Well kids, here we are again; the last part of the trilogy which began with 'The Devil, You Say,' and continued with 'Battling the Demons.' Thanks for sticking with me! There's something unusual about this one; Betz88 is writing a parallel fic, 'Analysis Paralysis,' telling this same story purely from Wilson's point of view. It's absolutely awesome, and we've had great fun synchronizing the two fics. So please check it out; you'll love it! Oh, and if you've read neither 'Devil' nor 'Demons,' this one refers heavily to incidents in both—sorry. I've attempted to clarify the majority of the references, though. Good to be back!

Disclaimer: Imagination and mistakes--mine. House M.D. et al--Fox, Shore et al mjf



Wilson leans back against the couch with a satisfied sigh. Cuddy's just left for the evening, House is engrossed in a television program, and it's been a really good day—the first really good day since he and House had returned from the hospital Sunday evening, after the procedure to control House's breakthrough pain.

Hard to believe we've been home only four days. So much has happened. Not even a full week since House collapsed in front of his team. But we pulled it off. When House goes back to work in a few weeks, all they're gonna know is he's not in so much pain. Wilson looks over at the subject of his thoughts, studies him for a moment unobserved.

House is still gaunt, pale, underweight. To anyone else, he'd probably simply look frail and crippled. But Wilson sees something else, something far more important. House's eyes are alive again. The smoldering anger that had been there for months is gone now, and the flat indifference that's been there all week has been replaced, too. Humor's returned to his eyes, and interest. But even more important, Wilson knows, is the brand new sense of security that's just starting to radiate from those honest blue eyes, a sense of safety that Wilson hasn't seen since the infarction.

Wilson had gone to see a psychologist on Monday, his old college roommate, Richard Dickinson. And Dick had told him that all these positive changes would occur. But he'd also warned Wilson that the success of the pain control procedure could bring with it some serious negative consequences for House.

Dick's wrong. House isn't having any problems with self-perception. He's not grieving the loss of the breakthrough pain at all. Don't even think I need to discuss that aspect of it with him, in spite of what Dick suggested. He's handling it well enough on his own. No angry outbursts, no lashing out at me. Not gonna try to fix something that isn't broken; sorry Dick. We've navigated enough real problems in the last six days without creating another difficulty where none exists.

"Want a snack? Something to drink?" he says now to House. House is ending his first twenty-four hours of being on total parenteral nutrition, but he's been on an effective anti-emetic, Zofran, for two days now, and today he's finally had an appetite, and has been able to hold the food down. Wilson doesn't want to push, but he knows that House is anxious to be weaned down to the TPN administration only at night. And the only way they're gonna get there is for House's emaciated body to relearn the signals of hunger that the pain had suppressed for so long.

"Just finished dinner an hour ago," House reminds him. "But maybe a cold drink?"

"You've got it," Wilson says, getting up and heading for the kitchen. "Gimme a couple of minutes to wash up the dinner stuff, okay?"

"Not a problem." House doesn't even look at Wilson; it seems he's already reabsorbed in the program. Wilson smiles, savoring the normalcy of it all.

As soon as Wilson is out of the room, House's relaxed demeanor falls away as he clamps both hands tightly around his left thigh. Thought he wouldn't get outta here in time, couldn't've left it alone a second more. He presses deeply into the thigh with the palms of both hands, trying to break the tightening grip of the painful spasm. His face contorts and his eyes close tightly as he leans forward in a self-protective motion. What the hell is happening?

"Root beer okay?" Wilson calls cheerfully from the kitchen.

House forces himself to pull in a deep breath so he can answer in a normal voice. Not gonna let this garbage ruin the day for him. Hasn't sounded that happy, that relaxed, in months. And as House forces the air into his lungs, the grip of the spasm breaks, and the pain is gone. So the tone of House's voice more than matches Wilson's when he yells back, "Root beer's great! Got any vanilla ice cream to put in it?" House hears Wilson laugh, with real joy.

"That's an affirmative!" Wilson shouts. "Keep this up, we're gonna need some more food soon." House can actually hear the smile in Wilson's voice, and it makes him smile too, and forget, for a minute, his promise to himself to tell Wilson about the leg tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow, the familiar clenching pain will be gone.

I fell that first night home; could've pulled a muscle. And all that damned retching, vomiting. Wouldn't be the first time I wrenched something doing that. Could still be nothing. House pushes away the loudest voice in his brain, the medical voice that's telling him that this pain isn't related to anything simple.

Wilson enters the living room carrying two root beer floats on a tray, and he's still smiling. "Won't be long before we can trade these in for real beer," he tells House as he hands him a glass.

"You can have the real stuff," House reminds him.

"Oh, no. The next beer I drink is gonna be to celebrate with you." Wilson's cellphone rings then; he sets down the tray and checks the caller ID. It's Cuddy; his intuition tells him to take the call out of House's hearing, so he heads back into the kitchen.

"What's up?"

"I didn't get a chance to tell you that House seems to be having trouble with the left leg," Cuddy tells him. "He blamed it on that epi injection from the anaphylactic reaction, but I'm not buying it. I'd intended to check into it further, but then you came back to the apartment, and it just seemed like a better idea to let him have a day where the focus wasn't on his health."

"Gotta agree with you there," Wilson says. "He's more relaxed than I've seen him in a while. As a matter of fact, he's actually drinking a root beer float right now!"

Cuddy laughs. "Hey, the more calories, the better. Maybe you should just let the leg thing go 'til tomorrow. Whatever it is, it's intermittent, and it doesn't appear to be getting any worse, so I don't think waiting would cause any harm."

"Sounds like a plan to me. I'm just disappointed, I guess, that he hasn't mentioned it. It was starting to look like we were moving past all the distrust issues."

"I still think we are," Cuddy says. "This is House; if this thing with his left leg is new, he may still be denying it to himself, downplaying it in his own mind. If that's the case, then he wouldn't be ready to mention it to anyone yet."

"Good point," Wilson says, with some relief. "I'll just leave it alone until tomorrow, then. To tell you the truth, I'm enjoying this day, too. Not anxious to say anything to him that might ruin it."

Wilson concludes the conversation with Cuddy, and returns to the living room, where House proudly holds up his empty glass for Wilson's inspection. Wilson smiles his approval, and refrains from asking how House is feeling. Just be his friend tonight, he tells himself.

House sets down the empty glass, and tries, unsuccessfully, to stifle a yawn. "Wanna watch that O.C. episode you missed the other night?" he says, through a second yawn.

How can I get him to realize he needs some rest without sounding like Dr. Wilson? Wilson yawns extravagantly himself, rubs his eyes, and stretches. "No; if it's okay with you, I'll just doze in the chair while you watch it. I'm pretty beat, but you go ahead and watch your show."

House looks relieved that Wilson's admitted to being tired; he immediately shuts off the television. "No, that's okay. I could use some sleep too," he says.

As he rolls the IV pole to help House get to the bedroom, Wilson covertly watches House's gait. He's satisfied that there's nothing abnormal going on, at least not right now.

Wilson helps House get settled in bed, then does an assessment and gets the last lab draw of the day. It's become routine the last few nights for him to sit by the bed until House falls asleep, and as he gives the package to the lab courier, he wonders whether or not House will want him there tonight.

When he returns to the bedroom, he smiles at the answer to his question; House is already soundly sleeping. Wilson shuts out the light and goes to the living room. He settles down on the couch with a sigh of satisfaction; it's been a good day. He falls asleep almost as quickly as House had.