KidsNurse (kidsnurse) wrote,

The Devil, You Say (Book One of the Devil Trilogy)

TITLE:  The Devil, You Say
CHARACTERS:  House, Wilson, Cuddy
SUMMARY:  A study of the psychology behind the HouseWilsonCuddy bond.  Introspection, angst, hurtcomfort.  Wilson and Cuddy realize that there's a difference between dependence and addiction when House's worsening chronic pain causes a collapse in front of his team.  

02/08: Having a bad day pain-wise, children--may not be so quick to respond to comments as I usually try to do.  But that most certainly doesn't mean that they aren't very much appreciated!!! So sorry!

Previous Chapters:  

PRELUDE: House at Home
Chapter One: Can't Sell What You Don't Have
Chapter Two: House Is Down
Chapter Three: House in Hell
Chapter Four: Cuddy Lies
Chapter Five: Wilson Cracks
Chapter Six: Distance  
Chapter Seven: And Then There's the Truth 
And tonight's offerings:


Wilson is trying to keep the mood light as he sets up, but he sees House withdrawing into himself, and that’s not good. Let’s just confront this head on, get the elephant outta the living room already.

He goes over to the recliner, holding the dreaded patient gown. “Are you ready to get changed? It’ll be easier with all the equipment.” He wears his matter-of-fact doctor voice.

“Do I have a choice? What if I say no, I’m not ready?”

Good! There’s the opening I’ve been waiting for. “Of course you have a choice. If you’re not ready, then we’ll just wait until you are.” Wilson keeps his voice soft, his tone mild; “This isn’t six years ago, House. And it’s not a coma.” He sees House flinch, and knows he’s pegged the problem correctly. “This time around, you’re calling all the shots. Absolutely nothing’s gonna happen to you that you don’t know about, and nothing at all will happen until you’re ready.” He tosses the gown onto the monitor stand and sits down next to the recliner like they have all the time in the world. He doesn’t look at House as he continues to speak.

“If I were you, I’d be pretty damned scared right now. I’d be wondering if I was making a mega-mistake, wondering if I could back out. Well, like I said, this is your call all the way, and if you change your mind, then you change your mind. That’s not backing out, not when you’re the one in charge.” Wilson stands, still not looking at House, and walks to the window. You’re taking a chance here, Wilson; what’ll you do if he calls your bluff and changes his mind?

“Of course, on the other hand, keeping the prize in view would probably mitigate a lot of my fear. I mean, I can’t imagine what you’ve been going through. I just know that I want it to end for you. And just knowing how much better it’ll be, well, that’s worth conquering a few fears, right?” He chances a look over at House, and is astonished to see him grinning back at him, vastly amused.

“You’ve got a good bedside manner, Jimmy. About as transparent as Cuddy’s turquoise blouse, but very calming—unlike that blouse,” he leers.

“House!” Wilson explodes. “Just how long were you going to let me continue my pathetic Marcus Welby impression?”

“Don’t worry, I was gonna stop you before we got to the hand-patting and the lollipop.” He’s still grinning at Wilson, and his eyes are bright with gratitude. “Now let’s grab that gown and get on with it. Eyes on the prize, right, Jimmy?”

Wilson shakes his head, smiling. “You’re exasperating, you know that, House?” he says as he helps him out of the scrubs and attaches the monitor leads to his chest. He slides the gown on and replaces the O2 as House continues to chatter happily.

“Yeah, I mighta heard that word paired up with my name one or three times. ‘Course, that was yesterday. I don’t have the count in for the whole week yet.” House is looking pretty damned pleased with himself, isn’t even paying attention as Wilson turns on the monitor, winds the automatic BP cuff around his arm, places the pulse oximeter on his finger. So far so good, thinks Wilson, but it’s not real to him yet.

As he’s reconnecting the IV tubing, Wilson says casually, “Would you mind if I start another line? With the drip going, I’d like to have another port.”

“Jimmy, what is wrong with you? I know you need another port; lucky for you I’ve got veins comin’ out of my ears—well—my arms, anyway.” He sticks his arms out, turns them over, and presents them proudly to Wilson.

Wilson is laughing so hard he couldn’t get a needle in if a vein stood up and waved at him. “Ya know, you are absolutely snockered on that last dose of morphine!” Wilson knows a good situation when he sees one, and quickly gathers the supplies for the IV.

As he’s preparing to insert the cannula, he tells House, “I’m gonna go ahead and pull some blood for a pre-anesthesia panel, save you another stick, okay?” Instantly, he feels House’s arm tense up in his hand. “What’s the matter, you suddenly acquire a fear of needles?” he laughs, unable to look up from the insertion of the cannula.

“How’s the blood getting to the lab?” asks House—and the tone of his voice gets Wilson’s attention. He glances up; House’s face is tight, closing off again. What the hell just happened? he wonders. He quickly grabs a syringe, draws the blood, flushes and caps the site.

“House, what’s the matter? Did I hurt you? Is it the leg?”

“I said, how’s the blood getting to the lab, Wilson. Can you just answer the question?”

Uh-oh. “Cuddy’ll take it. She’ll run it herself, no records. She’s being unbelievably cool about all this, House, you’d be proud of her. Before this is all over, we’ll have her converted over to the fun side.”

You’re not going?” There’s a faint hitch in his voice that only Wilson would catch. Ahh, okay, so that’s it; I thought of everything-- except assuring him that I won’t leave him alone. Careful, Wilson, let’s fix it….

“You’re kidding, right? I go out there and twenty people are going to need forty things from me. I’ve got the dream situation right here; I get to play doctor with only one patient to focus on. Why would I wanna screw with that?” He sees just a little of the tension leave House’s face. Not good enough. “You’re stuck with me; I’m not leaving this room until we leave it together.”

The rest of the tension leaves House; Wilson sees him close his eyes for a second to compose himself. “I guess I’ll just have to live with that, then,” House says. “Being cooped up with you for all those hours…I s’pose it’s a gift I’ll be knocked out through most of it. Might make it bearable.”

Wilson breathes an inward sigh of relief. Got past that pretty well. But he’s coming down off that morphine high; everything’s beginning to sink in. Tread carefully here.

The key turns in the lock and Cuddy comes in. She’s carrying a large cardboard box, the words Plainsboro Hospice printed prominently on the side. “I knew it!” House says. “This is all a devious plot to kill me and steal my priceless cane so you two can ride off into the sunset together!” Cuddy looks a question at Wilson; all he can do is raise his eyebrows and shrug at her. House’s mood changes are lightning-fast and pretty disorienting; Wilson’s feeling just a bit seasick.

“You’d better be nice to her, House—that’s your happy juice she’s got there.”

“And she’s wearing the turquoise blouse! Cuddy, you’re too good to me.”

This time when Cuddy looks to him for help, Wilson wishes he’d thought to knock House out earlier. With his priceless cane.

“I don’t know what he’s babbling about,” he tells Cuddy, trying very hard to keep his eyes trained upward, on her face. Finally, he gives up and changes directions entirely so that he can glare menacingly at House. That’s futile too, as House is busy trying out all his nonverbal flirting techniques on Cuddy, who is by now studiously ignoring both men.

She’s spotted the blood-filled syringe. She picks it up. “What tests do you want me to run on this?” She’s all business, Wilson thinks. Wonder what’s bothering her? She seems in a hurry to leave, so Wilson scribbles out a lab slip. “After I run this, I’ll be in my office if you need me.”

“I always need you, Cuddy!” House says. But Cuddy doesn’t take the bait, doesn’t even smile. She just stares through him, says “Good luck, House,” then turns quickly and leaves. Wilson is worried, but it’ll have to wait. It’s time to ease House into la-la land.


House has never eased into anything in his life; he either jumps in without a backward glance, or refuses to budge—a two-year-old in the middle of his favorite Barney video when it’s time to leave for preschool. Wilson suspects that they’re going to be dealing with the latter situation this morning. He doesn’t feel like he’s preparing the patient for treatment; it’s far closer, he thinks, to what a parent with a recalcitrant child must feel.

He’s just finished getting House hooked up to every single piece of equipment when House announces, “I need to pee.”

“And you couldn’t have mentioned this before we got you tethered to all this stuff? Why didn’t you tell me before?”

House pouts. “You didn’t ask.”

“Don’t pout; you don’t do ‘cute’ well. Kinda frightening, actually. Use the urinal; you’re attached to this bed.”

“Nope. If I’m gonna be stuck here for 24 hours, I wanna get up and walk to the bathroom and piss in the porcelain. C’mon, let’s go.”

Wilson rests his head in his hand and says through his teeth, “Use the urinal, House. Please.”

“C’mon, I really gotta go.” Wilson has never heard a grown man whine so annoyingly, hadn’t known that a two-year-old’s voice could issue from a six-foot body.

“Use. The. Urinal. House.” Wilson drops his head down to the recliner’s armrest, pressing hard against it with his forehead, trying to stop the dull throb that’s taken up residence behind his eyes. “Are you for real?” he mutters to House.

“You said I was calling the shots. I wanna call the shots. You said I could call the shots.”

“The procedural shots, House; you’re not old enough yet for the decisions that require adult input, we’ve discussed this.”

“But I gotta pee. Now.”

Wilson forces himself to take the deepest breath he’s ever taken in his life, lifts his head, smiles at House, and picks up the catheter kit.

“I have a great idea, Jimmy--I’ll use the urinal!”


Cuddy sits alone in her office, staring out the window and thinking. Remembering. She doesn’t want to remember; the images come without her permission. I should really be downstairs helping House through this. And poor Wilson; who’s supporting him? But she can’t make herself move. She won’t go down there; she can’t watch House as he goes under again. Yet here she is, watching it anyway, seeing House six years ago lying vulnerable, and in pain, and trusting, in a hospital bed—that was the last time I saw him trust—and she’s the one by his bedside, the one holding the syringe that would ruin his life—and save it. The movie playing in her head is oddly compelling, like watching the aftermath of a traffic accident; she knows she should look away, but her eyes keep returning to the wreck, the bodies. Oh, Lisa, you know that Stacy did what had to be done to save his life—why can’t you grant yourself the same understanding?

“You know why,” she says aloud. “You were the one who had a damned good idea what kind of life you were sentencing him to. And you knew him, so you didn’t just have an idea how he’d feel about spending the rest of his life like this, you knew how he’d feel. And you let it happen—no, you made it happen!”

Rationally, she knows that this time it’ll be different; no coma, no surgery, no standing unseen in the door to House’s room as he lies in there all alone, crying soundlessly two days after the surgery. That’s the image that stays with her—that, and her hand pressing the plunger on the syringe as House goes under willingly, trusting her. So she won’t be there for this. She can’t.


House has worn himself out with his antics, and the thigh spasms must be returning, because his eyes are squeezed tightly shut and a glance at the monitor shows his respiratory rate is climbing fast. Wilson checks his watch; 11:20am. Time to get this show on the road.

Wilson’s hanging the first bag, and House is realizing that this is really happening. Wilson looks down at him as he connects the line to the heplock, says gently, “You hangin’ in there?”

House opens his eyes. Yeah, there’s the pain, Wilson thinks. The monitors can’t lie, and neither can House’s eyes.

“I wanna do this slow. Can we skip the bolus?” House asks.

“C'mon, you’re spasming again. Twenty milligrams of morphine will stop it from getting worse, and you’ll be out before you know it.”

“But I want to know it. Goin’ down fast, it’s just creepy. I wanna do this slow, have a little time to talk, make my deathbed proclamations, all that neat stuff.” A thinly drawn smile quirks the corner of his mouth. Wilson sees through the smile, sees the plea and the fear.

“Of course.” Wilson puts down the syringe. “I’m starting the drip now. We’ll start with 30mg an hour, that’ll give you a good ten minutes to issue those proclamations. I’ll titrate up from there once you’re asleep, okay?” He punches the settings into the pump, then presses ‘run’.

House nods. "Where's Cuddy? Doesn't she wanna be here, see me helpless? It'll turn her on; she's hot for me. Hides it well, but still. I know these things."

"I'll page her." If House wants Cuddy here for this, he'll have her here. Hell, if he wants a few dancing girls and a live band, I'll find a way to get those too.

Wilson starts to go to the phone, but House, looking suddenly thoughtful and sad, stops him. "No, wait. I can’t do….Never mind, stinkin’ idea. Just us guys, okay?”

Instinct tells Wilson not to question this sudden change of heart. “Sure, uh, just us guys. It’ll be fun, just like a Friday night. Just pretend you’re taking your beer IV. It’s the latest in beer delivery systems.”

House doesn’t smile, and he doesn’t respond right away. As Wilson is trying to think of a way to take his mind off of what’s happening, House asks quietly, “What if this fails?”

“When have you and I ever failed at anything?” asks Wilson.

“Well, if you don’t count marriages, relationships…”

“As a team, House; I meant as a team.”

“There’s no ‘I’ in team, ya know; but there’s a 'me' if you jumble—” Oh, joy, here comes one of those freaky mood changes. Wilson grimaces.

“House, I know the rest. Boy, you’re really going under if the best you can do is recycle your old one-liners.”

House, eyes closed, snickers. He’s apparently pretty impressed with his own one-liner, recycled or not, because he continues to laugh silently. Wilson looks down at him and can’t help smiling back at the grin on his face. Cuddy’s right; he really is an eight year old boy in men’s clothing. Then House’s mood changes again; his face has grown serious.

“You’re a good friend, Jimmy, really good…never told you that, I should’ve…not sure I deserve you…pretty sure I don’t. All this must be hell for you…Hell’s not a nice place, devil’s mean…took my leg away again…sorry I’m putting you through hell too….

Wilson thinks maybe he’d better recheck the label on that drip; maybe they’d sent sodium pentothal instead. Now there’s a scary thought; House on truth serum. He shudders at the image.

“You’re a good friend too, House. Maybe not in the traditional way, maybe not even in a way anyone else can understand. But you’ve always provided a home for me, on a lot of levels, and I’m just starting to understand that myself. Just so you know…thanks.”

House nods his head in sleepy acknowledgement. It won’t be long now, House. Sleep well, my friend. Sweet dreams.

"Do I get a bedtime story, mommy?" House murmurs. His respiratory rate is slowing, each breath a little deeper.

"Yes, as a matter of fact you do. Once upon a time there was a dedicated young oncologist--" House snorts. "Okay, okay, don’t interrupt. The dedicated oncologist was younger than the jaded old diagnostician. Better?" House smiles drowsily. “And they had a lot of really cool adventures together, and routinely solved the world’s problems, even though they couldn’t solve their own.”

House laughs softly as the sedation picks him up and takes him to a place without pain, and a faint smile remains on his face, even after the laughter's been gently silenced. Wilson lets out the breath he hasn't been aware he was holding. House had gone under easily, even willingly. Wilson couldn't have asked for better.


Wilson knows he needs to call Cuddy, get her down here to talk, find out what was up with that last visit. But first, he wants to get House completely settled in for his very long night. He takes a set of vital signs the old-fashioned way; stethoscope for heart and lungs, warm, soothing hands on back and chest--he’s lost so much weight, when did that happen?--, gentle fingers for pulse; not the electronic monitors. He trusts the monitors; he simply believes more deeply in a caring touch, in the intangible human factor; he owes this to his patients. House has never understood the concept, has even said snidely, “They get just as well without the laying on of hands, and they don’t leave here addicted to caring.” As if caring was another disease to cure, a bad thing in need of fixing.

The assessment causes House to move a bit, try to get away from the disturbance. “So you’re still at 2, huh? Well, if you can hear me somewhere in there, you’re doing really well, House. Just relax into it, okay?” He titrates the morphine up another 5mg, waits ten minutes, and tries to rouse the patient. This time, it takes painful pressure on his nailbed to get him to moan and try to pull his hand away. Success! We’re at 3 now. He writes it all down, and breathes a sigh of relief when he realizes that he’s functioning —and feeling—like Dr. James Wilson, MD; he can finally put that whole friendship thing away for now and do something practical to help House.

He checks the IV sites, assesses House’s pupils, puts drops in his eyes to keep them moist, and gets another respiratory rate. Once he’s inserted the urinary catheter, though, and is taping the tubing to House’s thigh, the awful sight of the wasted, discolored skin covering what used to be a quadriceps reminds him that this is his best friend who’s currently lying here in such fragile condition. There’s a quiet sadness in his eyes as he repositions House comfortably and covers him, and he decides that there’s really no way to keep House’s best friend Jimmy out of this room, and that this might not be an entirely bad thing—best friends and family members keep physicians on their toes because they throw that human factor in their faces.

And while we’re on the subject of this dysfunctional little circle House has created--.He takes his cellphone from his pocket and calls Cuddy.

Cuddy answers the phone on the first ring, asks without preamble, “Wilson, how’s he doing?”

“So far, so good. I’d have called sooner, but we just came off doing the vitals every five minutes; we can move them up to every fifteen now. He went under without any problems, calm and happy, even; got him to 3 well within the first hour. You coming down?”

He’s unconscious, that part’s over, he wasn’t scared, he wasn’t alone, he’s safe now…a thousand thoughts run through her mind. “I’ll be right there.”


Wilson is just finishing a neuro check when Cuddy arrives, and he motions her to have a seat. She doesn’t, though. She walks over to the recliner and looks down at House; her face is unreadable. She picks up a limp hand and begins to get his pulse. One hand is around his wrist, but Wilson notes that the other has curled softly around House’s fingers and palm, so Wilson doesn’t mention that he’s just finished the vitals—what she’s doing has nothing to do with medicine and everything to do with comfort. For whom, he’s not sure.

Finally, Cuddy gently lays House’s hand on his chest, and turns to the desk where Wilson is sitting. He looks up from his charting, and appraises her carefully before speaking. “He asked for you, ya know. Wanted you here while I sedated him.” A flash of guilt across her face is gone so quickly that Wilson isn’t even sure it was there. “But then he changed his mind. Almost as soon as he said the words. It was...odd.”

He knew; he knew, and he was trying to protect me. Thanks for that, House. “If he’d really needed me, I’d have come.”

“I think he knows that, Cuddy. I’ve been thinking about this; let me take a guess here. This has something to do with the part I missed during the infarct. The chemically induced coma, the surgery. How you felt then and how you feel today about your part in all of that.” She doesn’t look at him, and doesn’t answer for so long that Wilson thinks she might not answer at all.

“Wilson,” the word comes slowly. “Imagine something. Imagine that he’s a couple days post-op, and you stop by his room. He’s thrown Stacy out, and he’s in there all alone. He doesn’t see you, and he’s lying there, and you can see the way the sheet drapes over his right thigh, looking almost normal because of the bulk of the bandages and the drains. And you know that pretty soon, all of that will be gone, and he’s gonna look down at that sheet and see nothing but a valley where muscle used to be.”

Wilson is listening intently, really trying to put himself in Cuddy’s place, to see it through her eyes. This is the first time in all these years that anyone—including House--has spoken freely with him about those crucial days he’d missed.

“And then you see his face,” Cuddy continues. “You think he’s sleeping—his eyes are closed—and you’re grateful. But you notice that his breathing isn’t right for sleep. And you look at him again, and you see the tears running down the sides of his face. And he’s not making a single sound; not one sound, as he cries all alone. And you want to go to him—you need to go to him, but your feet won’t move. Because you know that you’re directly responsible for those tears. You’re able to rationalize your inaction by telling yourself that this is House, he’ll shun your sympathy, but you know you’re just trying to make yourself feel better. And it works, so you turn and walk away before he knows you were ever there.” His physical pain, I could have dealt with that. But it’s House; his emotional agony is still a foreign land to me. She hadn’t considered, at the time, that this particular emotional landscape was new territory to House, as well. And that she might—just might-- have been able to help guide him through it, undamaged. But she lives with that knowledge now, and it hurts her.

She takes a deep breath, refocuses on Wilson. “And then you live with that memory every day for six years, never able to share it with anybody, because you want to protect House’s privacy—and your own guilt.” She shakes her head to clear it; the scene she’s created for Wilson is so real that she feels she’s just lived through it again.

Wilson feels that he’s living through it too, for the first time. And it hurts him, and the ache in his heart, the sadness for House that’s always with him, grows just that much deeper.

The two friends sit in silence. Both are watching the sleeping man whose desperate needs have brought them all to this place. Cuddy is wondering how things might be different; better now, if she’d entered House’s room that day. Wilson is thinking that things would be different, better now, if he’d been there that day. He knows he would have entered. What was it Foreman said? ‘You look him in the eye and hold a hand out to pull him back…’... I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, House, that there was no hand for you to grasp.

They both regret that they’ll never really know if it would have made any difference at all. The only one who knows that is House, and really, neither Cuddy nor Wilson thinks they’re strong enough to ask him—or to live with his answer.


It’s 2:00pm, House has been out about two hours, and it’s going well. Wilson looks at his watch and realizes that—other than the hour and a half’s sleep he got at House’s place—he’s been awake for thirty-two hours. Just like residency. But I was younger then.

At Cuddy’s insistence, they’ve arranged for her to return at 4:00pm to care for House and allow Wilson to rest for a while. He’d have refused, but he’s not going to do anything to endanger House—and an overly fatigued physician can be dangerous.

He takes a moment to study House’s face in repose. Even in deep sleep—especially in deep sleep—there’s a vulnerability there that twists at Wilson’s heart. It’s not so noticeable, normally. When House has his walls up, which is pretty much every waking minute, he’s able to hide the vulnerability beneath his quick intelligence and cynical, often cruel, humor. It keeps the focus off of him. But the undercurrent is always there, easy to read, in his eyes. Because his eyes say everything he can’t, if you just take the time to read them. That’s something I haven’t been taking the time to do. Won’t let that happen again.

Wilson continues the 2:00pm assessment. Urine output’s low; he calculates, then raises the rate on the saline drip. He gently turns House to his right side, places a pillow between his legs to keep the pressure of the left leg off the right. He reaches for a glycerin swab, moves it carefully over House’s lips, smiles when House reflexively tries to suck the moisture from the swab.

Wilson had upped the rate on the morphine to 40mg, the low therapeutic rate for this procedure, an hour ago, and House’s gesture lets him know that his level of unconsciousness is just right—sucking is a rudimentary reflex, left over from infancy, which indicates that the brain is still aware of what the body needs, but not aware of much else. And that’s just as it needs to be. That’s good—looks like they’ll be able to stay at 40mg.

The pulse ox monitor beeps—O2 saturation is down; it’s 92. Wilson frowns and adjusts the oxygen flow. After a few minutes, it’s back up to 96. Gonna have to watch that—shouldn’t be dropping at all. But House’s lungs are clear, air movement’s good, so Wilson relaxes.


It’s 4:00pm; Cuddy’s here, and she’s trying to get Wilson to go to his own office to lie down. Wilson is having none of it. “I promised him I wouldn’t leave ‘til he did. It’s okay; I’ll just stretch out over there.” He indicates the yellow lounge in the corner.

Cuddy realizes that this will be a losing argument, so she nods reluctantly, and picks up the unofficial chart they’ve been keeping. “Everything looks good; no problems so far?”

“I’ve had to increase the IV; his output was down. And the O2—his sats dropped to 92 for a while. You’re gonna have to watch that; make sure you turn him every 30 minutes, all he needs is a nice case of pneumonia. Watch that leg when you turn him. He’s due for artificial tears at 5:00; you can swab his lips then, too.

Cuddy smiles. “Wilson, you sound like a parent leaving a newborn with a sitter for the first time. Guess what—I’m a doctor, I think I’ve got this covered.”

Wilson laughs at his own protectiveness, but that doesn’t stop him from reminding her to keep the right leg in proper postural alignment, and to do some range of motion when she repositions him. “He’s not moving at all on his own, and I don’t want it stiffening up on him.”

Cuddy knows that Wilson won’t be able to rest well until he covers all his concerns, so she listens patiently, and hides her amusement—he’s acting as if she’s never cared for an unconscious patient before. But she understands, and agrees that it’s not often that she cares for an unconscious patient who’s so important to both of them.

Wilson finally heads over to the lounge and stretches out. “Wake me if anything changes--anything. Or even if you want help turning him. Please, Cuddy, don’t hesitate—promise me.”

She walks over to him with a pillow and blanket from the lower shelf of the cart. “I’ll promise to wake you if I need you, and that’s the best you’re gonna get. So take this—” she holds out the pillow, “and get comfortable, and quit worrying.” She shakes out the blanket and drapes it over him. She can tell that everything’s catching up with him all at once, and even before she’s finished straightening the blanket, Wilson’s asleep.

She looks down at him, over at House; her smile is warm and fond—not an expression that too many people have ever seen on her face. But these two men mean a lot to her. Usually, she watches their incredible friendship from a distance, and envies them their easy comfort with one another. They’ve let her in this time, though, and she’s touched by that. She feels honored, somehow, that House has allowed her in.

His relationship with her is complex, for both of them. Much of the time, he’s operating out of anger, and she’s operating out of guilt. This could make for real unpleasantness, but it rarely does—underlying his anger, her guilt, is a mutual respect that runs deep. Neither has ever acknowledged it aloud to the other, but both know it’s there. And so, somehow, they’ve carved a friendship out of it.

Her friendship with Wilson came about slowly. Before House’s infarction, she and Wilson scarcely knew each other. He did his job well, he was respected by his colleagues, and he never caused the kind of trouble that would bring him to her attention. After House’s surgery, though, they got to know each other because once Wilson returned to town, he was always at House’s side. He stayed even when Stacy would flee in tears or anger. He stayed even when House wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t acknowledge anyone’s presence.

He stayed, even when House’s verbal abuse became so bad that no staff would enter his room, and at those times Wilson would take over even the routine nursing care. When that happened, House would focus all that abuse at Wilson, all the cruel words raining down on the one person who never gave up on him. And Wilson’s brown eyes would be sad, mostly; once in a while he’d get angry and yell back. But he always stayed. And so her respect for him turned to admiration and then to friendship. Eventually, and without any words, she and Wilson became the only support system that House would allow.

She looks again at the sleeping men, and—despite the circumstances—she likes the feeling of being able to protect both of them, for at least a little while.

And onward:  Chapter Twenty-One: Blip 

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