Close Your Weary Eyes
You wake up just before dawn.
The room is dark and chilly, silent except for the quiet in-out of House's breathing as he sleeps beside you. He sounds peaceful, the most peaceful you recall hearing him in months; the way he draws his breath in slowly and deeply and exhales calmly. Like he's unaware of his pain. You stare across at the window, the first rays of dawn peeking through the gaps in the curtains, and you find yourself wishing you could bottle House's stillness and keep it. Just hearing how peaceful he sounds makes you realise how exhausted you are.
You didn't sleep very well. You couldn't, not with how restless House was during the night. You'd laid here and listened to House grunting in pain every time he moved and muttering quietly to himself when he couldn't get comfortable. You got up and fetched him a glass of water when he murmured that he was thirsty, and you helped him to the bathroom at around three in the morning and stood in the doorway, yawning and rubbing your bleary eyes to shield them from the harsh glow of the light. When you climbed back into bed with House, you heard him moan in pain and you'd had this sudden urge to gather him in your arms, wanting to smother his pain and smother his groans because you were just so damn tired and wanted to sleep.
You didn't, though. You lay beside him on your back, staring up at the ceiling until you finally heard his breathing even out as he lulled into sleep. If you'd gone home like you normally do, you would've been able to get a much better sleep than this. You could have snuggled up to Bonnie as a way of saying sorry for not being home often enough. You could have woken up tired but refreshed. But House needed you and you wanted to try and give him comfort, even despite all the times he'd told you to fuck off. You'd wondered if it was even worth it, given how much House seems to hate and resent you for never leaving. You'd shifted onto your side and moved up close behind him when you felt your eyes becoming heavy, and gently rubbed his back until you fell asleep.
In the distance outside, you hear a bird suddenly twitter, echoed by another bird nearby. You lift your hands to your face and rub it, your eyes feeling itchy and your head heavy with tiredness. You turn your head when you drop your hands away, to look at House and you can just make out his face in the murky twilight. His mouth is slack and his eyes are twitching in REM. The lines usually so heavily set on his face from pain and anger appear softer, and that bitter expression he always wears these days is gone. He looks so tranquil, almost vulnerable, that you have this urge to reach across and touch his face. Stroke his cheek with the back of your knuckles or smooth his hair back gently.
You quietly move onto your side and bunch the pillow under your head, and as you listen to the two birds outside now shrieking in unison to announce the break of a new day, you keep watching him. God, you hate him sometimes. Sometimes, you hate him so much with how much he seems to hate you that you want to walk out and wipe your hands clean of him. Sometimes you want to throw his pills at him and tell him to get fucked, just like he tells you. There have been times he's angered you to the point that you've almost broken down into tears, because you give so much of yourself to help him; it becomes draining and tiring to have it all thrown back in your face.
And sometimes, you feel so fiercely protective of him that you want to collect him up in your arms and just hold him. Those times when he's in so much pain that he's in tears, those times when he's frustrated with himself to the point of giving up, times like now when he looks so far removed from all his pain and everything he struggles with.
You shift in a little closer until his shoulder is pressed against your chest. He snuffles in his sleep and rolls his head towards you, his eyelids fluttering and twitching again. You sigh quietly and lift your hand to his hair, stroking it back once. You crane your neck and press a light kiss to his forehead and then close your eyes and just as you start to recede into a fitful snooze, you feel House tuck his face in against your neck.
You fall back to sleep with your hand cradling his head close to you.
You're standing in the bedroom doorway, leaning against the doorframe with your arms crossed over your chest. "You're awake."
House lifts is head from the pillow and looks at you groggily. He drops his head back down. "Yeah," he replies flatly, as though he really wishes he wasn't awake. Or alive.
You clear your throat. "Wondered when you were going to wake up. It's almost ten."
House grunts dismissively. You can already tell that he's back in one of those moods again, which causes a stab of frustration to flare in you. He can't help it and you know that, but you just get so tired of fighting him. You watch him stiffly roll onto his side as he scrubs his face with his hand.
"Breakfast?" you ask, keeping your tone light.
You sigh. You refuse to be defeated by House's mood, though; you push yourself away from the doorframe and take a few idle steps into the room, arms still crossed over your chest. "Sleep well?"
"Don't you have something better to do?" House asks. His tone is so sharp, it sounds more like a warning than a question.
"I'm just asking if you slept well," you argue mildly.
"You were here, weren't you?"
You swallow at House's cold response and look away at the window. The sun is streaming through bright, making you squint. You're not sure what the best thing to do is: leave House be for a few hours and get some time to yourself, or pursue this forced conversation and try to make yourself useful around him. That's the thing - House has this way of making you feel useless and unhelpful, no matter how much you try to do everything you can for him. God, it's frustrating.
You look back to him and watch the way he's curling up on his side with his back facing you, obviously trying to ignore you. Last night he'd actually responded to you when you climbed onto the bed with him. He'd been silent, he listened to you, he gave up trying to shut you out when you clutched his arm and lay close to him. A part of you wants to climb back on the bed now and do the very same thing: make House stop being so closed off and stubborn, make him acknowledge that you care about him more than you probably care about yourself. You sigh again and look down to the floor, feeling useless and pointless just standing here.
"Do you need anything?" you finally ask.
You lift your eyes and stare at House's back and after a few moments of silence, you leave the room, quietly closing the door behind you.
Routine is what keeps you going. You'd go crazy if you didn't have routine to keep you focused, in control and occupied. Today is Saturday, which means it's cleaning day. You have to keep yourself busy if you spend the whole day with House on weekends, if only to stop yourself from yelling at him in frustration and to stop the vicious barbs House throws at you from getting too far under your skin.
You've cleaned the bathroom, the kitchen and you're about to start vacuuming the living room when your cell phone starts ringing. You abandon the vacuum to answer it, your stomach twisting at seeing Bonnie's name on the caller i.d. screen. Shit.
"Hey," you greet, being sure to sound happy to hear from her.
"Where were you last night?" Bonnie's voice is tight; it's the same tone she uses whenever she talks about House around you.
"Bonnie, I, uh… House. He, uh… he had a rough night. I had to stay to help him."
Silence. "You didn't call."
You sit down heavily on the arm of the couch, pinching the bridge of your nose. You want to tell her that House really needed you and that you meant to call but just didn't get around to it. The best way around Bonnie, though, is to apologise and sound sincere about it. "I know, sweetheart. I'm sorry."
You hear her draw in a sharp breath and then exhale slowly. "Will you be coming home today?"
God, you feel guilty when she asks questions like that. You glance towards the direction of House's bedroom. "I'll call you later," you reply noncommittally.
"Oh." A pause. "I guess I'll hear from you then."
You rub your face with your hand and nod, even though she can't see you. "You will. I promise." You push yourself up. "I love you."
"I love you, too, James."
You're not sure you believe her. She hangs up before you get a chance to say good bye. You draw your phone from your ear and peer down at it before snapping it shut and throwing it onto the couch with a tired sigh. Not wanting to think about Bonnie because it just makes you feel guilty, you move back to the vacuum cleaner and start vacuuming the living room. You quickly zoom around the couch, under the coffee table, over the rug, the roaring sound of the vacuum's motor flooding the apartment as loud as a jackhammer against cement. You're vacuuming behind the television when you hear House yell sharply from the bedroom, "Can't you fucking do that any quieter?!"
You ignore him. The housework needs to be done, after all. It helps you feel accomplished, too, which is a far cry from how you feel with House most days. You move across to the entrance of the hallway, sucking up the dust gathering on the skirting board when House shouts out again, angrier this time: "Stop fucking vacuuming! Jesus Christ!" You ignore him still until you hear House bellow, "Wilson!"
You hit the off switch with your foot and throw an infuriated look towards House's room. "Thank you," you hear House bark snidely. "You're lucky I didn't come down there and stuff your head up your ass."
You keep glaring down the hall. For a brief, childish moment, you consider dragging the vacuum cleaner into his bedroom just to piss him off further. Maybe vacuum the fucking bed with him in it. You rub your face and take a deep breath to calm your nerves, before lugging the vacuum to the cupboard and stashing it away.
It's just on one by the time you finish cleaning, and you feel a lot calmer. You make lunch for yourself and House - vegetable soup and buttered rolls. You're not sure if House will actually eat and you don't want to ask if he's hungry in case that just gives him another opportunity to tell you to fuck off. You set the food down on the coffee table in the living room and then head for House's room.
You knock quietly and let yourself in. House is still lying on his side. You can't tell if he's asleep or awake.
He stirs. He doesn't answer you, though.
"I made you some lunch," you continue.
You watch him uncertainly. "House?"
"You need to eat," you say, moving your hand to the back of your neck to rub it.
"You haven't eaten since yesterday."
You give the back of your neck a frustrated squeeze before crossing your arms over your chest. You're not going to let House shut you out, you decide. He's going to eat his lunch, whether he likes it or not, because you fucking made it, just like you fucking cleaned his apartment and gave him an enema and periodically wipe his fucking ass.
"You need to eat," you repeat, firmly this time.
House lifts his head from the pillow and shoots you a sharp look. "I don't need anything."
"Fine." You hold your hands up in surrender at him, wondering not for the first time if you should just wipe your hands completely clean of him. "You lie there and starve and get yourself to the bathroom without my help, seeing as how you obviously don't need it."
House glares at you. "Fuck off."
"You're so fucking predictable."
"And you won't fucking leave."
You stare at House, feeling stung. You do so much for him, and yet… You start turning towards the door. "I'll leave, then, if that's what you want."
Maybe you will leave and never come back. You know none of this is House's fault, but there's only so much you can take. You close your hand around the doorknob to pull the door shut behind you when you hear House say, "Don't leave."
You stop in your tracks, staring at the wall across the hallway. Why does everything have to be a fight before House ever concedes to anything? You drop your eyes to the floor and sigh before turning your head to look back at House. He's watching you with a look you can't quite decipher. Defeat, or fear, maybe desperation… You're not sure, but as you face back towards him to re-enter the room, the look he's giving you fades to something like relief. That makes you feel a little better - at least House does need you, even if he won't admit it himself.
"Come on," you say in a gentler tone when you reach his bedside and pull the covers back from him. "Need to go to the bathroom?"
House doesn't reply as he stretches his hand out to you. You take it his silent gesture means yes. You grasp his hand and help him sit up before giving him his cane. You follow him to the bathroom, keeping one hand on his lower back as he limps slowly and awkwardly out of the room. You help him pull his boxers down and lower him to the toilet, and he looks up at you sheepishly when he passes wind.
Not that you care if he farts. Or pisses. Or craps. Or pukes his guts up. You've wiped up his shit, mopped up his vomit, given him an enema for fuck's sake - him passing wind is nothing. You just shrug at him in a 'don't worry about it' manner as you lean back against the bathroom sink, waiting for him to finish.
"I slept well," House says.
You give him an exasperated look. God, House is frustrating. He puts up that much of a fight, all the time, and then finally offers conversation when it suits him, usually at the most random and bizarre times. You resist the urge to roll your eyes and instead give him a tight, thin-lipped smile. You don't believe he did sleep well - hell, you endured the night with him. But his definition of sleeping well no doubt differs greatly from yours. Perhaps a couple of hours of uninterrupted sleep is considered 'sleeping well' to House.
"Good," you reply.
He watches you for a moment. "You didn't have to stay."
It suddenly occurs to you that some of the most civil conversations you've had with House since he came from the hospital have been when he's on the toilet. You're not sure why that is. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he has no reason to hide anything when he's got his boxers around his ankles in front of you, doing the most undignified thing as sitting on the toilet.
"I know," you say.
He watches you for another moment before looking down to tuck his penis into the toilet bowl to piss. You think nothing of it; you're so used to seeing House on the toilet now that it's become a normal part of your everyday life.
"What's for lunch?" he asks.
He glances up at you. "I hate soup."
"No, you don't."
"I do," he argues.
"You've liked it every time I've made it," you counter.
You roll your eyes. You don't believe him; you know he's only being contrary just to be contrary. You can tell by the non-confrontational tone of his voice. It's a weird thing House does to be civil, few and far between though those civil moments of his are. You push yourself away from the sink as House finishes peeing. "Well, you can lie about liking this soup I've made you, too, if it makes you feel better."
"Your soup is gross," he complains, lifting his arm up for you to help him from the toilet.
You hook your hand under his arm. "So I'm sure you'll keep making a point of telling me."
You haul him up with a grunt, feeling him grabbing at your shirt for balance. You pull the flush and help him across to the sink so he can wash his hands. He washes his face while he's at it and after you hand him a towel to dry up with, you guide him to the living room and sit him on the couch. You get his pills and a glass of water for him to wash them down with before taking a seat beside him.
"Looks like vomit," he comments, picking his spoon up.
"I'm sure it tastes like it, too," you agree dryly. You watch him take a small mouthful, noticing he's unable to open his mouth very wide. Probably due to the sores on the corners of his mouth, a side effect of his drugs - the sores look red and irritated. You turn your attention down to your soup and dip your bread roll into it.
"Thanks," House says quietly as he lifts another spoonful to his mouth. "For everything."
You glance at him, surprised. House has never thanked you, just like he's never said sorry for any of the hurtful words he's thrown at you. You open your mouth to reply and then think better of it, and look back down to your soup. Best to just take his small offering of gratitude in silence, else he might turn on you like an angry cobra for making a fuss. Even a simple 'You're welcome' could be seen as making a fuss to House. He's so unpredictable, like a field of landmines, that you're never quite sure where to step around him. You don't know what prompted House to say that, but you find yourself smiling slightly.
"You're right," you say in a lighter tone after taking a bite of your roll. "Tastes like vomit."
It doesn't and you know House would agree with you, at least secretly. House just snorts and when you look across at him you catch him giving you a small smile.
You smile back and think to yourself as you dip more bread roll into your soup, it's rare moments like this, tiny moments like this, that make putting up with House worth it.
You switch the TV on when you finish your lunch and leave House with the remote while you go into House's bedroom to change his sheets. And to call Bonnie. You change the bed first before calling her. She sounds just as uptight as when she called you this morning. You apologise again and tell her you love her, and then tell her you probably won't be home again tonight.
"House really needs me right now," you explain to her gently.
"I need you, James," Bonnie replies tightly.
You sigh. "House can't help what's happened to him. He doesn't have anybody else. You'd do the same for a friend if they needed you like this, wouldn't you?"
It's probably unfair to Bonnie to manipulate her like this, but House really does need you and Bonnie knows where you are if she really needs you, too. You feel relieved when she finally relents and you tell her once again that you love her.
You snap your phone shut when the call ends and drop your face into your hand. At least House thanked you. That small bit of gratitude has given you enough hope and encouragement to want to keep sticking by his side, because at least you know that he does appreciate you underneath all his bitterness.
You join House on the couch again and blank out in front of a Danny Kaye movie. You end up falling asleep with your feet propped up on the coffee table and your hands resting limp on your lap.
When you wake up about an hour later, House is fast asleep with his head against your shoulder, snoring.
House is in a lot of pain tonight. More pain than usual.
You stand in the kitchen doorway, watching House on the couch. He's pale, sweating and rocking back and forth as he clutches at his thigh. You've done everything you can for him, which isn't much - just gave him his pills and tried to suggest a warm bath, only to be told viciously to fuck off. You know how much House hates it when you make any kind of fuss around him, so you left him to it, and went into the kitchen to wash the dishes. You have nothing left to do now, which is why you're standing here, feeling useless as you watch House suffering.
You can't stand here forever and do nothing, though. Especially when you hear House whimper quietly in pain. The look of distress on his face is heartbreaking.
"You sure you don't want me to run you a bath?" you ask.
He shakes his head sharply, dropping his face down as he continues to rock back and forth.
"Might do you good," you say.
He shakes his head again. "No," he replies through gritted teeth.
You heave a deep, frustrated sigh and cross your arms over your chest. "Heat packs?"
"Just fuck off," House angrily demands and glares at you so coldly you think you might need to check your extremities for frostbite.
You abruptly close your mouth. You tighten your arms around your chest, wanting to approach him, but knowing you probably shouldn't. He'd probably lash out at you if you did; it wouldn't be the first time he's done that. God, you hate feeling so helpless. You hate not knowing what to do, or what to say, or whether you should even do or say anything in the first place. You hate the fact that you've been doing this for months for House, and you still don't know where to step around him.
"House," you try after a long stretch of silence. He ignores you, so you say as you take a tentative step towards him, "House, tell me what you need."
"Get lost," he bites out.
"Just tell me."
"I don't need anything!" he shouts at you. "There's nothing you can do to help me, so just make yourself useful and fuck off!"
You draw in a sharp breath and try your hardest not to feel stung by House's words. He's just in a lot of pain, you remind yourself. He doesn't really mean that. He needs you, you know that. He wouldn't have thanked you if he really didn't think he needed you. You lift a hand to the back of your neck and rub it anxiously, not knowing where to place yourself in the room.
Just as you're about to ask him if he knows why he's in so much pain tonight, he grabs his cane and tries to stand up. He can't, of course, but he won't let you help him, not at first. He tells you again to fuck off when you approach him and all you can do is stand back and watch. You want to yell at him, tell him to stop being so fucking stubborn, you feel like tearing your hair out in anguish because House would make this so much easier for both of you if he just relented for once in his god damn miserable life.
He only accepts your help when he resigns himself to the fact that he can't get up on his own, and you take him by the arm and pull him up. You ignore his vicious glares as you guide him down to the bedroom and by the time you've helped him into bed, he's wheezing quietly from being in so much pain.
You leave the bedroom because he obviously doesn't want you there, switching the light off on the way, and when you reach the living room you stand in the middle of it and a sudden urge to cry overcomes you. Your chest twists sharply, your heart beats faster, you feel your throat tightening and you cover your face with your hands to try and hold back the tears stinging your eyes. You draw in a breath and you're horrified to feel it hitch and shudder. No, you're not going to cry. You furiously rub the heels of your palms into your eyes, as if to snuff the tears. God damn it, you're not going to cry. You're stronger than that.
It takes a lot of effort to keep yourself from spilling over into weak, pathetic tears. Just that battle alone drains you to the point where you feel suddenly exhausted. You sit down wearily on the couch and stare down at the coffee table. You can feel the beginnings of a splitting headache forming behind your eyes. You pinch the bridge of your nose and decide to go and find some Tylenol when you hear a sound from House's bedroom. A loud, pain-filled sob.
You look in the direction of House's room, listening. You hear another sob and that's all it takes for you to get to your feet and make your way down to House's bedroom. Light from the hall streams into the dark room and you can just make out the shape of House's body under the bed covers. He's shifting about restlessly. You hear him quietly whimper. You move into the room and cross to the bed, and after you toe your shoes off you climb on. Just like last night. Because, damn it, you can't just stand back and do nothing.
"Go away," House says sharply.
You ignore him. You shift further onto the bed and stretch your hand out, laying it on House's arm.
House jerks away from you. "Go away."
"House," you quietly order. You reach for his arm again.
"Don't touch me." He jerks away once more. "Don't touch me."
"Come on," you coax, unable to hide the edge of frustration creeping into your voice. "House, come on."
"Are you deaf?" House spits. He yanks his arm away when you try clasping it again and raises it as if to defend himself from you. "Fuck off."
"House, please." You reach for his arm, again.
"I don't want you here."
You grip his arm tight this time, tight enough that he'd have to really fight you to make you let go. "I know you don't."
"Then why are you here?" he demands, and he does put up a fight - he wrestles against you, grunting in effort and pain.
"Stop it," you say, shifting closer to him.
"Let me go."
"House, stop it."
"Fuck off." He suddenly wrenches his arm free and flings it up at you, striking you across the face.
You're stunned for a brief moment. House throws his arm out at you to hit you again and in an abrupt burst of frustration you snap into action, seizing his wrist tight in your hand.
"Stop it!" you angrily command. "Just stop it, House!"
House suddenly does, for a moment. Long enough for you to lie down beside him and wrap your arm around him. Please be still, you silently beg. Please, just be still, just let me do this, please.
You tighten your arm when you feel House start struggling against you, pressing your chest firmly against his back. He keeps wrestling, breathing heavily, caught between gasping in pain and grunting in exertion to try and get you to let go. His back is wet, his shirt soaked through with sweat. So is the back of his neck and his hair. You don't care, though; you just clutch him tighter the more he fights against you, feeling him grab at your hand to try and throw your arm off him.
You quickly snatch his hand in yours to make him stop. You feel his fingernails digging into your palm. God, he's like a feral cat trying to escape capture. You squeeze him in your arms, trying to stifle his attempts to fight you off and trying to hug him at the same time, trying to get him to just be still. Just as you think he's about to find enough strength to throw you off him, he lets out a helpless, defeated sob and suddenly goes limp.
You pull him against you and bury your face into the back of his neck, not caring that he stinks or that he's sweaty. You let his hand go and grab a fistful of his shirt, your chest flooding with an overwhelming feeling of protectiveness for him. He lets out another sob, a hitched one this time, and you realise that the way he's trembling isn't just because he's in pain but because he's crying.
"It's okay," you murmur. You feel his hand clasp over yours, sweaty and shaky. "Come on, it's okay."
He gives another half-hearted struggle, which you smother by squeezing him in your arm. "Fuck off," he tells you weakly.
You don't say anything, just cradle him close. You listen to his shuddering breaths and feel him tensing up in jerked spasms of pain. You're still pumping full of Adrenalin from fighting with House, though as the minutes tick on you start to realise how tired you are. Tired, so fucking tired.
"I hate this so much," House whispers.
"I know," you say. You release your hold on his shirt and lift your hand to his head, and start stroking back his damp hair. "It's okay," you assure him again.
"No, it's not."
He's right: no, it's not okay. None of this is okay. None of this is fair or right. Not to you, not to House. You stroke his hair again and press a small, unassuming kiss to his shoulder. "Just close your eyes and try to rest."
You hear him sigh shakily. He reaches up and takes your hand from his head, and draws it down to clutch it close to his chest. Just that small act of concession from House makes you feel exhausted. You don't want to fight him anymore, not tonight. He can fight you tomorrow. And the next day, and the day after that. Just not tonight.
He squeezes your hand and as you squeeze his in return, you wearily close your eyes.