A/N: Well, this is the end. I've FINALLY finished it! Thanks so much to all the readers and reviewers who have stuck with me throughout this story. I personally want to thank: iluve wansmile, theviewfromhere, kiki Cabou, glassdragon2, medicgirl, micetea, GeeLady, and donttouch. If I've forgotten any other regular reviewers, I apologize.
And another thank you to all who have put this story on alert and/or in their favorites. It makes me very happy to know that others have enjoyed this story.
And lastly, I apologize (again) for how long it took me to finish this thing. Funny how muses, real life and writer's block can put a cramp in the writing process.
Wow, that was a long author's note. Anyway, hope you enjoy the last chapter of Wired. Now I can get back to Monster Truck Mayhem and finish that beast. Anyone remember what was happening in that story? Just kidding. Have already gone through it and started on the next chapter.
"You ready?" Stec asked as he hovered above House, filling his line of sight.
"Been ready." House replied from his prone position on the exam table.
The wires were finally coming off. After the puking incident the other day he was ready to take a blow torch to the wires but Wilson had convinced him to hang in there just a little longer, citing the possibility of having to extend the time the wires were on if he had jeopardized Stec's work.
House had literally sucked it up and dealt with the mouthful of metal for the rest of the week, counting down the days, hours, minutes...seconds until this appointment. If Stec made up some excuse and decided not to remove the wires, he'd find out first hand what he himself had been going through for the last month.
Stec nodded towards his assistant who was seated at House's left shoulder. He caught some slight movement, assuming she was administering the sedative.
Immediately, warmth started flowing through his veins, plunging him deep into a warm cocoon. His eyelids became heavy and had a difficult time staying focused. It felt like that moment right before one fell asleep when thoughts start to wander.
Within seconds, the conversation around him dimmed to a distant murmur and he became oblivious to the surgeon wielding the wire cutters and hand tools.
Voices swam in and out of range like someone was playing with the volume control in his brain. He'd try to focus on the source but found it much easier to slide back into the depths of his comfortable slumber.
Someone was calling his name. A soft voice that fought its way through the murkiness of his drug addled brain.
Everything was in slow motion. "Dr. Hooouuuse. Tiiime to wake uuup. You're all finiiished."
Finished? Finished with what?
As the anesthetic cleared out of his system, his thoughts reorganized themselves into some coherent order, the haze lifting from his brain.
Oh, yeah. Stec's office.
Before he could even open his eyes, his tongue responded first by pushing its way through the narrow opening between his now wire-free teeth. It slid between rough, dry lips and gently moistened them with a gentle flick back and forth. It was heaven on Earth.
The glare from the overhead lights shone through his eyelids, creating a display of shimmering pinks and whites. He decided to keep his eyes closed as his tongue slowly explored the rest of his mouth.
The insides of his cheeks felt rough and sore from the constant poking and scraping of the foreign metal constantly rubbing against them. His tongue ventured back over his poor neglected lips out of habit. They felt like the middle of a desert; dry and rough, complete with cacti and prickly bushes.
A constant buzz ignited in his gums, an overall burning as if he had just flossed with barbed wire. That was when he noticed the slight metallic taste of blood still lingering in his mouth. Not surprising. The metal anchors had been buried deep under his gum tissue to support the bands and wires holding his jaws together.
A dull ache was starting to build under both of his ears; his jaw muscles were not happy about having to work again even if they had only moved a half an inch.
"Your jaw is going to be very sore and stiff for a while."
No kidding, he thought as he let his mouth fall closed again. It felt like a spring loaded trap door.
"You need to ease back into eating solid food. Start with something soft. Mac and cheese, pasta, apple sauce, pudding. You'll get a list of foods that would work well during your first week without the wires."
House finally opened his eyes and glared back at the doctor. He knew he'd have to take it easy but he was dying for something he could sink his teeth into; a steak, maybe a burrito. Even Wilson's stuffed peppers sounded enticing.
Well, at least his tongue was free again. And oh god, did he want to brush it! He was afraid to look in the mirror, fearing he'd have a Chia Pet for a tongue.
Just to test Stec's theory, he strained to open his mouth wider when several cracks and pops echoed in his head followed by a sharp pain that shot through both sides of his jaw and into his ears.
Okay, that probably wasn't the smartest thing to do.
An involuntary wince escaped before he could hide it and he let the muscles relax as he reflexively massaged the aching joint. Everything was tight and sore. The tendons felt like piano wire tuned to high 'G' and the atrophied muscles like the dried up leather of an old baseball glove; stiff, inflexible.
"I just told you to take it slow," Stec scolded, "You really are as stubborn as I've heard."
He mumbled his first words wire-free. "Gotta keep up...my reputation..." His jaw barely moved as he had become so accustomed to speaking with his mouth closed. The effects of the sedative were still wearing off, not helping matters in the least.
"Stay here and relax a while longer until you can stand up without falling over. Jenny is going to give you some exercises to do for your jaw and some other goodies to take home."
House didn't argue as he stretched his sleepy limbs and tried to collect the rest of his bearings. The mild sedative wasn't nearly as potent as general anesthesia, but it sure did leave one feeling a bit out of sorts to say the least.
He was slowly brought back up into a sitting position as the small procedure room danced and spun around him. It felt as if he'd been hanging upside down by his feet for hours and was suddenly turned back upright. Wow, better than some of the drugs he'd taken in college.
The assistant presented him with a small cup filled with greenish-blue liquid. He took the offer and caught a whiff of mint along with an antiseptic smell as it passed under his nose. The liquid burned as he swished vigorously, enjoying the sensation as millions of microbes were killed on contact.
Some of the mouthwash tried escaping through his lips before the little white straw-like tube was shoved unceremoniously into his mouth along with a demand to "close". The miniature vacuum sucked out the remaining rinse along with his tongue, cheeks and anything else that happened to stray into the suction tube's path.
He released the tube with a grimace and rubbed the side of his face again. The jaw was already aching and he'd only opened about an inch.
The door clicked open behind him and he turned to see Wilson entering cautiously behind one of Stec's assistants. House bared his teeth, proudly showing off his metal free mouth then promptly stuck his tongue out. "You don't know how good it feels to be able to do that again."
Wilson smiled in return. "Oh, I don't doubt that."
"Let's blow this joint."
"Awwww, your cute little speech impediment is gone. I was growing fond of that."
"I can give you one if you liked it so much." House threatened, balling his hand into a fist.
Wilson raised his hands in defense. "Just kidding, just kidding. How does it feel?"
"Like I haven't opened my mouth in a month."
Wilson did his usual hands-on-hips thing, waiting for a real answer.
"Stiff, sore. Like you after pushing yourself too hard at one of your monthly workouts."
The assistant- Cindy, Candy, Connie, whatever her name was, interrupted their conversation when she started rattling off directions and shoving papers into his hand.
"And I want you to follow these instructions on the sheet; otherwise you'll never be able to open your mouth as wide as you could before the surgery."
"My boyfriend would be so disappointed." House stated bluntly, looking over at Wilson with batting eyelashes. This earned a confused look from the assistant and a new shade of red from Wilson's face.
The assistant remained professional, surely aware of House's reputation for trying to shock people. "You're free to go. Work on those gums and they should heal up pretty fast. Give us a call if you have any problems."
Wilson handed House his cane and he levered himself out of the chair, the world still teetering a bit. But his ever-faithful sidekick was by his side to make sure he didn't re-break his face on the floor before escaping.
"Maybe I'll practice on hot dogs first," House said as he stuck his pinky finger between the narrow opening of his teeth.
Wilson cringed and raised a hand. "Just stop. Please. You're going to scar the poor girl for life, not to mention me."
House turned back over his shoulder as he left the office. "He gets a little sensitive when I talk about our personal stuff."
They headed out of the office, a satisfied smirk firmly planted on House's lips while Wilson covered his own blushing face with his hand.
"You HAVE to hire new fellows. There's no option here, House." Cuddy snapped, arguing again with her most infuriating employee. "You dug the hole, now you have to crawl your way out."
"Hey, I use the metaphors. Besides, maybe I like working alone."
She had to admit it was nice to see him somewhat back to his old self, at least sounding normal again. Even though his words were clear, she could tell he still wasn't fully opening his mouth. The muscles had to be sore and stiff but some of that may have been from habit after having to speak with his mouth closed for a month. He'd have to get used to that freedom of speech again, literally. But she wasn't going to let him off the hook. He needed a team whether he liked it or not.
Cuddy reached into one of her drawers and pulled out a stack of folders. "I took the liberty to get the word out that you were looking for some new employees. Surprise, surprise! There are people out there who would actually like to work for you...at least until they meet you face to face."
"Thanks for the reassurance. I suppose you expect me to actually interview all of these idiots?"
"Yes, or you could just play eenie meenie miney mo."
"That might work. Or maybe I can hang the resumés on my office wall and throw darts. Kinda like pin the tail on the lackey." He scanned through the folder on the top of the pile. "Did you get pics of each one? Looks are important in this line of work, you know. Can't have Ugly Betty doing Selma Hayek's job now, could we?"
He was such a pig. "Just take the charts and make the calls or I'll hire them myself."
"Go ahead. I'm sure you could find some use for them. Maybe a wardrobe consultant."
"I meant for you." She leaned across the desk towards House who was sitting across from her. "Hire three of them or I'll hire them for you."
"Fine." He snatched the stack of folders and limped out of the office.
She made a mental note to mention this to Wilson. He always knew the tricks on how to get House to behave.
"What are you doing with that guitar?" Wilson looked at the gleaming white instrument resting in House's lap. He had heard the piercing sound echoing down the hallway and knew where it had to be coming from.
"Playing it, what does it look like?" He was parked in his lounge chair in the corner of his office, an amplifier next to his desk.
"Aren't you supposed to be hiring new employees?"
"Oh, come on. It's only been a few days. Cuddy won't be on my case for at least another week. Besides, doctor said for me to ease back into work."
"That was two weeks ago when you were supposed to be working in the ER part-time."
"I was working in the ER part-time. Emphasis on the 'part'."
House always had a way to twist things around to fit his own agenda. Yes, he had agreed to help out in the ER on difficult cases and he stuck to that. Unfortunately, nothing really interesting...at least for House...came in during those few weeks, except his old friend from the bar which hadn't been mentioned since that day.
Wilson suddenly realized why he had stopped by. "Hey! I want to take you out for a celebratory dinner tonight. Your jaw is healed up enough now and I want to treat you to your first real meal."
"Is this an apology for making me suffer while watching you indulge in your own culinary fantasies?
"Yeah, something like that." Wilson shrugged, feeling a bit guilty for putting House through that torture back then. "Oh, and my treat." Not that it would be any other way.
House sat the guitar down and stood up, his cane in his left hand. But then he surprised Wilson and switched it to his right. Things were getting back to normal.
"Fine." House was never one to turn down free food."Where are we going?"
"It's a surprise. I have special plans."
"Oh, a date. How romantic. You gonna spring the question on me tonight? I should have brought my pimp cane. This one is so informal." House held up his plain brown cane for demonstration.
Wilson just shook his head as House grabbed his backpack and they headed to Wilson's car.
"This is absurd. I am not wearing a blindfold!"
They were in the car and Wilson was trying to convince a very adamant House to cover his eyes because he wanted the destination to be a surprise.
"Fine, then we'll just go home." Wilson started to turn the car another direction, even though he still had full intention of reaching their destination whether House participated in his little game or not. But House didn't need to know that.
"You're evil." House held one of Wilson's spare ties in his hand like it was some kind of dangerous snake. "You could've picked one that wasn't quite so ugly."
"Just do it. For me."
To Wilson's surprise, House glared at him from the passenger seat before reluctantly placing the tie over his eyes and tying it around the back of his head.
"I can't believe I'm doing this..." he muttered, staring ahead at nothing.
Wilson repressed a slight giggle when he glanced over to see the red and blue stripes adorning House's face and forehead.
"That's the sprit!" Wilson bellowed with a pump of his fist. House was so going to get him back for this some day but it was worth it.
"It better not be far or you'll end up with this tie somewhere less respectable than my face."
Before House quit this little game, Wilson decided to capture the moment forever in the form of low-grade pixelation on his iPhone.
"Did I just hear a camera?"
"No, you just heard the sound of blackmail echoing through the air."
House reached up to snag the silky material off his eyes when Wilson grabbed his arm. "Ah, ah, ah. Take it off and the deal is off."
"Why should I bother listening to you? You already buy the majority of my meals anyway."
"Ah, but this one's special. It's a celebration of your ability to chew again. It's the little things in life. And I wanted to treat you to something out of the ordinary. Someplace we wouldn't go on a regular basis." He knew he was reeling House in, dangling the bait in front of his nose.
House crossed his arms in front of him, his nostrils flaring from under diagonal stripes.
Wilson could only smile as he continued to their destination. It was fun having control over someone who rebelled against anything and anyone resembling power. House was wrapped around his little finger...at least for a few more minutes.
His passenger was becoming impatient, glancing blindly back and forth, able to see nothing but a sliver of light filtering through the small opening by his nose.
The anticipation was starting to drive House nuts and his salivary glands responded to the imaginary filet mignon, twice baked potato and French silk pie floating in his head. Or maybe some barbeque ribs? He'd probably have to cut the meat off the bone with a knife, but he didn't care. As long as it wasn't liquid or puréed, he'd be happy.
It had been a week since the wires had come off and his jaw was feeling stronger each day. He had graduated from mac and cheese to soft sandwiches and other pastas. Now it was time to really test himself.
The car slowed and turned to the right. Then it felt as if Wilson was competing in some kind of obstacle course, turning right, left and back right again. Finally, the car stopped and he reached for the makeshift blindfold.
"Wait!" A hand grabbed his arm.
"Oh, come on. I stuck to the deal. We're here. Now can I please stop feeling like some prisoner from Guantanamo Bay?"
"Please. Just another minute. Don't move. Just stay right there."
The car door opened and closed quickly then suddenly his right elbow slipped off the arm rest as his door was opened unexpectedly. He caught himself on the door frame before two hands grabbed his upper arms and encouraged him to get out.
"I need my damn cane first." He stuck his hand out, waiting for Wilson to oblige him.
Something wooden and narrow was thrust into his right hand. He yanked his left arm out of Wilson's grasp and blindly grabbed for the door. A hand clamped around his wrist again as he fumbled for a hold.
Another yank. He was starting to feel like he was in a tug-of-war competition. "I can do this myself, thank you." He pushed himself into a standing position, leaning on his cane, tie-wrapped head pivoting around in confusion.
"Just a few more seconds. Here, take my arm."
House reached out blindly and snagged the thin material of Wilson's shirt sleeve. "Don't you think this is overdoing it a bit?" He felt like a crippled cripple if that were even possible. A sense of uneasiness washed over him even though he trusted Wilson implicitly not to lead him into busy traffic or something worse.
Thankfully, Wilson walked slowly enough and let House set the pace with short, tentative steps. "So help me, if you're leading me to a mud pit, I'm gonna roll around the inside of your spotless interior. Unless, of course, there are naked female wrestlers involved, then I'll roll around with them instead." He felt himself talking just to keep from going insane with anticipation.
"No mud pit. Trust me."
Suddenly he ran into the back of Wilson who had stopped for some reason.
"Okay, you can take off the blindfold."
House reached up and hooked a thumb under the tie and yanked it off his head, making his hair stick out in new directions. Blinking a few times at the ground, he waiting until his eyes adjusted before they traveled up the side of the building. They landed on the enormous red and orange sign with the giant annoying grey mouse donning a baseball cap and giving him the thumbs up.
"You've got to be kidding me." His brow furrowed as he tried to make some sense of Wilson's bizarre thought processes. "Chuck E. Cheese's?
"Why not? They've got pizza which you like, video games which you love, and you can pick on someone your own age." Wilson's smile grew as he rested a hand on House's shoulder just as a group of kids came out the door, laughing and smiling. "So, what do you say? I brought extra money for tokens."
House held open the door and gestured with a wave of his hand. "After you."
"You always did know who was in charge in this relationship."
They enjoyed their pizza and Cokes. House chewed slowly and carefully, savoring the texture and substance of his meal. It was a pleasant sight to behold.
But before Wilson could lose himself in the Hallmark moment, House decided to venture off towards the game room packed with noisy kids and loud, flashing games.
Wilson watched as House limped off, cane in one hand, a handful of tokens in the other. Just like any other eight year old kid...except maybe for the cane...and the fact that he was about two feet taller than anyone else.
He took another bite of pizza and stopped mid-chew when he heard that familiar gruff voice booming above the high pitched din of the children's voices.
"I was here first!" House barked.
"But you already played this game once! You're supposed to share!" the kid's high-pitched voice complained.
"Go find something else. I'm gonna be a while."
Suddenly, the kid's voice aimed in his general direction. "Mommy, that man won't let me play!" The mother gave House a menacing glare but told her son to share, emphasizing the word loud enough hopefully for House to hear. Of course, House was engrossed in battling aliens in outer space and was oblivious to the reprimand.
Wilson just shook his head and smiled down at his now empty plate with Chuck E. Cheese smiling back at him.
Some things would never change.
A/N: So that's it. Hopefully the ending satisfied you. Thanks again to everyone and hope to see you at Monster Truck Mayhem!