lit_luminary: (In my image (sort of))
[personal profile] lit_luminary
Title: Matters of Control
Author: lit_luminary
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairings: House, Wilson; House/Wilson established; implications of House/Chase mentorship/friendship.
Summary: House and Wilson discuss the implications of Chase’s ability to ease pain. (An interlude set between the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of "Principles of Growth."  Newcomers to this universe, please see the series masterlist.)

Chase leaves when the story is over, all secrets laid open, without so much as a self-soothing hand on Kylie’s shoulder: well-balanced potential heresy charges or not, trusting House with all this…

We knew when he broke cover to get us pasted back together that his self-preservation was faulty, Minerva says. House nods, bends and stretches a still-painless leg: at three hours and twenty minutes, still nothing, but he knows it can’t be that much longer until damaged nerves start to scream again. He reaches into his pocket for the Vicodin and dry-swallows a pill.

“The pain’s back?” Wilson asks, moving back toward the couch with Rona on his heels (they’d gotten up for the polite thank-you-and-goodbye deal; Rona must have heard him pop open the bottle).

“Not yet,” House says. “But I’m due,”—or close enough—“and I want it kicked in before the magical painkiller clocks out.” It’ll take about half an hour for the Vicodin’s effect to peak, and he doesn’t know whether Chase’s particular brand of analgesic will wear off or just shut off, sending him from zero to six or seven on the pain scale in seconds.

Either way, better to have taken the meds.

Wilson purses his lips, looking like he wants to say something about not medicating until it hurts; but when he speaks, it isn’t about pain or Vicodin. “You didn’t suspect any of that?” he says, nodding toward the door.

“We knew he was some kind of heretic the day we hired him,” Minerva answers for them, “and that the obvious daddy issues were just the tip of his iceberg of complexes.”

“Mommy’s alcoholism was in her hospital records,” House says, “which, throwing in the divorce, made parentified child syndrome a given—”

“In the future,” Rona says, “you do not brazenly investigate other people’s family members. If you attract attention—”

“We know,” Minerva says, baring her teeth: they’ve heard the Keep your head down warning several times in the last week. “Save the buzzkill for when the pain comes back.”

Wilson doesn’t need to tell him he’s one member of the Magisterium from a death sentence—the inevitable recourse if anyone in power gets a reason to double-check and finds he’s inexplicably not lobotomized celery—and he knows that means having to watch himself.

He hates it, but he knows it. And he’ll do it, because doing anything else is throwing away not only his own life, but the lives of people he gives a damn about: intercision isn’t supposed to be reversible, and the Magisterium won’t kill him before they’ve extracted the why.

There are people retained from the Office of Inquisition whose specialty that is, and he has no illusions: give it a few days, enough flayed-open skin and shattered bones calculated for maximum pain; throw in detox and isolation from Minerva, and eventually he’d break and get Wilson and Chase destroyed, too.

It’s not going to happen, Minerva says. She makes a gentling sound, presses herself closer to his body, and he rests a hand on the curve of her back. If a certain amount of compliance is what it takes, it’s what it takes.

Just enough to stay under the radar. Just enough to stay whole.


“I’m fine,” he says, and sees Wilson exchange a glance with Rona that says they know he’s lying, but they’re not going to press. “I guessed the psychological issues, but not the witch thing.” He shakes his head as he goes back over little tells he hadn’t even known were tells: that uncannily good grasp of when the pain’s bad enough that House wants to be left alone; looks that scan around the edges of people’s bodies instead of settling on their faces. “Sometimes he’d tell me what imaging was going to show before we did the imaging. Always with some symptomatic rationale, but apparently…”

“He was working backwards,” Wilson surmises. “Seeing effects, diagnosing causes.”

“He didn’t do that unless the patient might’ve died before the tests came back,” House says, “but now that he’s out of the broom closet…”

“Cloud-pine branch closet,” Wilson corrects.

“Less catchy,” House says. Then, “Depending on how much control he’s got over the built-in imaging thing, that could cut down on testing.” Going on retrospection, what Chase has is a slightly more discerning full-body scan: sensitive enough to tell where there’s damage (an improvement on the technological version, which picks up every harmless doodad that looks like cancer and necessitates time-wasting biopsies), but not necessarily what type. “The patients whose diseases hide, who aren’t giving me symptoms fast enough—he points to the problem and we test the hell out of whatever system it is, instead of testing everything.”

He’s for that: he gets his puzzle either way, and the size of his department leaves him half the work of lab and imaging studies, which is not the fun part of the process. Cutting down on the amount of that required to get to an answer saves time, and when a patient’s in the kind of condition House sits up and notices, the situation is generally time-sensitive.


“We’re almost always eventually right,” Minerva says, heading off another variation of Be careful. “No one’s looking too hard at what we do to get there. If the tests are always the right tests, then we’re just that good.” She meets Rona’s gaze. “Nothing he does makes either of us conspicuous.”

Chase has the ultimate cover: no one looks because there can’t be anything to look for. Even after he’d magically thrown Rowan into a wall in a fit of rage—the Church had excused it. It’d had to be something his demonic mother had worked through him from beyond death, because there’s no such thing as a male witch.

Wilson is quiet for a moment. Then, “When you said you wouldn’t always let him help with the pain…”

“I’m not negotiating. With you or with him.” Normally, this kind of discussion would send right hand to right thigh, but for now (Three-and-a-half hours, Minerva notes), there’s no pain to draw more than a minimum of attention there, and he cards fingertips through Minerva’s fur instead. “I’ll concede rescue medication: he can be ‘instead of morphine.’ That’s as far as I’m going.”

“He’d do it more often if you let him,” Wilson says. “I know it’s not a solution. But your liver—”

“—is holding,” House says flatly.

“Against how much acetaminophen?” Wilson doesn’t pause for an answer: he knows he’s not getting one. “You gambled on the ketamine coma, but you won’t let him give you a few hours of risk-free pain relief every day?”

”If we could write our own scrips, we would,” Minerva says. “Your doing it isn’t our ideal, and it’s hardly yours, either.”

“How many fights have I had with you over the pills?” House says. “Over my control of my pain?”

“We’re not handing that over to him,” Minerva says. “And we’re not feeding his guilt complex.”

The second he makes Chase a staple of his pain management regimen, he becomes Andromeda all over again: another case of intractable pain that magic can’t fix, only physical instead of emotional; another parent—or parent-figure, in his case—whose eventual death Chase would take as a personal failure and torture himself over for years.

“It wouldn’t have to be all the time,” Wilson begins, but House snorts.

“Your need to keep me alive as long as possible is screwing with your judgment,” House says. “Either I draw a hard line here, or I’m allowing him to think he’s responsible whenever the damn leg makes me suffer. Just like he thinks he’s responsible for not being able to stop Mommy from drowning in a bottle of eighty-proof.”

“He could never have controlled that,” Rona says quietly.

“He can’t control this, either,” Minerva says. “If we let him try, it’s a repeat of his childhood trauma with us in place of Mommy, and we screw him up worse than he already is.”

“You’re seriously making the argument for his welfare over yours?” Wilson says, raising an eyebrow.

“No. This isn’t about his welfare over mine,” House says. “What he does can’t make enough of a difference to my welfare to matter. Three, maybe four pain-free hours is what, one less dose of Vicodin? Or am I supposed to pull his guilt and misguided affection like puppet strings to make him apply the hocus-pocus multiple times a day for the rest of my life?”

“He would,” Minerva says. She’d touched Kylie that morning, thanks for the risk Chase had taken on their behalf, and they’d felt his attachment in the contact. “But we won’t be someone who’d do that. For ourself as much as for him.” And even if we could and live with ourself, she adds, we have no clue what his limits are.

Any biological process burns energy, House agrees. That means limits on more than how long he can get it to stick. And fifteen years playing human say Chase doesn’t know those limits any more than House does. Meaning potential risk to his physical health, too, if we pushed and he stupidly went along with it.

Wilson releases a long breath, reaches down for Rona and lets fingertips curl into the thick fur at the base of her neck. “No. That’s not an answer, either.”

If what Chase does lasted longer, a week or a couple of weeks or a month at a time free of pain in return for a few minutes of effort, then magical pain management would be a viable option; for that, he’d wean himself off the Vicodin, let Chase play analgesic and live somewhat-less-miserably ever after. But nothing measurable in hours is going to change his overall prognosis.

“If by ‘answer’ you mean ‘miracle,’ then yeah, it’s not,” House says. “It’s been ten years. You’re an oncologist: wake up and accept lack of solutions.”

Twinge becomes ache becomes pain at four hours, return as rapid as relief, and Minerva gets off his lap just in time, right before her evenly distributed weight would’ve been more than the leg’s willing to take. “Four hours,” she says as she arranges herself against his good thigh. “Not bad.”

“Not enough,” Rona says, and House remembers the sharp shock of clarity, completeness, after what should’ve been death. Thinks of what Wilson had paid for that and doesn’t tell him again there is no ‘enough;’ that between quality and quantity of life, House is always going to choose the former.

Rona’s gaze meets Minerva’s, and Minerva climbs down from the couch to settle against her, curling into the curve of her flank, and House takes in regret and love and deeper weariness than Wilson will ever verbally admit: too many shocks, too little recovery time.

Too much awareness of House’s mortality and his own.

At least this way, Wilson can feel that he understands all that; it means they don’t have to have the conversation, and there’s a kind of comfort in their dæmons lying together. Wilson reaches across the space between them, takes his hand.

Here and now isn’t perfect, but he’ll take as much peace as it can give him.

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December 2016


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