Title: Pencils are Dangerous
Follow-up to DIYSheep's Creepy Pencil Thing, which is itself a follow-up to Priority 's Exegencies, which is a follow-up to DIYSheep's The Contract. I'd suggest reading the rest of The Contractverse first, if you haven't.
But if you don't want to, or read them a while ago and forget, here's the cliff's notes: House tortured by evilr elative of dead patient. (Thompson.) Evil relative of dead patient then murders Cameron and has House jailed for it. House tortured in jail. ERODP is killed and what he did comes out. House let out of jail, cared for by Wilson and a bodyguard/nurse named Clarence.
In the "Creepy Pencil Thing," which is a Contractverse AU, in addition to the regular torture, House had his eyes and ears put out with a pencil
So this is what happens after blind-and-deaf House gets out of jail. It picks up right where Creepy Pencil Thing leaves off.
House’s first session with the lady therapist was not a success.
After waking him up and making introductions—by putting the therapist’s hand in House’s--Wilson and Clarence had retreated to the kitchen to give her and House some privacy. As it turned out, they needn’t have bothered. No more than thirty seconds after they left, House had burst out of the wading pool—scattering pillows and blankets everywhere—and scuttled into his bedroom.
Wilson went back into the living room. “What happened?”
“I don’t know,” she said, clearly shaken. “I was going to put his fingertips on my lips, so he could feel me talking—but as soon as I touched his hand he took off.”
Wilson rubbed the back of his neck. “Oh.”
“Do you want to bring him back out? Or should I go in after him?”
“I don’t know.” House’s life was pretty much his room and his wading pool, Wilson and Clarence. He’d taken to Clarence instantly; that didn’t give Wilson any clues on how to convince him to trust another new person. “Let’s wait and see what happens. He might get curious and come back out.” Even as he said it, Wilson knew it wasn't going to happen. The old House was driven by curiosity, but that was then.
They wound up spending the rest of the session discussing possible ways to communicate with House—while the patient himself hid in his bedroom. It wasn’t, Wilson consoled himself, a total waste—Elizabeth had some good ideas. They agreed that Wilson would try some of them out—maybe next week, House would actually know who Elizabeth was and why she was there.
Of course, that might not help. In the old days House would have run screaming from the room—or at least limped from the room while making sarcastic remarks—before he talked to a psychiatrist.
Once the hour was up, Wilson went back into House’s room. House had the master bedroom—herding him into the attached bathroom was slightly easier than trying to wrestle him across the hallway, where he was likely to break to one side and get stuck in the linen closet, trying to cram himself into the hamper under the bottom shelf. Getting House showered, shaved, and dressed in the morning was difficult enough without having to pry him out of a closet.
House’s room had a queen-size water bed, but he rarely used it. Even if Wilson tucked him in and stayed with him until he fell asleep, he’d return in the morning to find House curled up in the corner, with his knees drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped around his head. Eventually, Wilson had set up an air mattress and a nest of blankets in House’s favorite corner. That was where House was now, curled up in his nest, his face to the wall.
Wilson stepped heavily as he entered the room, hoping the vibration of the floor would give House some hint he was coming. If he did, he didn’t respond, except maybe to curl up tighter. Wilson knelt next to the air mattress and put his hand on House’s shoulder.
House spasmed, as if he’d been electrocuted. Wilson waited. This happened often enough that he knew that was all he could do. After a moment House sighed, uncurling a little, and ran his hand—twisted and gnarled like a handful of carrots grown in rocky soil—up Wilson’s arm. His fingers tangled in the cuff of Wilson’s sleeve.
“Can you sit up?” Wilson asked, even though he knew House couldn’t hear him. He slipped his hands under House’s shoulders to help him sit up and lean against the wall. Wilson sat next to him and pulled the things he’d brought in with him—a baking sheet and a bag of magnetic letters—onto his lap. He spelled out his first message to House—the first thing he’d said to him, that he might be able to understand, in five years.
HI HOUSE ITS WILSON was the best he could come up with. Message written, he positioned House’s fingers at the beginning of the message.
For a few seconds, House’s hand just laid there, limply. Then he seemed to catch on, and traced each letter carefully. When he got to the end he swept his hand across the blank expanse of baking sheet, as if to say, is that all?
Then, with shaking hands, he carefully removed the letters that made up ITS and HOUSE, and pushed HI and WILSON together.
Okay, so it wasn’t exactly an earth-shattering message, but at least House understood how the system worked. Emboldened, Wilson spelled out another message. YOURE SAFE NOW PROMISE.
House read the message over several times, then started feeling his way through the pile of leftover letters. Slowly, he spelled out his response: WHY.
Wilson had to think about that. There were a lot of reasons. Some of them would take more magnetic letters than Elizabeth had brought over—only one set, with extras of some of the most popular letters. Finally he wrote, THOMPSONS DEAD.
House slowly ran his fingers over the letters, then spelled out R U SURE.
Wilson answered YES. House “read” that with his fingers, but made no move to answer. Wilson cleared away the old messages and added, CONVICTION OVERTURNED.
House swallowed hard. U KNOW WHAT HE DID.
Slowly, House sank back into his fetal posture. There was a lot left to say, but House clearly didn’t want to “talk” anymore. When Wilson tried to take his hand, House shook him off and tucked his hands up against his chest.
He didn’t know what to think. He couldn’t wrap his head around the idea that it really might all be over. Probably, it wasn’t. By the time he’d left Solitary, he had pretty much stopped caring what happened to him. Pain hurt—one thing he knew about pain was that it never stopped hurting—but all he was, by then, was a machine for producing pain. You can’t humiliate or terrify a machine.
But after this—giving him a chance to recover, making him think it was all over—they’d be able to hurt him again.
The hitch was that it was Wilson. Wilson wouldn’t help anyone hurt him. But maybe Thompson had something on him, like he’d had on House. Maybe there was a list of girlfriends and ex-wives and pretty nurses and cancer kiddies who’d die, one by one, if Wilson didn’t help Thompson.
If only he could see Wilson, or hear him, Wilson wouldn’t be able to keep any secrets from him. But even Wilson could lie with magnetic plastic letters.
Or maybe Wilson didn’t know. Maybe Thompson had faked his death, had cooked up something that would convince Wilson that House was a free man. Maybe, when Thompson’s goons turned up, with badges and an arrest warrant, he’d be taken completely by surprise.
Wilson would be, that is. House wouldn’t.
The next morning, Clarence arrived as Wilson was getting dressed to go to work. He felt a little guilty over it, but after the first couple of weeks, he’d realized that he just couldn’t handle staying home full-time with only House, in this condition, for company. Not only was he blind and deaf, but he slept upwards of twenty hours out of twenty-four. He was still recovering—slowly—from pneumonia, intestinal parasites, and multiple fractures and soft-tissue injuries, in various stages of healing, which would naturally take a lot out of him.
So Wilson worked a little over half-time, six hours a day, four days a week, and Clarence stayed with him on those days. Shortly after Wilson left, he’d get House up and give him breakfast, then get him showered, shaved, and dressed. The exertion would wear House out enough to sleep until lunchtime. After lunch, Clarence would help him with his PT or load him up into a wheelchair and take him for a walk outside, and then he’d nap again until dinner. Wilson told himself that House didn’t mind—if he ever recovered enough to care, he’d probably be glad Wilson wasn’t the one bathing him and wiping his ass.
Clarence let himself in—he had a key—and called out, “How is he today, Doctor W.?”
“He had a pretty good night,” Wilson answered, coming out of his room. A “pretty good night” meant no screaming. “I tried the thing with the magnetic letters.”
“Yeah?” Clarence asked, his expression carefully guarded.
Clarence’s face broke into a wide smile. “Damn!”
“We didn’t talk long. It seemed to take a lot out of him.” Wilson opened House’s bedroom door and looked in on him. He was asleep on the air mattress, curled up tightly. Wilson adjusted his pillows, tucking them around him so he’d feel secure.
He was about to leave when he noticed the baking sheet. House had left a new message: BUY MORE LETTERS.
Wilson smiled slightly. House must have woken up during the night and decided to leave a message for him. That it was a demand, was just so…House.
As he got down on the floor, he realized that House had also arranged the remaining letters in alphabetical order. That made sense—he’d be able to find the ones he needed more easily if they were arranged logically, rather than just piled in a bag. Wilson spelled out a response: ILL GET SOME TODAY. BACK BY DINNER. W.
“Make sure he gets a chance to read this, when he wakes up,” he told Clarence, who was hovering in the doorway. “I’ll leave you guys to it, then.”
“I’ll take good care of him,” Clarence said, as he did nearly every morning.
Wilson went to work.
He woke up with someone rubbing his back. It wasn’t Wilson, it was the other one. Probably a nurse or home health attendant. Someone Wilson had hired to take care of him. Once he was awake, the hands went from rubbing his back to lifting him out of his nest and onto his feet, more or less, and guiding him to the bathroom. The Other One was really almost carrying him. His feet were too mangled to walk on, and his hands too damaged to hold a cane. But he was vertical, which was something of an improvement over being dragged along like a corpse.
The Other One sat him on the toilet and helped him get his pants down. He’d been to the toilet on his own two or three times since he’d been here—even after he’d figured out where it was, in relation to his bed, getting there was an almost impossible feat. The first time he’d gone by himself, he’d had to curl up on the bathroom floor and wait for Wilson to put him back to bed.
Once he’d had a piss, it was back to bed, where the Other One helped him sit up against the wall and left him there. It would be a few minutes, House knew, until he came back with food.
House didn’t know how long he’d been here—he slept all the time, and he’d lost track of how many times he’d been fed. More than a week, but less than a year, was as much as he knew. “Here” was probably an apartment—there was carpet, and the walls were drywall, not cinderblocks. Between here and Solitary, there had been another place. There, he’d been flat on his back in soft restraints. They’d left him alone, except to cath him and put needles in his arm. He didn’t know how long he’d been there, either.
The Other One came back in, lightly touching his shoulder to let him know he was there, then put a tray across House’s lap. House felt what was there—a cup of something, a plate with a large waffle on it, and a small bowl of—he felt them carefully—grapes. He hated grapes—they always squirted out of his fingers and bounced across the bed.
He started with the drink. It was in a big plastic cup with a handle. It would only be half-full, he knew, so it would be difficult for him to spill when his hands shook. He drank. Orange juice. He never got coffee. Maybe Wilson thought he’d burn himself.
Waffle next. He picked it up in both hands and took a bite. He couldn’t manage silverware. Wilson and the other one usually gave him things he could eat with his hands. It was a good waffle. Buttery and crunchy. It wasn’t an Eggo. Wilson probably made them and froze them. No syrup, which would have made a terrible mess, but there was powdered sugar on it. He ate about half of it, and a couple of the grapes before he gave up, worn out and frustrated, and let the Other One feed him the rest.
It wasn’t until after bathtime that he remembered the message he’d left for Wilson. Once he was back in bed, he felt around for the baking sheet. After a moment, the Other One pressed it into his hands.
He was exhausted, but he wanted to know what Wilson said. He traced the letters carefully. It was slow going, and he often lost his place when he had a spasm in his hands or arms. But eventually he made out the message. Good to know Jimmy would still do anything House asked. BACK BY DINNER. If this was breakfast—and the waffle was a pretty good clue that it was—dinner was two meals, a PT session, and two naps away. Far longer than it would take to buy plastic letters. Wilson must be at work. He felt a little proud of himself for figuring that out. It was something that was happening in the outside world, and he knew about it.
After work, Wilson stopped by a discount department store and bought every set of magnetic letters they had, plus a few sets of numbers and punctuation and two more baking sheets. Maybe once House woke up, they could have a good long talk.
When he got home, Clarence was straightening up the kitchen. Wilson had told him several times that he didn’t have to do that—when House was asleep, he was free to read, watch TV, or whatever—but he said he didn’t like sitting down on the job. “How is he?” Wilson asked.
“He’s doing fine. He ate most of his waffle and a grilled cheese sandwich, and then we had a nice walk.”
“Did he talk to you?”
“No, but he read your message.”
“Great.” Maybe House didn’t feel up to conversation, or maybe he just didn’t want to talk to a stranger. “How long has he been down?”
“Since about two. He had lunch and meds at twelve thirty.”
It was about four—he’d let House sleep another few hours, then wake him up for his dinner and meds. “Okay. Thanks for taking care of him.”
“That’s what you pay me the big bucks for,” Clarence said cheerfully. “See you tomorrow.”
After he left, Wilson thought about starting dinner—he could make something that would take a few hours, like a roast chicken or some kind of stew—but decided to wait. When House woke up, he could tell Wilson what he felt like eating. He was probably tired of having all his choices made for him.
There were a lot of more important choices to be made—there were several surgeries he needed, when he was strong enough for anesthesia, and House would probably have a definite opinion on what he wanted done first. And both the state of New Jersey and Thompson’s estate had offered him hefty settlements, which Wilson had put off accepting or declining so far. He had both medical and legal powers of attorney, but he had avoided making any nonessential decisions, in the hopes that House would be able to express his wishes soon. But they’d start with what House wanted for dinner, and work their way up.
As it turned out, House didn’t get to sleep for as long as Wilson had hoped. He’d only been home for about an hour when he heard rough panting, and then a strangled scream, from the master bedroom.
Wilson hurried in. “It’s okay, House,” he said, even though he knew perfectly well House couldn’t hear him. “It’s me, you’re fine.” He sat down on the air mattress with House and rubbed his back.
After a moment, House quieted. He rolled onto his back, letting Wilson wipe his nose and mop the tears off his face. He sat up, with Wilson’s help, and held out his hands. Guessing what he wanted, Wilson put the baking sheet with the magnetic letters on his lap. He got the new, extra letters and put them within House’s reach.
House spelled out TYMPANOPLASTY?
Tympanoplasty was the surgical procedure used to repair perforated eardrums. On the list of surgeries House needed, it was the one Wilson was most anxious to try. Now that he thought about it, he wasn’t surprised House was more anxious to talk about that than about what he wanted to eat. He spelled out YES--RIGHT EAR NEED OSSICULAR RECONSTRUCTION. House had spent a week in the ICU following his release from prison, and Wilson had had him examined by what seemed like every specialist in the hospital. They’d determined that his hearing loss was caused by ruptured eardrums—probably from having an object forced into his ear canals. Ruptured eardrums usually healed on their own, but House’s captors had apparently kept poking at them to make sure they didn’t heal. In the process, the ossicles, or small bones of the inner ear, had been irreparably damaged. However, plastic prostheses could be implanted to replace the bones—the only problem was that it was major surgery, lasting several hours and requiring weeks of healing time. House was too sick right now for anything but emergency surgery. As House read the message, Wilson added, WHEN YOURE STRONG ENOUGH.
House’s answer came quickly. LEFT EAR?
That was trickier. Wilson had almost hoped he wouldn’t ask. INFECTION NERVE DAMAGE, he spelled. IRREPARABLE.
House read that and nodded, as if he’d expected that. Well, he probably knew the ear had been infected—it would have hurt a great deal. EYES? he asked next.
That question was even worse. House wasn’t just blind—his eyes had been put out completely, and the sockets, too, had been badly infected. PROBABLY NOTHING WE CAN DO, Wilson answered. WHOLE EYE TRANSPLANT AT LEAST 10 OR 15 YRS AWAY. YOU MIGHT BE A CANDIDATE. A lot of ophthalmologists felt that whole-eye transplant would never be possible—connecting up the optic nerve to a donor eye was orders of magnitude more complicated than simply transplanting a cornea or a retina into an otherwise healthy eye. But Wilson had been in touch with a team in Europe that was working on whole-eye transplants--they had one rat that they were fairly sure could distinguish light and dark with a donor eye. 10 or 15 years was their most optimistic estimate of when they might be ready to try something with a human subject, and that was only if they skipped over the lower primates and went right from small mammals to humans. PPTH’s best ophthalmologist had been unable to venture a guess as to whether House’s optic nerves were in good enough shape to meet the European team’s criteria, when they developed them.
It took House a long time to read that. OK, he spelled, when he finished. HOW LONG FOR EAR SURGERY?
Wilson answered, YOU NEED TO CLEAR UP PNEUMONIA AND ALL ACTIVE INFECTIONS AND GAIN 15 POUNDS. AT LEAST A MONTH. He added, YOU NEED ORTHOPEDIC SURGERY ON FEET AND HANDS. EAR FIRST?
OK, Wilson wrote back.
House slumped, apparently exhausted by the brief conversation.
Wilson added one more question. DINNER?
House read it, but just nodded instead of using the letters.
WANT ANYTHING SPECIAL?He shook his head feebly. Wilson squeezed his hand, then went to fix dinner.