Wilson's cell phone rings at 2:23am. He awakens on the first ring, but that isn't because he's a doctor, and used to late-night calls. It's because House had called in sick today; the leg's bad, not responding to the meds. Wilson's been half expecting this call. And a glance at the caller ID confirms his suspicion—his fear.
Aww, House—third time this month. Damn.
He grabs frantically for a copy of Journal of Clinical Oncology, starts paging through it as he presses the 'talk' button on the phone.
"Hey, House. Glad you called; I was just thinking about a new case, a tough one."
Two hitched breaths. "Happy to be of assistance."
"It's a, uh… uh… twenty-eight year old male. Malignant melanoma. But it's metastasized to his right eye."
"So remove the eye."
"I'd… mmm… like to avoid that. Seems he lost his left eye in… a childhood BB-gun accident."
"You're making that up." A sharp, audible intake of breath, and a dry swallow.
Wilson pauses. "Does it matter?" he asks mildly. House's response will tell him a lot.
"No. Go on." The answer comes too fast, and it's tinged with resignation.
"Okay. So what I want to try is focused radiation. But what I was thinking was that a radioactive implant might be more effective."
House calls him a moron for even considering the implant, then launches into a five minute analysis of the optimum schedule and dosage of radiation. His voice becomes hoarse, and fades completely a couple of times; Wilson hears him clear his throat.
"House, listen. I'm really thirsty. Hate to do this to ya, but I need to go down to the lobby, hit the Coke machine. Can't take the cell; no reception. So I'm just gonna leave it here. Gonna take a few minutes, though—need to get change from the front desk. Why don't you get something to drink too? This might be a long one." C'mon, House. How long's it been? Seven hours? Ten? Make yourself get up, get some water. I won't hang up. I'm not going anywhere. Do it.
"Yeah," House says. "Not a bad idea."
Wilson hears the receiver drop to House's bed, and presses his own phone tight to his ear.
The sound of the cane clattering to the hardwood floor, and then a curse during the struggle to pick it up. Slow, uneven steps punctuated by an occasional groan, and by silences that mean House is trying to force himself to make the next painful step. Then a very long silence that means House has made it to the kitchen. Wilson grasps his phone and waits anxiously for the return of the sounds.
Several minutes later, he can hear noise again. He pictures what's happening, based on the sounds. He's in the hall, trying to carry the glass and maneuver the cane. His shoulder keeps hitting the wall.
Then, when the heavy tap of rubber on wood disappears, He's given up on trying to use the cane; he's supporting himself on the wall now. Got the cane hung across his arm—probably shooting it dirty looks.
Finally, Wilson hears the glass being set down on the bedside table, House sitting heavily on the edge of the bed, trying to catch his breath. When House picks up the phone and says, "Wilson?" the syllables are broken into two separate words, so Wilson stays quiet. He waits until House's labored respirations have evened out, then he walks silently to his hotel room door, opens it, and slams it closed.
"House, just got back—sorry it took so long. You still there?"
"Yeah. What'd you do, crawl there and back?"
"Had trouble getting change. You get something to drink?"
"Yup. Brought some back with me too—if you're really stupid enough to consider an implant for this guy, we could be here a while."
Wilson hears House adjusting himself in the bed, hears House cover the mouthpiece on the phone long enough to hitch his breath and sigh with relief as he finds a semi-comfortable position and takes a few gulps of water.
Wilson continues to make up facts, figures, failed treatments, proposed therapies for the next few minutes while House interjects an occasional question and then gives a detailed opinion based on Wilson's answer. Finally, Wilson hears what he's been waiting for, hoping for—the long, shaky intake of breath, followed by a protracted sigh.
"Okay, now lemme give you the history. This guy's wife is a real talker; she started by telling me all about the beach trip where he got the sunburn that she thinks led to the melanoma. You ready?"
"Uh-huh." House's answer is thick and lethargic.
"So anyway, it's their first day in Hawaii, and it's a postcard-perfect day on the beach. And the sand is so hot, and they're lying there, just soaking up all the heat, and listening to the waves. And the gulls are calling overhead, and both of them just got sun-drunk, and they didn't want to move…."
Wilson continues talking without pause in a low, soothing monotone, for several minutes. Then, quietly, "House?" No answer.
Wilson smiles, and presses the 'end' button on his phone silently, as if the small electronic click might awaken House.
At 11:00am, Wilson lets himself into House's apartment. It's still dark and quiet in here, and Wilson's glad. He makes his way to the kitchen.
At 11:30, the coffee's finished brewing, the first batch of pancakes is ready to come off the griddle, and Wilson hears a familiar slow, awkward sound. He grabs a plate from the cabinet.
"Hey," House greets Wilson. "Coffee smells good; knew I gave you that key for a reason. How's your patient?"
Wilson puts a plate of pancakes in front of House. "Fine," he says. "Just fine." Until next time. "Thanks for your help last night."
"Not a problem," House says, and digs into his breakfast.