Characters: Wilson, House, Cuddy
Post episode: Last Resort
Author's Note: Thanks to nightdog_barks and deelaundry for the beta read.
Summary: The hostage situation is over and House is nowhere to be found. Wilson finds his own way to cope.
Excerpt: They’d had plans to go out that night, but Wilson will be damned if he goes bowling with that lunatic. There are no excuses this time. House has taken things too far.
He's finally home. Wilson winces when the front door slams into the wall and chips the wintergreen plaster. Amber had loved those walls. She'd loved Wilson more, but she'd have killed him for messing them up – good thing House is around to do it for her. Wilson doesn't think he can survive another day like this one.
It's been hours since the standoff ended, but Wilson's not sure whether he's angry or terrified now that it's over. When it comes to House, those two emotions enjoy conjugal relations. He’d looked for House at the hospital, had tried his cell again and again, and had finally given up altogether, driving back to his apartment alone. They’d had plans to go out that night, but he'll be damned if he goes bowling with that lunatic. There are no excuses this time. House has taken things too far.
The day had started off well. Grief still woke him up in his empty bed, but coffee tasted good with cream and sugar. Life was getting back to normal, and for that, Wilson was glad.
That morning, he'd gone to pick House up because they were going out after work. Monday was Beer For A Buck Night at the Galaxy Bowl, and shockingly, House was paying. Because House always insisted, they’d stopped for jelly donuts and bad coffee on the way, even though they were running late. The delay and the mess were almost worth House's good mood. He was humming as he traced powdered sugar snowflakes on the dash.
All the same, Wilson was suspicious. House was not a morning person. He had to be up to something. Probably had to do with Cuddy. Wilson figured he could warn her, but whatever it was seemed to be keeping House entertained. Wilson let it go. At this point in the game, Cuddy had to know what she was getting into. Once he and House went their separate ways at the hospital, Wilson quickly forgot about it, and he covered up the residue of powdered sugar with his lab coat.
It was a good day to be an oncologist. Test results came back, and it turned out that two of his patients had gone into remission. His difficult lymphoma case was accepted for a randomized clinical trial, and most thrilling of all, Wilson got word that his immunotherapy research was going to be published in the American Journal of Clinical Oncology. All this required documentation, authorization, and a lot of paperwork, which was why Wilson was still at his desk when the announcement came over the loudspeaker.
“Code Gray-Clinic. Code Gray-Clinic.”
Code Gray was unusual. It was a code designated for a security emergency, usually involving a combative person using physical force or violence. Wilson suddenly flashed back to the last time he’d heard it called. Heart pounding, he bolted out of his office and checked House’s office. It was empty. No shots fired, no darkening pool of blood. Wilson told himself to calm down. What were the chances a Code Gray could involve House this time?
“Dr. Strong to the dean's office. Dr. Strong to the dean's office.” The loudspeaker was sounding off again.
Crap. Another code, this time directing armed security to Cuddy’s office. Wilson thought back to House’s good mood in the car that morning. It was too much of a coincidence. It had to be House.
Wilson was half way to the clinic when the SWAT team charged past him, shouting at him to stay back. They’d entered the hospital through the cardiology wing, most likely setting off a dozen cardiac monitors in their wake. He'd seen SWAT teams on TV but never in person, and his instinct for self-preservation almost kicked in. Wilson kept going but tried hard not to notice that everyone else was going the other way.
Coming around the corner, he almost bumped into Cameron who grabbed him by the arm.
“It’s House,” she announced with breathless gravity.
“Of course it’s House,” Wilson said, with undue irritation.
The FBI had cordoned off the affected areas but deemed the rest secure and didn’t evacuate the entire hospital. Wilson hated waiting. There was nothing he could do for House by standing around, so he returned to oncology, finished up some paperwork, and then found his way to triage, helping out where he could. He was with a patient when House called him on his cell wanting a consult. Wilson did his best to respond coherently while wanting to scream into the phone, “Why does it always have to be you?”
The second time House called, Wilson wasn’t nearly so self-possessed.
Wilson could have forgiven House anything until he found out about the gun. Wilson had to repeat the allegations to himself several times before he could believe it: The patient had the gun. The patient gave House the gun. House gave the gun back to the patient.
It made perfect sense, in an insane sort of way. House was trying to buy time. House had always been willing to die for an answer, but Wilson planned to kill him first. But before he had the chance, the whole thing ended as dramatically as it began. The SWAT team stormed the CT room, apprehending the gunman and ending the standoff. Nobody but Cuddy and authorized personnel were allowed on the scene, and somewhere in the ensuing confusion, House slipped away.
The hostage situation at Princeton-Plainsboro made the first page of Google News. The initial reports lauded House as “the heroic disabled doctor who saved the day as well as the deranged patient.” There was some mention of an ambiguous situation involving the gunman’s weapon, but it certainly appeared to Wilson that House was going to get away with it again.
He eventually found Cuddy in her wrecked office. The room reeked of vomit and blood, and Wilson could read House’s writing on the wall of everything. Cuddy was behind her desk, improbably trying to put a drawer back together. Fixing a desk drawer didn’t really seem like much of a priority, but Wilson noticed the sheared bolts on the desktop and understood. It had taken him hours to figure out how to put his chair back together again.
Cuddy gazed at him wearily. “You have any bright ideas or spare parts?”
Wilson shook his head. “You can’t invite House over to play without accepting the fact that he’s going to mess with your stuff.”
“He invited himself. Don’t tell me you’re going to make excuses for him this time.”
“He’s House. And he didn’t cause this to happen.”
Cuddy was not happy. “He risked innocent lives.”
“Nobody died. The patient got his diagnosis.” Wilson was being careful. Cuddy would always put her hospital first, but Wilson’s loyalties were not so conflicted.
“Doctor Hadley was almost killed. And the gunman was not a patient. He hadn’t even been admitted.”
The fact that House had spent billable hours diagnosing a gunman who hadn’t even had the decency to be admitted was the sort of thing that would really irk the dean of a large teaching hospital. Wilson tried to suppress a smile but couldn’t and started to laugh instead. There was a distinct possibility he was going to crack up altogether. But then Cuddy joined in. Leaning against the desk, they laughed until they were wiping away tears, but it felt good to do it together. Sharing House sometimes felt like surviving a common disaster.
Wilson tried again, his voice still shaky. “House did his best.”
Cuddy wasn’t laughing any more. She wasn’t even smiling. “He would have sacrificed any one of those hostages for his obsessive need to know. That’s not doing his best.”
“He would have died for any one of those hostages.”
“It was dangerous, and it was wrong.”
“He’s House. He has his own interpretation of right and wrong.”
“Yeah.” Cuddy gave him a withering glare. “He’s right and everyone else is wrong.”
“He needed more time for the diagnosis.”
“Oh yes, the sacred diagnosis. And yet, I can remember a time when the diagnosis didn’t come first. It was for you, Dr. Wilson, just to get you to stay. Blackmail at its very best. And it must have worked because here you are, making excuses for him again. You and I are quite the pair, aren't we, enabling House to get whatever the hell he wants.”
“I chose to come back,” Wilson said quietly. “I knew what I was getting into. Do you?”
Cuddy looked away, but Wilson sympathized. A relationship with House had never been one for beginners. Wilson kissed her on the cheek this time, before he left. He didn’t try to help her put the desk back together...
There are things you just have to figure out for yourself.
Back in his own tidy apartment, Wilson checks the answering machine and tries not to worry. While no news is usually good news, House has a habit of screwing with platitudes.
It's been a day for waiting, but Wilson can't sit still. He puts his dishes away, organizes his journals, and heads into the bathroom to brush his teeth and splash cold water over his face. He studies his features somewhat grimly in the mirror. There’d been a time when the mirror was his friend. Easy on the eyes… that’s how his great Aunt Ruth used to put it, embarrassing her nephew in an agreeable sort of way. But the past year has taken its toll.
In the unforgiving light, Wilson looks disheveled and a little baffled. He will be going gray before long, and worry lines are already forming around his eyes. Wilson's not the kind of man who's meant to live alone, and it's beginning to show.
Time to break out the scotch, the expensive kind he ordinarily saves for celebrations. He downs the first one while still standing at the kitchen counter. It goes down fast and easy with a smooth finish, but it's not nearly enough, so he pours himself another and drinks it down as well. For the most part, he's a social drinker who rarely drinks alone, but it seems like a good day for breaking some rules. Genially sloshed and starting on his third drink, the apartment feels too warm and he decides he's wearing way too much clothing. He takes his tie off first and starts unbuttoning his shirt but that seems like too much of an effort. He stumbles to the couch. It really doesn't matter what happens next. Wilson isn't even worried any more. It's only a matter of time.
House will show up eventually, and he'll forgive House everything because that’s what he does. House is an infuriating ass, but Wilson is House’s person…maybe his only person if this thing with Cuddy doesn't work out. There's a guilty pleasure in being chosen by someone who doesn't really like people.
The knock on the door isn't a surprise, but it is loud. House is waiting in the hall, tapping out a tune on the door with his cane, utterly and cheerfully unrepentant.
“Hey, you ditched me. Doesn’t bowling night mean anything any more? I had to get a ride from idiotic hostage kid.”
So this is how it's going to go. “Idiotic hostage kid stuck around?”
“Said it was the best high of his life. Even better than crushing Oxy. So why’d you leave without me?”
“Forgot my stuff.” Wilson waves hazily toward a duffle full of bowling gear by the door. “What do you want to bet we’re too late for Beer for a Buck?”
“You worry too much. They’ll make an exception for the heroic crippled doctor, and you’re with me.” House leans on his cane and smiles his predatory smile. “I get away with everything.”
“You’ll have to drive my car. I’m a little drunk.”
“A little? Couldn’t wait for the cheap beer, Jimmy?” House is giving him the once-over he usually reserves for patients. “And you want me to drive your Volvo?” House maligns the word like it's a particularly distasteful STD. But there is real concern in the way he studies Wilson before taking the keys. It's almost endearing.
House heads toward the entry, glancing over his shoulder as if to check that Wilson hasn’t collapsed into a drunken puddle by the door. It's shameless really, how much Wilson enjoys being the object of House’s scrutiny. Being “The One House Loved Best” is one hell of a job title, but it's most likely Wilson’s life calling.
Wilson steps out on the front stoop and realizes that he’s forgotten to lock up. It's dark already, and he fumbles in his pocket for his keys before remembering that he’s already given them to House. Daringly, he decides not to bother locking up. Life is short…he can afford to live dangerously. Besides, House is already in the car, leaning on the horn. Bad things happen when House is bored. He's drunk and should watch where he's going, but Wilson takes the stairs two at a time. It doesn't escape his attention that House has the passenger door open before he makes it down.