CHAPTER NINE: A QUESTION OF TRUST
House sleeps soundly for a little over two hours. When he awakens, he cracks an eye open and discovers Wilson sitting by the bed, eyes trained on his laptop screen. “You still here?” House tries to sound irritated.
“Told you I would be.” Wilson doesn’t raise his eyes from the screen.
House grins. “Had ya scared for a while there, huh?”
Wilson looks up and says distractedly, “No, not at all. As a matter of fact, made good use of my time while you were being lazy. Found several studies that actually recommend an admixture of vancomycin and diphenhydramine. Prevents the problem you had, and a whole laundry list of others. Would there be a reason why we didn’t do it that way in the first place?” He regards House curiously.
“Yeah… the stuff fogs my brain.” House waves his hand dismissively—trivial thing, doesn’t matter at all.
Wilson knows better. It matters—a lot. Months earlier, a disgruntled patient had shot House. During the period immediately following the trauma, House had hallucinated, and later he’d shared the details of that hallucination with Wilson.
In his trauma-induced fantasy, House—who’d regained full use of his right leg—had accused Cuddy and Wilson of trading in his brain for a pair of jogging shoes. Distraught, he’d shouted at them that his brain was all he had. So Wilson isn’t fooled at all; he knows that this ‘brain fog’ is one of the things House fears most.
“You trust me?” Wilson asks now. And he realizes, as he asks the question, that he no longer knows what the answer is. If the answer’s no, can’t blame him, can I?
“That depends. Trust you with some hot babe I’m looking to score with? Nope. Trust you to order a pizza? ‘Pends on whether I’m in the mood for anchovies. Trust you to captain a lifeboat I happen to be in?”
House pauses for so long that Wilson closes the laptop and looks up at House—who’s staring intently at him.
“You wouldn’t be here if I didn’t,” House answers seriously. He holds Wilson’s eyes a moment more, then breaks the gaze, swings his legs off the bed and stands. “Now how about you order that pizza?”
Wilson’s still trying to process House’s declaration of trust. “Uh… no; sorry. We’re overdue at the hospital; gotta get a peak vanc level drawn.”
“You can do that here, call someone to pick it up. I’m hungry!” House is practically whining.
Wilson stands up and smiles. “Oh no, ya don’t! You’re not sick. Odds are you’re not going to get sick. You aren’t trapping me in this apartment for the next few days, cut off from the world, watching you not get sick. Might be an alien concept to you, but most people actually enjoy getting out, interacting with their fellow human beings. Now let’s go.”
House plops down into the chair. “Hand hurts. Leg hurts.”
“Lucky for you we’re going to a hospital, then. I hear they know all about those sorts of things.”
No go; looks like House is settling in for a good long sulk. “C’mon, House,” Wilson coaxes. “Behave yourself, and there’s dinner in it for you; I’ll pay.”
House looks up. “Throw in a beer and I’ll consider it.”
“You’ve got it.”
They’re leaving the hospital after the labwork when the inevitable happens—they run into Cuddy.
“Well, there he is—the man who single-handedly almost lost this hospital’s very lucrative contract with the best home health agency in Princeton!”
“Single-handedly!” House hold up his bandaged hand and grins. “Clever. But I didn’t use my hands at all, I—”
“Used your mouth,” Cuddy interrupts. “Which, by the way, should be registered as a lethal weapon.”
House turns to Wilson, who’s been enjoying the exchange. “Whatever happened to polite society?” he asks him. “You know, those little civilities like Good evening, and How are you?”
“All those niceties ran screaming for cover the day some fool handed you a cane.” Cuddy informs him. “Did you know you broke a record today? Five people threatened to quit. Five. Previous record was three—you held that one, too.”
“Five? I’m impressed! Or my math is off. Heard it was two floor nurses, and those two from the agency. Two plus two equals… five?” House looks at Cuddy questioningly.
“Oh, the last one was me,” she informs him pleasantly. “But then I realized that it’d be so much easier to make the rest of your life a living hell if I retained my position of power. Over you. Welcome to Hell, House.” Cuddy grins wickedly.
“Save me, daddy!” House whispers urgently to Wilson.
Wilson lifts an eyebrow in disbelief. “You’re kidding, right? Your behavior draws me the administrative equivalent of exile to Siberia, and you’re looking to me for help?” He bites back a smile and shakes his head at House.
Cuddy continues, “And you’re just damned lucky that he didn’t threaten to quit too, once I told him he’d picked the short straw—that’d be you!”
“He can’t quit,” House mumbles. “Too many ex-Mrs. Wilsons counting on those monthly checks….”
Now both Cuddy and Wilson are glaring at him. House thinks maybe a quick change of subject is in order. He turns to Wilson.
“Hey—didn’t you promise me dinner?”
“Not sure I can afford it, what with all those checks I have to write….” Wilson grumbles.
House grabs Wilson’s arm and pulls. Then he stalks off as gracefully as he can with the cane in his left hand—but not before winking surreptitiously at Cuddy. Wilson heaves a resigned sigh, but before following House, he, too, winks at Cuddy.
At the restaurant, House eats well, and watches with amusement as the waitress flirts shamelessly with Wilson. When House stands to go to the restroom, Wilson scarcely spares him a glance—he’s too busy complimenting the girl on her ‘incredible people skills.’
Ten minutes later, Wilson realizes with alarm that House hasn’t returned to the table. Wilson hurriedly excuses himself—the charming waitress is still talking—and makes his way to the restroom at the back of the restaurant. He bursts into the room—and sighs with relief when he spots House, sitting on a small bench by the door.
The relief is short-lived, however, when Wilson sees that House’s face is pale, and twisted with pain.
Don’t make a big deal out of it, Wilson tells himself. Don’t hover. Wilson puts his hands on his hips and shakes his head. “What’d you do this time?”
House makes a visible effort to minimize his pain. “Didn’t do anything. Just trying to give you some time to win over the lovely Susie.”
“Sally. And let’s try this again. What happened?”
House smiles wryly. “Some drunk was stumbling in while I was stumbling out. Slammed the door into my finger. You know—the one with the twitchy nerve?”
Wilson winces in sympathy, then carefully reaches for the injured hand. “No drainage; doesn’t seem to have disturbed the incision.”
“Nope; just helped me redefine the word pain. Fine now, though; no problem.” House’s stiff posture and the squint around his eyes belie the words.
Wilson leans over and removes the ever-present bottle of Vicodin from House’s jacket pocket, shakes two of the pills into his hand, and offers them to House.
House regards him suspiciously. “What’re those?”
Wilson rolls his eyes. “They’re either Tic-Tacs on ‘roids, or they’re Vicodin.” He pretends to study the pills. “I think they’re Vicodin!” he concludes brightly.
“And you’re… voluntarily… giving them to me because?”
Because you’re in agony. Because you’re trying to pretend you’re not—and that worries me. “Just take ‘em, House.”
House is still hesitating. “Doctor’s orders,” Wilson says gently, and hands House the pills.
On the way home, Wilson doesn’t miss it when House winces each time the car goes over a bump. When they arrive back at the apartment, he asks, “Want to hold off on the wound care ‘til morning?”
House looks as if he’d like nothing better, but says, “Not a good idea. Let’s just get it done; I’m fine.”
Like hell you are. “Okay. I’ll make it quick, and painless as possible. Go on and get ready for bed; I’ll get the stuff.” Wilson watches as House limps wearily to the bedroom.
When Wilson enters the room a few minutes later, House is already in bed, his head leaned back against a stack of pillows. He opens his eyes and begins to adjust his position, to give Wilson easier access to his hand.
“It’s okay,” Wilson says quickly. “I can get it; stay still.” House doesn’t argue, just closes his eyes again.
Wilson tends to the suture line and rebandages the hand with the utmost care. When he’s through, House actually smiles. “Not bad; I give it a 2 on the pain scale.”
Wilson smiles back. “Damn! I was trying for a 7. G’night, House.” He shuts out the light and quietly leaves the room.
Fifteen minutes later, Wilson’s got everything cleaned up, and he’s thinking of getting some sleep himself. He’s on his way to retrieve pillows and blankets from the closet when a sound stops him. He listens—there it is again. A muffled groan, followed by a not-so-muffled expletive. Wilson goes to the bedroom door. “You okay?”
House is lying with his back to the door, and doesn’t turn around. “Sure. Guess the left shoulder’s just not real happy about suddenly finding itself the sole support of the rest of my body.”
Wilson enters the room and sits on the edge of the bed. He places his hands on House’s shoulder.
“Tryin’ to cop a feel?”
Wilson ignores the jibe and starts speaking in a low, soothing monotone. “When I was little,” he says as his fingers find the knot in the muscle and begin to knead, “I’d overdo it on the basketball court on a regular basis. Shortest kid on the team—youngest, too; guess I had something to prove. Anyway, by bedtime, my shoulders would be on fire. My mom used to do this for me; really helped.”
“You’re not my mother,” House mumbles into the pillow, but he doesn’t move away. Wilson keeps up both the massage and the soothing patter.
“Isn’t today Friday? ‘Cuz if it is, then yeah, today’s my day to be your mother. Tuesdays, I’m usually your conscience, and there’s the occasional Thursday when I’m your babysitter. The rest of the time, I’m just your friend. Or I try to be. Not been doing so great the last few months, have I?” When the question elicits no sarcastic response, Wilson peers through the darkness at House’s face. The lines have finally relaxed; his breathing’s evened out—House is asleep.
Wilson stands up. “But don’t you worry about it; gonna make it up to you,” he whispers to his sleeping friend before he leaves the room.