Characters: House, Wilson, Cuddy, Chase, with a dash of Foreman and a pinch of Cameron
Rating/Pairing: Gen; a mild R for language. H/W strong friendship (slash only if you wear goggles)
Summary: The fallout from House's recent misadventure. Follows Sleeping Man: Outside
Timeline: Set in the early fall of Season 3, around Cane and Able, Lines in the Sand
Chapter One is here:1 Previous chapter is here: 17
What the Critics are Saying: "This is sooooo not gay enough." ---HoYay Weekly
Wilson watched House perform for Jacoby and his team, doing his utmost to hide any weakness, but Wilson could see him flagging, growing paler and having difficulty concentrating. He finally shooed everyone out of House’s room, and then took his own leave, too. “I have to go do something about this,” he explained, pointing to his head with a grimace. “I can’t navigate the hospital with my back to the wall forever.”
House didn’t want to admit it, but he was relieved to be alone. After the excitement of the morning, and the night before, he was physically drained. A little thing like a ten-minute conversation left him worn out, and the effort it took to walk to the bathroom, even supported by two nurses, left him feeling filleted, breathless, like he’d run a marathon. Pathetic.
Jacoby, true to his assholic nature, had refused to budge about letting House go home. “You’re here for a good, long run,” he assured House, checking his chart and tapping his teeth with a pen in such an irritating way that if he had been strong enough House would have thrown something at him. “Rest assured, you’ll be thoroughly sick of me, and the nurses will be thoroughly sick of you, before you’re released.”
* * *
“No way,” said Cuddy two days later. “It’s against medical advice.”
“Not entirely,” Wilson argued. “Jacoby won’t budge, but Chase is the attending and he said he’d agree to it”—Wilson left out the bit about House threatening to fire Chase if he didn’t agree, and also boil him in oil and feed him to the wallabies—“as long as I’m around to keep an eye on things, draw some blood for regular lab work, and make sure he eats right and takes his meds.”
“And are you really willing to do that? I don’t mind giving you the time off, but he’ll be in a wheelchair for at least another week, and he’ll fight every single thing you try to do for him.”
Wilson knitted what would have been his eyebrows, if he’d had any. Then he ran a hand through what would have been the hair at the back of his neck, if he’d had any.
“I really don’t see that we have much choice,” he said. “He’s gone on a hunger strike, demanding real food, and won’t keep the NG tube in. He can’t afford to lose any more weight. We could make an argument for danger to himself et cetera, but I’m really not up for putting him in restraints in order to see that he keeps the tubes and catheters in. Plus, to be honest, he’s made a really concerted effort with the nursing staff, and all but one of them are ready to suffocate him with a pillow and call it respiratory failure.”
”So I’ve heard.” Cuddy sighed. “It’s sooo good to have him back.” Finally she nodded. “All right. Go ahead. And may the Force be with you.”
“Do me a favor?” said Wilson, turning as he got to the door of her office. “Cover me, and try to draw enemy fire.”
“Copy that,” said Cuddy. “It’s the least I can do.”
* * *
“What’s in there?”
“It’s a present.”
“What’s the occasion?”
“Mutual Baldness Day.”
“The fact that you shaved your head so we could be twins is cute but hardly worthy of celebration.”
Wilson could see that House was bored, and not a little depressed. This was always a dangerous state of mind for him, so Wilson didn’t drag it out any longer than necessary.
“I got you a wig,” he said. “Raided the Oncology Department supply.”
“Aw,” said House. “That’s even better than urine. Hope you didn’t steal it off a dead patient. Well, come on. Let’s see.”
“You have a choice,” said Wilson. “Slutty blonde?” He pulled out a long blonde wig with bangs, and modeled it for House, then produced a bobbed grey wig with sedate pin curls. “Or middle-aged librarian?”
House tilted his head pensively. “No slutty middle-aged librarian? Okay, gimme sexy blonde.” He tried it on, flicking the long hair over first one shoulder and then the other. “Now what?”
Wilson settled the grey wig on his own head and tucked a stray hair behind his ear. “Now that we have our disguises,” he said, surreptitiously checking out his reflection in the bathroom mirror, “we bust outta here.”
* * *
Wilson searched through the bedside table for any last items. He had a plastic garbage bag full of IV fluids, tape and gauze for changing the dressing on House’s knee, a large bag full of IV anti-biotics, Vicodin, and a slew of other meds and equipment House would need to keep his recovery on course.
He had finished helping House get dressed in a set of clothes brought from home—thank God he’d remembered a belt, because the jeans would have slid off him otherwise—and helped him into the waiting wheelchair. House had objected as a matter of form to Wilson getting him dressed, but he’d soon found that he didn’t actually have the strength to put his own socks and shoes on, so he quieted right down. He’d made no pretense of being able to get into the wheelchair under his own steam, but had allowed Wilson to help him pivot from bed to chair in one smooth motion. He’d let Wilson wrap him in a hospital blanket and settle the blonde wig on his head.
The truth of the matter was that Cuddy had paved the way for this acquiescence fairly neatly, playing bad cop to Wilson’s good cop; she had insisted, adamantly, that House should not go home but to a rehab center. And it was only by signing a promise in blood that House would do as Wilson told him, that she appeared to finally relent.
Wilson had found a pair of battered old crutches that made House happy, House having spurned the notion of using a walker at any point, and House’s cane still being MIA. And now House grabbed one of these crutches off his lap and poked Wilson. “Giddy up, Wilson. Get your disguise and let’s blow this joint. We need to get home and tell Steve McQueen all about our Great Escape.”
Wilson said nothing, just continued searching the room, opening the closet door, checking out the bathroom. House watched silently for a bit. “What’s eating you, Mopey?” he asked after a few minutes. “Don’t tell me you let Steve die while I was gone?”
Wilson stopped his pointless opening and closing of doors. “We need to talk,” he said at last, not looking at House.
“Ruh-roh,” said House. “Those four words only ever mean two things. You’re not pregnant, so…are you breaking up with me?”
“I need to ask you —“
“Let me just say, for the record, that I wasn’t in my right mind when I did or said whatever it was. I have the medical records to prove--.”
“House, please! For once in your life? Just shut up. Shut up. I’m trying to ask you to…forgive me.” It came out in a rush, not at all the way Wilson had anticipated it. But there. It was done. House looked down at his chest, silent. Finally he spoke.
Wilson sat on the bedside chair so he could be at eye level with House. “There was a point, just after you came back, when I walked out. Washed my hands of you. I assumed you had gone off the rails, been on a week-long binge of some sort. I jumped to the worst possible conclusion.”
House made that upside-down smile that he did when he was digesting something uncomfortable, then nodded, once. Wilson, unable to bear his silence or to maintain eye contact, pushed himself out of the chair and paced over to the window.
"Could you please say something?" he asked at last.
“What’s to forgive?” asked House. “I would have come to the same conclusion. Anybody would have.”
“No. Cuddy didn’t. Chase didn’t. And they’re your colleagues, not your friends. Alleged friend,” he amended bitterly.
“Hang on there! Cuddy’s not just a friend. She’s a friend—“ he waggled his eyebrows—“with benefits, if you know what I mean. I--“
House sighed and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, there was an undeniable warning couched there. “Look, I’d like to indulge your Jewish need to feel guilty about something,” he said evenly, “but I can’t help you here. What you did was logical. I gave you plenty of good reasons, in the past, to think what you did. If you really need some self-flagellation, I recommend Cuddy. I happen to know she’s got some whips that are—“
“Stop sounding like Mr. Spock! Friendship isn’t about logic. Damnit, House. Is it so much to ask for a little righteous anger? You can’t forgive someone if they haven’t offended you. So could you please just…get angry?”
But House refused to answer. Instead he turned away and picked up a cup of water from the bedside table. He took a long, noisy sip from the straw.
“House?” Wilson pressed. “You’ll never know until you try it.” Wilson was surprised to feel how hard his heart was pounding as he looked at House. House had never allowed himself to get angry at the people he cared about: not at his fellows; not at his father; not with Stacy, not even the first time around.
House sighed and rolled his head back until he was gazing at the ceiling. His next words came out sounding like a schoolchild being forced to concede an argument. “All right. You were an ass. Are you happy? But I want the record to show that I would have been just as big an ass if the tables were turned. Bigger maybe, since being an ass is kind of my specialty.”
It wasn’t much. No cane slamming. No swearing. Wilson sat on the bed and decided that he was going to have to be happy with what he got. “So noted. But I’d feel better if you at least sued me for copyright infringement.”
But House didn’t smile. Instead he gazed out the window of the room for a long long time. When he turned to Wilson again it was with a deadly serious look, and Wilson felt his heart sink. “Now, about the forgiveness part.”
“It doesn’t come easily. That would cheapen it. I will forgive you. But, there will be conditions.”
“I’m thinking. Meanwhile, get that wig on. The eybrows are bad enough but I can’t bear looking at your naked skull a minute longer--and get me out of here.”
Wilson did as he was told, and as soon as the coast was clear, he pushed the wheelchair into the corridor and made a dash for the elevators. House was determined to make his exit without encountering any hospital staff who might recognize or make a fuss over him, and the disguise worked astonishingly well. Nobody getting off the elevator gave them a second look, and Wilson backed the chair in and pushed the button before anyone else could get on.
“Number one,” said House, breaking his silence as soon as the doors closed. “That tie I gave you for Christmas?”
“The hideous one with pink nymphs performing—“
“Yes. I want you to wear it to the next board meeting. Number two: There will be beer. Number three: And chicken. Number four…” The doors closed.
And when they opened again in the lobby, he was still going. “…Number seventeen: That thong of Cuddy’s? The red one in my bureau? Well, I want you to…”
Wilson sighed. It was going to be a long convalescence.
A/N: I want to thank all of you, loyal readers, faithful commentors, who kept me going on this months and months after I should have stopped. I would never have started it if I'd known how long it would consume my life. And I would never have finished it if you hadn't urged me on. It's been seven months and God knows how many words. 40,000? 50,000? Probably more.
I may add a brief Epilogue tomorrow. ...and then it's on to Write-Your-Own-Ending. So far I have only one participant. Let me know if you want to write an alternate ending. You can send them anytime now, and I'll be posting them here within two weeks. ---xoxoxox Maineac