And here's a new oneshot!
Title: Extra-Sensory Perception
Disclaimer: I don't own anything!
Notes: There is nothing in the fandom that is quite as wonderful and reassuring as a beta. I lucky enough to have three assisting me in this fic - ayden_brooks, enigma731, and 2546. You guys are truly wonderful.
Summary: "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart." (Helen Keller) After circumstances force Wilson to view his life differently, he, House, and Cuddy realize that the bond they share runs deeper than any of them thought.
He has become very good at playing blind: There are not tired smudges under his eyes or fine wrinkles at the corners of his lips. There are not divorce proceedings on his desk. House did not gulp down an extra Vicodin today. Wilson knows that these things will exist whether he sees them or not and yet there is something untouchably and perpetually exquisite about the dark, about shadows that spill onto the facts.
And he has grown fond of the dusk: For him, it is the easiest time of day – the only few minutes when he has something to look forward to. There is something comforting about time hovering undecidedly between light and dark, of the last beams of the sun’s bright rays receding to the horizon. As he watches undefined silhouettes chase away the final traces of day, Wilson feels a sort of insubstantial peace – it is not enough, but it is what he has.
Sometimes, though, he puts on his glasses. There are tumors and treatments that require an eye that notices details. These are things he can’t ignore even though he so wants to. There is a scar where too many volts of electricity kissed House’s palm, and he is clearly needed, but he has lost at his own game. The need is real and viruses splash through House’s veins and Wilson doesn’t know how to stop it - this terrible chain.
He so wishes he could not see it.
Then one morning, he wakes up to a fleeting flash of pain behind his own eyes and suddenly - the choice is no longer his to make.
What Wilson doesn’t hear is the quiet murmur of the engine of House’s car or the frustrated blend of sarcasm and worry in his voice or a comforting word that has slipped in accidentally: It has all been drowned out by the unnecessary blare of the ambulance he is riding and the pointless, reassuring things the EMS lady tells him. What he hears is the gurgling, outgoing ring of House’s cell, replaying over and over in his mind, because House did not pick up his phone – three times. What he hears is the number you have dialed is not available because House is on speed dial, but his fingers can’t seem to find where the nine and one buttons are.
What he hears is that his eyes are swollen and that Dr. Cameron will be seeing you in a minute. The cushions beneath him shift and make a sort of suffocating sound every time he moves, and he does not remember what color they are or what he wore to bed last night. He does not know what entrance he was brought in through, or what room he is in now. He does not know anything at all.
There is a quiet clink as the privacy curtain is opened and he feels gentle tapping on his shoulder. “Dr. Wilson?” Cameron begins, trying and failing to sound confident and unperturbed by Wilson’s presence. “What happened this morning?”
He recounts his story for her but it all comes down to this one sordid fact: “I can’t see.”
There is a small clicking sound, and he imagines that she is shining a light into his eyes, but he already knows that he is unresponsive. “Dr. Wilson, if you would prefer to be treated by a doctor you don’t know-” Cameron is all good intentions and gentleness and a carefulness not to tread to closely, but she is not what Wilson needs right now.
“I’m already here,” he replies. “Everyone will know by the end of the day. If you don’t know what this is, you might as well--”
“You’re presenting a classic case of Acute Angle Glaucoma,” Cameron interrupts briskly: She is so smart, Wilson thinks, but so not there yet. She is too easily touched, but isn’t this the problem everybody has? “I’m going to call in an ophthalmologist to confirm. If you have any other symptoms or if you would prefer to get House’s opinion, I can get him right now.” Cameron is clinical and impersonal; if he could see her, he could convince himself that she too is a lie – he is so sure, but completely dependent on old impressions now, and he begins to think that he might never truly meet someone ever again.
It is not the worst thing in the world.
“Go ahead,” he tells Cameron. “But if you’re right, move quickly. The intraocular pressure--”
But the curtain swishes shut: He did not see her leave.
“It’s too bad you’re already blind,” House says as soon as he enters the room. “Because Cuddy showed up for work completely naked today.” Wilson waits for the sound of the door closing, but it doesn’t come and he imagines Cameron hovering there, worrying, because she can’t stop herself.
“How are you doing, Wilson?” Cuddy asks; her voice is closer to Wilson than House’s is. And it is confirmed: There is a caring hand on his shoulder, cool fingernails at the base of his neck. This is a new sensation, and Wilson can feel it all over his body.
“He’s disappointed,” House answers her. “Duh.”
“Oh, shut up, House. Cameron, could you order a tonometry please?”
“That’s not going to confirm anything,” House cuts in. “Get a gonioscopy. Also, test to see if Wilson is actually an old Eskimo woman.”
“That’s just the usual demographic, it can still occur in--”
“Cameron, just do it,” Cuddy orders.
She’s the only one who has indicated any level of concern, and Wilson takes what he can get.
What he hears is Chase genially asking if he’s ever been on this side of a surgery and the dull clatter of tools against a sterile tray. What he hears is that a laser iridotomy is the best way to treat acute angle glaucoma, and his own voice asking if it’s nice to not be working for House anymore. What he hears is he, Wilson, asking if Chase thinks the hospital will truly implode if the rumors are true and House and Cuddy are sleeping together.
What he hears is Chase’s reply fading into a quiet white noise, a buzzing black hole that has eaten all the sounds in the room. What he hears is total silence, and he lets another sense fall away.
There was a risk, of course.
This is how Chase described it: A retinal perforation. It means that his retina has torn, and he has been told to expect blurred vision, swelling, headaches, pain… and blindness. And as the symptoms are read off to him, with robotic sympathy, Wilson wonders what will happen if he waits to get the corrective surgery – if he spends a little more time in the dark.
He does not have a choice about this either. There’s this university in Texas that is testing out a new way to perform a cyrothermy: There are smarter, more accurate lasers, fresh blood. The waiting list is a year; Cuddy pulls some strings and Wilson will be flying down in a week and a half. He will live on borrowed time and that night, as House fumbles with the roll-out couch, Wilson could swear that he hears a ticking clock.
At around midnight, it is replaced by Wilson’s internal alarm: There is a quiet, metallic disturbance at the door. The lock is opened and Wilson, frozen on the sofa, listens as someone quietly pads across House’s apartment and steps into his bedroom.
“He’s sleeping, right?” Wilson is instantly at ease; it is only Cuddy.
“Probably, don’t worry about it.” House’s voice is low and husky and secretive – clearly meant only for Cuddy. Wilson knows that he is silently intruding and it feels perverted, but in the right way: A thirteen year-old concentrating on the outline of a girl’s bra; staring at the freckles that trail up her skirt… But Wilson is a grown-up now, and it’s different. Lonelier.
“I hope you’re ri--” Cuddy begins, but the rest of the word is swallowed up by a low moan and the clipped sound the door makes as it shuts.
Yesterday when he woke up, he felt only a strike of pain. Today, it is something warm at his feet. Reflexively, Wilson opens his eyes but he is reminded of his sickness and for the first time, feels a twinge of resentment. He has gotten what he wanted, but the problems themselves are still there, prickling at his other senses. He has just given up his most valuable one.
“Hello?” he asks, wiggling his toes inside his socks and sitting up.
“Wilson!” Cuddy exclaims. “I didn’t realize you were awake,” she says in a sniffling, lower voice.
He is pleased to learn that some of his powers of observation haven’t faded. “What’d he do?” His voice is kind and sympathetic; Wilson is good at this – shifting the blame early on, making the interrogated feel comfortable. He’s not so much a natural conversationalist as a natural detective.
“Oh, G/d. He’s told you, hasn’t he? You’ve known all along.” She pauses, and Wilson lets her believe that this is the truth: He really does know this much about House, he really is this welcome in his friend’s life.
“It’s just,” Cuddy says in a defeated voice. “…It’s just not how I thought it’d be. Stupid, right? He’ll never be nice. Or at least nicer than he is right now.”
“Does it matter?” Wilson asks before he can stop the words from leaving his mouth. But it’s the truth: They do not like House because there is an underlying suspicion that he has a heart of gold. There is something dark about him, something wholly fascinating and chilling and unabashedly real. And it’s attractive to people like him and Cuddy, people who push those feelings down.
“No,” she responds in a wry voice. “It really doesn’t. In fact, I like the nastiness. I like that he’s right about everything. Because – I don’t know, I get where it’s coming from. But sometimes, being with him, it’s like I don’t even need a personality or thoughts or emotions because-”
“Because House can verbalize it all for you, and he can do it better,” Wilson finishes quietly. “And you can never really ignore it. Or move on.”
“Yes,” Cuddy agrees, her voice holding a relieved tone. There is a quiet slapping sound, and he imagines her hands cradling her face. Wilson pushes his blanket aside and moves towards her, his arms flailing a little bit but finally, he finds her shoulder and gives it a comforting squeeze. Cuddy sighs, and Wilson feels the rise and sink of it in his palm, in the nerves of his fingers.
Cuddy leans her face into his for a brief second, kisses his cheek in gratitude, and gets up to leave. “House has a case, so who knows when he’ll be back, but call if you need anything,” she says, her voice indicating that she is far away from him. “And… thanks for the talk.”
As he listens to her footsteps growing quieter and quieter, Wilson does not think about the fact that he has no way of calling her if he does need something, or the fact that he will probably have extreme difficulty in preparing breakfast for himself, or the fact that he will probably wind up spending the rest of the day on this couch. All he can think about is the salty taste of Cuddy’s tears at the corner of his lip, and this consumes everything else.
It’s nice, he thinks, to have a sympathetic ear.
Wilson thinks of the impulsive idea one week later, when he grabs what feels like a bottle of water, but tastes like beer. House is not home, not yet, but Wilson can wait: He has played this game before. He makes his way to the kitchen table, and it is not terribly difficult anymore: Wilson is good at guessing now, good at judging what he cannot see but what he knows, and he is good at estimating himself: His volume, his spatial worth.
(He hopes, because what if he’s wrong?)
But this discussion has been a long time coming, he reminds himself. It’s a sick cycle he and House and Cuddy are in: Hurting, giving, feeding into each others’ abnormalities… It’s not healthy, and it has to be broken. And House is the only one with that power.
There is a quiet noise at the door now, and “Honey, I’m home!” House sometimes sounds as though he has three footsteps: Left, right, and cane. Wilson has heard that sound for so many years that he is unable to tell them apart, and it’s normal but he can’t help but dissect it in his mind. Everything relates to the triumvirate now, and he would not be completely shocked if he learned the universe really does revolve around them.
“Pregnant teenager,” House says, smelling oddly greasy. “25 weeks. She has flu-like symptoms, she’s hypertensive, and has a history of dyspnea. She has a pulmonary edema and sinus tachycardia with bilateral enlargement. The E.R. diagnosed her with preeclampsia.”
“And?” Wilson asks, knowing that he has to play House’s game first before House will join in his.
“And Cameron ordered a TTE, which revealed severe stenosis. That’s when she was sent up to us. This all happened this morning; I still have no clue what’s wrong with her. Here, I brought pizza.”
That explains the greasy smell. There is a quiet, awkward pause when House opens the lid and Wilson tries to grab a slice, but ends up pressing his palm into the pie. “Damn it,” he murmurs, gripping the crust now. “Got it,” he says, unnecessarily, in a louder voice.
“I see,” House mutters, and there is a sudden prickling on the back of his neck and his forearms. Wilson is suddenly terribly aware that House is watching, studying, and color flushes his cheeks.
“House,” Wilson says quietly, his confidence quickly fading. “You should be treating her better.”
Cuddy is the best place to start, Wilson thinks, because it’s clear to him that House seems to truly care about her. She is the one that can inspire House to be a little better, even if she can’t verbally convince him to do so. She is the one who House may be willing to change for: She is the one who has something new and undiscovered; she still has secrets. Her and House’s relationship – whatever it is – is a foreign thing in House’s universe. She is fascinating, but she is also something else – something a little bit more special.
“I know,” House admits quietly, and Wilson nearly falls out of his chair. “That’s why I have you,” he adds.
House’s patient goes into labor at two in the morning and Cuddy, who had arrived at eleven, sits silently with Wilson on the couch for a long time without saying anything. House has told her, too.
“He really does care about you,” Wilson tells her. “That’s why--”
“Shut up.” She sighs. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that.”
Wilson’s curiosity gets the better of him because, honestly, what knowledge won’t he indulge himself in now? “What – what did he say to you?”
There is a soft thunk! as Cuddy leans into the cushions, and she makes some sort of half-sobbing, half-choking sound. “He said that… that he wants me, but that I could do better and I told him that – G/d, what was I thinkingdo want him, but I want something more too.”
“He’s not enough,” Wilson says so quietly he wonders if the words have actually left his mouth. “And we aren’t either.”
“I know!” Cuddy laughs wryly, almost drunkenly. “We’d be perfect for each other, except there’ll always be something missing.”
But then she stops laughing, because they both know who the missing link is.
This is the part when they stupidly kiss, Wilson thinks, if it weren’t for the vast futility of it all. House isn’t the one with the power; the one who can walk away is the one with the power. And yet – none of them can walk away because this feeling that they share – this huge, indefinable feeling – is hungry and gnawing at every other emotion they have, but it is better than nothing. He, House, and Cuddy are all smart. They have good careers and good backgrounds, but this is not enough.
To function, they rely on each other: Need and give and help. They are coworkers, but more; friends, but more; lovers, but one less…
And they only make sense as three, Wilson thinks, as he hears the door open.
House sits across from them, and Wilson is attracted to the scent of alcohol on his breath even though he knows that House drove himself home. “The patient has Shone’s complex,” he says. “Taub missed the coarctation of the aorta on the TTE. What an idiot.”
“And the baby?” Cuddy asks, a hint of anxiety laced into her voice.
“Won’t be born for a while. But when he is, his name will be Gregory.”
“Have you been drinking and driving?” Wilson asks: Seeing was a symptom, he has come to realize, not the real problem. Nothing is masked anymore.
“No,” House lies, but Wilson can tell that House wants to distract them. “Are you going to bed?” he asks, but it is unclear who he is talking to, and that changes everything.
Why don’t we try something new, Cuddy is saying, and then there is the burn of stubble on Wilson’s face, and teeth grinding lightly against his, lightly snipping at his lips and tongue, but soon replaced House’s
own tongue, wet and smooth. He cannot think or see or even believe and maybe this is better; he can only feel, and this is where his rawest emotions are.
Wilson doesn’t quite remember entering House’s bedroom, but that’s ok: His finger fits perfectly in the camber between Cuddy’s breast and padded rib and when his fingers trail down the slow curve of her shoulder, past fistfuls of hair, and his palm is pressing against her back, he accidently brushes past House’s hand. They are indistinguishable now: He cannot quite tell where he ends and someone else begins. It’s right, somehow – they are an unending tangle of thoughts and wants and now, limbs: It is physical, and that makes it oddly official.
They are more than sex, more than love, more than this, and it’s finally being acknowledged.
But his flight is in the morning, and when they both take him to the airport, and he is acutely aware that something is ending. It is difficult to hear each other over the buzz of travelers, but they are always able to manage.
“I’ll see you when I get back,” Wilson says after it is announced that his flight is boarding. “Hopefully.”
Cuddy laughs and kisses his cheek; Wilson imagines House rolling his eyes. “It’ll go fine,” Cuddy reassures him. “This guy’s the best.”
“Tell the Dallas cheerleaders I say hi,” House tells him. “They’ll remember me.”
“Right,” Wilson says and because he is blind, when he walks away, he is unaware that House and Cuddy are following him still.