AN: Takes off from after 'Wilson' and assumes House and Wilson are still sharing the loft—well into season 7's timeline. I got tired of waiting for TPTB to do what I want and decided to take matters into my own hands...
All medical mistakes belong to me and wikipedia.
House/Wilson friendship, all characters included.
It was late.
Later than he'd planned to be when he'd finished the last of his charting and shut his computer off around five. Closing his eyes, he pinched the bridge of his nose to try and ease the pressure building there. It was past ten now; he'd been waylaid by Doug Graham's unexpected reaction to chemo and then a four-year-old named Gracie Halloran's blood work had come back differently than he'd expected. He'd fled after meeting with her parents and foisted her on his PA—leaving her to get the little girl admitted and settled onto the pediatric oncology ward for the night. House's decrepit old car was already in the garage when he opened the door and eased his Volvo into its usual space. Sighing to himself as he put the car into park; he shut the radio off and killed the engine, staring into the darkness. All he wanted was food, beer and a couch to collapse on—in that order. Suppressing a grunt as he opened the door and levered himself out of the seat, he made his way around the back of the cars and along the wall until he reached the inside door and slapped the garage door opener on his way past. Listening to the door clank shut he moved the rest of the way into the mudroom where he tossed his briefcase onto the dryer and worked his way out of his dress shoes. He hung his coat up, and paused only to dig his phone out before sliding down the hall in his stockinged feet.
"House?" he called; not really expecting an answer as he moved into the living room with only the TV's flickering light to guide his steps. Monday night football, it looked like. House was asleep; sprawled bonelessly on the couch with his sneakered feet propped up on the table before him. He still clutched the remote gamely, and Wilson sighed.
Deciding to ignore House for the time being, he moved into the kitchen, shedding his pager and phone on the counter. He dug through the freezer; tossing a frozen cup of soup into the microwave to thaw. That done, he surveyed his friend on the couch; noting the way his right hand was wrapped around the upper part of his thigh protectively. His right leg jutted out onto the table at an odd angle with one ankle crossed over the other. Judging by the way he gripped his thigh in his sleep, Wilson guessed he hadn't been asleep for long. He squinted in the flickering glow of the tv screen, noting the way House's jeans had ridden up to reveal a chalky white leg clad in a tube sock. A closer look at House's right leg proved most of it was swollen, as he could see vivid sock lines digging into the flesh midway up his calf. Wilson moved to kneel beside his friend, and gently worked the leg of House's jeans up as he poked at his ankle, noting the puffiness above the joint and the feel of the cool, dry skin beneath his fingertips. Edema. He looked up to find House was still lying exactly as he had been, his breath coming slowly and evenly. Wilson idly wondered if House was asleep sitting up because he was orthopnaic or simply because he'd fallen asleep watching TV.
Grasping the shoe laces, Wilson deftly untied them and supported House's foot by the ankle as he worked the sneaker off. He set the shoe aside and slipped in a pillow that he rested House's foot on before working the sock off. His ankle was puffy, as was the foot and calf. He shook his head then, moving back into the kitchen to grab an ice pack and place it over House's right ankle.
House started awake then; inhaling in surprise at the cold. His blue eyes blinked languidly at Wilson in puzzlement. "What're you doing?" he asked tiredly.
"Your leg's pretty puffy." Wilson told him. He grasped House's ankle with one hand and motioned for House to swing both legs onto the couch. He did so, with both hands wrapped around his right thigh to support the movement. Wilson set the pillow under his foot, and then tucked another under his knee. House blinked at him sleepily while he resituated the ice pack, and then untied House's other shoe and pulled it off. More edema. So it wasn't just his bad leg. Closing his eyes briefly, he bit his lip and forced his expression to remain neutral.
"How long have you had edema?" he asked lightly, leaving House to come up with a witty mask for his concern. The microwave beeped on cue and Wilson busied himself with filling a bowl and popping the top off his beer bottle while House dragged the blanket from the back of the couch down to cover himself. He removed another ice pack from the freezer and flung it at House with more force than was actually necessary.
"Don't know." House mumbled finally, as he caught the pack and leaned forward to put it on his left ankle before he propped it on the arm rest. Wilson plunked his bowl down on the table, and leaned over to snatch the remote from House's chest. He grinned when House made a failed grab at it before reclining on the couch again. He looked half awake, and Wilson bet that he'd be asleep again before the end of the game.
"Is this run-of-the-mill edema, or the kind I should set up a consult with Morris for?" he asked as he dipped his spoon into the bowl and stirred idly. It was obvious that he needed a work up, really. But House needed the opening, and Wilson knew the remark would give House time to come up with a response. He scooped up a spoonful and blew on it before greedily sucking it down. To his surprise, when House did answer—it was with the truth, not a bawdy joke or a deflection.
"My legs hurt. Hurt all day." House admitted in a low voice. He was playing with the blanket when Wilson looked at him, but he met Wilson's gaze earnestly enough that Wilson could only nod in reply.
"Oh?" he asked nonchalantly around another mouthful of soup.
House shrugged, and Wilson bit his lip. Of course House hadn't checked it out. More importantly, House was scared.
"You have no idea what happened?"
House shook his head while Wilson set aside his soup to grasp House's calf intently. At House's tight nod, he put each leg through a series of range of motion—unsurprised by the lack of flexion from the knee down on the right. Pulses were good on both, however, so whatever it was it could wait for him to finish his soup. Sinking down onto his chair again, he resumed his meal.
"What do you think it is?" he asked finally, and House sighed. He shrugged, and leaned back into the couch. His eyes glowed in the white light from the TV.
"I'm getting old." House conceded, though his tone was off. Wilson looked away, unaware why he felt he needed to do so, but cognizant of it nonetheless. He finished his soup, sipping every once in a while at his beer. He made a point of ignoring House while he scrolled through the TiVo offerings; finally choosing a pre-recorded Dirty Jobs that he switched to without so much as a single complaint from the couch. He laughed his way through one episode while he finished the last of his beer. Setting the bottle down beside his chair, he studied House quietly. He was lying on his back now, legs stretched out along the length of the couch. His face was turned toward the tv screen, but his eyes were closed again. He hadn't made a sound even when Mike had groused his way through the artificial insemination of several holsteins; hadn't even cracked a smile. He longed to ask House more questions—pepper him until House gave him more information to go on. Had the pain beeen neuropathy? Muscular? Burning? Stinging? Aching? Why now? Had it been going on for long? But House himself had seemed strangely apathetic, and Wilson felt himself unwilling to bring it up. It wasn't House's usual brand of deflection; it stung more of despair than it did of any real intent, and Wilson couldn't bring himself to ask. Whatever it was, it would keep for a little while. He hoped.
Wilson smiled as he got to his feet and rinsed his bowl, threw his bottle into the recycling bin. House was out cold; he didn't even stir when Wilson took the trash out, or started the dishwasher. Wilson snatched the remote off the table and turned the sound down a fraction before pushing the blanket back and poking at the ice packs. Still cold, and the ankles beneath were still swollen, but fractionally less so. He shifted each pack so they were secured between House's feet. Setting the remote down on the table in House's reach, he snatched his pager and phone off the counter and made his way down to the bedroom.