CHAPTER TWENTY: DETERIORATING
Heart monitor screeching. A weak, broken, male voice, “Where’s Wilson?”—and then the soothing murmur of a female voice; Wilson can’t make out the words. The rustle of sheets, and then the female voice again, louder, more forceful: “House, no! You can’t get up!”
Wilson sits up with a start, and sees Cuddy trying to keep House in bed. Wilson’s across the room in three steps, hands gripped on House’s upper arms, forcing him back against the pillows. “It’s okay; relax. I’m here.”
House looks at him angrily. “Where’s Wilson?” he challenges.
Wilson and Cuddy exchange worried glances. “I’m right here, House. Look at me; I’m right here.”
House stops struggling and looks at him. “Obviously. You made that clear when you assaulted me.” House looks pointedly at the hands still pinning his arms to the bed. “Now if you’ll let go of me, and tell me where Wilson is, I’m willing to forget about pressing charges.”
Wilson slowly releases House’s arms and sits on the side of the bed. “I’m Wilson,” he assures House in a slow, hushed voice. “I’m Wilson. Jimmy. Your friend. Okay?”
The struggle’s stolen the rest of House’s strength. Breathing rapidly, he gasps out, “No. Wilson left. He has… to come back now….” House pauses; his chest is heaving with the effort of speech.
“No, House, I didn’t leave; I won’t leave. I was just lying down. Over there; see?” He points to the cot. “Any time you wake up and don’t see me, you look over there; I’ll never go further than that cot without letting you know.” Wilson smiles reassuringly.
“Nice… of you to… stay here… but I’d be… grateful if you’d… find Wilson… instead.”
Wilson indicates to Cuddy to increase the flow of oxygen. When she mouths sedative? he shakes his head, then returns his gaze to House’s face.
“Listen to me, House. It’s okay. You’re a little foggy at the moment; your kidneys are trying to shut down on you. We’re taking care of it, but right now all those toxins are messing with your brain. You following me?”
House’s head moves feebly, up and down, against the pillows. He closes his eyes in resignation. “Will you at least… call Wilson… for me? If… I’m sick… he’ll wanna know… and he might come… always… used to come… when I needed him… before….”
Cuddy and Wilson exchange heartsick looks, and Wilson has to swallow hard several times before he can speak again.
“I want you to open your eyes, look at me. Can you do that for me? Need to talk to you.”
House opens his eyes slowly. “Gettin’ tired… wanna… see him ‘fore I… sleep. So talk… fast. Then find ‘im.”
This is the first time Wilson’s ever heard a hoarse whisper sound like an imperious command, and he smiles—House is still in there.
“You’re right. We had a few problems, you and I. We never stopped speaking, but we stopped… communicating. For a long time. But I never went away, House. And I never would. Should’ve told you that before. I wanted to; I tried to. You weren’t ready to listen. So listen to me now. I’m here. I’m staying. That’s a promise, my friend. Take it to the bank.”
House looks hard at him, and marshals all his strength. “Where. Is. Wilson.” Not a question—a demand.
Wilson’s shoulders slump; he’s out of words. So he simply looks at House. He’s so devastated that he forgets to shield the worry and concern in his eyes. He’s confused when House begins to smile.
The smile quickly becomes a grin, and then a wide smirk as House turns his head toward Cuddy. He’s notably calmer now, and his voice is stronger, although he still struggles for air between words. “Told you he’d come,” House says to her. “Told ya. There he… goes, melting his eyes, drippin’… compassion all over the place, making… a mess. Didn’t I tell you… he’d do that?”
Cuddy smiles. “You certainly did, House,” she confirms.
House turns back to Wilson. “Where you… been? Been sick; thought for sure… you’d be… hanging around, driving me… crazy.”
“That I have, House. Been here all along. Hiding in plain sight.”
But House doesn’t hear the last few words; he’s gone to sleep, the remnants of his grin still quirking the corner of his mouth. And this time, they know he’s just sleeping; as Wilson and Cuddy maneuver him onto his left side and prop his injured hand on a pillow, he grumbles at them. It’s difficult to make out the words, but they both catch “leave me the hell alone,” and then both of them are grinning too.
The smiles are fleeting; Cuddy has the latest labs, and she hands them to Wilson. “Didn’t need these to tell me his renal function’s deteriorated,” he says.
“I know. That was frightening; his mentation’s been affected. But Chase agrees with you about the vancomycin; we’re discontinuing it. Started him on linezolid; he had his first dose an hour ago. And his vanc level’s subtherapeutic now, so we should begin to see improvement in renal function in twenty-four, forty-eight hours.”
“Good. An hour ago? How long did I sleep?”
“Not long enough,” Cuddy says pointedly. “But almost three hours. Sorry about the… uh… wake-up call.”
“Three hours! Cuddy, I’ve got people to contact, research to do. House is running out of time; we don’t even know yet if there’ll be any response to the linezolid. Or whether we should be combining it with an aminoglycocide. There’s so much we don’t know,” Wilson looks over at House. “And time is our enemy, unless we can find a way to buy him more of it.”
“I’m not apologizing. You’ll be much more helpful to him—and to us—now that you’ve had some sleep. Oh, and I had them hold your dinner at the nurse’s station; I’ll get ‘em to warm it up and bring it in. And you’ll eat it.”
Wilson recognizes the no-nonsense, no-argument tone in Cuddy’s voice, and he’s oddly grateful for it. “Yes ma’am. Every bite.”
Cuddy smiles with satisfaction. “Now that’s what I like—well-behaved, obedient doctors who show the proper respect for authority,” she says, stripping off her isolation gown as she walks to the door. She stops and cocks her head at Wilson. “Know where I can find any?”
Wilson acknowledges the question with a quick smile, then gazes at House and grows serious. “Let’s pray you don’t have to go looking.”
On an impulse, Cuddy goes to Wilson and wraps him in a hug. Because she’s already removed her gown, she’s breaking isolation, and now she’ll have to shower. But he needs this hug—and so do I. “Amen to that!” she whispers in his ear.