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 here are today's chapters:
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: Crisis
When they reach the bedroom, Cuddy’s eyes fly to the monitor, which has just started alarming, and Wilson’s eyes go to House, who is pale, sweaty, and undeniably frightened.
“What’s happening?” House gasps. “Can’t see… monitor.”
Wilson looks to Cuddy for the answer; she appears stunned, and almost as pale as House is, but when she answers her voice is strong, and unbelievably calm, and reassuring. “You’re having a run of v-tach, House. We need you to try and stay with us, fight it. I’m gonna sedate you right now; you let it work on calming down your heart, but don’t let it shut off your brain; gotta stay with us.”
Wilson studies House while Cuddy administers the sedation. House’s heart rate is 152 per minute, and Wilson can actually see the organ beating too fast, and irregularly, in the thin chest. His skin is pale, almost translucent—pulsing veins are visible at his temples. He’s sweating profusely, and his eyes are darting wildly around the room. Wilson grabs House’s hand, sits down on the bed as House’s heart rate climbs above 160.
“House, listen to me,” he says. “Focus on my voice. You can do this. You have to do this; help us help you. No, buddy, don’t close your eyes, stay here with me. House! Open your eyes. Not gonna stop yelling until they’re open, so do it! House!”
Cuddy’s finished pushing the med. “I gave him 10mg diazepam; he may not be able to fight it off. And it’s not helping,” she says as the heart rate hits 180.
“He’ll fight it off,” Wilson says tensely. “House, c’mon, open your eyes, lemme know you’re still in there. Your big chance to prove Cuddy wrong, House, don’t blow it! House!”
Shut up, Jimmy, go ‘way. Wanna sleep, not so scary now, nuthin’ hurts. If this is ‘dead,’ know what? I’ll take it. Not such a bad thing, not such a bad place… if you’d just quit yellin’ at me… please….
“HOUSE!” Wilson shouts, “Open your eyes!”
Stop already, okay? Don’t wanna play anymore, tired of fighting, no more no more no….
“Heart rate’s getting ready to hit 190,” Cuddy says to Wilson. “I’m cardioverting at 200.” She’s getting the portable defibrillator ready. “Gonna try some magnesium, too. Can’t hurt him. And I’m upping the potassium; congestive heart failure’s easier to treat than this.” Now she directs her words to House. “Not gonna lose you, House. I have no intention of being haunted for the next fifty years, so pull it together here!” She’s shouting, too.
Cuddy, kindly shut up, okay? Lemme die in peace. Sorry about the clinic hours… hell, no I’m not; shouldn’t tell lies on your deathbed. One thing, though… take care of Jimmy, okay? Jimmy… just made ‘im a promise… promised not to… aw, Jimmy….
House wills his eyes open. It takes a tremendous effort to focus, and, when he’s finally able to see, he’s looking right into Wilson’s eyes, only inches from his own, and he can’t see anything else. He pulls in a searing breath, and forces words out on the exhale. “scaphoid… lunate…” he whispers. “triquetrum… pisiform…”
“Heart rate’s falling!” Cuddy shouts in triumph. She looks at House, and sees that he’s whispering, although she can’t make out the words.
And Wilson has a small smile on his face as he says to House, “That’s right, keep going, only twenty-three more. Good job, buddy. What’s next? Keep those eyes open; what’s next?”
“trapezium… trapezoid… capitate….”
“Wilson, heart rate’s down below 160!” Cuddy says happily. She frowns at House, puzzled. “What’s he saying?”
Wilson keeps his eyes locked with House’s, and his grin grows wider as he says to Cuddy, “He’s listing all the bones in the human hand. He’s forcing himself to stay focused. He’s decided to stay with us!”
“hamate… hook… of hamate… phalanges….”
“Down to 120, and look—sinus tach! The v-tach’s resolved. We did it; he did it!” Cuddy heaves a long sigh, and she’s grinning now, too. She collapses onto the bed, sitting on the other side of House. She puts her stethoscope to her ears and listens to his chest, then looks up, satisfied. “It’s over.”
House looks at Wilson and says, his voice still little more than a whisper, “Hand.”
Wilson smiles indulgently down at House, “Yeah, I remember anatomy, too. Bones of the hand. Pretty clever way to stay focused, though.”
“No… hand. Was… listing all the bones you’re… crushing. Cane hand, too. Let go now?” One side of House’s mouth quirks up as Wilson realizes he’s still holding, very tightly, to the hand he’d grabbed at the start of this. Both House’s hand and Wilson’s are absolutely white, and Wilson has difficulty letting go; his hand has effectively cramped around House’s.
“Sorry; didn’t realize,” he says as he untangles his hand from House’s. “Did I hurt you?”
“’S’okay… the pain helped. Kind’ve… an anchor, ya know?” The two men exchange a look so warm and private that Cuddy suddenly feels she’s intruding. She stands, and begins to gather up the empty syringes.
When she retrieves a syringe she’d tossed on the sheet, she glances at House and sees that he’s shivering. “Are you okay?” she asks him, worried again.
“Just cold.” His voice is a little stronger now; talking doesn’t seem as much of an effort. “Got a little sweaty there tryin’ to stay alive, I guess. Hard work.”
Wilson stands. “Let’s get that fixed. I’ll be right back.”
Wilson returns quickly with a basin of warm water and several towels. He retrieves a dry t-shirt from the dresser, and sets the basin on the nightstand. “Don’t move,” he directs House. “Let me do all the work here; you just relax.” He slips his hands under House’s back and lifts him slowly, gently, to a sitting position, bringing him all the way forward so that House’s upper chest is supported against Wilson’s right arm.
Cuddy’s reminded of a mother bathing a baby. Wilson’s so gentle, and so natural, that House’s dignity is never in question, not even now, in the face of his helplessness. The two talk quietly, one or the other of them occasionally laughing softly. Cuddy goes about the task of cleaning up the reminders of the crisis they’ve just come through together, and enjoying the gentle peace of the scene in front of her. And she’s glad that she’d made the decision to keep House at home; House and Wilson are proving it was the right thing to do, for all of them. She smiles over at them, and even House returns the smile, just a little. And it's enough.
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: Interlude
Once House has been settled again, the sedation Cuddy had given him enables him to quickly fall asleep. His heart rate is still slightly elevated, and the monitor continues to show an occasional PVC, but he’s clearly out of immediate danger. And when the lab at Princeton General calls with the results of the bloodwork, they discover that increasing the rate of the potassium infusion, and even the dose of magnesium Cuddy had given during the near-code, were the right things to do. Cuddy and Wilson look at each other in satisfaction as they quietly leave the bedroom to speak in private for a few minutes.
As they sit in the living room, Wilson looks gratefully at Cuddy. “Thank you,” he says, simply.
“For what?” she asks. “I’m the one who should be thanking you, and House, for allowing me to be a part of this. It’s been frightening, and fulfilling, and… remarkable. I’ve felt like a physician again. I’ve watched House recover a little of his trust in the human race—or at least in us. I’ve seen one of the most incredible friendships in action. And I even feel like a friend, myself. To both of you.” She smiles and shakes her head. “Never would’ve thought he’d let me in this way.”
“Cuddy, if you hadn’t supported this, from the beginning, it could never have happened. Your decision to allow this, and to participate in it, saved his life. I’m convinced of it. If we’d wound up having to hospitalize him, odds are the ethics committee would’ve turned down our request for the pain control procedure. Once they turned us down, we’d have been able to treat only his acute pain, and the whole place would know he’d moved up to morphine. At best, he’d have left the hospital with his pain only partially controlled, and with half the staff considering him impaired. At worst, he’d have been forced into a treatment program he doesn’t need, for what’s viewed as an addiction. And if he’d lived through it, he’d have come out even more bitter, and less trusting, than he was when we started all this. Now, because of what you did, his privacy’s been protected, his… dignity. With House, those things are just as important as his health.”
Cuddy looks seriously at Wilson. “We’re far from being out of the woods, you know. He’s debilitated; his condition’s still quite serious. We made it through this crisis, and we’re all feeling pretty good right now, but we can’t afford to lose sight of how much work there still is to do, how much care he still needs.”
“I know, but it’s like I told House this morning; if we hadn’t done the pain control procedure, we still wouldn’t be aware of how much his general condition’s deteriorated. And God knows how much further….” Wilson doesn’t need to continue; both he and Cuddy strongly suspect exactly how much further House’s health would have fallen before he’d have said anything to anyone.
“And there’s something else,” Wilson says. “You need to know how much easier you’re making it today, for me. I’ll be honest; I resented it when you pulled rank this morning. Hell, I didn’t just resent it; I was angry. And… you turned out to be right. I was able to be there for him during the v-tach, and it was a relief to be able to concentrate on supporting him without having to juggle the medical side of it, too. These next eight hours, they’re a gift, really. House has so many medical problems right now that sometimes I forget what it’s like just to be his friend. He’s accused me of that, ya know. I deny it, of course, but… he’s right. And… well… thank you.”
Cuddy reaches over and squeezes his hand. “It’s okay. Really. You’re worried about him, and you want to make it better—you’re trained to make it better, so it’s natural to act on that. But… sometimes, it’s more important for you not to look at him through a physician’s eyes. I like to tease him that you’re his only friend, but… it’s not a joke. He’s been so successful at pushing everyone else away that his reliance on you, well, it’s gotta be scary sometimes. And especially right now, trying to play both roles, when both are equally important… I know it’s tough. Glad I could help.”
“Me too,” Wilson smiles. “Just hope he realizes now that you’re on that short list too. Funny thing is, I think he does.”
“Yeah, well, to quote the other person on that list, I’m not in this for the gratitude.” Cuddy looks thoughtful. “Have you ever figured out what it is that makes us care about him, despite him? Because I’ve given that a lot of thought recently, and I’ll be damned if I can figure it out.”
Wilson has to laugh at this. “Stop trying; you’ll never figure it out. But if you do, let me know. All these years, I still wonder.”
There’s a moment of amused silence, and then Cuddy asks, “When are you gonna tell him about the PICC line?”
“So you agree there’s no way to avoid that?” Wilson asks. He knows that it’s going to be necessary, but he’ll feel a bit better about it if Cuddy thinks so too.
“No question,” she says immediately. “Apparently, the pain’s depressed his appetite for so long that his body no longer recognizes the normal hunger signals. Now that the pain’s under control, that’ll come back, but we need to get some weight on him. The man’s got no reserves left.”
“I can’t tell him today, not with his ‘lytes out of whack; wouldn’t be fair. And I wouldn’t do it anyway; why raise his anxiety? I’ll tell him tomorrow, just a little while before we actually do it, give him a few minutes to yell, then just get it done. Not looking forward to it. What time’s the mobile x-ray scheduled for?”
“Two o’clock. I can reschedule if you want me to.”
“No,” Wilson says slowly. “That’s over 24 hours from now. He’ll be as recovered as he’s gonna get from the electrolyte imbalance. No sense putting it off.” He stands and rubs at the back of his neck. “Gonna go sit with ‘im a while. Don’t want him to wake up alone.”
Wilson returns to the bedroom. Before he sits, he studies the monitors, and then House. The monitor display tells him that House’s recovery from the current problem is now progressing uneventfully. But a look at his sleeping friend doesn’t bring as much assurance.
House is still too pale, despite the oxygen. His eyes are sunken into a face which grows more gaunt daily. He looks sick. He looks… old. Wilson lowers himself quietly into the bedside chair. “Oh, House,” he whispers, sadly. “How did we let this happen?”
Wilson startles; House has opened his eyes and spoken, and now he’s looking at Wilson, and he looks angry.
“Just stop blaming yourself,” House continues. “I know it feeds your martyr complex and all, but it’s wrong. I’m a grownup; I’ve even got a medical degree. If anyone ‘let this happen’ I did. But I didn’t. And neither did you, or Cuddy, or anyone else. Yeah, maybe I ignored some things. And maybe you did, too. But you didn’t set out for this to happen… or did you?”
Wilson is startled by the question until he sees the old sly grin sneaking its way across House’s face. “Yeah, well, you said I have this need to be needed; had to feed the need,” he parries back.
“Next time then, just ask me to get a head cold or something, okay, Jimmy? This is just a little drastic, don’t you think?”
“Amen to that!” Wilson smiles. “Why aren’t you sleeping?”
“What, and miss all this one-on-one time with my best bud?” House’s face becomes serious. “We’re gonna be able to fix this, aren’t we?” The question isn’t asked with confidence; Wilson hears real fear.
“House, you once told me that you and I could rule the world! Believe me, we can handle a little mechanical problem. And about that head cold?”
“As I recall, last time you had one of those, you O.D’d on Benadryl, and you made sure that everyone in the building ‘felt your pain.’ In spades. Next time, let’s just go with a simple hangnail, ‘k?”
House’s grin isn’t sedative-induced; it’s real, and it’s grateful. Wilson grins back.
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: The Eyes Have It
“House, you really do need to be sleeping. Cuddy gave you enough diazepam to knock you out for at least six hours. And by that time, this’ll be almost over. Why not just sleep through it?” Wilson is glad that he and House have talked about House’s current status, but even the small effort of speech right now steals strength House just can’t afford to lose. And he can tell that House is consciously fighting the sedation. “I’m gonna be right here; close your eyes and go with it, okay?”
“I’m fine; can’t we just talk a few minutes? Been a while, ya know. You’re always so busy fussing and worrying and checking; forget what it’s like to just talk.”
He’s right, Wilson thinks. I admitted as much to Cuddy, and I can’t say it to him. Not being fair to him; he’s critically ill, and all he’s got around him are doctors. No friends, no family, just… doctors. I say I’m his family, his best friend, and then when he tells me that’s who he needs me to be, I still focus on his condition. Not this time; I know Dick said I’ve gotta be firm with him, take charge of the whole health thing—but not right now.
“I miss it too,” he says to House. “You’re right; it’s crazy not to take advantage of Cuddy’s stupidity in leaving the two of us to our own devices; you’d think she’d know better than that!” The remark is calculated to amuse House, to get him to relax; the anxiety behind his eyes is almost always there now, and Wilson’s decided that for today, at least, his most important job is banishing it.
“You know what would so be the best?” House asks.
Wilson sees that, the way the bedside chair’s positioned, House has to lift his head from the pillow to see Wilson sitting beside him. And he’s having difficulty keeping it lifted. “Nooo, what would that be?” Wilson asks with a smile, as he unobtrusively angles the chair so that House can lean back again.
“Wouldn’t it be too cool to go out into the living room, turn on the soaps? It’d drive Cuddy crazy.” House, weak as he is, is grinning like a kid; there’s a spark in his eyes that’s been missing for days.
“Brilliant idea,” Wilson says. “I’m sure it would be a lot of fun, and I haven’t caught an entire episode of General Hospital in, oh, like, ever, so it’d be nice to catch up on what I’ve missed. But… uh… how do you propose we get you and all your… accessories out there?” You can’t even lift your head! Please, House, tell me this is a joke.
“Yeah… just a thought. Woulda been fun.” The spark goes out of House’s eyes; it’s replaced with a dull resignation, an expression that’s become all too familiar to Wilson lately.
Wilson watches his friend for a long moment; he makes a decision, and refuses to allow himself time to examine it. “House… how bad do you want this?” he asks.
House looks at him quizzically. “Whaddaya mean? How bad do I wanna mess with Cuddy? You have to ask?”
“Right; silly question. What I meant was, want it bad enough to let me be your transportation?”
“Huh?” House looks confused by the question, but hope’s starting to creep back into his eyes.
“It’s a good thirty feet from here to the couch; you… uh… shouldn’t walk at the moment.” You can’t walk at the moment; pretty sure you can’t even sit up unassisted. “Want it enough to let me carry you?” He cocks an eyebrow at House, and allows a touch of mischief to enter his own eyes. His look tries to convey that they’re not a very sick man who’s reliant on others for everything, even moving, and his anxiety-ridden, worried best friend—they’re just two dumb kids, having fun on a free afternoon.
House studies him while the hope creeps the rest of the way into his eyes. “Yeah,” he says. “Want it that bad.”
Wilson stands up before his brain can start listing all the reasons this qualifies as the stupidest thing he’s ever done, might even be the stupidest thing he’s ever considered doing. “Okay, gonna go do reconnaissance; be right back.” He walks quietly into the living room; Cuddy’s in the kitchen, her back to the door, working—he can hear the click of the laptop keys. Quickly, Wilson straightens out the bedding on the couch, adds a couple more pillows.
He pokes his head into the kitchen; Cuddy looks up from her paperwork, distracted. “House is resting; gonna straighten up the living room a bit,” he tells her. She gives him a vague smile and goes back to work.
When he returns to the bedroom, the anticipation in House’s eyes gives him the rest of the motivation he needs to carry out this insanity. “I’m gonna shut off the monitor, get you disconnected, go put it on the table. I’ll be back for the IV pole and the O2, okay?” he whispers conspiratorially. He pulls the wires from the machine and grabs it up.
When Wilson returns to the bedroom, House has already pulled the needle from the heplock, and managed to loop the tubing around the pump. And he’s smiling. Wilson puts a finger to his lips and silently rolls the pole into the living room.
Still not allowing himself to think, he returns to House for the last part of the plan. Although House looks happy, he’s also beginning to look a little doubtful.
“Are you sure we can pull this off? Sure you can lift me? Couple inches taller than you. Might’ve lost some weight, but I don’t think I shrunk, too.” House asks.
When Wilson looks at him, an expression of his grandmother’s enters his mind; nuthin’ but a bag of bones. “House, I’ve half-carried you out of more than one bar, haven’t I? And you just pointed out that you weighed a little more then.” About fifty pounds more. “I’m just transporting you, not dancing with you; height’s not an issue. Just curl up small and leave it to me!” He approaches the bed. “Just lock your arms around my neck, and don’t let go. I’ll do the rest.” Whatever it takes….
When he’s certain that House has a good grip, he slides one hand around House’s back and the other under his knees, and scoops him up in one smooth motion. He tries not to let the shock show on his face; he’s able to lift the man with minimal exertion. More difficult than carrying a child, sure. But not by much.
By the time they make it to the couch, they’re both smothering their laughter. Wilson looks sternly at House and whispers, “The jig’ll be up if she comes out here before I get you retethered.” He shoots House a mock glare. “So shut up!” he hisses. He quickly reconnects the monitor, the blood pressure cuff, the pulse oximeter, the O2. He’s pleased to see that the monitor’s still displaying sinus tach, and the O2 saturation is actually higher, 97 percent.
When Wilson reattaches the IV tubing to the heplock and turns on the pump, the loud beep startles both of them. “Damn,” Wilson whispers. “Forgot about that. Get ready to look innocent.” The words are no sooner out of his mouth than Cuddy appears.
The men watch, expressionless, as her eyes widen so much they threaten to take over her face. She looks from one to the other in astonishment. “Doctor Wilson,” she says, “May I have a word with you in the kitchen, please?”
“Sorry, Doctor Wilson’s not here; he’s off today—orders from the boss, you might know ‘er,” Wilson says with a grin. “Jimmy’s filling in for him,” he continues, impunity in his tone. He hears House snort behind his hand.
Cuddy takes an exaggerated, audibly deep breath. “All right, Jimmy then. Principal’s office. Now.” She turns around and marches back into the kitchen.
House and Wilson look at each other, which is a mistake. As soon as they catch each other’s eye, their held-back laughter redoubles and escapes, loudly.
“You’ve got until the count of three,” Cuddy yells from the kitchen. “And I count quickly.” Wilson attempts to compose himself as House looks at him with mock sympathy.
“Principal might paddle you,” House says. “Tell her to save some for me.” There’s absolutely nothing in House’s eyes right now but pure, unadulterated fun. Any doubt Wilson had about this plan evaporates as he heads to the kitchen, prepared to strongly defend his own foolishness.
Cuddy has her back to him as he enters and begins the speech he’s quickly prepared. “Sorry, Cuddy, I know it’s crazy, but I weighed the risks and benefits and, well, the benefits won. He really needed--” Wilson cuts himself off and stares in amazement as Cuddy turns around and he sees her face; her eyes are sparkling with glee.
Cuddy winks broadly at a confused Wilson before she begins to yell loudly enough to be heard easily in the living room. “Welcome to Doctor Doofus Daycare! Just which part of ‘ventricular tachycardia’ escaped your notice? What are you trying to do? And now, he’s gonna have to stay on that couch a good part of the day. What’d you do, trade in ‘gray matter’ for ‘doesn’t matter’? What were you thinking? Scratch that. Obviously, you weren’t. Thinking, I mean. Too busy being eight years old, I guess. Now get back in there and try to remember your age. Here’s a hint; it correlates with your current IQ. Go; House is probably out there setting up for a hopscotch competition; you might wanna stop him, at least until you can talk him into playing dodgeball first. Why are you still standing there? I said go!”
She leans close to Wilson and whispers, “Brilliant! Nothing like putting some trust and good will in the bank for the PICC line tomorrow.”
Wilson, still a bit dazed at Cuddy’s totally unexpected reaction, just nods at her and returns to the living room, with Cuddy right behind him. “Sit,” she directs Wilson, pointing to the end of the couch.
Once Wilson is seated, Cuddy puts her hands on her hips and glares menacingly at both men. “You’re grounded until further notice. You--” she points at Wilson, “have bathroom privileges, and that’s all. And you--” she aims her mock wrath at House, “don’t. Only privilege you have is the TV. Not that you deserve even that, but God knows, a bored House is a dangerous House. And, apparently, a bad influence on normally sensible oncologists. Now, one of us has work to do, and I’d like to get back to it with at least the illusion that you two can be trusted. So save the prank phone calls until I return your phone privileges, okay?” Two wide-eyed men nod mutely in unison as she turns on her heel and exits dramatically.
Wilson looks smugly at House, and presents him the TV remote with a flourish. House accepts it with a regal nod and laughing eyes.
In the kitchen, Cuddy’s got her hand over her mouth to muffle her laughter. Those two are something else, she thinks. And they’re so pleased with themselves that it’ll never occur to either one of them that this is exactly what the Evil Witch was hoping for when I demoted Wilson—a little ‘play therapy’ for two little boys. She shakes her head and returns to work with a smile on her face.
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: Conditional Changes
The afternoon and evening pass too quickly; House and Wilson have fallen easily into the old rhythms of their friendship, and both men are actually able to forget House’s current circumstances, for a while.
Cuddy tries to be unobtrusive as she carries out assessments and lab draws and tends to House’s medical needs; she doesn’t want to intrude any more than necessary on this short period of relaxation for the men. When Wilson refuses dinner, though, the illusion of normalcy threatens to shatter. He knows that Cuddy hasn’t wanted House to eat today; food in the stomach puts added strain on the cardiovascular system. And House had been right, of course—if they’d needed to intubate, an empty stomach was far safer for the patient. “You’ve gotta eat something,” Cuddy says. “You skipped lunch, too.”
Wilson tries to send a message with his eyes and a slight shake of his head that he doesn’t want to eat in front of House, but House catches it. “Go ahead, eat,” he says. “Won’t bother me; not hungry. I won’t even try to steal anything,” he says with a very small smile.
When Wilson again refuses, Cuddy and House both become annoyed. Finally, Cuddy says, “Look, I want House to try a little soup; I think that’d be okay now. We’ll make it a contest; first one to finish gets to pick the next program.” She tries to sound playful; she’d seen the sad look that had crossed Wilson’s face as he realized how long it had been since House had stolen food from his tray at work—another clue he’d missed.
“Now you’re appealing to my competitive nature!” House tells her. “Hey, Wilson, you gonna let the cripple beat you in a race?”
“No way!” Wilson says, getting into the spirit of the game. “I lose, you’ll force me to watch something sappy on Lifetime, won’t you?”
“Worse!” House says. “I Tivo’d the whole Mother’s Day Movie Marathon, just for you. Been saving it for a special occasion.”
Wilson groans. “He means it, too,” he says to Cuddy. “Bring on the food, and wish me luck—or you’ll have to suffer through it too.”
In the end, although Wilson’s eaten as slowly as he could, Cuddy has to declare him the winner. But at least House is feeling well enough to favor them with a full-on pout. Wilson lets him sulk for a while before announcing, “In recognition of your heroic effort in surviving Cuddy’s cooking—which, by the way, was delicious—I’ve decided that we’ll be watching…” he pauses for dramatic effect, “…’The O.C.’”
Cuddy and Wilson both are certain that House’s triumphant grin is more enjoyable than the show’s going to be, and they smile secretly at each other like indulgent parents. While House attempts, without much success, to explain the goings-on in the O.C. to Cuddy, Wilson excuses himself to make a phone call.
He goes into the kitchen and removes Dick’s card from his wallet, looking for the scribbled home number. When Dick answers, Wilson apologizes for bothering him.
“James, I told you, call anytime. How are things going?”
“That’s the reason I’m calling; I’m a little confused about some of the things you suggested, wanted to find out what I’m doing wrong.” Wilson explains that taking charge of House’s health has apparently been the right thing to do, and that House doesn’t seem to mind it that much, almost seems to be comforted by it. Then he tells Dick about Cuddy’s taking over today, and his being able to return to his role as House’s best friend. “And it’s really been beneficial to him, I think; I’ve enjoyed it, too. But it worries me. Won’t it undermine my authority as his physician while he works through all these changes in his health?”
Dick laughs. “James, you haven’t changed a bit since college! You’re still as literal-minded now as you were then. I didn’t say you had to be friend or physician; I said you should separate the two in your own mind. I told you to ‘take over’ as his doctor, and apparently you’ve been able to do that. That’s great; I’ll bet it’s given him a sense of security he hasn’t had in a while. Now you need to give yourself permission to be his friend as well, and to realize that, difficult as it is, you can be both at the same time.”
Wilson laughs. “Yeah, guess I did take you a bit too literally. I was afraid I’d mess everything up by letting him see me as anything other than his doctor. And I gotta be honest; it was killing me to treat ‘im like that. He might like to pretend he doesn’t need the friendship or the comfort, but I need to offer it. And honestly, he does seem to be fighting it less these days.”
“There are reasons they tell us not to treat our friends or family, James. And you’re finding out what they are. But sometimes it just can’t be avoided; this is one of those times. It’s an emotionally difficult time for you, and it’s a lot of hard work, on a lot of different levels. Not easy, but very much worthwhile.”
Wilson smiles, remembering helping House through the v-tach, remembering House’s laughter as they’d snuck into the living room. “You got that right, Dick. Hey, thanks for clearing things up for me.”
“Any time. Give me a call in a couple of days, will you? Let me know how all of you are doing, okay?”
“Will do.” Wilson hangs up the phone and returns to the living room, where House and Cuddy are happily engaged in arguing the merits of The O.C. versus some science fiction show that turns out to be Cuddy’s secret vice.
“Hey guys,” he interrupts them. “Look there!” He indicates the cardiac monitor, which indicates, for the first time all day, normal sinus rhythm. Cuddy and Wilson smile and look at House, who’s studying the monitor.
“Well, whaddaya know?” House says. “Among her other attributes, turns out she’s a decent doctor, too.”
“High praise, coming from you,” Cuddy says, and they can tell she’s pleased with the awkward compliment. “And that reminds me, we need to get the final blood draw for tonight; the courier will be here in thirty minutes.”
House makes a face. “Four times today. Trying to give me anemia?”
“Quit complaining; just give me an arm,” Cuddy says as she gathers the supplies. “If you were in the hospital, it’d be some inexperienced lab tech with personal instructions from me to miss on the first few tries. Since I have to draw it, figured I’d spare myself the pain of having to listen to you if I missed. So you’re lucky; look at it that way.”
“Most perverse definition I’ve ever heard of ‘lucky,’” House says, but he obediently holds out his arm, and even spares Cuddy his usual exaggerated expression of pain as she pierces the skin and draws the blood. “Not bad,” he says, quietly.
Cuddy and Wilson look at each other, puzzled by House’s subdued, almost polite behavior.
Can’t thank ‘em, House is thinking. Least I can do is maybe not give ‘em such a hard time. At least once in a while.
“Are you getting tired?” Cuddy asks him solicitously; she’s trying to come up with a reason for his new demeanor.
“Yeah, maybe a little,” House responds. “Been a long day.”
House is able to walk to the bedroom. The fact that he’s able to do this only because he has one arm looped around Wilson’s shoulders, and the other around Cuddy’s, bothers him, of course. But not as much as it should; gonna have to work on that.
After House and his monitors and his medicines are settled, Cuddy says to Wilson, “I’m officially returning our patient to you. Gotta get home, but I’ll be back about 7:30 tomorrow for the morning labs.”
Wilson sees her out, then returns to the bedroom. He sits, wearily, in the bedside chair, gives House a tired smile.
“Go on to bed,” House says gruffly. “Or in your case, couch. Be fine here; go on.”
“I think I’ll just sit here a little while, wait’ll you fall asleep, okay?”
I’m kind’ve gettin’ used to this whole weird ‘caring’ thing you and Cuddy’ve got goin’ on; who’d have thunk it? “If you insist,” he grumbles, and closes his eyes.
Chapter Twenty-Five: CHILD PSYCHOLOGY