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
Chapter Sixteen: DISSEMBLING
And today's chapters:
CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: Child Psychology
House has slept peacefully through the night; at midnight, when Wilson had awakened him for his super-Vic, he’d taken the medication and immediately returned to sleep. So Wilson had quietly administered the Zofran via the IV port, and had let the monitors give him the vitals. It was always rare for House to be sleeping this well without additional chemical assistance.
Wilson wakes him at 7:00am. After House takes his meds, Wilson begins his assessment and casually asks about breakfast. “This is your third dose of the Zofran; temp’s normal, no other side effects, right?” he asks House.
“No, but not real hungry right now; maybe a little later,” House responds, not looking at Wilson. Just leave it alone for another day or two. Please.
“Yeah, maybe later,” Wilson says, trying to sound like he believes it. We’ve gotta do the PICC, regardless of whether he wants breakfast or not. No sense giving him a hard time about eating at this point.
“Nice the nausea’s gone,” House offers, hoping to emphasize something positive. Pain’s under control now, should be easier to eat. Been so long; forget what it’s like to be hungry. Wilson’s being way too calm lately about the whole food thing. He’s got something up his sleeve, and I’m not gonna like it… no lectures, none of those disappointed looks—nope, not the usual Worried Wilson thing. So what’s up?
“Glad to hear it.” Wilson’s afraid to ask the next question. “Any appetite at all?”
House considers how to answer this, decides on a half-truth. “I want to eat, yeah. Just don’t want to rush it.”
Wilson, of course, recognizes immediately that House didn’t answer the actual question. Which is an answer in itself. Tells me that the PICC line’s the right decision, at least. “Cuddy’s gonna be here soon; let’s do the lab draw, okay?”
“Sure. No problem.” He sure dropped the subject fast.
Wilson draws the blood, and is labeling the tube when Cuddy arrives. He goes to the door to let her in, leaving House to ponder the conversation.
Cuddy’s brought the kit for the PICC line. “How’s he doing today?” she asks, handing the box of supplies to Wilson.
“Had a good night. Just had a pretty futile conversation about eating, and I think he knows something’s up. Was gonna wait ‘til the last possible minute, but I don’t want him lying in there worrying about the unknown. So wish me luck,” Wilson says. “Gotta go talk to him about the PICC.” He grimaces in anticipation of a very loud conversation.
“I’m coming with you,” Cuddy says. “You’re gonna need reinforcements, and maybe first aid.” She smiles, but Wilson is too tense to smile back.
When they enter the room together, House searches their serious faces, and knows immediately that something’s up. “I take it this isn’t a social call?” he asks suspiciously.
Wilson sits and takes a deep breath. “We have to talk some more about your nutritional status, House. It’s not improving; it’s getting worse. You’re not really gonna start recovering until you gain some weight, give your body some reserves. So I’ve….” He glances over at Cuddy, who nods. “We’ve… decided to insert a PICC line.” He crosses his arms and waits. He doesn’t have to wait long.
“No! Not gonna happen. I’ll start eating; gimme a day or two. No.” Now House has his arms crossed as well.
“House, we don’t have a choice; I wish we did, I wish there was another way. There isn’t; you know that. You’ve lost maybe a quarter of your body weight these last few months, and the process has been accelerating in the past week. You’re burning a lot more calories than you can take in on your own. I’m sorry, but it’s our only option at this point.” Wilson’s trying to convey to House, as kindly as possible, that House isn’t being asked for either his opinion or his permission.
“Ever hear of patient consent, Wilson?” House looks trapped; his eyes are darting around the room, and his heart rate is climbing. “This patient isn’t consenting. At least if I were in the hospital, they’d ask me; they’d respect a ‘no’.”
Neither Wilson nor Cuddy thinks that this is a good time to point out that Dr. Gregory House has never respected a ‘no’ is his entire career.
Wilson starts to speak, but Cuddy holds up a warning hand. House has gone into ‘child mode’ again, and this is her area of expertise.
“I understand what you’re saying, House,” she says warmly, empathetically. “Wilson does five of these a week, and orders another ten. He’s done it in the home care setting several times. But if you’d feel more comfortable having it done at the hospital, that’s perfectly understandable. It won’t take me even ten minutes to arrange a bed, if that’s what you want; the choice is yours.”
Wilson looks on in admiration. Cuddy’s effectively closed off any further argument about permission, while presenting House with the one aspect of the situation he can have control over—although they both know what his choice will be.
House is silent for half a minute—Wilson’s never realized just how long 30 seconds can be. Then House says, grudgingly, “Let’s do it here.” He looks at Wilson. “And you’d better get it right the first time.”
Cuddy and Wilson look at each other for a long moment; they’re concerned. House’s heart rate is staying elevated, and he’s pale now. Cuddy wonders if House is nervous about the procedure itself, but Wilson knows better. He knows that House is thinking about the implications of needing a PICC line; it’s an acknowledgement that this is no short-term gig, and it’s just one more thing that makes House more dependent, less in control.
Wilson thinks about his conversation with Dick, and he thinks that this might be a very good time to try to combine the friendship with the doctor-patient relationship. “Ya know, once the PICC’s in, no more IV starts, no more blood draws—we’ll be able to get the blood from the port. Your arms’ll get a chance to heal. And inside of two, three days, you’ll start getting some energy back. Then we can have some fun, do all the things that usually have to wait for the weekend when we’re working. How ‘bout we try to get tickets to a Monster Truck show, or—”
“How ‘bout we don’t pretend this is not a big deal?” House interrupts. “How ‘bout we quit ignoring the fact that I refused it? And how ‘bout you just admit that you’re gonna do it anyway; what I say at this point doesn’t matter.”
Oh, boy. “What do you think is gonna happen if we don’t do something?” Why am I trying to reason with him? He’s right; I’m gonna do it anyway.
“I’ll start eating. Tomorrow, next day. Soon. Weight’ll come back.”
“Yeah, maybe, in a few months. Maybe. It’ll slow down your recovery, your return to work. The PICC’ll let us get three months of progress in three weeks. How long you think we can hide this from your team? Soon as they find out you’re not gonna be back next week, the questions’ll start. Cuddy can hold’em off a few weeks telling ‘em we’ve got the flu. We get it one at a time, that’s at least three weeks right there; it’s laying people low for close to two weeks. What do you want her to tell them if you’re not back a month from now, just ‘cuz you refused a simple little procedure?”
“None of their business.”
Wilson doesn’t respond; House knows that they’d ask, that an answer would have to be given.
Finally, House says, “Let’s just do it, get it over with. You got an x-ray set up to check placement after it’s in?”
Cuddy answers carefully; this will confirm for House that the procedure’s been preplanned. “I’ve got the mobile van coming at 2:00.”
So they decided this at least a day ago; probably more, House thinks. That’s why Wilson was so calm about the eating thing. Well… they’ve been doing an okay job so far. And Wilson’s… right. What the hell. He looks at Wilson. “Wasn’t kidding. You get one shot; don’t screw it up.”
“House, I can do this with my eyes closed,” Wilson says.
“Please don’t,” House responds dryly, and Cuddy and Wilson laugh.
“We can wait ‘til noon, if you want to,” Wilson says.
“No. Now works for me. Don’t want it interfering with the soaps.”
Wilson retrieves the PICC line kit from the box of supplies. “Just give me a few minutes to get set up, then. Any questions?”
“No,” House answers shortly; he sounds tense.
As Wilson applies the skin-numbing patch to the only remaining decent large vein in the antecubital space on the inner part of House’s left elbow, a glance at House’s face tells him that he is tense. “You want some light sedation for this?”
“You’re giving me a choice about something?”
“House…” Wilson says, warning—or begging—him to behave. “Do you want the sedation, or not?”
“I said I trust you. Reason I shouldn’t?”
“Umm… no, of course not.” It’s just that I never expected that phrase to come outta your mouth, that’s all. “I’m gonna go get washed up, and we’ll get started.”
When Wilson returns, Cuddy opens the sterile package for him. He dons the gloves and places the drape over the site after removing the patch. Wilson begins insertion of the long IV catheter which will lie in a chest vein, and thus permit infusion of nutritional fluids.
Cuddy moves to the other side of the bed, hoping to distract House. She knows this will work only if he wants to be distracted. And he doesn’t; he’s watching the procedure intently. Poor Wilson; nothing like having a knowledgeable audience with a big mouth.
But House remains silent, only shaking his head when Wilson asks if he’s in any discomfort. As Wilson ties the last suture to hold the line in place, House finally has a comment. “Pretty good, but I would’ve waited on the sutures until we confirm placement.”
Wilson not only refuses to be baited, he gives as good as he gets. Looking at House with a smug expression, he says, “Yeah, you would’ve had to wait. I, on the other hand, am just that good!”
Even House can’t help grinning at that.
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: Reactions
While they’re waiting for the placement x-ray on the PICC line, Wilson calls the pharmacist at Hospice and consults with him at length about the proper mix of nutrients for the total parenteral nutrition. Wilson doesn’t want to waste any time; he’d like to hang the first bag of TPN as soon as they’ve confirmed placement of the line. A carefully balanced formula is decided upon, and the pharmacist promises that the first few bags will be there by early afternoon.
Wilson can’t help but smirk a bit when delivering the results of the x-ray to House, “They told me, and I quote, ‘damned near perfect placement.’”
“Smugness doesn’t become you, Wilson. Ever stop to think it might be my textbook-perfect circulatory system? Made it real easy for you.”
As he hangs the first bag of TPN on the pole, Wilson rolls his eyes. “Ya know, wouldn’t hurt, once in a while, to let me have my little victories.”
Now it’s House’s turn to roll his eyes, but he lets the comment go unchallenged. “Hey, before you connect that to the line, how ‘bout I get a shower? Don’t really need all these monitors anymore, should be safe.”
“Yeah, let me d/c the old IV and cover the PICC site. Far as the monitors go, though, another twenty-four hours wouldn’t be a bad idea. This time yesterday, you were in real trouble.”
“And the ‘lytes from a couple hours ago were all within normal limits. What could happen?” House is clearly becoming impatient to be free of at least some of the trappings of illness.
Wilson considers this. “Nothing, probably. But your luck hasn’t been the best. So I still want assessments every two hours, and an hourly O2 sat. I’ll d/c the oxygen too, for now, but if you can’t maintain your sats on your own, it goes back on without an argument. Deal?”
“Sounds fair. A little overprotective, maybe, but I’ll live with it. You should know, though, that if my O2 sats do drop, could be ‘cuz you’re smothering me. I’d get less observation in the unit, and it wouldn’t come with a side dish of worry.” And why don’t I mind that side dish?
“Yeah, with a little coddling for dessert,” Wilson says dryly. “But hey, if it’s bugging you, Cuddy did offer to arrange a bed….”
“No, perfectly happy with the menu here,” House says. It’s as close as he can come to saying he appreciates the care he’s been receiving from Wilson and Cuddy, and he hopes that Wilson will get it.
“Glad to hear that,” Wilson says as he discontinues the old IV site. He does, indeed, understand what House has just said, and is glad of the small task that prevents him from having to look at House as he speaks. He knows that House has become more accepting recently, of both his own circumstances and of the way his friends have been protecting him. He also knows that to make a big deal out of House’s comment would be to invite House to retreat back behind his walls, so the next thing he says is a change of subject. “When I heard from Cuddy earlier, she said your team still doesn’t have a case. So she’s making them burn up some of your clinic hours!”
“Good woman,” House smirks. “Knew there had to be a silver lining to all this.”
“You’re all set,” Wilson says as he finishes placing a waterproof dressing over the PICC insertion site. “Now, let’s run down the list. Any dizziness? Nausea? Pain in the leg? Or anything else I should know about?” Think that covers everything. Though I maybe should’ve phrased it ‘is there anything you don’t want me to know about?’
“Nope, not a thing,” House responds as he grabs his cane, stands slowly, and begins to make his way to the bathroom under his own power. Really don’t think you should ‘know about’ the left thigh. Could still be a pulled muscle, even a tendon. Hot shower should help.
Wilson positions the shower chair and gets the water started. “Be sure to call me if you do get dizzy, or weak. You haven’t had any chance to move around; you’re gonna tire quickly. We’re finally starting to get you straightened out; I’m gonna be pissed if you try anything stupid.”
“Yes, mother,” House says, exasperated. “Wanna wash my hair for me too?”
“No…. I think you can safely handle what’s left of it,” Wilson deadpans as he quickly exits the bathroom.
While House is in the shower, Wilson gets the sheets changed and straightens the room. He keeps an ear out for any untoward sounds from the bathroom, and smiles when he hears House singing. Wilson checks the red code box, and makes a note of the few things that need replacing so he can let Cuddy know. Once again, he’s impressed with Cuddy’s wholehearted participation in all this, and he’s grateful that she’s taken over so many of the details.
He hears the water shut off, and listens keenly for the next few minutes, until finally he sees House, safely limping back towards the bedroom, and he allows himself a small sigh of relief. “How was the shower?”
“Great, but I’m just gonna lie down here for a few minutes. Not quite up to a trip to the living room. Did you make the walk to the bathroom a few miles longer while I wasn’t looking?”
House-speak for ‘that took more out of me than I’m willing to admit’. “I might’ve added a mile or two; should have checked with you first. C’mon then, get settled so I can get you hooked up.”
House stretches out gratefully on the bed. “Let me see the bag.”
“Aw, c’mon, House, gimme a break. The pharmacist and I went over this forty times! I even insisted that he take the arsenic out of it. Can’t you trust anybody?” Oops. Force of habit, I guess.
House looks mildly hurt at the remark. After a moment, he says quietly, “Not you I don’t trust.”
Wilson hands over the TPN bag with a quick, apologetic smile. He watches as House studies the label carefully, analytically; he can see the wheels turning.
“Well?” Wilson asks.
“You’re not fooling around. Everything in here but the kitchen sink,” House says. He’s impressed; he can tell from the list of components that Wilson’s put a lot of thought into how to do this most efficiently.
“Figure you deserve the gourmet version,” Wilson says softly as he attaches the line to the PICC port and turns on the pump. When House doesn’t come back with a quick retort to the affectionate remark, Wilson looks down at him, sees the fatigue written in his face. “Looks like that shower was enough activity for today. How ‘bout you close your eyes for a little while?”
“Sounds like a plan,” House sighs wearily, and Wilson thinks he’s probably asleep before the last word is finished. He reaches over and pulls a light blanket up, arranges it gently around House’s shoulders, then quietly leaves the room.
Wilson enters just as quietly an hour later; if House is still asleep, he’ll forego the vitals for another thirty minutes. There’s no motion from the bed, so Wilson’s surprised when he notes that House’s eyes are wide open and alert. “Thought you were still asleep; why didn’t you call me?” he asks as he approaches the bed. As he gets closer, though, he sees that something is very wrong; House’s eyes are panicked, and his lips look gray. Even as Wilson rushes across the room to the bedside, the gray cast takes on a blue tinge.
Time stops as Wilson grabs a stethoscope and discovers that House is scarcely moving any air at all, although from the way his chest is retracting, Wilson can tell he’s trying very hard to breathe. The stridorous sound House is making as he attempts to breathe means his airway’s shutting down quickly. House is trying to say something, but Wilson doesn’t want to waste the time trying to figure it out. “Gonna be okay,” he promises as he grabs the ambu bag and the intubation tray from the code box.
CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: Adrenaline
House is still trying to say something, and despite the extreme difficulty breathing, he’s insistent. Wilson sees that his eyes keep going down to his hand, beneath the blanket. And he continues to repeat the same two syllables.
“A… P? Not getting it,” Wilson says, frustrated, as he rips into the intubation tray. When House somehow finds the energy to try to lift his hand, Wilson realizes that House knows what’s going on, and is trying to tell him. Wilson forces himself to stop, take a deep breath, and focus on House.
Same two syllables, same weak motion of the hand. Over and over again, as time ticks away and House’s respirations grow even more ineffective. Finally, in a mixture of frustration and panic, House manages to free one hand just a bit from the edge of the blanket. Wilson pulls the blanket back the rest of the way, sees immediately that there are welts beneath the skin of House’s palms, and the palms are red and swollen, and as he watches, it’s getting worse. “Angioedema…” he whispers, thinking. “A P… epi? Epi! You’re having an allergic reaction!”
Time, which had previously seemed to stop, starts moving again, quickly. Wilson slams the TPN pump off and grabs the epinephrine syringe from the code box. Not wasting the time to locate a vein, he injects the drug intramuscularly, into House’s left thigh. Then, his own adrenaline surging, and ambu bag in hand, he watches House intently for a very long forty-two seconds, until House is able to pull in his first real breath.
As Wilson takes his first real breath, he’s already moving around the bed, hooking up the oxygen, turning it up to 5 liters. Hooking up the cardiorespiratory monitor. Sinus tach; good, normal under the circumstances. Putting the pulse oximeter on House’s finger, and smiling when it reads 97 percent. Noting with satisfaction that the blood pressure is only a little elevated, much closer to normal than it has any right to be. Much closer to normal than mine is, I’m sure, he thinks wryly.
As Wilson auscultates House’s lungs, he hears them take in air more easily with each breath, and House’s ribcage is no longer retracting. With a wide smile, he says, “Okay, I’ll say it before you can. Yet again, you are a great diagnostician. You saved your own life. You saved yourself an unsuccessful intubation; I’ll wager that by the time I got in here, your airway was pretty much shut tight. And you saved yourself the ambu by no more than five seconds. Incredible,” Wilson shakes his head in wonderment as he starts to backflush the PICC line, watching the blood fill it as he removes the offending TPN solution.
“Looks like we won’t even have to reinsert the PICC. Lucked out on this one, all around. Now all we have to do is figure out what caused the anaphylaxis.” He flushes the blood from the line with normal saline, then hooks the line to a bag of D5W and resets the pump.
“Sodium acetate,” House volunteers in a raspy voice.
“What? How do you know that?”
“Only component in there that would cause this, with these symptoms,” House says, holding up his hands and indicating his still-edematous palms. “And luck wasn’t involved,” he continues, with a bit of smugness. “Brain power,” he says. “My brain power,” he adds—unnecessarily, Wilson thinks. “Just get the pharmacist to remove the sodium acetate; we’ll be good to go.”
“You got it. This time we’ll go with the all-natural, totally organic, one-hundred percent preservative-free, health food version,” Wilson says as he picks up the phone.
When Cuddy arrives after work with the new TPN solution, House’s cardiac status has returned to normal sinus rhythm. The oxygen is down to 2 liters, and his O2 sat is holding steady at 96 percent. His blood pressure’s normal and his lungs are clear. Although his palms and the soles of his feet itch, the swelling’s going down. He feels so good, in fact, that he refuses the racemic epi aerosol breathing treatment Cuddy’s brought.
“C’mon, House, just do it,” Cuddy says. “If you’ll take the aerosol, I’ll tell you all about what happened today when Chase got a clinic patient, a teenager whose mother was complaining that his hair was mysteriously ‘turning blue, but only on the ends.’”
House laughs in anticipation and accepts the nebulizer, then settles back to take the treatment and hear about how his nonconfrontational wombat handled the latest contender for ‘medical moron of the month.’
When the breathing treatment’s finished, it’s House’s turn to talk. And talk he does. Wilson’s moving in and out of the room, replenishing the code supplies Cuddy’s brought, figuring out a timetable for the TPN administration, and just generally taking advantage of having Cuddy here to monitor House for a while. It doesn’t take Wilson long to figure out that House is telling the fish story to end all fish stories.
House is relating, in painstaking detail, the story of the anaphylactic reaction. Wilson’s pretty sure that, somewhere along the line, House has added a couple of clueless paramedics and maybe even a defibrillation incident to the story. Cuddy, of course, knows what really happened, but she’s making all the appropriate impressed noises, widening her eyes at all the proper dramatic spots. And House is eating up the attention.
Wilson’s in the kitchen when Cuddy joins him, laughing. “I didn’t know that telling whoppers was a side effect of epinephrine,” she says.
Wilson laughs too. “Hey, he’s earned it,” he says. “Remember when you told me yesterday that House is the man who wrote Murphy’s Law? Lucky for all of us that he keeps figuring out how to break the law. What could’ve been a real crisis was averted, only because he ignored me when I told him we didn’t need three docs on this case. And to think, I actually got annoyed when he insisted on studying the label before he’d let me hang the TPN.”
Cuddy finishes preparing a glass of ice water for House. “I’d better get back in there before he starts adding white lights and long dead relatives to the story,” she says.
“Won’t happen,” Wilson observes with amusement. “House says all that stuff is just ‘a chemical reaction that takes place while the brain shuts down,’” he points out, remembering House’s lecture about the infarction and his own near-death experience. “Said he finds it more comforting to believe that life isn’t simply a test.”
Cuddy quickly grows serious. “Every single day of that man’s life is a test,” she says sadly.
“And so far, he’s passing them all,” Wilson tries to reassure her. “It’s up to us to make sure he keeps getting those good grades,” he says as they head back to House’s room to let him crow a little more about yet another self-orchestrated victory over imminent death. That’s one story neither of them will ever get tired of listening to.
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: Rescue
Cuddy and Wilson listen to House gloat for a little while longer, but both can tell that he’s tiring and doesn’t want to admit it. So Cuddy looks at her watch and says, “This story gets more exciting with each retelling, but I really do have to get going.”
“Yeah, and it’s time for meds and such anyway,” Wilson reminds House. “I’m gonna draw the first labs for monitoring the TPN before Cuddy leaves; she’s agreed to drop it off, save the courier a trip.”
Wilson draws the blood from the PICC line, sees Cuddy out, then returns to the bedroom. He wants to get the meds administered and the assessment completed; he’s hoping that House will fall asleep and get some solid rest.
“What’s with that left thigh? Still hurting?” he asks as he sees House rubbing at it almost absentmindedly.
“You weren’t exactly gentle with that epi injection,” House reminds him. “The way you jammed that needle in, ‘course it’s gonna hurt for a while.”
This explanation sounds logical to Wilson. He begins his assessment, and is pleased when both the upper airway sounds and the lungs are clear. He considers discontinuing the oxygen, but since House isn’t complaining about it, Wilson decides it certainly won’t hurt for him to wear it overnight. As a matter of fact, he notes, House has grown awfully quiet, even subdued, since Cuddy left; he looks almost distracted. “Everything okay?” Wilson asks, thinking it’s probably just fatigue. When House simply nods, Wilson says, “I’m gonna go refrigerate the rest of the TPN; I’ll be back in a few minutes.” House doesn’t acknowledge the comment, just closes his eyes.
Wilson’s in the kitchen when he hears House call to him, and there’s a note in House’s voice that Wilson’s never heard before—it’s abject terror. Wilson drops the bowl he’s holding and runs.
House is sitting bolt upright in the bed. He’s sweating, and clearly struggling for breath. The cardiac monitor shows a heart rate of 118, and climbing. “It’s happening again,” House gasps.
Wilson is to the bedside in three steps. House’s color is pale, but there’s no sign of cyanosis. Wilson grabs his hands, turns them palms up—no further angioedema. House’s respiratory rate is increasing alarmingly, but his lungs and upper airways are still clear, and his O2 sat is 98 percent. Wilson knows immediately what’s going on; he just doesn’t know how he’s going to tell House. But he needs to tell him quickly; the man thinks he’s dying. So Wilson starts speaking, hoping that the right words will just come out.
“House, it’s okay; you’re just going to have to ride this out. I’m--”
“It’s not okay; I can’t breathe! Heart’s racing, I… I….” House abruptly stops talking; he’s overwhelmingly nauseated, his chest is tight, and he’s certain that he’s dying. Why can’t Wilson see that something’s wrong? Does he think I’m making this up? Feel like I’m losing my mind! Gotta get outta here. He starts to push the blankets back; maybe if he could just move, he’d be okay. He’s smothering, he’s trapped, he’s dying. And his doctor, his best friend, is calmly watching it happen.
Wilson sits on the edge of the bed, right next to House, pinning the blankets in place. He grasps House’s upper arms firmly. “Listen to me. Listen. It’s just a reaction. I know what you’re feeling. You’re not gonna die, it’s all--”
“I know what’s happening to my own body!” House shouts. “Let me go!” He struggles against the hold Wilson has on his arms and glares at Wilson when he’s unable to break free.
“You must listen to me.” Wilson keeps his voice calm. “You’re having a delayed reaction to the anaphylaxis; that’s all. I know it’s frightening. But it will only last a few minutes. I’m right here; we’ll ride it out together.” If I tell him it’s a panic attack, he’s gonna feel like he has to deny it, that’ll redouble the problem. He’s agitated enough already….
House continues to glare angrily at Wilson, but he quits struggling.
“I’m gonna let go of your arms now; I want to raise the O2 a little bit. Your sats are fine, but it might make you more comfortable. You need to work on slowing your breathing. Can you do that?”
Maybe he’s right, House thinks. Couldn’t talk if I were smothering. Monitor’s showing sinus tach; not a cardiac problem. Maybe he’s right. Gotta trust him. Gotta. House nods, meets Wilson’s eyes, and Wilson slowly releases his arms, then leans over and adjusts the oxygen flow.
“Now focus on what I’m saying.” Wilson speaks slowly, soothingly, looking directly into House’s eyes. “The anaphylactic reaction was a stressful experience. It was terrifying. You could have died. But your brain was so busy diagnosing what was going on, figuring out the puzzle, that you didn’t have time to process what was happening. Now that it’s all over, and you had a few minutes to yourself, it gave you time to think about it, to react to what happened. You with me so far?” Wilson sees that House’s hands are shaking, and he’s still diaphoretic. His heart rate’s slowed, but it’s still above 100. When House doesn’t answer him, Wilson places both his hands gently over House’s wrists, careful not to make House feel trapped or restrained, and repeats the question. “With me on this?”
Finally, House nods slowly, and makes an effort to take a deep, controlled breath. He isn’t trying to move his wrists from beneath Wilson’s hands, so Wilson allows his fingers to curl lightly around the wrists, telegraphing security; House allows it.
Wilson continues to speak. “When Cuddy was here, you were able to distract yourself from dealing with what had happened by giving her all the gory details—and even embellishing a bit!” It makes Wilson unreasonably happy when he sees House actually smile at his last statement. Okay, we’re in the home stretch, gonna make it through! “But then she left, and I went to the kitchen, and your brain went into overdrive, and your body reacted. It was just your brain’s way of telling your body that it had had enough.”
Wilson knows that House is well aware of all these things, but Wilson also knows that House needs to hear them, in words, from someone who cares. And that’s confirmed when he feels House’s right wrist turn beneath his left hand, and then House’s fingers come around Wilson’s wrist. Wilson doesn’t pause, just keeps on talking as an idle fact drifts through the periphery of his thoughts… it’s a rescue hold…. “And I don’t blame your brain; you’ve been through hell these last few days. Things are just starting to straighten out, and this was a little setback, and it’s over now. Normal reaction to everything that’s happened, but it’s over. And you’re okay. You made it. You fought it, and won. You did good, House. From here on in, it’ll be easier.”
House hasn’t removed his eyes from Wilson’s face, and when Wilson pauses a moment to glance at the monitors, he sees that the expression on House’s face is one he hasn’t seen before; it’s utter trust. Not distrust, not conditional trust—just, simply, trust.
Wilson has to swallow, hard, and blink a couple of times. Then he can speak. “It’s over, pal. You did it. We did it.”
House’s gaze still hasn’t wavered; he nods solemnly, once, at Wilson. Finally, he looks away. “Thanks.”
Chapter Twenty-Nine: THOUGHTS