Disclaimer: The characters of House, MD, the TV show are not mine. Jensen IS mine. :)
A/N: This is a two-parter, first chapter Wilson, second chapter House. Both of them catch up Jensen on some of the events in Sick Day. This is an odd story for me in that there isn't its own "cycle" of problem and resolution within that story. Yes, there's progress and strategy, but both sessions cover much longer-term things to be worked on. This was needed in the Pranks series to get the issues brought up in Sick Day onto the therapeutic table, though. Much more coming in Three Cases.
Three Cases, the next big Pranks story, is most likely a good way down the road, maybe even months. It has a LOT of work left to do on it and will require a lot of research, too, and I have another writing project demanding to be given priority to be written down before that. Not that I ever really work on just one thing at a time, and Three Cases will be simmering away on the back burner meanwhile, but it has a lot of cooking time left. So hang tight after this one, because it may be a while. Patience is a virtue. :)
Wilson entered Jensen's office with reluctant enthusiasm - he knew he badly needed to get things on the psychiatric table today, but he still wasn't looking forward to confessing his further faults. Jensen gave him a friendly smile and offered coffee as usual, but the psychiatrist's dark eyes were assessing every nuance as Wilson took his usual chair in front of the desk. Honestly, Jensen in expression could remind Wilson of House at times, although they looked nothing alike physically.
"Are you all right, James? Physically, I mean. I can tell there's more, but we'll get down to the rest of it in due time." Jensen thought that Wilson looked pale and had dropped a few pounds in the last week since his previous session. Granted, he'd been carrying a little extra to drop, but it was still a change. Normally, psychological stress made him agitated, which he clearly was today, but it didn't make him look half sick.
Wilson dismissed his health with a short nod. "I've had that wonderful stomach bug that's been going around. Was sick half of Monday and half of Tuesday. I'm feeling a lot better today, but it did knock me down for a while; today was my first day at work all week."
Jensen winced in sympathy. "I had it myself last weekend. Saturday, anyway, and spent most of Sunday resting and recovering. So did Cathy. Not much fun, is it?"
Wilson shook his head. He was glad to have another initial subject to postpone the inevitable for a while, and he expanded on the current topic. "It's frustrating as a doctor to realize there's still really nothing medically we can do for just a bug going around. It's hit a lot of people; the hospital has been short-staffed and hopping. Sandra must have picked it up there; she was sick by Sunday night herself. House and his whole family had it all day Sunday, too." The oncologist paused, then edited in the interests of accuracy. "Well, no, actually Cuddy turned out not to have the virus after all, but you know the surgery fixed her up."
Jensen literally dropped his pen and sat up straight in his desk chair. "Surgery? Dr. Cuddy had surgery this weekend?"
Wilson was startled out of concentrating on putting off his own problems. "You didn't know that already?"
"No. I haven't spoken to Dr. House since last Friday's session."
"He didn't call you? When I left him at the hospital Sunday night, I figured he'd jump straight to the phone to talk to you since she wasn't awake yet."
"No. What happened to Dr. Cuddy?"
"She had appendicitis. House diagnosed her, even sick and half drugged, and I drove them to the hospital. Laparoscopic surgery, no complications. They caught it early, thanks to House. She went home Monday morning. She's doing okay; she'll be back at work next week."
Jensen was still trying to piece together the situation. "You drove them to the hospital Sunday night - with him sick and half drugged - and then left him there before she had even woken up?"
Wilson was starting to get defensive. "He told me to go. I'd just found out Sandra was sick, too; I'd spent all day with House and Cuddy helping them out with the kids, so I didn't know up until I called her with an update. He thought helping nurse Sandra would score me a few brownie points, and God knows I need them. He swore he was okay, and he was in the hospital, after all. Plenty of people around if needed. It wasn't like leaving him sitting on the side of the road. Really, I was sure he was going to call you as soon as I cleared the door. That's what made me feel better about leaving him there." Wilson paused, looking thoughtful. "He did seem to be managing, though. Not just House deflection; he seemed to be dealing with the situation. Well, I mean he was sick, still couldn't keep anything down, in pain, and we had him drugged up for his leg - he'd had a pain flare earlier that day that hit a 10. So he looked pretty awful still. But he said he was fine with me leaving. I didn't totally believe him, of course, but I was sure he was going to call you."
Jensen sighed. "No, he didn't. I'd been sick, which he knew, but I was getting better by Sunday. I still would have answered. You said Dr. Cuddy was doing well, though?"
"Yes. She's making a textbook recovery. No problems at all. I just got an update on her from House at lunch today."
"And he seemed to be all right himself then?"
"He was classic House at lunch. Distracted with a case, needling me a little bit, stealing some of my fries. Then the ketchup bottle getting sluggish and finally spurting all at once made him think of something with the patient's blood, and he went bolting out like he does without finishing. But I had already asked about Cuddy before that. Trust me, there was nothing at all bothering him today. He's perfectly fine." Jensen didn't look quite convinced. Wilson was beginning to get annoyed now. All right, so he'd been the one to bring up the whole topic of House, but Jensen's thoughts weren't even in this room at the moment. "Shall we put my session on hold while you call to check on him? I can take a number."
Jensen firmly refocused his attention. "No. You're right; I apologize." Actually, Jensen didn't completely trust the accuracy of Wilson's readings on House, particularly when Wilson was stressed out himself, which he clearly was today. Wilson had a gift for seeing his own reality at times. But the oncologist was right. This was not the appropriate time to dig any further into House. Jensen switched gears to his current patient. "So what's happened this last week, James? Obviously something has. Something more than just being sick."
Wilson looked down at his coffee, suddenly wishing he could stall for a few more minutes. Maybe he should have let Jensen chase the House topic a little longer, which he was sure the psychiatrist would have done. Wilson couldn't believe himself that House hadn't called the other man from the hospital Sunday night. "I . . .um. . ." He trailed off and took a swallow of coffee.
Jensen gave him a gentle verbal prod. "Something new between you and Sandra?"
"Kind of. At least knowing about it is new. She's known since Saturday, but she told me Sunday morning."
"Told you what?" Jensen asked patiently. He could have made a few guesses, based on the oncologist's guilt factor being even higher today than in the last few weeks, but he left it up to Wilson to get around to filling in the blanks.
"You know she went to the OB for her first visit recently, the same day we were all at court. She went back again and asked for a full STD panel, and that came back." Wilson closed his eyes.
"Which one?" the psychiatrist asked. There was no condemnation in his voice at the moment. Wilson was clearly calling himself worse things right now than anyone else could have. For once, the oncologist was left with no choice but to admit his own errors, no possible way to jump off to validate himself by analyzing somebody else's problems instead and deeming them worse, and the weight of it was almost visibly pressing down on his shoulders.
"HSV2. Genital herpes."
Jensen flinched. "That's treatable but not curable. Right?"
The oncologist looked at him squarely for the first time since the topic had turned to himself rather than House. "In adults, yes. It's a nuisance, but it can be lived with."
"And what about the baby?" Jensen asked.
"It's very serious in infants. Even fatal sometimes. It can cause prematurity. There's a whole list of possible neurological problems. Even if the child survives, it can cause brain damage."
"What are the chances of in utero transmission?"
"5% for a primary infection in the mother. It's a lot less if she'd already had it and had outbreaks before she got pregnant. Would be worse if she got it later in pregnancy, but it's still a real risk. Sandra might have to have a C-section, too. The biggest risk of transmission is going through the birth canal. That 5% is without considering that, just in utero."
"That's still 95% that the child won't get it," Jensen pointed out.
Wilson smacked his hand down on his thigh. "I can't believe this. All those times before, when it didn't matter half as much, everything was fine. We both got tested when we first started seeing each other, so I know everything was fine. But now that I've got the best relationship I've ever had and she's carrying my child, one stupid slip, and I've given her an incurable disease and might have killed our baby."
"You don't know that yet on the baby. You just know that there's a chance, a small one, of transmission of the virus. Even if that occurs, you don't know the course the virus will take. How is Sandra dealing with all this?"
"She's worried, too, of course. She . . . I don't know how she can even stand to look at me now. And if the baby dies, I've obviously totally blown it. There's no way we could ever have a future then."
"That's not completely statistically accurate, although it would be very hard. But James, try not to jump to the worst case scenario before you have to. You aren't going to help Sandra any by that. She is going to be nerve wracked herself through the next several months, and her stress factor impacts the baby's health. She needs support from you right now, not a constant forecast of doom."
Wilson shook his head. "I'll try, but . . . we hadn't even really talked until last night. When she told me Sunday morning, I immediately went running out to go get a medical opinion on the baby from House. I found out they were all sick and stayed there all day helping them, then went back to help her when I found out that night she was sick, then got sick myself. Last night was the first time we were both really up to it."
"And how did that conversation go?" Jensen asked, with a sinking suspicion that he already knew the answer.
He was right. "I told her I'd pack up my things and leave Princeton if she wanted, because I knew she had to detest me."
"And just abandon her and your child?"
"I said I'd send child support," Wilson bristled. "I'm not trying to walk out on my responsibilities here."
Yes, you are, Jensen thought. Trying to walk out on your guilt, anyway, as far as you can. But Wilson was still sitting here in his office rather than on a plane to California. "What was Sandra's reaction?" Jensen asked. Sandra in his limited experience seemed to have a very good head on her shoulders.
Wilson looked down again. "She got mad. She was about as mad as I've ever seen her. Said that I wasn't going to get off that lightly and just walk away to leave her with the fallout from what I'd done. She said she wouldn't let me leave at this point, that if . . . that if she was going through a whole pregnancy of worrying, I deserved to go through every day of it, too." Good for her, the psychiatrist thought. "Get off lightly," Wilson repeated. "She really thinks I'm trying to get off lightly."
"James, what do you think she was saying there?"
"Oh, she was pretty clear. She wants a front-row seat to see me worrying about this."
"Partly, yes. She does think - correctly - that you just leaving her behind and moving somewhere else to get distance from the situation would be you taking an option that she cannot take herself. And that is unfair. It would be getting off lightly for you, more lightly than she is. But on a deeper level, what do you think she was saying?"
Wilson spread his hands helplessly. "I don't know. If there was anything else there, I missed it."
"She doesn't want to be alone," Jensen stated. "Yes, she has friends, but you are the only one who can be full partner in her worries. It is your child. You and she together have a link there that no one else shares, and nothing will change that fact. No matter what you have done, you are this child's father, and she needs your support to get through the waiting, and then to get through the birth and any complications if they do occur, and then to raise the child. Whether or not you and she ever get back to where you were, she needs you to do your part with this child, and you have no right to abdicate that role."
"You think she really wants me there? Not just to blame and throw darts at for the next seven months?"
"Yes, I do. If you don't take anything else out of this session, hold onto this thought, James. Unless she all but physically throws you out the door and says to get out of her life permanently, do not leave or even offer to. You just leaving town would be the worst possible solution to this mess. It wouldn't be a solution at all. Now even more than before is when you need to show her that you are there for her."
Wilson sighed. "I feel like that chance is already gone."
"Then why did you rush back to her Sunday night when you heard she was sick?"
"I was worried about her . . . and that was at least something I know how to do. I can deal with tending to sick people."
Jensen looked sympathetic. "It would be easier in your terms if a whole relationship could stay like that, wouldn't it?"
"Yes," Wilson agreed immediately, then hesitated. "And that was the wrong answer, wasn't it?"
"Relationally, yes. But it was truthful, at least. Back to the bigger issue and dealing with the next several months. First, like I said, do not leave. No matter what happens, unless she tells you flat out to get lost forever, do not leave. Second, I think I want to switch your antidepressant to a stronger one. You are going to need help yourself; I realize this will be very hard for you. Remember, you have people, too. You can talk to me, or to Dr. House. I'd also like to give you a prescription for prn Ativan, but only if you agree to tell Sandra you have it, let her check up on your use randomly, and only for one bottle at a time. I would have to authorize each refill."
Wilson had been nodding slightly at the mention of changing the antidepressant, but his defenses kicked back up at the last part. "You don't trust me."
Jensen's tone was purely professional, not convicting, just laying out facts. "You have a history of using alcohol as a coping mechanism and an escape when you are under stress. I know you're working on that, but this is undeniably a stressful situation. We don't need to simply replace one addiction with another."
Wilson couldn't deny the logic, but it still rankled a little. "But why tell Sandra? She's the one I'm supposed to be being supportive of. Maybe House could check on it now and then if you want to give me some accountability."
"James, how do you think she would react at the moment to you hiding things?" Wilson looked down, his silence answer enough. "She will find out. She would run across the bottle eventually. You are living in the same apartment, even if not sleeping together; she's bound to discover it. And when she did, she would worry why you hadn't mentioned it, and because it had been a secret, she would worry even more that you might be in danger of replacing addictions. Telling her up front removes the extra worry for her later."
"I guess that makes sense." Wilson still didn't like it.
"It also demonstrates trust in her. It's okay to be vulnerable, James. She is a nurse; she can appreciate appropriate medication use. I really do think you're going to need it, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't see any possibility for misuse. She will be impressed that you put it on the table with her from the beginning."
"Okay," Wilson agreed reluctantly. "I have been feeling anxious. I even thought Sunday . . ." He shut down quickly.
"What did you think Sunday?" Jensen asked, his tone sharpening up a little.
"I. . . when she first told me Sunday morning, my first thought was to go out somewhere and have a drink. Just one - that's how I thought it, anyway - but it probably would have been more than one once I got going. That's when I decided to go ask House his medical advice instead. Distract myself with something that really would be valuable to know."
"Did you tell Sandra that that was a diversion?"
"Hell, no. She'd just told me I had endangered our child. How could I possibly have phrased that? 'Boy, I'd really like to go get plastered right now.' I just said we needed a medical opinion on it from House, and I bolted out the door."
The psychiatrist fought back a sigh of his own. "Did you tell Dr. House what your initial thought had been and that he was a distraction?"
"No. He was sick. They all were, but he had the worst case of the virus, and his leg was acting up, too, because he couldn't take his regular pain meds. I just stayed to help them. I didn't want to expose Sandra to the bug and give her something else, too. Cuddy would have liked to kick me out, I think, but House sided with me. And I figured spending all day with them was safe enough. Which worked; by that night, I wasn't even thinking about going to a bar anymore."
"Did you ask Sandra if she wanted to come with you?"
"To House, you mean? No. I just ran out." Jensen looked at him steadily. "I did tell her where I was going," Wilson said defensively. "And that wasn't a lie. I even called her with an update later."
Jensen shook his head. "Okay, second major rule. The first one, remember, is that you don't get to leave unless she directly tells you to. Second, you don't do anything involving the baby in isolation from her. If you are doing anything related to your child together, ask her if she wants to come along. She would have appreciated hearing a medical opinion from Dr. House herself, I'm sure. Of course, she didn't know your initial thought about finding some alcohol. But because of that, she didn't realize why you bolted out so abruptly. From her point of view, it was just something that you shut her out of, and she probably suspected that there was more going on under the surface, too, and worried about that."
Wilson put a hand over his eyes. "I hadn't even thought about it like that."
"Nothing with this baby involves only you, James. Remember that. Everything there, she must be an equal partner in. She gets a vote, and she gets participation. And actually, to tell her you wanted to go do something productive and valid instead of following an impulse to go get a drink would impress her. Remember, hiding things from her just leads to more worry. She already knows you have a problem with alcohol; that's not news to her. Let her know how you are working on dealing with it. That actually was a good idea, to distract yourself with something else, to put yourself around people to remove the opportunity. Just ask her if she'd like to come along next time."
The oncologist nodded slowly. "I'll try."
"Have you been to Alcoholics Anonymous yet?"
"I was going to go to a group meeting on Monday nights, but I was sick this Monday. That would have been the first one."
"Be sure you go to the next one. I do think that will be a support for you. But again, good job avoiding that pitfall this weekend."
"Even if I screwed up in other ways at the same time?" Wilson asked sarcastically.
"Yes. Even then. Screwing up in other ways doesn't remove the progress there. What about the counseling?"
"We're going on Tuesday nights. Last week, Sandra didn't know yet about the disease. That was our first appointment. Last night, we didn't even go. I still wasn't feeling 100%, and we canceled earlier in the day because of the bug. Then we got into a fight last night anyway." Wilson stopped fiddling with his tie and looked at the psychiatrist. "Do you really think there's any point in continuing couple's counseling?"
"Definitely," Jensen replied. "Even if you don't fully get back together, it will help you deal with each other and work together to raise your child. Whether the relationship fails or not, this is your child together. You must cooperate in that; it's unfair to the child not to."
Wilson gave a sad smile. "I hope we get a chance to raise our child."
"I know. But really, the odds are very much in your favor. While you're waiting, just try to be there. She's going to need support. Talk when she wants to, distract her when she wants that. But never, ever make a unilateral decision involving this child, even if it's just something valid like asking Dr. House's medical opinion. Don't shut her out."
"All right. But finding 7 more months' worth of ways to say I'm sorry is going to be a challenge."
"Don't do that," Jensen urged him. "There are some things where an apology just isn't enough. You've already apologized to her several times, I'm sure. Forget the words at this point; to keep harping on that will only make it worse. Do you remember how Dr. House's mother reacted when you told her about the abuse?"
Wilson cringed. "I'll never forget that. She really thought apologizing over and over would just undo it."
"Which it didn't. It couldn't. That was beyond apology. But you'll notice, they have a much better relationship at this point, even though she's still made some mistakes. Things aren't hopeless for you and Sandra, James. I'm not saying you will get back together. But for the sake of your child, you need to improve things with her, and things can improve. Even given what you've done."
Wilson squirmed and looked at his watch. "We're running over."
Jensen pulled out a prescription pad from his desk, writing out two forms. "You can call me if you need to, James. And talk to Dr. House. He's a good friend, and he already knows the situation. He'll be there for you."
The oncologist took the offered prescriptions and stood up. "Thanks. I just hope our baby lives."
"Don't cross that bridge until you have to," Jensen recommended. "And yes, I know it's not that easy." He stood up and offered his hand. "You do have a support system, James. You and Sandra both. Use them."
"I will. See you next week." Wilson neatly folded the prescriptions before pocketing them and then turned and left the office.
Jensen sat back down at his desk. He pulled out his laptop, doing a little quick research on HSV2 himself just to see it in print, and sighed. Good odds indeed. But when the odds went against you . . . He, too, hoped that Sandra and Wilson's child was perfectly healthy.
After a few minutes, he closed the laptop. His eye caught the guitar on the wall as he straightened up and turned, and that reminded him of House. He swiveled the desk chair back, staring at the phone for a good five minutes, but even though his fingers were almost twitching a few times, he did not call. Standing up again, he switched out the light in the inner office, said good night to his secretary, and headed home.