CHAPTER FOUR: WHAT NOW?
To forestall the need for conversation, Wilson begins to search the room for a clipboard and paper. He knows he needs the time to put everything into perspective. He reminds himself of the odds; this’ll probably turn out to be nothing more than an inconvenient injury, an unexpected three day vacation. How many times has he advised a patient to think positively while awaiting the results of a biopsy? How many families has he seen get themselves worked up over something that turns out to be nothing? “Save your energy,” he always tells them. “If the biopsy results don’t go our way, you’ll need it then. And you’ll be able to put it to much better use when we have the facts.”
Sound advice, he thinks now. So right now, just play this like everything’s gonna be fine; save your energy, and hope you won’t need it.
He locates the clipboard and removes a pen from his pocket. Then he begins to pace the length of the short room. Pace to the right wall. Turn. Pace to the left wall. Repeat.
House watches this activity for several minutes, turning his head slowly, in sync with Wilson’s movements. Finally, he yells, “Will you please sit down!”
Wilson, who’d been deep in thought, startles as if smacked, but he stops walking and looks at House. “Why is it all right for you to drive everyone to distraction when you’re working on a case, but I need to confine my deep thinking to a chair?” he asks, annoyed. “I’m just trying to come up with some sort of treatment plan so we can get you outta here.”
“Oh, that.” House waves his right hand dismissively, winces when the motion starts an uncomfortable throbbing in his palm. “I figured all that out half an hour ago. Already counted all the ceiling tiles. Twice. Didn’t have anything better to do.”
Wilson’s still peeved at having been yelled at. “Okay, great. And—since you feel no need to share this information….” He deliberately approaches the bedside from the right, and holds out the clipboard, forcing House to reach across with his uninjured left hand to take the board.
“And I’m supposed to write this out… how?” House asks.
“Oh, sorry. Thought you’d figured that out too. After you got bored counting the floor tiles or something.”
“I guess I could hold the pen with my teeth,” House muses. “But then that would make your presence here completely unnecessary.”
“Why don’t I,” Wilson says with relish, “go locate your reading glasses while you learn how to become a lefty?”
“That was cold,” House acknowledges with appreciation.
Wilson bites back a smile, and thinks, This might not be as hard as I thought; falling right back into the old patterns.
House raises an eyebrow. “Why don’t you play secretary while I play doctor?” he retorts, handing back the clipboard. Wilson notes that as soon as House’s left hand is free, he uses it to cautiously cradle the right one.
“You in pain?” Wilson asks. Despite his best efforts, concern creeps into the question.
“Start writing,” House commands.
Wilson settles into the chair and watches House’s face closely. I know he’s gotta be terrified; of course he’s even more aware of the complications of systemic MRSA than the rest of us are. But House is… House. Wouldn’t do for me to let him see how worried I am. Gotta watch that; he’s looking for any excuse to turn down my help.
“First things first. Won’t have the initial culture results for twenty-four hours. So we’re not gonna start anything drastic until we know for sure. Oral doses of rifampin, maybe some ciprofloxacin, ought to do it for now.”
Wilson hesitates, unsure how to word what he needs to say. “That’s… it’s… there’s a… possibility that the strain’ll be resistant to both of those.”
“And an equal possibility that they’ll be effective,” House points out.
“But… any delay in proper treatment increases mortality significantly.”
House rolls his eyes in a ‘like I don’t know that already’ gesture. “Don’t overreact; it’s tiresome. If I wanna deal with that, I’ll get Cameron to drive me home. Besides, it’ll be interesting to see what the superbugs in this part of New Jersey are susceptible to.”
Wilson’s had enough. “This isn’t some high school science experiment, House; it’s your life!” he says, his voice rising. Despite his earlier soothing speech to himself, images of his dying classmate are flooding his brain; his eyes begin to widen as panic takes over again.
House stares at him. “You need to calm down,” he tells Wilson, and his voice is low, deadly serious.
Wilson stares back; he doesn’t know what to say. House is right, and Wilson acknowledges that with a curt nod and a deep, steadying breath. “What’s your reasoning for avoiding vancomycin at this point?” he asks calmly; two colleagues, objectively discussing treatment, that’s all.
House points to some papers lying on the counter. “Take a look at those. Liver enzymes are slightly elevated. Renal function’s not the best. We haven’t confirmed MRSA yet, so in the risk/benefit analysis, the liver and kidneys say that we go conservative.”
I’m an idiot, Wilson thinks. Of course; the long-term results of his Vicodin use are gonna have to figure into any choice of treatment. “I’ll call the pharmacy, get three days’ worth of both,” he says quietly.
House nods his approval. “Now, here’s the deal if the cultures confirm MRSA,” House tells him, and begins to rattle off a detailed treatment plan, speaking so quickly that Wilson’s having a difficult time scribbling it all down.
When House pauses a moment to calculate a dosage, Wilson’s thoughts wander to Leigh. He’s surprised to discover that what he’s feeling towards her is resentment. She put them here, literally fighting to save House’s life. Leigh’s infection had been confined to the lesion, and now she’s gone home with nothing more than a gauze bandage and a handful of antibiotics.
It’s not fair. House was trying to help her; he didn’t even need to be there, and now—. Wilson, with an effort, stops the irrational thought process. It wasn’t her fault; she didn’t do anything purposely. House knows that. So why is it bothering me so much?
And then, all at once, he knows why. I’m not angry with her; I’m furious with myself—she’s just an easy target. If things between House and me hadn’t changed, I’d have probably been here with him. He always used to call me for these simple things; kept ‘im from getting bored, gave us a chance to talk. If I’d been here, I could’ve restrained her, prevented it from happening. I could’ve protected him; I let him dow—
Wilson pulls in a sharp breath, and his head snaps up. Unaware that House has resumed speaking, he angrily rejects his last thought. Trying to protect him; that’s how I pushed it in the first place. Dimly, he becomes aware that House is calling his name, and has apparently done so several times. He refocuses his attention. “I’m sorry; I was double-checking that last calculation; didn’t hear what you just said. Mind repeating it?” He poises his pen over the paper while House regards him dubiously.
Finally, House begins to speak again, and they’re just finishing up when Cuddy returns.
“You gentlemen get everything settled?” Neither of the men misses the question’s double meaning.
“We’ve got a plan of care; House has figured out every contingency,” Wilson answers as he hands her the clipboard. “I’ll need to pick up the initial meds from the pharmacy before we leave. We can worry about the rest of it after the cultures come in.”
“Fine,” Cuddy responds. “And I’ve arranged for Altman to cover your patients for three days at least.”
“Unarrange it,” House says, before Wilson can thank her. “Doesn’t take three days to drive to my place from here. He’ll be back before Altman figures out how to pull his head out of his ass.”
Cuddy and Wilson both stare at him. “I just assumed….” Cuddy begins slowly.
“Yeah, well, you know what they say about that,” House smirks.
“But House,” Wilson cuts in, “You’re gonna need help.” Wilson plays his trump card. “If you don’t want me staying with you, that’s fine. But that hand has to stay wrapped, dry. You’ll need a live-in home health aide, just for activities of daily living. And a visiting nurse at least once a day for wound care and dressing changes, more often if you wind up on IV antibiotics.” Wilson tries hard not to look smug as he allows House to contemplate this massive invasion to his privacy.
“Works for me!” House announces cheerfully.
Cuddy looks helplessly at Wilson. Wilson, stunned, simply nods. “I’ll go set it up,” he says softly, and leaves the room.