Title: Battling the Demons
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 Three: TESTING THE WALLS
Chapter Four: TOUCHED
Chapter Six: SORRY
Chapter Seven: OUTSIDE ASSISTANCE
Chapter Nine: TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH
Chapter Eleven: PUZZLE
And two more chapters for today, because some people *coughfatalisticrebelcough* hinted so nicely...:
CHAPTER NINETEEN: Dangerous
When Cuddy and Wilson have composed themselves again, House has a question. He’s aware that he keeps sleeping through the important parts, and he wants to be brought up to speed. “Have you started the Zofran yet?”
Cuddy shakes her head. “No, I want to wait until the Compazine has cleared out, and you’re not going to be eating anything for the next eight hours or so anyway, so we’ll start that tonight. We’ll also be using IV morphine, at dosages equivalent to your super-Vic, for your next two doses. We need to keep your stomach empty, no extra strain on your cardiovascular system, okay?”
House regards her dubiously. “Ah, so the empty stomach requirement has absolutely nothing to do with the possible need for intubation, then,” he says, only mildly sarcastic.
Cuddy grows very serious. “I don’t want you to worry about that.” Her eyes go to the red code box, and so do House’s. “I’ve covered every possible contingency, and hey—you’ve got two of Princeton Plainsboro’s finest right here with you, all the way.” Both Cuddy and House turn towards Wilson, who’s grown terribly quiet at the thought of having to intubate House. Don’t blow it now, Wilson, Cuddy thinks.
Wilson looks at House, smiling. “Don’t forget, I’ve got a vested interest in pulling you through this; where will I go after my next divorce if you’re not around?”
“I’ve left you the couch in my will,” House says dryly. No one smiles.
Wilson takes a deep breath and sits on the edge of the bed, next to House. He waits until House is really looking at him before he starts to speak. “I trust Cuddy. I’d trust my life to her. I trust your life to her. And I made you a promise when all this started. I told you I’d keep you safe. I will. Always. Whatever it takes. Simple as that.” He keeps his eyes trained on House’s, allows House to explore his gaze for any doubt, any fear, and makes certain he finds none. When he stands, he allows his hand to brush across House’s clenched fingers, gives them a quick squeeze, could’ve almost been an accident. He turns from the bed, and, his back to House, he closes his eyes and silently prays it was good enough.
Cuddy jumps in quickly; she’s been watching the monitor, and she’s seen House’s heart rate climb since he’d started this conversation, seen a few extra PVCs race across the screen. “Okay, guys, enough with the chatter for now, please. I’ve got an assessment to complete.”
She crosses over to House and shushes him as he starts to speak again—his eyes are still on Wilson. She places the stethoscope on his chest, hoping to cut off any more attempts at conversation, trying to give Wilson a few moments. But House is still trying to speak. She looks up, sternly, and says, “If you don’t settle down right now, I’ve got that Ativan handy, ya know.”
House sighs, and she can hear the frustration—and the worry—in the sound. But then he closes his eyes, and she can see him make a conscious attempt to calm himself, and when she listens to his heart she hears the rhythm start to settle back down.
When Wilson turns and comes back to the bedside, it’s clear that he’s finally made peace with Cuddy’s decision. His expression is neutral, his voice gently chiding, as he says to House, “Hey, Cuddy may be in charge of the medicine here, but I’m in charge of your behavior. Lucky me. Try not to make me look too bad, okay?” House doesn’t open his eyes, but a slightly mischievous smile quirks his mouth. Both Wilson and Cuddy are able to relax again.
When Cuddy finishes the assessment, she says to Wilson, “I’m gonna go get a chart started; think you can handle him from here?” Wilson nods, and takes advantage of House’s still closed eyes to indicate to Cuddy that House has a clear view of the monitor, should he choose to look at it. Cuddy turns it slightly, so that Wilson can still see it but House can’t, and leaves the room quietly.
Wilson settles down in the chair by the bed, propping his feet up on the corner of the mattress. “You awake?” he asks softly. When House nods after a few seconds’ delay, Wilson knows that if he simply remains quiet, House’ll be back to sleep in no time. So he leans his own head back and closes his eyes to wait him out.
The dream sneaks up on Wilson, just as sleep has. And—while the unexpected sleep is welcome—the dream, from its beginning, is not.
House is on that damned motorcycle, and Wilson is following in his car. They’re on their way home from the hospital. It’s a beautiful, clear day, and Wilson’s having a moment of regret that House can no longer go running. But he’s hoping that he can at least convince House that a trip to the park to enjoy the sun might not be out of the question.
House is heading into the curve that Wilson’s always yelling at him about; he insists on taking it far too fast, and—especially when it’s raining—the curve’s too sharp for such stupidity. At least I don’t have to worry about rain today, he thinks as he trains his eyes on the bike, willing House to back off on the speed. So he’s watching as the motorcycle suddenly seems to go even faster, and it’s not following the curve of the road—it’s heading straight for the brick retaining wall, and House is making no attempt to correct its path. And he’s watching when the bike, going in excess of 80mph, hits the wall. There’s a moment then when Wilson can’t see anything at all—his vision’s gone black, and then dizziness makes him instinctively pull the car to the right, and off the road.
As soon as the car stops, Wilson’s out of it, and running. As he reaches House, yards away from the crumpled bike, he sees that pieces of House’s helmet are scattered all around, as if it had exploded. He swallows the bile that rises in his throat, and makes it to House’s side. He can see that House is breathing, but the respirations are already agonal, and Wilson knows. He gently lifts one eyelid, and then the other, and feels no surprise that both pupils are blown; there’s no more blue in those eyes, just the flat, dull black of death.
When he sinks to the ground and gently takes House’s head in his lap, he can feel the spongy area in his skull that indicates a depressed fracture—the injury that had sealed House’s fate at the moment of impact. No, he thinks. House sealed his own fate when he got on the bike. It wasn’t an accident. “You lied to me,” he whispers to House as the uneven respirations start to slow. “You promised me that I wouldn’t be the one to find you….” He hears the first onlookers start yelling that they’ve called 911, and he hopes that the ambulance comes slowly. House is already dead, but the broken shell can breathe for a few minutes more. He won’t allow them to code his friend; it’s the last thing he’ll do for him, if it comes to that.
He looks down and sees rain on his hands, cupped lovingly around House’s head, rain on House’s face, mixing with the blood. He’s confused; the sun’s still shining brightly, but as he lifts his head to look at the sky, he can feel the rain on his own face, too.
“Wilson. Wilson!” Who would be calling to me out here? These people are all strangers. Go away; please be quiet. My brother’s dying. He doesn’t like a lot of people; leave us alone--
“Jimmy!” He lifts his head, startled awake, and discovers that the rain, and the blood, are only tears—his tears, and a lot of them. And the voice is House’s, only feet away from him, with blue eyes again, and those eyes are looking at him… watching him cry.
CHAPTER TWENTY: Diagnostics
Wilson scrubs at his wet face with hands that are just as wet, and steals a look at the monitor; if he’s upset House, he’ll never forgive himself. Cardiac status pretty much the same, but respirations are too shallow, too rapid. Damn. “It’s okay, House; I’m okay.”
House is watching him appraisingly; his gaze is so intense that Wilson looks uncomfortably away. When he’s able to look back, House’s eyes are still on him. “I said I’m fine; you need to calm down, you can’t afford to get upset right now. Take a few slow, deep breaths for me, okay?” House still hasn’t spoken, just continues to watch Wilson. “Look, it was a dream, a bad dream, that’s all. Sorry I disturbed you.”
Wilson knows the technique House is using; he’s employed it himself, many times. Just gaze, wordlessly, at the patient until the silence makes him so uncomfortable, and he’s babbling so much to fill it, that the truth slips out, finally. But Wilson’s never been ‘the patient’ with the embarrassing information before; it’s not a role he’s enjoying. And he knows that House is the undisputed master of this particular diagnostic game. So he’s glad of the distraction when Cuddy enters the room, wearing a stethoscope, carrying a package of syringes.
“Leave us,” House says to her.
“But I need to do the assessment, give you your noon meds,” Cuddy protests, puzzled. What the hell has happened now? Last time I checked, they were both asleep. Why won’t Wilson look at me? And House looks just this side of upset; surely Wilson knows better than to argue with him right now—
“Five minutes. Please.” House says. He still hasn’t looked toward her; he hasn’t looked away from Wilson’s face.
“Is everything all right? Because this isn’t really a good time to be arguing politics, or even discussing the deeper meanings of life, and I’d prefer—”
“Cuddy….” She hears an undisguised plea, and a demand, in House’s voice, and when a check of the monitor assures her that nothing too terrible is happening, she nods at House. “Five minutes; I’ll be back.”
House isn’t going to give up until Wilson gives him something. “I dreamed about… my brother.” Still with the unnerving gaze. “He was… dying.” No go; damn, House is good at this. “I was there; I held him while he….” The tears are threatening again, and Wilson stops speaking, glares almost defiantly at House.
But House has heard what he needs. He finally looks away from Wilson, and says, casually, to the ceiling, “Did you know you talk in your sleep? Pretty lucid, too—none of the usual indistinct mumbling.”
So you knew all along; you just needed to confirm your diagnosis, you… you… limping twerp. And don’t you ever forget what that translates into, House. Now it’s Wilson’s turn; he looks at House and waits. Just waits.
House finally takes that long, slow, deep breath before turning his head back towards his friend. When he speaks, the words are carefully measured. “I’m not gonna die. At least not until you’ve been raised properly.” He looks, hard, at Wilson. “Figure that’s gonna take a long, long time. Now, go wash your face before Cuddy comes back and thinks I’ve been verbally abusing you again; it’ll make her jealous.” His voice is rough, dismissive, but Wilson hears the caring hidden beneath the words and allows himself to take comfort from it.
“Holding you to that,” he says as he rises from the chair.
When Wilson returns, Cuddy’s just finished injecting the morphine into the IV port. She studies Wilson’s face carefully, and widens her eyes in a question. He smiles at her. “Just had to clear up a few… family matters that came up… unexpectedly. We’re okay; no blood was shed.” Wilson closes his eyes briefly to rid his mind of the picture that’s popped up. “How’s the patient, Dr. Cuddy?” Cuddy frowns at him, and Wilson wonders if he shouldn’t have saved the question until they were out of House’s hearing.
“I’d planned on running repeat ‘lytes at 2:00, but… he’s not progressing. As a matter of fact, the premature ventricular contractions are increasing in frequency. So I’m gonna get the blood now; we’ll continue to monitor the PVCs, but—dependent on the results of the labs—I’d really like to up the rate on the potassium.”
Wilson and Cuddy look at House to see how he’s responding to this news. The morphine’s kicking in, and he’s got an air of detachment about the whole thing. “Sounds good to me,” he says.
“I’ll just draw the blood, then, find out where we are.” Cuddy locates a smaller vein that hasn’t previously been punctured, and successfully draws off 3cc.
“We’ll be okay while you get that to the lab,” Wilson says.
“No, I’m not leaving. Thought I made it clear that you’re not to play doctor for a while, and I’ve—”
“Then I’ll take it and run it,” Wilson interrupts; it’s important that there are no records in the lab or on the computers at PPTH.
“If you’d let me finish,” Cuddy says pointedly, “I’ve made arrangements for a courier from Princeton General to pick it up. No one has to leave. House needs his physician here, but it’s just as important that he’s got his… family… too. So everybody just relax.”
“I’m plenty relaxed,” House chimes in, clearly floating on the morphine. “I’m so relaxed I’m gonna let you two finish this fight without a referee….” His voice fades away; he’s gone to sleep.
Cuddy and Wilson look at each other and step out of the room. “How bad is it?” Wilson asks.
“Not dangerous yet, and maybe it’s still too early to be expecting an improvement. I’m being cautious with the potassium, maybe too cautious, but I don’t like the fact that he’s getting any worse, even marginally.”
The doorbell rings, and Cuddy answers it. She hands the small bag of labeled tubes to the courier. “Have them call me with those results the minute they have them,” she tells him. She closes the door and turns back to Wilson. “I hope he stays asleep until we find out where we stand; it’s the safest thing for him right now.”
The words are scarcely out of her mouth when a weak, hesitant voice says, barely audibly, from the bedroom, “Feel… funny… something’s big time not… right… help?” The last word is little more than a whispered question. And they run.Chapter Twenty-One: CRISIS