Sleeping Man III: Settling the Score
Characters: House and Wilson
Timeline: The fall, around the time of Cane and Able
Summary: A brief epilogue, as promised, for Sleeping Man I: Outside and Sleeping Man II: Inside. This won't make sense unless you've read the earlier parts first.
PS I re-wrote the first half of this sequel yesterday. It was a mess when I first posted it, because I was in too much of a rush to get it up, for which I apologize.
Wilson made his way from the men's room at South Station to the café table where House was waiting. They had a good half hour till their train left.
"You're looking pretty happy," said Wilson.
"Payback always feels good."
"Yes," admitted Wilson. "So you've evened all your scores? Gotten your revenge and paid back all your debts?"
There was an uncomfortable pause while Wilson gave him a long look. "Except for one," Wilson finally reminded him. When House only raised his eyebrows quizzically, he continued: "The biggest one."
House had a hard time covering his surprise. It was completely unlike Wilson to ask for something so baldly. To ask at all, really. But he managed to school his features into a pantomime of innocence. "And who might that be?"
"Have you really forgotten the man who actually saved your miserable life?" Wilson tried to hide his obvious disappointment by snapping open the Boston Globe he had just bought from a news stand.
"Yes, House. Tell me, is it physically impossible for you to say the words 'thank you' to another human being? Just because you loathe someone doesn't get you off the hook, you know."
House wondered if he had misheard Wilson. Did he say loathe? Or love? "I'm confused," he said as Wilson scanned the headlines. "Are we talking about—"
"Yes. Dr. Jacoby. The man who actually kept your kidneys from ending up in a dumpster. You might hate the man, but that doesn't exempt you from—" Wilson stopped, perplexed, as House was actually laughing out loud.
"Jacoby? Oh, I paid him back weeks ago. Didn't I tell you?"
"No." Wilson looked a little frosty.
"Well, that's because you were being such a pill at the time."
"Then why don't you tell me now? We've got lots of time before the train comes." Wilson leaned back in his seat and folded his arms expectantly.
"It was the time you insisted on re-admitting me to the hospital, just because you—"
"Just because you had gone on a three-day hunger strike and lost so much weight you needed to be force fed. Continue."
Dr. Chase knocked hesitantly on the glass door of House's room. House nodded at him and he slid the door the rest of the way open. He took a seat next to House's bed and folded his hands over a red file he was carrying.
"How you doing?" he asked House, taking in the newly inserted NG tube. "Wilson tells me you took a turn for the worse."
"No, he took a turn for the worse. Got all in my face about what I could and couldn't eat. Cut off my home delivery privileges."
"Well, you do look pretty crappy. May I?" he reached for House's chart but House snatched it away before he could get it.
"No. You're not my attending any more. And I'm fine. Or will be, as soon as I get out of here. Why are you here?"
"Can't I be here just because I take an interest? Care about you?"
Chase sighed. "All right, then. I'm here because I'm your fellow, and while you've been recuperating, Cuddy's assigned me to the surgical transplant team. We have a case that worries me a bit, and I wanted a second opinion."
House narrowed his eyes. "This isn't just, we all feel sorry for House so let's throw him a bone to make him feel better. Take his mind off his pathetic situation."
"I did think it might make the time pass a little quicker, yes," said Chase.
Oh, thought House. Testiness. Fun.
"But I'm really doing it because I think the patient's been misdiagnosed."
"Not my patient. Not my problem."
"Quite true. He's actually Dr. Jacoby's patient."
That got House's full attention. "Does Jacoby know you're doing this?"
"No. The man's a first rate arsehole and won't listen to a thing I say."
House grinned and took the file from Chase's hand. "That's my good boy," he said. The Aussie gave him a complicit smile, and House was tempted to pat him on the head. He leaned back against the pillows and started to read. Ten minutes later he lifted his head. "You may be right. We have to run a few more tests."
Chase shook his head. "There's no time. Jacoby's booked the OR and the transplant team for 3:30. The kidneys are already here."
"Then get Foreman and Cameron in here. We need to do a little creative breaking and entering."
Three hours later Foreman and Cameron opened the door to the room. "Where's Chase?" asked House.
"Prepping the patient for surgery."
"We've only got half an hour, then," said House impatiently. "So, what did you find?"
"The man was good at covering his tracks," replied Foreman. "He had a paper shredder. And his laptop was password protected."
"All the more reason to think he had something to hide. I hope you didn't let a little thing like a paper shredder or a password stop you."
"If you're asking if we spent the afternoon trying to piece together the scraps from the shredder or entering seven million random passwords," said Foreman, "you're nuts."
"Grasshopper, you disappoint me," said House sadly.
"Bite me," said Foreman.
"Obviously there wasn't time for that," said Cameron smoothly, ever the peacemaker. "But we did find this." She tossed a new-looking American passport onto his lap. "Check out the first page."
House took one look and laughed out loud. "Get Jacoby in here right away."
"You want to tell us why?" asked Foreman. "What are you thinking?"
"No time. Just get him down here."
Cameron looked dubious. "What if he won't come? He's probably scrubbing in right now."
"Tell him, if he doesn't want me to come down to the OR in my wheelchair and humiliate him in front of his colleagues, he better get his ass over here right now. He's going to kill this patient."
Ten minutes later Chase showed up, followed by Jacoby, gowned, ready for surgery, and loaded for bear. "What the hell are you up to, House? Who told you to stick your nose in my business?"
"Well, a little Australian birdie told me that you were about to do a double kidney transplant on a patient with chronic renal failure who had also been running a low-grade fever and displaying rashes on his hands and feet."
"Yes, and if he doesn't get those kidneys in the next 30 minutes, the transplant committee'll give them to someone else, and he will have to wait another six months—which he won't survive!"
"Yes, he will, because you're going to give him a loading dose of erythromycin, which will kill the bacteria that have been destroying his kidneys. This man doesn't have chronic renal failure, he has a nasty little case of phyllodistomum conostomum, and if you put him on immunosuppressants—which he will be forced to take, after the transplant, for the rest of his short sad life—those little bacteria will run rampant and kill him in a matter of days."
"That's utter rubbish, House. Did you even read his history? Phyllodistomum's a tropical disease, and the patient's never left the Western Hemisphere."
House waved the passport in Jacoby's face. "Except for an illicit little trip to Bang his Cock in Thailand, which he never told the wifie about, since he was undoubtedly there for a little man-on-underage-girl action. Or maybe underage boy, let's not discriminate."
Jacoby grabbed the passport and stared at it mutely.
"All of which you could have figured out from the fever and the rash," added Chase, "which I told you were not signs of chronic renal failure."
My, thought House. Chase has really grown a pair.
Chase gave House a nod. "I guess it pays to have a double specialty in infectious disease as well as nephrology."
"No," said House. "It pays to be a genius and not a moron. So this will be our little secret, and…we're quits, then. Yes, Dr. Jacoby?
Wilson couldn't help laughing, despite the fact that House had never confided this little victory to him. He hadn't seen triumphant/smug House in such a long time, and it was a look that really did suit him.
"So you really are quits. Paid everyone back, one way or another. Settled all debts."
House shrugged. "Just one more," he muttered, the smug look fading just a bit.
Wilson's turn to be surprised. "Who?"
House said nothing but gazed into the middle distance.
"Who, House?" Wilson persisted. When House didn't answer, Wilson turned to see what House was looking at. It was a waiter from one of the many eateries fringing the South Station waiting area. As Wilson watched, he approached their table and, following some invisible signal from House, deposited the large bowl he was carrying in front of Wilson, along with silverware and a glass of beer.
Wilson looked at House, a smile creasing his face. It was a Chicken Caesar salad.
"Awww," he said. "You remembered."
"Memory like a steel trap," replied House.
The waiter handed the leather folder with the bill and credit card receipt to House to sign.
"Now we're even," said House, reaching for the folder. "Right?" Wilson just grinned.
Then House slid the bill over to the other side of the table. Wilson plucked up the card and shook his head in disbelief. "My American Express card," he said, more to himself than to the waiter. There it was again: the smug/triumphant look. Damn the man, and the dimples he rode in on.
And while Wilson was signing the tab and figuring out the tip, House leaned forward and—grabbing Wilson's fork--snared a piece of chicken from the top of the salad.