Hey everyone! This is just a short oneshot I wrote for the promts table over at the SickHouse livejournal community (Promt #42: 'Pain'). Thought I might just as well share it with you guys, too... :) Hope you enjoy!xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Wilson quietly observed his best friend's labored gait: The limp that was even more pronounced than usual, the heaviness with which he was leaning on his cane, the way his right foot turned slightly with each step it had to perform. The leg seemed to be worse lately, but House hadn't said anything about it. Hadn't even been asking more frequently for refills. He wondered what that could mean...
Later that day, he decided to talk to Cuddy about it.
"Did he say anything to you?"
She seemed to hesitate, then replied somewhat reluctantly. "As a matter of fact... He did."
Wilson looked at her questioningly, shaking his head slightly. "And... What did he say?"
Cuddy just shrugged. "He wanted me to put him on a Fentanyl patch. – Two days after they hadn't diagnosed one of their patients in time."
"And… you…", he prompted her to continue.
She seemed to be uncomfortable holding his gaze, but sounded determined. "Didn't do it. – If his leg hurts, he can take his Vicodin. All the other pain: He'll have to endure like the rest of us."
Wilson was frowning slightly by now. "When was that exactly?"
"Couple of weeks ago. He didn't come again after that..."
Wilson just shook his head again, looking pensive more than anything else. "No, he wouldn't. For him it probably felt humiliating enough to ask once…"
Cuddy firmly met his gaze, although she was beginning to sound slightly defensive. "Well, I'm sorry! Fentanyl's too dangerous. – He's having difficulties with the addictive potential of Vicodin as it is. I'm not gonna help him go one class higher and make everything even worse! He doesn't need another addiction on top of what he already has to deal with…"
Wilson nodded. "Sure, he doesn't. – But he doesn't need a dead liver either. And if he's having breakthrough pain that's not being treated adequately, that might well be the result."
After work, he offered House a ride home. To his surprise, the older man accepted, and it was only then that Wilson noticed that he had apparently neither brought his car nor his bike, meaning he had come in this morning by either bus or cab.
Wilson parked his car directly in front of House's apartment. He turned slightly towards his friend, trying to sound casual. "Mind if I come in for a bit...?"
House frowned at the unusual question. Normally, Wilson would either join him or not, but he wouldn't ask like this. He finally just shrugged, getting out of the passenger seat with what seemed like an effort.
Wilson quietly followed the other man to the three steps leading up to his front door. When House unexpectedly hesitated there, the oncologist wordlessly used his own key to unlock the door and wait for his friend to follow on his own time.
Once in House's apartment, Wilson was slightly shocked at the state it was in. House was not the neatest person in the world, but he always kept his rooms tidied up for the most part, not lastly because he needed to avoid obstacles that had the potential to make him trip. Now, things were lying astray: Old take-away boxes with Chinese food or half-eaten pizza had been left in seemingly random places; piles of clothes and used bath-towels were almost blocking the way into the bedroom. Besides some beer and peanut butter, there was absolutely nothing edible to be found in the kitchen.
Leaving House, who had in the meantime settled himself on the couch in his living-room, in peace for now, Wilson wordlessly started to clean up some of the stuff. After about half an hour, he joined the other man again, eyeing him calmly.
"I'll go and get some groceries… Do you have anything you need in particular?" House threw him a short glance, probably trying not to let any embarrassment show on his face. "Nope. I'm good…"
When Wilson returned about an hour later, his friend was still on the couch but had elevated his bad leg on a couple of big bed pillows. The TV was still on, tone muted, and House had lain down, his eyes closed right now. For a moment, Wilson thought he had actually fallen asleep, but then he noticed the tightness around his friend's eyes and his heavy breathing; one hand was resting on his damaged thigh muscles, the other was balled to a fist at his side. He was very obviously in pain.
And the fact that he wasn't pacing either indicated that he was also exhausted, or that the pain was too bad to even do that. Swallowing around the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat, Wilson quietly went to the kitchen to prepare their dinner, knowing that this wasn't the moment to confront the other man.
When he returned with two plates, a bottle of water, and beer for both of them, House had already sat up again and was apparently absorbed in some old Western movie. He was still paler than usual, but didn't seem quite as tense as before. When Wilson handed him one of the plates, he accepted it with a small, but grateful nod, immediately starting to dig into his food.
Sitting down next to his friend, Wilson hesitated a moment, but then started eating as well. Without taking his eyes off the TV, he finally stated carefully:
"You know… You can always let me know if you could use a hand with something."
House's response came immediately. "Sure. If I wanna be lectured for an hour or two on how I hurt myself by sending Stacy away… Or on how my pain is just a materialization of my guilty conscience…"
Wilson rolled his eyes at that. "I'm not lecturing you every time you're not doing so great…" He sounded defensive; and annoyed by the suggestion.
House's expression remained completely neutral. "Sure you do." Tone light.
When Wilson spoke again, he tried to sound clinical, intent on not letting himself be distracted by a pointless argument right now. "So… The pain's been worse lately?"
House pretended to consider the question. "Hhhmmm… Let's see. Didn't break up with anyone lately, no fight with some mad cop, nobody of relevance dying around me, done nothing to feel particularly guilty about…" He turned towards the younger man now, a fake smile plastered onto his face. "So, nope. Pain's been all good."
Wilson resisted the urge to roll his eyes again. "House. I've never said that all your pain is psychosomatic. – But you can't deny that it tends to increase whenever something else in your life is being… difficult."
A slight shake of his head, then House once again focussed on the TV screen. "Not denying anything." He still sounded completely indifferent.
Wilson kept his head turned to look at his friend. "But you're not talking to me either."
House took a sip of his beer, his expression unreadable. "You wouldn't want me to."
Wilson's gaze went towards the ceiling in slowly mounting frustration. "That's ridiculous. You're my friend, House. Of course I'd want you to – "
He was suddenly interrupted by the other man, who was talking much more loudly now. "What… You'd want me to tell you that I can hardly make it into work most days lately? That I sometimes leave the clinic on crutches at night, when it's late enough so no-one will see me? That I haven't been able to lift my right arm above my head for weeks? That the leg hurts so badly sometimes, a butter knife as a possible amputation device is a serious temptation?!"
Stunned silence dominated the room for several long moments. When Wilson had found his voice again, he replied as calmly as he could manage right now. "If that's so, then yes, I'd want you to tell me."
When House didn't return anything, he started to rub the back of his neck in a familiar gesture of uneasiness. "Listen, House. I'm sorry if I… disappointed you. I'm sorry if you got the feeling that I'm not taking you seriously. That I'm not taking your pain seriously. – I am; otherwise I wouldn't have been writing prescriptions for you for all these years."
House suddenly snorted. "No. You", he pointed a finger at Wilson accusingly, "need to feel that you're taking care of someone. You need to heal people; and if you can't heal them, then at least you have to control the illness."
Wilson nodded, clearly hurt by the suggestion. "So… I need to control the illness, but I don't wanna know when you're in more pain?" He grimaced slightly, signaling the other man that he wasn't following his logic.
But House just nodded. "Yeah, 'cause that means you're not as in control as you hoped you were."
Wilson nodded again, traces of anger now tinging his words. "And I'd rather live with the illusion that you're okay, when you're actually suffering, than be confronted with that reality and maybe try to do something about it? And I'd rather attribute increases in your pain level to psychosomatic reasons, than accept the fact that my 'care' maybe wasn't good enough. That maybe this illness couldn't be controlled?"
At least House had the decency to not openly respond in the affirmative to that one.
Wilson slowly got to his feet. "I should go. – Goodnight House."
He left without waiting for a reply.
"When I said that thing about office-sharing, and how I thought it was a good idea for us to do that, I was lying." House limped into his office, regarding the man behind his desk with just a cursory glance. Wilson slowly got up, handing House a memo before making room for him to sit down.
"I scheduled you for an MRI this afternoon. We'll have a look at the leg and, while we're at it, at the shoulder, too. If there's something new going on with the leg, we'll see what we can do to fix it. If the MRI looks the same as three months ago, we'll have to think about a switch in medication. Maybe to something longer acting. We'll talk about it then…"
House accepted the memo, eyes resting on the younger man, surprise on his face. After a moment, he replied with a short nod. "Thanks." He averted his gaze.
Wilson made for the door. Hand already on the handle, he half-turned around again. "One more thing." House reluctantly looked up at him from the chair behind his desk. "You're my friend. It's hard for me to see you suffer. That's why I'm prescribing the Vicodin for you, and that's also why it's difficult for me to accept when you're… in even more pain. I'm… sorry that you've been so… alone with this. – You're not anymore." He stiffly pushed the door open.
He hesitated but didn't turn around again, waiting for the other man to speak.
A smile found its way to Wilson's lips. Nodding slightly, he turned around far enough to meet House's gaze again.
"See you in the big magnet then…"
"Yeah. And please leave God out of it this time…"
"Don't worry. I'll strictly stick to the doctor job. It'll be fine." With a last nod, that was probably meant to be encouraging, he left the room.
House stared after him, his expression slowly relaxing into the beginning of a smile. "Yeah… I guess it will."