CHAPTER NINETEEN: WHISPERING
After Cuddy leaves, Wilson continues to watch House sleep. “You know what, House?” he begins, in a barely audible whisper, “You’d really appreciate the irony of all this. We’ve got a patient with probable VRSA, and we’ve got a world-renowned infectious disease specialist, and both of ‘em are in this hospital. Too bad they’re one and the same.”
Wilson lowers his head into his hands, rubs at his gritty eyes. “What should we do? What’s the best way to treat this? C’mon, help me out here, House. Soon as they get me my laptop, gonna do some serious research, try to get a game plan in place. But no one I consult with will be Dr. Greg House. You’re the best. The best. Ever told you that before? I should’ve. I’ve said it to desperate families, other doctors, your team when they come to me griping about you. Even said it to Cuddy. Don’t think I’ve ever said it to you, though. So I’ll tell you now. And then, when you can hear me, understand me, I’ll tell you again. You’ll respond with some smart-ass remark, ask me why I feel the need to put words to something so blatantly evident. And I’ll roll my eyes and call you an egotistical jerk. Which you are.”
A nurse arrives to disconnect House from the dialysis machine; Wilson moves away from the bedside until she’s completed her work. As soon as the nurse is gone, he resumes his post, and his one-sided conversation with House.
“You earned that ego, though, because you’re also brilliant. Maybe that’s why you manage to come up with so many inventive ways to be self-destructive, huh? Another thing I’ve never told you; you scare me. Being your friend is like… a 24/7 child-proofing job. But I wouldn’t trade places with anyone. Not ever. You need to know that too. So you’ve gotta stick around; wouldn’t want me to lose that job, would you?”
Wilson’s interrupted again as the cot and his laptop arrive simultaneously. The flurry of activity in the room doesn’t disturb House at all, not even when a rolling table is inadvertently toppled and hits the floor with a loud bang. Wilson realizes then that House isn’t simply sleeping; he’s unconscious.
As soon as they’re alone again, Wilson does a quick neuro check. House’s pupils are sluggish. His response to pain is delayed—but he does respond appropriately, Wilson notes with relief.
“That’s okay; you take your vacation, House. Hope you’re somewhere nice, gorging yourself on junk food and overheating the TV with bad porn. But you come back real soon, and help us out. It’s a really tricky puzzle; you’ll enjoy it. So hurry up—we need you…. I need you.”
Wilson, eyes moist and burning, turns reluctantly away from the bedside and opens his laptop.
Cuddy and Chase return to House’s room forty minutes later. As they don gowns and gloves outside the cubicle, Cuddy spots Wilson. He’s stretched out on the cot as promised, but he’s sitting up, back supported against the wall—and he’s typing furiously on his laptop.
“This is not what I had in mind when I ordered you to get some rest,” she scolds as she and Chase enter.
“Just sending out some emails. I want to get in contact with a few infectious disease specialists throughout the country, try to find out what we’re dealing with. Almost finished.”
Cuddy isn’t mollified—Wilson’s been awake for a day and a half, and he’s exhausted. She knows that if he doesn’t sleep soon, she’ll be adding another patient to her roster. She goes to him and sits on the edge of the cot. Cuddy reaches over and closes the laptop. “You are finished for now,” she says, pretending that he isn’t scowling at her. “House’s dialysis session is over, he’s resting comfortably, and Chase and I are here. You’re going to take advantage of the lull in the storm to lie down and close your eyes. Which, by the way, is the generally accepted definition of resting.” Cuddy meets Wilson’s tired eyes with her own and sends a nonverbal message that she means it, that there will be consequences if he defies her.
Wilson, resigned, sighs and sets the laptop on the small table beside his cot. “Okay, but I’m not sleeping. Just going to close my eyes for half an hour.” He lowers his body onto the cot as Cuddy pulls a light blanket over him. “Won’t be asleep—just resting. Thirty minutes,” he repeats, closing his eyes.
Cuddy waits, gazing fondly down on Wilson as his breathing slows and evens out into the regular pattern of sleep. “The two of you are such children,” she whispers quietly. “Stubborn little boys. And the devotion… takes my breath away. You’d kill yourself to save him. I’m not going to let that happen. House’ll kill me if I let anything happen to you. Chase calls you his guard dog; you can just consider me your loving master. Someone’s gotta look out for you until House gets back.” She gently adjusts his blanket before going to join Chase at House’s bedside.
Chase is just completing his assessment; House hasn’t stirred at all. “Last dialysis removed over three liters of fluid, yet edema’s still increasing,” Chase says in a whisper. “His urine output’s dropped marginally. Got a feeling his next labs are gonna show worsening kidney function.”
“Wilson thinks we should stop the vanc,” Cuddy responds.
“I agree with him. Chances are the staph’s completely resistant to it anyway. Lab’s going to let us know if it shows any susceptibility at all to linezolid. Pharmacy’s mixing his first dose of that now. For House, it’d be the drug of choice—risk of nephrotoxicity is virtually nonexistent, so once the vanc clears his system we should begin to see improvement in renal function. And if the linezolid gives him even partial coverage of the infection, that’ll buy us some time.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
Chase glances over at the sleeping Wilson, and lowers his voice even further. “If it doesn’t,” he tells Cuddy frankly, “we’re screwed.”