This was originally started on the House Fans board ( s3 dot invisionfree dot com slash HouseFans ), in the WIP forum. It's mostly edited/fiddled with now, so updates should be fairly quick.
Summary: I'm bad at these. House gets sick. Set before the Pilot episode. A lot of dreams. That wasn't meant to sound cheesy. NO character deaths or deathly illnesses. Fairly angsty. Strong HouseWilson friendship, HouseCuddy friendship, sort of. No slash.
Feedback: Yes please. Especially if you have comments on the plot/lack thereof, but even if it's just a great recipe for lasagne that you found, because everyone likes lasagne.
Thanks: Go to people on the House fans board for help and comments, especially some American language stuff. You know who you are.
The boy disappeared, Johnny fell on his knees,
started crashing his head against the locker,
started crashing his head against the locker,
started laughing hysterically
When suddenly Johnny gets the feeling he's being surrounded by
horses, horses, horses, horses
coming in in all directions
white shining silver studs with their nose in flames,
He saw horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses.
– Horses, Patti Smith.
It was that empty, hungover, snowblind time between Christmas and the New Year. Christmas was over, but the decorations were still hanging on storefronts and telegraph poles. There were people around, but they seemed happy to listen complacently to fake jazzy muzak tunes in grocery stores while they bought aspirin and discount eggnog and milk. The movies were crowded, full of guffawing teenagers and bristling with sharp elbows and knees, the bars full of sad drunks, still smelling of christmas purges and stale cigarettes.
He couldn't leave, he couldn't stay.
He left the apartment in a hurry, making a split second decision, which are easy to make if you're bored, only taking enough time to pull on a pair of shoes, grab his wallet and keys and go to the toilet. Quickly.
Half his mind wondering what he was doing, lagging behind like a small child, dragging it's feet. The light indoor door thudded behind him. He didn't bother to check the lock when he heard the dull metallic click of the latch behind him. His shoes squeaked on the polished wooden floor in the corridor.
As he stepped carefully down the icy steps he could still hear Patti Smith playing inside his apartment, asking him Couldn't he show her nothing but surrender? He'd show her.
He picked up a Sundae at the drive-through at Mcdonalds, and as he was driving out through the exit ramp he put his foot down, just scraping through before the set of lights a block up turned red. He sped up. At the next set of lights he ran straight through.
Soon he was rat-racing with teenagers in their doof-doof cars, swerving around a bus full of sleepy-eyed Japanese tourists. He sped towards the highway, onto the ramp, and then he was just another lump of speeding metal, alongside family sedans with sleeping children in the back, and wide-eyed truck drivers chewing gum, hundreds of other people driving places, windows cracked slightly to let cigarette smoke out, hands banging tensely on steering wheels.
He turned the radio to a teenage heavy metal station, and when the angry song that was playing ended he realized his teeth were gritted against the growing pain in his leg. He shifted position, put his foot down slightly and slipped a Deep Purple tape into the player, an old tape that had been kicking around numerous cars of his for as long as he could remember, a tape that had miraculously survived milkshake dregs and kicking feet and parking lots on hot days for God knew how long.
He drove for a long time, and when his leg began to stiffen, he looked for a rest area along the highway that wasn't filled with old people in Winnebagos or teenagers making out.
He slowed the car down, pulled off the highway onto a gravel rest area, a small park containing only a picnic table, a tap and a small area of grass, a slightly spooky children's swing set. There was a huge billboard just up the road, proclaiming that it was only twenty minutes until the next KFC. As he pulled off the road a huge semi-trailer passed by with a roar and a rush of air, a faint smell of oil and burnt rubber.
He opened the door, and suddenly realized just how stiff he was, with the cold, with driving, with trembling. The silence was odd after the music and the rush of the car on the highway.
He could feel the cold against his face and his ears. He stepped out of the car, just managing to not fall forward onto his hands. He hurt, so he leaned against the car for a minute, feeling the snow under his feet, watching his breath fog in the air, listening to the cars rush by, whoosh, whoosh, tick tick whoosh, over and over. The air was so fresh it hurt his teeth.
He was alone. All he could hear was the tick of the engine, the crunch of the ground, the remote highway noise. He staggered out into the middle of the frosty gravel area, crystallized with broken glass over in one corner.
He yelled. Just yelled. When he was done yelling he just stood there for as long as he could. Now all he could hear was his own breath, his throat clearing thin against the air. He yawned and thought that he was tired now, his shoulders were slumping, his toes were numb. He chafed his hands together and went back to his car. He was aching, feeling pleasantly tired. He turned home, and it was almost tomorrow.
Dr Gregory House, MD, a physician (Certified diagnostician, internal medicine) with a double specialty (infectious diseases and nephrology), a theory on bedside manner that could fit on a post-it note, a collection of vinyl records that would be the envy of every teenage kid on the block if it was 1978 (or '88, or '43), a Duncan Super Tournament Top Yoyo and an odd talent for completely wrecking beds, woke at 4 AM from a dream-filled sleep (none worth any mention) to find that he was cold.
He'd thrown off all of the bed covers save the sheet, which was futilely bunched up around his torso. He was naked, and as he lay there he realized that he was shivering, muscles trembling, protesting. Despite of this he lay still, procrastinating in only the way that you can when you wake up in the middle of the night. After about five minutes (he reckoned, times at night are always reliative, and it was really really cold) he leaned awkwardly over the side of the bed and grabbed at the bedspread, pulling it over himself as his leg began to register pain at a higher note.
After about ten minutes he had realized that there would be no more sleep tonight, not here, not now. His leg hurt. He needed to pee (as you always do when you wake up in the middle of the night, he mused). He sat on the edge of the bed to catch his breath and gather his thoughts, before launching himself up and stumbling to the bathroom.
An alright night's sleep, until he woke up. Story of my life, he thought.
The bathroom light was dazzling, the fluorescent tube flashing twice before emitting a steady light. The floor cold against his bare feet. He trembled and his stomach griped with the cold, with early-morning sick hunger. Goosebumps crawled on his legs, sending a different shiver up his spine and down his right thigh.
He grabbed the covers off the bed and walked through the apartment, silent except for far-away city-night noises. He wrapped himself in the quilt and stood at the window as the light changed and the occasional early-morning traffic passed by. He didn't think much, just let his mind wander wherever and enjoy having the morning to himself, this cold snowy pre-dawn, the grey frosty sidewalk under an island of sodium light.
After a very long time (again, he neglected to look at his watch, and night-times are always mysterious) he lay on the couch, humming tunelessly and flipping through a book, idly, practiced at doing nothing, waiting patiently for sleep, hoping to doze again before the morning was properly under way. And he did.
Late in December Dr James Wilson, MD, had become acquainted with a Personal Assistant (not his own, nor anyone's at the hospital, but a professional none the less) by the name of Julie. By early April their engagement would be announced. Dr House called Wilson (in one of his less derogatory moments) a hopeless romantic. Sometimes House just assumed he hated to be single, although he knew that the James Wilson School of Relationships was a lot more complicated than that.
As for his friend Greg, a man who at first impression (and House's first impression on people was undoubtedly harsh) seemed to have a life completely devoid of normal social interactions…
Greg was still 'on the rebound' from a particularly nasty breakup, nasty as in complicated, nasty as in Wilson had spent a lot of time on the couch at House's place, nasty as in House had spent more than one night semi-conscious on the bathroom floor. 'On the rebound', because Wilson had always thought that a breakup couldn't be healed without the salve of another involvement. Another relationship.
Early in January, just after New Years, just before the slight cold he'd been nursing for quite some time would take a turn towards worsening rapidly, in part due to his steadfast refusal that he was not sick, (because pneumonia just wasn't any fun), House was walking quickly towards Wilson's office on a Monday afternoon, hoping to avoid Cuddy, because she had been hounding him about getting some staff, as per the usual, (because this was a teaching hospital) and actually healing people, (because the only thing he had diagnosed in the last ten days had been the TV in the Nephro lounge).
He hoped to coax a free early ride home out of Wilson, planning tell him that he was paying entirely too much attention to the dying people, why didn't they both mosey on over to his place for TV, pizza and beer? He'd just picked up a DVD box set of Lethal Weapon on the cheap on Ebay, and he was looking forward to an afternoon of fake explosions and slapstick action sequences.
He walked towards Wilson's office, and saw through the door that he was talking in the phone, staring intently at the cord, which he was worrying back and forth in his fingers.
House slowed down. He could just be talking to a patient, but… he always walked around when he had one of those difficult calls, and this looked personal.
He couldn't tell much of what he was saying. I don't know…. Him…when… Big
He addressed whoever he was talking to, and House leaned forward for a moment, brows furrowed, mouth slightly open, his tongue flicking unconsciously over and around the capped chip on one of his front teeth.
Stacy. Oh, God.
It could be a million other people called Stacy but House knew who it was. It was his Stacy. Well, she had been. He felt something hot grab at his chest, some early emotion bubble through his head, and for a second he thought he might storm into Wilson's office and throw his cane down on the desk.
He didn't, though. He tried not to look like he'd just been slapped in the face, and looked on. He was closer, and he saw Wilson clearly say I don't know and when is it? He looked at his diary.
Shit. It was something big.
House could either stop dead in the hallway and wait for Wilson or some other sniveling Oncology doctor to see him eavesdropping, or he could walk on quicker. He strode into Wilson's office, seeing him look up in surprise, ask… Stacy… if they could talk it over later, hang up without giving away who he was talking to. Even if House hadn't known who he was talking to, his obvious secrecy would have given something away.
He only lightly ribbed Wilson when he seemed flustered, some anonymous excuse falling off his tongue, his ears red. Wilson said he would meet him out the front in twenty minutes, he-had-to-leave-now-goodbye, and almost pushed him out of his office. Wilson set off in the direction of Cuddy's office, and House slowly walked outside. Thinking about Wilson, thinking about his protective instinct that went past friendship. Trying not to think about Stacy.
Wilson ran into Cuddy as she came out of her office. He looked flustered, fiddling nervously with the doorknob to the office, asking if they could discuss something. He walked alongside her, discussing clinic figures and Oncology's schedule until they were in a momentarily quiet corner of the stairwell going up to the first floor. When he said her name, and grabbed her arm softly, she looked into his eyes, thinking that something must be wrong. She thought of House immediately, and in a way, she wasn't wrong.
Wilson took a breath, and said "Stacy's engaged".
Wilson looked at Cuddy, watched her eyes drop momentarily to the floor, watched her shrug her shoulders, saying that she didn't know what to do either.
She looked at him, her face saying 'It's your call, big boy'.
So Wilson had a lot to think about, too, and their Lethal Weapon marathon ended early, petering out halfway through the first movie when they grew bored, conversation scant, the explosions not funny, no jokes being cracked, very little pizza consumed. Wilson didn't notice that House wasn't talking much either.
By about 11:30, on a cold Monday morning in early January, Wilson had decided that he was having a real bastard of a day.
He woke in the morning and it was cold, and he really didn't want to get out of bed. He did though, rising stiffly and promptly kicking the little toe on his right foot (the little bent one that seemed to only exist for the purpose of kicking and growing odd toenails) so hard on the edge of the closet that it brought tears to his eyes. He stumbled, undressed and cursing, into the kitchen to discover that all of the Milo that was left in the bottom of the tin had congealed. He hated the taste of plain milk.
He eventually made it to work (picking something unhealthy up at the drive-through on the way, something that he would pay for undoubtedly) but managed to spill coffee down the front of his clean white shirt (hastily ironed) as he almost ran in, mentally cursing those impossible plastic coffeecup lids, ten minutes late for his first appointment.
So, when at 11:30, tired, wearing a dirty shirt, and feeling like his eyes were hanging out of his head from reading tests and charts for the last two hours, he finally wondered why House hadn't turned up in his office or called him yet, he assumed that he wasn't at work that day.
Shit. He remembered. He had wanted to tell House today, sit him down at lunch, in the cafeteria, explain and joke and placate him, until he understood, and he was sure that House wasn't about to do something stupid. Not let him lurch away from the table until he was sure that he wasn't about to knock something over or make a scene.
House and Stacy had a lot in common, one of these things a tendency to drop bombshells on people and shelter from the fallout. She had left Wilson to pick out the shrapnel, pick up the pieces, and he didn't like that. He liked Stacy. He just didn't like what she had done to House.
That was ok, though, because sometimes he didn't like House, but when he saw occasionally how awkward he was, how hard it would be for him to actually become involved with someone else when he had the dating skills of a ten-year old, he was angry, even though he knew it was complicated and he was just reacting in his own protective way. He hadn't slept well last night, but he hadn't called even though he knew that House was probably awake as well. He'd mentioned that he hadn't been sleeping well, in his own fashion, but he hadn't said why.
House had turned up at his doorstep around 10:30 on Friday night, something which wasn't such an uncommon occurrence on it's own. He was altered, as they say. Off his face. High as a kite. Pissed as a newt. Drunk as a skunk. Whatever you called it, he was different. He was... altered. That was the term they would have used had he staggered into an ER, like he was a pair of pants that were too long and needed to be taken up.
House's moods were hard to read, though, and whether this was depression or drunkenness or something else, Wilson didn't know. He seemed drunk. He probably was. House could do drunk well.
James had been watching TV (dozing in front of it, it was Friday night after all), when he heard a sharp knock at his front door, House knocking with his cane.
He had sat up from the couch, rubbing his eyes, to hear the knocking again, louder this time, and House yelling something along the lines of C'mon, Jimmy, what's keepin' ya!
Yep. He was pissed, alright.
He had opened the door to find House leaning heavily on his cane and the doorframe, and as soon as he had opened the door he had staggered in, a cloud of bar fumes trailing after him, stale beer and cigarettes.
Before James could question him about why exactly he had visited (more precisely, why exactly he was drunk), House had blurted out:
"Hey Jimmy, guess what? I got Player of the month at Gamebusters!"
Gamebusters. The gaming arcade he belonged to, full of shouting teenagers with their smell of cheap deodorant, and bearded thirty-year olds with Star Trek shirts who probably lived at home with their parents. Raucous jocks always playing the Air Hockey. You paid for cheap stamped metal tokens, which House inserted into machines at a frightening rate. Wilson had often accompanied him there, matching him at Air Hockey (they were both too good for each other, Wilson was an Air Hockey player from way back, he remembered playing at the table in the basement at home with his brothers while Led Zep played from a set of cheesy speakers), and carrying on a tournament that would probably last until one of them managed to break the table, there barring them from it. At this point in time the Score was House 57, Wilson 53. Damn him.
House would stump among the machines, laying down tokens and reserving favourites with his cane. Kids gathered around just out of sarcasm distance and cursed as he leaned to one side and beat their top scores, and once Wilson had caught what they called him behind his back. Cane Man. Cane Man, as in, hey, dude, Cane Man just creamed your score at Time Crisis! Waste of five bucks, man.
Wilson guessed that House had finally worked away at shooting little androids on Terminator Two and leaning precariously on one foot while he chucked out combos on Mortal Kombat until he had the high score for December. Woo Hoo, he thought, a t-shirt, a free hotdog voucher, and surprise, surprise, more game tokens.
The man really needed another diversion, thought Wilson, although he knew that Greg (the original fiddle, as his mother called him), was not lacking in diversions, especially of the work-avoiding variety.
House turned into the living room like a ship under full sail. He'd evidently had a few, and Wilson wondered what it would take to knock him over. A finger? A few well placed breaths, perhaps? Wilson also wondered about his liver. He wondered how on earth he had got here.
Wilson had asked him what he was doing, House had replied that it was fairly obvious, wasn't it? C'mon, he should come out, there was a good game on at the bar down the road and he still had a couple of drinks to go until he was risking some kind of toxic effect.
Jeez. Of course Wilson hadn't wanted to go out drinking with a drunk medicated friend with limited social skills, and he had said so. House hadn't wanted to take no for an answer. He had prepared some kind of cheesy nachos thing in the microwave, and snatched two beers from the fridge. Wilson snatched House's away, then deposited both back in the fridge. House didn't notice, and after a further argument and a lot of immature baiting, he had had fallen asleep on the couch.
So, when House didn't turn up to work, Wilson assumed that he might have been sulking due to their altercation on Friday. Stranger things had happened.
He had noticed, as House dozed on the couch, that had a cough, the dry, niggling type that is easy to ignore, both if you have it, and if someone you know very well who has been known to inhale smoke and has just been walking around in the cold in new Jersey in the Cold Season has it.
So he thought no more of it, after listening for a second. Just a cough. His cheeks looked red, too, come to think of it, but that was just the cold, his drunken boisterousness.
He had a packet of Hall's cough drops in the pocket of his shirt, cherry flavour. They were mostly gone, meaning that he left a jumble of papers and little wrappers on the couch when he took one out. Just a cough.
When Wilson had woken in the morning House was gone, presumably to nurse his throbbing head and bruised ego.
House had called in sick. He didn't have to ask. Cuddy came and told him, asking if Wilson knew if he had anything urgent on. Funny, she didn't need to ask him that, she was the Dean Of Medicine.
She didn't ask if Wilson knew if he was really sick, but he knew that was really what she had called about. He said he'd drop over after work. She said he could take the afternoon off if he wanted. They looked at each other for a second, and as she turned away Wilson saw a flash of sadness and guilt on her face. He left after his last appointment and twenty minute's paperwork, poking his head into her office on the way. He said he was going to prize House out of his hangover, maybe make him take some Claratine. Laughed, like this was an everyday thing.
Ha ha ha. I'm off to scrape my best friend off the bathroom floor, what a merry jape.
He called House, not expecting him to pick up the phone but leaving his standard I'm-coming-over message. "Hi Greg, I'm coming over, put your clothes on!" This was their little answering machine tradition, born when House had called up James drunk one night just as he'd been tucking into a nice dinner with Debbie, his wife (then).
"Take your dick out of your hand and put your clothes back on, Jimmy Boy, I'm coming over!"
When the doorbell rang, House groaned. He had a headache. His throat was sore. But worse, the dry cough he'd had until a couple of days ago had loosened up and seemed to fill his chest. He had a chest infection, he was sure, and when he coughed it was like he was coughing up razor blades. Swallowing hurt. His chest hurt. His head hurt. His eyes hurt.
He felt hot and listless, his stomach empty and nervous. He was sick. He could feel something rattle in his chest as he breathed, a sound he was used to hearing in dull-eyed feverish kids with drooping eyelids and frantic mothers, not his own chest. He didn't like it.
He lay his head back, took a deep breath and yelled that if it was Wilson, he should let himself in, before dissolving in a paroxysm of coughing.
A thought came to his head, clear and loud. It will get worse before it gets better. And another one, whining and weaker. It's at its zenith. A couple of days and I'll be alright. It's all good. The same weaker, always weaker voice that had told him they were right, it was just a really bad pulled muscle when the pain had started to be really bad, when the bad voice had whispered in his ear it's cancer it's spread it's all through your blood and your bones and they're gonna cut off your balls you're gonna chuck your guts up you're gonna die Wilson is going to give you that look it's not ok it's not ok they were wrong your leg still hurts what if it doesn't stop what are you gonna do what if they never find it what if you're the one that they could never work out what happened Oh God do something My Name is Greg and I hurt my leg it hurt it hurts do something for it Greg we're sorry we can't do anything Greg we're sorry we couldn't do anything....
He didn't think about that now. He didn't think at all about anything important as he heard Wilson curse and rattle his keys on the other side of the door.
His chest hurt down in the middle, like it had when he was twelve when he'd caught Whooping Cough and was back running at hockey training when he was still coughing so they didn't have to replace his position. He'd run on the field in the morning and his lungs had been nothing but cold hurt, every breath like he wasn't breathing at all, like the air wasn't air but ice and water.
Wilson used his key to get into House's apartment, the stubborn old lock taking him a full minute to coax to turn. House should replace it, but because he had no trouble getting in the door unless he was drunk, he assumed that it wasn't worth his maintenance time.
Like most household chores, House left them until they were absolutely necessary. Which meant that he would wait until the roof collapsed or the living room was absolutely impenetrable before he had the ceiling fixed or put all of the books back on the bookshelves.
He remembered that once, when House was living with Stacy, she had gone away on some kind of work trip, and House had climbed in to the house by a side window every day for a week because the deadlock had frozen shut.
He stepped into the house, picking up the three days of mail sitting on the mat, which contained what looked like one of his magazine subscriptions. Odd.
House was lying on the couch in front of the TV, which was on mute. He looked like he'd been camped out there for a while, surrounded as he was by tissues and books and vinyl covers and plates and old coffee cups. He looked half-asleep. Odd.
It clicked. Wilson came through the door just in time to see him getting up, just in time to really see him sick for a minute. He smelled Vick's Vaporub and underneath that, a peculiar kind of sick-smell, sweat and sick and tea and Rexona failure.
He was sick.
He was wearing a t-shirt, (the old grey one he'd been wearing on Friday, to Wilson's shock), and an ancient pair of white drawstring pants with holes at the knees.
He was partially curled on his side, and Wilson thought that he must be in a lot of pain, because he was wearing that open-mouthed stunned look like a carnival mask. His eyes were partially closed, but as Wilson walked through the doorway properly he breathed heavily and pushed himself up into a sitting position, his right foot perched on top of the left one lying on its side, his arms supporting his head. He rolled his eyes up, and Wilson saw that they were bloodshot, bagged. Glassy. His forehead was slick. He made getting up look so hard that Wilson felt like sitting down.
Running through his head. Sick. Hydrocodone suppresses the cough reflex. Lung infection. Cold. Cough. That cough. God, he was a fool.
He remembered, not so long after House had gotten out of hospital, having one of those serious conversations. He had asked House to tell him, to please tell someone, if he was sick. He had made it very clear that he would never mind being told that House was not well, that it was imperative that House not hide away if something was wrong.
Wilson had felt clingy and not like the man's friend at all, and House had looked at him, probably turned on his blue-eyed sincere look like a light and said of course, but Wilson could tell that he would only ever tell anyone if he damn well pleased and any other time he'd bite his lip until it bled before he told anyone if he was in pain.
Idiot. He was an immature macho fool. Wilson, also, was a fool. He felt like a heel, now.
House and Wilson had gone out on New Years Eve, originally intending to go to a bar and drink, perhaps play a few games of table soccer, but House had had different ideas, once he'd been caught up by the festive spirit, and the huge amount of drunk people cavorting around.
He had, characteristically, become soused after what seemed like only one beer and dragged Wilson around Trenton, rolling about precariously in his old slant-heeled pair of Doc Martens boots, the ice grip on his cane tapping merrily.
Wilson remembered that for one fifteen-minute timeframe they had found everything uproariously funny. He also remembered that by the time that 2002 was about to roll over into 2003 he was just beginning to feel that walking and hearing and seeing at he same time were a little too complicated for his inebriated brain.
They had found their way, in the middle of a huge drunken crowd, to a large grassy park with huge screens broadcasting the balldrop in New York. Twenty seconds after the ball had dropped Wilson had dropped, and as he had heaved in the gutter (still thinking I think I'm gonna throw up, not I am throwing up, I'm throwing up in the gutter like I'm 20), he had seen House the wrong way around bumming a smoke off a group of high school kids, lighting it with his own lighter. House had eventually taken the kids' advice, (hey man, is he gonna be ok? Not tomorrow), and brought his Doc Martens over to just before Wilson's face and helped him up, grunting.
They had trudged back to Wilson's car together, House smoking like a chimney and sniffing like crazy. He had the beginnings of a cold, but he would tell him, right? It was New Years Day and Wilson was drunk, they were both drunk and they could hardly walk. He could drink beer and seem to have a good time, let him smoke, for God's sake, and then it would just be a runny nose and a slight cough in the morning.
He cursed himself as a fool, House as a jerk.
The first thing that Wilson said was Jeez, House, you're sick. Which seemed to him to be an understatement, but he let that slide.
House didn't deny it straight away, but he almost did.
"I know. A couple of days and I'll be alright."
He coughed, and Wilson noticed on the side table next to the couch there was an old stethoscope, probably his first, peeking out from something with music on it. Jeez.
He stepped through to the bathroom, and rooted around in the medicine cabinet for a thermometer, (House only had an old mercury one – typical) only pausing to drop his bag.
House wanted to get up, maybe to grab something to drink, but before he knew it he was lying back on the couch again, he didn't remember getting up, and he'd been lying there for some time when he felt the cold thermometer in his mouth, Jimmy telling him not to bite and his mother telling him he had a high temperature, he couldn't go to school but he could read his comics, no more going outside with his hair wet.
James grabbed the thermometer out of House's mouth, just beating his hand as it came up to snatch it out, and he could already tell that the man was running a fever. It was high.
He looked at House for a minute, wondering what to do.
He thought. Seeing him get through it, seeing him cough up blood on the bedroom floor. He didn't want to make a fuss… But he was obviously very sick, anyone could see that.
He'd have to see.
House stirred and coughed, struggling up into a sitting position again.
First things first. He grabbed some of the plates and cups that were lying around, moving into the kitchen.
Wilson helped himself to a glass of juice, made some chicken Cup-A-Soup and toasted some on-the-verge-of-stale bread. The only food House had in the cupboards was the long-life kind, some cereal crumbs in a long-forgotten box, cartons of UHT milk and an ancient jar of olives in the fridge.
He knew House wouldn't have eaten, just as he knew that there would always be a stick book and a packet of cigarettes under the couch. Friends don't need to talk about these things.
While the kettle was boiling House stood up, and Wilson could see that it was an effort.
House's head swam. He didn't know how long he'd been lying on the couch, but it was a long time, and he really needed to pee. As he walked through to the bathroom one unclouded part of his mind realized that it was really bad.
When he eventually made it to the bathroom he could feel how ragged his breathing was, how much gunk there was in his lungs. He was shaking, and he was so weak that he had to lean on the towel rack heavily with one hand while he yanked at his pants with the other.
His breath caught, and he started coughing, deeper and more powerful than before, so much that he couldn't breathe, he just had to cough and almost gag and now he was kneeling on the cold tiles and everything hurt, and he was spitting something into the toilet bowl. It wasn't healthy looking. He coughed again, so long that first he thought he might throw up, and then he was scared that he might pass out.
He finally managed to get a breath in, and as he leaned his head against the tiles and shuddered he heard Wilson walking rapidly through the apartment through the pain in his head, the throbbing in his ears.
Wilson heard House coughing in the bathroom, deep. The door was closed, and he hesitated there, hearing a muffled groan. He called out, seeing how easy it would be to open the door if needs be.
"House? Are you dying in there, or what? Can I come in?"
Wait. Beat. Beat. Wilson held his breath, licked his lips.
House breathed in, felt the cold tiles ache against his legs. Listened to his own heartbeat. Wondered how long it would be, until he would either pass out or come back into himself. He felt hotter.
House made it back to the couch without falling on his face, and that was enough. He saw the look on Wilson's face, a fearful worried one. He was scared, too. Scared of throwing up. Scared of coughing again.
He sank back onto the couch, before thinking that in bed was a better option. In bed he could spread out. He couldn't watch TV, not like this. So that was how it was. He was Like This.
Wilson stood in front of him and said it straight away. They could both see that he was too sick, he needed to go to hospital. House said no, and that he needed some Benadryl Cough. Give it some time.
But even as he croaked that he would be fine, a weaker part of his mind surfaced, whispered in his ear that it wouldn't be long before he caved.
Wilson played the Cuddy card.
"House. I'll call Cuddy!"
"Leave it. I-I…"
House coughed, blinked, rubbed his eyes. Realised that he needed to have a shower and get into bed. Before he couldn't.
It was like he was seeing himself slide back, seeing his head disappearing beneath the undertow.
Call Cuddy… What?
"I'll have a shower. We'll talk about it. Give it some time."
The words were empty, and they hurt his throat.
Wilson nodded and rubbed his hand along his neck. House got up to have a shower. Wilson wondered what to do, and wondered some more.
Then he thought of Stacy. Fuck.
House had a long shower. He could smell sick-sweat on his clothes and in his hair, so he soaped and soaked and stood as much as he could, then sat on the edge of the bath and dried. Put new clothes on, a pair of sweatpants and another old t-shirt. Rubbed Vicks on his chest. He was tired, so he sat there a little bit longer, and his eyes were almost cemented shut before he realized that he might not be able to get up.
It was like that dream House had had as a child, where his eyes kept closing of their own accord and he had to stumble around in the dark with strobed flashes of his surroundings.
He got up slowly, so slowly, and limped through to the bedroom, his eyes closed and House asleep on his feet by the time he got to the door. His ears were hot.
Wilson made sure that nothing would go off in the kitchen, then watched Wheel of Fortune. When he heard the bathroom door open and House's slow, uneven footfalls in the bedroom, (his feet bare and just squeaking on the floorboards), he waited five minutes then walked in.
He was lying in bed, which was not particularly made, but the sheets looked clean.
He took House's temperature (no worse) and listened to his chest.
The shower had made him sleepy, and he took a while to answer. He looked tired, really tired.
"You have pneumonia."
House mumbled something, but whatever fight he had in him was fading, leaving his stubbornness and tiredness to fight it out. Tiredness won.
(Once House had told him that sleep was a precious commodity when you can't have it. When you can't lie down and crash out at 10:30 on Friday night like everyone else, it gets to the point when you think that you could happily pimp your own mother in exchange for a night's uninterrupted rest. Wilson had believed him, although he had never had as much trouble sleeping as anyone else).
It had sent him to sleep. It had beaten House and the TV and his hundreds of books and dropped sleep on him.
He left the bedroom. He didn't know whether to laugh or bite his nails until they bled.
Wilson took some food (toast) into the bedroom and laid it on the bedside table beside the now-sleeping House. He had visibly deteriorated this afternoon - so fast that it was scary.
He sat down on the easy chair, next to the piano, which was easily the most comfortable chair in the house, next to the most well-maintained part of his 'décor'.
He didn't want to sit where House had lain sick for the last eight hours or so, not necessarily out of aversion but out of a sort of friendly privacy, and used House's phone to call Cuddy.
Another betrayal. Or, a release, however you wanted to look at it. Wilson no longer cared whether House hated him for doing this or not, just as he had bitten back his flash of guilt and regret he'd felt when he'd had to pull him out of the car once going to PT. He'd felt like a heel when he'd put the TV remote on top of the kitchen cupboards when House was still on crutches, but that was him, the meddling friend. Meddling friends: they always know better than you do.
When Cuddy arrived, Greg was sleeping. He had begun to shiver, about 30 minutes before, and the last time Wilson had checked on him he had mumbled something, not opening his eyes. After that, Wilson had moved from the TV and put down his bottle of beer from House's fridge and had stood in the bedroom, watching his friend get worse. He was getting harder and harder to wake up, and when he rolled over in his sleep and clutched his leg and said something that wasn't to him, Wilson had felt something cold tug at the bottom of his stomach and had turned away, because he didn't want to see that.
He hadn't wanted to leave him, either, so he had stood in the doorway of House's room and called Cuddy and told her to be there as soon as she could. He thought about calling Stacy. He didn't. Greg would never forgive him. He woke House up, calling him and poking and shaking until he looked at him, and told him that Cuddy was coming.
Well. Forget Stacy. She could wait. House hated weddings anyway.
Greg fell asleep, and he dreamed his mother was in the room. At the same time he knew that was stupid, Mum was at home, probably playing bridge with the ladies from church, and he thought, I'm hallucinating. That's bad. He dreamed that he was lying on the floor of the kitchen of the house he spent his teenage years in. The room seemed smaller than he had remembered. Orange light filtered through the window, and his mother was holding the program from his graduation and smiling. He asked her to help him up, but he still felt the lino floor beneath him slick with sweat from his back, and all of a sudden in the back-tingling way of dreams he was seventeen and home and Suzie Philps, the one in his Chem class, was on top of him on the floor in his parent's kitchen the way they'd done it when his parents were at the supermarket, and she was saying he was a weird dickhead, wasn't he. She called him Long and Short, because he was tall and had blue eyes and all the girls thought he was hot, but no one could touch him. Suzie Philps had had him, she was his first, because she didn't care if he only gave her a dog-eared book from his own shelves for her birthday, she just wanted to fuck him. She didn't mind having the boy, (because he was still a boy, he still had to be nagged by his parents to go to bed and to do his hair, he still had band-aid crosses on his knees ), who all the girls said had great looks, pity about his head. His jeans had grass stains at the knees. The cuffs were half an inch too short.
Suzie Philps had died of a drug overdose in New York in 1983. She had been a painter, the type who gets paid heaps of money to spraypaint stencils on Yuppie's walls.
But House didn't see that, he was Greg, and she was screaming at him, and he had paint stains on his fingertips from painting an Airfix model (or throwing paint on the sidewalk, he couldn't remember), and an indent from a pencil on the side of his second finger. She was calling his name, and he could smell her hair, and all of a sudden she was slapping him and she was telling him that they had to get up, couldn't he see that they were missing out on something? She flicked a cigarette butt at his thigh and it burnt through his jeans. House screamed in the dream and he couldn't breath and he was underwater and Wilson pulled him up by the front of his shirt. He gasped, and he could feel water dripping off his face like he'd just got out of the shower or inside when it was raining outside. He wished it would rain. He was hot now.
Someone was coming. Right, Cuddy. She was the boss lady, and she had seen him in bed before, but when she had seen him in bed before he had been dead. It was hard to understand, so House just sat up in bed and kept his eyes open and looked.
Wilson told him to swallow, so he did. He had a glass in his hand and some of the glass of water spilled on his shirt, and it was nice and cold. He looked around some more. He looked at Wilson. He looked tired. He wondered how he looked. He felt hot. He felt like the people he sometimes saw sitting on plastic hospital chairs, glaze-eyed and not-here.
Cuddy hadn't been to House's place much, but she knew how to get there after one wrong turn. The sidewalk was icy and slippery, and it was cold. She turned off the radio (easy listening) and killed the car's engine.
She'd blown off her squash game, and come straight from the office.
Wilson answered the door, his face with that mournful, guilty, I've-done-something-wrong look on it. Cuddy wondered how he was as a teenager, how he'd ever done anything wrong. She saw that he was worried, too, and that a couple of his fingernails had been bitten down to the quick.
Once she had seen him lever up the ring-pull on a can of tuna with a spoon.
She stepped into House's apartment, and Wilson still hadn't said anything other than thanks for coming. He still looked nervous, and Cuddy couldn't help but think that he looked like a teenager showing a girl into his room.
She tried not to look like she was sussing the place out. She realized suddenly that Wilson must spend a lot of time here, and all of a sudden she saw stuff that reminded her of him, his handwriting (or lack thereof, he had a stereotypically messy doctor's hand) on a pile of papers, copies of magazines that she'd seen him reading, Golf Digest, National Geographic.
There were books everywhere. Everything was everywhere, actually, with the coffee table and the kitchen benches looking like his favourite places for dumping everything. Newspapers, books, movies, records, CDs, guitar strings. She saw a bottle of WD-40 standing on top of a crossword, which was presumably not finished because it had a pen sitting on it. A spine-rolled book, passages underlined, pencil scrawls in margins, sat on top of loose sheet music, and Cuddy saw that some of it was written, not printed. He had a cheesy plastic kiddy trophy of a runner sitting on the benchtop leading to the kitchen, holding rubber bands and bread ties and paperclips in its arms.
There were speakers everywhere, and some of them were camouflaged, like it was a game to see how many of them you could spot in a minute. She guessed that he had a system for the TV, one for his stereo system and a portable system elsewhere.
(At PPTH, if the speakers or AV system in your lecture room or conference failed and the nerdy tech people were unresponsive, and if you were brave and presumably had something that was valuable to House, like an offer to cover work, or a bottle of nice booze, or a chocolate bar, he would fix the system, wandering around plugging wires and jiggling connections).
Wilson still had that bug-eyed look, and when she looked on the couch (obviously recently lived-on), he shook his head and jerked it towards the bedroom.
"It's pretty bad."
"Are you gonna tell me how bad?" Something cold and lecherous drew its fingers down Cuddy's backbone.
Wilson just walked into the bedroom. They passed the piano. Cuddy was no judge, but she thought that it was the same as last time, the same expensive classy-looking thing. There were books on top, many concerned with music, and music in the holder. There was a short thick glass, a booze glass, on top, and an ashtray.
House heard the knock on the door like it was coming from a long way away, but he heard the hurried words and Cuddy's footsteps a little clearer. Cuddy was coming towards his bedroom, still wearing work shoes, and he could hear Wilson coming after her, his stride longer. He coughed and stirred, not knowing why, perhaps preparing himself, but he didn't know why, because it wasn't exactly like he was in any condition to fight or fly.
He tried to think clearly, to think of something to say, but when Cuddy came through the door all he could do was stare at her and try to breathe without coughing.
Cuddy decided not to think about invading his privacy or anything like that. As far as she was concerned, she wasn't even in his bedroom. She didn't care if he had a mirror on the ceiling or playmates posted up on the wall, or what was more likely, if his bedroom was obviously a lonely single man's, with clothes in the corner and a box of tissues and an ashtray on the bedside table.
She didn't want to see it. She didn't want to pry. She had seen enough of that when she'd pulled down a thin hospital gown and delivered a load of electricity to his heart as he coded, when she'd looked down on the operating table and seen them removing his thigh muscle, seen them going deeper and deeper, and finally draining the wound, seeing the little shake that the surgeon had given her.
The little shake meaning, don't even go there. Cuddy had remembered the muscle poster she'd had on the back of her wardrobe door when she was a child, the red man her uncle had given her.Quadriceps Femoris bends hip and straightens knee. Rectus Femoris... Vasculis Literalis...These muscles make up the great extensor muscle of the leg...
(She remembered how, at the beginning of the surgery, the surgeon had looked up and given her a look, saying that this was House, what the hell were they doing, What was wrong with this picture, and she had nodded him on. At the end, when it was all done, when they'd taken out all they could, and there was no going back, she'd seen the surgeon take one look at the now dressed and drained wound and look away quickly, like all together it was too bad to look at, because this was House, for Christ's sake, how had it gotten here? In the same way she had jerked her head away when she'd seen a flash of his groin and his privates, feeling like she could never go back from that, never un-see it, because she had looked at him as he lay there comatose).
So, all she saw when she strode into his room On The Warpath was House, lying limp in his bed wearing a t-shirt that had a patch of sweat at the neck and at the base of his ribs. His hair was sweaty at the front, and his eyes were dull and reddened. She could almost feel the fever burning off him, and the first thing she could say was You Idiot! You're sick, you need to go to hospital right now!
House seemed to draw breath, presumably to repost or protest against this, and when she heard how he was breathing she snatched a stethoscope off Wilson, and only hesitated for a moment before she put a hand on his chest, feeling how hot he was through it foremost, and the muscle there.
She didn't hesitate any more, though, and she pulled up his T-Shirt to listen to his breathing at the front, pulled him forward gently so she could pull it up at the back and listen too. She could see his ribs. He grunted, didn't stiffen but twitched. She didn't need to tell him that he was sick, so when she heard the phlegm and infection in his lungs she just looked at Wilson, who was just standing there looking, and probably feeling, useless. When she was finished she straightened up and looked at Wilson again, and he looked back at her, his look saying 'what can I do?'.
House fumbled his T-shirt back down, and coughed, a horrible, booming, loose cough. When the fit (because that was what it was like) finished his eyes were half-closed, and he seemed not to care that they were in his room any more. Maybe he didn't know. He lay back on the pillows, hovering one hand minutely closer to his leg, and reaching one hand to the glass of water on the bedside table.
His hands were shaking, and it was most of all the sight of his long fingers shaking that galvanized Cuddy, not the sweat on his forehead or the dazed look in his blue eyes. (Those eyes could be misleading, thought Cuddy, because when you first saw him sometimes all you saw was blue eyes, and not what was in them. She guessed that those blue eyes had broken a few high-school girls' hearts, when they realized the mind attached to them was so… different. Or maybe not. Maybe they hadn't gotten close enough to notice.)
She said his name, then said it again, and Wilson had finally moved closer and shaken him, until one of Those Blue Eyes cracked open.
"You need to go to hospital."
One word, and still his stubbornness fired up, and he could still raise his eyebrows, so he did.
She kept talking. That was important.
"No, House, if we wait you'll be going to the hospital on a gurney. This way is better. Do it now, at night, while you can still walk."
There. She had said it, and something had clicked, because he had shifted slightly in bed, probably testing movement, and nodded.
Cuddy stepped off the Warpath. She breezed out of the room. She felt like crying, but that was OK, because she wouldn't. Not here, in House's apartment, while Frank Zappa looked on from an album cover. Wilson nodded, and she thought that if he talked his voice would have that stressed break in it. Like hers would. Unshakeable Cuddy.
House felt the cold stethoscope, bringing up goose-pimples on his back. He understood, now, he thought. He would go to hospital. If Cuddy wanted it bad enough to come into his bedroom, then it must be bad. And it was. He wondered if he could get up.
He heard more talking outside, then Wilson walking around.
Then he was in the room, telling him to not go to sleep now, talking like he was a child needing to be coaxed. Wilson told House they needed to get up, and he understood that. He was an early riser, but it was really early now, wasn't it.
Wilson sat next to him on the bed and helped him manoever himself onto the edge, because being this sick was like being really drunk – your body didn't care what you wanted to do and you didn't care either. He leaned against Wilson, and sensed that Wilson was more uncomfortable than he was, because he was too out of it to care.
He remembered the sudden cold as the t-shirt lifted over his head, and the feeling as a shiver went up his ribs and his nipples stood up, but then he was remembering something else and being dressed for school when he was too small to tie his own shoelaces. As Wilson took his shirt off and threw it in the corner, he opened his eyes but slumped down more. Wilson was sitting close to him, on his left-hand side, and House looked down at Wilson's polished shoes next to his white feet as he felt clothes in his lap. He looked at the way he had a bend in his second-smallest toe, the veins standing up on top of his feet. He could smell Wilson's cologne. He heard his mother telling him to stop shuffling so she could tie his shoes.
Wilson sat down next to House, slightly uncomfortable. He looked like he could hardly sit up, let alone change his clothes, so Wilson quickly pulled his shirt over his head, with House catching on about halfway through and lifting his arms up half-heartedly.
Wilson asked him if it was ok if he did the pants, and when House grunted he grabbed his sweatpants at the waist and pulled them down smoothly, looking at their feet the whole time and giving House time to guide the elastic waist over his right thigh. As he bent over House leaned on him slightly, and he felt the corrugations of his ribs against his shoulder, and House's heat through his shirt. He froze for a second. He was bent over double on his best friend's bed with said friend half-comatose and leaning almost on top of him, his breath laborious, catching as the cold hit his legs. Would he get House up now? Or dress him first?
Dilemma, but it the end embarrassment won, as human foibles often prevail even in the case of larger difficulties. He put a hand around House's shoulders and guided him to a sitting position lightly, even as he stiffened and opened his eyes again, still half-asleep, he thought.
He left House sitting hunched there (and now he had brought his elbows on top of his legs, so he had at least some alertness, but his head was still down and his breathing was still ragged), and rummaged through the drawers, grabbing a pair of soft sweatpants, the kind meant for warming up before soccer games and jogging on the weekend and staggering down parallel bars, as opposed to a pair meant for sleeping and lounging around in, and a t-shirt, and a winter flannelette shirt with holes in the elbows.
Socks were next, a singlet. He looked at House, trying to avoid looking at his underwear. He had one hand on his right thigh, and Wilson glanced carefully at the scar before he put House's clothes in his lap, asking if they were OK. House nodded, breathed again, coughed. Wilson doubted if he would have objected to anything in his wardrobe at the moment.
Wilson again helped House with the pants, because it seemed to hurt his head to bend over, this time helping him get the legs up with the minimum of pain, which was awkward in a sitting position.
Wilson gestured to House with the other clothes and left the bedroom, feeling peculiarly relieved, like he'd just heard a laugh at the end of a long awkward silence.
He grabbed House's sports bag out of the closet. It was big enough to hold everything he needed tonight, and always seemed to contain a bizarre assortment of objects. He took a little box of jeweler's screwdrivers, a bunch of Allen keys, and an old summer change of clothes out of what Stacy had called House's Sulk Bag, and packed it. He'd packed a hospital bag for House before.
He grabbed House's toothbrush from the bathroom and the pair of joggers that were lying by the chair, his brightly-coloured custom-made insoles visible. He thought for a second before going to the couch and looking at what House had been doing for entertainment.
He'd been settled in nicely like only someone as experienced at it as House could, with assorted remote controls, two books and a glossy journal of some sort, record covers and the record player on the side table, his Discman and a pile of CDs. No PlayStation, so Wilson guessed that he had been queasy. He had a box of tissues and an overflowing wastepaper basket, a hot water bottle and other sick paraphanelia.
Wilson grabbed the book that was lying open and face down next to the couch (Oedipus the King, Sophocles, weird sick reading, Wilson thought, but he wasn't House), and another book, a Morse mystery, which was more along Wilson's taste in convalescent reading. He put House's Discman in the bag after checking that the batteries were still good, and grabbed a couple of CDs off the pile.
The piano works of Erik Satie, someone Wilson hardly knew other than that he was an esoteric Frenchman, was in the player, and Wilson grabbed the top two discs on the pile, something House had burned himself, with shorthand track titles scrawled on top, and the Stones' Sticky Fingers. He hoped that was OK. He grabbed some other nondescript household items that he hoped would be useful, and walked through to the bedroom again.
House had fought all three shirts on, and looked slightly more here than he had for the last half an hour or so. He had his leg up on the bed and his eyes closed, although not on fever or sickness. When Wilson walked in and grabbed a change of clothes and put it in the bag he readied himself to stand up oh-so-slowly, but Wilson asked him to wait and ran out to the car. It was as good a time as any.
House sat there with just a pair of trackpants on for a minute when Wilson left the room, stunned, the illness holding him in some kind of inertia. He had to get clothes on so he could step out in the cold and go to Hospital. He eventually struggled the singlet and t-shirt on weakly, his arms trembling. The shirt was a bit harder, but it was cold outside and he would freeze and tremble, and he was already, so he eased his arms into the holes that suddenly seemed too complicated, pulled the shirt clumsily around him and fumbled most of the buttons, his fingers stiff, his arms close to his sides. He felt hot again, so he hoisted his leg (which was hurting) up onto the bed and closed his eyes, waiting for Wilson.
Wilson came in with his bag, his Doghouse Bag, his swimming and hockey bag, his hospital and PT bag, his sweat-soaked bag that still smelled like chlorine and mouth guard Listerine in the corners, and banged drawers. House opened his eyes and looked at him. He was packing his bag. Wilson told him to sit tight, to hold on, to sit on his hands, and walked out with the bag.
House wasn't one for sitting on his hands. He grabbed his cane and readied himself to stand up, gauging his steadiness, just sitting and breathing and trying not to cough.
Wilson started the car, turned the heater on, left it running outside House's apartment. He quickly checked that nothing flammable was on in the kitchen, turned out most of the lamps and went into the bedroom, finally spying his wallet and keys in the pocket of a pair of pants on the floor, grabbing them.
House was sitting there, upright, shivering, with his cane in his hand, his black everyday cane. As Wilson came through the door he pushed himself up with what looked like a lot of effort and steadied himself with a hand on the end of the bed, before taking a breath and walking across the room.
Wilson wondered how far that cane would support him. He didn't look steady, and he quickly reckoned that he'd probably make it as far as the piano bench before he had to sit down. He gave House a quick "Can I help?" look, and House dropped his eyes to the floor. Effective two-second non-verbal communication.
How did he do it?
House didn't remember much of the journey to the hospital. He remembered wanting to walk out on his own, and he also remembered almost breaking one of his fingers against the cold metal handrail as he slipped on the stairs. He spent most of the short walk out to the car leaning on Wilson, and in his state of mind it had seemed like Wilson can almost carried him, they had run out of the house with Greg almost putting his full weight on Wilson.
House walked out to the piano bench, and sat on it, his eyes closed. Wilson asked if he was ok, and he said yes at the same time as standing up, which caused him to stumble, looking as if he was about to lose balance and rush towards the floor any nanosecond now. Wilson found himself putting his hands under House's arms as he almost fell on him (pretty sure he would squash him if he put any more weight in him), and telling him to walk, because he couldn't exactly stand there any longer with House in his arms, and if he sat down he might not be able to get him up again.
He steadied House and slipped under his left arm, and by the time they got to the door he had his hand around his waist, and he was sure that he was supporting most of his weight. He was definitely keeping him upright, because he seemed to have lost all of his sense of direction.
As they stumbled oh-so-slowly down the stairs (it must have taken them ten minutes to cross from the bedroom to car), House took a chunk of wood out of his cane (and very nearly took a chunk out of his finger) when his feet slipped on the icy stairs, powder and snow and slush splashing around both their ankles, breath rising in the air and making even Wilson's nose run.
They both almost fell A over T down the stairs. House grunted in surprise, and Wilson stopped for a second to catch his breath. Shee-it.
After that Wilson grabbed his cane (because it seemed to be harder for him to actually manage something so complex), and they limped as quick as the snow on the sidewalk would allow over to Wilson's car, which had thankfully not been stolen. As Wilson opened the door Greg leaned against the side of the car, looking spent. He almost collapsed bending over to get into the car, and Wilson put his seat right back and guided him in.
By the time Wilson returned from locking up the house, Greg was asleep, or at least his eyes were closed. He looked cold.
Wilson turned the heater on and drove.
House awoke, and he was in the car. He could hear puddles splashing and the heater blasting away at his feet. He dragged his head across to look at Wilson, and he told him it wouldn't be long.
For the last ten minutes of the journey to the hospital House slept. Wilson tried to wake him up as he got closer, but House just grunted and turned away. Wilson supposed that if worse came to worse he could slap him or something to wake him up when they got to the front entrance.
He brought the car around to the front of emergency, and Cuddy was waiting. How they both managed to wake him up (and get him out of the car and up through the doors without a wheelchair) he didn't know. What he did know was that it involved a lot of quiet whispering, a lot of leaning.
Cuddy was waiting outside emergency as Wilson drove up. House looked worse, if that was possible. He was dressed now, at least.
They got him out of the car, eventually, by calling his name repeatedly, nagging, trying not to make a scene, because House didn't want it to get around the whole hospital that he was sick, although it would eventually.
He tried to walk up through the doors as normally as possible, and Cuddy thought that he did a good job of it, too. She wondered how hard it was for him to walk like that, to straighten his back.
He still leaned in them a little bit, though, leaning on Wilson more as they walked through the door, and as he straightened slightly as they walked past the desk she noticed how tall he was.
She had known that he was tall, of course, she'd seen him ducking his head under ceiling fans and closets, seen his long stride as he ran, seen how he could sit on the benchtops in the Oncology lunchroom with his legs straight out. She'd seen him stoop a lot, though, and it seemed now that he was using his height.
It worked, at least, because House used his height all through triage, and X-ray, and he didn't pass out or collapse all of this time. He used his height right until he landed in a hospital room, where Wilson drew the blinds as he threw up all over himself, and then passed out.
Whatever worked for him.
A/N I've read something very similar to House's little italicised it's cancer... SOCspiel up the top there, in Sydedalus' (bows down to Sy's greatness) great fic Of a Thursday. This resemblance is inintentional, I only noticed it when I read Sy's fic a second time.
Blame it on the mass unconscious.
Please don't squash me.