Title: detox, revisited
Author: kodiak bear
Rating: T
Summary: Episode tag to Detox, House/Wilson friendship

detox, revisited
by Kodiakbear


"Bastard!" the woman snapped, her jowls quivering in outrage. She clambered off the exam table, and, snatching her purse, yanked open the exam door and stormed out.

I reached for my cane, and followed, shouting, "I'll get a paternity test if you go on a diet!"

She actually paused, I'll give her that, but I think she did it more out of trying to come up with a suitably scathing reply. Either she couldn't, or she decided I wasn't worth it, because she resumed her fast angry pace out the clinic doors.

I glanced at my watch and muttered, "Probably for the best. I always had a suspicion about the mailman." Grabbing the next file, I called out, "Mavis Brackenball." A surprisingly young woman stood up, viewing me with an edge of uncertainty and irritability. I smiled tightly and opened the door. "Brackenball – not Jewish, then." At her dark look I added, "That wouldn't happen to be a nickname, would it?"

"No," she replied curtly. "My throat is sore, and I'm late for a meeting so if you could please do your job."

Mavis was one hundred percent business, and it screamed Cuddy, unfortunately for her. Because I had a special spot for Cuddy. One reserved for torture and temptation. "Well – there's always McDonald's if you want drive through service." I limped across to the drawer and withdrew a swab. "Or did we forget to mention there is no five minute guarantee or your next visit is free?" I asked innocently. Before she could stab me with something I ordered, "Say 'ah'."

If looks could kill, I would've been dead a long time ago, but Mavis felt inclined to add to the growing depth of my karma-induced hell. However, she said 'ah' with the best of them, and I swabbed at a promising spot. "In two days, note, not five minutes, we'll know if you're breeding those nice little bacteria buddies that always make such a mess of the place. My guess," I said, pulling out the prescription pad from another drawer when I finished sealing the swab for the lab, "is it's positive." I doubted she'd like to hear about the draining pustules inside her pretty little neck. "Allergic to penicillin?"

Taking her negative shake for a no, I scribbled out an order for the drug twice a day, ten days, and handed it to her. Taking my cane from where I'd leaned it against the drawer; I took her file and opened the door. Needing that one last dig, because again, Cuddy resemblance, I smiled. "Make sure if you're using birth control pills you use a back-up or you'll find yourself a more frequent patient for the next nine months, and ten days of pills won't do a thing to cure it." I held out the paper.

Mavis snatched it, and rolled her eyes. "Could you be more of an ass?"

As she walked off I shouted, "I'll try!"

The clock ticked my freedom. Five o'clock, which meant, I was officially free from the chains of Cuddy. I dropped the file at the desk, and pushed out the doors. I'd had one entire month away from the thankless task of seeing an endless drone of hypochondriacs, stupidity in biological form, and the rare true case of disaster and tragedy. One month that I'd earned literally with blood, sweat and tears. Granted, the blood had stayed inside my body, but breaking my hand had caused a spectacular bruise and the pay-off probably wasn't worth it in the long run. The up side, getting my Vicodin back had taken care of the pain in my leg and my hand. The down side was having to face that I was an addict. One out of two isn't bad. I'd lived with it surprisingly well.

I waited for the elevator, and moved to the side when it opened and spilled its living cargo, before being able to limp my way inside and find a spot. I ignored the hooded stares, and pulled out my bottle of painkillers. Working in the clinic had one disadvantage that I'd never admit. Standing. It caused my leg to ache more fiercely than any other time, constantly gnawing until I popped a Vicodin and took the edge away.

The surreptitious stares were a mixture of curiosity and pity. It was something I'd learned to use to my advantage, when I needed it, but it was also the cause of my acerbic mouth. Wilson had accused the pills of changing me, but it wasn't the damn pills. It was the stares. I didn't want anyone's pity, and I sure as hell wasn't interested in going around explaining to every person I ran into that I'd suffered a misdiagnosed infarction, and muscle death was a very ugly thing to live through. And by the way, hot out lately isn't it. Nobody wanted to know. People were curious but they couldn't handle the explanations. It made them feel awkward and lucky, and maybe vulnerable.

Peeking around the corner, I found the way clear, and limped faster towards the safety of my office. First day back on clinic duty and I was hoping to grab the latest file waiting for my 'yay' or 'nay', and sit down with some good music and privacy.

"I see the prisoner is back serving his sentence."

I straightened, pursing my lips together as if it'd ward off the pest. "Wilson," I said cheerfully. "No little bodies to irradiate?" I kept moving into my office, heading for my chair. God, I needed to sit. The pain in my thigh wasn't releasing enough. One month off the routine and the reward was even more pain. Ironic. I went through pain to get the month off and the absence of that activity cost me more pain when I started back on clinic hours. A lesser man might rant against the unfairness, but there was a certain symmetrical beauty to irony that I could appreciate.

Wilson followed me, and grabbed my oversized tennis ball before I could, plopping into the chair across from my desk. "I should be going home early for a change."

I tapped the wooden cane against the floor and breathed in, finally feeling some relief from the agony. "And yet, you're not," I observed dryly.

He'd been a lot of things to me over the years, but one thing that had always been a constant – Wilson was my friend. I knew his marriage was on the rocks, hell, probably already six feet under and growing cold. It sucked and only served to remind me that women were a gamble not worth taking.

"No, I'm not." The ball went up again. "So – dinner?"

Biological imperative and pain warred against each other; hunger and the desire to stay off my feet. The two weren't compatible, and hunger won. The pain was always there, at least the hunger I could take care of. I got to my feet, pulling the files off the desk. "You're buying," I said.

"You make as much as I do," he protested, stepping to my side.

I wondered if he even realized how much he did that. I knew why, even if he didn't. Wilson wanted to be there to catch me if I fell. As much as he hovered, I pushed, because I didn't want him to be there. I didn't want him to fall with me. I was a bastard, and I wasn't inclined to change it. The old saying applied. If it's not broken, don't fix it. What I did, it worked. Rudeness, bluntness – shoving the world around.

"True, but your money just looks richer," I retorted.

We wound up going to Taco Hell, and then to my place. I settled on the couch with my leg up; Wilson sat on the floor, his back against the same piece of furniture. We ate and discussed the patients. One was an easy solve. Probably Lyme's disease – the rash should've been a dead give away. Some idiot that considered himself a diagnostician had blown it off as a spider bite. I dropped the file on Wilson's lap. "What's missing," I asked, taking another bite of my taco.

Grimacing at the picture, and granted, it wasn't something you'd want to look at while eating, he guessed, "A wedding ring?"

I narrowed my eyes over his shoulder. Huh. "Well, yeah – that, too. But let's pretend we're, oh, I don't know – doctors. If it were a spider bite -"

"No necrosis," he breathed. "If it were a brown recluse, there'd be dead skin at the bite points, most likely if it'd progressed to this stage of cellulitis."

"Give the man what's behind door number one."

He shook his head, and set the file aside, picking up his food again. "So, patient one is a bust, what about two?"

Patient number two looked promising. "Thirty six year old female, personality changes, irritability and dizziness." I handed Wilson the file. "Promising."

"She's hot," he observed, taking in the pictures. Looking over his shoulder at me he growled, "That's it. Jesus. She's hot so you're taking her case?" He tossed the file at me.

I gave him my best boy scout look and pretended to be offended. "I want to see if they're real or not." I slid my leg off its cushy pillow, and latched on to my cane. I needed another drink. Should've gotten the super large Mountain Dew. Never enough sugar and caffeine in the regular large. "Besides, if you look carefully, you'll see the jaundice in her eyes." The eyes were the first to show the symptom, and the photograph at first glance didn't show much, but studying people was a part of my job, and I'd taken it to a new level.

The eyebrows knitted together, and he pulled the file back, looking at the picture again. "Son of a bitch, you're right."

I looked in my fridge; beer and bottled water. Shit. Should've gone to the store yesterday. My hand strayed for the beer. I was smiling smugly and said as I reached for it, "All that, and he's the best doctor at the hospital, too." I would've added something about pay raises and magazine covers, but this was Wilson, not Cuddy.

"Water," said Wilson behind me.

I took the beer. Straightening, I closed the fridge. "Thanks, Mom, but I prefer the slightly yeasty taste tonight."

"Why do you have to be so damn stubborn?" he swore, and yanked the beer from my hand. A moment later the water was thrust in its place, and he had a firm hand on my arm, steering me back to the couch.

It was only because I was tired that I let him get away with it. My cane was harder than his head, at least I was pretty sure it was. "Why do you have to be so -"

"Caring," he interrupted.

"Hennish," I grated. "Did you get your dose of corn lately? Need more chicks to hatch?"

"Believe me, if I was being hennish – is that even a word?" he asked, puzzled. "Whatever - I'd take those pills of yours away and check you into the hospital."

I groaned, now back on the couch. "Don't go there," I said softly. We'd already had one blow up over the issue, I didn't want another.

He was standing over me, after fixing my leg on the pillow, and the look in his eyes was dangerous. For both of us. "If I don't, who will?"

"Cameron," I said, deflecting. The gruffness in my voice was from a combination of pain, irritation, and facing the knowledge that Wilson was probably the only one who didn't have ulterior motives when it came to fixing me. "I'm not quitting." The steel in my voice fell heavy between us, and I refused to meet his eyes. We'd been through this before. I was addicted, but I didn't have a problem. I could do my job. I could function. What more did the world want from me?

He laughed, and it was unexpected, drawing my eyes to him even if I didn't want too. He dropped on the couch, jarring my leg, and causing me to reach down and steady it from the flare of pain. I gritted my teeth and Wilson shook his head. "Cameron doesn't have the backbone for confronting you – yet." The look turned thoughtful and he added, "But she does seem to care, why I have no idea."

"It's my sunny personality," I replied with false eagerness. The conversation was heading into uncomfortable waters, and I was ready for it to end.

The look he fixed on me was hard. "This isn't over," he whispered so low I almost didn't hear him. "I'm not going to let you self-destruct."

I reached for the television remote, and clicked it on. "Ohhhhh," I drawled. "Self-destruct. Sounds messy – blood and guts everywhere."

He took the remote from me, and clicked it off the Simpsons and on to a rerun of Seinfeld, leaning back. "It is," he said, tone dry. "And blood is so hard to get out of clothing."

Even as I pasted an easy grin on my face, my hand slipped into my pants pocket, finding the familiar bottle and latching on. The hard plastic top was rough, and comforting. He was right about one thing. It was going to be messy, and I didn't have any intention of letting him get splattered. Then again, you know what they say about good intentions…"That's what I tell all the hired help," I cracked. There were some stains from life that you couldn't ever get out, no matter how hard you scrubbed. And there were some stains that even a friend shouldn't have to deal with.

As Wilson laughed at a funny joke, I knew that the part of me that needed him here was winning. I'd managed to shove everyone else away. To do what needed to be done to stay safe, and sane. But I hadn't managed to get rid of Wilson, and there would always be that small piece of who I was before the infarction that thanked God for him. He was going to see me go down in flames, and I only hoped I didn't burn him along the way.

The End