The day Wilson goes back to the work is a day of celebration in PPTH. They throw a huge Welcome Back party, complete with a huge banner that says 'HERE'S SHOWING THEM HOW IT'S DONE."
Wilson grins, and lets himself be tugged along and into the crowd. His clothes are a little bit looser, and there are more lines on his face, but overall, he feels healthy. The tumour had shrunk successfully, he had the surgery and the follow-up treatments, and the cancer is in remission. It's been a rough couple of months, but he's picked himself up, eating healthier foods, exercising more. His brush with death has rejuvenated his outlook towards life. He's less uptight, more ready to embrace fun and be just a little more reckless. He feels good.
Everyone clears out of the oncology lounge after a while. House's team is the last to leave, the relief plain in their faces. It's an awkward fist bump from Park, and a clap on the back from Foreman. Adams smiles and hugs him, while Taub shakes his hand firmly with a gaze that Wilson cannot quite read.
He finds Chase in a secluded corner of the hospital, outside a toilet for the handicapped that is hardly used.
"That was some party," Chase remarks tonelessly. He is sitting against the wall, legs outstretched. Coverage of Brangelina's upcoming nuptials peek out from the magazine he's flipping through.
Wilson considers the scene in front of him for a while before nodding, and sitting down next to Chase, some distance from the toilet door.
"You've been avoiding me."
Chase shrugs indifferently.
"How long…" Wilson trails off, gesturing uncertainly into the air.
Chase raises an eyebrow. "Twenty, thirty minutes." He seems more interested in the Kardashians' latest antics than in talking to Wilson.
Wilson can almost feel the resentment rolling off of Chase, and it's almost refreshing. Chase is the first person to not coddle him and greet him like he's a walking miracle come back from the dead.
"You were selfish," Chase finally says. "You placed him in a position he should never have had to be in."
Wilson ducks his head.
"He's done a lot of shit to you, but he's never placed you in a position where you – and you alone – had to make a potentially life-or-death decision for him. You never had to decide whether to bring him to the hospital against his wishes, or let him die at home from a risky, unauthorized procedure that was totally unnecessary. You emotionally manipulated him, and you put him in between a rock and a hard place. If you were anyone else, he would have browbeaten you into doing the logical thing. But he didn't, and he was scared."
Wilson stares at his toes as he wriggles them. He decides that he deserves the guilt that Chase's harsh words induce in him. "I wasn't thinking."
Chase casts a withering glare at him before clambering to his feet. "No one does in that situation."
That is all the absolution Chase will allow him.
He likes to think that he's doing his best, giving and serving, and being unselfish and noble. But now he knows: he's still as selfish as everyone else out there. And it's ugly. In his delirium, he had said and done things so horrible that no-one, not even House had deserved. House hadn't batted an eyelid; it had been Wilson at his worst, but he took it all, stored it away, brushed off the half-complete apology and never mentioned it again. Wilson doesn't know if he could have that.
"Chase…" Wilson finally finds it in himself to make eye contact with Chase. "Thanks... for you know…"
"Swooping in and saving both your asses at the last minute? Saving him from a lonely lifetime of regret?"
Wilson hasn't actually spoken to House about it, but from what he'd gleaned from Foreman, who had lost his temper rather spectacularly at House, he'd gone into cardiac arrest just as morning dawned. And Chase had been the first person on the scene, even ahead of the paramedics; it was Chase who stumbled in to see House kneeling on the floor, medical equipment strewn around Wilson's still body, trying to resuscitate Wilson, crying.
"That," Wilson says slowly, "and for being there for him."
Chase clenches and unclenches his fist. "How do you think it would have gone, Wilson? If he were to watch you die on his couch, in his apartment, and leave him to deal with the fact that he could have - and should have - stopped you and saved you?"
Wilson honestly has no idea.
Chase sighs. "You have no idea just how much you mean to him, don't you?" he says softly, looking at the still-shut door. "You just don't get how far he's willing to go for you."
Wilson tugs at his fingers. "Not before," he admits. "But I do now."
Chase gives a snort, and walks away.
Wilson stares at the toilet for a while from where he is on the ground, and wonders how he could have been so blind to House's capacity for love before.
Some part of him had wondered if it had been because of the Vicodin. But then there were the days that House had needed but had not allowed himself stronger narcotics, instead staying sober and ricocheting around the loft casually on the rolling chair, sighing and acting put out upon fetching water and crackers and blankets; then there were the times Wilson knew House wasn't sleeping and was instead watching him sleep, as though afraid Wilson would slip away through his fingers quietly in the middle of the night; there were also the times House woke him up murmuring about blood pressure and white cell counts tanking and having to go to the hospital, settling back into deep slumber only after his tightly clenched fist was moved onto and settled over Wilson's rising and falling chest.
He walks up to the locked toilet door, leaning his forehead against the wood. He knocks twice.
"Hou - "
"There are 14 other toilets in this hospital, go crap yourself silly in any of them."
"It's me." Wilson lays his palm on the door, patting it almost soothingly. It's a poor substitute. "It's lunchtime."
It takes House a while to respond. "Go away," his muffled voice cracking just a little around the edges. Wilson imagines him burying his head in his hands. "I have to crap all the cancer germs out and try to wash the stench of sick off me."
Poor comeback. "I'll wait," Wilson says plaintively. "I'll even buy you a double portion of fries."
"What part of go away do you not understand?" The bite in the statement is negated by a suspicious waver in House's voice. "Fuck off."
Wilson pauses. "Still here." Still alive.
No response. Wilson stands by the door and waits.
When House finally emerges from the toilet, back straight and face schooled into impassivity, Wilson ignores the shaky grip on the cane. He tugs on a damp sleeve. "I actually have an appetite for the first time in months, and you keep me waiting."
"You've had lunch," House mutters, eyes fixed on the ground. "You went to great lengths to lose the double chin and paunch."
"But you haven't eaten."
House looks away, withdrawing. The role reversal of House caring for Wilson has gone on for a while, but it's comfortingly easy for Wilson to slip right back into routine.
"There was no fried food, which is just wrong for a party," Wilson shrugs. He takes House's wrist on the pretext of impatience. "I can hear the hashbrowns and fries calling out to me. They're going Wilson, Wilson, eat me. Don't let House chomp us down without savoring our deep-fried potatoey goodness. You deserve us!"
House stares at Wilson. "Did the cancer drugs kill off some of your brain cells?"
"Come on," Wilson flashes a smile as he tugs House along, his fingers wrapped around House's wiry wrist. "To the cafeteria and french fries we go."