CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: THINGS UNSAID
House awakens again just before dawn—and he wants to talk. So does Wilson, because it’s time. He doesn’t know how much longer House will be coherent, or even alert. And there are things House needs to know, things Wilson has to say.
Wilson feeds him a few ice chips. House is having a difficult time swallowing, but his eyes tell Wilson he’s grateful for the small comfort. Then Wilson rolls the patient table across the bed, places a pillow on it, and aids House in leaning forward onto the pillow. This new position eases House’s breathing marginally, and House is grateful for that, too.
Wilson positions his chair so that he and House can see each other’s faces, and waits for House to look at him. “Gotta talk, House.”
House closes his eyes. “Is this gonna be… one of those… sickbed ver… sions of Let’s… Get A Few… Things Straight?... ‘Cuz I… don’t… like that… game….”
“I… yeah, but—” House, you miserable bastard. Always could see right through me—even with your eyes closed. No one else can do that. You’ve gotta stick around… no one else can do that….
House tries to smile, and the effort causes his cracked, swollen lips to bleed. Wilson removes the O2 mask and tenderly wipes away the blood, moistens House’s lips with a glycerin swab. House begins speaking even before Wilson gets the mask back in place. “Or is this… the… deathbed version?” He looks steadily at Wilson.
“No!” Wilson almost shouts. But House’s gaze hasn’t wavered, and finally Wilson meets his eyes, whispers, “Could be….”
House’s eyes thank him for his honesty. House wants to laugh, but he knows that’ll start the coughing again, so he settles for the ghost of a smirk. “Ahh, Jimmy… leave it to… you… get in one… last lec… ture. Tryin’ to… insure my… entrance… pearly gates….”
Wilson’s confused. “No… not a lecture. An apology, House. An overdue apology.”
“But I… did…. I apol… ogized to… you and… don’t tell… anyone but… I… might’ve… meant it….” House stops to gulp air. His O2 sats are falling, and Wilson sees that his nailbeds are dusky now.
“No, House, an apology from me. To you.” House is trying to speak again; Wilson smiles at him, and shakes his head. “Hey, remember the part where I talk, and you pretend to listen? Well, this is the musing out loud part, so—”
House smiles again. “So I… don’t… need to… be here,” he whispers.
“You do. Yeah, you do.” Wilson grabs for the emesis basin as House begins to cough, wordlessly helps him through the spasm, keeping a warm hand tight against his back as House trembles with the effort of breathing.
When House is settled again, Wilson realizes that he needs to say the most important thing now. “That night. The night I… walked out on you. Christmas Eve. House, I walked out—but I never left. I never left.”
House closes his eyes, slowly reopens them. “Moron… think I didn’t… know that… was trashed… where… ya think… got strength… to pull it… together….” You were there… always there. You saved my life.
Wilson feels as if he’s received a benediction. “I’m glad you knew. I’m glad.” The coughing begins again. Wilson reaches for the suction catheter and clears House’s mouth of the stuff that’s drowning him slowly. But House is still coughing, still attempting to speak, and more of the sticky froth keeps coming. Finally, Wilson shakes his head and says sternly, “That’s the end of the first round of Let’s Get A Few Things Straight. We’ll do the second round in a while, okay? And I’ll let you start off round two. But you need to sleep now.”
“…not… fair… my turn… rip-off… gotta tell you… I… Chase….”
Wilson smiles affectionately. “Then you’ll just have to stick around. Don’t wanna deprive yourself of the chance to enlighten us about everything we’re doing wrong, do you? And I wouldn’t want to miss it; no one’s called me an idiot yet this week. So take a nap; get back to me on it, okay? Be right here when you wake up. I’ll even put on my listening ears, how’s that?”
Just before House closes his eyes, he gazes into Wilson with an expression so sad, so regretful, that it fills Wilson with an inexplicable feeling of dread. It’s clear that House had intended to say something vitally important to Wilson, and for a moment, Wilson wishes he’d allowed House to speak. No; he’s got to rest now. There’ll be time enough for it later; there will be.
Exhausted, Wilson lowers himself into the chair and watches House breathe—try to breathe. Where the hell is Chase? Paged him over an hour ago. I should put in a call to Cuddy too.
Wilson looks at House, slumped over the patient table, shoulders heaving. His mouth is open under the mask, and his lips are the same ashen color as his skin. Wilson reaches gently for his hand, presses down on a nailbed, and counts the five seconds it takes for the nail to go from white to the faintest shade of pink. Then he stands up, stretches wearily, and goes to the phone; Cuddy and Chase need to get their asses out of bed. They need to be here. They need to help his friend.
He makes the calls and wanders to the cot. They’ll be here soon. Just close my eyes until they get here. Long night; gonna be a long day. Need to be able to think.
Wilson lies down, propping his back against the wall. He knew I hadn’t left him, knew he wasn’t alone. Said that gave him the strength to get through it. And now I’ll give him that strength again. And he’ll pull through again.
“I’m here for you, House,” he whispers. “Whatever it takes; I’m here. Always was; always will be. Hold on to that. Just… hold on.” And finally, Wilson sleeps too.