Some of you have been asking for a sequel to 'All That's Left'. Here it is.
If you haven't read 'All That's Left', I suggest you go and read it first, as this won't make much sense otherwise.
His back was sore. He started to turn over onto his left - and his hip hurt. Best to stay right where he was.
Which was where? The floor?
His head was foggy. And his leg hardly hurt at all. Strange. Slowly the events from last night came back to him – in the end he had left it too late to get the morphine down from the shelf. He remembered handling the box, nothing after that. He must have passed out.
He could smell bacon now. Bacon?
And then he remembered Wilson's face hovering above him. That explained why he was on the floor in a nest of pillows, with a blanket covering him. It also explained the bacon.
Or not. Because he was pretty sure he had no bacon in the apartment. He hadn't been shopping in days.
It seemed that the Wilson cavalry had saved the day. Which was why he hurt less than usual and had actually slept – how long? He finally opened his eyes to check his watch. Almost noon? How long had he been out? It didn't feel long at all.
Eventually he turned over onto his left, ignored the dull pain in his hip and sat up, only to look right at the pair of crutches, which Wilson must have put there for him. Shit. No more hiding.
Getting up took more effort than it should; and once he was vertical he was glad Wilson had left the crutches there – he was dizzy and the fog in his head was very persistent. Dismayed he also realized that he still felt tired to the bone; he had been knocked out but he hadn't had anything resembling restful sleep yet.
A quick look out of the window told him that the weather front had finally moved on. Maybe he could get some rest now.
His plan was to get to the bedroom, as fast and as quietly as he could because that's where the two things he needed most were – his cane and his bed. He knew he should have called Wilson for help because he was anything than stable on his feet right now, the morphine was clouding his judgment and he was tired, oh so tired.
The bedroom was further away than he remembered and it felt like he had to swim there, under water. Wilson had done well with the morphine because he could hardly feel his leg at all. Only the left hip gave a twinge every now and then, so he was careful when he finally dropped down on his bed. He let the crutches fall where they would but regretted it the second they hit the floor. If their clatter was loud enough to pierce the fog surrounding his head, it would be loud enough to alert Wilson.
He just needed to close his eyes for a second before he got himself situated under the quilt. Just a second…
"House? Are you okay?"
He managed to open his eyes a fraction to look straight into Wilson's anxious face. "Huh… there he is, knight in shining armor…"
Wilson pushed the crutches aside with his foot and knelt down next to the bed. "You couldn't have called me? I don't know how you managed to get here without killing yourself, even with the crutches."
Crutches, Wilson wasn't supposed to… He couldn't even bring up enough energy to worry about Wilson knowing about the crutches. "Think I need more sleep."
"Too right you do, you've got all day to catch up. I called Cuddy to tell her you won't be in today. Neither will I, I'm staying. Your place is a mess. I already…" House almost managed to tune out Wilson's chatter while he helped him under the covers. "… groceries. And I've changed the sheets, I'll take them to the laundry on my way home tonight."
He turned his face into the pillow. It no longer smelled of Stacy. And he couldn't even tell Wilson off for changing the sheets without looking completely pathetic.
"Are you hungry, House? I made breakfast. Well, early lunch."
He wasn't hungry; he wanted sleep. All he had ever wanted last night was sleep. He tried to shake his head to tell Wilson he wasn't hungry but wasn't sure if he succeeded. The fog was still there. Not hungry. He felt Wilson's hand on his shoulder.
"House, can you give me a rating? Are you okay for now?"
Fuck the pain scale, if Wilson would just shut up he could finally get some sleep. He waved his hand vaguely in Wilson's direction, too tired to open his eyes.
"'m okay, just need sleep."
He didn't remember anything after that, so Wilson must have left him in peace eventually.
When he woke up next, his head was a little less cottony and he could feel his leg again – nothing major, just the usual background noise he was so used to that something would have felt decidedly off if it stopped. As much as he would have loved to just go back to sleep, he needed the bathroom, so he had no choice but to get up.
Once he sat up, he saw that Wilson had picked the crutches up from the floor and rested them against the foot end of the bed, right next to his cane. All three seemed to be mocking him from down there - what's it going to be, big guy? How bad is it today? He didn't even know how bad it was. The morphine covered everything up quite successfully but its effects were beginning to wear off. Out of habit he reached for the cane but a twinge in his hip made him re-think that move. Maybe later. Crutches for now. Wilson had already seen them, nothing to be gained by trying to be a hero now.
He had just reached the door, which Wilson had left conveniently ajar – easier to open with the tip of the crutch, thank you, Wilson – when he heard voices.
"What, you didn't believe me this morning? You had to come and check in person? Feel free to search the apartment for whatever you're looking for but try not to wake House, he's finally asleep." Wilson sounded upset but determined to keep things civil, at least on the surface.
"It's after 6pm, James, not even House's hangovers last that long!"
What on earth was she doing here? And why had Wilson let her in? There was no way he was going to face Cuddy now, he knew that after last night he looked like hell and probably smelled like it, too. He was sure he couldn't sneak to the bathroom and back quietly enough without at least alerting Wilson, so he stayed right where he was. The bathroom had to wait.
"I told you he had a bad night, I didn't say he had a hangover."
Interesting. So Wilson hadn't told Cuddy what had happened. He filed that away for closer investigation at a more convenient time.
"Look, he's got some personal days to use if he wants to, his last case is closed and his team hasn't found a new one yet. I'm okay with him taking some time off. I just need to know what's going on, that he's all right. I haven't even talked to him. I can't accept a request for time off, or sick days if that's what this is, from anyone else."
"I'm not anyone else, Lisa, and you know it. He isn't well, is that not enough for you?"
House leaned against the doorframe. He could literally picture Wilson trying to avoid telling Cuddy the truth. He would be looking anywhere but at her, his hand rubbing his neck. Poor Wilson. By rights, he should be out there talking to Cuddy himself. But he didn't feel like it. For the first time in ages, he didn't feel like sparring with Cuddy. He didn't feel like much of anything, he noted. So he would watch this unfold, bet Wilson could manage to persuade Cuddy to leave without having woken him.
And then it came. "Look, two days off for him is all I'm asking. Can't you just give him that? Haven't you done enough damage?"
Bombshell. Wilson, you idiot!
"What do you mean, enough damage? What has he told you?"
He could hear Wilson pacing. Then heels clacking when the pacing stopped. Someone flopped down on the couch. Wilson.
"He hasn't told me anything. He wasn't able to talk when I found him this morning. And when he woke a few hours ago he was still pretty out of it. Lisa, I found him passed out, in pain, next to the box with morphine."
"He still has that box? I had no idea."
"What? Is that all you have to say? You were the one who gave him saline, you tricked him. He had a pair of crutches next to him. I didn't even know he owned crutches! I'm pretty sure he tried to avoid taking the morphine because someone told him the pain was all in his head. I haven't seen him this bad since the infarction. Hell, I don't think I've ever seen him this bad! At least back then we were all prepared for breakthrough pain. This should not be happening now! What was your plan with the saline? Did you think he'd slap his forehead and go 'oh, thanks for telling me, I had no idea I was just imagining the pain' and get magically all better? I felt his leg, Lisa, it was rock hard. Not just around the surgery site. The whole leg."
Wilson sounded tired. And desperate.
Heels clacking again.
"You know exactly why I did it. I know you agree that at least part of his pain is psychosomatic. How else do we get it through to him? It was the perfect opportunity because he came to me asking for morphine into his spine. That was extreme, even for House. And right after Stacy left, isn't that a coincidence?"
His thoughts flashed back to that moment when he had gone into Cuddy's office. Yes, after Stacy had left. But also right when that weather front arrived.
Wilson had gone from accusatory to slightly subdued. "And did you ever think about what it must've cost him to come to you? Begging by all accounts? How desperate he must've been?"
"But don't you see, that's why it's so important he realizes how this isn't just all physical. How much better would he be if he could only see that?"
He heard Wilson sigh and imagined his hand creeping up to his neck again.
"I don't know, Lisa. What I saw this morning was not psychosomatic. I don't know what would've happened if I hadn't shown up. Don't you think he knows more about this than any of us? Don't you think he's tried to find a way out of this? Who are we to try and educate House on his pain?"
Cuddy huffed. "You know, you're one to talk. Don't get all righteous with me. May I remind you whose idea the bet to detox was a few years ago? Not mine."
Ah. He had always guessed but never known for sure. It had felt like Wilson's idea at the time. Either way, they had both been in on it.
Wilson at least had the decency to sound contrite. "You're right. A lot has happened since then, though. Stacy came back, then left. Now this. I can't help but wonder what would've happened if I hadn't decided to check up on him. Lisa, he took this to heart. He believed you. The way he looked earlier, he should've taken the morphine before going to bed yesterday. I'm sure he held off on it because he thought there was a chance you were right."
As much as it pained him to admit, Wilson was right. He never should have waited this long to get the morphine out. And he wouldn't have waited this long, had it not been for the encounter with Cuddy and her revelation about the saline.
"Oh, don't you try blaming me for this now! I'm not responsible for House's actions!"
The two seemed to have reached a stalemate. He sighed. Enough was enough. He ditched the crutches; he wasn't going to relinquish that last little bit of dignity in front of Cuddy without a fight.
"You know what, you two could wake a hibernating bear with your shouting!"
He registered Wilson's concerned look flashing from his face down to his leg and the cane in two seconds flat and straightened up a bit more.
Cuddy took a little longer. She had been standing in the middle of the living room, her back turned. On hearing his labored approach she turned and for a second he saw surprise, then something resembling shock and then, worst of all, pity play across her face.
He planted himself near his desk, so he could rest his good hip against it.
"Thanks Cuddy, I know how I look. Haven't had quite enough time to put the finishing touches on the hobo look, though, your screeching interrupted my preening session."
Wilson was on the couch, hair in disarray – no doubt product of his nervous hands – and with Cuddy frozen like a statue in the middle of the room, it looked like a tableau vivant. Even in his current state he could still render them speechless.
He took a deep breath.
"You two sound like parents arguing over a wayward child. What's best for him? How do we get him to stop acting out? I've got news for you: I'm not your kid. And I outgrew my parents' control a long time ago. I know how to handle whatever is going on. Thanks for your concern but you can both go now." And, a little softer, "I don't need your help. And if I do, I'll ask for it."
"Except, you never do, do you?" Wilson had said it quietly, passing him on his way to the kitchen. House decided to ignore that quip.
Turning to Cuddy, who was reaching for her purse, he said, "I'll be back to work tomorrow. I'm taking today as time owed, since my last case took a lot more hours than I'm required to work by law during a single week. And I'm not doing any clinic hours tomorrow." Not waiting for a reply, he grabbed the remote from the coffee table and turned on the TV.
Effectively dismissed, Cuddy left with a short "I'll see you both tomorrow then".
The fact that she was guilty enough to leave without a fight over clinic duty told him enough about his current state. He would have to do something about that. A shower and some coffee should set him right. But for now he had other problems. Wilson was still around and he would be a lot harder to get rid off than Cuddy.
Star Trek V was on and while he didn't particularly like the movie, it was a good enough distraction from the current situation.
Halfway through the movie, a plate with a BLT sandwich appeared in front of him, together with a big glass of ice tea. He didn't turn his head when he felt Wilson's weight adding itself to the couch right next to him. He hadn't eaten in over 24 hours, and the sandwich tasted so good. He even ate the tomato instead of complaining about Wilson's clever ploy to get him to eat more vegetables.
"This is such a crappy movie", Wilson finally said after a long silence.
"Uh-huh. But still better than my wannabe parents fighting over custody." Wilson's indignation and wish to reply was so great he could actually feel it in the air.
What he had forgotten when he decided to watch this movie, was Kirk's big pain monologue. He only realized what was happening when Kirk launched into 'I don't want my pain taken away, I need my pain'. He grabbed for the remote to change the channel but Wilson was faster – when House's hand found the remote, Wilson's was already on it.
"Not so fast. You don't want to talk about this, do you?"
Stating the obvious here. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
He made to get up from the couch, not an easy feat with only the cane and no morphine dulling the pain any longer. Wilson didn't need to use much strength to pull him back.
"Let me go, Wilson, I need the bathroom."
"No you don't. Not right now anyway." He waited until House had settled back on the couch. "What happened last night?"
So Wilson had decided to be all calm and caring, using his cancer voice. House sighed when he realized he wasn't going to get out of this one unless he forcefully removed Wilson from his apartment. And right now, he wasn't physically capable of doing that. A fact that had not escaped Wilson.
"You know what happened, Wilson, you saw it yourself this morning. I didn't get to the morphine on time, tripped and knocked myself out. You found me. End of story. Thanks for your help."
It would have been too good to be true for Wilson to buy this bullshit. By unspoken agreement, they never talked about this and usually Wilson let well alone. Not today, though.
"No House, that's not what I saw this morning. You did not knock yourself out when you tripped or fell or whatever. You have no bump on your head; I checked for injuries. What I saw was you passed out with pain. Why? Why didn't you get the morphine earlier? Because of what Cuddy said?"
Wilson wasn't going to give up on his one. House's head hurt and he really needed the bathroom now. A handful of Vicodin began to look very tempting. Maybe it would even help drown out Wilson. One last attempt.
"I'm not going to talk about this with you, Wilson. I'm going to the bathroom now." He couldn't sound more forceful unless he shouted, and he knew he had no right to shout at Wilson now. Not that that had ever stopped him.
When he came back, his plate was gone, his glass refilled and Wilson was waiting for him. So they weren't done yet.
"You never talk about this, House. Don't you think you should? That we should? Because the last time I checked I was still prescribing for you. Don't you think I should know what's going on? Look at you! You're barely upright. You passed out with pain last night. You've got a pair of crutches hidden away that not even your best friend knows about. How is any of this right?"
Right or wrong didn't come into it, not even remotely. "Oh admit it, you're just pissed because you didn't know about the crutches!"
"Really? You think that's it, House? I couldn't care less about what you've got hidden in your closet – unless it means you're in more pain than you're letting on."
His hand reached for his pocket, searching for Vicodin, but he was still in his pajamas, so no pockets. Without a word, Wilson handed him two and the glass of ice tea. No reproach this time, just worry and sympathy. He surrendered in the face of Wilson's unwavering kindness.
"I can't, Wilson. I can't explain it. Don't you get it? How could I explain this? No matter how much you want to understand – you can't know until you've felt it. This is personal; it doesn't translate. Pain is subjective – and I hate that. Medicine should be objective. I should be objective, damn it! But I'm not. Medicine is measurable, clinical. This isn't. You keep asking for a number. Wilson, that scale is bullshit. The pain scale fakes subjectivity. My seven isn't your seven, and your three isn't mine. It can't be."
He was exhausted and didn't dare turn his head to look over at Wilson. He had no real answer. Wilson hadn't said a word yet. Maybe he regretted asking. Maybe he had hoped to get an answer. Or maybe he thought he would get a different answer.
Just when House thought there would be no reply from Wilson, it came. And it was clear that Wilson was just as unsure of himself as House was right now.
"Maybe I don't need an objective answer. Maybe I just want to know how you are. You, not anyone else, not some fictitious patient of mine or yours." This was not Wilson the oncologist anymore. This was his friend Wilson, floundering about in unchartered territory. "Maybe asking you for that number is just my attempt at keeping things on a level that you can be okay with. Maybe I just want to hear something other than 'I'm fine' when I know you're not."
House wasn't quite sure what to make of this. This wasn't how they worked. They, House and Wilson, didn't do this.
But Wilson wasn't quite done yet.
"I'm not asking you to start baring your innermost feelings to me. I don't think I could take that anyway; I don't even want to know all the deep dark secrets you're hiding in that black pit of a soul. But just occasionally, be honest and let me in." And with that he turned around to House, with that serious I'm not kidding, so you better listen look he had. "I don't want to find you again like today, House, I'm dead serious. This morning was not fun."
House nodded slowly. Had he been the one to find Wilson in the same situation, he would have done a lot more than harass him like this.
"Okay, but no psych crap when I do tell you what's going on. If I want an analyst I'll go and hire one."
Wilson grinned. "I pity the fool who takes you on as a patient."
It sounded like they were back on familiar territory.
"You know what, Wilson, that sandwich was great but it barely touched the sides. What else did you get up to in my kitchen while I was sleeping?"
"There's plenty of food, House. How about you take a shower while I fix us some pizza?"
House couldn't help but laugh. "Subtle, dear Wilson, very subtle."
He was halfway to the bathroom when he thought of something and turned back.
"Hey Wilson, you know what? We completely missed Uhura's fan dance."
Wilson made a grab for the remote. "I'm sure it's available on demand somewhere …"