CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: CHANCES
In the cafeteria, Cuddy and Wilson find an isolated table. Once they’re seated, Cuddy says gently, “Earth to Dr. Wilson….” She’s seen the distracted look in his eyes, knows that both his doctor’s mind and his friend’s heart are still up in the ICU with House.
Wilson makes an effort to pull himself back to the here-and-now, and smiles apologetically. “Sorry; not trying to be rude, it’s just….”
“I know what it is. And it’s okay. But… try to let it go for just a little while. You made a very good point when you told Chase that you need to be House’s friend right now, not his physician. But that means that you’ve got to trust the people who are seeing to his medical requirements, so that you can see to his emotional needs. I know that we made that more difficult for you when we overlooked his need for pain management, but believe me—that incident will only improve our vigilance now.”
“I do believe you. And I trust Foreman. I guess I just… I’m still dealing with my own negligence, and I’ve got this crazy idea that if I’m with him all the time I can keep him safe. Stupid, huh?”
Cuddy smiles sympathetically. “Not stupid at all. And if anyone bears constant watching, it’d be House.”
“I just can’t believe I’ve had everything backwards all these months! Never even occurred to me that he’d expect me to be looking out for him; I always figured that he tolerated it—just barely. One good thing, though, is that knowing this, it’ll make his recovery period less stressful, on both him and me. Because now it’s going to be easier to ignore his gripes about the hovering!” Wilson smiles, but Cuddy’s face is serious.
“If he recovers,” she says carefully, “you do realize that he may harbor some resentment about what we’ve done—putting him on the vent, disregarding all he said to Chase?”
“It’s not what we’ve done; it’s what I’ve done,” Wilson responds. “He will recover, and I will take the responsibility for that decision. I pretty much forced you into it; I’m just grateful that you’re allowing it. I can’t expect you to… share in the blame.”
“Have you given any thought to what you’ll do, what you’ll say to him, if he regains consciousness while he’s on the vent?”
“The truth; I’ll tell him the truth. I still refuse to believe that he wants to die.”
Cuddy shakes her head. “I… don’t find it impossible that under these circumstances, he might not… want to fight. House is… not happy. He hasn’t been happy for a long time. He lives daily with pain that the rest of us can only begin to imagine. And he… hasn’t had any support for a long time now.” Cuddy pauses to see how this last statement is affecting Wilson, and she isn’t surprised to see him with his head down, pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers. She lays a hand on his arm. “It’s not all your fault, you know.”
“Yeah, it is,” he says. “But that isn’t even important right now. What matters is getting him through this, starting to rebuild his trust, making sure he knows he isn’t alone. You know, the first time I spoke to him after his team had gotten to the truth about the brain cancer, I told him that he has people who give a damn. Wasn’t ‘til hours afterward that I remembered something a patient once said to me, when she was asking me about House.”
Wilson stops speaking, swallows some coffee. When he looks back at Cuddy, his eyes are moist. “She asked me if House cared about me, and I tossed off some thoughtless answer because I didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to find out he didn’t. But this patient, Rebecca, she called me on it. Told me ‘it’s not what people say, it’s what they do.’ So there I am, standing in the room of a patient I’d tricked House into consulting on—I’d told him she was my cousin—and I knew. He’d taken her just because I asked him to. That was good enough for him. He showed me through his actions that yeah, he cares. And what have any of us done recently, for him, to demonstrate that we care, we give a damn?”
Cuddy thinks about this for a minute. “Nothing,” she admits. “I’ve tried—gave him plane tickets a couple months ago when he mentioned a vacation. I… it was a lousy way of saying I thought he was doing a good job, he’d earned the time off. And he never used the tickets, and I never bothered to follow it up, find out why. I also never bothered to tell him why I gave him the tickets.”
“That’s the thing. We’ve told him we give a damn—but we haven’t done anything to prove it. House says everybody lies, but symptoms don’t. The only ‘symptoms’ we’ve been displaying to him are anger, distrust, exasperation. We’ve been lying to him, berating him, scolding him, out of one side of our mouths, and telling him we give a damn out of the other. Called all this some awful dance the other day. It’s worse than that. The whole thing’s been more like an exercise in conditional friendship, conditional love. Do it my way, or I won’t like you anymore; I won’t care about you. And even when House did try to do it my way, I never even acknowledged that, never said it was good enough.”
Wilson looks intently at Cuddy before he continues. “But I’m not gonna wallow in it; we don’t have time for that. I’m going to fix it, that’s all. If he wakes up while he’s on the respirator, I’ll fix it then, make him see that he does have a reason to live. If not, I’ll fix it while he recovers. Not what we say, it’s what we do—I’ll show him. I’ll fix it.”
Cuddy smiles at him, and nods. You deserve the chance. I hope you get it.
“I’ve… uh… got one more favor to ask,” Wilson continues. “I think it’s time we notified his parents, and I….” His voice trails off.
“I already did that.” Cuddy hesitates. “They’re… not coming. I spoke with his father. He said that since House didn’t think it was necessary to tell them about the shooting and the Ketamine coma until it was pretty much over with, that I should have House call them and let them know when this one was… resolved. I tried to explain how dire this situation could be, but….”
“I get the picture,” Wilson responds grimly. “His poor mother; I’ll try to give her a call later, answer her questions. Can’t say I’m surprised at his father’s response, though.”
Cuddy looks at Wilson’s face; his lips are drawn into a tight line, and she’s glad she didn’t tell him John House’s parting shot; “That boy has more lives than a cat, and by my count he’s only used up three of ‘em—he’ll be fine.” Cuddy thinks that if he’d said that to Wilson, more than one House’s life would currently be in danger.
Cuddy returns to House’s room without Wilson. She’s sent him for a shower, clean clothes. He’d been surprised when she’d mentioned it, and a little embarrassed. “You’ve had other things, more important things, on your mind,” she’d reassured him. And he’d dutifully gone off, smiling tiredly and suddenly looking far too young for the weight, the responsibility of all that’s happening.
But Cuddy had another reason for sending Wilson off; she needs to speak with Foreman alone, before Wilson returns. As she’s gowning up prior to entering the cubicle, she’s happy to see that Foreman’s alone in the room with House.
“How’s he doing; how’d it go?” she asks as she enters.
“He’s doing okay now; suctioned quite a bit of fluid out of his lungs, and the intubation was smooth,” Foreman responds. “And the latest labs show an improvement in renal function. So I guess things are as good as they’re gonna get until we have a real plan for the VRSA. How’s Wilson holding up?”
“He’s doing… better than I thought. He’s had a lot of time to think, realized a few things. And I believe that things’ll change for him and House during House’s recovery. If House recovers….” She asks the question with her eyes.
“If there aren’t any drastic changes in his condition and we can find an effective treatment in the next forty-eight, seventy-two hours, he’s got a 60% to 80% chance,” Foreman tells her. “If not… less than 20%. And it won’t be pleasant,” he says bluntly.
“And what are the odds that he’ll wake up while he’s intubated?”
“Can’t guarantee anything, but he probably won’t. He was semi-comatose even before we got him on the vent, and he’s on maximum sedation now. I, uh… didn’t think Wilson would go for restraints, so I’m not taking any chances.”
Cuddy smiles. “That’s good. Makes it easier for both of them.”
Foreman and Cuddy fall silent as they watch House, watch the vent breathe for him, watch the dialyzer do what his kidneys can’t, see the measured drops of IV medication that are controlling his blood pressure, his heart rate, his hydration. And they’re both thinking the same thing; There’s nothing easy about this. Nothing.