Title: Stranger in a Strange Land
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the recognizable characters. I'm just not that creative.
At first, Wilson assumed that taking care of a three-year-old House would be easy. He was, after all, well known for his penchant for caring for broken people. But the first week with a brain damaged House sleeping his guest room had proved difficult. House had at least one nightmare per night, and usually ended up curled against Wilson, snoring lightly, the fragility of his sleep visible in his tense muscles. The days were alright most of the time; House would cooperate and eat what and when he was supposed to, practice his words and numbers just like Wilson asked. But sometimes he seemed to remember how brilliant he had once been and grew frustrated. But the thing that bothered Wilson more than anything else, more than the bed wetting and anxious fidgeting, was the crying. House had never been one to portray any emotions besides contempt. Sure, sometimes you could make him laugh, and every now and then Wilson had seen small fragments of fear and insecurity surface in his blue eyes. But sorrow? Never sorrow.
Wilson had done his best to make House comfortable in the strange apartment. He made space for the piano (which was gathering a fine layer of dust), had redecorated the guest room with posters and photos from House's walls. He had even replaced the bedding with House's. But none of it seemed to make much of a dent in House's awkwardness.
When House had been brought home, still trying to learn how to use his cane and reduce the excruciating pain he felt with every step, House had looked around and then stared sadly at Wilson. "Jimmy, where are we?"
Wilson put a hand to his forehead and led House inside. He hated the House called him Jimmy. He had tried to explain, "No, you call me Wilson." But Jimmy had been his new name of choice. There had to be some of his House left in there. Otherwise, why were they putting him through this?
Cuddy had given him the first week off to try and find someone who could watch House while Wilson was at work, but finding someone to babysit a 49 year old with the mind of a toddler was easier said than done. On the last day of his time off, Wilson called Cuddy in a desperate frenzy. "I don't know what to do. I tell them all he's docile," Cuddy snorted, but it was maddeningly true, "he has his own agenda. He's well behaved. Really, he just needs someone to give him his meds, make his meals, and ensure he doesn't hurt himself. Is that so much to ask?" He put his face in his hands in a vain attempt to stop his tears. House was in the tub, splashing the water, and Wilson was sitting on the floor outside the open door. He could practically feel Cuddy's hand on his shoulder when she said, "Out of all of us, this has got to be the hardest on you. You knew him the best. Why don't you just bring him to work with you for a few days and let me look for a babysitter for a bit?"
"Bring him to work?" He vaguely recognized the click of an aerosol can and realized House had gotten in to the shaving cream. "I never really thought about that. But he's still usually sleeping at 8."
"So let him sleep in your office. He won't hurt anybody by being there. Besides, it'll just be temporary."
A loud chuckle bounced off of the tile walls in the bathroom and Wilson heard the metal container drop on the floor. He stared at the wall opposite while thinking about Cuddy's offer. Finally, he took a deep breath. "Yeah, okay. Maybe I'll do that."
"Alright," she said, back to her business voice now that the decision had been made, "I'll see you both tomorrow morning, then."
"Thanks, Lisa." He hung up the phone and set it down on the floor, pushing himself up and walking into the bathroom. House had shaving cream all over his torso and arms, and a razor in his hand. "What are you doing?!?" Wilson lunged at him and grabbed the razor, wincing as it cut into his palm.
"I'm sorry!" House said loudly, sitting up in the tub. "I just...I thought...Like you." He looked down at the bubbles in the bath and rubbed at the slowly forming beard on his face.
"You wanted to shave?" Wilson asked, sitting down on the toilet seat, lid closed.
"Yes. Like you." House looked at him hopefully, holding his hands up in an innocent gesture. "I'm sorry. I won't do it again."
"It's okay, House. Just, wait for me, if you want to shave, okay? I don't mind you playing with the shaving cream, but, look..." He showed House his bleeding palm. "See, if you're not careful, this can cut you. And it hurts."
House nodded solemnly, and repeated, as a broken record. "I'm sorry."
"I told you, it's okay. Come on, are you done your bath? You can get out and I'll help you shave." Wilson picked a towel up off the stack next to the sink and shook it out, holding it at arm's length for House to take from him.
After getting out of the tub and wrapping the terry towel around his hips, House smiled down at him, and for a second, Wilson saw a glimmer of his old lover. But then, it was gone, "Thank you, Jimmy." Wilson nodded dumbly before rising and walking out the bathroom.
"Just let me go put a bandage on this, and then we'll shave, okay? Why don't you go put on some pyjamas?"
"Okay." He heard House limp awkwardly from the bathroom and waited until the bedroom door clicked shut. Then he collapsed over the kitchen sink, and tried to stop crying. He wheezed and choked on his spit, gagged into the depths of the sink drain, and felt a large hand on his back. "Jimmy? Is everything okay? I said I was sorry. I meant it." House's hand traced a lazy circle over Wilson's back, just like Wilson did after the nightmares. He wanted to be comforting, but Wilson only cried more.
He choked on his words, "I know, House, I know you're sorry. I am, too."
"Why are you sorry? It's not your fault." House moved to lean his cheek on Wilson's back, while Wilson's breath hitched.
"Yes, it is. Everything is." He said it quietly, so that House wouldn't hear him, before rising slowly and swiping at his tears and running nose with the back of his hand. "I'm okay; I was just worried about you. I'm okay now though." He nodded, trying to confirm his words.
House copied the motion before turning and limping to the bathroom, Wilson wished he would just use the damn cane. "We can still shave, though, right?" He turned his head over his shoulder to glance at Wilson.
Wilson had House stand in front of the mirror and watch him illustrate how to shave. He wouldn't let House hold the razor today, but maybe in a few months, or so, he could do this by himself. "See," he told his friend as he dragged the razor across House's upper lip, "If you're not very careful, you can give yourself a very small cut. Kind of like a paper cut. It hurts a lot. It's called a nick."
"A nick." The razor almost slipped as House started to nod.
"No, when you're shaving you shouldn't talk or nod your head. You can get a nick, that way." As affirmation that he understood, House didn't move. When they were done, Wilson, admired his handy work. It had been almost 3 years since he had seen a clean shaven House, it just looked wrong. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Well, we have to get up early tomorrow. I'm going back to work, and you're coming with me. You'll probably want to keep sleeping, so do you want to go pick out your clothes for tomorrow now? You can put them in your backpack with your game boy."
"You have a job?"
Wilson had to bite back a mirthless laugh. "Yes, I'm a doctor."
"But you didn't go to work since I got here."
"I haven't gone to work since you got here," he corrected House softly. "I know, I was on holidays. But now it's time for me to go back. And I like to spend time with you. So I'd like you to come with me, if that's okay with you."
"Yes. That's okay." He turned and tottered to his room to pick out some clothes. Wilson felt safe letting House choose his own outfits, since he mainly just owned t-shirts and jeans. If he picked a button down, Wilson would just tell him it wouldn't be comfortable to wear all day. Wilson closed his eyes.
"Yes, this is he. What can I do for you?" Wilson rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and looked at the clock, trying not to sound drowsy on the phone. Why was someone calling him at 2 in the morning?
"Well, my name is Lori Adle. I work the Mayfield psychiatric hospital."
Wilson sat up in bed so fast that his vision swam. "Yes, is everything okay? What's wrong with House?"
"He was having pain in his leg. He was screaming for you. But we make an effort not to bring in outside sources if we can help it. He said it was a 10 on the pain scale. But..."
"Well?" Wilson was getting impatient with her stupid story. Why was she calling him?
"Well, his roommate got annoyed with him and smashed his head on the head board. It doesn't look like there was a lot of damage, barely a goose egg."
"Okay, then everything's fine, why'd you wake me up?"
"But that's just it sir, everything isn't fine. He can't remember where he is. He keeps asking for his mom. His vocabulary is limited. It seems like the smash jarred something. Did he have any previous brain injuries?"
Oh God. It's all my fault, Wilson thought. "Yes, he does. I'll be right there."
"Jimmy? Jimmy...I picked out a outfit."
"An outfit, House."