Title: Doll Parts

Author: Slipstream (LJ: slipstreamchan)

Rating: PG-13 (dark themes and sexual references)

Pairings: Wilson/Amber, Wilson/House

Summary: One week after he buries Amber, Wilson takes House home from the hospital.

Warnings: This is a dark follow-up to "Wilson's Heart." While there is no graphic sex or violence, non-consensual acts and caretaker abuse do feature, so concerned readers may wish to avoid this one.

I love him so much it just turns to hate
I fake it so real, I am beyond fake

-Hole, "Doll Parts"

One week after he buries Amber, Wilson takes House home from the hospital.

Cuddy doesn't think it's a good idea, but she's too tired to put up much of a real fight. They're in her office, Wilson curled over with his elbows on his knees in one of the tasteful chairs in front of her desk, Cuddy leaning back in her own leather executive chair, swiveled slightly to the side so she can look out the window, her arms draped listlessly along its own.

She doesn't look at him when she speaks. She has a hard time looking at him, these days.

"He's going to take a lot of work," she says. "Are you sure you're up to it?"

He doesn't plead. This isn't an instance where he's going to stand any pointless interference from his boss.

"I need this, Cuddy. Don't take it from me."

Wilson's had so much taken from him already.

It's been almost two weeks since he watched his best friend condemn his girlfriend to death before shaking himself to pieces on the operating table, head still skewered like a shish kabob on the probe of the deep brain stimulator, but it feels like no time has passed at all.

Amber in his arms, Amber in her casket, Amber in the ground, Wilson in their bed, alone… All of it seems blurs together into one continuous moment, the only constant House, still and pale in his hospital bed.

He'd had two more major seizures while in the ICU: one just over an hour after he'd awoken from his coma, the other twenty-four hours later. Wilson had been by to see him shortly before the first, lingering just within the glass doors of the unit, feeling detached both from himself and from the little diorama within. House had sat up some, met his gaze, but said nothing, his face slack and unreadable except for the reddened, wet shimmer of his eyes.

Looking back on the moment now, Wilson can only speculate on how much House had been there with them. Was that the last time he had really seen his friend, or had it been earlier in the OR, when he'd whispered his desperate apology just before his eyes had rolled back into his head?

House is conscious, but he isn't really awake. Catatonic stupor. He'll move if somebody moves him or tells him to move enough times, but his actions are slow, robotic, like a reflex half-remembered. He doesn't make eye contact, doesn't give any sign that he really understands their questions. Maybe he does, somewhere deep down below their ability to probe, but it's likely they'll never know. Cuddy had shushed his only attempt to speak.

Maybe it's that memory that finally pushes her to action. She releases House to his care, just as he'd known she'd do. What other choice does she have? Despite their offering it had been obvious that House's parents were both incapable and reluctant to take over the care of their son, and with no other family or close friends his only other option would be a long-term care facility.

Still, she's obviously hesitant. When Wilson wheels the scrub-clad House towards the discharge bay he finds her waiting for them, arms crossed nervously.

"Are you sure you don't need any help? I can assign an at-home aide to come over for all or part of the day, and if you don't want any of our people I could recommend some agencies."

Wilson forces himself to smile politely.

"Maybe later. Right now I think it's important for us to get used to each other again."

Cuddy bites her cheek but nods. Wilson tightens his grip on the handles of the wheelchair and makes to move forward, but she raises a hand to still him once more. Behind closed lips he grits his teeth in frustration.

She crouches down in front of House, taking both of his limp hands in hers. In this position House has an excellent vantage point to stare down the front of her blouse, but no wolf-whistles or cracks about her lingerie pass through his lips. He doesn't even look at her, gaze caught on some invisible point in the distance, pupils small and lost in blue irises washed white by the hospital lights.

Wilson waits impatiently for Cuddy to say whatever it is she's going to say, but she only looks longingly into Houses empty stare. She squeezes his long fingers tightly with her own small, manicured hands, making House twitch, but he doesn't react at all to the light kiss she places on his cheek.

She stands quickly, making a fuss over smoothing her jacket and skirt in an attempt to draw attention away from the tears glistening at the corners of her eyes. When she once again speaks to Wilson, her voice is even and controlled, the authority of her administrative clip set in front of her like a shield.

"You'll call me if you need anything."

His knuckles are white on the handles of the wheelchair. As if she could give him back the only thing he's ever needed, ever wanted.

"Don't worry," he says, pushing House through the sliding glass doors and into the shimmering afternoon heat. "I will."

The drive back to the apartment that has only within the last two days become legally his and his alone is quiet but for the muffled hum of rubber on pavement. Wilson thinks that this might be the first time he and House have ever occupied a vehicle together in silence. Even during the times when they weren't speaking for reasons companionable or hostile the car had always been full of House's noise—the rattle of his Vicodin, the thump of his cane against the floorboard, the whirr of the window or seat as he fiddled with them, the radio always tuned to his choice of station and blaring.

Though the unfamiliarity of the situation is a bit disconcerting at first, Wilson soon finds himself greatly enjoying this new, soundless passenger.

He leaves House sitting in the car while he carries in his hospital bag and stashes the wheelchair in a closet. It takes some coaxing and a bit of manhandling to get House to stand, but once he's flat-footed on the pavement Wilson takes most of his weight and walks them forward, House following along in a slow, shuffling drag. The stairs are a bit trickier, but fifteen minutes later Wilson has House inside and seated on the couch, finally away from prying eyes.

Wilson stands over him, waiting.

The apartment is as close to how she left it as he's been able to keep it. The only major changes are to be found in the spare bedroom, now House's, and the attached bath with its new handicapped accessible hardware. The scattering of House's things don't both Wilson too badly so long as they stay separate from the main spaces. Anyway, besides one marathon of a weekend where they made a game out of using every available room and surface for their lovemaking, neither he nor Amber had ever really utilized the space, and it should give a good impression to any unannounced visitors.

For several long minutes House just stares blankly ahead, but then his head tips to the side, eyes scanning slowly through the space of the room in a lazy parabola. Eventually they cross paths with his own, and Wilson reaches out and stills him, locking their gazes into place.

"You live with me now," he says, voice firm. "And things are going to be different than they used to be. There are going to be rules."

House barely blinks as Wilson lays them all out. When he's finished, Wilson asks if House understands. He doesn't say yes, but he doesn't say no, either. That's good enough for him.

The idea had come to Wilson only after the funeral.

Granted, he'd not been thinking all that clearly in the time beforehand. How he'd managed to contact her friends and family and make burial arrangements while he was half-frozen and sluggish with shock is a complete mystery. He remembers it all in bits: looking up funeral homes in the directory, his own parents coming at some point, his father taking him to synagogue, drinking glass after glass of dark red wine at the food-filled wake, Amber's parents and sister crying as they picked which of her things they'd keep as mementos.

Only after the last of the jumbled and mostly faceless crowd of mourners had left had Wilson come back to some semblance of himself. Standing in the middle of the living room, he'd listened to the echoing emptiness that seemed to fill every corner. No longer numb with shock, he'd realized for the first time how truly and utterly she'd been cut from his life.

That night he'd gotten very drunk.

In the morning, the idea had been waiting for him, lined up alongside sobriety and his shaving kit on the edge of the bathroom sink. He'd stood there for several long minutes absorbing the full extent of the idea while the water ran hot and unchecked, steaming up the mirror. He'd laughed. Laughed and laughed until he couldn't breath or see—his first real laugh since he'd given House CPR a lifetime ago.

It was so obvious it was embarrassing.

Even House had seen it, months and months before he'd stepped through the doors of Sherrie's. Wilson couldn't help but laugh again remembering the shock on the other man's face the moment he'd first stumbled upon the truth of their situation.

Still—he'd thought as he wiped away the condensation on the mirror, finding his reflection once again amidst the fog—House wasn't completely omnipotent. He hadn't gotten everything right.

It wasn't Amber who was the proxy.

First things first. House needs a shower. Wilson can still smell the hospital on him, and that just won't do.

He strips him of his scrubs dispassionately. It's a bit of work to get him into the tub, but Wilson soon has him naked and seated in the shower chair.

The first blast of cold water pulls House back at least partway from whatever distant mental cavern he's been curled up in. He quakes in the chair, trying to twist away from the spray, eyes shut tight even after Wilson twists the knob towards hot. Wilson restrains him easily, ignoring the small grunts he makes as he scrubs him clean of the hospital's antiseptic stink.

He'd set everything out beforehand, so when he finally puts aside the rough scrubbing cloth the softer mesh sponge is waiting for him, a bottle of her favorite shower gel beside it. Gentle now, Wilson works the lather reverently over House's body, cleaning every inch of him. Next he washes his hair with her shampoo. The feeling of Wilson's fingertips massaging his scalp must be soothing to House, because by the time Wilson is finished and has rinsed him off he's calm again, coming easily when Wilson helps him out of the tub and sits him down onto the towel-draped ottoman.

Wilson eats up House's lean, pink body with his eyes, enjoying especially the length of his limbs stretched out before him. Like Amber, House has—how had Kutner put it?—"legs up to Canada."

He's getting hard already. Slow down, Jimmy boy, slow down. There's still so much left to do, if this is ever going to work.

The razor feels good in his grip. He has her shaving cream at hand, but since House is still warm and slick from the shower he can't help but slide it up the side of his bare shin in an experimental swipe. Wilson runs his hands along the results, delighting in the pale, smooth softness exposed by the razor. He knows it won't last, though, at least not long enough for his liking. He'll pick up a waxing kit from the drugstore tomorrow.

Slowly, carefully, Wilson lathers and shaves the rest of House's body, watching with rapt attention the play of the razor up the long lines of his legs, skirting the hairless scar, along the fine sinew of his arms, the curve of his armpits, down his chest, circling each nipple, though he only trims his pubic hair with a pair of scissors. Amber had preferred a neat but natural look. House sits passively through it all, even when Wilson tilts his head back and bares the razor hard against throat, hissing with pleasure at the loud scrape of the blade against the stubble that's grown in since his last shave in the hospital.

Now for the finishing touch. He picks up her lotion—jasmine and vanilla—and starts to work it along the freshly shaved planes of skin. Her scent surrounds him, fills him, holds him in warm and loving arms. She isn't dead, she's here with him now, guiding his hands as they carve her replacement.

Finally Wilson stands back to admire his work. He palms the crotch of his khakis, massaging the erection he can no longer ignore. Slumped on the ottoman, House only blinks, unaware of his nudity or Wilson's hungry gaze.

It's a good illusion, he thinks. Not perfect, but good. Workable.

House doesn't resist when Wilson pulls him into the master bedroom.

They rarely leave the apartment, that first month, even though Wilson does eventually return to his practice.

As Cuddy had predicted, House is a lot of work. His basic needs are simple enough and no great chore for a man with as much experience in hospital care as Wilson, but other aspects of his upkeep require much more thought and attention.

House had always been a good study of people, making note of their tiniest quirks and habits so that he could mock them for them later. Despite the grim prognosis the neurologists gave them during House's two weeks in the hospital, Wilson knows that it's only a matter of extracting that information and implanting it again in the right places.

In bits and pieces, House starts to come out of his catatonic shell, though only in Wilson's presence. House had known Amber the cut throat bitch, but had no real experience with her behavior in a more private setting. Thank god for the tapes. He picks up her mannerisms quickly, much more quickly than his own. Wilson encourages the former, punishes the latter. He won't have that kind of behavior in his house, in his House. After a few aborted appearances the ghosts of House's old habits disappear almost entirely.

Happily, he remains mute. Through speakers, Amber's voice once more fills the apartment.

Though they are physically similar in other regards, House is still too tall and broad to wear any of her clothes save a few gauzy night gowns, not that he's earned the right to wear those just yet. Besides, Wilson likes it best when he slinks around the apartment in just one of Wilson's dress shirts, unbuttoned and tails loose around the tops of his thighs, or lounging in his McGill sweatshirt, letting Wilson run his hands up underneath the baggy fabric to cup his ribs and pull roughly at his nipples.

Wilson doesn't let him use a cane while he's in the main apartment. House doesn't really seem to need it, anyway. Of course he limps heavily, swaying dangerously and bumping into the occasional wall, but he doesn't appear to really feel his leg. Between the seizures and the newer, stronger medications he's on now that Wilson doesn't have to really worry about keeping his mental facilities sharp when prescribing for him, the pain is for the most part forgotten.

Unfortunately the system isn't foolproof. There are stumbles, figuratively and literally.

The first time House falls—really falls—and hurts himself House appears almost as startled as Wilson is by the voiceless howl of pain that escapes him. He tries to get up but grunts at the pain and stiffness the movement brings, staring down at his legs and the long scar in his thigh as if seeing them for the first time.

That first time Wilson has some pity for him, but after the third or forth such break in his fantasy he quickly loses his patience, intent on returning to their play.

"You were in a bus crash," he says, hasty to move things along. "You hurt your leg, hit your head, remember?"

House stares at him, then, with the same unreadable expression he'd worn in the ICU, rubbing absently at his leg. A spark of his old self seems to shine through.

More than once Wilson is half-convinced that the game is up, but instead of pulling himself up further from the black tar pit of his mind House just sinks back down again, falling backward and letting his gaze drift absently to some empty corner. The spark dims and dies as he slumps back into Wilson's arms, nodding slowly, carefully.

House remembers what Wilson tells him to.

Along with his leg he still gets headaches, migraines made worse by the crack in his skull. Wilson makes him take his pills with a tall glass of cranberry juice. No more dry-swallowing, no more bitter aftertaste. Just red berries on his tongue, his lips. Red all over him, inside of him, a scarf wrapped tourniquet tight around his neck. No alcohol, though, even though Wilson misses the taste of cosmos. Mixed with the pills it's too rough on his liver, and Wilson wants to keep House with him for a good, long time.

When he's done playing, Wilson cleans up and puts everything back in its place, including House. Laughing and joking like he used to with her, his arm tucked roguishly around House's waist, they walk a slow circuit around the apartment. It reminds Wilson of the way he used to walk his dates home in high school, their steps dragging, reluctant to end the evening. He likes the feel of House's thin back pressed tight against the crook of his elbow. House has always been thin, but even though he's been losing weight steadily since his discharge he's still not quite thin enough. Close, though. Getting there.

At the door to the guest room Wilson kisses him goodnight, kisses iher/i goodnight, again like they were in high school and stealing final moments on the porch just before curfew. Even though he's finished for the day, Wilson can't help but silently plead for just a few moments more with that warm, dry mouth. Just a little while longer. Just a little bit. Always, wanting just that little bit more.

The kiss ends, and House stiffens. He doesn't know much, but he knows what happens next. Wilson opens the guest room door and drags them inside, his grip on House's arm twisting from tender to over-firm. House freezes the moment they cross the threshold, his body tensing, limbs locked into position. Wilson has to frog-march him into the attached bathroom, where he strips him and scrubs him clean of her smell. House doesn't get to be her here, on his own time. Wilson won't let him.

Despite his weak struggles in the shower itself, House is always a limp, useless mess of limbs afterwards, the red flush of his skin from the steaming hot spray of the shower the only real sign of life in his body. Wilson stuffs him into what has become his standard "sick" uniform—thin scrub pants and a t-shirt—before putting him to bed or depositing him in the recliner to wait for the at-home aid that comes by while Wilson is at the hospital.

He doesn't particularly care what House does during the time that Wilson is away. The impression he gets from the nurse is that he's mainly sleeps or stares vacantly at the television. There's no word of suspicion from the aid about any of their private activities, and that's all that really matters.

House's apartment lease is up, so Wilson is packing his things away to be put into storage. His car and the bike have already been sold, his office long since boxed up, Foreman's name painted on the door. A new fellow has been hired to replace Hadley, gone now on her own adventures.

For everyone but House, life moves on.

Six months, tomorrow.

Wilson's not exactly happy, but he's close.

It's a long, boring day of dusty work for Wilson, who has no interest whatsoever in the items he's blindly packing. Knowing that House is waiting for him at home, soft and pliant and empty, ready to be moulded by Wilson's caring touch, makes the work go a little bit quicker.

Cuddy comes by an offer to help, which he politely declines, and lunch, which he gladly accepts. They sit out on the front steps of the building, eating their sandwiches and making small talk, which eventually turns to House. Cuddy wants an update on his condition, but knowing from previous queries not to expect much she makes her questioning light and callous.

"Still not talking?" She's smiling and there's a rusty bite of her old humor in her question, but her eyes are wet and tired. She doesn't know. How could she? She's never seen them playing, and Wilson always puts his toys away.

He smiles back, small and tight-lipped, and shakes his head. A sad smile, but not really. He's been practicing it in the mirror at home.

"No," he says. "Still not talking."

Cuddy pats him on the arm. She doesn't have a hard time looking at him, anymore. "You're a good friend, Wilson."

He laughs—he can't help it—though he manages to make it sound tired and self-deprecating.

"After everything he's done, it's the least he deserves."