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 Rating: PG
When Chase enters House’s cubicle shortly before 2, he makes a point of smiling warmly at Wilson. “Would it be all right to examine him?” he asks; his tone is deferential.
“Of course.” Wilson joins Chase at the bedside, and remains silent during Chase’s assessment.
Chase removes the stethoscope from his ears. “There’s still fluid in the lower lobes, but his breath sounds are improving. And the generalized edema’s decreased. His nurse told me that his temp’s stayed below 103 today.” He pulls a lab slip from his pocket and hands it to Wilson. “White count’s still in the basement, but his BUN and creatinine have both fallen since yesterday. Even though his urinary output hasn’t changed, that indicates an improvement in renal function.” Chase appears sincerely happy to be able to share this small piece of positive news with Wilson.
Wilson studies the lab results, then looks at Chase. “Thank you.”
“I know that… none of this is what you would’ve chosen. But you’re giving it everything you’ve got anyway. And you’re doing a damned good job of pretending to understand why I made the decisions I did. Means a lot.”
“But I do understand, Dr. Wilson. I’ve understood from the beginning. The situation… is what it is. And at this point there’s little to be gained, for anyone, by not supporting your choices.”
Wilson regards Chase with a new respect. “I hope House has at least mentioned to you how much you’ve grown as a doctor,” he says.
Chase laughs. “You’re kidding, right?”
Wilson smiles wryly. “Then I’ll tell you. You’ve grown a lot these past three years; you’ve become a physician I’d be proud to have care for me, or my family.” Wilson looks at House. “I am proud to have you caring for my family,” he says quietly.
Chase acknowledges the kind words with a brief nod. He appreciates the praise, especially coming from Wilson—but after working with House for so long, he isn’t quite comfortable with it. So he changes the subject. “Leigh Tarrington came in for a follow-up yesterday.”
“The young woman from the group home? How’s she doing?”
“She appears to be recovering uneventfully.” Chase shrugs.
“How can that be? Shouldn’t she be on different antibiotics, something stronger?”
“Apparently she’s doing well on the oral rifampin.”
“I think we need to put her on Zyvox. If the infection mutates—”
“Dr. Wilson, she isn’t ill! There’s no reason to put her on oral linezolid. You have to remember, her infection isn’t systemic. She hasn’t been on months of prednisone, years of opioids and NSAIDs. Her case is completely different; she’s going to be fine.”
“But look at House, how sick he is! And it was Leigh’s blood he was inoculated with. Aren’t we risking her health by just assuming it’s all under control?”
Chase knows that Wilson is simply projecting his worry over House onto Leigh, and that somewhere in his subconscious mind, he’s also railing over the injustice of House having to go through this. So he answers as gently as he can. “She… isn’t House. And there are many cases where localized infection responds differently than systemic does; it’s well documented. No one understands all the reasons why, but it happens. Bottom line is, she got lucky; House didn’t.”
Wilson contemplates Chase’s understatement as he looks at House, who’s currently undergoing dialysis. Each session is removing a significant amount of fluid, and House even looks a little better. But Wilson knows that the improvement will be fleeting, now that he’s back on nephrotoxic medication—unless they can find something, fast, that’ll fight the VRSA without affecting House’s compromised renal function, or throwing him into liver failure. And so far, he’s hit nothing but dead ends in his research.
“I take it Cameron and Foreman haven’t had any luck with the VRSA studies in Canada, have they?” he asks Chase.
“I’d have told you. But Cameron’s trying to figure out if there’s a safe way to boost House’s immune system without adding to his current problems.”
“Did they double check? Have they spoken directly with the people in charge of the trials?”
“I’m certain they did. If House has taught us anything, it’s how to be thorough, not overlook the slightest thing.”
“Could you check with them again, please? Make sure they’ve spoken with the right people? The trial House needs is out there, somewhere. We can’t afford to take the chance that some misinformation, communicated by the wrong person, could cause us to overlook something that might save House’s life.”
“I’ll confirm it with Cameron and Foreman,” Chase says patiently.
“And would you mind making sure that they’re tracking down those older abstracts I asked for, at the medical library? I emailed Cameron a list this morning, and I haven’t heard back from her yet. There might be something vital there; I’ve got to have those copies. Can’t afford to leave any stone unturned—I need Cameron to get the abstracts to me just as soon as possible.”
Wilson is pacing as he speaks, and Chase can tell that he’s becoming agitated with his own inability to solve this puzzle for House; he’s seen House exhibit the same behaviors many times when a case has been tough, when the answers stay just out of reach.
Chase regards Wilson for a moment. “We don’t want to lose him either, Dr. Wilson. We’re all working very hard to get this figured out. You do know that, don’t you?”
Wilson stops pacing, sighs and shakes his head. “Of course I know that. I’m sorry, Chase. Seem to be saying that to you a lot lately, don’t I? It’s just….”
Chase says kindly, “It’s all right—really. We understand how hard this is for you. And if you really want to know, all your… criticism… makes it a bit easier for me; kind’ve like having House peering over my shoulder. That’s a good thing, by the way.” He smiles.
“Thanks, Chase; I… appreciate that. But… you can’t understand everything that’s at stake here. It’s not just House’s life, or even his health. He deserves… so much more than he’s gotten lately, especially from me. I’ve got a lot to make up to him, and I want the chance to do that. This isn’t the way I would’ve chosen, but we play the cards we’re dealt. And I intend to win this hand.”
“If anyone can, Dr. Wilson, I don’t doubt that it’ll be you. House is really lucky to have you.”
Wilson deflects the compliment; “We’re all lucky to have him, Chase. That might be… difficult… to remember sometimes, but he really is worth the aggravation he causes.” Wilson smiles faintly, then goes to the bedside and begins House’s oral care.
Chase starts to remind Wilson that the nurses can do it; then he remembers something. He and Cameron had been tending to a newborn in the NICU, an infant who could be dying. The young parents hadn’t even had a real chance to bond yet with their child. So Cameron had called the couple—standing anxiously at the viewing window—in, to ‘help’ change the sheet on the isolette. She’d had them lift their child. And that small opportunity to actually touch the infant, to do something for their baby, had brought the parents so much comfort. So now Chase realizes why these apparently menial tasks are so important to Wilson; Chase says nothing.
As Wilson finishes the oral care and begins range of motion exercises, he looks at Chase. “Mind turning on the TV? Almost time for the soaps.”
Chase hits the remote button, looks quizzically at Wilson.
Wilson smiles wryly. “Just trying to keep a little bit of… uh… normalcy in House’s life. Yeah, I know he probably can’t hear the TV—or me—but it gives us a break, a way to… push aside what’s happening, for a little while.”
Chase feels a rush of compassion for this man who’s willing to risk anything, do everything, to help House live. He walks to Wilson’s side, places a warm hand on his shoulder, and squeezes. “You’re doing a great job,” he says sincerely.
As Chase leaves the cubicle, he can’t help wondering what effect it’ll have on Wilson when House dies. Chase hopes that Wilson will be able to find solace in remembering all he’s doing now to provide comfort for House. Wilson’s being given a gift—a chance to say goodbye to a man who’s been so central to his life. When it’s over, he’ll have that, and Chase can’t help but envy him. He thinks of his father’s death, the way he’d found out, all the missed chances. Chase hadn’t been prepared, and it haunts him still. Watching House die is difficult; it’s horrible—but at least there’ll be time for goodbyes.