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the island of conclusions

"Safety Lights" (House, MD fic)

the island of conclusions

bright star

"Safety Lights" (House, MD fic)

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bright star
Title: Safety lights.
Rating: Gen, G.
Word count: ~1.6K
Genre: h/c, of the shameless variety.
Warnings: spoilers for S6 through 6.15, particularly for that episode, and 6.9.
Disclaimer: not mine, no profit.
Summary: Wilson is ill; House worries. Like I said, shameless h/c.

a/n: This is a product the ongoing fandom bleed I've been having between Holmes/Watson and House/Wilson. Ever since Wilson bought House an organ in 6.15, I've been thinking they should play out their own version of the famous scene in ACD's The Sign of Four in which Holmes lulls a weary Watson to sleep by playing his violin. I've been meaning to write this since the episode aired—just managing to get it out in front of the S6 finale.

Safety Lights

It was dark. It was dark and something was after him. He was at the hospital, alone, all the lights were gone, and something was after him. And Wilson knew, knew with the burning clarity one sometimes has in dreams, that the only way to get away was to make a run for it down the stairs. But something worse lurked in the stairwell, he knew that too. And so he was frozen, fear pounding through him, waiting for the inevitable, horrible thing, whatever it was, to happen--

He woke up with a start, mouth dry and heart racing, head aching like lead weights were pressing against his skull. He lay still for a few moments, trying to convince himself he was safe, but he couldn't get back to sleep. His back hurt, and no matter how he positioned his head on the pillow, the pounding pulse of the dream echoed uncomfortably in his ears.

Cautiously, he tried sitting up, grimacing as the pain in his head shifted, slammed up against his sinuses. A tiny groan slipped out: what he'd tried hard to convince himself yesterday was allergies was turning out to be a nasty bug after all.

He levered himself to his feet, shuffled into the bathroom, joints aching, looking for water and Tylenol. But the water burned going down, and the Tylenol had apparently suffered the fate of all the OTC medications in the condo—spirited away to the shelf above the kitchen sink for House's easy access.

Groaning in earnest now, Wilson made his way toward the kitchen. To his surprise, the 2am dark was broken by the blue pool of light spilling out of the TV. House was sprawled on the couch, transfixed by the bodies undulating on the screen.

"Hey," Wilson said, a little hoarse, "you up?"

"Leg," House answered, eyes still on the porn, "you?"

"Headache," Wilson said, sitting down heavily next to him, quest for meds momentarily abandoned, "think I'm coming down with something."

At that, House did turn, face weirdly backlit by the TV, squinted at him and wrapped a practiced hand around his forehead.

"You have a fever," he said, the barest hint of accusation coloring his voice.

"Mmnn," Wilson murmured, not disagreeing. He felt like he had a fever. He sank deeper into the cushions, eyes sliding shut, trying to get comfortable. But House was poking him, had turned the light on and the porn off, was saying something.

"Huh?' Wilson said vaguely, prying his eyes open again.

"Pain?" House asked, terse now, "dizziness?"

"What?" Wilson said, confused, "No." Then, with dawning comprehension, "No, no—it's nothing to do with the surgery—that was months ago, anyway. It's just some bug."

But House was fixing him with his patented, everybody-lies expression, so Wilson sighed, submitting.

Wearing the stony face Wilson associated with concern, House pushed up Wilson's pajama top, probing along the newly-healed incision scar. His fingers were icy against Wilson's skin, but deft, experienced, extracting the information needed with a minimum of fuss. He palpitated the lymph nodes under Wilson's jaw, lingered a moment on the pulse point.

"Seems viral," he conceded grudgingly, "at the moment."

"Like I said." Wilson noted.

"You had a flu shot?"

"Yes, House," Wilson said wearily.

"H1N1?" House continued, as if he were sure Wilson had been deliberately throwing himself into the path of dangerous pathogens.

"I work around people with compromised immune systems every day—of course H1N1. There are other viruses out there, you know," he continued, patience fraying at the edges, "mild ones." Unfortunately, his point was undermined by an unexpected round of jagged coughs. They hurt, ripping through his throat, jarring his head. He had to squeeze his eyes shut for a moment.

When he opened them again, House was peering at him as if he were trying to decide exactly which rare type of bacterial pneumonia was infiltrating Wilson's lungs.

Thankfully, though, whatever suspicions House was entertaining had the effect of making him more sympathetic than usual. He pushed himself up from the couch, saying, "I'll get you some meds."

Wilson was grateful—he was feeling less and less like moving around every minute. He listened to House banging cabinet doors and running water, and decided he hated getting older. Time was these things hadn't bothered him at all. He could remember getting home after back-to-back on call shifts, feeling a little light-headed, and being genuinely surprised to find he was running a triple-digit temperature. He'd worked all night without really noticing. Now everything seemed to hit him like a ton of bricks. Took forever to get over too.

House was back. He handed Wilson a glass of water and a couple of pills. When he'd swallowed them, House stuck a tympanic thermometer in his ear. Was that in our kitchen too? Wilson thought, a little loopily, is everything in our kitchen?

The thermometer beeped, and House turned it so Wilson could see the reading. 101.2—pretty much what he would have guessed. Sick, but not all that sick. To House, of course, the glass, was half-empty.

"Not too bad," he said, "Yet. It goes much higher, and I'm taking you in. I doubt your immune system is up to much at the moment."

"Uh-huh," Wilson said, noncommittally, no longer really listening. It was the same way House had been when Wilson had been recovering at home after the surgery. Every twinge, every niggle, had been a portent of a dangerous complication, a rare side-effect. He'd threatened to drag Wilson back to the hospital several times a day. Wilson hadn't grudged him his alarmism: worst-case scenarios were House's vocation as well as his profession, after all. He'd just stopped paying them much heed.

House was poking him again. "Okay," he said, "you're dosed up. Back to bed."

That brought him to a state of semi-alertness. "I'm good," he protested, the heart-racing dread of the nightmare still jangling his nerves.

House gave him a different look. The one that let Wilson know he could see through any façade of normalcy Wilson might try to erect, any pretense of being even-keeled. But he didn't press the issue. "Suit yourself," he shrugged, flipping the TV back on, "but no porn for you. You're overheated enough as it is."

A few clicks of the remote, and the writhing bodies were replaced by the Discovery channel—showing, in deference to the late hour and the fragile sensibilities of insomniacs, some kind documentary on sea turtles. House settled down to watch with a huff, and Wilson tried to focus on the green carapaced bodies gliding through a greener sea. He kept getting distracted by the patterns of light in the water, though. It wasn't like sunlight would do much good down there, he thought, against the chill weight of the ocean, its shadowy depths.

Another round of coughing hit him, leaving him shivering on the other side. When had it gotten so cold? Without thinking, he reached for the brown blanket that had always lived on the back of the old orange couch. He came up empty, of course; the decorators had banished it to the linen closet for the crime of shabbiness. He shivered again.

"You know," House said, with mocking brightness, "I hear there's a place with lots of blankets—comfy pillows too. Wait. What's it called?" House scrunched up his face in a parody of puzzlement, while Wilson tried not to rise to the bait. "Wait. It'll come to me. I know. Bed," he finished triumphantly.

He looked at Wilson expectantly. Expecting him to stop acting crazy and go to sleep. But Wilson was suddenly filled with the unreasonable conviction that all that stood between him and screaming night terrors were House's sarcasm and a few carefree Chelonians. He shook his head, hardly caring that he was acting like a petulant child.

House surveyed him appraisingly, as if petulance were a new symptom, and a worrying one at that. "Okay," he said, as if deciding to humor him, and used his cane this time to stand up. Wilson heard his uneven step dragging down the hall, cabinet doors creaking, muted rummaging.

Something soft and heavy thumped against his chest, and he blinked his eyes open to the threadbare familiarity of the old brown blanket. He hadn't realized his eyes had been closed.

"Yeah, you're not sleepy," House scoffed. He smacked Wilson's ankles lightly with his cane. "Come on, feet up."

Sensing defeat, Wilson did as he was told, stretched full-length on the couch, pulled the musty-smelling old blanket around his shoulders. The chill eased up immediately under its weight. Perhaps he would sleep after all.

House was moving around again, grunting a little as he sat down somewhere else, flipping something open.

"Oh no," Wilson moaned, "please don't play that thing now. Headache, remember?"

But all he got in return was a peremptory ssshh.

The music, when it came, was just as awful as he'd feared. House had turned the reverb way down, but the notes still seemed to bounce painfully around Wilson's skull. He couldn't quite follow what House was playing—couldn't decide if it was something he'd heard before, or something House was making up as he went along. He strained to catch a melody, a refrain, to no avail.

And yet, weirdly, the awfulness was strangely comforting. If he concentrated hard enough on the music, he could use it to block out all the other awfulnesses—the aches and pains, the lingering anxiety of the dream. It was like coming onto the interstate after trying to navigate unlit country roads for a long time—the halogen lights overhead, the strings of reflecting markers carving out the lanes, tracing out the safe route home. And thinking of that, following the path the music laid out, Wilson let himself roll gently into sleep.

  • Very well done! Very descriptive and evocative of that "late night, not feeling well" mood. I enjoyed reading it. :)
  • "Pain?" House asked, terse now, "dizziness?"

    "What?" Wilson said, confused, "No." Then, with dawning comprehension, "No, no—it's nothing to do with the surgery—that was months ago, anyway. It's just some bug."

    I love how you captured the shorthand House and Wilson use with each other. Beautiful writing. Hope you're planning more stories in House fandom.
    • I'm so glad you thought the dialogue worked! I've been lurking for months, and thought I'd dip my toe in the pond. There may be more--the characters are kind of irresistible!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
  • Marvelous. I clicked on your "housemd" tag hoping to find more Housefic by you and was saddened not to see more. Guess I'll just have to treasure this one, then. Thank you.
    • I'm thrilled you liked it! I've been lurking for a while, and couldn't help giving it a try. There may be more--the characters are pretty irresistible :)

      Thanks so much for reading and leaving such kind words!
  • You wrote hurt!Wilson... bless you for that. It's been so long since I've read any, I forgot it could be done. You know I'm in your fan club already, but you do such an amazing job with these characters. Please don't abandon Sam and Dean in their summer of need, but I hope to get to read more House from you. Thanks! :)
    • Thanks for reading, hun, and for the kind words! You know I couldn't resist hurt!sick!Wilson for long ;) The characters are hard, but rewarding.

      Still--Sam and Dean need us!
  • Oh, this is lovely. We don't often to get to see House's moments of caring for Wilson, and this is how it really ought to be.
    • I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I like to think House can be caring, in his own peremptory way...

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
  • Sick!Wilson and a caring House, really lovely! <3
  • Very nicely done, and a pleasure to read! I'm hoping you write more in this fandom.

    • Thanks for the kind words! I've been lurking for a while, so it seemed time to try my hand. There may be more--the characters are kind of irresistible--
  • Awww! This was fantastic! You wrote sick!Wilson so well (I love too many parts to quote them all, but is everything in our kitchen?
    was a particular favorite), and I love that you see caring!House so much the same way I do (the stony face Wilson associated with concern; and, as if petulance were a new symptom, and a worrying one at that). Not to mention the end: such a perfect simile, the interstate after the country roads; less quiet, but safe and true. Beautiful.

    Also? I don't know if it's because you mentioned the Holmes/Watson bleed or not, but I had a moment reading this line: "Yes, House," Wilson said wearily where I simultaneously heard Wilson saying it to House, and Watson saying it to Holmes (with Holmes' name, of course), in exact the same tone of voice. So I really wonder whether or not I would've flashed back to A Sign of Four at the last scene, if you hadn't mentioned it in advance. I probably would've, in a good way. (Then again, I've been ODing on Sherlock Holmes--of all incarnations--lately, so that could have something to do with it, too.)

    I hope you write more in this universe very soon. Either a sequel/companion to this, or something completely different. Because I think you have a great read on both the characters and their relationship, and I've love to see that explored more. :-)
    • Thanks so much for the kind words! The last time I watched House seriously (S1), I was completely oblivious to the Holmes connection (d'oh). But now I just love the idea. I thought I'd better put the reference up top, so that no one would think I was claiming I'd made up the scenario myself :)

      There may be more--the characters are so irresistible--
  • This was lovely - Housian caring was exactly what Wilson needed. Thanks for sharing!
  • Realistic, well written and sweet.
    I liked it. :)
  • YAY!!!! Very very well done, yessssssssss!!! n______________n I love caring!House. Thanks so much!!!
  • I ♥ this! Being roomies is such an awesome opportunity for this sort of h/c, and you paint it perfectly!
    • Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed it (I didn't know you read House!fic!). It's actually my favorite kind of h/c to write--the kind where nothing really happens, lol! Thanks for reading!
  • Here via deelaundry.

    Eeeee, I didn't know that you write House! Love this soooo much :)

    ps Any plans on writing House/Spn? Or have you written one already? :)
  • Very nicely done. I like this a lot! <3
  • Mmmh, shameless h/c! Just what I needed! thanks for providing!
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