Summary: Wilson is given an unexpected opportunity to prove his friendship to House. This story is my own attempt to make sense of the unsettling disruption of the House-Wilson dynamic in Season 3, so mention is made of many of the S3 plotlines and character development. House-Wilson-Cuddy angst, hurt/comfort, introspection--my usual gig. ;)
Notes: This is a multi-chaptered WIP. Although it's about 2/3 written, I'm still refining. Today, there will be three chapters; yesterday, I presented the first two to my f-list for their consideration. They were so kind--and so helpful--that they deserve a new chapter today. After this, it'll pretty much be a chapter per day. Special thanks to betz88 for her infinite patience, to blackmare for being so pleasantly insistent on multiple re-edits, and to perspifor a sorely needed reminder about one of my writing weaknesses. And just so you know, already looks like this story will have a sequel... at the very least. So this is gonna be a long ride. (cross-posting to house_wilson, sick!house, and, soon, the Pit).
Link to first two chapters
CHAPTER THREE: LENDING A HAND
Cuddy’s the first to notice Wilson’s arrival, and she comes over to him, puts a hand on his arm. But she’s blocking his view of House. He tries to pull his arm away, to step closer to the bed; she holds onto him firmly.
“Wait, Wilson. I need to talk to you before you see him.”
“He paged me,” Wilson insists. “He’ll wonder where I am, I’ve gotta let him know that I’m—“
“I paged you,” Cuddy interrupts him. “I thought you should be here, and….” Her voice trails off, and she studies the floor.
“And you were afraid that he’d refuse to let you call me,” Wilson finishes for her. “I guess it’s no secret that things have been… different… since I… I turned him in to Tritter.” It’s the first time Wilson’s ever said those words aloud. Now that he’s saying them, listening to them, the guilt that had previously been nibbling at the edges of his thoughts hits him full force, and he looks helplessly at Cuddy.
But Cuddy can only look back at him compassionately; she doesn’t know what to say, what to do to fix it, any more than Wilson does. Finally, Wilson just shakes his head and returns himself to the present. “What happened?” he asks.
“It was an accident. He was lancing a boil, and—”
“He was what?” Wilson interrupts. “His patient doesn’t have a boil, and even if he did, I can’t see House—”
“She’s a clinic patient. But she’s—”
“Wait a second,” Wilson says, confused. And suddenly, his brain decides to let him in on what was bothering it earlier. ‘Miserable bastard’, they said—House. No. No. He rejects the idea. They were talking about some inexperienced intern. Something like that would never happen to House.
There’s a new note of tension in Wilson’s voice as he continues, “House doesn’t have clinic duty when he’s got a diagnostic case. I don’t understand….” Wilson’s still trying to peer around Cuddy, to see House for himself.
“If you’ll stop interrupting me,” Cuddy says gently, “I’ll fill you in completely. And he’s okay for right now; promise.” Cuddy feels a bit of the tension leave Wilson’s body, hears him take a deep breath.
“The clinic patient’s mentally disabled, lives in a group home,” Cuddy continues. “She also suffers from spastic cerebral palsy, and her spasticity is pretty severe. And apparently, the furuncle’s been brewing quite a while; they weren’t aware of it at the home.” Wilson sees—and shares—the indignation in Cuddy’s eyes.
“Anyway, by the time they got her in here, she was pretty angry, bordering on hysterical—wouldn’t let anyone near her. And you know House; give him a kid, or a developmentally disabled adult, and he… relates to them, somehow. Works some sort of… magic,” Cuddy smiles.
Wilson smiles too, remembering the autistic child on whom he’d had to do a lymph node biopsy. Neither Wilson nor House’s team had been able to get close enough to the kid even to anesthetize him. But House had.
To the other professionals watching, House’s behavior with the child had appeared odd, even cruel. But the parents had thought it was wonderful—had even deemed it a breakthrough for the boy in his ability to trust. And maybe they knew something about House that we didn’t, Wilson thinks. He remembers how, later, the kid had, unprompted, given his beloved video game to House. And he remembers House’s eyes during the incident, the way he’d stared into the child in a desperate, nonverbal attempt to connect—and, Wilson feels, he’d succeeded.
Wilson understands now why the clinic had asked House to deal with the frightened young woman today. More importantly, he thinks he’s beginning to understand why House would agree to do it; House’s connection to the children carries no judgment, no obligation to conform to social norms. The kids take House at face value, and accept him for who he is. So how—and why—had House been injured by the childlike patient, while carrying out such a routine procedure?
“At any rate,” Cuddy continues, “he’d just finished lancing the boil when Leigh—that’s the patient—had some spastic activity, and knocked into his hands. The scalpel sliced across his right index finger, went into his palm. He’s lost a significant amount of blood, of course, and there’s possible minor nerve damage to the finger.” Cuddy stops speaking, seems reluctant to go on.
“That’s… unfortunate,” Wilson says, “But I don’t think you’d call me down here to watch him get a few stitches in his hand, and a tetanus booster. Especially… under our current circumstances. There’s more, isn’t there?” Wilson’s mouth has gone dry. Just a coincidence, that’s all. No panic necessary. After all, House isn’t the only miserable bastard in the world. There’s plenty of ‘em, right?
Cuddy nods, and her voice is just above a whisper as she responds. “We’ll have to wait on the cultures to be certain, but we’re pretty sure that the scalpel was contaminated with MRSA. And… the cut to House’s hand is deep. If it’s MRSA, he was inoculated with a good-sized dose.”
The fragile state of denial that Wilson had managed to maintain until this moment flees instantly. It’s House! That ‘poor bastard’ they were talking about in the hall is House! Wilson’s mind suddenly refuses to work logically, and he’s amazed to find himself thinking, I did this, when I wished for something big to happen, something life or death, to fix everything. It’s my fault; if I hadn’t— A quick glimpse of House’s white face stops this crazy train of thought, and Wilson forces himself to be logical.
Gotta calm down. I see this all the time; some kid wishes his jerky big brother was dead, and then the big brother has a run-in with a drunk driver, and the kid eats himself up with guilt. ‘Magical thinking,’ that’s what the shrinks call it. Wilson gulps air and allows Cuddy to guide him to a chair at the edge of the room.
“Oh, God,” Wilson breathes, as his mind automatically starts ticking through all the possible complications. He tries to speak calmly, professionally; he knows he needs to distance himself from his own panic. “Systemic MRSA can cause osteomyelitis, bronchopneumonia, bacterial endocarditis… or it can be fatal.” Wilson looks toward the exam table; the crowd of personnel has thinned while he and Cuddy have been talking, but Chase is now standing at the head of the bed. Wilson still can’t see House. “Does he know?”
“He was the one who told us. Doesn’t seem alarmed, but with him….”
Wilson nods; he finds comfort, somehow, in knowing that House is handling this in characteristic fashion. “Yeah; he’ll never admit it. So what’s the plan?”
Cuddy answers wryly, “I figured we’d let the Infectious Disease specialist tell us.” She smiles with ironic humor.
Wilson’s feeling calmer now, more rational, and he’s actually able to laugh at Cuddy’s expression. “Brilliant! Letting him come up with his own plan of care might… uh… increase our chances of patient compliance, too.”
Cuddy searches Wilson’s face. “You ready to see him?”
Wilson nods, consciously swallows the remnants of panic that are threatening to regain a foothold in his brain. “Let’s do it.”
Chase is the only one left at the bedside, and he backs up as they approach. At a nod from Cuddy, he begins to leave the room, but is stopped by a mild commotion just outside the door.
House had been staring at Wilson, but when he hears what’s going on in the hall, he looks at Cuddy. “Let her in,” he says.
Cuddy moves to the doorway and directs the attendant to bring the wheelchair in. Its occupant demands, in a thick, slow voice, to be wheeled to the bedside. It’s clear that she’s the patient who was the cause of House’s injury, and Wilson watches curiously to see how House will handle this.
“I’m real sorry, Dr. Home,” Leigh begins haltingly. “I din’t mean to hurt your hand.” Speech is clearly difficult for the young woman, but she continues bravely. “I wanted to come here, but… later. After the TV. My show was on the…. They said we had to… leave for the… here, but my show on the… tel… telly… you know….”
“Your television program wasn’t over yet?” Wilson supplies, and Leigh nods.
“And when I get ang… an… mad, I get….” She pauses, then says with careful enunciation, “I get more spat-sic.”
“Dr. House can certainly understand getting angry at having a television show interrupted,” Cuddy says sweetly. Chase snickers quietly, and Wilson unsuccessfully suppresses a smile.
“Any. Way. I’m sorry.” Leigh looks down, begins to twist her hands.
House gazes intently at the young woman, waiting until she looks back up at him before he speaks. “Apology accepted,” he tells her matter-of-factly. “Not all your fault, anyway. I left my reading glasses on my desk; need ‘em for close-up work. I’m a moron. If I’d had them, I’d have been finished with the scalpel by the time you smacked me. Damned glasses, freakin’ memory. Middle age sucks,” he informs her seriously.
Leigh giggles and puts a hand to her mouth. “You said some bad words!” she whispers conspiratorially.
House leans towards her and whispers back, “And right now I’m missing my favorite show, so I’m gonna say a helluva lot more bad words if they don’t let me out of this bed soon!”
The sounds of Leigh’s delighted laughter follow her out of the room. When Chase sees the strange look on House’s face as he regards Wilson, Chase decides to follow her out as well. Cuddy’s the only one left now, besides the two of them, and she’s wishing fervently that she were anywhere else—House’s utterly neutral expression doesn’t bode well. She’d expected yelling, or at least glaring; she’d even settle for the cruel, cutting sarcasm that had been House’s favored form of communication lately. This lack of inappropriate behavior seems, somehow, more ominous.
“What’s he doing here?” House asks Cuddy, and his tone is one of mild curiosity.
Wilson steps closer to the bed and answers the question. “I thought you paged me; thought you wanted a consult.”
“I didn’t. I don’t,” House answers evenly. “So now that we’ve got that straightened out, you’d better get back to work. Cuddy’s already down one department head—don’t wanna keep you.” House finally tears his eyes away from Wilson’s face, deliberately turns his head towards the wall.
Wilson’s done very well at disguising his stark worry, but it’s clear that he’s crestfallen at the abrupt dismissal. He closes his eyes briefly, runs a hand across the back of his neck, and nods his head. But Cuddy’s still looking at House, so she sees what Wilson’s missed—the briefest flash of disappointment that flares in House’s eyes as Wilson turns, obediently, to leave.
“He stays,” Cuddy says firmly to House, then turns to Wilson. “You stay. You’re listed as his local contact, and I, currently, hold the unenviable position of his medical proxy. So, since the man’s clearly out of his mind with pain,” she pauses to meet House’s calm, steely glare with a placid smile, “I’m utilizing my position. Furthermore, as I’m certain Dr. House can tell us, Infection Control procedure dictates that, starting immediately, this place gets a seventy-two hour vacation from him, pending a clear culture on the scalpel, and no manifestation of symptoms.”
Cuddy smiles wickedly in House’s direction. “And I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of stupid New Jersey traffic law prohibiting one-handed, one-legged, brainless motorcyclists from being on the road with the rest of us. So, at minimum, Wilson’s gonna have to give you a ride home.” Cuddy studies House; she knows him well enough to see the relief in his eyes. “I’ll go get your discharge papers started. And as long as you two are stuck with each other—and you are—I’d suggest you take Wilson up on that consult. Because you’re staying right there until someone gives me a care plan for your injury.” She smiles widely at both men, then turns smartly and exits the room, leaving them alone.