Once Cuddy understood the seriousness of Wilson's injuries, she'd given him more than a day off, she'd told him to take a week off. He'd protested, she'd insisted. She'd wanted him in the hospital; House wanted Wilson with him. Her only compromise was allowing Wilson to recuperate in his hotel room. In the end, Wilson had managed to convince both of them that he only needed rest and could get that on his own, in his "home."
House had grudgingly agreed, with the proviso that Wilson call him at least three times a day. To date, Wilson had faithfully done so, more or less. At first, Wilson had made the calls himself. As his physical condition and mood improved, he'd become more creative. Two days ago, House had received a call from someone claiming to have found his missing dog. Only when the caller informed him that "Hector" was safe and sound did House see the fine hand of James Wilson. Yesterday, it had been a beauty salon confirming his appointment for a leg wax, hair tinting, and pedicure. House was both annoyed and touched. If Wilson had the energy to be this diabolical, he had to be doing okay.
He'd waited with anticipation to see what Wilson would come up with this morning. The first call usually came faithfully at nine. Nine came and went, as did ten and then eleven without a call. Maybe Wilson had run out of clever tricks, maybe he'd slept in, maybe he'd simply forgotten to call. Noon came and went.
House picked at his lunch, staring at his cell phone willing it to ring, finally giving into the urge to place his own call. After four rings, the hotel's impersonal, automated answering service kicked in with a stupid message about the guest not being available. House hung up without leaving a message.
The front desk was equally unhelpful. No, they hadn't seen Dr. Wilson. Yes, his room had been cleaned. No, they didn't know if he'd been in the room. No, they couldn't check on him – guests had a right to their privacy. They'd be happy to connect House to Dr. Wilson's voice mail. Again, House hung up. This time, he also picked up his keys. If the hotel wouldn't check on Wilson, someone would have to do it.
House pulled his car into the extend-a-stay parking lot and entered the sterile lobby. He'd been here before but never taken the time to notice the surroundings. Low-slung modern beige chairs melded into beige carpet and equally beige walls. There were a handful of tone-on-tone pictures – beige, of course. The only spot of color was a large bouquet of colorful flowers on the lobby glass table. No wonder Wilson was depressed.
House ignored the receptionist and made his way past the rows of post office boxes, noting only that they were gold, not beige, and to the bank of elevators. They opened into a long hallway with the obligatory dark beige carpet in a pattern designed to conceal layers of dirt.
The first thing House noticed after letting himself into Wilson's hotel room was that the kitchen was uncharacteristically empty of any signs of meal preparation, which meant that Wilson probably hadn't eaten in the past day. Not good.
He continued through the sitting room – they didn't call these "suites" for nothing – and into Wilson's bedroom. The sound of the TV was the first thing to greet him.
Wilson leaned against the headboard, propped up by what seemed like a half-dozen pillows. Dressed in a t-shirt and sweats. Hair mussed, face flushed. Also not good. House quickly assessed the situation. "You didn't call."
Wilson shrugged. "Nothing to call about." His voice was matter of fact, and unrepentant.
"You promised—" His eyes took in the beads of perspiration pooling on Wilson's forehead. "You running a fever?" he asked.
"I'm okay. Took a hot shower a little bit ago and haven't cooled down."
House dropped the bag he was carrying and pressed his hand against Wilson's forehead, registering heat an instant before it was batted away. He sighed and motioned for Wilson to scoot over in the bed so he could sit down.
"Lift up your shirt," he ordered, reaching into his bag.
Wilson grimaced in obvious frustration. "Since when did you become Marcus Welby?"
"Since you made me stick a needle into your chest to save your sorry ass." Wilson's attempt at a verbal comeback meant that he probably wasn't too ill. Still, after what they'd been through in the past week, House wasn't taking any chances. He put the tips of the stethoscope around his neck and gave Wilson his sternest look. "Take off your shirt."
Wilson clearly thought about arguing then gave an exasperated sign then, with a grunt, tugged the T-shirt over his head. The general lack of pain in the movement was a good sign.
House quickly checked the site where the chest tube had been removed, noting with relief that there was no sign of infection, then followed with a quick assessment of Wilson's breathing and cardiac status. Everything seemed fine which, on one level was reassuring but still didn't explain why Wilson was being so . . . unlike Wilson.
"It wouldn't hurt to run you into the ER," he said finally, sitting back and pulling the stethoscope from his ears.
Wilson bit down on his lip. "House, I'm fine."
"That's my line. Beside, you don't know that."
"Wilson . . . ."
"House, quit worrying. Makes me nervous."
"Trying to change – be like you, compassionate, caring, all that crap."
"Don't. It doesn't suit you."
House stood up from the bed and dropped into the room's only chair. "You're miserable; I'm making you miserable. I try to change. That makes you more miserable. I don't get it."
"I told you before that my . . . issues aren't all about you. Your changing won't solve my problems."
"Then why did you feed me your happy pills?"
"Because I hoped they'd solve your problems."
"Did you ever consider that I like my life the way it is?"
"So you like OD'ing on Vicodin, being shot, going on trial, spending time in jail, faking a terminal illness--"
Wilson's tone had been something between playful and resentful; House tried to decide which. "I like being left alone."
"So why are you here?"
"And so you come to visit bringing a medical bag but no food?"
House shrugged. "I'll order something."
Wilson smiled, then nodded toward the desk. "Delivery list is in the top drawer."
When the time the order from the nearby Italian restaurant arrived, they moved to the sitting room, watching the credits for Days of Our Lives roll on the TV screen. GH was up next.
Wilson took a bit of his pasta then dabbed his chin with a napkin. "You keep your ortho appointment?"
"I said I would," House garbled while chewing.
"So did you?"
House only growled in response.
"That's . . . good. Isn't it?"
"He thinks the pain's in my head." A beat. "I'm not crazy."
"Psychosomatic pain has nothing to do with psychosis. You know that. And it doesn't mean your pain even is psychosomatic. You probably just need an adjustment to your meds."
"Yeah." Unconvincing. Wishing Wilson would stop this line of questioning.
"Going to see Simmons?"
Jean Simmons, pain management specialist. "Thinking about it." Not very hard.
"House. . ." Wilson's warning voice.
A tampon commercial filled the silence. House took another huge bite of his meal. Time to change the subject. "You still owe me one question from the cabin. About your brother."
Wilson's eyes were cautious. "What's with your morbid fascination with my brother?"
"I'm interested. I care."
"You're nosy. And I already answered way more than three questions."
"I get a bonus for the thoracostomy."
Wilson seemed to consider the answer for a moment then lifted his hands in a resigned "go ahead" motion.
"Why haven't you seen David in ten years? What happened that last time?"
Wilson ignored the question and, for a moment, the only sound in the room was the inane dialogue from the TV about some doctor's ex-wife's illegitimate child. "What do you want me to say? That I obsessed over him until I drove him away?"
"C'mon, House, haven't you tortured me enough?"
"Stop whining and spill. You've told me 95, what's another five?"
"The why doesn't matter any more. It's over; it was over a long time ago."
"It's clearly not over; you think about it all the time."
"You think about your leg all the time, but you don't like to talk about it and you sure as hell don't like people messing with it. Same with David."
"You're not going to tell me, are you?"
There was a long pause and, for a moment, House thought Wilson would actually answer. Instead, Wilson put down his food and carefully crossed his arms over his chest. "You never asked me why I went to Tritter."
House leaned his head against the back of the sofa. Here they were, having come full circle to the discussion about Tritter from the drive to the cabin over a week ago. "I already know why you did it," he replied tiredly. "Trying to save me from myself and all that. And you're changing the subject."
"There's more to it."
"It's over and done with. Doesn't matter."
"I couldn't save David," Wilson said suddenly.
"So you tried to save me."
"I tried to save myself." Wilson pointedly turned his attention to the trials and tribulations of the medical staff of General Hospital. It was like the old days, only it wasn't. This time it was House who wasn't actually paying attention to the show.
"Wilson . . ." House said finally.
Wilson didn't even look at him. "Don't say it."
"Don't say what?"
"Whatever you were going to say."
House frowned. He wasn't sure how to say what he wanted to say. What was normal discourse for most people was unchartered for House. Well, time to take the plunge. "I was going to say," he said, mentally squinting with anticipation of Wilson's reaction, "that Hitman is out."
Wilson's expression was unreadable. "It is."
House was sure he squinted for real this time. He tried again. "It's playing at the Multiplex."
Damn Wilson. He wasn't making this easy. House wondered if he should just give up.
"You still haven't seen it?" Wilson asked, finally helping him out.
"No." He paused, refused to meet Wilson's eyes. "I thought, you know, maybe I'd wait . . . maybe we could . . ."
Wilson turned toward him, eyes wide. "Are you asking me to go to a movie? With you?"
House was sure his face was crimson. "It's not a date!"
"Of course not." Quickly, way too quickly. He refused to meet Wilson's eyes. "So, want to go or not?"
Wilson remained entranced with the soap opera. A moment later, he said, "You buying the popcorn and soda?"
"Of course not. That's why you're going."
Wilson smiled. "Of course it is."
House allowed himself a smug grin. Some things never changed. Fine with him and, he was pretty sure, fine with Wilson too.