Summary: House and Wilson are both struggling with their guilt after the events of Wilson's Heart, but when Wilson falls ill, how far will House go to save him?
Author's Note: I've only recently discovered House and now I've run out of episodes to watch, I thought I'd try my hand at my first House M.D. fanfic. I'm new to the genre so please don't be too mean. I don't have a medical degree, so while research has been done, the medicine probably won't be entirely accurate. I've tried to be as true to the characters as I can and I hope you enjoy the story.
'You have hayfever,' Dr. Gregory House was informing his latest victim as the door to exam room one swung open, 'next time you feel the need to self-medicate, try some over the counter anti-histamines or some herbal tea if you must. Ramming ginger root so far up your nose that the only way to remove it is by full frontal lobotomy should definitely go on your 'things to avoid' list, though if I see you in here again I may be tempted to perform the procedure myself.'
Dr. Lisa Cuddy looked on in amusement from the doorway as the seventeen year-old target of House's sarcasm made a dash for the exit. Once the entertainment was at an end she turned her attention to the diagnostician, who was idly twirling his cane.
'I've never seen the clinic this empty,' the administrator shot House a questioning glance, 'the nurse outside said you've seen 147 patients today. That's one patient roughly every three minutes for the past eight hours. Normally I can't get you near the clinic on pain of death. Is there something you want to talk about?' Cuddy attempted not to sound overly concerned, though in truth she was becoming increasingly worried about her head of diagnostics' state of mind. Ever since his involvement in the bus accident that had claimed the life of Amber Volakis, and his futile and self-harming attempts to save her, the man had barely said a word to anyone unless it was directly related to his work. House's relationship with his best friend, and Amber's lover, James Wilson, was understandably strained. Both men were carrying their share of guilt over the incident – House's actions had been directly responsible for Amber's presence on the bus, while Wilson regretted pushing his friend to risk his life in a futile attempt to save her. Unable to confide in Wilson, House had become uncharacteristically silent.
'Let me think…' House replied, 'um…nope.' The cane twirling became more elaborate as he focused solely upon it in the hope that Cuddy would take the hint and go away.
'House, you can't go on like this,' Cuddy sighed in frustration.
'What?' the diagnostician lifted his head before continuing sarcastically, 'treating patients? Actually turning up for my clinic hours? God forbid!'
'Dr Cuddy, I am fine,' House stood to leave, 'now unless there was something you wanted?' Cuddy lowered her eyes to the floor, not quite knowing how to bring up the reason for her visit. House wasn't fooled for a second. 'Ok, out with it,' he ordered, 'what is it that you want?'
'Have you heard from Wilson recently?'
'He called in sick yesterday morning and I've not heard from him since,' Cuddy interrupted before the diagnostician leaped to the wrong conclusion. 'I'm worried about him, House. I thought that maybe…' she left the remainder of the sentence unfinished.
House locked eyes with his boss for a few moments, checking for an ulterior motive before finally nodding.
'I'll deal with it,' he promised.
Wilson felt a cool hand come to rest on his cheek and did his best to bat it away before opening his eyes. A pair of clear blue eyes came into focus in front of his face. If he didn't know better, he'd have said House looked worried.
'Go 'way House, let me die in peace,' he managed to mumble. He closed his eyes again, but not quickly enough to miss the mortified look that passed across his friend's features. He cringed inwardly. 'I meant…' he sighed, 'please House, I'm just not up to dealing with this right now.'
'How long have you had that fever?' Wilson sighed. Clearly House wasn't going to be easily deterred.
'I don't know. Day before yesterday sometime. Please, just leave me alone.' In response, a thermometer was inserted gently into his open mouth. His hand reached up immediately to remove it but was quickly thwarted by House.
'Leave that alone or I'll break out the rectal thermometer,' his friend threatened. The device bleeped to signal completion of the test and the diagnostician examined it closely. 'A hundred and five,' he announced. 'If it gets any higher I'll have to admit you.'
'I have the flu, House. I'll be fine if you'll just leave me alone,' Wilson protested weakly. He glanced around the hotel room he had called home ever since Amber's death. It hadn't seemed right to keep living in her apartment after everything that had happened. How had House managed to get in here anyway? He felt his friend's weight lift from the edge of the bed and for a moment thought his wishes were being honoured. He should have known better. He was even more surprised, however, when a damp cloth was gently pressed against his forehead. 'House..?' he murmured questioningly.
'We need to get your fever down a little,' House replied, 'like I said, if it gets any higher, I'm going to have to admit you. Can you even imagine how much extra paperwork that would be?' Wilson smiled slightly.
'You don't do paperwork,' he pointed out. 'They found it in the janitor's closet, remember?' House smirked slightly at the memory and pressed two tablets into the younger man's hand. 'I'm fine House, really,' Wilson insisted, 'I just haven't slept all that much over the last few weeks.'
'Take the pills,' was his friend's only response.
House paced, ignoring the agonising pain shooting through his right leg. It had been almost an hour and neither the cold compress nor the ibuprofen tablets he had forced his friend to take were having any effect on Wilson's fever. The younger man had fallen into a fitful slumber, his restlessness interspersed with unintelligible ramblings. The diagnostician could no longer hide his concern – he was by now almost certain that the younger man was not, as he claimed, suffering from a simple case of flu. House was beginning to suspect something far more sinister. He decided that he had no choice but to wake and closely examine the ailing oncologist. He reached across the bed and shook his friend awake. He was rewarded with a confused stare as Wilson attempted to focus on the older man's face.
'House, what are you doing here?' he blinked again as the world failed to come into focus. 'Damn, my head hurts.'
'You're sick, Wilson,' House explained in a surprisingly patient tone of voice, 'I need to examine you. I need you to sit up. This is important, Wilson,' he added as his friend opened his mouth to object. Reluctantly and with House's help, Wilson managed to pull himself to a sitting position. House began his examination, which Wilson quietly tolerated until House attempted to examine his eyes with a penlight.
'Jeez, House. Headache, remember?' Wilson flung his arm across his face, refusing to move it until he had extracted a promise from his friend not to make any further attempts to use the penlight. House readily assented.
'Ok Wilson, just one more test, I promise,' he continued, 'I need you to roll your head from side to side like this.' House demonstrated and moments later a panicked look appeared on the oncologist's face. The fear was evident in his voice when he replied.
'I don't think I can.'
'Shit,' House thought, 'diagnosis confirmed.' He picked up the phone and began to dial.
'Who are you calling?' Wilson wanted to know. House sighed heavily.
'I'm arranging some transport – we need to get to the hospital.' The younger man looked surprised. He glanced quizzically at his friend.
'House, I don't think I'm up to going to work right now. You of all people should…' He was unable to complete his sentence as the diagnostician gave an exasperated sigh and rolled his eyes.
'I'm not making you go to work, you idiot. I'm calling an ambulance and having you admitted. You don't have the flu; you do in fact, in all probability, have bacterial meningitis and the longer you sit here arguing with me, the longer we delay treatment and the greater the chance that you'll die. Now since I have no intention of allowing that to happen, I'd appreciate it if you'd stay put and let me call the damned ambulance.'
Wilson looked as though he had been slapped in the face. He sat in silence as his friend made two calls, the first to request an ambulance and the second to Lisa Cuddy, who promised to have everything they needed on standby when they arrived. Finally, he noticed that he once again had the diagnostician's attention.
'House,' he began, surprised how terrified his voice sounded. 'I don't think I want to die.' House took a seat next to his friend so that their shoulders were touching. Wilson rested his head on House's shoulder, knowing that this was the closest he was ever likely to get to a hug from the older man. The diagnostician shook his head.
'Weren't you listening?' he replied softly. 'I said I had no intention of letting that happen.'
'You promise?' Wilson asked hesitantly, craving reassurance.
'I promise,' his friend replied, then, so quietly that Wilson wasn't sure he heard it at all, the older man continued, 'I already failed you once. I'm sure as hell not going to fail you again.'
'Are you sure about this?' Lisa Cuddy greeted House as the ambulance arrived at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.
'Absolutely,' he replied immediately, 'even you could have diagnosed it.' Given the circumstances, Cuddy decided to overlook the insult and instead followed closely as House began to address his team.
'Foreman, I want an LP, STAT. As soon as that's done, I want you two,' he pointed at Thirteen and Kutner, 'in the lab running cultures on his spinal fluid. Taub, start him on penicillin, cephalosporin and vancomycin then grab as many cold packs as you can. We need to lower his core temperature before it causes any complications. Any questions? Good, then get on with it.'
James Wilson drifted in and out of consciousness. He could feel the chill of the ice packs surrounding him but he was so hot he felt he might spontaneously combust at any moment. The constant beeping of machinery in the background let him know that they had arrived at the hospital but he had no idea how long he had been there. He knew that both House and Cuddy were in the room with him – he could hear their voices but they sounded distant, as though he was hearing them from underwater. Focusing hard, he fought to make out their conversation.
'The ice packs seem to be doing their job,' Cuddy was saying, 'his core temperature's down to a hundred and three, though the antibiotics don't seem to be having any effect.'
'He admitted he hadn't been sleeping,' House's voice cut in. 'The idiot probably hasn't been feeding himself properly either. God only knows what no sleep and virtually no food will have done to his immune system.'
'He was grieving, House.'
'You don't need to tell me that,' Wilson heard House respond angrily, 'Amber was on that bus because of me and she died because I couldn't save her. Then just to prove how fantastic a friend I am, I leave him to go through this by himself because I'm too afraid of looking into his eyes and finding out that my best friend hates me. Doesn't matter now anyway - nobody could hate me as much as I hate myself right now.'
Wilson struggled to regain consciousness; he had to set the record straight. Okay, maybe he had been angry with House for getting drunk and calling Amber in the middle of the night but surely his friend couldn't really believe that the bus crash had been his fault. House needed to understand that Amber's death had been nothing more than a tragic accident. Wilson reached out and weakly squeezed his friend's hand.
'Don't…hate…you,' he gasped, surprised at the effort it was taking him to talk. Surprisingly, House made no effort to break physical contact with his friend. Instead he took his free hand and placed it on the younger man's shoulder.
'You should rest, Jimmy,' he admonished. Wilson, however, was far from done.
'Amber…wasn't your fault,' he began. 'Sometimes…people…just die.' House shook his head sadly.
'You're not dying, Jimmy.'
'I'm sorry, Greg.'
'I'm sorry I…risked your life,' Wilson was not to be dissuaded. He needed to get this off his chest before he no longer had the chance. 'I was so…caught up in…Amber…I forgot how much I…need you too.' House was lost for words. Much as he longed to return the sentiment, he had never been any good at expressing his emotions. If he started now, Wilson really would believe he was dying. Instead he tightened his grip on his friend's shoulder.
'I'm not going to let you die, Jimmy,' he promised again.
Moments later the alarms around the bed sounded. Wilson's eyes rolled back into his head and he was caught in the grip of a seizure.
He's stable for now,' Cuddy stated unnecessarily to fill the silence, 'but we won't know whether there'll be any permanent damage until he regains consciousness. The antibiotics aren't working.' House was glad she hadn't said 'if he regains consciousness.' That possibility didn't even bear thinking about.
'Where the hell are Thirteen and Kutner with those cultures?' House grumbled, 'They've been gone six hours. Surely they should have had some results by now. I'm going down to the lab.' He took one last look at Wilson then turned his attention back to Cuddy.
'I'll stay with him,' she promised in response to the unasked question.
'We have a problem,' Thirteen greeted House as he limped through the door of the lab, 'Dr. Wilson has been infected by an antibiotic-resistant form of Streptococcus pneumoniae. We've tested everything we have and there's only one thing we've tried that's even got a chance of working.'
'So what's the problem?' House demanded. 'We only need to kill the damn things once.'
'The only antibiotic the strain is sensitive to was withdrawn from clinical trials last month. We're supposed to have disposed of our stocks but the haven't been collected for incineration yet. The trial was cancelled after a patient died. It was thought that the antibiotic was the primary cause of the liver failure that led to his death.'
'Were there other patients on the trial?'
'Four others made a complete recovery,' Thirteen admitted, 'but the drug isn't approved. If we give it to Dr. Wilson it could kill him.'
'Don't you think I know that?' House snapped back. 'We need to try it out on another subject before we give it to Wilson. If we know the antibiotic definitely works in vivo then it'll be worth the risk.' Kutner was shocked.
'You're talking about deliberately infecting another human being just to try out the antibiotic?' he asked in disbelief. 'That's beyond unethical!'
'No,' House replied as he identified a live culture and sucked a small volume into a syringe, 'I'm talking about infecting myself with the strain just to try out the antibiotic.' Thirteen gasped.
'You can't inject millions of bacteria directly into your bloodstream – it'll kill you!'
'If Wilson dies, what difference does it make?' House countered.
'You suffered a severe head trauma just a few weeks ago,' Kutner argued back, 'your immune system will already be compromised.'
'Good, the infection will spread faster,' House pointed out.
'And your pain medication already compromises your liver function,' Thirteen added, 'even if this antibiotic does destroy your liver, that doesn't mean it will have the same effect on Dr. Wilson.'
'Ah, but if it doesn't destroy my liver, chances are that it won't destroy Wilson's either,' House decided. Thirteen made one last ditch attempt to talk sense into the head of diagnostics.
'House, you're not thinking logically. None of this makes sense! All you're going to end up doing is killing yourself. This isn't going to help Wilson!'
'Sorry, Thirteen,' House replied as he jabbed the syringe into his forearm and expelled the contents into a vein. 'Wait an hour then administer the antibiotics. In a few hours we'll find out whether I get to live or die. If this doesn't work, tell Foreman I'm relying on him to find another way of saving Wilson.'
To be continued...probably... evil grin