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House M.D. FIC: No Sleep in a Quiet Room

Title: No Sleep in a Quiet Room
Fandom: House M.D.
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~1500
Pairings: House and Wilson friendship
Warning: Probably as painful to read as it was to write.
Summary: Wrap her up in a package of lies / Send her off to a coconut island / I am not worried / I am not overly concerned. Wilson POV, post-S7 finale.
Disclaimer: Happily, I had no hand in the House season finale; blame David Shore & Co. Song lyrics in the title and summary are from “Anna Begins” by Counting Crows.

Thirteen gives up at the end of the third week, takes Wilson aside and tells him that she isn’t going to drive him around to monitor the darkest dives of Princeton anymore. Wilson rubs his hand over his face and thinks about this. “All right,” he says finally. “Thanks for all of your help.”

Her face takes on that maddeningly blank look she gets when she’s not thinking about something and then smoothes itself over into an expression of sympathy. “Hey,” she says, and touches his shoulder. “House will be found when he wants to be found.”

“Sure,” he agrees, already turning to go.

“Wilson, wait. Listen. He hasn’t been picked up by the police, he’s not in any of the local hospitals, and he hasn’t been home.” He doesn’t need to ask her how she knows this. “He’s not here. He’s… I don’t know, off somewhere, getting his head together. He’ll come back when he’s ready.”

“Sure,” Wilson says again, and tries not to flinch away when she steps forward and hugs him. Remy is one of the most beautiful women he’s ever met, but right now all he can see in her is his own failure. He refuses her offer of a ride home and waits for a bus instead.

He still has House’s key, of course. When he lets himself in, Wilson senses at once what she must have meant. There’s a stale, sterile quality to the air, and everything is still slightly askew from when the police had searched the place. Wilson walks around for a while, telling himself that he’s just straightening up, but he knows that he’s looking for some sign, something that others might have overlooked. But there are no obvious clues, and nothing seems to be missing – no overnight bag, not toiletries, nothing but the clothes on House’s back and the cane he was carrying.

The chair is still by the window where House left it. Wilson goes and sits in it for just a few seconds before falling asleep. When he opens his eyes, House is standing in front of him looking pale and haggard, with dark shadows under his eyes. Wilson can smell the stench of infection even before he sees the pus and blood seeping through the dirty bandages around House’s thigh. “Wilson,” House intones, and reaches out to wrench his wrist.

He wakes up, gasping, and finds himself clutching his cast so hard it hurts. His hands are shaking. He has trouble letting himself back out of the apartment.

*

He manages to stay away for almost a week. He can’t sleep in the condo, he can’t sleep on the couch in his office, and he thinks that he might be going crazy. He sees House everywhere – in a certain shade of blue on a stranger’s shirt, in a dingy Dodge cutting around a corner, in the bottles of liquor he deliberately locks away. He’s caught himself snapping at his patients. Cuddy has already asked him once if he needs to take a leave of absence.

When he goes back, he brings his toiletries case and a change of clothes. He doesn’t make a conscious decision to stay the night, but he wants to be prepared.

It turns out to be a good idea because his accumulated exhaustion hits him almost the moment he crosses the threshold. He had planned to order some takeout and watch TV on the slippery leather sofa, but he can barely keep his eyes open.

He’s already in the hall closet rummaging for a set of sheets and spare pillows when he realizes that this is silly. House isn’t here, and he has a perfectly good bed just down the hall.

Once in the bedroom, Wilson nearly changes his mind. The bed has a size and solidity to it that make it a little intimidating, especially in its current, achingly empty, state. There’s a long, lean hollow in the mattress on the left side where the fitted sheet has stretched beneath the weight of House’s body. After a moment’s hesitation, Wilson crosses to the opposite side of the bed and seats himself gingerly on the edge of the mattress.

The pillowcase covers are none too fresh; the top one especially is a little oily and smells strongly of House’s shampoo. Wilson thinks about changing them for about half a second before he finds himself climbing into bed and curling himself around one. He falls asleep inhaling House’s scent and dreams, for some reason, of a vast, isolated beach with a trail of footprints along the water’s edge disappearing under the incoming tide. When he opens his eyes in the morning, he can still taste the salt spray at the corners of his mouth.

*

After that, Wilson moves into House’s apartment. He doesn’t call it that, he doesn’t have his mail forwarded or bring any furniture over, but he packs a suitcase full of work clothes and several pairs of shoes, and he spends every night in House’s bed. At some point he stops being able to smell any last trace of House on the sheets, at which point he strips the bed and launders everything, but he keeps sleeping there, and clasping the top pillow to his chest at night is still strangely comforting.

He doesn’t stop searching. Night after night, he rides the buses around town, checking bars he knows damned well he shouldn’t be in. No one gives him any trouble, though. Maybe they can tell that he’s a walking dead man and therefore dangerous. He doesn’t linger long in any one place, never even lets himself have a drink, although sometimes he’ll slap down a couple of bills if the bartender is particularly patient with his questions. Most of them recognize him now. He’s developing a reputation.

*

One afternoon Chase bumps into him in the elevator and asks him in a friendly way if he’d like to get a drink sometime – he knows this woman, a friend of a friend, who- Wilson says no thanks, firmly and, he hopes, politely. In fact, he hasn’t dated anyone since House left. He hasn’t even so much as jerked off. He thinks that maybe this should worry him a little, but he can’t bring himself to care.

*

The mail keeps coming. Wilson intercepts it, sorts it into piles, and recycles the junk mail. A month of polite reminders regarding the overdue bills is followed by a month of much less polite ones, and Wilson finally breaks down and pays them. He encloses a series of notes explaining that the homeowner is very ill, and to his relief, his own checks are accepted without argument.

He doesn’t consciously question why he’s chosen to do this, but he knows that he’s still operating under some vague sense that House is still alive, and that when he does come home, he’ll expect everything to be here, just as he left it.

*

One day Wilson comes across a postcard with a picture of a beach, a stunning crescent cove lined with palm trees and curving around ridiculously clear water. He figures that it’s from Crandall and almost sets it aside, but then on a sudden impulse flips it over. Seeing that it’s addressed to James Wilson makes him go hot, then cold. There is no message, just his name and House’s address and a smudged postmark over a brightly colored stamp. But he knows the handwriting like he would know a tall silhouette at the end of a hallway or a melancholy melody on the baby grand under his friend’s agile fingers.

House is alive.

And if he were here right now, Wilson wouldn’t hesitate to strangle him.

That night he finally allows himself to get drunk, really really drunk, because House isn’t collapsed in a back alley someplace waiting to be rescued, and because Thirteen was right even though he’s the one who has known House half a lifetime, and because that selfish bastard definitely doesn’t deserve Wilson’s vigilant sobriety. He does it at home, quietly, and he wakes up in the morning on the bathroom floor with his cheek stuck to the sticky rim of the toilet bowl, and he tells himself sternly even as he heaves and spits that he’s done with waiting.

*

Two weeks later he’s in his office when the door opens, and it’s House, looking tanned and angular and infuriatingly smug. Wilson meets his eyes, and then suddenly a heavy glass paperweight is smashing into the wall beside House’s head, and that can only be because he has thrown it. And House’s expression changes, although Wilson can’t tell to what because he clearly doesn’t know this man, doesn’t know one fucking thing about him, and then he’s crossing over to the desk and Wilson is rising, maybe to slug him, maybe to run right out of the room, except that now House is folding him in his arms and squeezing hard enough to crush the breath out of him, and surely that must be where the gasping and sobbing sounds are coming from.

Comments

( 70 comments — Leave a comment )
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nightdog_barks
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:00 am (UTC)
That was a most excellent read. Lovely use of the postcard there at the end. :-)
flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:32 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! And jeez, I have read so many fantastic fics and fic fragments over the past week that I didn't even remember that, much less where, I'd seen a blank postcard before. But I definitely agree that it's the kind of thing that House would do.
pingback_bot
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:18 am (UTC)
Fic Rec
User nightdog_barks referenced to your post from Fic Rec saying: [...] appearance by Thirteen, rated PG-13. This is really a very good read -- No Sleep in a Quiet Room [...]
jezziejay
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:18 am (UTC)
Tired, but can't go to bed before I tell you that this is STUNNING. Really, really lovely. Loved that Wilson could feel where House was, loved how he surrounded himself with what was left of House, loved that it took House's reappearance to break him.

Your last line is just perfection - but there are many others -

He sees House everywhere – in a certain shade of blue on a stranger’s shirt, in a dingy Dodge cutting around a corner, in the bottles of liquor he deliberately locks away.

Most of them recognize him now. He’s developing a reputation.

But he knows the handwriting like he would know a tall silhouette at the end of a hallway or a melancholy melody on the baby grand under his friend’s agile fingers.


Sigh.

flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:35 am (UTC)
Oh, thanks so much! I felt like I should slap an "Unbeta'd" warning on this one because sometimes it's more about catharsis than craft, and I hate it when I can identify that about other people's work, but this situation seemed to demand it. I'm very, very glad that you still found this stunning and all those wonderful things :).
barefootpuddles
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:21 am (UTC)
It's very, very good. Captures the incredible range of mixed emotions that Wilson might feel, and written in a very elegant way.

Love the bed bit, the forced sobriety (as if he can average out his and House's alcohol intake somehow) and confusion of actions vs. thoughts in the ending.

I am still hating on canon House, but I did like this very much. :)
flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:40 am (UTC)
I love bed bits, as you know ;). The self-imposed sobriety until he could be sure that House didn't need him insisted on being written. And then the story almost stopped when Wilson decided that he was done with waiting, but I decided to let it percolate a little longer until I came up with something that felt more finished.

I am still hating on canon House, but I did like this very much.

Oh, I am definitely still hating on canon House, too! In fact, I simply wasn't able to write a fic from House's POV in which everything we saw was real .
(no subject) - blackmare - Jun. 1st, 2011 01:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - flywoman - Jun. 1st, 2011 01:51 am (UTC) - Expand
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blackmare
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:24 am (UTC)
Awesome. Yes, very painful, but right. So, so right.
flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:43 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! Any attempt I could make to keep canon as reality was bound to be very painful.
menolly_au
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:25 am (UTC)
That was yes, painful, but a great read. I can see this as the most likely start for next season - (the good old two months later) House just appears out of nowhere. I love the way you have Wilson searching for House much the same way as he must have searched for his lost brother all those years ago. Interesting that House sends the postcard after a number of weeks have passed and turns up only two weeks later - maybe he was making mental progress towards acceptance and going back.

And of course the descriptions of Wilson staying at House's place and sleeping in his bed are gorgeous :) And another nice echo to the Amber thing when he takes so long to clean the sheets and let go of that last piece of House.

flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:47 am (UTC)
I can see this as the most likely start for next season - (the good old two months later) House just appears out of nowhere.

*smile* Yes, I'm kind of expecting the good old two months later, too, although it sounds like the writers might be having some second thoughts based on viewer responses.

I love the way you have Wilson searching for House much the same way as he must have searched for his lost brother all those years ago.

You know, I almost made some explicit references to Danny in the fic, and specifically to Wilson starting to visit him again once he'd given up on searching for House, but I'm glad that this came through without that.

And another nice echo to the Amber thing when he takes so long to clean the sheets and let go of that last piece of House.

Yes, I was thinking very much of Amber and the aftershocks to their friendship as I wrote this fic.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
(no subject) - blackmare - Jun. 1st, 2011 01:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - flywoman - Jun. 1st, 2011 01:58 am (UTC) - Expand
pwcorgigirl
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:33 am (UTC)
Oh, that is lovely and fits Wilson, who searched in a similar fashion for his lost brother, perfectly.
flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:53 am (UTC)
I'm exceedingly glad that you heard echoes of Danny in this without any explicit mentions.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
alternatealto
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:45 am (UTC)
There are so many things to love about this story, but I think what I love most is the way it lets the reader empathize with Wilson all the way through, right up to the paperweight hitting the wall (and damn, yes, House deserves that).

And House’s expression changes, although Wilson can’t tell to what because he clearly doesn’t know this man, doesn’t know one fucking thing about him -- is so painfully true.

Brilliant story; if only the show writers could write this well!
flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 02:03 am (UTC)
I think what I love most is the way it lets the reader empathize with Wilson all the way through

I'm so glad to hear it, because I empathized with Wilson so much during the finale (even when I wanted to shake him and scream, "Don't get out of the car!") and in writing this.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting! :)
mer_duff
Jun. 1st, 2011 01:54 am (UTC)
This is wonderful and exactly how I'd like to see next season happen (if Wilson doesn't throw something, I'll call foul).
flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 02:08 am (UTC)
if Wilson doesn't throw something, I'll call foul

If that finale doesn't justify Wilson flinging things, I don't know what would.

Thanks so much for commenting, it means a lot to me to hear that you liked this!
(no subject) - blackmare - Jun. 1st, 2011 02:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - flywoman - Jun. 1st, 2011 02:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - blackmare - Jun. 1st, 2011 02:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - flywoman - Jun. 1st, 2011 03:07 am (UTC) - Expand
taiga13
Jun. 1st, 2011 02:16 am (UTC)
This was great.
flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 02:31 am (UTC)
Thank you!
yarroway
Jun. 1st, 2011 02:24 am (UTC)
Excellent, as always. I'll give a special shout-out to the paperweight. Having a moment of overwhelming emotion and impulse is very true to Wilson. I very much liked his voice all through this piece. Also, I'd like to throw something at House myself right about now. The hug at the very end was the perfect scene to leave it on. Just stellar.
flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
I'll give a special shout-out to the paperweight.

I figured that if he'd had a bottle of booze handy, we should probably be worried.

Also, I'd like to throw something at House myself right about now.

You are definitely not alone!

Thanks so much for reading and commenting, I'm thrilled with the positive responses that this piece is getting!
perspi
Jun. 1st, 2011 02:32 am (UTC)
Oh, that was lovely and hurty and just exactly Wilson, yes indeed. :)
flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 02:48 am (UTC)
So glad to hear that you liked this! Thanks very much for reading and commenting! :)
srsly_yes
Jun. 1st, 2011 02:47 am (UTC)
Such gorgeous details. I too was particularly fond of the description of the bed. And the ending with Wilson detaching was amazing and perfect.
flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 02:53 am (UTC)
Ah, catharsis :). Yes, the bed is definitely one of my favorite bits. And my heart aches so much for Wilson at the end (as well as all the way through, really).

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
takes_a_fairy
Jun. 1st, 2011 03:52 am (UTC)
I gotta tell you that there are only certain fic writers that I read because I think they're just really, good. I've decided that you're another fic writer whose work I'll read.
I don't want to repeat what everyone else has said, cuz I agree with them.

This whole thing gives me the distinct impression that you're someone who has experienced the loss of someone close to you, personally. I love how you're able to so clearly convey how Wilson is utterly trying to keep it all together long enough to find out conclusively if House is dead or not: and then allows himself the space to get drunk and later fires a paperweight at House's head. Oh, how aggravated I got that Wilson missed his intended target. :)

Thanks for sharing this and keeping so true to the characters personalities. ;)
flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 04:09 am (UTC)
I gotta tell you that there are only certain fic writers that I read because I think they're just really, good. I've decided that you're another fic writer whose work I'll read.

That's about the nicest compliment it is possible for me to get; thanks so much!

This whole thing gives me the distinct impression that you're someone who has experienced the loss of someone close to you, personally.

I certainly empathize very strongly with Wilson here. I think that it's not only about the loss, but about the terrible uncertainty, and the hope that Wilson holds onto even as it is dashed over and over again. And then to find out that House was fine all along... well, I'd want to chuck something hard at his head, too.

Thanks very much for reading and responding!
petitecuriosity
Jun. 1st, 2011 04:27 am (UTC)
I loved this. So much. It really really was painful to read but perhaps that's because I often find myself relating to Wilson, in an empathetic sort of way. The way Wilson reacted in this fic to House's disappearance really made me think back to how he reacted to the loss of Amber in Seasons 4 and 5. The chair being left by the window, the sheets not being washed, the left side of the bed being preserved made me think of how long it took Wilson to wash Amber's coffee cup with the lipstick stain left around the rim.

When you mentioned him seeing House in the blue of a stranger's shirt, I thought back to "Dying Changes Everything" where Cameron tells Wilson that losing someone doesn't get any easier, telling Wilson about a clothing item that a patient wore that reminded her of her lost husband's eyes. (And honestly, I'm bothered that Jennifer Morrison left the show when she did because I always felt as though that storyline was never resolved...) And House leaving didn't get easier on Wilson in your fic; he continued frantically searching for him.

The image Wilson sees in his nightmare was rather frightening by the way...well-written though.

I also love the way you've described Wilson moving into House's apartment, but not telling himself he was doing so. It made me think back to when Wilson moved into House's apartment in Season 2, denying the fact that he wasn't trying to find a new place in the midst of his impending divorce.

I also absolutely love this line: But he knows the handwriting like he would know a tall silhouette at the end of a hallway or a melancholy melody on the baby grand under his friend’s agile fingers.

It's just so...eloquently written.

I like the fact that after Wilson receives the postcard, he finally allows himself to get drunk. I could be wrong on this but it seems to me that even in House's absence, Wilson is truly willing to do anything for House, and in his sobriety and celibacy, he felt he was, in a way, being there for him.

I've seen several fics that have House sending Wilson a postcard from wherever he is and am really liking this idea. Perhaps TPTB will take note? (Doubtful, but I can hope right?)

I'm glad Wilson finally got angry enough to physically show House how angry he was and that House is hugging him at the end of it all.
flywoman
Jun. 1st, 2011 10:55 pm (UTC)
Have I told you lately how much I love your comments? :D

The parallels with Wilson's behavior after Amber's death were definitely deliberate, including the allusion to his conversation with Cameron. (Can you tell that I've been rewatching the first part of S5 recently?)

I could be wrong on this but it seems to me that even in House's absence, Wilson is truly willing to do anything for House, and in his sobriety and celibacy, he felt he was, in a way, being there for him.

That's very interesting. I intended to show that Wilson wanted to be aware and alert as much as possible in case he found House and he needed help, thus no drinking despite his suggestion to House after Kutner's death. And the celibacy was meant to show how depressed he is. But I like your interpretation too!

I've seen several fics that have House sending Wilson a postcard from wherever he is and am really liking this idea. Perhaps TPTB will take note? (Doubtful, but I can hope right?)

I think they're blocking out the first part of S8 this week. Maybe someone should suggest it to them ;).

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
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