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 Three: TESTING THE WALLS
Chapter Four: TOUCHED
Chapter Six: SORRY
Chapter Seven: OUTSIDE ASSISTANCE
Chapter Nine: TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH
Chapter Eleven: PUZZLE
The next four chapters:
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Trouble
When Wilson enters the bedroom, House is just waking up. “Wilson? What’re you doing here? Cuddy send you? I must be late for work again, huh? Really late, if she sent you in person.”
“That’s real funny, House. I’d almost think that you’re starting to miss the place already.”
“Whaddaya mean? Sorry she sent you all the way over here; next time, call first, save the trip. Now that you’re here, though, mind giving me a ride in?”
Wilson plays along; House’s creating an elaborate joke is the best sign of recovery he’s seen yet. “Sure, ride in is almost a necessity; IV lines and motorcycles probably wouldn’t mix real well. But hey, it’ll probably get you out of clinic duty; might make the patients a little nervous if the doc looks sicker than they do!”
House sits up, looks at the IV line in his arm, and Wilson sees the puzzlement in his expression. But it only lasts for a second; the confusion is replaced by appreciative amusement as his hand goes to the IV site. “Thought we were even, in the practical joke department, when you killed my cane! Guess I was wrong; this is good.” And before Wilson even realizes what’s happening, House has roughly yanked out the IV, and is looking, thunderstruck, at the blood escaping from the ragged wound. “What? You really put it in? That’s not funny.”
Some part of Wilson’s brain is telling him that this never was a joke; House is disoriented and badly in need of assistance, but Wilson’s body is frozen as he stares in horror at the unfolding scene.
House tries, ineffectively, to staunch the flow of blood with a hand that’s shaking. “What the hell?” he says, and looks up at Wilson with such a naked plea in his eyes that Wilson’s feet automatically start propelling him to House’s side. Medical training tells him he can’t allow his panic to show, and his own instinct enables him to keep his voice and expression calm.
“You’re sick, buddy; the IV’s for real. It’s all right; you just woke up, you’re a little confused, that’s all.” As he’s speaking, he tears open a package of sterile gauze, takes House’s arm slowly, gently, and places the gauze firmly over the wound, applying pressure with his hand.
House looks as if he might try to bolt from the bed; his confusion is rapidly increasing to full-fledged panic, so Wilson unobtrusively wraps his hand around the other arm and tightens his grip gradually. “Listen, okay? I’ll explain it. Do you remember what happened Friday afternoon? It’s all right if you don’t, just trying to figure out where you got lost.” He’s seen House in all stages of illness, but Wilson has never seen him look this unabashedly frightened.
“I… I… it was something with my leg. You helped me. And Cuddy did, too.” House looks to Wilson for confirmation, and Wilson nods encouragingly. “You gave me morphine.” Wilson can tell that it’s starting to come back to House now, but he maintains his grip as House continues. “But we came home; you’re staying with me now. If we’re home, why...” House looks around the bed at the equipment, “…all this?”
“You came out of it weaker than we’d thought you would. You’ve… had a little setback. You’re not taking nutrition yet, and we think your electrolytes might be messed up. I drew blood this morning, for the ‘lytes. Remember that?” He may be back with the program, but he looks bad, really bad. We need those lab results; we need a treatment plan. Now.
House looks at the bandage on his right arm that Wilson had placed there after this morning’s draw. “Yeah… and then I fell asleep. You and Cuddy were gonna try to figure out what to do next. You told me it was gonna be awhile before I could go back to work.” House’s voice is more confident now, his expression less lost. “And you and Cuddy said… you both said… you’d be with me as long as it takes.” There’s a quick flash of gratitude in House’s eyes as he remembers the end of this morning’s conversation, and the not-so-bad feeling he’d had of being cared for.
Wilson feels safe releasing House’s arms now. He tapes the pressure bandage over the IV site while he affirms House’s recollections. “Yup, that’s right. We’ve gotta get the IV restarted, but I’m gonna get you some orange juice first, and I need you to drink it, even if it doesn’t stay down very long. I think your potassium’s low; that’s why you were confused. You be okay while I get the juice?” Wilson needs to call Cuddy; he’d much prefer to do it out of House’s hearing. And if he can get some orange juice into him, for even a few minutes, it can only help with the strongly suspected potassium deficit. But if House doesn’t want him to leave the room, it’s more important that he stays; it’s that simple. He knows that House will say it’s fine, so he watches House’s eyes.
“Not a problem; patient’s oriented again,” House says dryly, and his eyes show only rueful humor.
“Back in a minute, then.”
As soon as Wilson reaches the kitchen, he places the call to Cuddy. She’s only just arrived at the hospital, but when Wilson describes House’s episode of disorientation she says, “I’ll run the labs now, myself, and get right back to you. How’s he doing now?”
“Well, he’s calm. Looks about like you’d expect after something like that, a little shaken, I guess. I need to get the IV restarted and do a full assessment; I’ll know more then. Gonna go try and get some orange juice into him right now; probably won’t stay down, but at least it’ll give me the illusion that I’m doing something medically productive for him. And then, I’ll just try to keep things on an even keel until I hear from you.”
“Hang in there,” Cuddy says. “I’ll call you as soon as I know anything.”
Wilson hangs up the phone and pours the juice. As he heads back into House’s room, he finds himself wishing that he hadn’t promised not to hospitalize him. But he’s made the commitment, and he’s going to do everything in his power to keep it. Whatever it takes….
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Dissembling
“I’d like you to get down as much of this as you can, but slowly,” Wilson tells House as he hands him the orange juice. House takes the glass and swallows a tentative sip.
“So what did you and Cuddy decide?” he asks.
“Not much. Gonna switch the anti-emetic to Zofran. Anything else’ll be dependent on the results of the bloodwork. You have any kind of an appetite this morning?”
“What’ll happen if I say no?” House isn’t hungry at all, but he’s starting to worry that, at some point soon, Wilson’s going to want to get drastic about the whole nutrition thing.
“Nothing. Actually, if you’re still nauseated, I’d just as soon prefer you don’t try to eat, not right now. Once we get the Zofran on board, you’ll get your appetite back.” Wilson’s trying to sound optimistic.
House, relieved that they’re not going to have a replay of all the other food discussions, responds, “Yeah, you’re right.” He drinks some more juice, and grimaces slightly; his stomach’s already complaining. He sets the glass on the bedside table, shakes his head very slightly.
Wilson looks at the full glass, then at House. He decides not to push the issue; it won’t be too much longer until they hear from Cuddy. “Let’s go ahead and get that IV restarted. You still doing okay?”
“Yeah; not planning on pulling it out again, if that’s what you’re asking.”
That’s exactly what Wilson is asking. He wishes that House had been able to get some of the juice down, but the IV can’t stay out any longer. He gathers the necessary supplies and sits on the edge of the bed. “You got anything left?” he asks, surveying the bruised and needle-marked arms. “This looks like a train wreck.”
“I think the antecubitals are gone; got some left here,” House says, indicating his inner forearms.
Wilson locates a likely candidate. As he ties the tourniquet and swabs the vein, House asks him, “How long you thinking this’ll take?”
Wilson knows House isn’t asking about the restart. “I don’t know. Where we are now is the result of months of neglect.” He sees House go into defensive mode. “Not your fault,” he interjects quickly. “Miscommunication all around, and denial here,” he says, taking his part of the blame. “It’s gonna take a while to undo; you know that. I know it’s hard. But I’m glad you decided to go through with the procedure. If you hadn’t, we still wouldn’t know, and it would’ve been a lot worse by the time we caught it.” If we caught it.
“Here we go,” Wilson says as he slides the cannula in. He sees the flashback of blood in the chamber, and slowly withdraws the needle. And the vein collapses. He looks up at House.
“Everyone misses once in a while. Try again,” House tells him.
Wilson ties the tourniquet more tightly, moves up an inch, and manages to get the cannula successfully inserted. As he’s attaching the fluids to the heplock, he says, “Ya know, I didn’t miss. Veins are getting fragile. You’re not staying hydrated.” When House doesn’t answer, he’s not surprised. He takes a roll of gauze and begins to wrap the site.
“What’re you doing?” House asks. “Told you, I’m fine now; I’ll leave it alone. Said yourself, I just woke up, potassium was low.”
“Potassium is still low,” Wilson says, looking pointedly at the full glass of juice. “And we’re running outta veins. Humor me.” He continues to wrap and tape the IV site securely while House glares at him.
Next, Wilson begins a thorough assessment. House’s blood pressure is creeping down again, and his bowel sounds remain hyperactive. The main concern this morning, though, is his cardiac status. If his potassium’s as low as Wilson suspects, then there could be arrhythmias. Wilson listens carefully, but hears none of the irregular heartbeats which would signify trouble. For right now, House appears to be holding his own.
“How’s the pain? Any more problems with the left leg?”
“Pain’s under control.” That’s all House says, and Wilson’s so concerned with cardiac status, hydration status, and mentation that he doesn’t notice that the question about the leg goes unanswered.
“You ready to move this party to the couch? Should be hearing from Cuddy soon about the bloodwork, then we’ll know more. Don’t worry about it; one step at a time. Got it under control.” Wilson thinks a slight change of subject is in order. “Hey,” he grins, as they make their way towards the living room. “I think Cuddy’s gonna give us the plague! Cool, huh?”
House won’t play. Once he’s settled on the couch, he says, “We both know most of this could’ve been avoided. And I should’ve been the one to avoid it. Expected more of a lecture. That’s it? You’re not angry?”
Wilson gives the question some thought. “Yeah, I’m angry. But not at you. I’m angry that we’re in this situation. I’m angry at the part I played that got us here. I’m even angry that the general mindset is that narcotics are bad things. Hell, even doctors believe that. I did.” He sighs. “But House, my anger, my guilt, it’s not gonna help get you better. So I’m gonna get past it, I need to get past it, okay?”
House narrows his eyes. “Shrink tell you that?”
“Yeah… yes, he did. You wanna know anything else he said?” Wilson speaks slowly. “Because if you do, I’ll tell you. They’re sending the voice file. If you want to hear it, you can.” House looks surprised.
“House, no tricks to this. I’m not trying to psych you out. I went because I want to be the best friend I can be, and the best doctor, because you deserve that. I didn’t say anything to him that you can’t hear, no secrets I don’t want you to know. I’m not ashamed that I did it, not ashamed of anything I said.”
Wilson’s statement decides it for House. “No. Don’t need to hear it. You did what you had to do. Good enough.”
Not the reaction I was expecting, Wilson thinks. But he’s not himself; maybe the fireworks’ll come later. Just hope he remembers that ‘did what you had to do’ attitude if he winds up needing the PICC line.
The phone rings. “I’m sure that’s Cuddy with our results,” Wilson says as he goes to answer it.
Cuddy sounds tense. “Just ran the ‘lytes. Twice. Potassium’s heading into the basement. 2.3 mEq. That’s low enough to cause heart arrhythmias. How was the last cardiac assessment?”
Wilson glances at House, who is, thankfully, flipping idly through the TV channels. He keeps his voice calm, says casually, “No problems there.”
“Not yet,” Cuddy responds grimly. “He’s right there, isn’t he?”
“I’m on my way to Hospice to pick up the potassium and the Zofran. I’m also gonna get an EKG machine, and I’m bringing a cardiorespiratory monitor from here. He’s gonna need to stay on it while we’re replenishing the potassium; he’ll be at risk for ventricular tachycardia. We’ll have to monitor him closely. I’ll get there as quickly as I can. Hospice is expecting me, and they have everything ready; I shouldn’t be more than fifteen minutes or so.”
“That should be just fine,” Wilson says evenly, aware that now House has the TV muted, and is listening. “Anything else?”
“Indicative of moderate to severe dehydration; increased sed rate, high hematocrit. Liver profile looks surprisingly good, under the circumstances. Are you certain he’s had only the one episode of vomiting? Because that wouldn’t explain this potassium deficit….”
“I’ll check into that. My guess would be probably not. Let you know.”
Wilson hangs up the phone and turns back to House, trying to think how to phrase the question. Just assume there were other episodes, and that naturally, they weren’t worth mentioning. “How many times would you guess you’ve vomited since we’ve been home?”
House turns back to the muted television. “Two, three maybe.”
Need to at least double that. “So you haven’t kept anything down at all?” He keeps his voice neutral, just mildly curious, no accusations.
“Don’t think so. Problem?” House still won’t look at him.
No, but there could be at any time. “Potassium’s low. Good news is, could explain some of the symptoms; muscle cramps, anorexia—“
“Don’t waste the good news/bad news routine, Jimmy. Save it for some moron who might buy it. Number?”
“It’s low, House. Cuddy—“
Wilson sighs. “2.3. When was your last episode?”
“Bathroom. Few minutes after you and Cuddy left me this morning.”
Great. He doesn’t need to be actively suicidal; passive’s working out just fine. Wilson picks up his stethoscope, and keeps his demeanor calm. “Lie back for me.”
House complies while he searches Wilson’s face for a reaction to his admission. “I’m in trouble, aren’t—“
“Quiet, please.” Wilson listens intently for several minutes. He’s beginning to think they might’ve been lucky when he hears a definitive change in rhythm. Gotta get that EKG. Where’s Cuddy?
Wilson straightens and looks down at House. He chooses to deliberately misinterpret the question House had been trying to ask. “No, no trouble yet. A few PVCs, that’s all; could be perfectly harmless. Cuddy should be here any minute. We’re gonna need to run an EKG, just to be safe; she’s bringing the machine.” He tries to convey a reassurance he doesn’t feel, but his biggest concern right now is keeping House absolutely calm. Let’s steer the discussion away from his cardiac status; don’t wanna answer any questions. “From now on, we’re gonna put you back on intakes/outputs, at least ‘til the vomiting’s under control. I’ll need you to help me out with that; lemme know about any more vomiting, okay?”
“Yeah… sure.” House is puzzled; where’s the lecture? I’d feel better if he’d just yell or something; then I could yell back. He regards Wilson appraisingly, but Wilson simply looks back at him with kind concern. This is too confusing; finally he just leans his head back into the pillow and closes his eyes. Brain’s just not working right. Should’ve said something. Stupid…. He hears the doorbell, hears Wilson let Cuddy in. They’re talking, but he can’t make out the words. After a minute he quits trying, and just lets himself drift. It’s getting so easy to drift.
“How’s he doing?” Cuddy asks quietly.
“He’s got some definite arrhythmias. Took awhile to hear ‘em, but they’re there. And he admitted that he’s been bringing everything up since we got home.” Wilson makes a frustrated sound, and Cuddy puts a hand on his arm and speaks softly.
“Let me get him set up for the EKG. Go get some coffee, or something. Give yourself a few minutes. I’ll get the fluids hung, get him ready.”
“All right, I’ll do that. But Cuddy…. Don’t yell at him. I know, it’s the natural reaction, but… well… he’s so sick—“
Cuddy smiles. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll give him a hard enough time so he doesn’t think I might actually be worried, but not hard enough to upset him. I know how to play the game. Okay?”
Wilson nods; it’s true, Cuddy knows how to handle House, sometimes better than Wilson does. “I’ll be in the kitchen. Call me when we’re ready to run the EKG.” As he walks to the kitchen, he’s thinking that Dick’s suggestion of getting a punching bag might actually have some merit.
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Truth, and Consequences
When Cuddy enters the living room, House appears to be dozing. She sets the EKG monitor down and approaches the couch quietly. “House?” she says gently, careful not to startle him. When he doesn’t respond, she tries it a little louder. Then Wilson comes in, carrying the box of pharmacy supplies she’d left by the door. He removes one of the potassium-spiked bags of fluid from the box, and at Cuddy’s nod, exchanges the normal saline for the new bag. “Have you been having any trouble waking him?” Cuddy asks.
“No; as a matter of fact, I’d have to say he’s been sleeping pretty lightly.” Wilson calls his name; no response. He puts his hand on House’s shoulder and tries again. This time, House’s eyes open wide and he sits up quickly.
“Wha—” House looks from Wilson to Cuddy; when they see the expression in his eyes, they realize immediately that they need to orient him quickly if they don’t want a repeat of this morning’s incident.
“It’s okay,” Cuddy smiles. “You’re at home, House, on your couch. Your potassium’s low, but we’re already fixing that; you’ll feel much better in just a few hours.” She sits on the edge of the couch next to him, blocking any effort he might make to rise.
Wilson is already at the end of the couch, ready to place his hands securely on House’s shoulders, if necessary. “We need to get you set up for an EKG, okay?” When House turns to look up at him, Wilson says quietly, almost like a secret, “It’s all right,” and then he smiles. And House visibly relaxes.
Cuddy smiles too. The bond between these two men never fails to amaze her, how each can calm—or anger—the other, with just a few words. “Okay now?” she asks. “You know what’s going on?”
House nods. “It’s a ‘lyte imbalance; you’re correcting it. And you need to get an EKG to check for arrhythmias. I’m fine; you can both stop looking at me like you might have to get out the tranquilizer gun.” He sounds irritable, and quite rational.
Wilson and Cuddy smile at each other. Cuddy stands and starts to prepare the leads for the EKG. She asks Wilson, “Would you mind getting the cardiorespiratory monitor out of the trunk?” She moves away from House and signals for Wilson to join her. “Also get the red box. Code supplies; didn’t wanna take any chances,” she says in an undertone. When Wilson leaves, she moves back to House to begin applying the leads to his chest.
When Wilson returns from the car, he sees Cuddy glaring at House in mock anger; House looks like a not-very-sorry ten year old, caught with his hand in the… uh… cookie jar. Wilson laughs; the familiar scene is the most hopeful thing that’s happened around here since their return from the hospital. He notes that Cuddy has turned the EKG machine away from House so that he won’t be able to see the display. Wilson knows immediately that that is just not gonna fly.
“Dr. Cuddy,” he says humorously, “May I respectfully point out that House was the one to diagnose his own impending code following his surgery?” As he speaks, he’s turning the display screen so that House can view it from his position on the couch. He’s rewarded by a grateful look from the patient.
“Yeah, I was gonna remind her of that,” House says, “But I got distracted by a couple of things.” House trains his eyes lasciviously on Cuddy’s chest. For a moment, everything feels normal again for all three of them.
Wilson hates to break the spell of normalcy, but someone has to take charge here. “We ready to get started?” He sees the same look in House’s eyes that he’d seen when they’d done the MRI on the right leg, and he knows that House has grasped the potential seriousness of his current situation. And this time, Wilson doesn’t know how to make it better. At House’s terse nod, he starts the machine, and three pairs of professional eyes are trained intently on the screen.
Wilson sees what’s happening first, and decides Cuddy had the right idea when she’d hidden the display. He steps in front of the table, blocking House’s view. “Look, this is not gonna be accurate if you don’t relax, House. Your heart rate’s climbing; just lie back like a good boy and let’s get this over with. I promise, I’ll give you the readout soon as it’s done. Just close your eyes and relax for a few minutes.”
To Wilson’s surprise, House does as directed, without argument. Wilson and Cuddy exchange worried glances, then return their attention to the monitor. And now, their worry has a focus.
Cuddy puts a warning finger to her lips, indicating House’s still-closed eyes with a tilt of her head. She’s hoping he’ll fall asleep so that she and Wilson can discuss the results of the EKG before they have to show it to House. It’s clear that House is going to need continuous monitoring until the T wave abnormalities resolve. If that were the only problem, it might not be so bad, but she’s also seeing a prominent U wave, and this combination makes Cuddy want to transport the man to ICU right now. She calms herself by remembering that these arrhythmias are being treated. And she reminds herself that a commitment’s been made to House. Unless his life is acutely in danger, she’ll do everything in her power to honor it. She owes him that.
Cuddy gets her wish; House is either sleeping or not wanting to deal with what his EKG might show—his eyes remain closed as Wilson, with something approaching panic in his own eyes, tears the strip off the machine and motions her into the kitchen.
Wilson is pale as he looks once more at the strip. Then he reaches for the phone and says to Cuddy, “We need an ambulance and a bed in the unit.” He’s surprised when Cuddy takes the phone from him, and hangs it up.
“We’re not going to do it that way,” she tells him firmly. “We’re treating the problem; he isn’t in immediate danger.”
“The danger might not be immediate, but it’s undeniable! He’s at risk for torsades de pointes; a potentially fatal ventricular tachycardia isn’t intended to be treated in the home setting!” Wilson argues; he’s clearly angry—and scared. “And it’s probable that we’d be in the hospital for only a few hours; correcting the potassium deficit will resolve the problem, and we could be back home by late evening.”
“That’s my point,” she says. “We’re going to risk his trust again, just because he needs to be watched closely for eight or ten hours? No.” Her expression is resolute. “You’ve just been demoted, Wilson. For the next ten hours, you’re the best friend—and that’s all you are. I’m the physician.”
Wilson sinks into a chair. “I don’t think this is the best idea….”
“We’ve got all the code drugs,” Cuddy reminds him. “And the monitors. You don’t think he’s just as safe under my supervision as he would be in the unit?”
“Of course I do. And his trust is just as important to me. But….”
“All you have to do is be his friend. That’s all you’re allowed to be. Keep him calm, show him you’re confident. Leave the doctoring to me.” Cuddy tries to convey to Wilson the same confidence she hopes he’ll be able to impart to House over the next several hours.
Finally, Wilson nods. “Guess this is what you meant when you said no backing out when it gets too tough, huh?” He gives her a wan smile.
“Just do your job, and let me do mine. We’ll get through this.” She gives his arm a squeeze. “Let’s go talk to my patient.”
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Trust
“Wait.” Wilson hasn’t risen to follow Cuddy into the living room. She turns back to him questioningly. “Cuddy, I’m… sorry. I guess I just panicked for a minute. You’re right; if we’re able to maintain his trust and his privacy, we should. I’m the one who made that commitment to him. I promised him no hospitals, no nasty surprises, and look at me now, caving in when it starts to get scary.” He shakes his head sadly at his own failing.
Cuddy sighs, turns back into the kitchen, and sits down next to Wilson. “I need you with me on this 100 percent. If you’ve got doubts, then I can’t be comfortable doing this; your support is essential. And he needs you. I saw how quickly you were able to calm him down a few minutes ago, and that’s gonna be important. But I haven’t forgotten that this is difficult for you—and neither has House. He’d be very unhappy if he knew how torn you are right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d agree to go to the hospital just to spare you the worry.”
“What are you talking about?” asks Wilson. “House has no idea—“
Cuddy interrupts him with soft laughter. “You two are unbelievable,” she tells Wilson. “Do you know why, when he asked you on Sunday to be his doctor, he insisted that I remain his physician of record? The reason he gave me was that he didn’t ever want to put you in a position where a tough choice might have to be made. He didn’t want you to have to go through that.”
Wilson stares at Cuddy. “But he never said… I thought he was angry… I didn’t think he wanted… but—” He stops talking and just looks at Cuddy, thoroughly confused.
Cuddy says with exasperated amusement, “Very eloquent! If what you’re trying to say is that you didn’t realize that he respects you, and appreciates you, and worries about you, then you’re about as emotionally blind as he is. I’d like to knock both your heads together. Just when I think one of you really gets it, then the other one gets all stupid. Admittedly, that’s usually House, but apparently you can be just as dense.” She shakes her head, frustrated, and Wilson can swear he hears her mutter ‘Men!’ under her breath.
“I get all that; I really do,” he tells her. “But most of the time, he just seems to resent that he has to need anyone. I guess I’ve become so expert at pretending that he doesn’t need anyone that sometimes I believe it myself.”
“Hold that thought, and don’t move,” says Cuddy, standing. “I’ve got to go check on him, but I’ll be right back. We need to have this discussion, and we need to finish it before we talk with him about his condition.”
When Cuddy enters the living room, she’s relieved to see that House is still sleeping, and that there’s been no change for the worse on the EKG monitor. There’s been no improvement, either, but it’s been only 10 minutes, and this is a procedure that can’t be rushed. If she tries to raise the potassium level too quickly, the result will be congestive heart failure. So—while the temptation to resolve the deficit as quickly as possible is understandable—Cuddy’s decided to be even more cautious than she’d be in the hospital setting. And because she’s afraid that he might awaken while she and Wilson are not in the room, and figure things out for himself, she again turns the display away from him before returning to the kitchen.
Wilson is still looking pretty miserable. “How’s he doing?” he asks.
“Sleeping; no changes. I need to know; are you going to be able to do this? Because I’m confident that we can handle this right here—if he’s got you to help him through it. And I’m equally certain that if he’s going to be picking up on any fears or doubts from you… well, you might as well call that ambulance right now.”
Wilson’s never seen Cuddy like this; she’s taken charge, and she’s clearly expecting complete cooperation and belief in her decision. But she seems almost driven to accomplish something that, at any other time, she’d quickly declare too dangerous. “Cuddy, what’s up with you?” But as he asks the question, it comes to him. She’s been willing to break rules, flaunt policy, and now maybe even risk House’s life because of what she’d done six years ago when she’d allowed the surgery on House’s leg. Now, Wilson needs to make certain that she’s doing this for reasons other than misplaced guilt. “If this were anyone but House, would you even be considering this?” he asks.
“No, I wouldn’t,” Cuddy responds. “But… not for the reasons you think. Yes, I owe him for what happened. But even if I’d had no part in the surgery, I’d still want to do this for him, for the same reasons you had for starting this whole thing, when he collapsed in his office. I really do care about him, you know. And I know how much he hates this, how it goes against everything he wants us to believe about him. Call me weak, but it makes me hurt for him, and want to make it better.” Cuddy pauses and takes a deep breath, and Wilson can tell that she feels as if she may have revealed too much. “So that’s what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it. And if you ever share any of this with him, I’ll deny it all, in the strongest possible language.” She gives Wilson a shaky smile, and then, because she’s Cuddy, she pulls it together, and asks, “So, with me on this?”
And all Wilson can do is nod, and follow her into the living room.
“We’re gonna have to wake him,” Cuddy says as they watch House, noting the shallow breathing, the pale skin. “We need to get him moved to the bedroom, get some oxygen going. And we need to let him know what we found.” She and Wilson look at each other for a long moment, and a wordless decision is made that Wilson will handle it.
He sits on the edge of the couch, lays his hand on House’s shoulder. “House, gotta talk. C’mon, wake up; DDX is over, need to talk about treatment.”
House’s eyes open slowly, and Wilson is again struck by just how ill he is. He’s gaunt, and pale, and it seems as if the effort of holding his eyes open is just too much. But after a moment, House carefully eases himself into a sitting position, clears his throat, and focuses on Wilson. “What’ve we got? Where’s the readout?” he asks.
Wilson hands him the strip of paper and watches his face carefully as he studies it. Finally, House looks up. “Not good.” His eyes are asking what they plan to do, but he won’t say the words.
Wilson glances at Cuddy, standing quietly off to the side. It’s showtime; wish me luck. Cuddy gives him a small nod and moves to stand beside him.
“House, Cuddy here is still reluctant to punish the nurses by admitting you. So she’s insisting on punishing herself instead—she’s gonna take over your care, right here, for the next few hours, get you through this.”
House studies Cuddy’s face as she looks back at him, unblinking. Then he turns to Wilson. “Where you gonna be?”
“Well, I was gonna go catch a double feature, but someone’s gotta protect the lady; guess I’m elected. I’ve… uh… been ordered to pack away my doctor kit until further notice, so you’re stuck with me. We’ll just hang out, okay?”
House looks from one to the other of them, and they can tell that he’s figured it all out; he’s analyzing every aspect of their plan. And they see in his eyes that he’s decided to trust them. He’s surprised that they’ve agreed to do this; he’s got that strange protected feeling again, and he decides to just go with it.
“Okay.” House looks at Cuddy. “What’s next?”
“First, we need to get you back to bed,” she says briskly. “Get you hooked up, maybe some O2 for a while.” Cuddy asks Wilson, “Can you help him into the bedroom?”
Before Wilson can answer, House says, “I don’t need any help; perfectly capable of limping into my own bedroom unassisted. And I don’t need oxygen, either; I’ll let you know on that.”
Cuddy looks at him. Okay, this is where we establish the ground rules. You’re trying to see if you can run this show, how much I’ll let you get away with. We can’t afford to let you win this one, House, so just play nice and follow the rules. “Can you help him into the bedroom?” she repeats to Wilson, as if House hadn’t spoken.
“Glad to,” Wilson says quickly, and before House can argue, he stands and starts to remove the EKG leads from House’s chest, successfully pretending that House isn’t glaring daggers at him. When he finishes the task, he says to House, “I’m going to help you stand, slowly. Grab the IV pole, and let’s get this show on the road.” Without looking at House’s face, he gently places his arms under House’s elbows, wrapping his hands around his upper arms, and, taking most of his friend’s weight, lifts him to a standing position. He keeps his hands firmly in place while House gains his balance and locks his fingers around the handle on the pole. As they start the walk to the bedroom, Cuddy looks on in amusement as she notes, not for the first time, the unconscious way in which Wilson’s normally assured gait now mimics House’s less stable one.
They reach the bedroom, and Wilson lowers House carefully to the bed, helps him swing his legs up and get settled. The short walk has tired House out, and he doesn’t protest the assistance. Cuddy’s right behind them, carrying the portable O2 setup. Looking an apology to Wilson, she hands it to him while she gets ready to hook up the cardiorespiratory monitor. He thinks briefly of reminding her that she’s stripped him of his medical privileges, decides she’d probably not see the humor in that right now, and sets to work.
House watches the two of them getting everything set up around his bed. He’s aware that a lot of thought, a lot of talk, and probably some arguing have gone into this decision. He’s puzzled that either of them would go to such lengths for him, but he’s grateful. Wish I could thank ‘em, but then they’d really think there’s something wrong with me. Smart of Cuddy to pull Jimmy off the case; glad she did that. He’s really scared; never seen him like this—he’s ready to call the ambulance now. Never seen Cuddy so determined, either. Good thing, too—looks like she’ll have to pull us both through. Can’t think of anyone better for that job, though. When Wilson reaches over to place the nasal cannula in his nose, House doesn’t even give him a dirty look. He reserves that look for when Wilson places the urinal beside the bed.
“Sorry, House,” Wilson says. “But you’re a doctor; you know as well as I do that you’re bedbound until your cardiac status reverts to normal sinus rhythm.” Wilson looks at the cardiorespiratory monitor that Cuddy’s just finished hooking up. “And we’re a long way from that, so just do us all a favor—try to relax.”
“I’m with Wilson,” Cuddy says as she picks up a stethoscope. “And if you can’t relax on your own, I’m not adverse to a little IV Ativan to help you along.” She finishes wrapping the BP cuff around House’s arm, and holds out the pulse oximeter probe for his finger. He grabs it out of her hand and puts it on.
“Ask me, you two’d benefit from the Ativan more than I would,” he grumbles.
Wilson laughs. “Sadly, that’s probably true. But let’s examine the reason we’d benefit from a dose of Ativan right now, shall we?”
As Wilson and Cuddy watch him with amusement, even House can’t help smiling a little—he’d waltzed right into that one. “Hey, why don't you google ‘patient compliance;’ they just illustrated it with a picture of me, very flattering shot, check it out!” And he’s glad he’s made them laugh.Chapter Nineteen: DANGEROUS