TITLE: The Devil, You Say
CHARACTERS: House, Wilson, Cuddy
SUMMARY: A study of the psychology behind the HouseWilsonCuddy bond. Introspection, angst, hurtcomfort. Wilson and Cuddy realize that there's a difference between dependence and addiction when House's worsening chronic pain causes a collapse in front of his team.
PRELUDE: House at Home
Wilson remains on the couch and watches as House stands across the room and fights through the spasm, watches as he tries to bring his contorted features under control. So far, Wilson's been winning his own inner struggle not to go to him. But when House fails to smother a thick, involuntary groan, Wilson is by his side rapidly. Briskly, loudly, to be heard over the pain and growing panic, he says, "Sit down." House tries to protest, but can't pull in the air to form the words. Wilson gentles his voice, places his hands firmly on the trembling shoulders--he can feel the fine tremors of the muscles through House's t-shirt.
"Now… House…," he says quietly, slowly. "Sit." He pushes down lightly, and House collapses into the chair. His jaw is still working to gain control over the anguish on his face, control over the ugly sounds that the pain has pulled from him. Wilson doesn't look at that face; House's privacy is tantamount. He simply kneels by his friend and slips warm fingers around his wrist--House's pulse is well over 100.
Wilson's hands move to the cramped right thigh and, before House can protest or guard against the touch, he firmly kneads the wasted muscle. As he works, he says in a conversational tone, "Breathe, House. Breathing is good. In and out. Breathe." His voice has a soothing, sing-song quality as he repeats those words over and over.
He never looks up from his work on the thigh, but he feels it when the spasm finally ends. Again, his fingers go around House's wrist, and he counts out 64 strong beats per minute before he finally stands and looks directly at his friend.
House's eyes are boring into his. Those bright blue eyes, no longer so clouded with pain, are probing and defiant as they search Wilson's face for any hint of sadness or worry or--worse--pity. But Wilson, after so many years, is an expert on House. So the warm, clear brown eyes looking back at House reflect nothing but empathy. House glares into him for a few moments more. Then, satisfied, he sighs and allows his head to tilt back against the chair as Wilson reaches over and works the reclining mechanism. "Thanks," House says quietly, grudgingly, on an exhale.
"Wait'll my bill comes before you thank me. Good news is, I'm cheaper than Ingrid," Wilson grins wickedly and waggles his eyebrows at House, waiting for the biting comeback which will normalize things once more. But House is silent as he closes his eyes. "Can you rest?" asks Wilson. A solitary affirmative nod is the only answer, and his eyes are closed now. So Wilson allows himself the luxury of dropping the "I'm not worried; you're just a pain in the ass" posture. House doesn't see the sadness and worry now clearly etched on his friend's face as Wilson quietly takes the blanket from the couch, covers him, dims the lights, and sits back on the couch to watch over him. House is asleep.
CHAPTER ONE: Can't Sell What You Don't Have
Wilson is running. Although he doesn't remember even standing, he is running towards House's office with the controlled urgency normally reserved only for code situations. Chase's page had been cryptic--"office now house"--but it had immediately produced a feeling of dread in the pit of Wilson's stomach. And so he runs, some wordless, shapeless prayer swirling in his mind.
When he arrives at the office, he stops in the doorway. It's necessary; he's gotta compose himself, assess the situation, triage the patient. Wouldn't do for the doc to just add to the problem. Wouldn't do for the best friend to upset the patient. But Wilson is practiced at this, and inside of twenty seconds, he's seen all he needs to know. House is curled around himself on the floor, breathing raggedly and looking angry.
Chase and Cameron are kneeling at his side, while Foreman stands aloof, mild disgust curling his lip. Wilson takes a deep breath and strides into the room, going to stand over House. He knows it's bad, really bad--House would never allow himself to collapse in front of the team if he'd had any say at all in the matter. He also knows that the best way to start is to feed the spark of House's anger. Chase and Cameron stand and step back, and the team gathers at the door, uncertain if they should stay, but waiting for an all-clear from Wilson before leaving.
Wilson doesn't kneel down, and when he speaks his voice is dry, a bit sarcastic. "Let me guess. The candy store was all out of your favorite little white Tic-Tacs this morning. Or did you just want to see if the carpeting was a good match for your eyes?" He stands over House, crosses his arms, and waits.
House looks up, snarling. "Get outta here, Wilson. All of you, out. Last I checked, the only name on that door was still mine." Okay, anger, good. Wilson could work with that. Now he kneels down at House's head and says, "So get up. This whole fetal position thingy is just a bit melodramatic, don’tcha think?" He prepares to help him up, hoping that House's anger will at least aid in propelling him to a chair. But House surprises him, and Wilson feels the first strong tendrils of real worry start to pull at him.
"I won't,” defiantly. “I...can't,” fear masked well by frustration, but Wilson catches both emotions. “When the pain creeps down, and I’m good and ready, I’ll creep up. On my own time. Without an audience." He glares at the team. "Without help." He transfers his glare to Wilson. But he's overtaken by another spasm, and closes his eyes in resignation to ride it out. When he opens them again and gasps, "Which part of 'out' did you people not understand?" Wilson decides it's time for some tough love.
"I am not going anywhere until you're off this floor, House. So you might as well give. Talk to me. How long? How bad? How much Vicodin? And, for future reference, no, the carpet does not match your eyes." He waits patiently for answers to his questions, but when the only answer is those same eyes fixing him with what could only be called a death beam, he leans in a little closer and says firmly, "The truth, House. Now."
The intensity of House's anger takes even Wilson by surprise when House finally answers, pulling each word out of himself with immense effort. "The truth? You want the truth?" He laughs, a raw sound devoid of humor. "The truth is I’d sell my soul for just one week--, no, one day-- without pain. I’d sell… my soul.”
At the door, Foreman scoffs, turns to Chase and observes, "Not even House can sell what he never had." Chase laughs; even Cameron’s mouth quirks at the corners. Wilson looks up at the group, glaring his own version of a death beam at them, and says in a low, dangerously controlled voice, "You can all leave now. I've got it." They don't have to be told twice.
As soon as the team leaves, Wilson shuts and locks the door, draws the blinds. "They're gone," he says to House, but he doesn't return to his side. He goes to the bookshelf and busies himself removing a double row of medical texts. "Talk to me," he says. Although he is aware that House is practically biting through his lower lip to keep from crying out, Wilson knows it's vital to keep him in the moment, to keep him from being swept away on the riptide of pain.
House draws a ragged breath, tries to comply. "Is he right? Foreman?" he says to Wilson. But House answers his own question, even managing to make a small joke out of it. "Yeah, he'd know. Dr. Mandingo knows soul, huh, Wilson?" So House had heard the cruel remark. Wilson winces. But he's busy extracting a nondescript gray metal box from its hiding place on the bookshelf, so he misses the thoughtful, almost calculating look in House's eyes as House contemplates Foreman's statement.
Chapter Two: House Is Down