A/N: This is the third in what has, unexpectedly, become a series of indeterminate length. The first two are Visiting Hour and Happy Hour. In order for this one to "make sense" I'd strongly suggest reading the first two; they're both under 600 words (as is this one), and the links to both can be found in my profile. As to chapter 35 of The More Things Change, it'll be going up early this afternoon. And I'd like to sincerely thank all of you who showed such kind support last night when I put up chapter 34. Said it before, and I'll say it again--you kids are a phenomenal bunch! mjf


Wilson lies on the thin cot and stares at the ceiling. Two weeks ago, they'd noticed he wasn't sleeping, and now he's on the wait list to see the prison psychiatrist; they're concerned that he's depressed, might need anti-depressants. He knows he's depressed, and a little chemical calm wouldn't hurt.

But until he can be evaluated, they offer him a mild sleeping pill each night. He's turned them down every time, save one. And that one time, he'd discovered something wonderful, to invite sleep to come to him. He'd vowed to save that discovery--take the pill only on nights like this one—when sleep would be impossible any other way.

It's a white collar prison; the security in his wing is minimal at best. And they trust him in the infirmary, so as he lies on the cot, staring at the ceiling, he uncurls his hand to peer at the small white pill. He's ready to sleep now. He puts the little tablet in his mouth, and swallows it dry—somehow, that seems... fitting. He waits twenty minutes, and closes his eyes, and then that wondrous thing happens.

He's no longer on a stiff, inch-thick vinyl cot with a jagged rip in the fabric that catches and scrapes at his ankle all night. And his head isn't on a thin, unbendable pillow that won't give to envelope his weary head. No; before the medication takes over, there's a blissful five minutes when he's lying on a big, dark leather couch, impossibly soft, as familiar to his body as his own name. And his head is on a pillow so forgiving that it willingly absorbs away the headache, gently cradles the painful thoughts. And that spot that catches his ankle all night? That's just House, rapping his shin with the cane, to see if he's awake, if he'll get up and make pancakes. He smiles. And then he sleeps.

House lies in his comfortable bed and stares at the ceiling. They've started to notice, at work, that he's sleeping too much. He arrives even later than usual each day, and today he'd actually drifted off during a differential. Cuddy's beginning to bother him about seeing someone, getting some help. He might make an appointment tomorrow, he thinks. Or the next day, maybe.

But until he can actually do that, he thinks each night about the method he's discovered, to deny sleep any access to him. He doesn't do it every night--only on nights like this one, when he knows he doesn't deserve the escape that sleep would provide.

Before he gets into bed, he puts the bottle of Vicodin on the table in the living room. He leaves his cane leaning against the edge of the couch. Then he limps to his room. By the time he's arrived, sans cane, the pain's already begun in earnest. So he lies there and allows it to build. At first, it simply swirls around him, a hot, amorphic mist.

But eventually it takes shape, and form--becomes strong metal bars surrounding him, preventing him from moving at all, the bars growing thicker, stronger, feeding off of each pain-hitched breath. And when his body is aching to move, desperate to escape its own agony, and he's trapped, jailed inside the pain, he knows he's arrived. And that low, continuous moan that can't possibly be emanating from him? That's just Wilson, in the bathroom at some ungodly hour, with that blasted hairdryer. He smiles. And then he waits for the dawn.