe, tourniquet, wipe, and piece of gauze. No gloves in the kit. He glanced up at House: rubbing his leg and staring at the ceiling. Waiting. Scared.
"Does anything happen in April?" he asked rhetorically.
"Taxes," House grunted.
Wilson broke into a smile, feeling a little better. Taxes. Beneath the pain and fear, House was still there.
Wilson gave the rubber tourniquet to House. He ignored the eerie mastery with which House tied the tourniquet to his bicep one-handed and drew two cc's more than he really wanted to draw. House prepared a vein with the same eerie mastery as Wilson opened the alcohol wipe. Wipe and syringe he offered to House. With a minute shake of his head, eyes traveling from the offering to Wilson, House indicated that Wilson should do it.
As he administered the drug, Wilson reflected that this shouldn't make him love House more, but it did. Because allowing someone else to control his meds represented a level of trust Wilson sometimes thought House could no longer reach.
House stared at the ceiling until Wilson pressed the gauze against his arm and snapped the tourniquet off. Dutifully, House bent his arm to staunch the bleeding.
Wilson threw away the paper trash and left for the kitchen to put the recapped used syringe in a plastic bag so he could dispose of it later at work. He stopped in the living room to gather books, magazines, and journals, and to hunt briefly for one of House's portable video games before returning to the bedroom.
House's eyes popped open when Wilson set the reading material on the bed. Drugged, Wilson could see, but he also recognized relief and thanks. He gave House a pained smile.
House tracked him as he rounded the bed to the box.
"I have a confession to make," House said in slightly slurred voice. "I'm actually straight."
Wilson sniffed and smiled for real. "Lightweight," he mocked.
"Straight lightweight," House amended, eyes fluttering shut.
Wilson's smile disappeared as he gathered a vial of compazine, two new syringes, and the accompanying wipes and gauze.
"Don't give me a reason to worry, House," he said, sounding more threatening than he meant to sound.
House kept his eyes closed. "Just so tired," he said.
Wilson nodded to himself. Pain alone was exhausting, and House hadn't been sleeping much this week. Nonetheless, he dumped the supplies and took House's wrist between his fingers.
House blinked up at him, glanced over at the paraphernalia on the night table, and let his eyelids drop to half-mast.
"Feel dizzy?" Wilson asked, still counting seconds in his head.
"No," House answered. "It's not too much."
Wilson had to concede that House would know if it were. His pulse was fine. Wilson let his wrist go and started organizing the supplies.
House's gaze shifted sleepily at the sound of rustling, then up to Wilson. Asking. Surprised.
He shouldn't be that surprised, Wilson thought, wondering if he'd done anything lately that indicated he didn't trust House. But even as he wondered he was aware that he had to fight the impulse to lock the morphine back up and hide it. It wasn't that he didn't trust House...he just had a hard time leaving a vial full of morphine on a table next to a recovering morphine addict. Even if House needed it.
"Call me first," Wilson said in answer to House's unspoken question.
Wilson glanced over and their eyes met. House nodded slightly and blinked like a toddler resisting a nap.
"And take the compazine," Wilson added, going to the dresser to pick out clean underwear for work.
"Makes my butt burn," House mumbled.
"Take it anyway," Wilson insisted.
When he'd moved everything he needed to get ready for work to the living room, Wilson grazed a finger against House's unshaven cheek and bent down for a quick kiss. House kissed back, just barely, but enough to reassure Wilson that he was okay.
"Call if you need anything," Wilson said.
House made a low sound of acknowledgement.
Wilson paused for one last look to help him get through the morning, then snapped off the lamp and quietly closed the bedroom door.