Title: Death Becomes Him
Disclaimer: House M.D. and its characters do not belong to me. I am only borrowing them for entertainment purposes only and I'm not making any money from this.
Genre: Drama/Romance/Supernatural (?)
Characters/Pairing(s): G. House, J. Wilson, R. Chase, E. Foreman, L. Cuddy, , A. Volakis, OC/ House/Wilson preslash.
Word Count: ~10400
Spoilers/Warnings: General spoilers for all seasons up to and including season 7.
A/N: Written for the 2012 Sick!Wilson Halloween challenge. Takes place some time after episode 7x8 "Small Sacrifices" when Sam leaves Wilson and House chooses a night with Cuddy over commiserating with him. This is not meant to Cuddy-bash; we are seeing things through Wilson's jealous eyes.
Death Becomes Him
Perspiration ran in streams down his face, some of it stinging his eyes. James Wilson ignored the discomfort, not allowing it to keep him from completing his task. Dawn was only an hour away at most, and he had to complete his task before the sun peeked over the horizon, announcing the beginning of another day.
He scooped more dirt with the shovel and threw it over his shoulder onto the tarp where there was growing mound beside the hole he was digging. Once people began to wake up and move about on their daily activities he knew he would be discovered and someone might try to put a stop to what he was doing. He couldn't allow that to happen. The Body was already beginning to decompose and deserved a proper burial, even if the others could see or understand that. No one else wanted to bury it, they said there was no need, that the Body was still alive—even House insisted that he was crazy but Wilson knew he was the only sane person left on earth, or so it seemed. He'd examined the Body himself and he was convinced that it was dead. So, if no one else would do it, then he would bury it.
The grave was almost complete. It would be a little shy of the six-foot depth he'd planned on but that was all right. Four feet was enough. Four feet would have to do because soon House would wake up and realize that he'd been drugged and why. He'd send out the alert to the others and then everybody would be looking for Wilson to stop him. They might even call the police. If Wilson had his way, the Body would be buried long before anyone figured out where it had gone.
Life had become insane over the past week until it had come to the point where Wilson didn't know if he could trust anyone anymore. He tried to piece together exactly when the madness had begun. He traced it back to his diagnosis…
Wilson strolled past the Diagnostics conference room trying to appear as nonchalant as possible as he looked through the glass walls. He was relieved to find that House was not within and there was only one other person there; the rest must have left for lunch while Chase had chosen to brown bag it and work on a crossword puzzle instead. Chase was the exact person Wilson had been hoping to find. He pushed open the door and walked into the conference room, then went to the glass doors that separated it from House's office. The other room was dark and its normal occupant wasn't in. Excellent.
"House went for lunch with Cuddy," Chase said from behind the chief of oncology, assuming Wilson was there in search of the younger doctor's boss. "She was trying to convince him to dress up like the Phantom of the Opera to coordinate with her costume for the Halloween gala coming up. Looks like you'll have to start booking appointments if you want to have lunch with him."
Wilson turned around to look at Chase and approached the table. He hated to admit the fact that the intensivist was right; since House and Cuddy had begun dating Wilson had been seeing less and less of his best friend, who was spending almost all of his spare time exclusively with the hospital's Dean of Medicine. Wilson hadn't said anything about it because at first it had been a blessing in disguise. With House preoccupied with a girlfriend of his own he had stopped trying to interfere with Wilson's relationship with Sam.
However, now that Sam was out of the picture, Wilson found himself very much alone and missing the companionship of his irascible, impossible, amazing friend. He knew if he brought it up to House now the diagnostician would remind him of the many times in the past Wilson had put his girlfriends and wives ahead of House in his priorities. What was most annoying about that fact was that it was all too true. That, and there was the fact that for years Wilson had been pushing House toward Cuddy, thinking that a relationship with her would be exactly what the doctor ordered for House. Wilson was realizing that he might have been too hasty in thinking that. House seemed to be more anxious and frustrated than happy these days and Cuddy always seemed to be dissatisfied and annoyed. Was there trouble in paradise? With House involved, it was almost certain that there was.
On this occasion, however, Chase's assumption was wrong; Wilson was there to see him, not House.
"Actually, you're the person I want to see," Wilson told him. "I have a medical issue that I want examined but I don't want House to know about it. You know how obsessed he can get and I'm really interested in avoiding that if at all possible." Truthfully, Wilson doubted that House would be in the slightest bit interested in any health issue he may have at that point; he'd been treating Wilson like nothing more than a magic eight ball, coming to him for advice on how to handle his relationship with Cuddy but otherwise having nothing to do with him. Still, he didn't want to risk it.
Chase frowned slightly more out of puzzlement than concern, though there was some of that as well. "Is it serious? Because if you're seriously ill and I don't tell House, it's not just my job that I'll end up losing."
"You and me both," Wilson said with an amused smirk, though there was definitely more than a spark of truth to it. "Actually, I don't think it's anything too serious, but the worst mistake a doctor can make is becoming his own physician. Do you have time this afternoon for an examination?"
Chase hesitated a split-second before answering with a nod, "I work clinic this afternoon at three unless a new case pops up before then. Drop by and I'll have Nurse Previn fit you in before the runny-nosers."
"Sounds good," Wilson replied, pleased. "I'll see you then." Wilson headed for the door, ignoring the pain just under his ribcage on his right side as it twinged nastily.
"Uh, Wilson," Chase spoke up before he made it out the door. The man addressed looked back over his shoulder and Chase continued. "If it turns out that it's something serious with your liver, I'm passing you off to someone else. I don't need the wrath of House coming down on me because I keep doctor-patient confidentiality, if you know what I mean."
Wilson looked at the Australian-born doctor in surprise. How had he figured it out that Wilson's issue was pain in the region of his liver and gallbladder? He was certain he hadn't visibly displayed his discomfort…then Wilson remembered whose student Chase had been for years and had his answer.
"So noted," Wilson assured him before leaving the conference room and heading back to his own office. For about six weeks Wilson had been feeling this pain in the upper right quadrant of his abdomen, extending from his sternum to his spine around his body. It had started out as parathesias, mostly in the form of pins and needles, but it had gotten increasingly worse, moving from what felt like pain in the nerves of his skin much deeper, to the organ level. Now it was intense enough to bother him all day and keep him awake at night. Wilson knew that pain there was usually attributed to gallbladder or liver problems, but the way the pain had presented early on wasn't consistent with that. He would find out soon just what the cause was so it could be taken care of without attracting undo attention—namely, House's.
Wilson went about the rest of his day up to his set appointment with Chase as he usually did—first, with rounds and then with two patient referrals. After the second referral had left, Wilson rose from behind his desk, his hand going to his side as the pain sharply appeared with his movement. Wilson gritted his teeth until the worst of it passed; the pain never completely disappeared anymore. He then continued to the coat tree near his door and donned his lab coat, left his office, and headed for the elevator. House uncannily knew he was passing by at that moment, or so it seemed, because he was waiting at his office door and joined Wilson in stride toward the elevator.
Damnit! Wilson thought in frustration. The man ignores me for days on end but suddenly wants to be with me when I least want him to. Typical.
"House," he said in greeting, trying not to let on how he really felt upon seeing the older man.
"You're sick," House told him, no holds barred-style, his analytical blue eyes scanning him without reservation. "You shouldn't be working clinic today."
He's fishing, Wilson told himself. Don't bite.
"I'm not sick," Wilson told House flatly, amazed at the man's ability to notice subtle symptoms even when they barely saw each other anymore. "You're trying to find a diversion because you have no case and Cuddy is pressuring you to get one so you're finding mysterious diseases where there are none to keep her off your back, proverbially-speaking."
The elevator arrived and two nurses stepped off before Wilson and House stepped on. Wilson pressed the button for the main floor and House pressed nothing, confirming the fact that he was going to follow Wilson around until he caved and admitted that something was wrong. However, this time Wilson knew what his diagnostician friend was up to and refused to fall for it.
"You're sick," House insisted and before Wilson knew what was happening House was poking him hard in the side (the sore one, of course) with the handle end of his cane. Wilson couldn't help but yelp at the pain this caused him, and his hands flew to the area as he doubled over slightly. How had he known?
"Don't you know by now you can't fool me?" House told him, shaking his head and sighing. "You need to have an ultrasound done of your gallbladder and your remaining lobe of liver to make certain you didn't give that self-important jerk the healthy half."
As the pain began to subside again, Wilson straightened up and glared at his so-called best friend resentfully. "Chase squealed, the rat."
"Chase looks after Chase above all else, you should know that by now, too," House replied, poking the button for the basement with the rubber end of his cane.
Wilson realized House intended to take him to Diagnostic Imaging instead of allowing him to continue on to the clinic to be examined by his employee. He sighed, knowing one thing: with House there was no taking no for an answer. "Chase has been appropriately punished with a newspaper across his nose, proverbially speaking," House added, smirking a little with mockery. "What I fail to understand is why you go to my underlings when you have a problem instead of me?"
"Gallstones are boring?" Wilson suggested, it sounding more like a question than an answer. "I didn't need you mocking me for having a garden-variety medical issue that is beneath your 'genius skills' as a doctor."
House's eyes narrowed slightly as he stared at Wilson and thought about that for no longer than a second before shaking his head. "Nah, that's not it. You didn't come to me because you're pouting and punishing me for sending you away the night Sam dumped you. I mean, what would you have done if you had been me?"
"Welcomed my best friend and commiserated with him over too much liquor and Chinese," Wilson answered only to receive another shake of the head in negation from House.
"Not a chance," House replied knowingly. "You would have kicked me to the curb and taken the booty call just like I did."
Wilson didn't know whether House was right or not but he liked to think he would have shown House more compassion than House had him, choosing sex with Cuddy over helping him get over Sam's rejection and abandoning of him. He certainly wasn't going to concede a point to House, either way.
"Is that all it is between you and Cuddy, then?" Wilson asked. "Booty calls? Is your relationship built on love or sex?"
House pointed a finger in his face; Wilson had the fleeting desire to bite it until it bled. "Quit deflecting! We're talking about you, not me."
"Actually, I thought we were talking about why I went to Chase about my small medical issue instead of you," Wilson reminded him, forcing patience. "I'm surprised you even noticed that something was wrong with me to begin with. You've been so preoccupied with keeping your relationship with Cuddy from falling apart that we've barely had anything to do with each other for weeks. You've passed by me so many times without so much as saying hello that I was beginning to think I was invisible or non-existent."
The elevator doors had opened and they were on the basement level walking side-by-side toward Diagnostic Imaging by then.
"And you're pissed about it, thus proving my point," House replied, smiling smugly. Wilson wished that his friend didn't look so goddamned handsome when he did that.
"Whatever," he told House with a sigh. "As I'm certain you've threatened Chase off I guess I'm stuck with you. Let's just get this ultrasound done quickly; I have a department meeting at three."
They walked in to Diagnostic Imaging; the receptionist, well acquainted with House and his team of doctors, simply handed House a clipboard and a pen. Wilson looked at what was on the clipboard—the necessary authorization form was already filled out with Wilson as the patient and House as the Attending. House initialed it before passing the clipboard to Wilson, who took it and signed it almost grudgingly. House had already planned the ultrasound before even joining him at the elevator. It figured. Wilson handed the clipboard back to the receptionist who eyed the form quickly to make certain all the 'i's had been dotted and 't's crossed.
"Room 4 is currently available," she told House before turning back to her computer terminal and continuing her data entry. They headed for the assigned room.
Once inside House shut the door and Wilson removed every article of clothing on his top half before lying down on the examination bed next to the ultrasound machine. House squeezed nearly half-a-bottle of conductive gel onto Wilson's abdomen, causing him to flinch at the immediate cold and then roll his eyes at the wasteful (and messy) excess.
House typed some information into the machine's memory then picked up the wand and placed it on Wilson's upper abdomen just below his ribcage and began to move it around to get his 'bearings' on what he was seeing on the monitor.
"House, turn the monitor so I can see, too," Wilson told him. Obliging him, House continued his examination silently, his beautiful and keen eyes studying the image as it fluxed and shifted with the movement of the wand.
"When did you first notice something was off, and how?" House asked him after searching for the suspected gallstones for a minute or two and failing to do so. He began to focus on the liver, Wilson noticed.
"About six weeks ago?" Wilson answered a little uncertainly, his eyes watching the monitor just as carefully as House's. "It started off as a burning sensation on the surface of my skin coming from the back and radiating to the front. Over time it became worse and then went deeper and deeper until it felt like it was inside me as well as outside. I know it's an odd presentation for gallstones, but—"
"Any abdominal pain or nausea and/or vomiting when you eat or afterward?" House asked, his eyebrows drawing together in a frown when his eyes failed to recognize anything out of the ordinary on the ultrasound. "Associated with any specific foods?"
"No," Wilson replied. "Like I said, it's unusual."
House set the wand down and grabbed some tissues from the box on the supply cart next to him. He handed a few to Wilson to clean off the gel while he wiped it off of the wand.
"There's nothing wrong with your gallbladder or liver," House told him, pushing the Ultrasound machine and supply cart aside so he could get closer to the examination bench on which Wilson still reclined as he cleaned himself. House gently pushed Wilson's hands and the tissue away and began to palpate his abdomen. Wilson winced when he touched the area over his liver and his flank on the same side.
"No rigidity, no unusual lumps," House told him quickly. "Are you having normal bowel movements?"
"Like clockwork," Wilson replied, not liking the look in House's eyes; the diagnostician was concerned and intrigued, a dangerous combination.
"Any of your little bald kiddies been sick with anything not cancer-related, perhaps communicable?"
"Not in the last few weeks," Wilson replied with a shrug, turning his nose up at the way House described his pediatric cancer patients.
"Sit up," House told him and reached into the supply cart, retrieving a stethoscope. Wilson did as he was told, bringing his legs down off of the bench and facing House. House huffed hot air onto the drum of the stethoscope and wiped it on his shirt before pressing it against Wilson's chest. "Deep breath," he instructed. Wilson complied. "Again….once more. Well, you're ticker sounds fine if a little rapid. This isn't turning you on, is it Wilson?"
Wilson struggled not to react or blush; it was, indeed, a little arousing but he couldn't let House know that he'd been fighting it the entire time.
"You have that effect on me," Wilson replied drolly, hoping to deflect. It seemed to work. House smirked at him and went around the bench, listening to his normal breath sounds with the stethoscope from his back.
"Uh, Wilson, about communicable diseases…," House began.
Wilson frowned. "What? Is something wrong with my lungs?"
House came to stand before him again. "Not you're lungs, your back. Tell me, Sam didn't happen to leave you a little nasty present before she walked out, did she?"
Now Wilson was really curious, and more than a little concerned, and he wasn't in the mood to play mind games with House. "What are you talking about?"
"You have an unusual rash on your back, a small patch over your spine between T5 and T9 about five centimeters in diameter," House told him. "Unusual placement, that is. If I'm not mistaken, it's an odd presentation of Herpes Zoster."
Wilson's eyes widened as he realized what House was suggesting. No, it couldn't be, could it? Sam couldn't have passed along—unless—!
"Are you suggesting she gave me genital herpes?" Wilson asked out loud, both incredulous and annoyed. "House, I know you didn't like Sam, but she wasn't some street whore who—"
"Street whores aren't the only ones who get STIs, Wilson," House told him sternly. "If she was cheating on you and caught something from the other guy it could explain why she was so eager to leave you when you asked her to marry you. Then again, it might not be genital. I'm pretty certain it's a herpes outbreak, but I'm not certain which type. We'll run some lab tests to determine that. It explains the initial parasthesias before the deeper pain and the absence of gallstones or sand or anything else unwanted on the ultrasound. The herpes virus, like Varicella, can infect your peripheral nerves first then your deeper nervous system as it progresses. You're lucky it apparently hasn't gone to your brain or affected your CNS yet. We'll start you on oral acyclovir right away and gabapentin for the nerve pain."
Wilson was dumbstruck at the news. The last thing he wanted to believe, despite what Sam had done to him, was that she had been cheating on him and given him an STI, especially one without a definitive cure. He knew he hadn't cheated on her nor been with anyone since she'd left so if it was genital herpes, he would have had to have gotten them from her, and she from someone else since they had begun sleeping together again (they both had voluntarily undergone STI tests before stopping the use of condoms during sex toward the beginning of their renewed relationship and tested negative). He sincerely hoped that the strain he had was an overly ambitious case of oral herpes, otherwise known as cold sores. If his immune system was depressed due to stress or poor nutrition or what have you, it was possible that the less aggressive strain could have ran amuck in his body.
"We'll stop at Supply on our way back to your office to pick up a phlebotomy kit and tissue swabs to draw blood and sample the pustules in order to confirm that it's herpes and determine which strain or strains," House told him. "I'll also write you a script for the acyclovir and gabapentin so you can get started on them right away. You really are lucky we caught this when we did, Wilson. Any strain of herpes infection in the nervous system is dangerous. Next time come to me right away if you have a problem, idiot. What are you trying to do, come down with a full-blown case of viral encephalitis or something?"
Wilson suffered through House's lecture because it was a rare thing for House to actually lecture him and it was a sign that his best friend still cared about him after all, and because, as usual, House just happened to be right. Wilson dressed himself again and they made their way back to Wilson's office, making the stops along the way as planned. House took his swabs and three vials of blood from Wilson, one of which Wilson knew was for the New Jersey state laboratory since it was possibly an incurable STI, which automatically involved them.
There was a knock on Wilson's office door just as House was removing the tourniquet from Wilson's arm.
"Who is it?" Wilson called, not wanting an audience to his blood-letting. House pocketed the sealed vials in his sports jacket. The door opened and a head poked inside. It was Cuddy.
"There you are," she said upon spying House. The door opened wider and she welcomed herself in. In her hands was a blue file folder. Wilson hid the scowl he wanted to give the Dean of Medicine for just waltzing into his office without being invited, but that wasn't really the reason he felt annoyed at her presence. He finally had House's attention after weeks of being ignored by the man because of her, and now she had to suddenly appear and take over House's time and attention again. Wilson realized just exactly how great his jealousy was at that moment. He wasn't just missing hanging out with House; he was missing House's nearly obsessive interest. It had shifted from him to Cuddy and Wilson didn't appreciate the loss, considering it more of a usurpation than anything else.
"I already have a case," House told her quickly. "Just started it."
"Funny," she said, turning her back to Wilson and treating him like he wasn't even there in his own office, "Foreman just told me that you didn't."
"And you believed him?" House scoffed convincingly. "He's always got an angle. Actually, I haven't brought it to my team yet. I was just about to do that."
"Who is this supposed new patient of yours?" Cuddy demanded, her brows knitting together. "I wasn't made aware of any new admissions for your department."
Wilson cast House a look over Cuddy's shoulder. The last thing he wanted was for his boss and rival for House's attention to know that he might possibly be suffering from a serious STI. It was humiliating enough that House knew; he had at least kept his mockery to a minimum, much to Wilson's relief. House caught the look and its meaning.
"That's confidential," House told her with such gravity that he almost had Wilson fooled. Damn, the guy was a good actor when he tried! "He's a man of great power and doesn't want the media, if you get my drift, to find out that he's here. He's registered under an alias."
Cuddy cocked her head. "And you're full of bullshit," she responded.
"Am not," House retorted, pulling the blood and tissue vials out of his pocket and waving them in front of her face. "I was just on my way to the lab with these when Wilson nabbed me in the corridor to invite me over for beer and pizza tonight, right Wilson?"
Two sets of blue eyes, one set slightly greyer than the other, came to rest upon Wilson and he shifted slightly on his feet as his mind kicked into gear. "Uh…yeah. That's right. I hope you don't mind, Cuddy, but it's been weeks since House and I did anything together outside the hospital and I thought it would be good to get together, just us."
"Bros before hos, dude," House added, extending his fist to Wilson and waiting for the younger man to punch it with his own. When Wilson didn't, House retracted his hand and returned his gaze to Cuddy.
The Dean of Medicine rolled her eyes at the two of them. She shoved the file into House's free hand. "I don't believe you, I don't know where you got those vials but you had better return them to where they belong and you have this case to solve. If you can do that and still find time to get together with Wilson for dinner that's fine by me."
"You're lack of trust in me is truly uninspiring," House groused, and pretended to pout—but there was an edge to his voice that Wilson picked up on but Cuddy didn't seem to; if she had, she hadn't let on that she had. It was the sharpness of authentic frustration.
"I'll make it up to you tonight—after your dinner with Wilson," she added, placing a small kiss on House's lips before barely casting Wilson a look of acknowledgement on her way out of his office.
Wilson fleetingly considered getting House hammered enough that he wouldn't be able to appreciate Cuddy's attempt—or better yet, tipsy enough to seduce but not too much so that—
"Wilson?" House shouted, drawing Wilson out of his reverie and back to the present; apparently, House had tried more than once to get his attention.
"Huh? What? Oh, uh, sorry," Wilson apologized, feeling his cheeks grow warm. "Just daydreaming. Thanks for not letting on to Cuddy that those samples were mine."
"It's none of her business," House told him, patting his pocket where the vials were. "I'll get Chase and Taub busy on analyzing these and have information for you by dinnertime."
"Were you serious about coming over to the loft?" Wilson asked, walking House out of his office. "I mean, I'd like to have some dinner with you, just us, no women to distract us, like it used to be. I kind of miss not having you live at the loft."
"Yeah," House said, his eyes soft for only a moment before he bitingly added on his way out, "Guess you should have thought of that before you kicked me out so you could move the Harpy in. See you tonight—oh, and pick up some good beer on your way home, will you? That horse piss you buy for yourself isn't fit for human consumption."
As it turned out, House didn't make it to Wilson's that night, or any night since. The case Cuddy had handed him had turned out to actually be of interest to the diagnostician, and a tough puzzle to solve. When House became challenged by a medical puzzle he focused almost all of his attention on it and this new case was no exception. In fact, House didn't leave the hospital for over forty hours, catching catnaps in his Eames chair between patient crashes, differentials with his team, and arguments with Cuddy over the necessity and/or legality of the various forms of torture diagnostic procedures House wanted to perform on the thirty-year-old father of two.
To say that Wilson was disappointed would be an understatement and his only comfort had been the fact that House was too preoccupied with his patient to pay any attention other than professional to Cuddy as well. It was too little, too late for the depressed oncologist. Chase had been the one to deliver Wilson's scripts to him, which Wilson took more faithfully than the antidepressants his shrink (whom he'd resumed seeing following Sam's departure) had prescribed for him. Wilson didn't like the side-effects of the Effexor and had conveniently forgotten to take them on more occasions than he had.
House successfully solved his case three days after Cuddy had assigned it to him and three days after Wilson had learned that the strain of Herpes he suffered from was not the dreaded genital variety. Still, any Herpes virus could be dangerous if left unchecked and untreated, so he was certain to take his acyclovir and gabapentin as prescribed. Despite the case being solved, House didn't fill his raincheck with Wilson, going away for a long weekend at the Jersey coast at a 'quaint' B&B of Cuddy's choice instead. Wilson hoped for rain that weekend and was pleased when his hopes were fulfilled, but it wasn't enough to tame the frustration, loneliness and jealousy he felt; rain meant House and Cuddy would be forced to entertain themselves in bed rather than sight-seeing. He didn't like to think about why that fact bothered him so much.
He took the long weekend off as well, but since he had no lover to spend it with he spent the time alone at the loft instead, watching old black and white movies in his pajamas the entire time, eating delivery, and not even bothering to shower or clean up after himself the entire three days. When Monday came around, he didn't even feel like getting out of bed, so he called in to the hospital sick and had his assistant rebook all of his appointments for that day. When House called around two in the afternoon just to bug him for playing hooky and tell him about the phenomenal sex he and Cuddy had had that past weekend Wilson had actually hung up on him and refused to pick up for the rest of the day, allowing all of his calls to go to his answering machine until the recorder was full. When he did get up to watch some TV and order in Thai, he felt like a zombie, like he wasn't really existing, like a shadow that was easily passed unseen, unnoticed, uncared about. House didn't call him anymore that evening and Wilson felt like he was dead to his friend now that Cuddy was giving House mind-blowing blowjobs and all.
Tuesday morning Wilson called in to HR and took the rest of the week off sick as well. He spent almost the entire time in bed, imagining that he was dead and sometimes wishing that he were. House didn't even check in with him until around eight in the evening Tuesday, when he stopped by long enough to make certain that Wilson wasn't, in fact, truly sick and in need of medical attention.
Wilson heard him pounding on the front door and shouting his name, but he had so convinced himself that he could, in fact, be dead that he couldn't find the energy to shout back or get out of bed or do any of those things. So he laid in wait, and heard House use the key he claimed not to have to get into the loft. The syncopated three-step of House's gait could be heard moving from room to room as he searched the dirty loft for Wilson and though he would be certain to deny it, House's voice was gaining a worried tone as he saw the mess in the outer rooms and moved toward the master bedroom in his hunt.
Finally, House opened the unlocked master bedroom door and flicked on the light. Wilson didn't cringe or blink at the sudden illumination. In fact, he didn't move at all beneath the blanket wrapped around him like a death shroud. He simply stared up at the ceiling with nearly unblinking eyes until House appeared in his field of vision, looking down at him with worried blue eyes and a frown.
"Wilson, are you alright? Couldn't you hear me calling? Hey, I know you're not asleep, so answer me. Wilson, will you fucking acknowledge that I'm here?" House reached out and touched Wilson's shoulder but Wilson didn't react at all. House shook him a little but still elicited no reaction. He sat on the edge of the bed and reached to feel for Wilson's radial pulse before placing his long-fingered hands on either side of Wilson's face and searching his dull brown eyes for any sign of consciousness.
"Wilson, can you hear me? Are you there? Come on, Wilson. Look I know you're still pissed with me but…but you're kind of freaking me out right now."
House took him by the shoulders now and shook him. "Come on, Wilson, answer me! Damnit, if this is some kind of joke or prank I'll fucking knock you into next week! Wilson!"
Wilson closed his eyes and everything simply disappeared. After all, isn't that what happened when one died? Couldn't House, the genius diagnostician that he was, see what was plainly apparent before him? Wilson couldn't answer him because Wilson was dead.
The next time he became aware of anything, Wilson, or rather, the spirit of the man once known as Wilson, became aware of the fact that the Body had been moved from Wilson's loft and now lay on a hospital bed, most likely one at PPTH, with House sitting in a chair next to it conducting a differential with his team in the same small room. Wilson could see through the dead Body's eyes and hear through the Body's ears, but he was no longer one with the Body because the Body was deceased. He wasn't certain when his spirit would become separate from the Body but he was certain it would happen eventually, perhaps at the funeral, or even after burial. He couldn't understand why House would have the Body placed on display in a hospital room where it could begin to decompose much more quickly than if it was in a refrigeration unit in the morgue.
"Dr. Peters from Psych will be down in a while, but his chief resident thinks it's a case of catatonia," Foreman told House, glancing over at the Body and then alerting. "Hey, he's awake and his eyes are open."
"Very good observation, Sherlock," House sniped, turning his full attention on Wilson, now. "Wilson? Wilson, can you hear me?"
Wilson wasn't certain whether his spirit could still communicate through the Body now that it was dead, but he figured it was worth a try. He had to get House to understand that the Wilson he had known in life was now dead and the Body had to be placed in refrigeration until it could be transferred to the mortician to be embalmed.
"Wilson's dead," he told House in a voice whisper-soft, because spirits didn't yell, did they? "His Body will decompose quickly like this. Don't you think you should take it to the morgue."
"I knew it," Chase said from the other side of the bed, smirking. "You owe me fifty, Taub."
"I honestly thought he was catatonic," the diminutive Jewish doctor on House's team groaned, reaching for his wallet.
"You idiot," House snarled, but there was a look of relief and appreciation across his eyes. "What the hell do you think you were doing?"
"Well, I'm going to the clinic," Taub said after handing a fifty over to Chase and replacing his wallet. He rolled his eyes and headed for the door. "He's obviously fine."
"He's not fine," Wilson told him, turning his head in his direction. Hm, apparently his spirit could still move the Body when necessary. That was unexpected but definitely useful information. Perhaps that would change as the Body began to break down. Shouldn't rigor mortis be setting in? his spirit wondered. "He's dead. He died yesterday and if the Body isn't refrigerated and arrangements made with a mortician soon, it will begin to rot.
Medical student Martha Masters looked at him funny, like she wasn't certain he was kidding and that was a bad thing. Foreman opened his mouth to speak but House beat him to it.
"Because dead bodies speak and are aware that they're dead," House told him, smirking and shaking his head. "Hey, it's fine with me if you want to play dead but you could try acting like it if you want to fool Cuddy."
Wilson's spirit forced the body to sit up. "But James is dead. I'm his spirit. Somehow I'm able to utilize his Body to communicate with you, but the Body is dead and you have to start to make appropriate arrangements, House. This is no joke!"
It came out of the Body with such conviction that Taub stopped in the doorway and all eyes were suddenly back on the Body. Foreman's expression was one of morbid fascination and House's smirk began to fade.
"I don't think he's kidding, House," Foreman told him quietly.
"The joke isn't funny anymore, Wilson," House told the body. "Come on, I missed dinner last night and breakfast this morning because of this lame joke of yours. You're going to buy me a huge lunch."
Wilson's spirit was tired of not being taken seriously. He forced the Body out of bed and over to a supply cart, catching everyone off guard. Before anyone could move to stop him, Wilson used the Body to grab a scalpel out of one of the drawers and tore the sterile plastic packaging off. "What do I have to do to convince you that I'm dead?" he made the body yell. "Maim the Body?"
With that he plunged the scalpel deep into his lower arm and pulled it down from near the inside of his elbow to his wrist. Blood began to bubble up out of the wound and then spray where the scalpel hit an artery. This was definitely unexpected, Wilson's spirit thought, seeing as the heart should no longer beat in a dead body so there shouldn't be enough blood pressure to cause arterial spray. Also, his spirit was registering pain even though the brain and CNS was, like the rest of the Body, dead and could no longer process sensory information such as that. Since Wilson had never been dead before, he figured there had to be an explanation, but he didn't know what it could be and before he could process it all Chase had sprung forward and grabbed the Body's left wrist, managing to wrench the scalpel from it while Foreman and Taub helped him get Wilson back into the bed and worked at staunching most of the bleeding while House watched it all with growing fascination and horror.
"I feel funny," Wilson announced as he was being wrestled down onto the bed. He felt woozy, lightheaded, which made no sense at all as a spirit controlling but no longer a part of a dead body yet still capable of bleeding out. Nothing was logical, and while Wilson tried to puzzle that out he slowly lost consciousness.
When his spirit became aware again, House was out of the field of view of the Body but its ears could hear him talking with Foreman and another voice Wilson wasn't familiar with but figured must be Dr. Peters from Psychiatry.
"Cotard's syndrome," House said with certainty.
"Something triggered it." Peters added.
"House, if I'm not mistaken, isn't there a history of mental illness in Wilson's family?" Foreman asked.
"Who told you that?" House demanded. "Listen, I think it was triggered by a Herpes II virus he contracted recently. He showed peripheral symptoms and I prescribed acyclovir. I figured it was under control. If it had reached his brain before the treatment began…"
"It's possible. It's also possible that a combination of influences led to the syndrome. Heredity combined with an infection, the use of acyclovir itself, and a case of depression. It's in his medical file that he was recently prescribed Effexor but the drug screen showed no antidepressants in his system," Peters said.
"You're a shrink. You think everything is functional," Foreman said drily.
"You're a neurologist," Peters replied, pointing out the obvious. "You think everything is neurological and you're an infectious diseases expert—"
"Yeah, yeah, I get it," House cut him off impatiently. "I supposedly see everything as being caused by some kind of infection. I think the combo plate explains it best. Suggestions?"
"Acyclovir has shown a correlation to Cotard's in some studies. Switching him to a different anti-viral might help," Foreman suggested.
"Agreed, and getting him onto his antidepressant is in order as well. Likewise, I'd like to set up some therapy sessions with him," Peters told them.
"You would," House retorted. "Okay, let's do it. Whatever it takes to get Wilson to realize he's not dead."
"It might help if you didn't treat him like he didn't exist," Foreman told House firmly.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" House sounded defensive.
"Look, I think it's great that you and Cuddy are together," Foreman insisted. "I told you that when you first announced it. I've also noticed that you're spending less time with Wilson than you used to and it's only become worse lately. His relationship bombed and now he's finding himself alone most of the time. You don't see it because you're preoccupied with Cuddy, but he's been depressed for a while now. If you could make more time for him he might not feel like he doesn't exist. If his brain has been infected by the virus feeling like he doesn't exist as far as you're concerned could have translated into Cotard's. Spend more time with him and that along with medication and psychotherapy might help. It certainly can't hurt."
"I don't need you telling me how to manage my friendship with Wilson!" House snapped.
"I think that maybe you do. I'm suggesting this for Wilson's sake, House. I'm telling you what I've seen from an objective perspective. I'm not saying it's all your fault but it may be a contributing factor."
"And I suppose you agree with him?" House demanded of Peters.
"I don't know the situation well enough to say for certain, but it is a possibility," Peters replied. "I'll leave a script for Effexor at the nursing station. Seventy-five milligrams to start. In a week we'll boost it to one fifty and a week later two-twenty-five if he's tolerating it well. I want to introduce risperidone as well. I'll get ahold of his psychiatrist listed in his file and work out a therapy plan with her. I've got an appointment in five so I have to go. When he wakes try to explain to him what's happening and what we think is the best course of treatment. I'll leave it to your judgment whether or not the restraints need to remain on. I'll be back to check on him before I leave for the day."
Peters could be heard walking away by the Body which registered with the higher consciousness of Wilson's spirit.
"Do a lumbar puncture," House told Foreman. "Screen his CSF for the herpes virus to confirm. If it's present, start him on intrathecal acyclovir to treat."
"Right," Foreman said, and he could be heard leaving as well.
Wilson's spirit forced the Body to open its eyes. The Body was responding more sluggishly than before, obviously a sign of it's decomposition. He couldn't move his arms or legs at all. Couldn't they see that he was dead? They were doctor's, for Christ's sake! If Wilson could see that he was dead, why couldn't they?
House noticed that the Body had opened its eyes. He looked into them with his beautiful blue eyes, looking very tired and worried. Wilson was going to miss being able to look into those eyes once his spirit decided it was time to move on. House placed a long-fingered hand on the Body's shoulder.
"You're not dead, Wilson," House said softly. "We're taking care of this. Once we have your brain functioning right, you'll see that. In the meantime, you're stuck with me here. I'm not going anywhere until you're better."
Wilson tried to make the Body respond verbally, but he couldn't. The separation between his decomposing body and his spirit had to be increasing. Perhaps when that happened, Wilson reasoned, they would finally realize that he was dead and would give him a proper burial. In the meantime, Wilson reasoned, it wasn't so bad knowing that House would be, in effect, sitting Shiva over the Body—even if House didn't realize that's what he was doing. It was a sign that he had cared about Wilson after all. It was too bad that it took his death to make House show it.
What bothered Wilson the most was that they continued to treat his Body as if it was still alive. Had everyone gone mad but him? They were all dishonoring his Body with their tests and needles and poking and prodding. Was this nothing but some insane game of theirs?
Wilson had been unable to make his Body resist House's team as they came to perform the lumbar puncture on him. Taub and Foreman had manhandled him into the proper position on the bed and stuck him. It was odd that Wilson still felt the stick in his spine in spite of the fact that his brain and nervous system were just as dead as the rest of him. Yet now he felt a bad headache, too. He figured it had to be some metaphysical connection that still existed between his spirit and the Body and that once he was properly buried this connection would break and he would be able to move on to What Was Next. At least, he hoped so. The prospect of his spirit remaining tied to his buried Body for centuries or millennia was a horrible one.
House was there to observe the LP and continued to sit with Wilson after it, still blind to the fact that his best friend was dead. It was a pathetic sight for Wilson's spirit to observe. He mustered all of his strength, metaphysical as it had to be, and forced speech through dead lips.
"I'm dead, House. Please bury me and set me free!" It came out as a whisper instead of the shout he had been hoping for, but nonetheless the message reached House.
House glanced around to see if anyone was looking before picking up Wilson's dead hand and holding it gently. "You're not dead, Wilson. I know you think you are, but you have Cotard's syndrome. We're doing what we can to clear up your infection and hopefully rid you of this delusion. You are not dead."
House was in the early stages of grief, Wilson's Spirit realized grimly. His denial of the truth was painful to observe. He was about to muster the strength for another try at convincing his older friend of the truth when Cuddy arrived, approaching them. Wilson felt like swearing, and wondered if that would get him into some kind of trouble with God or What-have-you, now that he was dead. He refrained.
"How is he?" she asked House, wrapping her arms around herself and looking at the Body with pity. Even dead, Wilson didn't like having her pity him. He noticed that she wasn't dressed for work but rather wore a sweater over a camisole and a pair of jeans. That meant it had to be evening; Wilson's spirit found it difficult to keep track of time since he occasionally blacked out for a while here and there.
"I'm dead," Wilson forced through his dead Body once more. This time it took even more effort than before. It was hot in the room, which he knew would only speed up decomposition. Couldn't they at least turn the air conditioning back on? At least House had removed the restraints since it was evident Wilson couldn't command his Body now as he had before. The separation between Body and spirit was becoming too great.
Cuddy walked up beside the bed opposite House and gently placed he hand on Wilson's cheek. She frowned. "He's feverish."
House nodded. "The Herpes was found in his CSF; it's hit his brain: Viral encephalitis. He's in and out of consciousness and is still exhibiting Cotard's.
Cotard's? Wilson mused. He'd heard them mention it before but had been more focused on other things. They thought he was mentally unbalanced? Was he really deluded? Was he still alive but very sick? No…no, he was dead, he knew he was. Dead people were lonely and ignored. Dead people had no control over what was happening to them. He, James Evan Wilson, was dead.
Cuddy's hand was deliciously cool against his cheek, and Wilson nuzzled his face against her palm to seek relief from the heat.
"Hey," House said to him, frowning but there was a hint of a smile tugging at his eyes indicating he wasn't really angry. "Get your own girlfriend to nuzzle."
"So hot…in here," Wilson murmured, feeling himself drift off again. "Body will rot in the…heat…."
It didn't really surprise Wilson when Amber's spirit came for him in the middle of the night. The lights in his room had been dimmed and House was sound asleep in a recliner next to the bed.
"Amber?" Wilson forced his body to say, but the beautiful vision of his also-dead lover shushed him with a finger to her lip.
"Quietly, James," she admonished him gently. "If you wake House he'll try to keep you from doing what you must. He doesn't want to let you go in order to do that which he has refused to do for you."
"Which is?" Wilson whispered.
"To bury your body before the maggots hatch, of course," Amber told him, smiling sweetly. She looked so beautiful, like an angel. Wilson loved House and would miss him terribly, but Amber was right; it was time for him to move on; at least in the afterlife he would have Amber to keep him company until it was House's turn to join them. "Hurry and get up and get dressed before anyone notices." She pointed to the small closet across the room from him. "You have clothes in there."
Wilson nodded, and with all of the strength his spirit could muster he forced the Body to sit up and then stand up, being careful not to jerk lose any of his monitor leads of his IV, which would set off an alarm and wake House up. He systematically deactivated the monitor, and the soft beating of his heart faded away to nothing. Next he removed his IV. The intrathecal drip was a tough one to remove on his own, but somehow he managed, all without disturbing House, who was sleeping soundly. He shuffled to the closet and somehow managed to get dressed without alerting anyone.
"Your nurse is in with another patient now," Amber told him from where she was on lookout at the sliding glass door of his room. "This is your chance! Go down the emergency stairwell and take a back exit so you're less likely to be noticed. Come on, James, you have to go now."
So, he did as Amber told him, managing to sneak out of Intensive Care far too easily. He thought about letting Cuddy know how it was too easy for patients to escape but then realized that he was dead and on his way to his own burial so he wouldn't be able to give the hospital's Dean of Medicine the head's up.
Wilson lowered himself a little clumsily into the hole he'd dug; he was feeling dizzy and sick, but Amber had assured him that it was normal because his spirit was preparing itself to be parted from his Body permanently. He accepted that explanation even as a tiny part of his consciousness tried to tell him that he was sick, not dead. He ignored it as nerves; it wasn't every day that someone was forced to bury himself.
The inky black of the sky was slowly becoming paler, indicating that the sun was about to rise. He had to hurry. The graveyard Amber had led him to was the same one in which she had been buried. It appeared to be deserted, but surely there was a caretaker of some kind in charge of tending to the place, and Wilson didn't want him or her to show up at work and find him.
Amber peered over the edge of the hole and down at him, smiling softly.
"Soon we'll be together forever, James," she told him wistfully. "All you have to do is pull on the tarp and bring all that dirt down on yourself."
Wilson lay on his back and gripped the edge of the tarp he'd allowed to hang into the pit he'd dug.
"There's a lot of dirt," he made his Body tell her. "I don't know if I'm strong enough."
"You are, James," she told him even as she began to fade as the sun emerged over the horizon. "Just pull with all your might and then you'll be free and we'll be together again…"
Amber was gone and Wilson was alone. Except, now he could hear shouts from the distance. Oh no! House had discovered that he was gone and now he had assembled a team of grave robbers to prevent him from burying himself. He had to hurry. There were several voices, steadily approaching, but House's was the one Wilson's dead ears hung on to even as the rest of the Body pulled with all its might to pull the dirt down onto him. It was so heavy! So heavy….
"Wilson!" House shouted, and now he sounded only a few feet away. How had he found Wilson so fast? "Jesus! He's over here! Hurry!"
The tarp was moving but it was taking every last bit of will and strength Wilson had left. Just a little bit more. Just a few inches more!
House's face peered over the edge of the grave.
"Wilson, stop! You're not dead! Don't do this!"
"You," Wilson grunted through gritted teeth as he pulled, "Need. To. Let. Me. Go!" There was some dirt falling in on top of him now, just a little bit, but the pile was looming closer and closer to the edge.
House turned his head away, shouting to people Wilson couldn't see. "Hurry up! He's going to bury himself!"
There was the sound of voices and the closer the got, the more recognizable a couple of them were; one was Taub, the other was Chase. Other voices were approaching too, and Wilson wondered if House had brought in the police. Sure enough, Wilson had just thought that when a cop joined House at the graveside. He lowered himself into the pit and then a second appeared, following him in.
Wilson heard a siren in the distance, and Chase and Taub joined House at the edge of the grave, staring down at Wilson with concern and incredulity. The first policeman forced Wilson to let go of the tarp while the second radioed in to dispatch that they had located him. Not wanting to be taken anywhere, Wilson tried feebly to resist the police but he was just too weak and in too much pain.
"Wilson, quit fighting them!" House shouted. Wilson managed to meet House's gaze. It was fear that Wilson saw fading slowly from House's eyes. "Listen to me! You have viral encephalitis. You're hallucinating and delusional. Please just trust me on this, okay? You're not dead; you don't need to be buried. Let them help you out of there so we can get you back to the hospital and continue your treatment.
Alive? He was alive? Is it possible? Wilson wondered. He wanted to believe it, but it was so hard…yet House's expression was as open and genuine as Wilson had ever seen it.
He didn't have to decide whether or not to cooperate because it was at that moment that his Body completely lost all strength and he blacked out again.
House's very haggard looking, scruffy face was the first thing Wilson saw when he opened his eyes again an indeterminate amount of time later. After that he saw and heard the evidence that he was back in his IC room connected to medical monitors and an IV. House was seated in a chair next to his bed. At the end of his bed Foreman was making a notation into his chart. The headache, which had been nearly mind-numbing the last time Wilson could remember was now much more mild. It didn't feel as hot in the room as before.
Wilson realized he was back in sync with his body again and that only meant one thing—that he was very much alive. Beyond that his memory of the recent past was cloudy at best; he could only recall bits and pieces and had to pry them together to get some memory of what had happened.
"Welcome back to the land of the living, Wilson," House told him with a smirk.
Wilson nodded and sighed. "I am alive, aren't I?" he asked weakly. "Amber was just a hallucination, wasn't she?"
House nodded and shuddered ever so slightly. "She has the tendency of showing up in one's delusions. You are very much alive and on the mend. We almost lost you after your flight and attempt to bury yourself, but you rallied. How are you feeling?"
"Like shit," Wilson admitted, earning an amused half-smile from his best friend. "I can't believe I tried to bury myself."
"I can't believe you made it out of the hospital undetected much less managed to gather up the supplies and dig yourself a grave in the condition you were in," Foreman spoke up, hanging the chart onto the end of the bed and leaving the room.
Wilson directed himself to House. "Cotard's?"
House nodded. "And encephalitis from the Herpes infection. The acyclovir was a contributing factor. We replaced it with another anti-viral and you're doing much better."
Wilson nodded. "You look like shit," he told House. "If I'm doing better, you don't have to stick around. Go home, shower, change. I'm certain Cuddy is anxious to get your attention back."
House gave Wilson an odd, curious look at the mention of Cuddy.
"She was worried about you, like the rest of us," House assured him. "But, you're right, I have been neglecting her. I guess that's because someone much more important to me was gravely ill and nearly died. You are very important to me, Wilson."
Wilson was taken aback by House's blatant confession. He meant more to House than Cuddy did? It didn't fit.
"You could have fooled me," Wilson told him, looking away at a far spot on the wall behind House. "Did Foreman tell you to say that?"
The diagnostician sighed, shook his head. "Nope. It's true. And from now on I'll be showing you that. Cuddy and I are over, Wilson."
Wilson's eyes shot back to House in surprise. "What? Why?"
"Because I told you," House answered quietly, "you mean more to me than she ever could."
This was too much for Wilson to accept. "B-but, you're in love with her!"
House shook his head, his eyes open and staring into Wilson's with his guard down. It had been a long time since House had made himself as vulnerable to Wilson as he was now. "There's only one person I care about that much, Wilson, and it isn't her."
Wilson made to point at himself in incredulity but realized that his wrists were bound to the bed (he couldn't exactly blame them after his Great Escape).
"You mean—?" Wilson began, and then he shook his head. House had to be kidding or saying something else that Wilson was misinterpreting.
But House was nodding. "Yeah, idiot,' he murmured softly. "I'm not talking about the milkman, here. I'm talking about you. And no, you're not hallucinating this."
Wilson was stunned into silence.
House continued awkwardly. "I wasn't going to tell you…look, it doesn't have to change anything, okay? Just…just take it to mean that you mean to me…that I—"
"Me, too, House," Wilson whispered, finally finding his voice again in time to come to House's rescue. "Wow…I guess almost dying changes everything."
"Only if you want it to," House answered, his eyes pleading with him, frightened. "Look, we can talk about this after you're out of here."
"Okay," Wilson agreed. He fought the weight of his eyelids, which felt like they were lined with lead. "I'm holding you to that."
"Go to sleep," House told him gently, his hand coming to rest gently on Wilson's. "I'll be here when you wake up. Then we can plan our costumes for the Halloween gala. I was thinking we could go as zombies this year." He wagged his eyebrows.
Wilson chuckled softly at that before allowing himself to fall asleep.