A/N: So… This was originally supposed to be a oneshot, but I finally decided to add a second chapter, which makes it a two-shot now, I guess… :) This chapter is specifically dedicated to CHAOSKIR, who wouldn't stop nagging me about it. ;)
Hope you enjoy!
"So…" Wilson handed his friend the printout with the relevant slices of his shoulder MRI. "There's a lot of inflammation around the rotator cuff."
House briefly eyed the scans himself, replying with nothing but a short nod.
Wilson suddenly looked slightly pained. "No wonder you can't lift the arm," he stated somewhat sheepishly, before quickly continuing. "But this is of course highly treatable. We'll put you on some anti-inflammatories – "
The older man interrupted him. "Been there, done that. Didn't do a thing. Almost made me think you guys had been right with your oh-so-insightful 'at least my shoulder's a human being' tirade…"
Wilson winced slightly at the words he knew Cuddy had literally used, while he himself had at least implied them. "Yeah, well… If that's so, then it's an inflamed human being."
A minute smile tugged at House's lips at the apologetic joke.
Wilson nodded towards the scans again. "If the NSAIs aren't enough, then cortisol injections would be the next step; and if that shouldn't help, atroscopic surgery. And you definitely need to give that shoulder some rest; there's no way around it…"
House responded with an impatient nod. "Good. – What about the leg." He held out his hand, waiting for the other man to pass him the rest of the printouts.
Wilson hesitated briefly before doing just that, for some reason appearing uncomfortable all of a sudden. "No noticable difference compared to three months ago." He shrugged slightly, his uneasiness still obvious. "Looks good."
House quickly eyed the scans himself, his expression unreadable. "Well, it doesn't feel good."
The oncologist immediately nodded, lifting a hand to initiate a placatory gesture, before thinking better of it and moving it to the back of his neck instead. "I know! I know…" He hesitantly searched his friend's gaze. "So. What do you wanna do about it…"
Several long moments of silence. Then House almost roughly handed the scans back over and made to leave the room.
"House?" Wilson's brow furrowed. "Hey, House!"
The older man stopped, one hand already on the door, posture tense. "What." He didn't turn around to meet Wilson's concerned gaze.
"We need to talk about this. Figure out a way to deal with it. – Come on, House, we can do this…"
House turned around abruptly at that, anger clearly visible on his face. "We don't have to do anything! 'Cause we are not in pain! You have no – " He briefly interrupted himself, then continued in a more controlled tone. "And guess what: I'm not interested in what you have to say to this, because I already know exactly what you're thinking."
Wilson shook his head slightly, patiently holding his friend's angry gaze. "No, House. You don't."
"Oh?!" House's voice had taken on a bitterly sarcastic undertone by now. "So this is gonna be different from the 4000 conversations we've had before?! These…", he angrily gestured towards the scans of his leg, "…don't confirm your theory that it's all in my head? That I'm causing the pain myself? That I need to be miserable?!"
Wilson started to rub his forehead in frustration. "House… These scans don't – "
He was interrupted again. "Tell you what." House's voice was suddenly flat, almost toneless. "Why don't we just forget about all this and go back to pretending everything's fine. Because this sure as hell doesn't help me." With that he stiffly turned around and left.
"You can't put a department head on oxycodone…!" Cuddy sounded almost pained, eyeing the oncologist imploringly. "The board will have my head!"
Wilson briefly glanced at the ceiling in obvious frustration. "He's not a drug seeker, Cuddy. He's a pain patient! – Just because he chooses to act more like the former than the latter sometimes, doesn't change the fact that we're treating a medical condition with the Vicodin. You know that. – And I didn't say it had to be oxycodone. But we need to come up with some something… And soon."
Cuddy shook her head slightly, bravely meeting his gaze. "I'm on his side, too, Wilson; so don't get me wrong here… - But if his MRI shows nothing, no change at all compared to a couple of weeks ago, does that really tell us we need to react to the increase in pain with physical measures?"
"He's not… faking this, Cuddy! He's in serious pain! – I've seen his apartment… It's a mess. He just… can't… handle anything right now, because of the increase in pain. – And he didn't even say anything about it! Which usually means it's bad… "
When he continued, determination was written all over his face. "No matter what the actual reason for the pain is; it needs to be dealt with. Now. – And for that matter, I'm not sure if we're the ones who should be judging the nature of his problems. We were quick to diagnose his shoulder pain as psychosomatic, when the puss was practically squirting out of his shoulder joint!"
That seemed to get through to Cuddy, who didn't return anything immediately. When she finally spoke again, she was frowning slightly. "And what does he have to say to all of this. Did you already talk to him about the test results?"
Wilson nodded, expression grim. "Sure. But he's… not listening at the moment. Or talking." To Cuddy's questioning glance, he attempted a casual shrug. "He doesn't trust us. Doesn't trust me… And I can't say I blame him. – The last time he tried to really tell me how bad it had become, I laughed him off and basically told him to see a shrink." His tone was an odd mixture of frustration and self-digust. "He's been alone with his pain for so long, he doesn't even consider confiding in someone. Getting one of us to help..."
She briefly closed her eyes, then nodded. "So… - What do we do now." Clearly, she was expecting him to have some sort of plan.
Wilson met her questioning gaze, then just shook his head, one hand going to the back of his neck and staying there. "I have no idea." Another slight shrug. "First of all, treat the shoulder injury I guess… I'll meet Meyers from orthopedics later on, to get his opinion on the dosage and frequency of the cortisol injections we'll have to try. –Then I'll talk to House again… Maybe he's already made a decision." He hesitantly met Cuddy's gaze again, holding it this time. "I can't believe what a lousy friend I've been to him lately; hell, what a lousy doctor! I can't even remember the last time I've asked him for a pain rating!" He shook his head incredulously. "No wonder he thinks I'm an ass…"
Cuddy couldn't help but smile slightly at that, eyeing the oncologist mildly. "You're not an ass, Wilson. – You've just been a bit… distracted by his antics. We all have."
Wilson's expression didn't change. "Yeah, well… That doesn't make it any better for him."
Cuddy regarded him pensively. "No. No, it doesn't."
"We can't go any higher on the Vicodin. It's not an option your liver could live with..." Wilson thoroughly disinfected the injection site.
House didn't reply anything.
"We could switch you to a drug with hydrocodone and ASS instead of the acetaminophen. We might be able to increase the hydrocodone some more then…" Still no response. "Or we could try and switch you to something stronger and longer-acting. Oxycodone, fentanyl…" He tried to read House's reaction; unsuccessfully.
He actually was a bit surprised; he'd almost expected his friend to jump at the chance to switch to a higher-class narcotic. He also almost immediately felt guilty for this assumption… House wanted to work and had opted for the Vicodin in the first place, because he said it didn't cloud his brain too much. Oxycodone probably would.
He started to inject the cortisol.
As soon as he was done, House rolled down the sleeve of his shirt again and pushed himself away from the desk he had been leaning against.
"House…?" Wilson kept his eyes on his friend, the empty syringe still in his hand.
House gingerly lowered himself into his desk chair, wincing slightly when he carefully straightened his bad leg out in front of him.
"I…", he thumped his cane on the floor once. "…don't know!" When he suddenly met the younger man's gaze, his expression was composed, but Wilson thought he detected a hint of something in his eyes. Uncertainty? Fear?
Wilson slowly sat down as well, in the chair opposite House's desk, patiently waiting for his friend to continue.
"The only thing I know is that the pain's too bad right now. I need to do something."
Wilson nodded without hesitation. "I know. The question's not if we do something; it's just what." His thoughts went back to his meeting with Dr Meyers, who – after briefly glancing at the MRI – had made a laconic comment on how House shouldn't be able to put any strain on the shoulder at all right now, let alone support some of his body weight on a cane with that arm…
"Do you think it's possible, that the leg is so much worse because of the added strain you put on it due to the shoulder injury?"
The question seemed to surprise House; he threw Wilson a strange glance.
"I mean… Does it feel anything like the pain you sometimes have when you've overstrained the leg?" This would of course also mean that his friend had been in agony for weeks, just because he had conveniently dismissed House's shoulder pain as psychologically induced. As physically non-existent. - He could kick himself now that he'd seen the imaging results…
When he just thought he wouldn't get an answer, House responded with a slight shrug. "Don't know. – Feels worse than that I guess…"
Wilson slowly nodded. "Yeah, well. You've been overstraining it worse than usual when it's just a one-day occurrence. You've probably been forced to put too much weight on the leg for weeks!" Encouraged by the fact that House didn't immediately disagree, he quickly continued, sensing his chance to at least voice a plan. "If you think this might have something to do with it, then why don't we put you on a fentanyl patch for now, continue the cortisol injections and book you some time in PT for… I don't know. Massages, aqua-therapy; maybe some exercises for the shoulder… And wait a few weeks. You should also use crutches, or better yet a chair, for a while to give the shoulder a chance to recover. Then we'll see if the leg pain starts getting better once the thigh muscle is not continuously overstrained anymore. We can try to get you back on the Vicodin after that, or – if necessary – still opt for switching medication permanently, if there's still so much breakthrough pain then."
There was another long moment of silence, before House finally replied. "Vicodin's the only thing that does something for the pain without messing with my head."
Wilson nodded. "If my theory proves to be correct, the fentanyl would only be a temporary measure. Just until your leg has had the chance to recover a bit again…"
House suddenly met his gaze again, a strangely controlled expression on his face. "And what if it doesn't." He attempted a casual half-shrug, failing miserably. "Could be I'm just getting older. – It's not as if the pain level's been stable ever since the infarction… This might be my new baseline." His light tone didn't quite match his undoubtedly tense posture.
When Wilson didn't reply anything immediately, he unnecessarily clarified: "Then whatever we decide to do wouldn't be a temporary measure."
Suppressing his own uneasiness for now, Wilson chose his next words carefully, instinctively feeling that he was treading on fragile ground here. "If that's so, we'll think of something when we know for sure. When your leg had some rest, when your shoulder is healed. And when it still feels so bad then. – We'll deal with it when it's an actual situation… – There's no point in agonizing over something now, that might not even be real in the near future." He suppressed the urge to touch the other man in a gesture of comfort; he knew it wouldn't be appreciated. He just desperately wanted to relieve his friend of part of this burden.
When no reply was coming, he gently continued. "Come on, House; this is not like you… Let's act on the most logical assumption first, decide on a temporary measure, and not worry any further until we have to."
When House finally turned his head slightly to look at him again, his expression was still unreadable, but the hard lines around his eyes had relaxed a little. "You're not gonna see me share a pool with a dozen cheerful ninety-year-olds doing squats." He scrunched up his face in a comically disgusted expression, while slowly pushing himself to his feet again. "Didn't ditch Georgia for no reason…!" His comic demeanor couldn't quite conceal the fact that he looked immediately pained as soon as he had reached an upright position. He grabbed his cane, but hesitated then.
Wilson threw him only a very short glance, keeping his tone consciously uncompassionate. "Okay, so maybe a couple of hours with Ingrid instead." Before House could even think about wiggling his eyebrows suggestively, Wilson already held up a hand, quickly clarifying: "Come on, House; we've been over this... She's just a masseuse." He pushed himself to his feet as well now. "And how about we start with that one component of our cunning treatment plan right now…"
To the frustrated glance that earned him, he quickly added: "You can just tell everybody, someone else is after your parking-space now."
That elicited a small half-smile, even though House was still holding himself very stiffly. "You do realize that, if this really turns out to be about the shoulder thing, this whole mess is entirely your fault, don't you."
Wilson just rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I do realize. But thanks for bringing it up anyway. Wouldn't wanna feel better a moment too soon…" He turned towards the door, before adding in a tone that didn't leave much room for protest: "Stay put. I'll be back in a second."
He stopped in the doorway, turning around again to meet his friend's gaze, eyes questioning.
House was still supporting himself awkwardly on both the desk and his cane, his gaze locked on the oncologist. He looked as if he had something to say, but seemed unsure how to continue. He finally just nodded once, looking down at his desk, before stating quietly: "Thanks for the injection."
Wilson couldn't help but smile slightly at that. "Yeah well... We're gonna be having fun with this for a while." Then, more seriously: "You're welcome. – And now do me a favor and just sit down and don't move till I'm back, okay?"
"What am I… Your dog?!" Despite the grumbled reply, House carefully lowered himself back into his chair.
"Well, that would at least explain why I seem to be the sole provider of all that stuff you keep shoving down your throat."
House countered immediately: "You should be thanking me for helping you keep your girlish figure!"
Wilson responded with a snort, already halfway in the hallway. "Yeah; I'll try to remember that the next time I find my lunch suddenly missing." Then, a little more loudly then would have been strictly necessary for House to still hear him: "Or wake up in the middle of the night to a grumbling stomach!"
House watched the glass door of his office slowly close. He suddenly felt himself starting to smile, wondering if that strange feeling in his chest might be relief. He chuckled slightly, before quietly replying to the empty room: "Oh, please stop. I'm in a pool of tears here…"
The end (for real this time)