House was on his balcony, enjoying his morning cup of coffee, when he heard raised voices from the office next door. He could count on one hand the number of times he'd heard Wilson shout in anger — almost all of them directed at him — so he glanced over to see who Wilson had pissed off. Just then, a man leaned across the desk and grabbed Wilson by the tie.
"Where is she?" the man shouted, twisting the tie around his hand, and pulling Wilson to his feet.
House put down his mug. This was worth investigating. The tie was ugly, but not enough to provoke violence. And the feminine pronoun meant trouble. Women always meant trouble where Wilson was concerned.
Wilson pulled himself free before it became necessary to intervene, so House perched on the dividing wall between the two balconies and waited for something interesting to happen.
Most people at Princeton-Plainsboro believed that Wilson was the caretaker in their relationship and House was the leech that sucked Wilson dry of time, energy, and material goods. That was true to an extent. But being Wilson's friend still required a ridiculous amount of effort and vigilance. He'd met Wilson too late to discourage him from choosing a soul-destroying specialty, so instead he was forced to distract Wilson from the reality that three-quarters of his patients would be dead in five years. Unfortunately, Wilson was more than capable of finding his own distractions, ones that inevitably led to expensive weddings and even more expensive divorces.
He tried to remember if he'd seen any new applicants for alimony hanging around Wilson recently, but Wilson was a master at keeping his indiscretions discreet. That was one thing House missed about having a team. It would take the newbies months to develop the kind of connections he needed to keep track of Wilson's love life. He was about to call Chase to see if he'd heard any juicy gossip out of oncology when the man in question poked his head through the conference room door. House beckoned Chase out to the balcony.
"Who is Wilson sleeping with?" he asked without preamble.
"No one, as far as I've heard," Chase replied without missing a beat. "Though he took Cuddy to the symphony last week."
"Interesting, but not relevant." At least not at the moment. He'd have to have words with Wilson about that later, though. A shared love of boring music was no reason to risk emasculation. He gestured towards Wilson's office. "Somehow I don't think the asshole about to hit Wilson is looking for Cuddy." It was a slight exaggeration, but the man had clenched his fists and was leaning into Wilson's personal space.
"What the hell?" Chase exclaimed and hopped over the dividing wall. "Are you just going to sit there?" he demanded.
House assumed that was a rhetorical question. He stood up and followed, not wanting to miss something interesting just because Chase was blocking his view. It had been a while since he'd witnessed an all-out brawl in the hospital.
Chase, however, was going to ruin his fun. He slid open the balcony door and stepped into Wilson's office. "Is there a problem here?"
Wilson glanced at Chase, a wary expression on his face. "Everything's fine," he said, and smiled reassuringly. "It's just a misunderstanding."
But the other man shook his head. "There's no misunderstanding, you interfering son of a bitch." He lunged at Wilson, who easily stepped away. Frustrated, the man picked up the nearest knick-knack on Wilson's desk and hurled it against the wall. "Tell me where she is."
Wilson squared his shoulders, and House thought he would get his fight after all. But then Wilson leaned forward and planted his hands on his desktop. "You don't want that kind of trouble. Get a lawyer and get counselling, but stay the hell away from her."
House decided the opportunity for spectator sports had passed, so he stepped into the office behind Chase. "I think you'd better leave before we call security to haul your ass out of here," he suggested politely. He nudged Chase towards the man. "Why don't you escort this gentleman to the lobby, Dr. Chase."
Chase looked as though he were about to protest, but Wilson nodded, so he grabbed the man's arm and led him to the door, more roughly than House would have anticipated. Maybe sleeping with Cameron had toughened him up.
As soon as they were gone, House turned on Wilson. "What have you done now?"
"Nothing," Wilson muttered.
House wasn't going to let him get away with that. "So he was about to take your head off for no reason?"
"Not every patient thanks me for giving them bad news."
That was true. It wasn't unusual for one of Wilson's patients to become violent after being issued a death sentence — the ratio of thanking to hitting was about 4 to 1 — but House had heard enough to know this wasn't a patient. "Nice try. Mr. Aggressive isn't dying, so who is he? Jealous boyfriend? Angry brother? Angry father?"
Wilson glared at him. "None of your business."
That immediately made it House's business. One of these days Wilson would learn that even the dullest story was made interesting by evasion. He watched Wilson gather the pieces of the broken knick-knack — a bobble-head one of his younger patients had given him. "You know, there are lots of single women just dying to trap a rich doctor into matrimony. You don't have to steal someone else's girl." He smirked. "Though forbidden fruit always tastes sweeter."
"I'm not having an affair and I didn't steal someone else's girlfriend." Wilson fumbled with the pieces, trying to reassemble the toy. He sighed and dropped them in the garbage can.
"That's not what it sounded like to me," House pressed. "Or did he just randomly wander into your office to demand the whereabouts of a woman you've never met?"
Wilson glared at him. "The woman is my patient. And that's all you need to know."
"Again?" House shook his head. "I know you don't like long-term commitments, but sleeping with your patients is taking dead-end relationships a little too literally."
"I'm not sleeping with a patient," Wilson protested, but had the decency to look embarrassed. "That was a mistake. It's not going to happen again." He shifted uncomfortably when House just looked sceptically at him. "I mean it. I'm just helping her get out of a dangerous situation at home."
House put the pieces together with more success than Wilson had had with the broken toy. "So Jealous Boyfriend is actually Abusive Husband?" He shook his head when Wilson shrugged in assent. "Are you a moron?" Wilson wasn't stupid, but he did more than his share of stupid things, especially where women were concerned. "You're not a social worker or a cop. When are you going to learn to mind your own business?"
"It's my business to keep her alive," Wilson retorted. "And keeping her away from her husband will increase the odds of that happening." He shuffled several files on his desk, a signal that the conversation was over.
House rarely paid attention to Wilson's signals, at least the warning ones. "So they had an argument and he got a little carried away. Get them some marriage counselling. I'm sure you have at least a dozen names in your Rolodex."
Wilson's hands stilled and he stared at House. "Tell me you didn't just defend a man who beat his dying wife." His voice was quiet and the words clipped, which meant he'd bypassed annoyed and gone straight to furious. "Get out of my office."
Even House knew better than to try to argue with Wilson when he was this angry. He'd find a better time and place — preferably public — to try to knock some sense into his head. "Don't come crying to me when Mr. Abusive reports you for kidnapping his wife," he said as he left through the balcony door. Not that the Princeton police would ever look to him for a character reference.
Chase came back to the conference room a few minutes later. "I told security to keep an eye out for him, but you know how effective they are."
House had two bullet scars to prove that point. "One of these days, Wilson's pathological need to rescue everybody he meets is going to get him killed," he muttered. "I'll have the wannabes stake out his office in shifts and make sure there are no return visits. None of the guys look like they'd be any good in a fight, but I bet Cut-throat Bitch would love to Bobbitt a wife beater." Chase's mouth thinned and House wondered if Rowan had been more than just a neglectful father and husband. "What are you doing here anyway? Homesick?"
"Referral," Chase retorted, handing House a folder. "Post-op patient with complications unrelated to the surgery. It's not MRSA," he said, forestalling House's immediate rebuttal. "Or a community acquired infection. Thought it might be an interesting puzzle to weed out the next losing candidate."
House had planned to have them go over Anna Nicole Smith's autopsy reports, but he had to admit live patients were more interesting. "Counting on me to clean up your department's mess?" he asked, but flipped through the file, looking for clues.
"No, just counting on you to make it somebody else's mess." He sauntered out casually, but House saw him stop and look in the direction of Wilson's office, a worried expression on his face.
House made a note to drag Wilson back to his apartment for an evening of beer and pizza. If he had to, he'd fake increased leg pain or lingering after-effects from his impromptu encounter with electricity. It was much easier to baby-sit Wilson when Wilson thought he was the babysitter.
By noon, the patient was back in ICU; by early afternoon he was on a ventilator. They finally settled on Wegener's granulomatosis by early evening. Then it was wait for the corticosteroids and cyclophosphamide to work, or start back at square one. It was nearly 8 pm by the time House dropped by Wilson's office, only to find it locked and dark.
"What time did he leave?" he asked the oncology ward nurse. Wilson was meticulous about informing his staff about his whereabouts, even when he was playing hooky with House.
"About twenty minutes ago," she replied, glancing at her watch. "Do you need me to page him?"
House was tempted, but Wilson was still annoyed about the fake page that let House ransack his hotel room. "It's not an emergency," he admitted. "I'll just call him on his cell." But Wilson didn't answer, which could mean any number of things, especially if Wilson had checked the call display.
Wilson had undoubtedly raced off to visit his latest project, playing Stingo to yet another doomed and damaged woman. Depending on how far her cancer had advanced, Wilson would have set her up under an assumed name in a care facility or hospice, one not affiliated directly with the hospital. Wilson was a moron, but he wasn't stupid. It would be easier to keep tabs on him if he were a little more stupid. But then House wouldn't care enough to bother.
He'd done all he could at the hospital for the day, so House decided to camp out in Wilson's hotel room and ambush him when Wilson returned from his house call. When he arrived at the Hotel Pathetic, however, Wilson's car was in the lot. That suited House just fine — waiting wasn't one of his strong suits. And Wilson had probably had his room lock recoded after the last break-in.
A man rushed past him as he was walking towards the elevator, nearly knocking him over, and House turned to yell at him, only to realize it was Mr. Abusive. "Hey," he shouted. "What are you doing here?"
Not surprisingly, the man didn't pause to answer, just broke for the side entrance, away from the main lobby. House saw a bellman close by and shouted, "Stop, thief!"
The bellman obligingly stepped in front of him, then grunted in pain when the man pushed him aside, knocking him into the wall. But he'd given House enough time to get within cane range. House pushed off his left leg, swinging hard with his right hand, and sent the man sprawling on the ground. Sometimes he loved his cane.
"I asked you what you were doing here," House repeated when the man rolled over and scrambled to his feet.
The bellman had recovered and grabbed the man before he could escape again, pinning his arms behind his back.
"Careful," House warned. "This guy likes to hit dying women." He grinned when the bellman tightened his grip. His smile faded, though, when he saw blood on the man's shirt. "New question. What did you do to Wilson?" He patted the man down and found a switchblade in his jacket pocket.
"Call the police and an ambulance," he said to a hotel lackey who had run up to investigate. "Send them to Dr. Wilson's room."
He doubled back to the elevator, darting into the first available car. It seemed to take hours for the elevator to reach the third floor, and he was through the doors before they were fully open. Wilson's room was at the end of the hall, a corner room affording a negligible amount of privacy. The key card he'd lifted off Wilson months ago still worked, and House briefly wondered what that meant.
"Wilson!" he shouted, pushing the door open. "Wilson!"
The room was empty. There were signs of a struggle — an overturned chair, Wilson's briefcase kicked onto its side, the bedside lamp knocked to the floor — but no sign of Wilson. He heard the sound of running water in the bathroom. "Wilson?" he called out, hurrying across the room, his leg protesting the reckless pace.
His leg was forgotten when he pushed open the door and saw Wilson sprawled face-down on the floor, a pool of blood spreading like a halo around his dark hair.
"Jesus. Wilson." He dropped awkwardly to his knees and carefully parted Wilson's matted hair, until he found a bump and a gash. The gash was nearly clotted closed, and though head wounds bled a lot, he didn't think it accounted for the amount of blood he saw. He turned Wilson's face gently and recoiled when he saw blood sheeting the left side of his face. He grabbed a towel and carefully wiped the blood away, looking for the source. It was a deep cut, tracing the curve of Wilson's left eye socket. House couldn't tell if the eye itself had been damaged.
Wilson whimpered when House pressed the towel against his face, his eyelashes fluttering beneath House's fingers.
"It's okay, Wilson," House said. "You're okay."
Wilson wasn't okay, though. His pulse was fast and thready and his skin, the skin not slick with blood, was clammy. He was going into shock, or already there, and House wondered what the hell was taking the paramedics.
He checked Wilson for other injuries, noting a cracked rib and a dislocated shoulder. Wilson flinched at his touch and scrambled away, backing up against the bathtub and kicking out wildly. His right arm was stiff and useless at his side.
House just barely avoided a foot in the stomach. "Wilson. Calm down. Wilson, listen to me."
Wilson tensed and opened his right eye. "House?"
"Yeah, it's me." He shook his head when Wilson groaned in pain. "That was a bright move. Hold still and straighten out. I need to elevate your legs." He pulled the rest of the towels off the rack and piled them up, shifting Wilson until he was lying on his back with his feet on the towels. "Where does it hurt?"
Wilson sucked in a pained breath. "Head. Arm. Hurts to breathe." He jerked his head away from House's hand. "Killian. Is Killian gone?"
"He's gone. You're safe."
"Where?" Wilson struggled to sit up, panting from the effort. "Have to stop him."
House tried to hold him down without injuring him further. "Easy, Wilson. Security has him."
Wilson nodded and closed his eyes, but then tensed at the sound of footsteps. House glanced up and saw a man in a hotel uniform step through the door.
"Is there anything I can do?" the hotel minion asked, looking queasy at the sight of blood. He obviously wouldn't be any help at all.
"Go find out what's taking the ambulance." House looked down at Wilson, who was breathing in short, shallow gasps. "You're safe," he said. "He's not going to hurt you or his wife again."
He waited for Wilson's breathing to even out, and then braced himself as best he could on the floor. "I'm going to reduce your shoulder," he warned Wilson. "I need you to relax."
House felt along the shoulder. It was an anterior dislocation with minimal swelling and no sign of fracture; there was a good chance there'd be no complications. He put one hand on Wilson's upper chest and positioned Wilson's right arm tight against his body, elbow bent at 90 degrees. "I'm going to cut one of the applicants after the next case," he said conversationally. "What do you think? Should I give the lucky ones roses?"
When Wilson snuffled a little laugh, House rotated his forearm laterally, feeling the shoulder slip back into place. "Perfect technique," he said. "You'll be jerking off ambidextrously again in no time." House checked his pulse and resumed pressure on the cut. At long last, he heard the sound of a gurney rattling down the hallway. "In here," he shouted, moving aside to sit on the toilet when the paramedics crowded into the bathroom.
"Caucasian male, late thirties. Head and facial lacerations, shock, possible internal bleeding. Dislocated shoulder already reduced. Pulse 160, respiration shallow." He fell back on emergency protocol. It was easier than acknowledging that he was talking about Wilson.
He watched them double-check the vitals, slap a pressure bandage over Wilson's eye, and start an IV. "Take him to Princeton-Plainsboro," he ordered when they were ready to load Wilson on the gurney. "I'll call ahead and have a team waiting."
He pulled out his cell phone and speed-dialled Cameron. He didn't trust any of the other trained monkeys in the ER. "There's an ambulance coming in," he said when she answered. "You're taking the lead."
"You know you can't actually tell me what to do any more," Cameron replied, a hint of amusement in her voice.
Normally, House would take a moment to clear up that misconception, but he didn't have time to remind Cameron of her place in the hospital pecking order. "It's Wilson."
As expected, that deflected her nicely. "What happened?"
"He was attacked." House ran down the same information he'd given the paramedics. "I'm worried about the eye. If there's a scar, the nurses might stage a walkout. Page 39. Taub," House said, dredging the name of his pet plastic surgeon from his store of useless information. He wanted someone good with a needle taking care of that wound. "Tell him if he does this right, he gets a free pass to the next round." And if he fucked it up, House would make his remaining days in fellowship boot camp a living hell.
"I'll look after him," Cameron promised. "He'll be all right."
House appreciated her optimism, even if he couldn't believe it. He stared at the blood on the floor, smeared and scuffed. This was what happened when he didn't keep an eye on Wilson. This was what happened when he didn't hold up his end of the friendship. He stood up, but his leg buckled and he sat down hard on the toilet seat. He took out his pills and shook one out, and another. Then he waited for the police to arrive.