A Pound of Cure

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This can't happen. It can't.

For one moment, House stands petrified. Wilson wants him gone, and this is just the nearest convenient excuse.

Then he realizes Wilson's barely standing, a building half-smashed by the latest wrecking ball. He's crumbling inside his suit, staying upright by sheer force of will. House almost sees the dust falling out of his pants, all over those glossy shoes.

Wilson's voice is cracking up along with the rest of him. House gets out of there before the fault lines spread outward and open up beneath his own feet.

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He's not going back there. That's what he thinks while he uses Wilson's best paring knife to cut two circles in the side of a tomato box. The blade in his hand reflects his eyes, and he doesn't bother pretending not to see the fear.

He can't go back there, into his own old shadow. He thinks about his piano, and the way she leaned over the top of it, and her unreal face cast an unreal reflection. The memory comes sharp and clear while he's prying the mirror off the inside of Wilson's medicine cabinet door.

The mirror can be replaced. This, what he has here, can't.

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It's easy to get the last things he needs. Duct tape: from Wilson's perpetually overstocked emergency supply cabinets (three of them. Three emergency supply cabinets, and that's not counting the kit in the trunk of his car, and sometimes House thinks he needs a friend like that, prepared for any disaster).

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Getting the tranquilizer is another thing. If you have no medical license, it helps to have dirt on members of the nursing staff.

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They should lock me up again, he thinks, but he keeps on applying duct tape until he's certain it's enough. It's not that he has no sympathy for his victim-slash-patient. Chronic pain, House understands. He'll help this guy or he'll go to jail, or maybe both. And he cares about that, but he also knows what happens if he has to leave Wilson now.

If he leaves, he goes home, where it isn't home anymore ... and where he knows which baseboard to pry loose to find what he hid there. He'll stare into that old mirror and what he sees won't be any different than it ever was, and after a while he won't know what's true any more, and he'll hurt until the pills make it stop.

There are worse things than prison. He keeps that in mind as his asshole pain patient starts to writhe like a dying fish.

"Wakey wakey," says House.

He really ought to be nicer about this, but he can't make himself try.

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He'd have told Wilson the truth, the whole truth, and damn the torpedoes -- if Wilson asked. But Wilson had settled into the cushions instead, taking deep breaths, finding the remote, and not budging when House scooted right there, beside him.

They've been here half an hour now, watching animals kill or be killed, predators taking out other predators for food or self-defense. The sofa leather is cradling and warm. Wilson's shoulder is relaxed against House's; he's slouching ever downward in happy, oblivious ease. He doesn't want to know, House thinks. Truly doesn't want to know.

He waits until the commercial break to snatch the remote and press MUTE. Wilson merely raises an eyebrow, as if the mute button applied to him too.

"You really do want me to be here," House says.

"Well, I like having help with the chores." Wilson's smiling that soft, genuine, hiding-something smile.

"Honesty about your emotions is important, or so I'm told by the guys in white. And by certain annoying oncologists, as I recall."

House gets up to get a ... root beer. Nolan trusts him with a little alcohol, but Nolan doesn't know about the breaking and entering, the assault, the way he got the sedative he used. Corona's a much better painkiller, but if he's still that close to the cliff, well.

"I am ... glad you're here," Wilson says, just loudly enough so House can hear it in the kitchen. "Whatever you're getting, bring me one?"

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They climb into two halves of the same bed, as they've done each night for two weeks now. Stretching out on their sides, backs to each other, another kind of reflection -- just the same as yesterday.

Wilson tugs a few more inches of quilt over himself. "Whatever you did, House," he says, "I still don't want to know, but ... thanks."

"Pure selfishness, I promise you." House tugs in return, reclaiming the covers he lost. "And you're right. You don't want to know."

Wilson laughs quietly, and still doesn't ask.

A few minutes later, he's asleep.

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~*~