Unlike the Boomtown Rats, House didn't actually mind Mondays. They were practically an extension of the weekend, only in the office. Cuddy didn't start to get antsy about his caseload — or lack thereof — until closer to mid-week, he was almost never scheduled for clinic duty, and his team knew better than to bother him with their trivial concerns until after lunch. Except they had a file waiting for him when he walked into the conference room, which was a clear violation of Monday protocol.
"Thirty-nine-year-old female," Foreman said, leading off with the boring information.
"A clear case of denial," House pronounced, before Foreman could prove that he'd cleverly memorized a list of symptoms. "No woman is really 39. Tell her forty is the new thirty and discharge her."
"That wasn't a symptom. And she was born in 1969, so that makes her 39."
"Only if she told the truth on her admitting form." But House was already tired of that game, so he gestured for Foreman to continue.
"She was admitted with sinus tachycardia and shortness of breath. Original diagnosis was an anxiety attack, but the tachycardia has continued intermittently and now she's complaining of flank pain."
"What else?" House asked, starting to get interested despite the day of the week.
"Persistent headaches and vertigo, elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Blood tests showed high levels of erythrocytes."
"Secondary polycythemia," Kutner said. "Is she an athlete? Could be a side effect of blood doping or high altitude training."
"Not according to the history," Foreman replied. "No plane travel in the last year, and she's lived on the Jersey Shore most of her life," he added, anticipating the next suggestion.
"Which brings its own problems," Taub commented. "Does she smoke? Lung disease could be causing hypoxia."
"Not a smoker," Foreman said, "though that doesn't rule out lung disease."
"Could be renal cancer," Thirteen suggested. "Elevated erythrocytes in combination with diminished kidney function could cause the cardiovascular symptoms."
"But not the neurological symptoms," Foreman replied.
"Oh, you and your neurological symptoms," House said. "You'd think you were a neurologist or something. Get a CT of the kidneys. And the lungs while you're at it. And if those are negative, give her a stress test to check cardiovascular function." That would keep them busy for a couple of hours, plenty of time for him to catch up on all the porn that had filled his inbox over the weekend.
He was making his third cup of coffee of the day and considering investigating what the cafeteria was serving for Mystery Meat Monday when the troops trooped back in. From the look on their faces, it was Thirteen one, Taub nothing.
"Lungs are clear," Foreman confirmed, holding up the scans. "But there's a mass in the left kidney. Looks like a cyst to me, but we should get Oncology to take a look at the scans."
"Page Wilson." He peered out the window across the balcony. Wilson's office was dark. That was odd. He was fairly certain Wilson didn't have any off-site appointments and he knew he didn't have clinic hours. When there was no response to the page, he tried Wilson's cell phone, but it went straight to voicemail. He hung up without leaving a message. "Page him again," he ordered and started to pace the length of the room.
Anomalies bothered him, and Wilson showing up late was an anomaly. The last time that had happened, he had been helping Cuddy go baby shopping, which turned out to be a disaster from start to finish. And he wasn't prepared to think about the four-month-long Wilson gap in the office next door. He grabbed the scans and brought them to the sliding door as a makeshift light source, though it was only a pretext to confirm that the office was still dark and empty.
"Go find out why he's ignoring me," he told Kutner, glaring at the scans as if they were responsible for Wilson's absence.
A few minutes later Kutner returned, accompanied, House noted with disapproval, by Roland, one of Wilson's senior oncologists. "Wilson called in sick," Kutner said quickly, before House could make one of the inappropriate comments that were flickering through his mind for selection. "Dr. Roland will take a look at the scans for us."
House tried to pretend that the concern he felt was purely for his patient. It wasn't that he didn't trust Roland; it was that he didn't trust anybody other than Wilson. But it really didn't matter, because somewhere between being annoyed with Wilson for calling in sick and wondering how sick he actually was, the symptoms on the whiteboard suddenly made sense, and he knew he didn't really need an oncologist's opinion. So he let Roland give one.
"Thank you for stating the obvious," he sneered, once Roland confirmed that the mass in the kidney was a cyst. "I'll be sure to let Wilson know that everything is running absolutely mundanely in his absence." He watched Roland carefully for a reaction, curious to see whether he'd rise to the bait.
But Roland was known throughout the hospital for his limitless patience, if not for his imagination. "If you don't need me for anything else," he replied mildly, "I'll get back to covering the rest of Dr. Wilson's duties."
House let him go. Wilson would have stayed, would have looked at all the symptoms holistically, and questioned the pathology of the cyst. Foreman might get to the final answer on his own — the neurological symptoms actually were important this time — but Wilson would have sped the process along.
The patient wasn't in any danger of deteriorating, so House decided to let the fellows arrive at the diagnosis without him. They were supposed to be learning, after all. And he had a more important case to diagnose.
"Where are you going?" Thirteen demanded, when House pushed open the door. "We haven't finished here."
"I have," House replied breezily. "Call me when you catch up." He tried to ignore the unwelcome worry in the pit of his stomach. Wilson hardly ever called in sick. If he wasn't feeling well, he cancelled his patient appointments, but he still came in to deal with paperwork and administrative duties.
House stalked down the hall to the Oncology department, stopping in front of Wilson's assistant and glaring until she looked up from the file she was reading. She glared back at him. "Let me hear the message he left," House demanded, once they'd made their mutual annoyance clear. House actually liked Pendleton, at least as much as he was willing to like anybody. She was smart and organized and kept Wilson's department running smoothly, which freed Wilson up to pander to House's needs. Not that House saw it as pandering; it was the only reasonable response to reality.
"Why should I let you listen to his personal messages? Or mine, for that matter?" she demanded.
"Because even I can't make a diagnosis without some information," House replied, as if explaining to a small child.
"And you think you can make a diagnosis from a phone message?"
He had made diagnoses from far less, which Pendleton knew very well. She sighed and accessed her voicemail on speakerphone.
"Teresa, it's me. Dr. Wilson." The clarification was smart. House barely recognised Wilson's voice. "I think I've picked up a bug. Probably best if I don't come in." That was typical Wilson. Not, "I feel like shit and need a day off" but "It'll be better for everybody else if I stay home." He noted the poorly muffled cough — dry, no wheeze. "I'm turning my phone off for a couple of hours to try and sleep it off. Have Roland handle anything that can't wait." That at least explained why he hadn't answered the calls or pages, not to mention the unwelcome presence of Roland in his conference room. It also indicated significant exhaustion. Wilson never turned his phone off. "Sorry for the bother. I'll check in later."
"Do you have a diagnosis or do I need to play it again?" Pendleton snipped.
House pretended to think about it. "Sore throat, coughing, weakness, fatigue. He always broadens his vowels like that when he's got a bad headache." The last was fabricated, but the headache was a given. "Differential diagnosis — influenza. He'll need an antiviral and at least three days bedrest, which he'll try to push to two. Best cancel his appointments for the week."
"Already done," Pendleton replied smugly. "And when you bring him the medicine, tell him I don't want to hear from him until tomorrow at the earliest."
"I don't do house calls," House said, fashioning his best look of disdain. "Why would I go out of my way to see patients when Cuddy keeps a collection of them down in the clinic just to torment me?"
Pendleton waved him away. "Tell him I hope he's feeling better."
House scowled and thumped his cane with extra emphasis as he walked away. It was bad enough Wilson could read him like a book. He didn't need to be training his assistant as well. He considered sending one of his minions to deliver the antiviral just to make a point, but while he trusted them with strangers, he didn't trust them with Wilson.
"Figured it out yet?" he asked when he got back to the office. He rummaged through the supply cabinet, filling his rarely used medical bag with everything he might need. He grabbed a pad and scribbled down a prescription. "Go get this filled for me," he ordered Taub.
"Zanamivir?" Taub asked, deciphering House's handwriting. "It's not a virus."
"How do you know what it isn't, when you don't know what it is?" He moved over to the kitchen area, grabbing tea bags, sugar, and creamers. There was nothing in the fridge that was useful, so he dug a handful of change out of his pocket and dumped it in front of Thirteen. "Get me some ginger ale and orange juice."
"What has this got to do with our patient?"
"It has absolutely nothing to do with your patient," House replied. "But it has everything to do with my patient. Chop, chop. He's dehydrating while we debate."
Kutner was the first to catch on. "You think Dr. Wilson has the flu?"
"Gold star for Kutner," House proclaimed. "For that you get to find me a saline drip."
By the time they returned from their errands, House had dealt with all the emails he wanted to deal with and packed up his iPod and game console. He shoved everything he needed into his backpack and shrugged on his motorcycle jacket.
"Wait a minute," Foreman protested. "You're just going to leave?"
House glanced down at his jacket; frowned at his backpack. "It certainly appears that way."
"But we have a patient."
"Exactly. And so do I. They're just not the same person." He slung the backpack over one shoulder. "Let me know when you've figured it out. If Cuddy comes looking for me, I'm with a patient."
"Like she'll believe that," Thirteen scoffed.
"And yet it will be true." He ran a hand through his hair, impatient to be on his way. "Look, you can reach me on my cell phone if you need anything. Re-run the blood tests. And get a DNA analysis while you're at it."
"You think it's something genetic?" Foreman asked, diverted by the new possibility.
Kutner wasn't as easily diverted. "You're worried about Wilson, aren't you?" He correctly interpreted the glare that earned him. "Call us if you need anything. Or if he needs anything."
House nodded, annoyed at being caught in a near act of kindness, and checked the corridor for signs of Cuddy. He made a clean escape, sneaking out the back way to avoid walking past the clinic and Cuddy's office, and hopped on his motorcycle.
Fifteen minutes later, he hammered on the door of Wilson's apartment. He knocked again, wondering if he should have brought Foreman along to pick the lock, but he finally heard the sound of someone moving inside. There was a pause and the sound of coughing, and then the lock clicked open.
House turned the knob and pushed the door open. "Why didn't you call me?" he demanded. He stalked into the room and pushed the door closed with his cane. He glared at Wilson. It nicely camouflaged an involuntary flash of concern at Wilson's appearance.
He was dressed in a grey t-shirt and blue sweat pants, and his hair was tousled and stringy with dried sweat. Dark bags were smudged beneath his eyes, which were red-rimmed and glazed. "I'm sick," he whined. "I was trying to sleep."
House scowled. "You're never sick," he accused, but reached up and felt Wilson's forehead, almost gently. Hot and damp. "You've got a fever," he observed. "Other symptoms?"
"This isn't going to count towards your clinic hours, you know," Wilson warned, wincing and rubbing his forehead. He stumbled over to the couch and slumped into the cushions. House followed him and sat on the edge of the coffee table.
"Symptoms?" he repeated.
"Sore throat and a headache. Fatigue and fever." He lifted his arm to cover his mouth as he coughed again. "Coughing," he added with a slight smile. "But you already knew that or you wouldn't have come here armed with medical paraphernalia."
"Let's take your temperature," House said, sticking some paraphernalia in his ear. "102.6," he said, showing the thermometer to Wilson for confirmation. "You're sick."
Wilson groaned and curled onto his side. "I thought we'd already established that."
"Yeah, well, anything under 100 and I was going to call you a drama queen. But that's a pretty impressive showing. Achy?" House asked, leaning forward and carefully probing Wilson's face and neck. Wilson nodded, offering himself up reluctantly to a full prodding and poking. Glands were swollen, but not sensitive. No reaction to pressure on sinus points, but Wilson's eyes had the half-lidded look that signalled general pain with him. "Not a sinus infection," House observed at last. "But I'm thinking flu rather than a cold."
"No shit, Sherlock," Wilson grumbled. "I don't need a world-famous diagnostician to tell me what I already knew. What are you doing here anyway?"
House smirked at the backhanded compliment and then remembered that he was annoyed with Wilson. "You could have called to warn me that you weren't coming in," he snapped. "I needed a consult and you weren't in your office, and you didn't answer your pager or cell phone."
"There are other oncologists in the hospital," Wilson replied defensively.
"I don't like the other oncologists."
"Didn't Teresa tell you where I was? Maybe she didn't get my message. I'd better call." He stood up, intending to walk to the phone, but he swayed and House had to grab his arm to prevent him from toppling over.
"Sit down before you fall down," House ordered. "Pendleton has everything under control. She filled Kutner in when I sent him to find out why the hell you were ignoring me. She sent Roland back with him."
"I'm not sure who that would be more traumatic for — you or Roland," Wilson mused dryly.
"Definitely Roland," House replied with a touch of satisfaction.
Wilson groaned and curled into the side of the couch. "So now that you've terrorized my staff and satisfied your curiosity, you can congratulate yourself on a job well done and leave me alone." He coughed harshly and fisted one hand against his chest, groaning again.
House didn't like the sound of that. "How long have you been coughing like that?"
Wilson shrugged. "Most of the night. Didn't get much sleep."
That was evident. "Have you taken anything?" That was a stupid question. Wilson would have loaded up on vitamin C the second he started feeling poorly, but House had snooped through his medicine cabinet and he knew the contents were an embarrassment to the medical profession. All but the most benign over-the-counter medications had disappeared after Amber's death. "I brought you an antiviral," House continued. "You sounded like shit on the voicemail. Look like shit too."
"I try to be consistent," Wilson murmured, closing his eyes. But House shook his shoulder and forced him to sit up. "Stop it," he complained, batting House's hand away. "Let me sleep."
"Not on the couch and not until you take your meds." House pulled an inhaler out of his pocket, checked the dosage, and tried to hand it to Wilson. "Two puffs," he ordered.
But Wilson recoiled and pushed House's hand away. "I'm not taking it."
"Don't be an idiot. I realize it's not going to make you feel any better, but at least it will stop you from getting worse."
"It's the flu; I can ride it out. I'm not taking your damn antiviral."
His voice broke on the final word, and the picture snapped into focus. House kicked himself for not anticipating this. "It's zanamivir, not amantadine," he said, trying to stay patient. "What are you going to do in the clinic? Refuse to prescribe antivirals because your girlfriend poisoned herself with one that was already 90% resistant?"
But Wilson had curled in on himself and wasn't listening any longer. The newly healed friendship between them was still fragile enough that House wasn't willing to risk pushing too hard yet.
"I'll get you some Tylenol," he said quietly and limped towards the kitchen to get a glass of water. He turned and watched Wilson drag himself up and shuffle into the bedroom, his body hunched over and his arms curled around himself. At least Wilson still had basic pain medication in the cabinet.
When he got to the bedroom, Wilson was already burrowed under the covers, but shifting restlessly. "Come on," House murmured. "Sit up and take your pills like a good boy and then you can sleep."
Wilson made an annoyed noise, but pushed himself upright, swallowing the two pills House handed him and washing them down with the full glass of water. He slid back beneath the covers, muffling another cough in the pillow.
House watched him squirm and turn, trying to find a comfortable position. "I'll let you sleep," he said finally, unable to watch any longer. "Best thing for you now." He walked away, but paused in the doorway when he heard Wilson call his name out. He turned and saw Wilson looking at him, his eyes just peeking above the covers.
"Thanks for coming by," Wilson murmured. "Sorry for making you worry."
House shrugged and closed the door behind him.