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. ;) x-posted
CHAPTER ELEVEN: A CHANGE
Wilson’s in the kitchen cooking dinner when it happens. As soon as he hears House call his name, he knows. He’s surprised that he isn’t surprised, nor even panicked. And he realizes that he’s known, from the moment he overheard the conversation in the hospital hallway, that this is how things are going to play out.
He calmly turns off the oven and puts the casserole dish in the refrigerator. He answers House, “Be right there,” and his voice sounds normal. He washes his hands carefully. He takes three slow, deep breaths, and he walks into the living room.
House is sitting on the couch, and the first thing Wilson notices is that the room is unusually quiet—the TV’s been turned off. The second thing Wilson sees is the strange mixture of fear and resignation in House’s eyes. And the third thing Wilson becomes aware of is the smell.
“You just vomited?”
“Yeah,” House says quietly. “Good thing, too. Got rid of some of the fluid that’s… uh… not comin’ out the normal way.”
Wilson sits beside him on the couch. When he speaks, he matches House’s quiet tone. “You’re going into renal failure.” It’s not a question, but House nods anyway. “How long?”
“Guess it’s been about eight hours, maybe ten.” House reaches down to lift the loose cuffs of his sweatpants, revealing clearly swollen feet and ankles. He stares at his feet, doesn’t look at Wilson, as he says, “We’ll wanna get some bloodwork, confirm it.”
Both Wilson and House know that they don’t need any bloodwork to tell them that House’s kidneys are threatening to shut down. Wilson doesn’t point this out, though. He simply reaches for the automatic blood pressure cuff, wraps it around House’s arm, and turns it on.
“One eighty-two over one-oh-two,” he tells House. “I’ll call an ambulance, let Cuddy know we’re coming in.” He stands and takes his cell phone out of his pocket.
“No. Let’s just draw the bloodwork, omit the next dose of vanc. It can wait ‘til morning.”
Now Wilson is surprised. House is a nephrologist; he knows that this can’t wait. Wilson wonders briefly if the renal failure is already interfering with House’s mentation, clouding his thought processes. No, don’t think so. He’s frightened, and he’s in denial. He knows what’s happening—just needs someone to lay it out, make it real. Not someone. Me.
Wilson puts the phone back in his pocket, sits down beside House again. He speaks softly. “This isn’t a pizza, House. You don’t get to make a choice here; I’m sorry. But I’ll tell you what; we’ll skip the ambulance and the ER. I’ll call Cuddy, have her get a room ready. And I’ll escort you personally. How’s that?”
The resignation and the fear are still warring in House’s eyes; acceptance hasn’t even begun to make an appearance yet. “I don’t know….” he says, and the confused vulnerability in his tone worries Wilson every bit as much as everything else.
“That’s what we’ll do then,” Wilson responds confidently, as if House had answered in the affirmative. “I’ll take you in, and I’ll be with you every step of the way. You don’t get a choice on that, either.”
House smiles a little. “No surprise there,” he says, and now Wilson hears the start of acceptance—and relief.
“Glad you’re seeing things my way,” Wilson teases gently. “Gonna go call Cuddy; you just try to relax, okay?”
House nods, although both men know that asking House to relax is right up there with asking him to stop thinking. Wilson goes to the kitchen so he can talk with Cuddy in private. He knows Cuddy’s going to want to send an ambulance, and he needs to make House’s current state of mind clear to her.
Wilson’s pleased that it doesn’t take much convincing—Cuddy understands immediately, and promises to have a private room ready and to expedite the admission. She’ll notify the lab of the tests that’ll be necessary, and put the dialysis team on stand-by.
When Wilson returns to the living room, House is just as he’d left him—sitting stiffly on the couch, staring at a far wall. But he looks up at Wilson, and says steadily, “I’m guessing this won’t be a drive-by. Mind packing a few things for me?”
Wilson’s happy to have a mindless task; it’ll give both him and House a few minutes to process what’s happening now, what’s going to happen when they get to the hospital. This shouldn’t have been so quick; he’s way too sick, it’s way too soon. His kidneys were borderline, sure, but just yesterday the labs were still in acceptable range. And I’m guessing his fever’s at least 103 now.
Wilson opens the medicine cabinet to grab some toiletries—and suddenly the puzzle’s solved. He reaches slowly for the flat cardboard container. He reads the label carefully, and then he reads it again before opening the box and checking its contents. Shaking his head sadly, he slides the small box into his pocket. For a moment, regret threatens to overwhelm him.
Before he returns to House, he reaffirms his promise to see House through this, no matter what. He splashes his face with cold water, breathes deeply, makes certain his expression shows none of the anguish he’s feeling—this isn’t the time to confront House about his discovery. It’s too late anyway; nothing to be gained by talking about it, not right now.
“Quick set of vitals, then we’ll get going,” Wilson tells House when he returns to the living room. House sits motionless throughout the procedure, and doesn’t ask about the numbers. Fever’s 104 now; B/P is through the roof, and he’s tachycardic. At least now I know why, for all the good that’ll do him. God, House, I’m sorry. I’m so damned sorry….
In the car, House doesn’t speak at all. Wilson tries to think of something reassuring to say, or even just something comforting. But this is House—he knows too much. All the platitudes which would be gratefully accepted by anyone else will be seen by House as insults to his intelligence. So Wilson follows House’s lead, and the drive is made in utter silence.
Once they arrive at PPTH, things happen faster than Wilson would’ve thought possible. House gives him the okay to go take care of the admission details “because you’re good at all that boring clerical stuff,” and when he arrives at House’s room, the lab’s just leaving. House has already been catheterized, and Wilson notes that there’s less than an ounce in the tubing; not even enough to have reached the urine collection bag. Cuddy, who’s overseeing all the activity, tells Wilson that House had ordered the dialysis team out of the room, pending the results of the labwork, but that he has agreed to the IV administration of Lasix, a diuretic that might help his kidneys do their job.
House—never the most compliant of patients—isn’t actually in the bed; he’s lying on it, and looking as if he might bolt at any second. He’s even still got his favorite pair of athletic shoes on—but they can’t hide the edema in his feet and ankles. Wilson can tell that the swelling’s increased just since they left home. And now, under the unforgiving glare of the hospital lighting, Wilson can’t deny that there’s also facial edema, and that there’s a fine tremor in House’s hands—all signs of kidney failure.
Cuddy and Wilson look at each other, and then both look at House. Cuddy wonders if it’s just all the hospital trappings—the gown, the IV, the room itself—that are making House appear so ill, so suddenly frail, or if things really might be as serious as they seem. Wilson doesn’t wonder at all; he knows.
After a couple of minutes of a silence that’s uncomfortable for all of them, Cuddy clears her throat. “I think I’m gonna go light a fire under the lab; we need those results.” She throws Wilson a good luck glance as she leaves.
Wilson walks over to the bed. “Some sort of fashion statement?” he asks, indicating House’s shoe-clad feet.
“Yeah; figured they’d give the gown something to aspire to,” House answers.
But Wilson’s noticed something; the athletic shoes are untied, the laces loosened—and the tops of the shoes are still biting into House’s ankles. “You couldn’t get them off.”
“State the Obvious; my favorite game,” House answers irritably. But he lies there too quietly and allows Wilson to gently work the shoes off his swollen feet. Once they’re off, Wilson quickly pulls the blanket up from the end of the bed and covers House’s legs.
“Outta sight, outta mind?” House questions dryly.
“No; thought you might be co—. Yeah.” Wilson smiles apologetically.
“Works for me,” House says in a matter-of-fact voice, and reaches for the TV remote. “Wanna catch some Saturday Night Wrestling while we’re stuck here playing Let’s Pretend?”
I’m doing the best I can, House. “Works for me,” Wilson echoes, and sits at the bedside, staring blindly at the TV screen, while they both pretend they’re thinking about anything except the pending lab results.