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 TWELVE: IT ALL MAKES SENSE
Cuddy’s back in under ten minutes, the results of House’s bloodwork in hand. Her face is grim. House holds out his hand, and she gives him the thin slip of paper.
House looks at the numbers, nods his head, and passes the results to Wilson. Then he says to Cuddy, “Might as well get the dialysis team back in here, make ‘em earn all that overtime they’re clocking.”
“I’ll take care of it. They’ll be following the plan you wrote out on Thursday?”
House makes a scoffing noise. “Well, yeah. Didn’t figure out all that stuff just to hear myself think! Although that is always a treat, ya know, seeing a brilliant mind in action.”
Cuddy tries to smile at the remark, winds up settling for turning quickly away from the bed—her eyes are suddenly moist.
Wilson puts an arm around Cuddy’s shoulders. “Back in a minute, House—need a word with Cuddy. You be okay?”
“Yeah. Take your time. Easier to make the team miserable without you here spoiling all my fun anyway.”
Wilson manages a small smile for House. “You behave yourself.” He leads Cuddy out of the room and into a small visitors’ lounge, empty this time of night.
They sit, and Wilson waits while Cuddy pages the dialysis team to House’s room. Then he removes the flat cardboard package from his pocket and hands it to Cuddy. She reads the label as carefully as Wilson had, then she, too, checks the remaining contents before handing it back to Wilson. She doesn’t speak; her expression of dismay says it all.
“I killed him,” Wilson states flatly.
“Remember last time he was having problems with his shoulder? It was during Tritter’s investigation. And I, in my role as his loving, concerned friend, told him it wasn’t the cane causing the problem, it was his conscience. His conscience…. Then I yelled at him, ordered him outta my office.” Wilson’s up and pacing now, and his voice is cracking, laced with regret.
“So now, as a direct result of my amateur psychoanalysis—my incorrect diagnosis—I wasn’t aware of this.” He stares at the box in his hand. In a swift, frustrated motion, he crumples it in his fist.
Cuddy goes to him wordlessly, guides him back to the chair. She squeezes his arm. “I’m still not understanding,” she says. She keeps her voice deliberately calm, neutral. “He’s been having shoulder pain, so he sought medical attention for it. Yes, it complicates matters that it was being treated with prednisone. Rough on the kidneys. Rougher on the immune system. But… this doesn’t change the course of treatment now. If you had known, what difference would it have made?”
Wilson shakes his head. “You just don’t get it, do you?” He answers his own question; “No, I don’t suppose you would.” He rests his head wearily in his hands, and starts speaking. His voice is so low that Cuddy has to strain to hear him, and she quickly realizes that he isn’t really speaking to her—he’s thinking aloud, analyzing, trying to comprehend.
“This time, when his shoulder started bothering him, he didn’t come to me. He didn’t even stay within the hospital. He went across town, to Princeton General. Where they wouldn’t laugh at him, accuse him of creating his own problems. Where they wouldn’t make him beg for every bit of pain relief he needs.”
Wilson stands, begins to pace again. Then he turns to face Cuddy. “You know, I tell him I consider our friendship an ethical responsibility. And… I let him interpret that to mean that I act as a buffer, shielding everyone from him, his attitude, his cruelty. But that’s not it; not what I mean at all. I’m not shielding everyone else; I’m protecting him. From them.” Wilson smiles a little at the confusion on Cuddy’s face, sits down next to her.
“Remember how upset he was when you replaced the carpet in his office, after he was shot?”
Cuddy rolls her eyes. “How could I forget? Everyone in a five mile radius knew how upset he was; he made sure of it!”
“I came up with that whole Asperger’s ploy to get that carpet back. But… I’m not certain it was a ploy. I’ve known House a lotta years, and I’m still trying to figure him out. He may not have Asperger’s Syndrome, but there is something… missing. Something essential. Some grown-up secret that he… doesn’t get.” Wilson stops speaking and looks at Cuddy to make certain she’s following him. Cuddy nods and indicates that he should go on; she’s fascinated.
“For all his brilliance,” Wilson continues slowly—he’s figuring this out as he goes along—“there’s still a very big part of House that’s… a child. A kid, in need of protection. He sees everything in black and white. It’s either right or wrong; logical or illogical. Fair… or unjust. There are no grays in his world, Cuddy. He defined what Tritter was doing as wrong; he called it an abuse of power. And—in a world without grays—that justified everything that House did, and everything he allowed to happen to the rest of us. In his mind, he was simply trying to right a wrong, and the collateral damage was the cost of justice.”
Wilson looks earnestly at Cuddy, pleading for her understanding. “When he left my office, after my self-righteous speech about his shoulder, I thought he was furious; I know I was. But Cuddy, he wasn’t angry. He was… confused. Hurt. A kid, who’d been unjustly slapped down by an angry parent. I didn’t get that then. He’d come to me looking for protection, validation that he was doing the right thing. He may not have even realized that’s what he was doing; he just knew that was how things were supposed to work. And I let him down.”
“I was no help either,” Cuddy says. “I told him basically the same thing about his shoulder. Told him something must’ve changed; asked him if he’d had a fight with the wife.” Cuddy winces at the memory of her cruel sarcasm. “You’re right; he must’ve felt, these last few months, like he didn’t have a friend in the world, no one to turn to.”
“Last month, he actually did give me a chance,” Wilson remembers. “Tried to tell me he was having problems with urinary retention. I blamed it on the Vicodin, of course. Gave ‘im hell before I gave him a scrip. I know that urinary retention is a side effect, not an indication of addiction. But I had to get in my little dig. And he… didn’t even fight back. He was on the prednisone at that point. If I hadn’t been such an ass, he would’ve told me; I know it. I could tell he wanted to talk; I blew him off, practically threw the scrip at him. And before that, the whole brain cancer fiasco? He was depressed; why wouldn’t he be? The Ketamine had failed—but not before giving him just a mean little taste of what life is like for the rest of us. He’d have been better off if it’d never worked at all. And then Tritter, and the Vicodin, and the lies….”
Wilson is silent for a moment. Cuddy waits patiently; this is something he’s needed to talk out for a long time, and he needs to do it his way. “And—as if all that weren’t enough to throw anyone into depression—he has to deal with more physical discomfort, and they put him on steroids. Depression’s one of the biggest side effects. And he had no one to talk to. No one. So he comes up with this crazy scheme. I have every reason to believe that my best friend has inoperable cancer, and what do I do? Turn over every rock, call in every favor, in search of a cure? Support him in every way he’ll allow? No; I’m too busy hiding, denying, licking my own wounds. And we call him selfish?”
Cuddy had wondered about that—and she isn’t the only one. Wilson’s conspicuous absence, during the time House had allowed them to believe he was suffering from brain cancer, had been the talk of the hospital. Everyone knew that House’s best friend—his only friend—was the head of Oncology. And soon, everyone also noticed that Wilson was mysteriously uninvolved in House’s diagnosis and treatment. Cuddy and Wilson haven’t talked about it since then, so Cuddy approaches it cautiously.
“That must have been an awful time for you,” she says sympathetically. “Thinking he was terminal, feeling powerless to help.”
Wilson laughs harshly. “Sure. Couldn’t deal with it, House dying of cancer. Ironic, huh? That’s what everyone thought. After they got hold of the records, the kids came to me for help—all three of them. Know what I told them? I said if House had wanted me to go over his records, he’d’ve asked me himself. Told ‘em I was respecting his privacy. Then I walked away. Wanna know the truth? He'd refused to let me go over the records; I'd already asked him. So I was… hurt. I was sulking because he hadn’t told me, hadn’t wanted me involved. Like I’d given him any reason, since Tritter, to feel like I’d help him. I was so… worn out, from all of it…. When he didn’t come to me, figured he didn’t care anymore. Figured I’d better learn not to care. Like that’d ever work….” Wilson shakes his head at his own stupidity. When he resumes speaking, his voice has a faraway quality; Cuddy knows he’s reliving the emotions he’d gone through when he’d believed House to be terminally ill.
“The one thing I did right… after we found out he’d made it all up… I was just so damned relieved that he wasn’t dying… that I couldn’t even be annoyed with him. I tried. I wanted to be angry. And all I was, was… sad. That he honestly thought that no one around here would care. That I didn’t care. He was willing to go off alone, to have God-knows-what injected into his brain, for a chance at… what? Can you… hell, Cuddy, can you even begin to imagine how desperate you’d have to be, to….” Wilson swallows hard. “I think that’s when I started to realize… my role in all of this. Too late, huh?” He looks beseechingly at Cuddy, begging her to contradict his last statement.
“No,” she says firmly. “It’s not too late. We’re gonna get him through this. And… you need to know something.” Cuddy sends a silent apology to House for what she’s about to say. “House told me on Thursday, after the accident, that you did the right thing, leaving him on Christmas Eve.” Wilson starts to interrupt; she shakes her head at him and continues, “He said you did the right thing for him, but that it was wrong for you. I think he’s more aware of your… protection of him… than you give him credit for. And he’s worried for you. He’s afraid that if this… kills him… it’ll destroy you, too. That’s why… he said he didn’t want your help.”
Wilson is stunned. “It’s all been like… some awful dance, hasn’t it? He comes forward, tries to fix things, and I pull away. Then it’s my turn, and he closes down. Damn!” He slams his fist down onto the arm of the chair.
“None of that matters now,” Cuddy says, covering his fisted hand gently with her own. “If everything you’ve just told me is right, he needs you now, more than he ever has before. And you need to be there for him. You told me yourself that he’s always expected that of you. And I saw the look in his eyes, in the clinic on Thursday, when he told you to leave. He still expects, no matter what else has happened, and no matter what he says, that you’ll be there for him. Protecting him. So give him what he expects, even if….” Cuddy can’t finish the sentence.
But Wilson can. “Even if… especially if… it’s the only thing I can do for him now.” He nods firmly, almost to himself, and looks steadily at Cuddy. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my friend.”