Title: What Is Real
Disclaimer: House M.D., its character's, locations, and storyline are the property of David Shore, Bad Hat Harry Productions and Fox Television. All Rights Reserved.
Characters/Pairing: J. Wilson, G. House, L. Cuddy, E. Foreman; House/Wilson Friendship-UST or Pre-slash/slash. Mention of House/Cuddy once established but recently over.
A/N: This is a response to the "While You Were Sleeping" Challenge at Sick_Wilson at LJ. As will become apparent there are three different stories going on at the same time and I have tried to clarify by changing fonts and italics. I also borrowed some lines from the show, mostly from episode 6x22 "Help me". Where I have they are in bold type. Hopefully this won't be too difficult to follow. It's unbeta-ed because I'm too impatient to post it, so please forgive me. I will post this once but at the end of each chapter will be a link to the next. I've also taken liberty on interpreting what I saw of the American promo for episode 7x16 "Out of the Chute" so by this coming Monday when "Out of the Chute" is broadcast this will probably be quite AU.
Warning: Spoilers for all seasons and episodes up to and including 7x16; coarse language, violence, sexuality. Involves subjects like drug abuse, addiction, suicide ideation and suicide although there is no actual major character death. Reader Discretion advised.
Genre: Drama/help-comfort with friendship heavy with the UST.
Word Count: 3694 (this chapter); total: ~15000 including introduction.
Rating: M(NC-17) for Adult subject matter, coarse language, drug use
What is Real
May 20, 2010: Opening his eyes he quickly shut them to block out the blinding light around him. He could hear the sound of movement nearby, but it barely registered in his sluggish, confused brain. There was also the faint, repetitive beeping that he could almost place but not quite. He knew he was lying down and that his body hurt but it was a diffuse pain and he couldn't decide what exactly hurt and why.
"Hey, Wilson—are you awake?" a familiar male voice murmured softly from somewhere around him. He knew he should recognize that voice but he was unable to put a name to the face he pictured in association to it. He knew it would come to him if he was patient.
"Hey, I know you can hear me," the voice said again. "Come on, wake up! Come on, you can do it. Wilson, wake the hell up!"
That voice…House. It was House's voice…his voice from the grave…
March 8, 2011: From the moment he saw him limp into the hospital—at ten in the morning—Dr. James Wilson knew that something was terribly wrong. His best friend, Dr. Gregory House, was limping more than he had in months, his shoulders were slumped, his head down, and he was wearing the same clothing he'd worn the day before. From his perch on the second floor mezzanine looking down at the main lobby of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, the older man looked a lot older than usual. He was slightly pale, the creases that gracefully lined his fifty-one year old face were much deeper and harsher and there were dark circles under his eyes, as if he hadn't slept the night before. His face, which had been lighter in expression since he'd started dating their boss was now shrouded by a dark cloud of misery.
It was that look of misery that had sent a chill down the Chief of Oncology's spine. He watched as the diagnostician stopped at the front desk to pick up any messages, heard him snarl at one of the nurses to 'snap to it' to which she asked him who had pissed in his cornflakes that morning before nearly throwing the small message slips into his face. House snatched them up and then headed toward the elevator. Wilson knew that his friend would be headed for the fourth floor where both his department and House's were located. Wilson decided to take the stairs up two floors to be there to greet him.
When House stepped off the elevator he nearly ran into Wilson. Dull blues eyes looked up at him briefly, but it was long enough to take the younger man's breath away for more than one reason. House's pupils were pin-points.
He was on Vicodin—a relapse. There was only one reason Wilson could think of that House would have gone back to the drugs and risk losing the relationship with Dr. Lisa Cuddy that he cherished so much; that was, if there was no longer a relationship to keep.
Without a word House stepped around Wilson and headed for his office. Of course, the oncologist followed. His stomach was tightening into a hard, painful knot in the pit of his stomach and he could feel a headache forming behind his eyes.
"House, hold up!" Wilson called after him, his two good legs easily catching up to and falling into stride with the man who only had one that functioned the way it was supposed to. Instead of pursuing the topic in the open corridor he followed the older man into the latter's office. House sloughed off his coat and flung it along with his backpack onto the sofa before sitting down behind his desk and elevating his legs onto the top of it, favoring the right leg as he lifted it with his hands onto the desk top.
Wilson came to stand in front of him on the opposite side of said desk. He resisted the urge to bring his hands to his hips and stuck them into the pockets of his white lab coat instead.
House looked at him lazily, raising an eyebrow. "So, what?"
Wilson sighed and took a seat in one of the rarely used visitor's chairs. "So why are you back on Vicodin, and where the hell did you get it from?"
This time it was House's turn to sigh. A look of resignation crossed his face as if he'd known that he wouldn't be able to keep it a secret from his best friend for long.
"I took it so I could be with her," he muttered, looking away.
"What do you mean? Oh, you mean, so you could be with her while she waited for the pathology report on her tumor?"
The older man nodded once.
It clicked with Wilson. House must have been terrified at the thought of losing the woman he loved and in his typical fashion had decided to deal with the painful situation by avoiding it. When the oncologist had called him on it in frustration, House had decided to do the right thing and go to her to encourage and support her; but why the Vicodin?
Because he'd been unable to face it sober, Wilson realized. It had been too painful and frightening for him but because Cuddy had needed him he'd gone to her in the only way he'd been able to.
Wilson didn't know whether to slap him silly or reach over the desk and hug him in compassion. Just when he began to think that House's selfishness knew no bounds, he was slapped in the face with the truth.
"Why didn't you tell me that you were so upset and afraid?" he asked the diagnostician. "Didn't you think I'd understand?"
Two blue eyes looked up to meet his gaze.
May 18, 2010: PPTH was overrun with the wounded and maimed being brought one ambulance after another from Trenton, the sight of a crane collapse that had destroyed an office building full of people going about their daily life earning a living. There was no room in the actual emergency room for all of the patients being brought in for treatment, some of them critically injured and in need of immediate care. PPTH wasn't the only hospital receiving disaster victims; every hospital in the Trenton region was receiving overwhelming numbers of tragic cases.
Wilson had come in as usual that morning, only this time in a foul mood after having had a real argument with his ex-wife turned live-in girlfriend, Dr. Samantha Carr. He hadn't expected to find what looked like the results of a war filling up every examination room, open-area (like the main lobby and the gymnasium), corridor, lounge, and conference room. He hadn't received the call that a Code Green—the recall of all off-duty medical staff to the hospital due to a disaster/mass trauma event—had been issued. He had only learned about the disaster upon arrival from an intern who looked lost and confused in the mayhem going down all around her.
When House had arrived Wilson was in the main lobby literally up to his elbows in a young man's chest performing a cardiac massage in order to stimulate his non-beating heart. There had been no defibrillators free and at his disposal when the kid had gone into cardiac arrest, and the epi he'd demanded had been taking its sweet time getting to him. CPR had been producing no results and the oncologist had been unwilling to just stand by and watch a twenty-year-old die simply because there weren't enough apparatus and drugs to go around on such short notice. It had been a split second decision to call over a nurse, shout for a rib spreader of some kind, a heavy-duty scalpel, and some gloves. Only having performed the procedure once before in his career as a resident, he'd relied heavily on his good memory and a lot of luck to reproduce the action. It had worked and the man had been rushed off to emergency surgery while Wilson had gone to the nearest bathroom to wash the blood off his arms. On his way back to the lobby he'd seen House following Cuddy out of her office. She had been put in charge of organizing the onsite triage and was on her way to Trenton with House accompanying her.
Wilson had immediately reacted at the thought of a doctor with a crippled leg being forced to enter a dangerous disaster zone where there was a myriad of things to trip over or fall into and performing a job a resident or an experienced nurse practitioner could do. He'd immediately hurried over to stop House before he left the hospital. Cuddy had stopped as well, obviously angered by the delay.
"House, you shouldn't be the one out there picking through rubble with your bad leg!"
The diagnostician had looked at him with hurting blue eyes and said stiffly, "Dr. Dread here doesn't agree."
"His skill at picking out signs of underlying illness and injury is needed down there," Cuddy had told him coldly. "Hurry up, House." She pivoted and marched towards the exit, not looking back.
"I'll go," Wilson told House in concern. "You stay here where your skills as a doctor will be better utilized. I've got two good legs."
"I don't need your pity-favors, Wilson," House had replied with a shake of his head. "Besides, you've got someone to make it home to alive and in one piece." The unspoken part of that message had impacted Wilson the hardest as he watched House leave through the same exit that Cuddy had seconds before. Feeling helpless and worried the oncologist had had no other choice but to get back to work.
As he slowly emerged from unconsciousness to awareness, Wilson could feel warm hands holding one of his. The hands had long, tapered fingers that wrapped around his. He attempted to open his eyes again, much more slowly than his first try. The light around him was still quite bright but part of it was being blocked by a blurry face and torso. The blurry face moved and House's voice sounded again.
"That's it, Wilson. Good. You can do this."
His eyes were as wide as he could open them. He blinked a couple of times, trying to clear his vision. It took a little while but slowly he was able to focus on House's face. Two beautiful blue eyes stared back at him.
"You're intubated," House informed him. "Don't try to talk or you'll start to gag. If you understand what I'm saying, nod."
It took a moment for the command Wilson's brain sent to the muscles involved to reach them but eventually his head nodded twice. The smile in the diagnostician's eyes spread to his mouth. He was a sight for sore eyes, smiling or frowning. How was it possible Wilson was seeing him looking so alive and well when the last memory he had of the older man was one he wished he could forever forget.
"Your response was a little slow there, but it'll do. Damn, Wilson! You scared the shit out of me. For a while I thought…" House's words trailed off to nothing and he sighed.
Wilson's eyes and head moved slowly as he took in his surroundings and his brain lazily made sense of it. A monitor displaying and recording his heart rate, Blood O₂ saturation, respiratory rate and blood pressure hung above, behind and to the side; a steel IV stand, regulator pump and half-full poly bags of saline, what might have been an antibiotic and morphine; the IV tube that ran from the pump to the PICC line in his right arm; the respirator pumping O₂ through a tube connected to the tracheal tube that ran down toward his lungs; the smallness of the room and the fact that he was the only one in it. He was in ICU but as for why or for how long he didn't have a clue or even a way to ask. What he did know was that he had a headache which probably would have been a lot worse if not for the pain killer easing it; it was also slowing his thought processes.
From what House had just said, with more emotion than he'd heard come from the man in reference to him in months, whatever had happened to the oncologist had been severe enough to strike fear in the man's calloused heart.
If only he could remember.
He looked up at House with what he hoped were puzzled, imploring eyes. He tried not to be distracted by the stunning blueness and clarity staring back at him. His eyes were vulnerable, open, and the pupils…the pupils…
Small pupils made House's eyes look like giant sapphires as he looked away from the oncologist, who stood watching him. Wilson felt a pang of guilt. Of course the diagnostician didn't trust him to understand and be compassionate. How many times had House slipped up only to receive looks of anger, disappointment and a lecture from him? Perhaps House was reminded of a Christmas eve when Wilson had left his overdosing friend on the floor of his apartment to an uncertain fate because he'd been furious and sickened by House's theft of a dead man's Oxycontin. Wilson had forgotten that addiction was a cruel, merciless bitch that demanded what she demanded and wasn't satisfied until she got it no matter what House had had to do to get it. Not unlike another addiction that had just devastated his best friend and left him to writhe and fight for life all alone.
Only this time, Wilson was determined to be understanding and empathetic; he refused to turn his back on the diagnostician and walk away.
"I fucked up," Wilson told him as House rubbed his eyes tiredly before his right hand went to rub his ruined thigh. "I wasn't there because I had my head up my ass. I get it; but I'm here now. Help me to understand. I need to if I'm going to help you."
"You're assuming I want your help." House looked at him not with anger or bitterness but with defeat. "I tried the sobriety route. I did the therapy, stayed off the Vicodin, suffered when the ibuprofen did dick-all for the pain, tried to be a trustworthy, loving, giving boyfriend and screwed that up and none of it made my life better. I'm still miserable and alone. So I might as well be pain-free, miserable and alone."
Wilson watched him rub his leg relentlessly. So much for the pain-free part, Wilson thought grimly.
"House, you're not alone…and it did make your life better at one point." Until I pissed on your efforts and our friendship, the oncologist added silently. "It can again. You can pull it back together. Don't give up on yourself like this just because Cuddy is too selfish to give back what she's been demanding from you for herself."
House reached for the IPod on his desk, and put the ear buds into the openings of his auditory canals. He looked at Wilson briefly with desolate eyes. "Too late." He turned on the IPod and raised the volume until he couldn't hear anything his friend had to say. House leaned his head back against the chair and closed his eyes. Seeing that he wasn't getting anywhere with his friend, Wilson strode out of the office.
No matter how hard he tried to focus on the immediate needs of the injured Wilson couldn't stop thinking about House being at the disaster site, stumbling over twisted metal and large pieces of concrete and body parts. He was angry with himself for not insisting to Cuddy that he go in House's place. House's pride would keep him from resting his leg when he needed to and keeping away from the more dangerous zones.
He was also angry at Cuddy for insisting that it be House specifically to go down there when she was smart enough to know that the drawback of his disability would easily overshadow the benefit of his diagnostic genius under those circumstances. Those people had been wounded by a crane and a building falling on top of them. There was no fantastic mystery that only House could solve. Wilson knew that there had been a great deal of tension between the Dean of Medicine and her recalcitrant Chief of Diagnostic Medicine since her affair with Lucas Douglas had been revealed in possibly the most humiliating way for House that it could have been. She seemed to resent the fact that House, in spite of his feelings for her, had respected her relationship and had backed off and acted as if it was a personal slight to her. House, still feeling hurt and betrayed by the way she had flirted shamelessly with him after his release from Mayfield (when the entire time she'd been doing the private investigator), felt uncomfortable and embarrassed around her and avoided her as much as possible. Wilson wondered if this was one way she was vindictively trying to punish him for not continuing to pursue her in spite of her verbalized demands for him to back off.
Wilson shook his head in frustration. Cuddy was his friend, but House was his best friend and he hadn't been able to tolerate that she was narcissistic enough to have toyed with the diagnostician's heart to boost her own ego and to entertain her.
He was busy picking embedded shards of glass out of a man's forehead with forceps when his cellphone rang. Checking it quickly, Wilson saw House's name on the call display and answered it. He didn't stop what he was doing as he talked, the phone cradled between his ear and his shoulder.
"Having fun down there?" he asked right off in obvious sarcasm. There was a hint of worried tension in his voice. In the background he could hear the sounds of bulldozers, jackhammers, saws and ambulance sirens.
"Lots," House responded with faux-cheer. "Every time Cuddy leans over a patient it's another opportunity for a down-blouse-nip-slip. What's going on between her and Lucas?"
He was fishing for something but Wilson had no idea what. "Beside's their moving in together? That's not enough for you?"
"I gave her the housewarming gift earlier," the diagnostician confessed, placing emphasis on the double-meaning. "She paused for a split second; she was hiding something."
Wilson sighed silently. He was afraid that his hopeful best friend was reading something into what was actually nothing, and would end up disappointed—or worse. Why couldn't House accept the fact that the U.S.S. Cuddy had set sail already and just move on?
"It was probably her moral revulsion at the House-warming gift." Wilson grabbed ahold of a particularly large shard of glass and carefully extricated it from the surrounding flesh, tossing it into a pan with the rest of them.
"Maybe she didn't want to accept a gift for something she wasn't going to do," House quipped in return. The oncologist didn't like the hopeful lilt he heard.
"You actually think they're not moving in together?" he asks the older man. Suddenly there is the sound of a smash and shattering glass near House's cellphone that startles Wilson and revives his concern for House's well-being. "What was that? You okay?"
"Yeah," came the nearly immediate reply from a calm House. "A vending machine collapsed. Is she still using your ex-wife as her realtor?"
"As far as I know." Wilson sighed softly. House wasn't going to let this go which only meant one thing—a migraine headache for the oncologist and more drama for the love-sick diagnostician. Wilson frowned nearly imperceptibly; the idea of House being in love with Cuddy more than irritated him.
"Know a little farther, will you?" said older man requested. "Look into it."
Before Wilson could respond House hung up on him. He quickly pressed end on his own phone and returned it to his belt. 'Look into it'? Yeah, he would get right on that as soon as he was done picking glass out of this forehead, stitching a deep bleeding slice in a young woman's arm, popping another woman's shoulder back into its proper place, and casting an older man's broken ulna.
Relieved that at least for the time being his friend was still fine, Wilson tried to put House and his fiendish schemes out of his mind so he could focus on the people he was charged with treating.