He immediately regrets emerging into consciousness. Eyes squeeze shut and a grimace tears across his countenance. The slow, rhythmic breath of sleep is replaced by erratic hyperventilation. His hands blindly grope for the vial that holds his refuge. He clutches the source of his misery, trying to still it. The pills accomplish little. Once his breath and voice steady, he calls to say he won't be working today.
Thankfully, the message service asks no questions. He offers no answers. His hatred of weakness and defeat is fading. His anger used to be enough to hold on to and fight the pain, but that too is fading. Bitter memories are all that remain of who he was before the pain, and who he is will soon join them. No telegrams are sent, no memorial services held, but the casualties of this constant battle are on the rise.
Wilson is busy all day and doesn't notice House's absence. They eat lunch together most days, but today, he barely has time for the iced coffee his assistant thoughtfully left on his desk. He figures he'll catch up with House after work, maybe enjoy dinner and a movie. He looks forward to exploring the new realms of closeness and intimacy they've delved into lately.
After the conclusion of his last marriage, and House's run-in with the law, Wilson couldn't escape the fact that he wanted more out of his relationship with House. He demanded more, and to his surprise, House was giving it. They were moving slowly, but emotions long held at bay were making their way to the surface in both of them. It felt as if they were finally swimming up for air after years at the bottom of the ocean. Wilson shakes his head and forces himself to focus on the paperwork in front of him.
House drifts in and out of consciousness. Agony and misery his constant companions when he awakens. His throat feels dry and overused, he must have cried out, but he doesn't remember.
He holds on to the hope that Wilson will come soon. When he's with Wilson, lightness fills the empty spaces otherwise consumed by loneliness and hurt. With Wilson he is not embittered by who he was, and thinks he can continue to be himself. He usually loathes hope, but today, it is all he has.
He tries to get up at some point, but the pain spikes and he ends up retching and falling back. The next thing he remembers is the sun setting and the inescapable stench of bile all around him. He feels at one with the dusk. Any light that he held is ebbing.
House wishes he could find it within himself to call Wilson, to seek him out, but he can't. He paradoxically feels relieved and disappointed that Wilson has not called or come to see him. Of course, he would probably just say he was fine and wanted to be left alone, but then, everybody lies.
He did not want to be alone. He wanted very much to be cared for, but he wanted Wilson to want to do it. As darkness settled on the outside world, an unspoken fear gripped House from deep within. What if Wilson's caring was fading, the way House felt himself fading; drifting into nothingness.
Wilson passes by Diagnostics after an interminably boring budget meeting in desperate need of something to break the monotony of a dull day that had dragged on endlessly. Looking forward to seeing House, he's disappointed to find only Foreman in the office.
"House already leave for the day?" he asks casually.
Foreman looks at him quizzically for a moment and then shrugs, already looking back at the computer screen he had been studying, "he hasn't been in all day, called in sick."
Wilson's brow furrows reflexively as he turns away with a nod. House never called in sick. He pulls out his phone as he walks to his own office. "House, I'm going to try your cell, call me back if you get this," he says to the answering machine as he gathers his belongings.
A musical ring rouses House, and it takes a moment for him to understand it. His cell phone slides a bit in his slick, clammy hands. He opens it, but can't find his voice. Wilson is about to hang up, when he hears breathing on the other end.
"Yeah," the reply is clipped and quiet.
"What's up?" Wilson asks dropping any pretense of not being concerned.
"Sky," House says in a hoarse voice, and while his eyes are closed he can feel a smile within them. Wilson's voice is a comfort and harbinger of relief.
"Leg?" he's well-versed in the one-word conversation game.
"Yea-," House's response dissolves into rapid, uncontrolled breathing as another swell of pain comes over him.
"I'll be there soon," Wilson replies moving with a sense of urgency as he calls in a prescription to the pharmacy and gathers supplies.
"House," Wilson calls repeatedly when he enters the apartment. The calls go unanswered. He winces when he first smells and then sees his lover, who's curled in a fetal position, hands digging into his right thigh. The stench of old vomit and sweat that has formed, dried, and reformed countless times throughout the day surprises him at first, though he knows it shouldn't. He can't remember the last time House looked so pale, his breathing is heavy and fast, his face squeezed as tight as the rest of him, every muscle tense, as if relaxing just one will give the pain an edge.
House remains unresponsive to Wilson's presence so he reaches out to touch his shoulder. The eyes, deep pools of suffering, momentarily open, looking at him for an all too brief moment before shutting tight again.
"House, stay with me, one to ten House, one to ten," he says loudly, enunciating.
He worries House doesn't hear him and is about to shake him to get him to focus when he notices House's hands move.
House keeps his hands pressed tight against his thigh, but spreads out his fingers, all five on one hand and four on the other. He can't speak, but knows answering Wilson is important. One to ten, he measures his life on a scale from one to ten.
Wilson pulls out the alcohol pad and wipes House's upper arm, uncapping the syringe with his teeth before drawing up the morphine. He plunges in the drug and waits for House to relax. He strokes House's forehead rhythmically, hoping it will ease some of the discomfort, unsure of what else he can do. Worry and concern creep up on him. Caring more about House, having him be an even bigger part of his life, means that these feelings are unavoidable, but it also means that he no longer has to ignore or hide them.
An unknown measure of time passes, but he knows and feels the instant when House's body starts relaxing beneath his touch. Unknown tension releases within him and he springs back into action. He cleans the mess on House's floor, and then fills a pot with warm water and a wash cloth. He pulls off the dirty blanket and flat sheet, and begins to gently wipe House's face. House stirs at the touch, turning onto his back.
"It's just me House. Just getting you cleaned up a little," he says gently, reassuringly. House looks peaceful again. Wilson wipes his face and arms clean. "You want to raise your arms up for me?" House complies in his half-sleep state, and Wilson peels off his dirty undershirt. Wilson brushes the washcloth across his chest and a hint of a smile crosses House's face. 'This is love,' he thinks to himself.
"You just wanted to get me naked in bed so you can have your way with me. I see through your master plan," House says, glancing up through half-lidded eyes.
"You got me. Nothing turns me on quite like dried vomit. How's the pain?"
"No wonder you went into oncology," House jests. "Much better. Thanks," he says sincerely.
"You should have called me. I'd have come sooner."
"Can we not do this now?" House asks in a tired voice.
Wilson plays with the cloth in his hands for a moment before he concedes. "Fine. But eventually we're going to have an actual conversation, and I'm scheduling an MRI."
"Figured as much, but not now. I've had breakthrough pain like this before. If it was something to worry about, I'd be worried. Now, put that away and come lay with me. It's cold," House bats his eyelashes comically, but the slight shiver running through him and utter exhaustion he's exuding belie his attempts at mirth. Wilson wants nothing more than to wrap House in his arms and make him feel warm again.
Longing for Wilson all day and Wilson bringing respite from the pain, makes House want to feel closer to him. He wants to avoid the fear that one day pain like this won't just be breakthrough, but base line. He doesn't want to think about what the increased pain might mean or what letting Wilson see him in pain and take care of him means. He just wants to relish not being alone, not fading, any longer. He just wants to savor being with his person, his Wilson.
"I'm going to get some fresh blankets. You want another T-shirt? Or anything else?"
"Water," House says his throat still hoarse and dry.
"You got it." Wilson pulls his cell phone out to schedule the MRI while he gathers fresh blankets and water.
House is weakly pushing himself up into a seated position when Wilson returns to the room. He puts the water down and reaches out to support House. House lets his strong arms do most of the work and then dopily accepts the water.
"Dehydrated," House says as if it were the answer to everything.
"You haven't had anything to eat or drink all day, have you?" Wilson realizes this must be the case and coupled with the vomiting and the sweating, of course House was dehydrated. At least some of the weakness could be attributed to that, and the rest to the fact that he had been in agony all damn day.
"I'm going to have to pee soon too."
"What goes in, must come out," Wilson replies without missing a beat, but inside his heart aches a little. 'Ah, House, bedridden by the pain, and you still couldn't call me,' he thinks to himself. He knows their relationship is changing, that House is changing, but it's frustrating to know that he hasn't been let all the way in yet, that there is still a way to go before they break through the water's surface.
House melts back into the bed as the warm, soft blanket is spread over him from above. Lightness and warmth envelop him and he basks in Wilson's presence. Relief is a beautiful thing. Now, it is the pain and the fear that are fading. His eyes follow Wilson as he kicks off his shoes and pants, and strips down to his boxers. House lets his eyes drift closed, and wonders just how much morphine Wilson had given him, though logically he knows exhaustion is normal after a day like today. Wilson had just lain down and turned to look at House, when House gave him an unfamiliar look.
"Thank you for coming," House said in a voice so full of relief and gratitude, Wilson felt a lump rise in his throat.
"Nowhere else I'd rather be," Wilson said sincerely reaching an arm across House's chest and finding his place in the nook of House's shoulder. House wraps an arm around Wilson's back before continuing.
"Sorry you had to do all that, see tha-"
"Save the apology for the next time you barge in on me with a patient, or do something equally annoying to be sorry for. We both know it's bound to happen, but it didn't happen here today. There are going to be times when you need me, and there are going to be times when I need you. I want to be here House. And we don't have to talk about it now, but I do wish you'd have called me sooner. You didn't have to suffer alone all day. I know we agreed to take this slow, and I think that's a good idea, but that doesn't mean I care about you any less than if we were speeding along."
"Aww, Jimmy you are such a girl," House says before yawning sleepily. "I love you," he whispers. Wilson looked up as soon as the words were out of House's mouth, but the other man had seemingly drifted off to sleep. Wilson got up to make dinner. "Love you too, House," he says softly just before shutting the lights, missing the soft smile that made its way onto House's face.