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day zero

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Awake. Tucker thinks he's awake. Things are hazy ... ex-wife and a daughter both standing there smiling, unless this isn't real. But ... if it's not real, it shouldn't hurt, and it does. Fucking hurt.

He reaches up and feels along the side of his neck. Stubble, but no gills, and he's so drugged that it seems kind of funny. He's been gutted and cleaned like a fish - that's how it feels - so where are the gills? There ought to be gills, his brain starts to sing, like that ludicrous clown song Melissa loves. Send in the ...

He presses the morphine button a few more times and his brain shuts up.

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day two

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Okay, so he's going to live - because Jim Wilson's jaw-dropping pathological guilt saved him - but damn, he's bored. He's scrolled through cable channels countless times: reality re-runs, home-and-garden crap, Spongebob, soap operas. He watches one long enough to figure out that the sleazy husband wants to kill the scheming harpy wife so he can go seduce the sweet young thing. Tucker sighs (which hurts a little) and moves on, but the next channel is some shiny-suited preacher, standing in front of fake stained glass and droning on about thankfulness.

Tucker turns it off.

For a guy who'll be stuck taking anti-rejection meds for the rest of a probably-shortened life, he figures he's pretty damn grateful. He tosses down his dose and the pills stick in his throat, making him cough, which hurts so bad he's sure he's ruptured something and will be dead in five minutes.

His monitors change only for a few seconds, though. Still going to live; now if only he could move without wanting to scream. It takes more morphine and a whole cup of water to get those fucking pills to go down.

Jim got the better end of this deal, no question about it. No cancer, no lifetime of meds, just a scar to show for his insane generosity, and you can bet he'll get some mileage out of that. Girls love that kind of thing.

He'll tell Jim that, if Jim's still talking to him. His wife and kid sure aren't, and the photos they brought him are already hidden away in the bedside drawer. They love each other, sure, but the past is the past; they've all got new lives now. No point in dwelling. They'll figure that out eventually.

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day three

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Honestly, he'd expected better of Jim than this. Oh, he'd figured there'd be some resentment for the pressure he'd applied, even though it wasn't personal. They made a medical bet, one they both lost, and if it were reversed there's no doubt it would've been Jim turning the crank on the guilt. Animal instinct is ugly, but it's good for survival.

Crazy thing is, it turns out it's not the liver Jim's pissed off about. It's the girlfriend. Ashley. Which is just ridiculously hypocritical when you think of the guy's history, because seriously? You don't strike out three times unless you're hitting something else on the side. Jim of all guys ought to get that, but no.

There he goes, in a self-righteous huff so deep that there's no way in hell he's coming back. James, he said, and fine. He's James. Not that it'll matter since it's obvious he never means to speak to Tucker again. Sad, because he always did like Jim, but if that's how he wants to be, it really isn't Tuck's problem.

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day four

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"Well, this ought to be interesting," he says when House limps in. Tucker's met the guy just once before and it wasn't pleasant, but it also wasn't boring, and right now he'll take whatever entertainment he can get. "I'm going to take a wild guess that you aren't here to tell me bedtime stories."

"I'm here to wish you unwell," House says. "I hope your cute piece of tail dumps your sorry ass, but not before giving you herpes. I hope all this time off work makes your managers realize you're dead weight they'll never miss, and they fire you."

"What, no actual death wishes?"

"It would've been kinder to your family if you'd expired while pretending to give a damn about them, but no." He's doing something to the machinery, over on Tucker's right, and Tucker can't see what it is. Checking stats or something, he guesses. "You die, Wilson suffers. Because he's a good guy, not because you are. You don't deserve what he did for you."

"Look, you can cut the -"

In an instant there's a cane-shaft pressing across his trachea, as House leans in, something very fucking scary in the depths of those eyes. "You'd never have done it for him," House says. "Never, not under any circumstances. You'd have been a cowardly, selfish little shit who let him die and then sent flowers to the funeral instead of showing up." His point made, he lifts the cane away and Tucker feels himself gasp for breath. His guts are really starting to hurt again.

"He's better than you," House says. "I hope you live long enough to choke on it."

House leaves him knowing two things for certain. First, that it's true. Tucker, being normal and sane, wouldn't ever have sacrificed a chunk of his own body for Jim. And second: House would. House would do anything.

Tucker's in too much pain to spend time wondering whether Jim knows it.

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Thirty minutes later, he hurts so much that he's gasping for breath, and each gasp makes it worse, and his desperate clicking of the PCA button has brought absolutely no relief. There's the call-button thing, so he tries that, but gets no response. Nobody at the nurses' station, he thinks. Out to lunch or someone called a code or some shit, but this fucking hurts and it hurts right now.

Because ... because House, that evil son of a bitch, wasn't checking his numbers at all. House was shutting off the morphine.

And disconnecting the call button.

If Tucker wants help now, he'll have to yell for it. He curses - ineffectual and ultimately useless. He tries the PCA again. Nothing.

Damn it. He'll have to yell, and since House so thoughtfully closed the door, he's going to have to put some lung into it. Tucker glares at the monitor beside the bed, listening and watching as his pulse shoots higher.

Fucking maniac. He can go straight to hell and take James with him. Those two deserve each other.