KidsNurse (kidsnurse) wrote,

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

Title:  The Devil's In the Details
Rating:  PG
Characters:  House, Wilson, Cuddy
Summary:  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  (Evasion and Trust)  are here.  Chapters three through six
Tonight's Chapters:


After several more stalling tactics from House, Wilson finally makes it to the car. He settles himself into the seat, and rests his head against the steering wheel for a moment. The one thing that House didn’t try is the only one that might’ve worked; all he had to say was that I was too tired to drive. Glad he didn’t notice; wouldnt’ve been able to argue that one. And I really need to do this.

Wilson allows his eyes to close for a minute as he tries to gather the strength to fight off sleep. Finally, he lifts his head, takes a few deep breaths, and picks out one of House’s irritating rock CDs to put in the player; that will definitely annoy him enough to prevent dozing off. With a last look at the apartment, he turns the key in the ignition and pulls out onto the roadway.

Inside the apartment, the object of Wilson’s concern is currently engaged in yelling at Cuddy. “How could you let him go? He’s dead on his feet. You couldn’t see that?” House glares at her.

“Why didn’t you say something to him?” she asks reasonably. “You noticed it too.”

“I tried to keep him here; he wasn’t buying. He’d have listened to you!”

“House, you never once told him you were concerned about him. It was all about you, as I recall.”

House looks momentarily confused. The anger is gone from his voice when he responds, and his tone is quiet. “We… don’t work that way. He wouldn’t know how to handle it; it’d make him uncomfortable.”

Cuddy looks at House kindly. “Try it sometime,” she says. “But first, try and figure out who’d be made uncomfortable by your expressing a human emotion. Here’s a hint,” she says, smiling and shaking her head gently. “It isn’t Wilson.” Cuddy leaves House to ponder this while she straightens up the bedroom and assembles supplies for a dressing change on the PICC insertion site. She’s just started gathering up dirty linens when House wheels himself resolutely to the bedroom door.

“Admit me,” he announces.


“You heard me. Admit me. Get me a bed, and one of those fashionable plastic ID bracelets. Rumor has it you might have a little pull at PPTH. Think you can arrange it?” House’s face is dead serious, and his tone is firm.

Cuddy drops the sheets on the floor and sits on the edge of the bed. She doesn’t answer right away; she’s trying to translate House’s pronouncement back into English. When she thinks she might know what’s prompted it, she chooses her words carefully. “Do you think you might be getting worse?”

“No. Yes. Worse, that’s it. I need to be in a hospital; I’m too sick for all this… makeshift garbage. Will you take care of it? Now?”

Cuddy stands and takes the handles of the wheelchair. As she turns it and pushes it towards the living room, she says quietly, “We’re going to talk about this.”

“What’s to talk about? My health insurance is paid up. You’re my physician of record. I’m sick, rundown, in pain. I need constant monitoring. Sounds to me like I meet all the prerequisites.”

They’ve arrived at the couch. Cuddy locks the wheels on the chair and indicates for House to transfer himself. He shakes his head. “Go make the call; they can change the dressing there,” he says urgently. “Let’s get going.”

Cuddy looks sadly at him for a long moment, then turns and walks into the kitchen. When she returns, she’s carrying a tray.

“Coffee?” House says with exasperation. “We don’t need to observe any social niceties. Admit procedure takes a couple hours; been meaning to complain about that. We need to get started.”

Cuddy, taking her time, sits on the couch and takes a long swallow of coffee. “Because you want to be admitted before Wilson gets back,” she states.

House is quick to hide the surprise in his eyes. “Wilson? What does he have to do with this? I’m a doctor too, ya know. I can figure out when someone needs to be hospitalized. Maybe that’s the problem; maybe he can’t.” House glares defiantly at Cuddy, and shakes his head impatiently when she tries to hand him a coffee mug.

Cuddy looks him straight in the eye. “Now you listen to me, Gregory House. Wilson is tired, yeah. He’s not taking care of himself properly. And sometimes, he maybe even feels overwhelmed. But he’s here because this is the only place he wants to be. And he’s tired because the most important thing in his life right now is making certain that he gives you the best possible care. And he’s overwhelmed because… well… it’s kind of a thankless task.”

“Whaddaya mean?” House asks defensively. But while Cuddy’s been speaking, he’s been remembering. Wilson, giving him that first dose of morphine after throwing out his team. Fighting with Cuddy to keep him out of the unit. Risking his job, his medical license, to perform the pain procedure for House. And now, taking leave from his busy practice so House can recuperate in the privacy of his own home. Big things. A lot of big things, and even more little things, done with affection and patience. Done willingly. Done daily. All for an occasional, always grudging, ‘thanks.’

Cuddy hasn’t answered his question; she’s watching his face as the memories play across it. And she has to swallow against the lump in her throat before she can speak. “You won’t be helping Wilson if you relieve him of your care. He won’t understand. He’ll be hurt. You’re very worried about him--” Her hand shoots into the air; “Shut up, House! You can fool him, yeah. But how many times have you ever fooled me? And don’t answer that, either. Just know that this time, I’m not fooled. You’re worried, and you think you can solve the problem by getting yourself admitted. You wanna solve the problem? Tell the man how you feel about all he’s done. You don’t even have to get mushy. Ask him how he’s doing once in a while. Tell ‘im you enjoyed lunch. Let him pick an occasional TV show. He just needs to know that you care.

House is looking down, studying his hands. When he looks up at Cuddy, his face is abashed as he says, with sincere innocence, “He knows. I told him to ice his wrist last night. After I bruised it.”

Cuddy doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry as she looks into his honestly puzzled eyes. “House, you’re… unique. And you know what? He gets that. You’re right; he knows. He does. That’s why he’s still here.” She can’t help herself; she goes to him and places a gentle kiss on his forehead. She has to laugh then, at his confusion with the tender gesture, and soon he’s laughing too.

Now you’re trying to seduce me,” he tells her. She winks at him as he finally accepts the mug of coffee.


“Wilson told me you didn’t eat this morning; said you told him you’d eat when I got here. So what’s your pleasure? A late breakfast? Or a sandwich?” Wilson had seemed worried about House’s appetite again; Cuddy wants to make sure she gets him fed.

“Nothing right now, thanks,” House says. He’s still sitting stubbornly in the wheelchair; Cuddy had finally given up trying to get him to the couch, and had done his dressing change while he sat there, gazing contemplatively into space. Now, he’s simply looking morose.

Cuddy sits on the couch. “What’s the matter? You’ve gotta eat, you know. Wilson says the daytime TPN’s gonna continue until you’ve gained twenty pounds. But I’ll tell you what; you eat a good lunch, I’ll talk him down to fifteen.”

House doesn’t even smile, and Cuddy notes that he’s now rubbing gingerly at his left thigh. “That’s okay,” he tells her. “Not hungry, and he’s right; I should gain the twenty pounds.” Then, without a word of explanation, he wheels towards his bedroom. Cuddy, puzzled and concerned, follows him, and watches in surprise as he hoists himself from the chair onto the bed, lifting his legs carefully and settling uncomfortably into the pillows.

“Are you all right?” When she approaches him, he turns his back to her and simply nods his head—but she can tell from his posture that he’s either tense, or in pain. She knows that the needle sticks from the EMG are bothering him, but can’t tell if it’s more than that. “House, talk to me. Please.”

“Don’t feel like talking. Gonna rest.”

“I’ll bring you some ice for your thigh, and something to drink. But you know I’m gonna get in big trouble if you don’t eat before Wilson gets home. Just a short rest, and then I’ll make us lunch. Or maybe call out for pizza?” she asks, hoping to tempt his appetite.

House doesn’t respond, and Cuddy walks around the bed so she can see his face. He’s got his head half buried in a pillow, but she sees that his eyes are closed too tightly; they have the lines and the pallor around them that she’s come to identify as pain that’s spiraled over his meds. Cuddy shakes her head, and leaves to get the ice.

She’s gone only a few minutes, but when she returns, the bedroom door is closing with a resolute click, and she hears the unsteady tap of the cane. When she tries to turn the knob, she isn’t surprised to find it locked. “Hey!” she yells, trying to inject humor into her voice. “Wilson’s gonna kill me if he finds out I left his precious toddler locked in the bathroom with all the cleaning fluids. And I’m not ready to die. So open up, huh?”

There’s no answer, but there’s no further sound of the cane, either; she knows he’s listening. “C’mon, House, gimme a break!” Still light, humorous. It’s an effort, but she doesn’t know what else to do.

“It’s not the bathroom, it’s a bedroom. And Wilson’s already childproofed it.” House’s answer carries no sound of humor, but at least he’s talking.

Cuddy tries to cajole him a couple more times before she finally loses patience. “Okay, here’s the deal. You have thirty seconds to limp over here and open this door. After that, I call the fire department and an ambulance. And I don’t think even you envisioned your admittance to the hospital quite that way. So open up. Now.”

After fifteen seconds of utter silence, she finally hears the cane again. The lock clicks free, but the door remains closed as she hears him turn away and start back towards the bed. She opens the door carefully, and tries not to appear alarmed at the sight of him hunched over the cane in obvious pain. He’s pale and sweating; he’s stood too long, and she’s afraid he’s ready to pass out.

Cuddy steps over to him briskly, puts one arm around his waist, another under his elbow, and walks him, as quickly as she dares, back to the bed. As he sits, he allows a relieved sigh to escape.

Cuddy arranges the pillows, then helps him to slide his legs onto the bed and get settled again. His pulse and respirations are faster than they should be, but his color is quickly returning to normal.

“That was stupid.” She looks at him sternly.

“What’s stupid is I can’t even have some privacy in my own home. My own bedroom.” House’s voice isn’t angry, nor even annoyed. He simply states these things flatly, as unpleasant facts.

Cuddy sighs, and sits on the edge of the bed. “You told me yourself that you still need continual monitoring. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Please try to understand. There’s a reason sick people are called ‘patients.’ You know that. Recovery takes time. It takes more time if you fight it. Now I’m gonna get that ice pack, and then I’m gonna let you rest.” She stands to retrieve the ice from the table where she’d tossed it when she’d discovered the door locked. Before she leaves the room, she turns to look at House, who’s watching her impassively. “I’m sorry, House. I really am.” House just closes his eyes.

Cuddy looks in on House every fifteen minutes for the next hour. His back is to her, his position doesn’t change; it seems he’s sleeping. At her next check, she figures it’s time to wake him, feed him, find out how he’s really doing. So she starts calling his name softly as she enters the room; he turns towards her immediately.

“Did you get some sleep?” she asks.

“I rested. I thought. I made a decision.”

Cuddy sits in the bedside chair. “Care to share?”

House nods his head, but says nothing; Cuddy waits patiently. Whatever this decision is, it appears to have brought House a measure of peace; while he still seems to be in some amount of acute pain, the tenseness is gone from his eyes and his posture. And when he begins to speak, he’s calm and resolute.

“I’m gonna do everything you and Wilson tell me. Not gonna fight it. Except the morphine; that’s not necessary. Whatever’s wrong with the left leg, I feel like we’re going after a mosquito with a cannon. I can ride out the pain—done it before. But no more morphine. Makes me sick, sleepy, depresses my appetite--”

“Takes away the pain,” Cuddy interrupts forcefully. She’s remembering the time Wilson had instigated a bet between her and House, and House had gone off his Vicodin for a week. Inside of twenty-four hours, she’d regretted her part in the deal. Every wince that’d crossed his face, every tremble of his fingers, and that horrible self-inflicted injury to his left hand, she’d felt responsible for. She’d found out later that Wilson felt the same way, when he’d told her ‘I’ve caused enough damage already.’ So she won’t stand by this time, and watch House do it to himself again; this is one decision neither she nor Wilson will honor.

“The pain doesn’t matter; getting better matters. Where am I if I start to depend on morphine? Nice, though, that you and Wilson have decided that you ‘get’ the difference between addiction and dependence. Finally.”

Cuddy winces at that, and House allows himself a small, humorless smile. “And now,” he continues, “you’re trying to absolve yourself of your guilt by going overboard. I’m the one who’s paying, though, and I’ve decided it could get too expensive. So.” He looks Cuddy in the eye. “No more morphine. No.” He breaks eye contact, rolls over in the bed so that his back is to her again. “Done thinking. Done deciding. Not done resting. Appreciate it if you’d leave me to it.”

Cuddy stands; House ignores her exaggerated sigh. Better to let Wilson handle this one, she thinks. He’s obviously uncomfortable right now; if I get him agitated, it’ll only get worse…. She quietly leaves the room, gently closing the door behind her.


House and Wilson are talking. Well, it starts out as a talk, but House knows it’s gonna degenerate quickly into the same old argument.

“You don’t want a healthy leg,” Wilson tells him.

Here we go again, House thinks. Wonder if I can divert him, or if I’m gonna have to listen to the whole speech again.

“If you’ve got a good life, you’re healthy; you’ve got no reason to bitch, no reason to hate life,” Wilson says. By now, House knows the lines by heart; he’s amusing himself by repeating them in his mind along with Wilson.

Here comes the part where I get to piss him off…. House looks smugly at Wilson. “Well, here’s the flaw in your argument: if I enjoy hating life, I don’t hate life; I enjoy it.” He watches Wilson’s lips grow tight, and he smiles to himself.

“I didn’t say it was rational,” Wilson spits out. House wonders which analogy Wilson’ll use this time to support his argument. This is the only part of the discussion which ever varies; that’s a good thing—it keeps House from getting too bored and just tuning Wilson out.

“I had a patient last month who’d lived with cancer for three years. His prognosis was poor from the start, and he’d come to terms with dying. But there I was, telling him that his latest round of radiation had done the trick; we couldn’t find any more cancer. And he wasn’t happy about it, or even relieved. This unbelievable news depressed him. Not because he wanted to die, but because in all those years of illness, he’d defined himself by his disease. Suddenly, what made him ‘him’ wasn’t real anymore. He was going to have to redefine who he was, and that frightened him.”

Okay, my turn; we’re back to the script again. “I don’t define myself by my leg,” House asserts. This lecture’s getting old. And dull. Maybe next time, I’ll say I do define myself by my leg; that should break his rhythm.

“No, you have taken it one step further. The only way you could come to terms with your disability was to somehow make it mean nothing. So you had to redefine everything. You’ve dismissed anything physical, anything not coldly, calculatingly intellectual.”

Here comes the part where I get angry and go off the rails; this is really getting tiresome. “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” House shouts at Wilson. “You don’t live with this every day; you don’t lie in bed at night and pray the pain’ll fade just long enough that you can fall asleep and escape it for a few hours!”

“I do live with it every day!” Wilson yells back. “In case it’s slipped your mind, I’m the one you dump it all on, because everyone else was smart enough to walk away when it all started!”

As per the routine, House curls his right hand into a fist, and draws it back in preparation for the strike to Wilson’s jaw, and—he awakens. Sweating and trembling, he repeats to himself, “A dream; just a dream.” He forces his eyes to stay open, and—despite the sudden,sharp pain in his left leg—he whispers aloud, “No morphine.” The drug would make him sleep, and if he avoids sleeping he can circumvent the nightmare.

But House is worried. This recurring nightmare has plagued him ever since the breakthrough pain had started several months ago. And since Sunday, when Wilson’s treatment of the breakthroughs had proven successful, he’s been having to live through the dream almost every time he sleeps. The first few days home, he’d tried to stop it by avoiding sleep, but his body had overruled that. So now he forces himself to awaken before he can carry out the threat to hit his best friend. He’s getting closer to it each time, though.

House groans, and pulls his left leg up as the pain increases. It’s not quite as sore from the EMG anymore; he’s able to ease the spasm a little by massaging it. But the relief lasts only a few seconds, and he bites his lip to keep from crying out. If he makes any noise, Cuddy will hear him, and he suspects that she’s planning to ignore his wishes on the morphine. He won’t let that happen. He can’t.

Cuddy is at her wit’s end. She’s frustrated and she’s angry. House’s behavior today is outside her frame of reference for the man; she’s used to his circumventing the rules, ignoring the rules. She’s even accepted that occasionally, he’ll not only bend a rule, he’ll break it beyond all recognition. But a sad, serious, reasonable House, well, that’s just not someone she can handle. And if she’s truthful with herself, she’s gotta admit that ‘frustrated’ and ‘angry’ aren’t nearly as foreign as her other two feelings—her fear and worry for House easily outweigh the first two emotions. It’s time to bring in reinforcements.

Wilson’s cellphone doesn’t even finish the first full ring before he’s on the line, asking in a voice fraught with anxiety, “What’s the matter?”

Cuddy wishes she could laugh at his assumption, chide him for being such a pessimist. But she can’t, so she dives right into what’s been happening in his absence, starting with House’s refusal to eat and continuing on through the locked door. When she reaches the part about the increased pain, coupled with House’s anti-morphine speech, her rapid-fire words are brought to a sudden halt by an explosive expletive from Wilson. She’s immediately glad she hadn’t mentioned that House had tried to get himself admitted to the hospital; it’s dawning on her that Wilson’s exhausted, emotional, worried—and driving. Now, along with all the other problems, her outburst was possibly endangering Wilson. What was I thinking? It was selfish and stupid to call him! This could’ve waited another hour. So she tries to backtrack.

“Hey, listen. I was wrong to bother you with this nonsense right now. I was just… overreacting; it’s been a long day, that’s all. We can certainly hang in ‘til you get here. Umm… how was your lunch?”

Wilson answers her in half-hearted monosyllables, but he seems calmer than he did a few moments ago, and she doesn’t want to distract him any more than she’s already done. And he says he’s close to home, should be there quite soon, in fact. So she pretends that House is calling her to bring him a soda, and hangs up the phone. Then she sits, head in hands, and wishes she were the type of woman who could give in to tears. But she isn’t. So she stands, takes a deep breath and a swallow of the cold coffee on the table next to her, and goes to check on House.

She hears it even before she’s reached the door; it’s the unmistakable sound of a human being in unutterable pain. But as she grabs for the doorknob, it ceases, and she hopes for a wild instant that she’d imagined it. When she sees House, that hope dies.

House is lying entangled in the sheets. He’s soaked with sweat; his eyes are red rimmed as he stares at the ceiling, refusing to acknowledge her presence. But she knows he’s aware of it, and somehow she also knows he’d heard her in the hall and had willed himself into silence.

She goes quickly to him. As she nears the bed, she notes that he’s holding his left leg at an unnatural angle; it looks almost as if he’d fallen and broken it. Cuddy speaks softly to him. “I’m getting the morphine; I’ll be right back.” Before he can protest, she leaves.

When she returns, he’s looking daggers at her, and when she begins to approach, he says in a choked whisper, “Stop. Now.” And as vulnerable as he is, somehow his words, his demeanor, force her to freeze.

As Cuddy stands there, her eyes locked with his, she’s angry with herself—and with him. That a man so sick, so weak, could still command such power, could make her, even momentarily, ignore her own physician’s instincts to provide him relief from his pain, puzzles her. But still she can’t ignore the demanding plea. So she simply stands there, holding the syringe, watching him begin to writhe again on the bed.

Cuddy has no idea how long she’s stood there; time has stopped during this wordless battle. She’s dimly aware of the sound of a door, but she doesn’t remove her eyes from the suffering man. So she’s startled when an angry voice breaks the eerie silence.

“What the hell is going on in here?” Wilson demands, as he takes in the awful tableau before him.

A/N: As you've probably figured out, House's dream in this chapter is taken from his hallucination in the episode 'No Reason.' As this trilogy takes place prior to that episode, I guess I've created my own backstory, as to why he'd have hallucinated that particular conversation with Wilson in 'No Reason.' mjf

CHAPTER TEN: Apologies

One look at House, the pallor of his skin, the set of his face, the awkward position of his left leg, and Wilson knows what’s going on here. He takes the syringe from Cuddy’s hand, glances at it, and shakes his head. “No,” he whispers urgently. “Ten milligrams.”

Cuddy starts to argue, to tell him that House has already refused the 5mg dose, but something in Wilson’s face stops her, and she leaves to draw up the larger dose.

Wilson approaches the bed ready to lay down the law—and he’s not intending to be pleasant about it. But when he takes a good look at House’s anguished, unfocused eyes, his resolve to be firm dissolves into sorrow. He sinks into the chair, and says gently, “What are you trying to do to yourself?”

“You’re wrong,” House whispers to him. “I want a healthy leg. You’re wrong.” House is becoming agitated; his head moves restlessly on the pillows.

Wilson is confused. “What are you talking about?”

“I don’t define myself that way… wrong….” House is swept up in the pain again, and now Wilson sees something even more worrisome; House’s attempts to ease the spasms in the left leg have been derailed. Now he’s grabbing at the right leg.

Cuddy!” Wilson calls, as she reenters the room. “We’ve gotta do something; he’s not making sense, and his brain’s gonna undo everything we did to control his breakthroughs if we don’t get a handle on his pain now.” Cuddy hands him the syringe.

Wilson leans down in an attempt to focus House’s attention on what he’s saying, what he’s doing. “House, listen to me. Can’t let this go any further; we gotta do the morphine.”

House is still out of it, still whispering “Wrong… you’re wrong, Jimmy….”

“Okay, I’m wrong; I’m sorry, all right? Really sorry. Gonna make you feel better now. And I’m sorry I was wrong. Sorry.” When House smiles and nods with satisfaction at the apology, Wilson says, “You’ll feel better in a minute, and then we can talk,” and injects the medication into the port. As he flushes it through the line, he wonders, peripherally, just what he’d apologized so emphatically for.

Wilson hands the syringes to Cuddy, and takes House’s wrist to begin monitoring his pulse. He frowns, and lays his other hand across House’s forehead. “He feels feverish,” he tells Cuddy.

She finds the tympanic thermometer they’ve been using at night to monitor his temperature without waking him; he’s just barely cognizant now, and she doubts he’d be able to hold the oral thermometer. She places it gently in his ear canal, and when it beeps she looks at the readout. “A hundred point four,” she tells Wilson. “Probably just the result of the spasms, the pain going on so long. If that’s it, we’ll know soon enough; it’ll start coming down as he relaxes.”

“How long has he been like this?” Wilson is careful to keep any accusation out of his voice, but Cuddy’s response is regretful anyway.

“He’s been in some degree of discomfort since you left. But as I told you on the phone, he was refusing the morphine. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until shortly before you arrived… sorry.” She looks down guiltily.

“Cuddy, don’t feel bad, please. You can’t punish yourself for his decisions. Been there, done that. I know how… formidable he can be, and I can’t say I’d have handled it any differently.”

Cuddy nods, and Wilson knows she’s feeling responsible for having let the situation get out of hand. But he just doesn’t have the energy to reassure her right now. “Do you know what he was talking about?” he asks her; the best he can do is change the subject. “What am I wrong about?”

“I have no idea. He didn’t say anything about it to me, didn’t seem upset about anything in particular—just generally unhappy.”

Wilson looks at House, who’s finally relaxed and sleeping. “When he wakes up, I guess I’d better find out,” he says with a wry smile. “I could’ve apologized for anything from ordering Chinese instead of pizza to voting wrong in the last election. With House, ya never know what’ll set him off….”

Cuddy and Wilson share a smile, and Cuddy really looks at Wilson for the first time since he arrived home. “Are you all right?” she asks. “You look like you’ve been through the wringer.”

“I’m okay now. Had a little… incident, on the way home. Car took the worst of it.”

“What happened?” she asks, alarmed.

“Between the rain, the traffic, and my own… inattention… I ran the car off the road. Wound up in a ditch. Managed to get it home, but just barely.” Wilson isn’t about to tell the exhausted, wrung-out friend, standing worriedly before him, that the ‘incident’ had occurred as a result of her call to him. His worry about what was happening at the apartment, combined with fatigue and his weakened left wrist, had caused him to lose control of the steering wheel just long enough to cause a very close call.

But he’s home now, and safe. And so is House. And Cuddy’s forgetting her own long day to go into mother-hen mode. For once, he appreciates it. He allows her to bring him ibuprofen and water, lets her examine his wrist. He even agrees to lie down for a while, after she promises not to leave House’s side.

Cuddy’s managed to find an old elastic bandage somewhere, and insists on wrapping Wilson’s wrist. He submits gratefully to her ministrations, and has to admit, when she’s done, that the extra support feels good. Not just the support from an old Ace bandage, either. Just couldn’t do this without her. He gives Cuddy the best tired smile he can muster. “Thanks, Cuddy. For… all of it.”

“No thanks necessary. Wait… no, just thought of how you can thank me; go get some rest now, and trust that I really can handle things with House for a while, okay?”

Cuddy had been correct; House’s temperature is returning to normal. His vital signs are good, and the pain’s clearly under control for the time being; House is sleeping comfortably, and both legs are relaxed.

Wilson heads to the couch and settles in. When Cuddy hands him a cup of tea, he’s surprised at how soothing the warm liquid is. He knows he has a lot of thinking to do—and a lot of talking to do, both with House and with Cuddy. He also knows he’s probably going to wake up sore, and that this nap is just a band-aid over a week’s worth of fatigue. For right now, though, he decides to simply appreciate the comforts of the moment. He closes his eyes gratefully and gives in quickly to the unaccustomed luxury of sleep.


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