CHAPTER THREE: Testing the Walls
Cuddy has been trying with little success to get House settled for the night. So for now, she’s involved in organizing a corner of his room with the things Wilson may need for the next several days. She sets out the usual equipment, but decides to leave the IV fluids, injectables, and other equipment in the cardboard box—they won’t be needed, she hopes, so there’s no sense potentially upsetting House by allowing him to see them.
Once she gets everything set up, she turns back to House, who’s apparently involved in destroying alien creatures of some sort on his GameBoy. He looks tense, and she can tell he’s not really concentrating on the game. When he feels her gaze on him, he shuts off the toy and looks at her.
“Will you go check on Wilson? Make sure he’s sleeping okay?” House asks her.
“Sure. I need to warm up your dinner anyway. Do you need anything else? I can bring you something to drink first, or—”
“Not thirsty, thanks anyway. Not hungry either. Or no. Maybe a little coffee, but it can wait. Could you just go check on him?”
“It’s late for coffee. Decaf?”
“No point to decaf. Why bother to drink the stuff without the addictive chemicals? It’s not that good.”
Cuddy knows from long experience that arguing with House is profitable only if one enjoys exercises in futility. Since she doesn’t, she ignores his refusal of nutrition and his insistence on a stimulant at this late hour and leaves the room. On her way to the kitchen, she sees that Wilson is sleeping soundly, just as she’d expect of an exhausted man who has a large dose of a strong sedative in his system. Just as House would expect if he could see past his own worry for his friend. But she knows he can’t, so she returns to the door of his bedroom to reassure him.
“Sleeping like a baby; looks peaceful. He’s fine, should be out a good ten hours, I’d imagine.” This news gives House some measure of calm; she sees a bit of the unformed anxiety leave his eyes. “I’ll be back in five.” She doesn’t bother to tell him that when she returns, she’ll be carrying his supper tray, and that he will eat.
When Cuddy returns in a few minutes with the tray of food, she isn’t surprised to see House lying quietly, eyes closed. He needs all the sleep he can get, so she turns silently to leave and is startled when he says, “I told you I wasn’t hungry.”
“I thought you were sleeping.”
“Not sleepy either.”
Cuddy enters the room, mentally repeating “pediatric patient” to herself like a mantra. She realizes that she’ll get nowhere very quickly with House if she treats him as she’d treat the normal adult patient. While House-as-recalcitrant-child can be amusing, she’s aware also that it’s not an unheard-of profile for adult sufferers of chronic pain. While many caregivers quickly become impatient, even annoyed, with an adult who’s acting the way House is, Cuddy has studied the phenomenon, and so understands House’s behavior.
House’s reversion to both childish and childlike behavior is a manifestation of fear and anger. The necessary loss of control caused by his current condition is something he can’t acknowledge or accept, so he attempts to wrest control back from the very people who can’t allow that to happen. When he’s acting childlike, the charm and the humor are appealing. But the other side of that coin is the stubborn childish behavior he’s exhibiting now. It can be sad to watch, difficult to deal with.
Cuddy’s learned that the most effective way to handle House when he’s in this frame of mind is to treat him as a precocious child who’s in a sulk. “Are you nauseated? I’ll bring you a Compazine, but you’ve got to eat. You know you won’t regain your strength by refusing food, House. And you should be touched; I made this for you myself.”
“Yeah, well, my food taster’s on vacation, and since you’re the chef, it’d be smarter to wait ‘til he gets back. Thanks anyway.”
“Nice. Look, just try it; I promise, if you turn blue and start gasping you won’t have to eat anymore.” She sets the tray across his lap and sits beside the bed. “I’m sitting right here until you tell me how you like it. And I really need to go check on Wilson; he seemed a little restless just now.”
House looks immediately towards the living room. “I knew we should’ve gone with the 3mg; go see if he’s okay.”
“You eat a few bites first; then I’ll go check and come back with a full report.” She knows that using Wilson is sneaky—but if it gets House to eat she’s willing to take a page from House’s own rule-breaking book—the ends always justify the means. She’s certain the soundly sleeping Wilson would approve the tactic.
House rushes through three small bites of the homemade soup and sets down the spoon. “Delicious. Go.”
Cuddy is ready to give him a hard time about his half-hearted attempt at eating when she realizes that House feels responsible for Wilson’s state of exhaustion; he’s feeling guilty and worried, and those are two of the many emotions with which he’s uncomfortable. So she simply says, “Keep eating; I’m going,” and stands to leave.
House hasn’t picked up the spoon yet. When he becomes aware that Cuddy is still standing there watching him, looking a little sad, he retrieves the spoon and starts stirring the soup, finally taking a small mouthful. Cuddy sighs and exits the room.
When Cuddy returns to House’s room, she sees that he’s set the tray on the other side of the bed, and that both the soup and the cup of coffee he’d specifically requested appear scarcely touched. House is sitting completely upright in the bed, wearing an anxious look.
“Well?” he says.
“He’s out of it again. Nothing to worry about. I’m more concerned that you’re not eating or drinking.” Cuddy eyes the tray.
“I’ll work on it tomorrow. Just… tired.”
Cuddy approaches the bed. “Okay, but I’m holding you to it. Tomorrow you start gaining some weight back. For right now, I’ll get an assessment, set of vitals, too. Then I want you to get some sleep.” She’s busy gathering the necessary tools, but glances up and doesn’t miss the odd look in House’s eyes at mention of the word “sleep.”
Cuddy takes the B/P twice and confirms her first set of numbers. Hmm. Everything else looks okay, though, and House is almost cooperative. Something seems to have changed for House over the last 72 hours, something good, maybe.
He seems… she searches for the word. More open? A little more accepting? Could be just the normal vulnerability of serious illness; don’t know if it’s really an elemental change or not. Won’t know until he starts to recover, but I’m gonna take advantage of it. Wilson said he thinks House may not be so resistant to our concern now; he may be right. House is clearly anxious about something. If he were anyone else I’d just hug him, hold him. But I don’t want to push it, maybe undo whatever good’s happening with him….
Cuddy casually reaches over the bed, makes a show of rearranging the pillows at House’s back. Then she sits at the bedside and puts her hand around his wrist as if to monitor his pulse, and idly asks him a question about Steve McQueen. She watches as the anxiety leaves his eyes when he gets into a funny story involving Wilson and the rat. While he’s talking, she loosens her grip on his wrist but leaves her hand lying there.
House glances down once at her hand, but continues regaling her with his description of Steve’s propensity for Wilson’s neck. House is actually relaxing, Cuddy thinks. But his voice is getting weak again; he needs to sleep. And that’s enough touch therapy for now, anyway. She removes her hand in a natural motion to smooth her hair back as she stands. “Get some rest; I’ll be here bugging you again in another couple of hours.” She smiles. “G’night, House.”
House waits until she leaves the room to draw a shaky breath and set his mind to work on the fingering of a complicated piano piece; that should help him stay alert. He unconsciously moves his left hand over to cover his right wrist, where the warmth of another human being still lingers.
Cuddy’s sitting at the kitchen table doing paperwork. She glances at her watch—almost midnight, time for House’s meds and vitals. She rises, gets the pills and a glass of water. As she walks through the living room, she looks at Wilson, nested into the blankets and pillows on the couch. He’s somehow managed to bury himself into the linens; all she sees is a shock of dark brown hair. She gently rearranges the blankets around his neck and shoulders; she’s pleased to see that his face actually looks relaxed.
She opens the door to House’s bedroom quietly. In the dim ribbon of light from the doorway the first thing she sees are eyes; alert blue eyes glowing at her in the dark.
CHAPTER FOUR: Touched
“What are you doing awake?” Cuddy scolds House gently. “You said the reason you weren’t eating was that you were sleepy.”
“I said I was tired. There’s a difference.” House’s voice is heavy with fatigue, but his eyes are bright—almost too much so.
Cuddy hands him the medication, grimaces when he takes the pills with only one small sip of water then sets the cup on the bedside table.
“House. You’re not eating, not drinking, and now you’re not sleeping. Are you in pain? Nauseated? Enjoying being waited on hand and foot? What is it? Talk to me.” She notes that somehow, he looks even more gaunt, frailer than before.
“Been sleeping for two days. Boring. No challenge. Tired of it.”
They both know that the sedated sleep he’d been in isn’t the kind of sleep he needs now, and Cuddy doesn’t see any profit in arguing the point with him. She starts the vital signs. Blood pressure’s gone down a little more, nothing alarming, but it bears watching. When she’s finished, she regards him silently for a long moment. He doesn’t look away; she decides to take a chance.
“Lie back down and close your eyes.”
“I told you, I’m not sleepy.” His voice is irritated.
“I didn’t say go to sleep. I said lie down and close your eyes; I’m trying to help you.”
“Help me what? Are you trying to take advantage of me in my weakened condition? Can’t you wait until I can enjoy it too?” He’s smirking as he says it, but he’s easing himself down into a recumbent position. Not feeling so great; might not hurt to relax. Just a few minutes.
Cuddy smirks back at him. Keep it light, no big deal. “Yeah, I’ll wait on that. More fun when both participants can… participate. ” She looks at him, cocks her head, puts a finger up and taps the corner of her eye, then waits. C’mon, House; don’t fight it so hard, you’ll come out of this with your ‘bitter old cripple’ reputation intact. I’d never tell a soul that you’re human—they wouldn’t believe me.
House sighs in exaggerated resignation, closes his eyes. Cuddy says, “We’re gonna try something here. There’s a new procedure, combines therapeutic touch with guided imagery and massage.”
The eyes open again. “Thanks, but no thanks. I’m not a touchy-feely type of guy,” he says dryly. You’re kidding, right? I’m missing thigh muscle, not brain cells—alternative medicine’s not my thing; hell, it’s not even medicine!
“House, c’mon. I just read the article—“
“Yeah, you and Wilson both. Knew he was into that laying-on-of- hands crap. Thought better of you, though.” No way am I about to let you—or anyone else—touch me if it isn’t a strict medical necessity. And there’s been way too much medical necessity lately as it is.
“Maybe I’m taking lessons from Wilson.” Cuddy is determined to do this for House; she will win this argument.
“And maybe you both need to cancel your subscriptions to that new-age medical journal you’re reading.”
“Look at this from an investigative point of view, House. It’s an experiment; you’ll be able to prove me wrong, and then you can ride me about it for the next six months.”
He considers that. “Could make it worth it. Dunno. What’s in it for me?”
“No clinic hours for a week—if we debunk the method. If it works, you just might feel better. It’s win/win.”
“So I let you invade my personal space, and all I get out of it is a week off clinic?”
Cuddy rolls her eyes. “Okay, two weeks. You’re thinking of this the wrong way, House. Think of it as a medical procedure that might benefit you. Just a new medical procedure, very clinical, that’s all.” Her voice is brisk, matter-of-fact.
He looks unconvinced. “Two weeks?” At her affirmative nod, he grudgingly closes his eyes and makes a conscious, but only partially successful, attempt to relax. notagoodideanotagoodideanotagoodidea …but two weeks… two… icandothisicandothisicandothis … medical… clinical… investigate… experiment… two weeks… two weeks… two weeks
Cuddy places her hands lightly at his temples; he flinches sharply, but she’d expected that, so she keeps her fingers stilled until she feels the pulses beneath them slow again. As her fingers make soothing circles, she begins to speak. Her voice is calming, almost hypnotic; “You’re riding down a deserted country road on your motorcycle. It’s a warm fall day, and the nip of cold in the breeze feels wonderful on your skin. Someone’s burning leaves somewhere; you can smell the sharp scent of the smoke in the air. You’re enjoying the foliage on the trees. There’s warm gold, and brilliant red, and umber, and they’re the most vivid colors you’ve ever seen….”
She continues to speak softly as she gently works her hands down his body, feeling the tension slowly, almost grudgingly, ease out of him. When she lowers the sheet away from his legs, his eyes open anxiously. “Cuddy….” he whispers, and it sounds tortured. Although he’s wearing an old pair of scrubs, the material is thin; the twisted, angry scar, the awful, empty valley are clearly outlined.
Cuddy smiles gently down at him and whispers back, “Sorry, can’t hear you over the roar of the bike.” Then she watches, just watches him. She sees the conflict in the lines of his face; if she’d seen a refusal, she’d have stopped. But the conflict means part of him wants the contact, needs this tangible caring. She stays completely still, and waits; it reminds her of trying not to frighten a wounded wild animal in need of aid.
Finally, and purely on instinct, she communicates kindly, with her eyes, that she’s not asking permission to touch his right leg; she’s going to do it, and he’s simply going to have to trust her. Her instinct is correct; he seems relieved that he doesn’t have to make the decision, closes his eyes and relaxes again.
You’re good, Cuddy. I’d have had to say no; it’s… expected. Not so sure I wanted to say no. He takes a deep breath, tries not to think at all. He concentrates hard on the pictures Cuddy’s words are drawing.
“You see an apple orchard, almost hidden from the road, and you steer the bike easily onto a small footpath. When you cut the engine, the world is silent; there’s a sense of peace all around you. You take an apple from the tree, and just hold it in your palm for a moment, feeling the warmth of the sun it’s absorbed. When you bite into it, it’s crisp and sharp and fragrant. The juice in your mouth is the sweetest thing you’ve ever tasted….”
As she speaks, she’s working the muscles of the wasted thigh with fingers now feather-light, now firm and warm. House continues to breathe deeply, evenly; the lines of his face have smoothed out. When she cues him with her hands to turn over, he does so without opening his eyes.
“You lie down under the tree, the scents of the earth and the fruit filling the air. The heat of the earth penetrates your skin and cradles you like a warm blanket. You watch the clouds float by slowly; the sky’s such a deep blue that you feel beckoned by it; you’re floating with the clouds and you’re calm and free, and safe….”
Cuddy allows her voice to trail off as she finishes; she feels his leg move slightly under her hand. She decides to take another chance, and says softly, “The lighting’s better in here. Let me get my paperwork.”
When she returns, she angles the reading light on the other side of the bed so that it won’t disturb House. She props herself on a pillow and ‘accidentally’ hooks her foot across his ankle, leaves it there. “You’ve still got the two weeks,” she whispers.
After just a few seconds, she hears him sigh deeply, and the next breath he takes starts the regular rhythm of peaceful sleep. She doesn’t move the rest of the night. Neither does House.
CHAPTER FIVE: Lies... and Truths
Wilson awakens and peers at his watch; 6:25am. House is due for his 6:00am med, and he hasn’t heard any activity from the bedroom. He rises from the couch and stretches, pleased that he’s actually feeling rested, and walks to the bedroom door. It’s ajar, and he can see House sleeping peacefully on one side of the bed—and Cuddy lying on the other, nodding off over some papers. He grins and pushes the door open. Cuddy looks up at the movement, smiles and puts a finger to her lips. She carefully lifts her foot from where it’s been resting across House’s ankle, sets the papers down, and comes to the door. She motions to the kitchen, pulling the bedroom door almost closed behind her.
When they reach the kitchen, Wilson turns on the coffee pot and says, “Well, that was a cozy little scene. How’d you get him to sleep?”
Cuddy laughs. “Let’s just say that you and I have been instructed to give up our ‘new-age’ medical journals.”
“You didn’t! That therapeutic touch method? No! I would’ve paid to see that! How’d you get him to agree to it?” Wilson’s laughing.
“Cost me two weeks of clinic hours and a lot of fast talking. I used a bunch of words like ‘medical procedure’ and ‘purely clinical’ and ‘investigative,’ you know, stuff he understands.” She’s laughing too.
Then her face grows serious. “He’s still not eating or drinking, and his B/P’s dropping. He’s getting dehydrated, and that super-Vic on an empty stomach….”
“Damn. I’ll work on him today, try to talk some sense into him. Now that I’ve had some sleep I’m House-proof again; he doesn’t like it when I yell.” The worried look is already returning to Wilson’s face. “Has he had his 6:00am meds yet?”
“No, figured you could be a little late with that; he needs the sleep more. And I got the last set of vitals at midnight—same reasoning. So you’re gonna need to wake him up soon, I’m afraid.” Cuddy smiles sympathetically. She drains her coffee cup and stands. “I’ve gotta get my stuff together, run home and get a shower; got a meeting at the hospital at 8:00am. Keep me posted.”
Wilson is in the kitchen, trying to figure out what House might eat, when he hears Cuddy’s name being bellowed from the bedroom. So he takes a deep breath, sends a pleading glance skyward, grabs the pills and the water, and goes in to face House.
House is sitting on the edge of the bed, and he isn’t happy. He glowers at Wilson. “Did you sleep? Where’s Cuddy? Where’s my cane?”
“In that order; yes, very well thank you, she’s got a meeting at the hospital, and it’s right here,” Wilson says, taking the cane from the closet. He hands House his cane and the pills. When House shakes his head at the water, Wilson grabs the cane back and replaces it with the cup in one quick move.
“Should’ve let you die of sleep deprivation. You’re just way too chipper this morning,” House grumbles. He swallows the pills, drinks less than an ounce of water. “Why’d you hide my cane?”
“It’s akin to hiding the car keys from an unpredictable teenager; just call it ‘preventative medicine’.” Wilson hands the cane back. “Need to get to the bathroom?”
“No. Just the couch, and I don’t need my hand held.”
The frown on House’s face lets Wilson know it’s gonna be a very long day, but right now Wilson’s more concerned with the mental calculations he’s just done. House hasn’t peed since Wilson helped him get settled in the bedroom yesterday evening, almost 12 hours.
He follows House out to the living room, careful to stay far enough away that he doesn’t appear to be hovering. House’s gait is still unstable, but he doesn’t seem to be in too much pain.
Once House is safely on the couch, Wilson returns to the bedroom to collect the things he needs for vitals. He looks thoughtfully at the contents of the box that Cuddy’s hidden beside the dresser.
He returns to the living room, where House is idly thumbing through the journal Wilson had been reading yesterday. Wilson briefly considers bringing up the article on therapeutic touch, decides discretion is the better part of valor, discards the idea. “Okay, you know the drill,” he says, wrapping the B/P cuff around House’s arm. “How’s the pain?”
“Still more than bearable. About like a year ago.”
“Good. Any nausea?”
“Nope.” The answer comes too quickly, and Wilson frowns. House’s B/P has fallen a few more points since last night, and it’s no longer low-normal. A B/P of 98/62 is, for House, just plain low. Wilson unwraps the cuff, continues the assessment. Breath and cardiac sounds are good. When he moves the stethoscope to House’s abdomen, his frown deepens. He listens for quite a while before straightening up and fixing House with a very serious gaze.
“Sounds like you’ve got an organ recital going on in there. Bowel sounds hyperactive in the extreme. Let’s try the question again, in layman’s terms. Is your tummy upset, House?”
“And I will answer in layman’s terms,” House says. “No.”
Wilson sighs. “Let’s examine the evidence, oh great diagnostician. Not eating. Not drinking. Hyperactive bowel sounds. Switch, in the last 24 hours, to a med which has, as its number one side effect, nausea. Let’s not leave out your own personal hatred of anti-emetics. Have I covered everything?”
House doesn’t answer.
“C’mon, House. Let me get you a Compazine cap. Take it, wait 20 minutes. Eat some breakfast, have a nice cup of coffee. You’ll feel like a new man.” Wilson realizes that there’s a begging quality to his voice, but at this point he doesn’t much care. He’s trying not to threaten House with the IV that’s beginning to appear inevitable. House doesn’t respond well to threats.
“Jimmy, your concern is, as always, touching. Also annoying. And not appreciated. Bring me breakfast; I’ll eat.” House leans forward to grab the TV remote, finds himself gripping the edge of the table, hard, to keep from falling face down onto it. Wilson’s right there, grabbing his shoulders and easing him back onto the couch. House brushes the hands away as soon as the room stops spinning. “It’s nothing. Just a little dizzy. Normal after a few days in bed.”
Wilson flops down onto the couch beside him. Might as well have this conversation now. “Also normal when your blood pressure’s tanking.” He grabs House’s hand, pinches the skin up and watches it stay tented for too long. “And your skin turgor’s crap. And you haven’t needed to pee in twelve hours. All of which points to dehydration.”
House says nothing, just develops a serious interest in the TV screen. Except that the TV’s off. Wilson continues. “It’s probably nothing that couldn’t be fixed if we get the nausea under control. Just take the med, House. One little capsule. Please.”
When House turns to look at him, the resentment is clearly evident in his eyes. “And if I don’t? Dr. Wilson’s gonna threaten me with his trusty needle again? You get off on assault and battery?”
Here we go. “You know that injection was necessary. You were in incredible pain; add intractable nausea to that, and you weren’t thinking straight. I had to think for you.”
House is sneering now. “Yeah, thanks, Stacy.”
“Aw, c’mon, House. You’re overreacting. It’s not the same thing.”
“No, it was worse. This time I was conscious. This time I said no.”
Wilson takes a deep breath, gives himself some time to figure out what he’s going to say. “I’m sorry for what Stacy did; we’re all still paying for it, you most of all. And I’m sorry you feel… betrayed… by what I did. If I had it to do over again, I’d….” He can’t make himself say it, won’t lie to House about this.
“You’d do the same thing,” House supplies quietly after a moment. “Because you’re a good physician. A half-way decent friend.” He says it grudgingly, but he forces himself to say it because Wilson needs to hear it.
Wilson sighs in acknowledgement. “I’d do the same thing. I had the means to stop your suffering; I couldn’t just….” His voice trails off. He’d thought this conversation would make him feel better. He’d hurt House, but he’d helped him too. He tries to focus on the helping part.
“You knew I might not forgive you?” House is eyeing Wilson intently.
Wilson nods. “Yeah. It was a chance I had to take. You were… hurting.” His tone had been firm, decisive—but his voice catches on the last word.
House remembers another time Wilson’s voice had caught on a word, and he asks Wilson now, “You’d risk this ‘stupid, screwed-up friendship’ just to save me?”
He’s mocking Wilson’s own words, but somehow his voice is gentle, so gentle. Because he remembers. That other word Wilson’s voice had once broken on had been ‘friendship.’
Wilson looks at him, looks away quickly. “Yes,” he says simply, because it’s the truth.
But both men are uncomfortable with this much truth. So House rolls up the journal and hits Wilson with it smartly on the back of the head.
“Hey, didn’t you say something about breakfast?” House asks.
Wilson smiles and heads to the kitchen. He thinks he’s got a sure-fire plan to get some food into House.
CHAPTER SIX: Sorry
House has eaten a little more than half of one macadamia nut pancake, and he’s drunk maybe four ounces of coffee. He’s also studiously ignored the Compazine capsule Wilson had placed on the tray. Wilson decides it’s not enough, but it’s a start, anyway.
And for twenty minutes, Wilson thinks that maybe he’d been wrong about the nausea; maybe House was telling the truth. He’s happy to have been wrong. When House leans over the edge of the couch and brings it all back up again without warning, Wilson feels no satisfaction. As he cleans up the mess, he tries to figure out the best way to tell House that he’s just bought himself an IV.
House is lying quietly on the couch, pale and sweaty and miserable. He’s silently ordering his stomach to settle down, and he grows more miserable when he has to acknowledge that his stomach has plans of its own. When the retching starts, Wilson’s in the bedroom. House doesn’t know what he’s up to in there, but he strongly suspects it has something to do with needles and tubing and bags of fluid. House tries to be quiet as the retching and gasping grow stronger, but there’s no volume control on the involuntary sounds of an angry body, and Wilson’s at his side in under a minute. He’s got a syringe and a swab in his hand.
“House.” Wilson’s eyes are apologetic, conflicted.
“Just… do it,” House gasps out, and winces and moans as Wilson quickly complies.
Wilson puts the empty syringe down and tries to help House ride out the waves of nausea while the med takes effect. As soon as the worst of it ends, Wilson realizes that somehow, in the tangled confusion of trying to get him through the spasms, House’s arms have become tightly wrapped around Wilson’s forearm. When he tries to untangle the arm, House’s grip tightens almost imperceptibly. His eyes are still closed, breathing’s still hitched. Wilson relaxes his arm and kneels on the floor by the couch, waiting for House to calm.
After a minute, House opens his eyes and releases Wilson’s arm; he doesn’t look at Wilson. “Guess my tummy is upset,” he whispers. His eyes are watering and red-rimmed, but he manages a sickly grin.
“Why did you lie?” Wilson asks softly.
House closes his eyes again. “Everybody lies. And patients more so. Without… exception.”
That’s not an answer. Wilson tries again. “Why did you lie?” When House doesn’t respond, Wilson moves his face to within inches of House’s, because suddenly, he knows. “Look at me.” He waits until House’s eyes reopen, and then he locks them with his own. “I wouldn’t have decreased the dose on the super-Vic, House. That part of it’s over. It’s over. I believe you.” He repeats it again, more slowly. “I believe your pain. I… believe… you.”
House takes in a long, shuddering breath. “Okay.” That’s all he says, but it’s enough.
Wilson stands up and looks down sternly at House. “You know what’s gotta come next, right?” I’m so sorry, House.
House almost smiles. “Yeah, the patient pays for his stupidity with another uncomfortable procedure.” Sorry, Jimmy; really sorry.
“Wanna stay on the couch? Or would you be more comfortable in bed?” Wilson’s trying not to take away all his control; House, of course, sees through the question.
“I’d rather be out on my bike. Or even in the clinic. Barring that, doesn’t really matter.” Can’t make decisions right now. You do it. Might wanna pick the couch, though; don’t wanna move, feel funny. But I’ll do whatever you want if I just don’t have to think about it. Want me to hang from the chandelier? You’ve got it. Just let me die in peace.
Wilson’s afraid that House might not be strong enough to make it to the bedroom, but he wisely chooses not to voice this concern. “Okay, couch it is, then. I’ll be right back.” Why, House? Why do you do this to yourself? Sometimes I think your common sense is inversely proportional to your intelligence. And sometimes, I think that you just don’t give a damn.
When Wilson returns with the IV setup, he’s pleased to see that House has allowed himself to drift off. He’ll have to remember to thank Cuddy; House seems to be over his aversion to sleep.
“House, c’mon, let’s get it done.” House doesn’t move, and Wilson suspects he’s playing possum. “Gimme a break. I’ll make it as painful as possible, help you atone for being an idiot.” Still no response.
Wilson takes a closer look, grabs the blood pressure cuff as cold fear displaces all the air in his lungs. 90/58. God. Quickly, his fingers go to the carotid pulse in the neck. It’s too rapid to count; weak and thready. Wilson bites back a curse, grabs the IV equipment, choosing the largest bore cannula he can find. He gets the line started rapidly, opens the clamp all the way, and hangs the bag as high as he can get it on the floorlamp. “Fifteen minutes. You’ve got fifteen minutes to come outta this, House, and then I’m calling an ambulance.” He realizes that he’s shouting, doesn’t care.
After five minutes, he takes another carotid pulse. 112, still way too fast, but at least it’s countable now, and stronger. A quarter of the 1000cc bag is in. Wilson wishes he had a pump; he’d like to run the fluids in more quickly. A repeat B/P shows a little improvement. Wilson stares at his watch, willing both time and the fluids to run faster.
When the second five minutes have passed, pulse has gone down to 92, B/P’s up to 106/68. And over 500cc have run in. Wilson can live with that. “The rest is up to you, House. You’ve got five minutes. I know you’d hate that whole lights and sirens thing. Wake up and cuss me out for overreacting.” He watches House intently.
With two minutes to spare, House responds to his name and a less-than-gentle shake of the shoulder. When he opens his eyes, he’s clearly confused, but Wilson sees him try to take in the situation.
House grimaces when he sees the IV already running and feels Wilson’s fingers at his neck. He looks at the arm wearing the B/P cuff; that wasn’t on his arm just a second ago, was it? He focuses on Wilson and asks, “What happened?”
Wilson’s getting another set of vitals and doesn’t speak right away. Only when he’s certain that the numbers are acceptable—and that he can trust his voice—does he answer. “Hypovolemic shock. Or damn close to it.” Wilson’s aware that his tone sounds terse, almost angry. Fear can do that to you. Or maybe I am angry; completely avoidable medical emergencies will have that effect.
Wilson makes an effort to calm himself. He walks to the end of the couch, roughly pushes House’s feet out of the way, and sits. He looks at House and says, conversationally, “Ya know why sick cats die in much higher percentages than sick dogs?”
House looks confused again by the apparent non sequitur. “Mmm… no. Why?”
“Because cats are so good at hiding their symptoms that by the time anyone figures out there’s something wrong, it’s usually too late.”
House ponders this. Then he looks down; he appears almost ashamed. “Well… about that… I’m, uh… uh—” He hesitates.
Wilson may be angry, but he’s not going to be cruel. He’s not going to make House say he’s sorry; he’s already been beaten up enough for one morning. “You’re uh moron,” he finishes smoothly, and glances away so that House won’t have to look grateful.
Chapter Seven: OUTSIDE ASSISTANCE