Title: Not the man I used to be
Author: Ashcat (photoash on lj)
Livejournal SickWilson_Fest Prompt: Wilson shows signs of burnout at work, but won't admit to it.
Disclaimer: I do not own House MD or its characters. I do not make any profit from this text.
Beta: Grayunderpants & Hawkclowd - Also thanks to Juliabohemian for the advice.
Notes: Inspired by the lyrics from I don't trust myself written by John Mayer. Please be gentle with me, this is my first House MD fanfic and I'm a very nervous writer.
Wilson stared at his semi-hard penis and snorted in disbelief. He'd tried all the things that had worked in the past. He'd watched straight porn, lesbian porn, and his special three and moresomes four disk set. At first he'd get into it, but after some serious wanking he'd just go back to flaccid. This evening Wilson had snapped and downloaded some kinky videos off the internet, the kind he swore to House he didn't watch. But even the flickering images of busty blondes tied up in beautifully knotted rope having all manner of things shoved into their orifices could only garner the current lackluster results.
Wilson shut his laptop lid in disgust and rose from his bed. 'Could nothing go right for him tonight, ' Wilson fumed as he stomped around in front of his bed. He headed towards the bathroom for a quick shower, but upon arrival he decided maybe a soak in the tub was just what the doctor ordered. A hot bath with mineral salts would help ease the tension in his shoulders and that should help him relax. He busied himself dumping mineral salts, as well as a generous portion of bodywash to keep his skin from drying out, into the swiftly filling tub. Times like this made him grateful that Amber had good taste in bathrooms, the tub in particular was quite a bit wider than the normal apartment fare. That thought, like many other seemingly innocuous ones, led to a vivid memory of her sitting in this very tub, sensually beckoning him to join her. That had been only a few nights before she died.
Wilson took a deep, cleansing breath, gently pushing the memory away. The smell of eucalyptus and spearmint greeted him, and helped clear his mind both from the anger before and the sadness he felt now. This bodywash was his, a brand he'd been using since before he'd married Julie.
'A woman,' Wilson thought, 'is exactly what I need.' A woman who would be happy with something casual between them, who wouldn't press for more than he was willing to give. A friendly face to meet up with for dinner and drinks, someone who would welcome an eager romp in the sheets but also be willing to trade back-washing duties in the shower and, most importantly, someone who would let him cuddle up to her warm, soft body in bed for a good night's sleep. However, he definitely did not want a life partner or even a serious girlfriend. Wilson didn't think he had anymore serious relationships left in him.
The soft splashing sound of displaced water rushing back in where his body had been accompanied Wilson as he turned over gently without opening his eyes. Now his tight quadriceps and pectorals could get a soak, too. Things had been too horrible after Amber died; he wasn't sure he wanted to let anyone get that close to him. Well, at least not anyone who wasn't already at his side. Fuck, he'd nearly lost House at the same time as Amber. Only later did he realize that House was the only person left who actually cared about him, the real him--or even knew who he was! Even if House's desire to know everything about Wilson and his activities was borderline stalking at times, Wilson loved the attention, especially that kind of attention from House. House was so smart and quirky, he wasn't one to fake care or concern. So when he brought to bear his considerable faculties towards figuring out the minutia of Wilson's life, his need for Wilson became obvious to the object of his study. The least that Wilson could do after the shit he put House through following Amber's death would be to spare his friend anymore 'custody battles'. Especially now that House seemed to need him more than ever following the death of Kutner. After all, that need was one hundred times better than the love of any woman because it would keep House by his side for far longer: witness how he'd had one House to three wives and a dead girlfriend.
However, it was a moot point at the moment since Wilson couldn't even pick up a chick at a bar if his dick was going to be so uncooperative. He had already narrowly avoided a majorly humiliating scene with a nurse from Princeton General, which had lead to his discovery that he did indeed have a 'problem'. He'd had to play it off as his not being ready to do anything sexual, that he was still grieving the loss of his lover. A few tears and some fantastic finger-work later had her being putty in his hands. He'd completely snowed her with his excuse.Should House ever discover that he was having these issues, Wilson knew he would never live it down.
Wilson's eyes popped open as he tagged the edge of the tub with his knee on his next flip. Time for more back and shoulder soaking while the water was still warm. He settled back down comfortably, letting his eyes drift back shut.
Damn, it was depressing to think that the last woman to touch him had been his massage therapist, Meredith. She suggested they try something different from her normal deep tissue work on his upper and lower back. She'd said maybe some pectoral work would help open up his chest and shoulders, easing some of his pain. Wilson was all for pain relief and eagerly laid down on the table. The gentle strokes on his chest had felt great at first, and he'd been glad for his little problem as it'd prevented him from any embarrassing situations. Then Meredith began putting pressure on his pectoralis major muscles, doing broadening strokes down towards the minor ones. That's when things started to go wrong. Tears came to his eyes, but he told himself it was just from the pain. As they started to leak out quietly past his temples, he hoped his hair would hide them.
The feeling just intensified as she continued until Wilson was sobbing. She took a step back, removing her hands from him, and he immediately sat up, burying his face in his hands. Wilson was almost choking he was crying so hard now. He vaguely heard Meredith slip out of the room, giving him privacy for his mini-breakdown. Finally, he got himself under control just as Meredith knocked and leaned in to tell him that their time was up. She'd given him a hug and asked him if he was okay as she stood with him in the building lobby. That brief bit of human kindness when he was so emotionally vulnerable was too much and Wilson snapped his façade readily back into place. He smiled and brushed her off, slipping her an extra $20 for her trouble. He later called to cancel all his future appointments, via her answering machine. He couldn't handle facing her again after she'd seen him break down.
Of course Wilson wasn't okay. His girlfriend was dead, his dick wasn't working right, and he didn't feel good about his job anymore. Yet, Wilson didn't have anyone he felt he could talk to about this. He knew his life was beginning to fall apart but who could he confide that information to? He definitely didn't feel like he could talk to House about it. It's not that House wouldn't care exactly, it's just that he's not sure House's brand of caring would be of benefit. The drugs weren't working that his psychiatrist had prescribed and Wilson was sick of seeing her. He didn't think she had the answers. Besides, if he felt it was too personal to talk to House about, then who else was there he could speak to?
These kinds of thoughts were not relaxing. In fact, Wilson could already feel his shoulders trying to tense even in the warm water. Maybe having those extra shots of bourbon before the wank session were making him more morose? Wilson tried not to think about how he had upgraded to weekly liquor store runs from his previous monthly outings. House, too, liked to drink after work; there was nothing wrong with that. Now Wilson just felt depressed, lonely, and exhausted; hell he's just as miserable as House so why not embrace one of his friend's healthier coping strategies. He knew he'd better shower and head to bed before he fell asleep in the tub. Or before he could let himself be persuaded to turn his face into the water and be rid of his problems for good.
"Last thing I need is to drown in my own bathtub while House is at that conference this week. He'd find a way to resurrect my soul just to humiliate me by asking if it was an accident or not." After pulling the drain stopper, Wilson shook his head as he turned on the shower. "Funny thing is, I'm not sure which answer would result in him being angrier, that I was either so stupid that I fell asleep drunk in the tub, or I'd purposefully done myself in." Wilson started working the thick rich shampoo into his hair when it dawned on him. "Great, now I'm talking out loud to myself..."
A week later, House was back, but Wilson had felt too exhausted to hang out after work. He seemed to alternate between feeling exhausted, angry, and numb. He was currently feeling the latter. Wilson took another surreptitious sip from the small glass bottle he held in his hand before loosely replacing the cap and setting it on the floor by his chair. He then leaned forward over his desk, forehead resting in his palms with elbows on top of his desk. He could feel the pleasant burn of the bourbon sliding down his throat. He hoped it could take away the memory of how he felt nothing as he watched the face of Jenny Harrison, his now departed 2:00PM appointment, absorb the news of the death sentence he had given.
Before, Wilson would have felt sympathy for this 32-year-old mother of three. He would take his care and concern and channel it into his palliative treatment plan for her, and he would make sure he was there with her all the way to the end. Now, heck, for the past few weeks, all he'd been able to feel was numb, an absence of feeling. This moment, he couldn't conjure up any feelings beyond disgust at himself, at his lack of caring. Even when House rudely threw pebbles at his balcony door during his explanation of the less than 10% survival rate for Stage IV Ovarian Cancer he had been unable to feel upset or outraged.
Wilson only twitched when he heard the click-whoosh of the door being shoved roughly open. He didn't even look up; the tell-tale thump-step confirmed the identity of the person at the door.
"Stealing my shtick is not cool. Cuddy only has room for one asshole department head."
"What are you talking about?" Wilson mumbled, still with head in hands. He wasn't sure how to interpret House's odd tone.
"Yelling at nurses, brushing off your new department fellows, sloughing work that you normally do yourself off on your assistant."
Wilson shrugged in response before shifting his hands so he could speak clearly. "I don't see how that's invading your territory. I've not been sleeping well. It makes me a bit more irritable, but I don't see how that's a problem. Aren't you always harping on me about coddling my nurses and staff?" Wilson felt a spark of anger.
"Irritable maybe, but does it make you want to dump your patients, too? You've transferred ten of your terminal pediatric cases in just the last month. In the past, you would have cherished the anguish and concern your little bald babes bring to your emotional vampire soul."
"How I handle my patient load is none of your concern," Wilson replied in a controlled, pointedly calm voice. He could already feel House's words starting to get under his skin.
"Yeah, those would all be going to the new Princeton Pediatric Hospice anyway, so might as well get rid of them before they get too sick and leave. After all, what's the point if you can't be part of the deathbed vigil? "
Wilson let out a low growl as he looked up to meet House's penetrating gaze. "Drop it right now, House."
"But what fun would that be?"
Wilson's bushy eyebrows drew down in a scowl, his voice hard. "The kind where I am still willing to go to lunch with you after this discussion."
House shifted, but didn't back off entirely. "What about your new style? You've had creases in your shirts and fold marks on your pants. I know you normally spot iron before come in to work." House reached out and caught Wilson's bare wrist where his shirt cuff had pulled back. His gentle grip was at odds with the sarcastic, self-righteous tone of his comments so far. "You look like shit. Those bags under your eyes say you're not sleeping, and you know that insomnia is definitely my act."
Wilson's eyes widened, startled at the touch of House's hand. Here was House showing how closely he monitored his habits, but instead of making Wilson feel warm it made him feel angry. He didn't even register the dissonant reaction as he replied, voice cold. "I guess I'm just a whore for fashion trends. You know how jealous I get of your popularity with the staff and ladies." He didn't, however, shake off House's hand.
"Whore? You used to be known as Dr. Pantypeeler, but I've heard you changed your ways recently. Gossip says you're keeping your paws to yourself. Maybe that's why you're being such a bitch." House gave Wilson's wrist a squeeze and shake. "Does wittle Jimmy have some performance anxiety?"
"Fuck you, House," Wilson snarled, jerking his hand out of House's grip.
House grabbed Wilson's wrist again, and then, he let go of his cane in order to grab the other, as well. "Not unless you say 'please'."
Wilson was suddenly trembling with rage. He yanked his wrists forward, hard, heedless of how off balance it would pull House, who was leaning on the front of his desk.
"Let go of me!"
House hissed as his damaged thigh rubbed against the hard overhanging top of the desk, but he just tightened the grip. "No."
"Let GO!" Wilson was getting loud, the adrenalin coursing through his system spurring him on, clouding his ability to see that it was odd for him to let House get under his skin like this. "It is none of your goddamn business how I run my department, what clothes I wear, or who I do or do not fuck!"
"Like hell it's none of my business," House loudly replied, giving Wilson's wrist a bone-grinding squeeze.
Wilson stepped back, trying to free himself from House's grip. His thigh knocked the desk chair violently backwards. The chair wheel collided with the glass bottle on the floor. The bottle fell with a muffled thump and clink of glass on carpet. Then the unmistakable smell of quality bourbon wafted up from beside the chair. Wilson stilled in House's grip as he looked behind him to observe the scene.
House jerked Wilson's wrist, dragging his attention back to the conversation. "Drinking with more patients to see this afternoon? What the fuck is wrong with you, Wilson?" His eyes narrowed. "You are, aren't you? You're --"
"How dare YOU lecture me!" Wilson roared in response as he flung his arms out, forcing House to break his grip.
House let out a short yelp, lost his balance and staggered, grabbing the edge of the desk for leverage.
Wilson was at House's side before he even processed what happened. "You okay?"
House looked over at Wilson, hands clenched. His gentle tone of voice cut to Wilson's core. "If you are caring so much that you need to drink to get through your work day, then maybe it's time to take a break. You're going to care so hard you burn out, Wilson."
Wilson stared at House. A chuckle escaped, then a chortle, then a laugh. Seeing House's genuine expression of righteous indignation, a rare sight indeed, triggered a guffaw and then he started crying, hard. He started to turn away, but those hands were on him again. This time they gently pulled him and then he found himself leaning against a warm, lean body, head pillowed on a bony shoulder. His sobs increased in frequency and volume until he choked, unable to get a full breath within the grip of strong arms wrapped around his back.
Eventually Wilson got himself under control but didn't move. He can't let himself think just yet that it's House he's leaning against. That it's House who is holding him together with a tight embrace. That he's shamefully drenched House's black Led Zepplin shirt in tears. That it's House he's drawing comfort from, that he's the one in need of comfort. It's safer just to think of it as a warm body, a person offering him a place to rest, for now.