Characters: House, Wilson, Cuddy, Chase with some appearances by the rest of the Scooby Gang.
Rating: Gen; a mild R for language; H/W strong friendship (slash if you wear slash goggles)
Summary: The fallout from House's recent misadventure. Follows Sleeping Man: Outside.
Timeline: Set in the early fall of last season, around the events of Cane and Able, Informed Consent, Lines in the Sand.
A/N: Earlier parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.
One of the most common false assumptions that both patients and their families make about the course of a serious illness is what might be called the Straight Line fallacy.
So it was with House. At seven a.m. he had been at least able to respond to questions, even if his answers frequently made no sense. But by the time they had gotten him back from radiology and were awaiting the results of the PET scan, doing a meaningful neurological exam had become almost impossible. He was awake and responsive to pain—just barely—grimacing as the nurses transferred him back into his bed and trying instinctively to protect his leg, but not reacting at all when Wilson first asked him if he was all right and then snapped at the staff for their rough handling of him.
Foreman finally put down his penlight and exchanged a look with Wilson and Cameron. The whole of House’s staff had gotten into the act ever since Wilson discovered the contusion on House’s skull that morning and Chase had decided that the mystery of what had happened to House was a puzzle worthy of the Diagnostics department whiteboard. Besides, they had all ignored Cuddy’s orders to go home and sleep, choosing instead to camp out in the doctor’s lounge and wait for updates from Chase, until he had thrown up his hands in defeat and invited them into the process.
“His pupils are equal and reactive but sluggish, his reflexes are slow, and he’s responsive to pain--but that’s about it,” said Foreman, tucking the penlight into his pocket. House couldn’t follow the simplest command—“keep your eyes on my finger; squeeze my hand; wiggle your toes”--and all he had gotten out of him in response to the verbal part of the exam had been mumbled or hopelessly garbled.
“Are you thinking brain damage?” asked Cameron. She looked pale without any makeup, and she had dealt with her hair by the simple expedient of pulling it all back into a Scrunchied ponytail. The overall effect was to make her look ridiculously young and surprisingly vulnerable.
“No, this behavior—“ Foreman gestured to House—“is not traumatic brain injury. This is more likely--” He was interrupted by Chase walking in with a folder full of test results. Chase handed Foreman the PET scans and CT scans wordlessly.
The neurologist held them up to the light while the rest of the room held its breath. At last he put them down. “The scans are consistent with a severe concussion,” he confirmed.
“When?” asked Chase.
Foreman took another look. “At a guess, a week to ten days ago.”
“A severe enough concussion,” asked Wilson, “to cause retrograde amnesia?”
Foreman nodded. “It would be unusual, but not impossible.”
Wilson sank into a chair and let his head rest in his hands for a long moment while nobody said anything. “That,” said Wilson at last, “would explain a lot. A hell of a lot. But not everything. Why didn’t he—“ A sudden thought struck him, and he reached for the call button. When a nurse appeared, he ordered her to bring him House’s belongings. “Everything he had on him when he got to the ER.” She looked puzzled but went to a cupboard and pulled out a pink draw-string trash bag with “House, Gregory” scrawled on it in Magic Marker.
Wilson quickly dumped the contents out on the floor. Grabbing a latex glove he picked through the clothes. Filthy yellow parka, baseball hat, a single flip flop, jeans slit open with trauma shears, T-shirt ditto. He looked up at the nurse. “Where’s his wallet? His watch? Car keys? Are they in Security?” The nurse frowned. “No,” she said. “This is everything he had on him.”
Wilson dismissed her with a nod and then looked around the room, his eyes finally settling on House. “You got mugged, didn’t you? Hit on the head. Someone stole your wallet, your bike, everything that would help you figure out who you were. So…” He let out a long sigh. “That explains it all. Am I right, House?”
House, who looked like he had been trying to follow the conversation, at least with his eyes, blinked and moved his lips soundlessly. “Wuh,” he managed to say after a long struggle.
Cameron stared at her boss, her brow wrinkled with concern. “But what explains this? It’s not the concussion. And he’s not delirious with fever anymore. Why’s he so out of it?”
Chase pulled House’s most recent blood work results from his folder and passed them to her. “His brain, his whole body, is full of toxic sludge. Waste products. His kidney function, what’s left of it, is tanking, and tanking fast.”