Holding House's foot in his hands, Wilson surveyed the still-present edema dispassionately before he reluctantly began putting the shoes on. It had subsided somewhat; though the puffiness stretched the seams of a new pair of socks. Above him, House shifted uncomfortably as Wilson first tied one shoe and then the other.
"Well?" Wilson asked finally, and noted the way House shied from his gaze. Softening his expression, Wilson set his feet on the floor and got up again; staring intensely at House. He took in House's tousled appearance; his slightly bloodshot blue eyes, grayish pallor and downcast expression. Shit. Shit. The edema, the nocturia, even House's increasing restiveness. With a flash of insight, he understood how House felt when he reached a final diagnosis: House did know what was wrong, but he hadn't worked it up yet. His thoughts raced with the probable symptoms and causes and outcomes until he felt as though he'd reached the right one. Congestive heart failure. In the silence of the room, he struggled to calm the whirling vortex of his thoughts until, finally, he thought himself calm enough to speak without losing his temper.
"How long?" he asked quietly. Standing uncomfortably before him, House looked away as he snatched his jacket off the back of the chair. He pulled the fleece on and zipped it up firmly. The fabric was filled out in a way he hadn't seen before, the zipper subtly stretched. House's whole midsection was somehow thicker, Wilson noted in despair. He felt numb.
"How long what?" House asked evasively, and Wilson sighed raggedly.
"How long have you known?" he asked again. He could see the struggle in House's face; see his friend weigh the risks and the benefits of letting Wilson share the knowledge of what was killing him a moment, a day, a week at a time.
"How long have I known, or how long have I suspected?" House asked quietly after a moment, and Wilson felt his heart swell anxiously. He swallowed his discomfort and forced himself to answer.
"How long have you suspected, then?"
"About three months." House leaned uncomfortably against the island in the kitchen and Wilson remembered the edema in his legs probably made it uncomfortable for him to stand for long periods. Not that he'd ever liked standing in one position for very long. Resisting the urge to rub the back of his neck, he stared at the floor for a long moment before looking up at House again in despair.
"Why didn't you say something?" he asked, not entirely able to hide the hurt in his voice.
House shrugged, and Wilson tried not to be hurt further by the gesture. "Figured you'd find out soon enough."
"Have you—" he began, only to stop; choking on the questions that tumbled through his mind. Seen your cardiac team? What is your ejection fraction? How are your lab values?
"What does Morris say?" he asked finally, trying to remain clinically detached.
"I don't know."
Wilson winced; trying not to feel as though he was reeling out of control. Everything fit.
House's phone chimed and he studied it intently before clipping it to the holder on his hip and looking up at Wilson expectantly.
"Can I get a ride?" he asked quietly, and after another uncomfortable silence Wilson nodded.
"Should you be working?" he asked in a low voice as House started for the door. He froze; unable or unwilling to turn and face Wilson in that moment.
"I'll be just as likely to die by going to work as I would be sitting here on the couch. But this guy probably won't last as long."
Wilson let him go then; knowing House needed to put some literal distance between them after everything he'd disclosed that morning. He scrubbed at his face wearily; as though to wake himself up from the disaster he'd just walked into. He turned slowly; any thoughts of collecting lunches for himself and House put out of his mind. Struggling to wipe away the last of his tears, he numbly made himself gather his briefcase and step into his shoes and walk monotonously out to the car. House was already seated in the passenger seat of his Volvo. Seat belt buckled, window down, radio on one of his pre-sets and tapping out the base line on the passenger side door. He glanced at Wilson and away again as he slipped his briefcase onto the backseat and eased himself into the driver's side.
Wilson was silent for a moment before slipping on his shades and starting the car. As he backed out of the garage, he forced himself to speak lightly.
"Will you let me schedule a work up?"
House gave him a withering look for a long moment, but nodded when he turned back to stare out the window. Wilson sighed in relief; maybe there was something House had missed. Something that could be fixed with diet and medication and time.
Or so he told himself.
Wilson had driven to work on autopilot; he was lost in his thoughts and House to the case. Despite the deafening bass on the classic rock station House had selected, he seemed engrossed in whatever data the team had sent to him on his phone. Still, House had been cognizant enough to notice when Wilson had pulled into his parking space. Moving faster than his current condition belied, House slapped the handicapped placard on the rearview mirror and stepped out of the car in one blur of movement. The zing of his seatbelt recoiling jolted Wilson from his thoughts before House slammed the door and limped gamely toward the clinic entrance. Sighing, Wilson put his face in his hands and scrubbed vigorously before unsnapping his own belt and rising from the car. He collected his briefcase and pressed the button on his key fob before stepping up onto the sidewalk slowly. Ahead of him, he could see House's canted form disappearing beyond the frosted glass doors. He almost smiled then, imagining House's caustic voice berating his fellows the second they came into sight.
He felt the tears well up again—but had no time to dwell on them as his phone chirped with a page. He blinked swiftly, once, twice; withdrawing his phone to find the first text of the day from his assistant. Steeling himself, he drew his shoulders back unconsciously and stepped into the clinic. Pausing at the front desk to check with the day nurse, he took the fistful of notes she offered him along with a large blue chart.
House's file. His actual file. With his name really on it.
He raised his eyes to find House's piercing gaze across the lobby near the elevators. He met House's eyes and nodded slightly; pleased by the unspoken request he saw there.
He had House's file, and more importantly, House's trust.
He just hoped he had enough strength for the both of them.