KidsNurse (kidsnurse) wrote,

FICTION: The Devil's In the Details (Book Three of the 'Devil' Trilogy)

The Devil's In the Details again centers around the House-Wilson-Cuddy bond.  The story has a lot of introspection, especially for House and Wilson.  The plot (such as it is....) centers around House's undiagnosed left leg pain.  This is the third and final book of the Devil trilogy, which began with The Devil, You Say, and continued with Battling the Demons.

The first two chapters of this one are here.

And tonight's offerings: 


House has eaten all of his lunch, and is now happily channel-surfing, apparently looking for the loudest, most combative talk show he can find.

Wilson’s made arrangements with Princeton General for the studies of House’s left leg this evening. He’s had to call in a couple of favors, but it’ll all be done after hours, and they’ll have the preliminary results before they leave the hospital. Now his concern is how House will tolerate the trip and the procedures.

House really doesn’t seem to understand yet just how weak he is, nor how long it’s going to take for him to regain his stamina. That’s fine when he’s just taking a few steps around the apartment and Cuddy or Wilson can covertly observe, and casually give assistance as needed. It’s another story to add in a car ride and long hospital corridors, as well as the stress of the tests themselves. It’s obvious to Wilson that a wheelchair will be necessary; he isn’t looking forward to laying down the law on that one.

Wilson’s ordered an MRI and radiographs of both legs, as well as an MRI and CT scan of the spine. He’s also arranged for an electromyography and nerve conduction study of the left thigh, should it be necessary. Wilson’s not mentioning these last tests to House; he’s hoping fervently that the painful EMG studies won’t be needed.

When the phone rings, Wilson is in the kitchen putting away a grocery delivery, so he almost yells to House to answer it. Then he remembers that they’re awaiting lab results on this morning’s blood draw. He doesn’t think that House’s new condition is another infarction, but he knows that House fears it might be—House’s anger at mention of a possible infarct had been out of proportion; Wilson had better take this call himself.

After hanging up the phone, Wilson goes directly to the living room, and isn’t surprised that House already has his eyes trained on him as he enters. “It’s not an infarct,” he says without preamble. “I had them run every blood chemistry in the book, and absolutely everything is within normal limits.” Now he allows himself to smile at House as he continues, “You are, in fact, amazingly healthy, considering you’re so sick.”

“Told ya,” House responds, as he returns his eyes to the television screen. “You worry too much.”

Wilson pretends he doesn’t hear the deep, relieved sigh at the end of the sentence, pretends he doesn’t see House’s eyes close briefly as his mouth curves into a smile. “Nice to have it confirmed, anyway,” Wilson says over his shoulder as he returns to the kitchen.

At 7:00pm, Wilson hovers as House makes his way slowly, carefully, out of the apartment and down the concrete steps to the car. By the time he reaches the car, House’s hand is trembling on the cane as he waits for Wilson to open the passenger door, and once House is seated he leans his head back and closes his eyes.

Might not have as much trouble over the wheelchair as I thought, Wilson thinks. Even I didn’t expect him to be this worn out, this quickly. Maybe I should’ve let Cuddy know what’s going on; looks like I could’ve used her help.

Wilson had mentioned updating Cuddy earlier; House had been adamantly against it, and, in the interest of peace—and assuring House’s continued cooperation—Wilson had agreed not to say anything to her until they had the test results. Now he’s regretting the decision. House has been putting on such a good show the last couple of days; guess I forgot how far he still has to go.

When they arrive at the hospital, Wilson pulls up to the door of the doctors’ entrance; the wheelchair he’d requested is there awaiting them. He shoots a quick glance at House. They have a five second battle with their eyes, and then House looks away and nods curtly.

When they enter Radiology for the x-rays, House’s good behavior is already making Wilson nervous. Wilson is the one who has to speak up when the tech wants House to stand for the first set of films; House was actually going to try to obey the request. He helps House get settled, as comfortably as possible, on the hard metal table, and then he requests a lead apron for himself.

The tech rolls her eyes at him. “Usually, we only let parents stay with kids. I don’t think your friend qualifies.”

I do. And I’m not leaving him. “Just get me the apron, please,” Wilson tells her politely, in a tone that will brook no argument. Had the apron not been so heavy, he’s sure she would have thrown it at him.

The first set of films goes smoothly, but as Wilson is helping to reposition House for the second set, he sees him wince sharply. “You okay?” he asks, and is not reassured when House simply nods. Wilson moves reluctantly away from the table.

Before the tech can start shooting the films, House gasps and grabs at his left thigh. The tech commands him, “You need to stay still, sir. Please move your hand.” As House attempts to obey, Wilson sees sweat break out on his forehead, and notes that House is biting down, hard, on his lower lip.

Now it’s Wilson’s turn to issue a command. “Stop. Now,” he tells the tech as he moves toward House.

“I need to get these shots, Doctor. Please move back from the table and let me do my job.” Her voice is irritated.

Wilson continues to House’s side, not even sparing a glance toward the technician. “You will wait,” he growls at her. “I’m seeing to the comfort of my patient; that takes priority right now.”

“It’s okay, Jimmy,” House almost whispers; his voice is strained. “I’ll be okay; let’s just get this done.” He’s still trying to massage his left thigh.

Wilson shakes his head. “No. You’re not going to be uncomfortable unnecessarily.” He removes two syringes from his pocket. “It’s morphine, five milligrams,” he tells House as he swabs the port in the PICC line. “It’ll make all this a lot easier.” He pushes the medication slowly, then flushes it with the syringe of normal saline as House, slightly puzzled, stares at him.

“What?” he asks House. “If you suffer now, I’ll be the one to suffer later; just lookin’ out for my own interests.” The admiring smirk on House’s face means almost as much to Wilson as the gratitude in his eyes.

Wilson waits five minutes, gets a pulse and a respiratory rate, notes that House is no longer holding his body so tensely. “You can continue now,” he tells the tech, who sighs theatrically but resumes shooting the x-rays.

As he escorts House into Nuclear Medicine, it’s immediately apparent that Wilson’s newfound reputation has preceded him; here, the techs treat House like royalty, and look, in deference, to Wilson for his instructions on how to handle this VIP. Wilson is glad of their kindness, but even happier that House is so clearly amused by the techs’ fear of mean ol’ Dr. Wilson. The remainder of the scheduled studies go smoothly, and House, feeling comfortable and cared for, dozes off in the wheelchair as Wilson anxiously awaits the results, alone.


Wilson sits quietly with the results of the studies in his hands, trying to decide what to do next. No, that’s not true; his medical training tells him that the EMG and nerve conduction study are clearly necessary, and that there’s no decision to make. But the other part of him, the part which embodies his love and concern for House, is forcing him to try to seek a way around it. Finally, he regretfully acknowledges that this cannot be avoided. Jimmy is upset, and already hurting for his friend, but Dr. Wilson knows what has to come next. He looks thoughtfully over at House, who’s still dozing fitfully in the wheelchair. He takes a deep breath, stands up, and goes to kneel at House’s side.

House opens his eyes and looks down at the folder in Wilson’s hand, then raises his eyes to meet Wilson’s. “So?” he asks, in a voice hoarse with fatigue.

Wilson hands him the folder. “All the preliminary results show pretty much what we’d expect. Some normal changes of aging, and a small amount of spinal degeneration consistent with sequelae of the infarct. Nothing that would account for the severity of pain in your left thigh.”

House opens the folder and glances over the results. “So that’s it, then. A pulled muscle, or a strained tendon. Can we find my clothes and go home now?”

Wilson stands up and looks at House. “I’m sorry, no. We need to go to Neurology; I scheduled an EMG and a nerve conduction study, and we might as well get it over with. Timing’s good; you’ve got extra pain meds on board, you’ve had a little rest. And then we’ll be all done with everything, and we can go home.” I feel as if I’m speaking to a child; Dick had better be right. Can’t imagine that House would get any comfort from being treated like this—I’d think he’d be insulted.

“I don’t think all this is necessary,” House says, and his voice is hard.

There’s the reaction I was expecting, Wilson thinks. So he’s surprised when House looks at him questioningly and continues to speak.

“But you apparently do,” House tells him, and waits expectantly for Wilson to nod. “You’re the doctor. So let’s just get it over with.”

Well, I’ll be damned! Score one for the shrink. Wilson shakes his head with rueful amusement as he steers the chair towards Neurology.

Even the intravenous dose of morphine Wilson had administered earlier can’t fully blunt the acute pain of an electromyogram. As the needle is stuck repeatedly into House’s left quadriceps, House initially attempts his characteristic snide commentary, and even the physiatrist is laughing with him.

But when his half-hearted joke about “the ultimate gating mechanism for pain” falls flat, he seems to give up, and to give in to the torment. His eyes are shut tightly, and each time the needle goes in again, Wilson winces in sympathy with the quiet agony on his face.

When House, during an especially painful needle insertion, flails out blindly with his hand and catches Wilson’s left wrist in an agonizing vice grip, Wilson simply stands there stoically, and covers House’s hand with his own. Tomorrow morning, when he sees the bruise House’s thumb is making on his inner wrist, he knows he’ll fully realize the extent of the torture House is going through—but for right now, Wilson is praying that somehow, his touch dilutes the suffering for House.

It’s almost 11:00pm by the time Wilson pulls the car out of the hospital parking lot. After he’d helped House transfer from the wheelchair to the passenger seat, he’d folded the wheelchair and placed it in the trunk, without comment. House had glared at him as he’d closed the trunk and got in the car. Wilson had answered the glare with a neutral expression, refusing to engage in battle, until finally, House had looked away, and simply sighed. Wilson’s won another conflict, but the sadness he feels eclipses any sense of victory.

House is obviously uncomfortable on the drive home, but apparently he’s just too tired to complain. He answers Wilson’s expressions of concern with a short, “I’m fine,” and lapses into silence again.

When they arrive back at the apartment, House wordlessly allows Wilson to help him up the steps, and, once inside, to lower him carefully to the couch. Wilson had thought that House would want to go straight to sleep, but—as fatigued as he is—he appears alert, and almost… Wilson searches for the word to describe House’s odd mood. Disturbed, he finally decides. Maybe he’s angry that I put him through all that; looks like he’s gonna turn out to be right, just a simple pulled muscle.

It would be late Monday, or even Tuesday, before they had the final results on all the studies, but nothing unexpected had shown up in any of the tests. House had had no comment at the time, had just nodded his head. Wilson had expected some well-deserved gloating, or at least a smug, “I told you so,” and it concerns him that he hasn’t heard it yet. It’s not like House not to crow about being proven correct.

When Wilson returns from the kitchen with an ice pack for House’s needle-bitten left thigh, he’s surprised that House is not watching TV, not playing a video game. He’s just sitting there. Waiting, apparently. His face is serious and thoughtful, and Wilson’s struck again by its gauntness, by the fatigue written in every line.

As House has become thinner and weaker, though, it seems that his eyes have become stronger, more intense, and somehow even more expressive. The hard-won six pound weight gain of the last few days hasn’t yet touched the sharply chiseled planes of his haggard, pale face; it’s an incongruous setting for his vivid blue eyes. And right now, the expression in those eyes is sad, and puzzled.

Wilson places the towel-wrapped ice pack gently along House’s left thigh, then sits beside him on the couch. Instinct tells him not to say anything; whatever’s bothering House, he’ll share it only when he’s ready.

The two men sit in silence for several minutes. House finally looks at Wilson. “It’s not just some minor injury. There’s something wrong. I know it.”

Wilson thinks about this before he answers. “We’ve done pretty much every test available. So far, everything’s normal, but we don’t have the final results yet. Why don’t we wait until we have those; there’s really not much else we can do right now except deal with the symptoms. I’ll admit, I am concerned that the pain seems to be unaffected by the super-Vic. But really, that lends more credence to the theory that this is some sort of an acute injury.”

House is searching his face, and it takes Wilson a moment to realize that House is looking for reassurance, for the calm confidence that all his patients look for, when he’s the only thing standing between them and the unknown. And he’s inexplicably moved by this, by the still-new realization that this skittish, angry best friend of his, his deeply troubled brother of the heart, has chosen to trust him so completely. So when he looks back at House, his own eyes shine with warmth and compassion and assurance as he says, very quietly, “It’ll be okay. We’ll get through this. It will be all right.”

House’s eyes bore into his a moment more before he looks away uncomfortably; it’s clear that he wants to believe what Wilson is saying. But it’s almost as if he’s having trouble granting himself permission to do so. So Wilson keeps talking. His words aren’t thought out now; he’s speaking purely on instinct.

“It’s okay, House. Don’t fight it so hard, and don’t fight it alone. I’m here. I want to be here, and I want you to let me fight the battles for now, while you get your strength back. That’s your only job; I’ll take care of all the rest.”

Wilson has, thus far, been careful not to look at House while he speaks. But now, he makes a point of looking directly at him. “You chose me as your physician. I’m… honored that you did. And I take that… trust… very seriously. You’ll get through all this. We’ll get through it. Together. That’s just the way it’s supposed to be.”

Now Wilson stands, and turns away from the couch, away from House, as he says, “Back in a minute. You’ve been off the TPN long enough; gonna go set it up for the night. Just relax a few minutes.” Yeah, I know I just stormed the gates, and you’re uncomfortable right now. Maybe even scared. So take some time, think about it. Get used to it. It’s okay.

CHAPTER FIVE: Discomfort

After Wilson gets the IV pump set up in the bedroom, he returns to the living room. House has somehow managed to swing his legs onto the couch, and he’s moving restlessly beneath a thin blanket. Wilson watches for just a moment, then continues on to the kitchen. Although his instincts tell him to go to House’s side, his respect for the privacy of House’s pain is stronger; he forces himself to grant House that dignity.

When he’s got a fresh pot of coffee brewing, several minutes have passed and his worry has grown. He stands quietly at the entryway, watching as House tries—and fails—to get comfortable.

House must sense the concerned eyes on him; he turns his head and fixes Wilson with a hard stare. But what could have been an awkward moment passes, when Wilson conversationally offers coffee and a snack. He’s careful to hide his sympathy, his guilt at being the indirect cause of this new pain. And if House notices either, he pretends he doesn’t.

They eat in companionable silence, and Wilson is happy to see that House appears to be enjoying the late meal. He’s eaten half a muffin hungrily, and Wilson is just about to encourage him to eat the other half when the calm is shattered as House’s coffee cup hits the floor, and he’s unable to silence a strangled gasp.

His hands fly unsteadily to his left leg, but the pain of the needle sticks makes it impossible for him to massage the muscle. Each time he tries to touch the tender areas, he seems to cause himself more torment. Finally, he reaches out wildly towards Wilson, grasping his wrist as if reaching for an anchor.

Wilson gently untangles the sweaty fingers from his own already-bruised wrist and instinctively pulls the trembling body to him. He knows he can’t touch the leg, so he tries to ease House’s agony with a quiet, constant murmur of reassurance, and with the comfort of human contact. But even as he tries to help, Wilson’s mind is telling him that this is everything House hates—and fears. I could be undoing everything here… but there’s nothing else to do….

House’s mind is as tormented right now as his body; he’s railing against his own need for comfort as much as he’s fighting the sudden physical agony. Then he catches a glimpse of Wilson’s face, and in the one part of his brain that’s always escaped, unscathed, from both the pain and the drugs, the analytical part, he notes something almost clinically; Anyone watching wouldn’t be able to tell which of us was hurting more….

Wilson continues a stream of soothing words, and finally he feels House’s grip relax on his arm, his head sag against his shoulder for just a moment before House pulls away from him, slowly. And without apology, without embarrassment.

Wilson, however, is still uncomfortable, so he falls back into more familiar territory—Dr. Wilson examines the left thigh for any medical indication of what might have caused the latest attack. Finding nothing, he reminds himself that an acute injury really is the best-case scenario; acute injuries heal, symptoms go away, things go back to normal.

“I’m gonna go get some more ice packs for your leg; then we’ll get you settled for the night,” he tells House, who nods and closes his eyes—the spasm has sapped his small store of strength.

After Wilson has everything set up in the bedroom, and he’s given House 600mg of ibuprofen, he offers the cane to House, but House just shakes his head. Wilson briefly considers retrieving the wheelchair from the car, but quickly decides they’ll deal with that tomorrow.

House allows Wilson to support most of his weight on the slow walk to the bedroom, and even offers a grumbled “thanks” after he’s settled in bed. Wilson connects the TPN to the PICC line, fusses with the ice packs for a few minutes, straightens out the supplies on the nightstand—despite his own fatigue, he’s clearly reluctant to leave the room. So House closes his eyes and feigns sleep, despite his discomfort and restlessness. And after just half a minute of pretending to be asleep, the real thing takes over, and he’s out.

Wilson hears the subtle change in House’s breathing, and smiles. Knowing that House is as comfortable as possible, he can now give in to his own weariness. He leaves the room quietly.

After cleaning up the spilled coffee in the living room, he returns to the kitchen, where he prepares another, smaller, ice pack. He takes it with him to the living room, collapses onto the couch, and turns on the television, muting the sound. The flickering images provide him a strange comfort as he gingerly ices his swollen, discolored left wrist. When some of the pain has been numbed by the cold, he’s able to doze. But he doesn’t allow himself to lie down, won’t even allow himself a pillow. House might need him tonight, and he’s going to be alert enough to be there for him.

At 4:20am, Wilson is glad of his determination not to sleep; he’s been roused out of his light doze by an oddly familiar sound, and he realizes immediately that it’s the heavy tap of House’s cane hitting the floor. Wilson is up off the couch and headed towards the bedroom in an instant.

House is only four steps away from the bed; his body is folded over the cane, and his face is contorted with the effort of trying to straighten up to take the next step. Wilson approaches him slowly, and supports his elbows so he can stand upright.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he asks quietly.

“Just needed some more ibuprofen; thought I’d get it myself. Sorry I woke you.” House’s face is composed, but Wilson sees the squint of his eyes, the lines at their corners that indicate the pain’s bad enough for House to risk this stupid move.

Wilson helps House turn around and take the few steps back to the bed. He knows that House is searching his face to determine how angry he is—but he isn’t angry. Wilson is scared, and grateful that nothing bad happened, and aware that he’s going to have to approach this carefully. “Be right back; gonna get that ibuprofen,” he says.

In the kitchen, Wilson makes fresh ice packs and grabs the pill bottle. He takes a few deep breaths and prepares the opening line of the conversation they’re going to have to have. Then he returns to the bedroom. He hands House the pills and waits for him to swallow them before he positions the fresh ice packs on the now obviously bruised thigh. Another deep breath. “House.”

“Jimmy, I been thinking. Maybe we oughtta bring that chair in for a while. Leg’s never gonna heal if I keep aggravating it.”

Wilson stares at House; when he sees the right side of House’s mouth quirk up, he realizes that House had known what was coming, and had made a decision not to fight it. So Wilson decides not to make a big deal out of this unexpected acquiescence. “Good thinking,” he says. “Don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself. I’ll make sure I get it out of the trunk first thing in the morning.”

“Thanks,” House says, as he leans his head into the pillows and closes his eyes, ready to go back to sleep. “Now leave me alone, need to sleep.”

Wilson shuts out the light. As he’s leaving, he hears House say quietly, into the sudden darkness, “And get some ice on that left wrist. Looks awful; it’s gotta hurt. Ice it, okay?”

“Will do,” Wilson almost whispers, as he walks away.



In the morning, House looks more rested than Wilson does, and is in far better spirits. After Wilson unhooks his TPN, he transfers himself easily from the bed to the wheelchair, and races it down the hall while Wilson follows in a bemused fog, muttering about vital signs and medication while House ignores him.

But the good mood dissipates as soon as Wilson mentions a scheduled trip to Philadelphia, to have lunch with Dr. Dickinson. House trails him into the kitchen, where Wilson searches desperately for clean mugs for urgently needed coffee. “Do you have to go? Today?” House asks plaintively, and Wilson suddenly feels torn, like a parent who must go to work and desert a sick child.

“It’s okay; Cuddy’ll be here soon. I’m sure you can find some way to terrorize her with your new toy,” Wilson says, indicating the wheelchair. But House refuses to be distracted or placated.

“C’mon, you don’t need a shrink. And you don’t need to eat lunch with some nerd left over from college. Why don’t you stay here? We’ll turn on Oprah and throw Nerf balls at the screen again every time someone says ‘feelings.’ I think she’s got Dr. Phil on today; it’ll be a two-fer!”

“House, I gotta go. I want to go. I’m going.”

House’s brows knit as he goes into a pout, and Wilson can tell that the campaign hasn’t even hit full stride yet. So he isn’t surprised when House looks up at him with his best ‘pathetic cripple’ expression, and virtually whines, “What if the leg gets as bad as last night? Cuddy won’t know what to do; you gotta stay, Jimmy….”

Wilson looks at him with tolerant amusement as he pretends to consider this latest sad plea. He has a difficult time keeping his mouth from twitching as he says, deadpan, “Can you say man-ip-u-LA-tion? Won’t work, House. But bonus points for the protruding lower lip.”

There’s a knock at the door, and with a frustrated “hmmph!” House gracefully executes a turn in the wheelchair and goes to answer it. Wilson’s busy trying to figure out if the growth he’s found in two dusty mugs might count as a dose of antibiotics.

When House returns to the kitchen with Cuddy in tow, her arms are crossed against her chest and she’s already glaring. Wilson arranges his face into a stern expression, and looks questioningly at House.

“Dad, you can’t leave me alone with this babysitter; she beat me last time!” When House notes that Cuddy and Wilson are just looking at him, expressionless, he tries again. “She tried to seduce me?”

Wilson bites hard at the inside of his cheek while Cuddy explodes, “House!” It’s shaping up to be a long day at 221B, and Wilson’s glad he won’t be here.

“I know when I’m not wanted,” House harrumphs, and wheels out of the kitchen. In a few seconds, they hear the television blaring the theme from General Hospital.

Cuddy and Wilson grin at each other, and Wilson shakes his head, wondering if he should even bother to apologize for House’s behavior.

“The most obvious question, which I knew better than to ask him,” Cuddy says, “is what’s he doing in a wheelchair? The less obvious, but far more intriguing question, would be why he’s Velcroed himself to you all of a sudden?”

This second question irritates Wilson, who is indeed feeling guilty about leaving House, and the sudden spark of anger in his eyes shocks Cuddy. “You have no idea what he went through last night, no idea of the degree of his pain! You have no right to criticize any insecurity he might be show--” Wilson interrupts himself when he sees Cuddy staring at him, open-mouthed. His own eyes widen; he’s as shocked at his unexpected outburst as she is.

“I’m so sorry,” Wilson tells her as he sinks into a chair, suddenly and completely overwhelmed by both the physical and the emotional toll of the long night. “Of course you have no idea; I didn’t tell you. You know that whole new thing with his gait that you noticed on Monday?” He waits while Cuddy nods slowly; she’s clearly still stunned at the explosive behavior of her normally mild-mannered oncologist. Wilson considers apologizing again, decides that a quick and concise summary would provide a better explanation for his uncharacteristic tantrum.

“Turns out that his left thigh has been bothering him, badly, since then. Pain and spasming pretty heavily a few times a day. And the super-Vic’s not touching it. Cost him a lot to tell me about it, and he got me to agree not to mention anything to you until we knew more about what’s causing it. I took him to Princeton General last night, put him through the full battery of tests, including an EMG.” Cuddy winces in sympathy as Wilson nods ruefully and displays his bruised wrist, where the imprint of House’s thumb is evident.

“It was all really rough on him,” Wilson continues, “and it’s beginning to look like it was unnecessary. The preliminary results didn’t show anything unexpected. Probably won’t have the final results until Tuesday, but based on what I saw last night, I’m not expecting anything new to show up. Beginning to look like the diagnostician was right. Again. A pulled muscle, or more likely a tendon; his enzymes are all within normal limits.”

“And the chair?” Cuddy asks. She’s starting to understand that something must have occurred last night that had fallen fully on Wilson’s exhausted shoulders.

“Caught him trying to get up during the night. He was doubled up over the cane; he could’ve fallen badly. We’re… uh… both pretending that the chair was his idea. He seems a lot better this morning, but you need to know that when the spasms come, they look an awful lot like the breakthrough pain he was having before. And I think he’s scared. Told me when we got home that he knows something is bad wrong; didn’t have any medical basis for it, but he believes this is serious.”

Cuddy frowns. “And could it be serious?”

Wilson smiles without humor. “Not gonna second-guess House; I’ve learned my lesson. And the pain’s so severe; with House, that makes it serious, no matter what the diagnosis turns out to be.”

“What should I do if the leg spasms?” Cuddy’s eyes are concerned; it makes Wilson feel better to see how earnestly she’s taking this new situation.

“Whatever he’ll let you do,” Wilson answers honestly, sadly. “Just don’t touch the muscle, especially when it’s acute. The quad’s a big muscle, and I… lost count of how many times they stuck him, and….”

“I get the picture,” Cuddy responds grimly. “So the EMG just added to the problem for a couple of days. I almost feel sorry for him. Surprised he agreed to go through with it.”

“He didn’t. Not really. He did it because… I told him to. And he trusted me.” Wilson lowers his head into his hands, and for a moment Cuddy’s worry for House is eclipsed by her concern for Wilson.

“Are you gonna be okay?” When Wilson doesn’t respond, she starts towards him, but they both hear the wheelchair approaching and Wilson lifts his head and smiles.

“I’m just fine, thanks,” Wilson tells her, and turns the smile to House.

House looks at Wilson appraisingly, and Wilson stands and says heartily to Cuddy, “And if he drives you too crazy, just reconnect the TPN—which has been off too long anyway—and refuse to put the IV pole on the wheelchair. That’ll buy you, oh, at least ten minutes of peace. Until he figures out how to attach the cane to the chair and hang the bag from it.”

House peers at Wilson a moment more, and frowns thoughtfully, seriously, as he turns and leaves the doorway.

Wilson sits down again and lowers his voice. “Ironic, isn’t it? He’s completely mobile in that chair; not really disabled at all. And he’s willing to give up that freedom because his pride won’t let him acknowledge the extent of his disability.”

Cuddy nods thoughtfully, and doesn’t realize how effectively Wilson’s distracted her from his own emotional state. Her thoughts have returned to House. “I’m still not clear what I should do for him if the left thigh gets bad.”

“If it’s really bad, give him 5mg of morphine. But he won’t tell you he needs it; he might even say he doesn’t. So it’ll have to be your call. Otherwise, all you can do is offer whatever comfort he’ll accept, until the spasm ends.”

“Now I understand why he’s so reluctant for you to leave today,” Cuddy says. “As a matter of fact, I’m feeling a little reluctant myself.” She smiles wryly.

“You’ll do just fine,” Wilson assures her. “Believe me, if I didn’t need this, I wouldn’t be going.”

Cuddy does believe him, and she hopes he’s able to find some comfort, or some peace of mind, in talking with Dickinson. So she looks at him with as much reassurance as she can muster, and says mock-seriously, “I promise not to kill ‘im while you’re gone. I’ll wait ‘til you get back so you can bear witness to my claim of self-defense.”

Wilson manages a very small smile before going off to corral House into a set of vitals and taking his meds.

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