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. ;) This is IT, folks, the last chapter. x-posted
AUTHOR'S NOTE #1: The end of the rough and rocky road has arrived, and I'm not ashamed (well--maybe a wee bit ashamed) to admit that I'm sitting here crying. I hope all of you enjoy this chapter, and find it a satisfying conclusion to our journey together. If you do find it satisfying, that's due, in whole, to blackmare_9 and misanthropicobs ,and their insistence that I 'get it right.' Mare actually shaped the chapter with her brilliant suggestions, all of which I shamelessly appropriated.
And now, on with the story (and my silly tears):
CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX: MORALS AND PROVERBS
Figures, Wilson thinks as he rushes to catch the elevator before the doors close. I ignore Cuddy yelling at me for two days because I won’t leave House’s room. Then I let Foreman push me out the door for something stupid—lunch and a hot shower weren’t good reasons to leave House. What was I thinking? But he found a way to punish me, all right; I’m gone twenty minutes, and damned if he doesn’t wake up.
Wilson swallows a curse and stabs uselessly at the button as the elevator doors shut, then he turns and heads for the stairs.
A lot has happened in the past two days. A mere eight hours after the first dose of WCK 771, House’s fever had broken, and from that point on, the improvement in his condition has been slow but steady. His labs are improving, and the forty-eight hour culture results for the WCK 771/dalbavancin combination have shown complete eradication of House’s strain of VRSA.
Wilson remembers the very moment the fever had broken, and he smiles. Looked like House’d gotten himself caught in a rainstorm; he was so soaked with sweat we could’ve wrung out those sheets! And after the nurse and I got him all cleaned up, and she suggested giving him a shave… bet she’s still wondering why I wouldn’t stop laughing when House’s heart rate picked that moment to shoot through the roof!
It’s going to be several more weeks before House’s kidneys will fully resume normal function and he’ll be able to come off dialysis, but they’d expected that.
He’ll still need dialysis when I take him home; that oughtta be a laugh a minute. Doesn’t matter, though—I’ll put up with whatever he dishes out. It’ll be easy; I’ll just remind myself how close we came to permanently redecorating the living room, replacing the piano with a home dialyzer.
Wilson’s inordinately grateful to the dialysis machine; it’s responsible, in large part, for the resolution of House’s pulmonary edema. Yesterday morning, House had begun bucking the ventilator—attempting to breathe on his own, against the mechanical flow.
Reminded me of a kid who’s just discovered he can set off the smoke detector by burning his toast—I swear House was fighting the vent just to see how high he could make us jump every time it alarmed.
By early afternoon, after the multiple alarms had everyone’s nerves permanently jangled, Chase had decided that it would be safe to try and wean him from the vent. So they’d lightened his sedation, waited a few hours, and begun the routine process.
Of course, House had to make it exciting for us—nothing routine about him, Wilson thinks wryly.
Chase had decreased the settings on the vent so that it was providing only four breaths per minute, giving House a chance to breathe on his own during the fifteen second intervals between mechanical breaths. Not only hadn’t House attempted to breathe, his heart rate had fallen alarmingly. Chase had returned the vent to its original settings and tried to soothe Wilson by suggesting that maybe they were hoping for too much, too soon—maybe they were rushing things. But Wilson wasn’t buying that.
“House, I know you can hear me,” he’d said loudly. “Here’s the deal; you get another thirty minutes to shake off the sedation, and then we’re trying this again. You either cooperate, or I’ll personally declare you brain-dead and donate your body for spare parts. Not that you have anything anybody else would want, but it’s the thought that counts.” Wilson knows it had to be his imagination, but he’d still swear he’d seen House give the smallest of grins around the endotracheal tube. And half an hour later, House was ready, and the extubation had gone without incident.
Cuddy and Wilson were concerned when House hadn’t regained consciousness after a few hours, but Foreman had pointed out that not only had he been heavily sedated for several days, but the combined effects on his body of the unremitting high fever and the daily dialysis sessions had left him without any reserves; he needed this time to recoup.
And I needed to do some recouping of my own. Guess I just didn’t let myself realize, until he started getting better, how close I came to losing him. I couldn’t let myself realize that; if I had, my only alternative would’ve been to give up on him. And I couldn’t do that… again. Almost killed us both the first time.
So Wilson and Cuddy had waited, and watched, and hoped. And they’d both spent a lot of time talking to him, privately.
Wilson doesn’t know what Cuddy said to him. He himself had quietly told House all that he’d learned in the past week. He knows he’ll always treasure this time they’ve had, these private monologues, the ability to say to an unconscious House the things House’s waking demeanor won’t permit.
Glad I finally told him what he means to me, the difference his friendship makes. House may not have heard everything I said; maybe he didn’t hear anything I said—but that’s okay. I’ll have plenty of time to show him. Deeds, not words. Wilson smiles as he savors the phrase, ‘plenty of time’. It’s a luxury he intends to appreciate fully, a gift they’d come far too close to losing.
Wilson arrives at House’s cubicle and hurriedly throws on an isolation gown. Cuddy, Chase, and Foreman meet him at the door; he looks toward House, whose eyes are closed.
“He’s just gone back to sleep,” Cuddy whispers. “He’s very weak, of course. But we told him pretty much everything that’s happened, and he seemed to understand it all.”
“Did he say anything? Is he angry?” Wilson asks, his eyes trained on House. Doesn’t matter if he is; I’d have done it anyway. And I’d do it again, if necessary. But it’s probably a good idea to find out what I’m walking into before I walk into it!
“He had a few questions,” Chase tells him. “And he did want to know how he’d wound up on the vent. But I’ve gotta say—he seemed more… amused than anything else, when we told him what you’d done.”
Wilson’s still looking closely at House. “I’m sure he’ll wake up again soon,” he tells the others. “Would you mind giving us a little time?”
“Not at all,” says Cuddy. “We need to get back to work anyway,” she says to Chase and Foreman. “Believe it or not, House isn’t the only patient here; there’s a building full of ‘em. And I’m happy to be able to say that now we can concentrate on a few of the others!”
As soon as they’re gone, Wilson approaches the bedside. “It’s safe, House; they’ve left. You can open your eyes now.”
The tiny grin lifting the corner of House’s mouth isn’t Wilson’s imagination this time. House opens his eyes slowly. “How’d you know I wasn’t sleeping?” he asks. His voice is hoarse, but much improved over the broken, labored whisper Wilson had last heard from him.
“Easy; that little habit you have of biting your upper lip when you’re bored. It’s a dead giveaway.”
“You study my body language? That’s just… weird.”
“No it’s not; it’s a survival skill, learned at great expense.” To both of us. And I need to be practicing it more often.
“Speaking of ‘survival’,” House says, “word on the street has it that you saved my life.”
“Yeah, well… you know how reliable word on the street is.” Wilson looks away.
“Oh, I trust my sources. Heard your methods were pretty impressive, too. And just barely legal.”
Now Wilson meets House’s eyes. “Learned from the best.”
“Not gonna deny that.” House’s expression is self-mocking, but Wilson can see that House is pleased with the unexpected compliment, and that he’s maybe even a little bit proud of his bestest bud, and what he pulled off on House’s behalf. Wilson can also tell that House is tiring; he’s making a conscious effort to keep his eyes open.
“Why don’t you get some sleep for real? You relapse now, I’ll have to go through that whole tedious saving-your-life thing again.”
House shakes his head; he’s not done talking yet. “You familiar with that old Chinese proverb? The life you save, you are responsible for. Or is that a moral? You know I always get that confused.”
Wilson blinks and swallows. “It’s a proverb, House—a phrase with profound meaning. Now. I’m not asking, I’m telling—close your eyes, get some sleep.” Wilson looks down at House, fighting sleep like a recalcitrant child, and he smiles affectionately.
House eyes Wilson’s loving expression suspiciously. “You’re not gonna… hug me, are you?”
Wilson’s smile grows a bit wider, and his eyes are shining. Both he and House know that the hug House is protesting is safely wrapped up in the look on Wilson’s face. “Wouldn’t dream of it. You’re down to skin and bones anyway; your luck, I’d break something. Now quit stalling and go to sleep. I’ll be right here when you wake up.”
House’s eyes close, and he smiles too. And he’s got just one more thing to say. He could swear he says “Stop hovering!” But what comes out is, “I’m counting on it”—and that’s okay, too.
A/N#2: Huge thanks to everyone for your support, encouragement, and praise; it’s been one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had. And here’s a little gift for your loyalty, and to whet your appetites for what’s coming up; I’ve put it under a cut in case there are those who’d prefer to wait until I officially start posting. See you in two to three weeks with that promised sequel!! mjf 06.15.07