KidsNurse (kidsnurse) wrote,

Battling the Demons: Book Two of the 'Devil' Trilogy

Title: Battling the Demons 
Rating: PG 
Characters: House, Wilson, Cuddy 
Summary: House and Wilson have returned to House's apartment following the breakthrough-pain procedure Wilson performed on House. Things should be better now. But House is refusing to eat. He's refusing to drink. He's fighting sleep. And he's fighting Wilson--every step of the way. 

This is the sequel to
The Devil, You Say, which was the first book in the Devil trilogy. The story continues the study of the House, Wilson, Cuddy bond. Introspective, angsty, and heavy on hurt/comfort. 
The previous chapters: 

Chapter One: HOME 
Chapter Two: TALK TIME 
Chapter Four: TOUCHED
Chapter Five: LIES... AND TRUTHS 
Chapter Six: SORRY
Chapter Eight: REALIZATION
And today's installment:



Cuddy answers the phone before the first ring even finishes. “Wilson? Or House? If it’s you, House, don’t confess to anything—line could be tapped. Or is it the police, calling to report a particularly violent murder at 221B?”

Wilson laughs. “Clever. Very funny. But he took it quite well; too well, in fact.”

“You’re kidding. What’d he say?”

“He seemed to think that I was seriously ill; went on about how we were gonna handle it. Guess it’s my fault. I asked him how far he’d be willing to go if I were very sick, and apparently he assumed I was. Sick, that is. When I explained that I was just trying to get him to empathize, understand why I’d felt the need to get an outside opinion, he made a token attempt at being angry; didn’t last long. Told me I wasn’t allowed to get sick. Ever. Whole thing was… weird.”

“So he’s okay with it. Hmm… sorry; not really seeing a problem here.”

“Cuddy, we’re talking about House. The guy who thinks emotions should be outlawed and psychologists should be shot.”

“Yeah, I get that. But I also get that he’s ill right now, and adjusting to new meds, and that even House is gonna have a reaction once in a while that falls within the realm of ‘normal,’ so my suggestion would be to just accept it as a gift. And don’t look a gifthorse in the mouth.”

“Wish I could just… accept it. But this reaction seems to be symptomatic of his whole attitude towards his current situation. He just doesn’t seem to be fighting all this hard enough. Almost like he doesn’t care. I’d actually be relieved if he’d give me a hard time about something, anything! Apathetic isn’t a word one would normally associate with House, and maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I’d describe his behavior.”

“Maybe he just doesn’t feel well enough yet to actively work at making our lives miserable. Also, you said yourself that he might come out of this more accepting of our concern, right?”

“But he isnt more accepting; that’s my point, Cuddy! He’s… well, it just doesn’t matter to him, one way or the other. And as far as feeling well enough, that’s another concern. Could you come by on your way in tomorrow? I’m gonna draw some blood in the morning; I’d like you to pick it up and run a Chem21. Should’ve done that this morning after his near-miss with hypovolemia, anyway. But we need to get a look at his ‘lytes. If they’re really out of whack—which is a good possibility—that’d go a long way towards explaining his behavior.”

“I can do that. Have you decided yet how much you’re gonna tell him about your consult with Dickinson?”

“I figured I’d let him tell me how much he wants to know. And once you listen to the session, we can figure out the parts he has to know.”

“Sounds good. What’s he up to now?”

“Went right to sleep after our talk. Gotta wake him in an hour or so for all the midnight stuff. Hard to believe he’s only been home one night. Maybe you’re right; maybe he just needs some more time. I hope that’s all it is. It’s just… something doesn’t feel right, can’t put my finger on it.”

“Wilson, you pointed out yourself that, under normal circumstances, he’d still be hospitalized. I think we were all hoping that he’d bounce right back from the breakthrough pain procedure, and everything would get back to whatever it is that passes for normal around here. Guess we forgot that we’re dealing with House, the man who wrote Murphy’s Law.”

Wilson laughs softly. “You’re right. We’ve been back less than 36 hours; only feels like a week. And you took off outta here so fast tonight that I didn’t get report—sure not gonna ask him, not what you’d call a reliable historian right now. So how’d things go in my absence?”

“Biggest thing, I guess, would be that he still has no appetite. He talked me into disconnecting the fluids by very logically pointing out that he couldn’t be expected to be thirsty when he was receiving 150cc an hour. Made sense at the time, should’ve known better; if he got three ounces down on his own I’d be surprised. Ate a couple bites of dinner, but he didn’t argue the Compazine much. Just asked that I halve the dose so it wouldn’t knock him out before you got home.”

“How mobile has he been? Any problems with the leg?”

“Aside from the bathroom a couple of times, not mobile at all. To tell you the truth, I think he’s… scared. His gait isn’t all that steady, and he seemed to be consciously controlling the length of his stride. He denied pain, denied vertigo.” Cuddy sighs. “You know, you may be right, maybe something is just a little bit off with him.”

“Thanks, Cuddy,” Wilson says facetiously. “I’d just finished convincing myself that you were right, nothing’s really wrong, that I was hoping for too much improvement, too soon—and now I’m back to my original concerns.”

“Hey, you know House better than anyone else. When you say something’s off with him, I’d be a fool not to listen. The good news is, his vitals are within normal limits. Does that make you feel any better?”

“Right now, I’ll take whatever I can get. And after this morning’s adventure, it’s nice to know that the vitals bounced back. By the way, Dick recommended that I tell House that I know it’s difficult for him to keep me informed about his health. I’m supposed to take that pressure off him, just tell him that I’ll be monitoring him more closely, for my own peace of mind. Dick seems to think that if House doesn’t feel he has to tell me something’s wrong, he might eventually become more truthful about it. Just hope I’m alive long enough to see that happen….” Wilson’s voice trails off as he considers the odds of House ever being truly open about his health. Just then, he hears a crash in the living room. “Gotta go,” he says quickly to Cuddy.

When Wilson arrives in the living room, he sees House on the floor, just beside the couch. As he goes to him, Wilson can’t decide if House looks angry, frightened, in pain—or all three.


Wilson rights the fallen IV stand and kneels by House, tries to keep his voice neutral. No worry, no anger. “Let’s get you up; then you can tell me what happened.”

House doesn’t speak right away; he seems to be focused on something. Finally, “Not yet. Must’ve pulled something in the left thigh this morning. Still crampin’.”

It’s then that Wilson notices that House has his right hand wrapped around his left upper thigh, and that the fingers are squeezing the muscle so tightly that they’re white. “Okay, take your time.” When the pump starts beeping Wilson checks the IV site and sees that the cannula must have become dislodged in the fall. Of course. Why not? “House, we’re gonna have to restart the IV; it’s out.” He slides the cannula out the rest of the way, grabs a bandage from the supplies on the side table, and covers the site.

“Wait ‘til morning?” House’s tone is wheedling.

Wilson takes in breath to start the standard lecture; ‘no, you’re not drinking, if you’d just do what you’re supposed to do, then….’ But he hears Dick’s voice telling him that House has to fight this, so instead he says, “Sorry, no. Gotta stay in until you feel well enough to take fluids on your own.” No accusations, no pressure—and no bargaining. Just do what I think is best for my patient.

House sighs. But he doesn’t argue. “Okay, I think I can move now. Might need a little help gettin’ up.”

Wilson makes no comment on the rare request for assistance, just hands the cane to House and places his hands firmly under both elbows. House uses his left leg to push to a stand; whatever the problem was, it seems to be gone now. Once he’s standing, Wilson removes his hands, but as soon as the support is gone, House wobbles forward. Wilson grabs his shoulders and notes that he’s supporting most of House’s weight.

“Sorry… little dizzy.” After just a minute, House is able to straighten up, support himself again.

“Listen, I was getting ready to wake you anyway. Time for your meds, and time to move into the bedroom. I’ll restart the IV there; can you make it?”

“Think so. Just don’t go too far.” House shoots a look at him, makes sure Wilson’s within hovering distance, then he moves slowly forward. Cuddy’s right—he’s consciously controlling his gait, something Wilson’s never seen him do.

When they reach the bedroom, House sits carefully on the edge of the bed. “Be nice to get a shower.” He says this almost wistfully, in the tone of a request that he knows will be turned down.

Wilson feels a flash of sympathy—he’d hate this too, this dependence, the weakness. “Still got that shower chair? If I can find that, sure, shower’s a good idea.” No it’s not; it’s one of the lousiest ideas I’ve ever heard. But, much as he acts like a child, he isn’t—and I can’t take away all his control.

House is surprised that Wilson’s agreed to the shower. “Yeah, chair’s still folded up in the back of the linen closet, I think. Unless your maid moved it; still can’t find my bowling ball!”

Wilson laughs. “House, that thing’s been missing for, like, three years; why are you blaming it on Lady?”

House is pouting. “”Cuz she found everything else I’ve ever lost; was counting on her to find that, too.”

Wilson shakes his head, smiling, and goes to get the shower chair set up. When he’s finished, he returns to the bedroom. House is still sitting on the edge of the bed, absently rubbing his left thigh gently.

“Still hurt? What do you think is the matter?” He sits next to House and reaches over to check the thigh. House slaps his hand away.

“Told you. Felt something pull this morning while I was recycling breakfast. It’s fine. Even a cripple can just pull a muscle or strain a tendon, ya know—doesn’t have to mean anything. All it needs is a hot shower.”

“Okay, c’mon then, let’s give it what it needs.” Wilson allows House to stand on his own; he makes it to the bathroom, but pauses with a hand on the doorjamb to rest. Wilson goes past him into the room and sets underwear and a robe on the toilet seat. “Just put this on when you get out; I’m gonna check that left thigh.” He doesn’t give House a chance to respond, just busies himself turning on the water and adjusting the temperature. “Need help getting in?”

“No, and I don’t need help scrubbing my back, either.” House says this irritably, and it makes Wilson happy because the gripe sounds almost normal.

“Okay, I’ll leave you to it, then.” Wilson exits the bathroom, pulling the door almost closed but not latching it, then leans against the wall just outside the door, listening for sounds of trouble.


House sits on the shower chair, allowing the hot water to beat down on the left leg, appreciating the instant relief it brings. As he starts scrubbing his body, he tries to figure out what he might have done to the thigh. He blames it on the violent retching. Then, he blames it on the stiffness of too much time in bed. Lastly, he considers that it might be an electrolyte imbalance. And then, he pushes away the certain knowledge that none of these perfectly plausible explanations are the reason for this newest problem.

Wilson hears the water stop, and yells into the bathroom, “Don’t stand up if you’re dizzy, House.”

“Not dizzy. Standing. Out of shower. Fine.” House yells back, and is relieved to realize that it’s all the truth; for right now, aside from the damned generalized weakness, he feels pretty good. As he limps out of the bathroom, he thinks that maybe the left thigh thing was just a fluke.

Wilson is waiting when he gets back to the bedroom. “Here are your pills; let’s get the rest of this done, it’s late.” He watches approvingly as House swallows the pills with at least three ounces of water. “How was the shower? Feel better?”

“Yeah, thanks.” House sits on the bed and reluctantly moves the robe away from his left leg so Wilson can check the thigh. As Wilson probes the muscle gently, he notes that it feels tighter than it should, but he can’t find anything obviously wrong.

“I’m thinking that an electrolyte imbalance would explain both the pain and the dizziness, so I’m gonna draw some blood in the morning. Cuddy’ll come by and pick it up.” Wilson slips the robe off of House’s shoulders for the rest of the assessment, and doesn’t miss it when House moves the cloth over to cover the wasted right thigh. The self-conscious gesture makes Wilson feel inexplicably sad.

“House, look, I can count every one of your ribs. You have to have lost another six or eight pounds these past few days, and those are pounds you couldn’t afford to lose. Once we get the IV restarted, I’m gonna give you the other half-dose of Compazine, and we’re gonna do that for a couple of days. Until your stomach adjusts to the super-Vic, and you’re able to eat and drink, and keep it down.” House says nothing, and Wilson continues the assessment. When he finishes, he tosses House a pair of pajama pants and a t-shirt and goes to the living room to get the IV pump.

When Wilson returns, House is dressed and lying on the bed. Wilson sits in the chair. “Feeling okay? You look… thoughtful.”

House turns his head towards Wilson, then immediately looks away. “What you did today; I’m not happy, but I do understand. Just thought you should know that. And what I said tonight, when I thought you were sick, I meant it. You should know that, too.”

Wilson rolls his eyes. “House, I already knew that. Some things, you just know; that’s one of ‘em,” he says dismissively. “Besides, breaking the rules is your job; I’ve been given strict instructions not to ever get sick. One of us has to follow the rules around here, ya know.” He stands and begins collecting the IV supplies.

House takes a deep breath and sighs; it’s a relieved sound. When Wilson returns to the bedside with the equipment, he doesn’t look at House’s face, just starts examining his arms, trying to find a vein that’s not already bruised and sore. Once he’s found a good site, he keeps his head down and gets to work on the IV. He starts speaking casually. “Shrink told me today it’s not your responsibility to give me a running tally of your symptoms. Says if I’m gonna worry so much, I gotta ask the questions, do the poking and prodding. Said my peace of mind isn’t your problem. Okay, quick stick here, you ready?” He glances up briefly; at House’s nod he inserts the needle. “Anyway, what all that means,” he continues, as he tapes the cannula in place and inserts the heplock, “is I’m just gonna have to hone my assessment skills. Hey, I know!” Wilson looks up and grins at House. “I’ll just pretend I’m a veterinarian—their patients won’t tell ‘em what’s wrong, either. It’ll be fun!” He’s pleased when House widens his eyes and shakes his head like Wilson’s the difficult one.

Wilson injects the Compazine directly into the heplock, and reattaches the line and sets the pump. Then, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, he grabs one of the journals scattered around the bedroom and sits down in the chair by the bed. “Be here until you fall asleep, if you need me,” he mumbles to the pages of the magazine.


It’s been an uneventful night, and when Wilson awakens at 6:00am, he actually feels rested. He’d sat by House’s bed until almost 1:30; House’s sleep had initially been restless, with some unintelligible mumbling, which stopped when Wilson spoke softly, keeping up a steady stream of words for a couple of minutes. It seemed to soothe House, and after that he’d fallen into a deeper, more restful sleep.

Wilson suddenly realizes that he should’ve been awakened at 4:00 by the IV pump signaling an empty bag, and he hurries into House’s room. House is asleep, and the IV’s been disconnected, and the bag is, indeed, empty. Mildly annoyed, he quietly hangs the new bag and, wanting to let House sleep as long as possible, carefully reconnects the line. House stirs and groans at the touch of gentle fingers on his arm, but doesn’t wake. Wilson takes the opportunity to simply observe for a minute.

He notes that, while House isn’t in acute pain, he doesn’t look peaceful, either. He’s moving both legs, apparently trying to find a more comfortable position, and Wilson sees him rub the left thigh. And, once he quits moving the legs, both hands go, fisted, to his abdomen. There’s a small frown between his eyes, and he licks his dry lips a couple of times. Still nauseated, still something going on with that left leg. Might as well do the Compazine now; at least that’s one argument I can short-circuit.

Wilson pushes the drug slowly. He’s considering changing to a stronger anti-emetic, perhaps one usually utilized for the nausea caused by chemotherapy. But he’s concerned that House’s loss of appetite is more than just a result of the nausea; if that’s the case, even a change of medication might not help. I guess it’s time to talk with him about the loss of the breakthrough pain; might also be time for some stern words about his general condition. He’s heading towards hospitalization—he needs to know that. Don’t wanna scare him, but we’re running out of options….

As Wilson finishes up and disconnects the syringe from the port, House opens his eyes, sees the syringe, and looks a question at Wilson.

“Just the Compazine, half-dose like we discussed last night. House, why’d you disconnect the fluids? Why didn’t you just call me? We’ve already got two doctors on this case; we don’t need a third, ya know.”

We didn’t discuss it last night; you did. If I’d been consulted, I mighta told you the Compazine’s not working so hot. All it does is make me dizzy, knock me out. Wasn’t asked.”

Wilson swallows the logical response; ‘And you couldn’t have maybe volunteered the information?’ “Sorry, House, you’re right. I should’ve asked you if it was helping. I think we’re gonna change it today.” Dick’s right; this is not gonna be easy. “Why’d you disconnect the fluids?” He repeats the question that House has, apparently, chosen to ignore. “Is it because you’re drinking so much that they’re redundant? Or ‘cuz your blood pressure’s so stable? Or was it just next on your list of Ways To Annoy Wilson?” Damn, what is wrong with me? Taking out my frustrations on him isn’t gonna help anything! And why does he look hurt? How’d I blow it now? Wilson sighs, and waits for House to answer.

When House speaks, his voice is quiet, devoid of emotion. “You told me last night that I’d diagnosed ‘fatigue’. Boring diagnosis, easy antidote. Sleep. Uninterrupted sleep. It was two hours; just two hours. Wasn’t gonna kill me. Thought it might make a difference for you. Sorry I interfered in my own care.”

Battin’ a thousand this morning, aren’t ya, Boy Wonder? “No, you’re absolutely right, House. It did help me, and a couple of hours won’t make a bit of difference.” I hope. “Guess I just felt guilty I didn’t hear the pump myself, that’s all. Took it out on you, sorry.”

“Couldn’t have heard it; caught it on the first beep. Would’ve hung the new bag, just didn’t feel like getting up.” Couldn’t get up; damned left thigh was what woke me in the first place; add dizzy on top of that, well… just wouldnt’ve been a smart move.

How’d you hear it that quickly? Not sleeping again? “We’d better get that blood drawn. Cuddy said she’d try to be here to pick it up by 7:00. That way, if we need to add ‘lytes to the IV, she can bring back whatever we need; won’t have to wait to get ‘em going.” Wilson grabs the blood draw equipment and several tubes; he’s decided to run a full battery of tests, try to figure out what might be going on.

House is eyeing the tubes suspiciously. “You gonna leave any blood for me? Trying for physician-induced anemia?” Talk to me, Wilson. What are you worried about? Could you treat me like I might remember a little of my medical training? Starting to feel like your lab rat.

“As long as I’m drawing blood, figured we might as well run a CBC. Liver profile and enzymes wouldn’t be a bad idea either.” Okay, level with him. I wanted him to empathize last night; now I need to put myself in his place. I’d sure as hell want to know what was going on. “I’m sure you’ve noticed you’re not bouncing back the way you should. We need to figure out why that’s happening, and try to get it corrected before we wind up having to admit you.” Slid that in pretty cleverly. Now, just sit back and wait for the fireworks.

“Why? Just ‘cuz I can’t eat, lost a few pounds? A little nausea, some dizziness? Big deal! Not a thing they can do for me there that can’t be done here.” He’s glaring at Wilson now, but Wilson sees more than anger; he sees fear of the loss of privacy, the thing Wilson and Cuddy have worked so hard to protect throughout this ordeal. “Or am I too much work for you? Can’t handle it anymore, wanna dump me on the staff, make things easier on yourself?”

“Of course not! How could you think that?” Wilson begins, but realizes even as he’s speaking that House is correct; as long as Wilson and Cuddy are willing to care for him at home, there’s no valid reason for hospitalization. But he knows also that House is right about the other thing; he admits to himself that he’s frightened for his friend, and sharing the responsibility for his care with other professionals might alleviate some of that fear.

The doorbell rings then. Wilson breaks the mutual glare and goes to let Cuddy in. “Haven’t got the blood yet. Come help me fix my latest boo-boo,” he says to her quietly. “I mentioned the possibility of admitting him, and he’s freaking.”

They walk into the bedroom, and Cuddy can’t miss House’s look of anger and hurt. But she understands Wilson’s concern as well; House looks like he belongs in the hospital; the only patients she’s ever seen in a home setting who’ve looked worse were those who were dying. But they didn’t have two physicians caring for them around the clock, access to everything they needed. This is a different situation. House is a different situation. And he’s not dying. We can do this; we have to.

Wilson picks up the syringe and tourniquet and sits on the edge of the bed. He takes House’s right arm in his hands, but doesn’t yet start looking for a vein. He just holds on, trying with his touch to telegraph comfort, and an apology. He meets House’s eyes, and won’t let himself look away. “I’m sorry. You’re right, again. There’s no reason for hospitalization under these circumstances; I wasn’t thinking logically. Not a thing we can’t do for you here, and of course it’s much better for you to be at home. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t trust you not to terrorize the poor nurses—you’re not sick enough to behave yourself.” He tries a small smile, and feels House’s arm relax a little, sees a little of the tension leave his eyes.

“I’ve got the time off,” Wilson glances for confirmation at Cuddy, who nods quickly. “So we’ll just take as long as we need to do this right. Whatever it takes.” He breaks eye contact with House and starts the search for a vein.

“It’s okay, House,” Cuddy says. “I don’t want you unnecessarily taking up one of my beds, and half your team’s time, when you don’t really need to be there. God knows, you both have plenty of vacation time built up; might as well get some of it off the books. Besides, I don’t want to get stuck taking care of that rat again!”

House looks keenly at both their faces. He’s trying to decide if he’s being patronized, or pitied. But, he has to admit to himself, both his friends appear sincere. “Okay, then.” He looks at Wilson. “Seems like I’m stuck with you. Sure your cancer kids can do without you?”

Wilson recognizes all the layers of meaning behind this deceptively simple question, and recognizes, as well, the importance of his answer. “I’m where I want to be,” he answers firmly. “I take care of you. All the rest will take care of itself.”


Wilson’s drawn the blood, given House his medication, and completed the assessment. The combination of the Compazine and all the activity proves too much for House; as much as he’d like to stay awake to take part in what he’s sure is going to be an interesting discussion, his eyes close of their own accord. Perhaps he could have fought it, but he knows there’s another factor in play here; for the first time in a long time, he’s got a sense of security. He feels, much as he’d like to deny it, cared for, and, he grudgingly admits to himself, it doesn’t suck. So he gives in to sleep, and gives in to handing worry, and fear, and even medical decisions, over to the two people who care.

Cuddy and Wilson quietly leave the bedroom. Cuddy sits in the living room while Wilson gets them coffee, and when he returns they look at each other with a mixture of relief and sadness.

“Thanks for your help in there,” Wilson says to Cuddy. “I almost blew it, didn’t I?”

Cuddy doesn’t answer the question directly; instead, she asks two of her own. “How much have you told him about yesterday? Have you put any of what you learned into practice yet?”

“He doesn’t seem curious about the session. The only thing I’ve told him is the part about letting me be responsible for the medical stuff. And that’s having some interesting results, good ones, I think.” He tells her about last night’s incident with restarting the IV, how he’d simply told House how things had to be, how House had accepted it.

“Doesn’t really surprise me,” Cuddy says thoughtfully. “Goes back to that whole ‘peds patient’ thing. Kids, even sick kids, crave discipline. That sense of someone being in control helps ‘em feel safe. And House… well, the man lives his life out of control. Doesn’t matter how old you are, or how smart, that’s gotta be scary. I’ll bet he actually feels relieved that it’s not all on him anymore.”

“It never was; doesn’t he know that?” Wilson’s sad that, apparently, House has spent so many years rejecting concern that, at some point, he’d stopped being able to recognize it, and had wound up feeling alone in his battle. And Wilson feels partly, maybe even largely, to blame for that.

“He knows it now; that’s what counts,” Cuddy assures him. “We can’t go back and undo the last few years; we can only move forward from today, make certain it never happens again.” She’s silent for a minute, and when she speaks again, she chooses her words carefully. “You realize that we’re making a pretty big commitment here? We’re… all he has. That means no backing out, no taking a break, no walking away from it, from him, when it gets too tough. Think we can do it?”

Wilson knows that now Cuddy is seeking reassurance, and he feels uniquely qualified to give it. He has, after all, been fighting for over six years to be able to make this commitment to House and his health; he knows many of the pitfalls and responsibilities already. And he knows the fear that comes with agreeing to be House’s friend; that fear that maybe you’re knowingly setting yourself up to have to deal with the pain of loss before you’re ready. For Wilson, that’s the hardest part, and it’s something he has to face every time House is ill. So he knows what he has to say to Cuddy.

“We can do it. Yeah, it’s a big emotional investment, and there are times when you’re gonna want to cut your losses, just pull out. I know; been there. But,” and here he smiles, shakes his head, “believe it or not, he’s got this uncanny way of knowing when he’s gone too far. Then, he lets you see a side of him that reminds you why it’s all worth it, makes you want to go on fighting for him.” Wilson’s thinking of the most memorable time it had happened.

He had admitted a homeless woman to the hospital, and—unbeknownst to House—it had brought up painful, emotional memories of Wilson’s own missing brother. House had been his usual nosy, insensitive self, even going so far as to pull Wilson’s personnel file, trying to find out why Wilson had taken such an interest in the patient. Wilson had felt angry, even betrayed by House. And then, Wilson’s memories had driven him to visit the last place he’d seen his brother.

He’d been sitting there, feeling more alone than he’d ever felt, and remembering how he’d failed his brother. Out of nowhere, House had shown up. He’d admitted to following Wilson, and while Wilson had pretended disgust at his presence, he’d actually been surprised, and glad to see him. So he’d told House about his missing brother. And then, for the next hour, they’d sat there, together, in total silence, while Wilson mourned his brother. Wilson had been comforted by House’s quiet presence, and deeply touched as well—the night was cold and damp, and he knew that House would pay a high physical price later, just to be there for Wilson. He also knew that House would never say a word about what it had cost him.

Wilson doesn’t share this memory of House with Cuddy; he’s never shared it with anyone, never even spoken with House about that night. But Cuddy, watching his face, his eyes, can tell that this friendship is more reciprocal than she’d ever thought.

“Don’t worry about me,” she tells him now. “I can take anything he throws at us. Yeah, he’s exasperating, and confusing, and miserable, and he can even be downright cruel. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say there are times I wish I’d never met the man. But you’re right. Somehow, he’s worth all of it.”

“So, how are we gonna convince him of that?” Wilson asks. “I’m starting to get a handle on the psych stuff, and it’s gonna help. It’s the medical aspects that are worrying me now. I’m hoping the blood work will tell us something, and I’m gonna try switching his anti-emetic to Zofran. It’s possible the Compazine is causing some muscle rigidity; apparently he’s having trouble with his left thigh now. And, of course, he’s made it quite clear that he doesn’t appreciate the sedative effect. Zofran might still make him a little tired, but it’s a lot less likely. We’ll have to start monitoring his temp, but overall, the side effects should be less severe.”

“I’ll bring that at lunchtime,” Cuddy says. “Both the injectable and the oral. Let’s hope it works; he seems to have lost more weight every time I see him.”

“That’s another thing. I need your opinion on this. I’m thinking we’ll give him another 48 hours to take food and fluids at sustainable levels. At the end of that time, if he’s still not showing any progress, what do you think about a PICC line? That way, we could give him total parenteral nutrition, give his digestive system a chance to adjust to the higher doses of narcotics. And if he’s on TPN, that’ll take the stressor of forcing himself to eat away from him.”

Cuddy frowns. “Pretty drastic, but I’m afraid I’ve gotta agree with you. When I’m at Hospice, I’ll go ahead and schedule the mobile radiology service, in case we’ve gotta go with the PICC. That’ll prevent having to put him through the trip to the hospital for the placement x-ray. Hate to think of doing this to him, but you’re right. Can’t let him continue like this; he’ll start having complications based on malnutrition. We’ve got to prevent that. Have you talked with him about this?”

“No, and I don’t plan to. He doesn’t need to know. If I thought his refusal of nutrition was just a control issue, then using it as a threat might have some value. But I’m thinking now that this has been an ongoing problem, since the breakthroughs started. He’s clearly been losing the weight for quite some time, another thing I wasn’t paying attention to.” Wilson’s expressive eyes are full of hurt; Cuddy can tell it’s not for himself, but for his friend.

“To be honest,” Wilson continues, “I’m thinking we’re not gonna be able to avoid the PICC, even if he manages to increase his intake. Telling him about it ahead of time would only make him anxious, and maybe more likely to try to hide his symptoms. We made a lot of headway this morning. We got him to acknowledge, and we acknowledged ourselves, that this isn’t some minor thing he’s gonna get over in a few days. I think that, to some degree, we’ve all been pretending, up ‘til now, that all he needed was a few days’ rest. He’s seriously ill; we’ve gotta treat him accordingly.”

Cuddy nods. “I agree with you. And you know I’ll do everything I can. Let’s get it clear right now that you will trust me to do my best by him, and that you will not be on duty 24/7. Don’t make me have to do that whole lecture again, okay? Your continued health is vital to his health. You’ve gotta take some occasional time away from it all. Not long; just enough to relax, sustain your own sanity. Understood?”

Wilson knows she’s right, knows that, without her cooperation and participation, he wouldn’t be able to do this for House. “Yes, ma’am, I hear you, loud and clear. And thanks. For everything.”

Cuddy sets her cup on the table and stands. “Okay. I’m gonna get the blood to the hospital. And I’ll listen to that voice file as soon as it arrives. Then, we’ll work up a treatment plan. And fortunately, neither of you is expected back for six more days, so we have plenty of time to figure out how to safeguard his privacy through all this, for however long it takes. So try not to worry. We will figure it all out, whatever it takes.”

“I know. Whatever it takes,” Wilson echoes, and as he closes the door behind Cuddy and turns to go check on House, he allows himself to feel the fear he’s been trying to ignore, and to realize that at least he’s not alone with it anymore.

Chapter Fifteen: TROUBLE

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