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Brain Damage

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Wilson's first appointment of the day was Calthia Langley, a 65-year-old woman who had presented with dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans six months previously. DFSP was rare enough that Wilson had been called in for a consult, and Calthia and her husband, Richard, had taken a liking to him and requested that he be the one they see in the future. It happened to him all the time, and as today he had good news, it wasn't something he really minded.

He picked up Calthia's folder from his desk and stood up, too quickly, apparently, because the room swirled enough that he had to put his hand out to the desk, and he almost knocked over his tea. The dizziness was unusual, but not alarming. He hadn't slept well at all in the last three nights. Two of those nights he could blame on House, who was a bitch to sleep with or near when he was sick, but last night he'd checked himself into a hotel and still hadn't gotten much rest. The bed had been a little too empty, the room a little too quiet, and his head a little too full. He'd have to get more rest that night, make sure he ate well during the day.

Wilson stepped into the hallway and saw that House's fellows were already gathered at the conference table, reading up on whomever House was going to start in on that morning. He hadn't had a case in two or three days, which was good, in one respect, because he'd been legitimately under the weather, but bad because not having any work didn't give him anything to take his mind off of being sick. So he was sick and driving Wilson absolutely bonkers. And, he knew, House was going to absolutely twist the knife when he did come in to work, because Wilson couldn't help it, he did feel a little guilty for having left House to fend for himself the night before.

"Calthia, Richard," Wilson greeted the couple, stepping into their exam room. It was cold inside, a little too cold, in fact. The hospital was going through its annual switch from heating to cooling, as it did every spring; it usually took a few days for all of the rooms to get evened out. "I have good news. The surgery seems to have gotten everything, and your progress in the trial was excellent."

Calthia smiled and gripped Richard's hand, and it was nice, really, to be able to start the day this way – only as he spoke, Wilson's stomach began to turn. Richard asked about follow up appointments, and Wilson had to swallow a few times before he could open his mouth. He looked to the nurse, a smart girl named Claire that he'd been working with for a few months. She seemed to understand immediately that something was wrong, and she slipped from the room while he was answering their questions, then came back in with a cup of water. He excused himself, trusting Claire to give his usual follow-up-in-six-weeks line, and stood in the hallway and drank the water in a few quick gulps. He paused, his back against the wall, and took a few slow, deep breaths. His skin felt clammy. Fever, he thought, and nausea. Oh, hell.

He made it to the bathroom in the doctor's lounge before he threw up.

***



"You jerk," Wilson sighed when House walked in and set a mug on Wilson's desk. Wilson was stretched out on his own couch. The nausea had ebbed slightly during the morning, but then he'd tried to eat a little oatmeal, and now it seemed in danger of flowing again.

"It's tea," House said. Wilson glanced up at him, and House looked away. "From Cameron."

"Yes, God forbid I think you care," Wilson said. He took the tea and sipped warily. "I can't believe you gave me the flu."

"You know me, I'm a giver." House leaned against Wilson's desk, and Wilson made himself sit up to drink the tea. He couldn't get dehydrated. "And when I give, I give everything I've got." Wilson's eyes narrowed, and House just smiled. "I feel all better today."

"How nice for you." Wilson took another sip. His head hurt, and he closed his eyes. He heard the shake of a pill bottle, but couldn't get up the energy to tell House to knock off the Vicodin.

"Here," House said, and Wilson looked up to see House's open palm.

"What –"

"Anzamet," House said. "Do you want some acetaminophen?"

Wilson took the Anzamet and swallowed it with the tea. He put the mug down and sat back, leaned his head against the back of the couch. "If I need that, why not go for the gold? Throw in some hydrocodone, call it Vicodin."

"Wouldn't that be a trip. Wilson, all hepped up." Wilson was surprised to feel House's hand on his neck, but he didn't pull away.

"Am I warm?" he asked.

House leaned in, and Wilson could feel House's breath ruffling his hair. "Baby, you're on fire," he said, and Wilson smirked at the tease. "But no, actually, no sign of fever. Chills?"

"Not right now. But earlier wasn't so great."

House's hand stayed on the back of Wilson's neck, just a warm, friendly weight, which was about as kind and tender a move as he'd ever get. They'd been sleeping together for nearly three months now, since shortly after Wilson's wife had left him. Nothing between them had really changed, beyond the additions of sex and more innuendo-laced banter to their crazy friendship. "You should go home," House said after a moment. "Your sickly little immuno-suppressed rugrats won't want anything to do with you today."

"Yeah," Wilson agreed. "But all of my stuff's in my car, and there's no way I'm driving."

"Of course not," House said, and Wilson would've rolled his eyes at the bright tone of House's voice if he didn't think it was such a bad, dizzying idea. "But I can."

"You have clinic hours, don't you?"

"Let nothing come between me and taking care of my man," House said, and Wilson sighed but sat up, slowly. The room tilted a little, then evened itself out, and his stomach made only a slight shiver of protest.

"All right, let's go."

Wilson put his coat on and gathered his briefcase while House went next door to send his fellows off on their next wild round of tests. Chase was still trailing him when Wilson got to the door of House's office, and Wilson followed them gamely down the hall, choosing, for once, not to engage with the diagnostics game. It was all right to take a day off from playing foil and shield for House. He was sick and tired and House could take care of himself. 

They walked out into the lobby and came face to face with Cuddy. Wilson didn't pay attention at all to what she was saying, until he realized that his name had come up. House was explaining that he needed to take Wilson home and couldn't possibly do his clinic hours. Wilson rubbed his forehead. The lobby was looking nice, he thought. Very bright, very well-lit. Not too many people in the waiting chairs. He wondered if maybe he should start taking walks in the lobby in the mornings, maybe, just to get a little more exercise in. The lights swam and glittered, and Wilson was pretty sure that wasn't normal.

"Dr. Wilson?"

Wilson looked over and saw Dr. Chase peering at him with wide-eyed concern. "I'm sorry, what?"

"I'm going to take you home," Chase said, speaking slowly, like he was addressing a child. 

Wilson felt a flush of annoyance, but his confusion was greater. House and Cuddy had disappeared. "Where's – I thought –"

"Cuddy's got House looking at some super-donor in the clinic who's convinced her kid's brain damaged. Just because he's two and can't do calculus or something." Chase shook his head, and just watching that made Wilson a little dizzy. He closed his eyes, and then felt Chase's hand on his elbow. "Steady," he said. "You sure you're all right?"

"No," Wilson said, "I have the flu, no thanks to your boss." He cleared his throat. "You don't have to drive me home."

"Ah, well, he is my boss," Chase said. He took Wilson's briefcase from him. "C'mon, he already gave me your keys."

An hour later, Wilson was settled and comfortable in House's bed. Chase had left him at the door to the condo, doing his job to the absolute letter. Wilson wasn't sure what the fellows knew about his and House's relationship, exactly, and he was sure that Chase was filing away all sorts of things from the fact that Wilson was still staying at House's place. He hadn't let Chase inside, because there was enough evidence within to tip him off to the fact that things had changed – no pillow on the couch, for one, and no evidence of Wilson's suitcase anywhere. His clothes were neatly hung in House's closet, and his pajamas – which he happily slipped in to – were folded in the dresser drawer that House had finally agreed to clear for him a week ago.

He still had no fever, and the Anzamet had wiped out his nausea, but he was exhausted and dizzy. He put his head on the pillow – his own pillow – and fell almost instantly asleep.

House woke him with a tap to the leg at around 11 p.m. "Have you been sleeping this whole time?" he asked.

"Yeah," Wilson said. His voice was thick from sleep. House was standing in the doorway; the tap had been from his cane. He was still wearing his motorcycle jacket. "You just get home?"

"Yeah. Spent most of the day babysitting Cuddy's big donor's prodigy." House shuddered, and Wilson shook his head. The room didn't spin, so he tried sitting up. Not bad. "You throw up anymore?"

"Not yet," Wilson said. He put his hand on his stomach. "I don't actually feel bad right now."

"Then come entertain me in the living room."

Wilson agreed. He stopped off in the bathroom and took two Tylenol against the low thrum of a headache, then walked through the kitchen. He put the tea kettle on to boil. House came through and got himself a beer from the fridge, then leaned on the counter next to Wilson. "You gonna hurl if I make something to eat?" he asked.

"Would it stop you if I said yes?"

"No, but I might reconsider standing this close to you."

"Then by all means, feast away. And hand me a bowl and a mug, while you're there." House did, and Wilson found a box of oatmeal packets that he'd brought from the hospital. It was a special, high-protein oatmeal mix that they gave to some of the patients, and Wilson was a little hooked on the strawberry variety. He shook the contents of two packets out into the bowl, and when the kettle began to whistle, he poured water over his oatmeal and then over a tea bag.

House looked at this with disdain. "Oatmeal and tea? That isn't a little grannyish for you?"

"You like this tea," Wilson said, taking a sip. "Don't try and deny it."

"But tonight, I drink like a man," House said, sipping his beer and then letting out a resounding belch.

Wilson grimaced. "The tea and I will be in the living room."

He'd managed to eat the whole bowl of oatmeal by the time House came in with his microwaved spaghetti dinner. Wilson looked up, sipping the last of his strong tea, and the room swam before him. "Whoa," he said, setting the cup down, and then lowering his head toward his knees. The room was definitely spinning.

"Gonna be sick?"

Wilson shook his head. He didn't feel nauseated this time. This was something else, a new feeling entirely. He felt House's hand on his neck. "You're cool," House said.

"I know," Wilson said. He sat up slowly, leaning back into the couch. The dizziness was still a light buzz at the edge of his vision, but he felt OK otherwise. Just very, very tired. Exhausted, almost floaty. It hit like a wave. He rested his head on the back of the couch, because he couldn't hold it up. "I'm soooo cool."

House's hand had moved to the front of his neck, and Wilson was slow to realize he was checking his pulse. "What're you –"

"What's your normal resting heart rate?"

"Sixty five," Wilson said. It seemed to take a lot to push the words out. "Why?"

"Shh."

Wilson closed his eyes. He was so tired. And House was warm. He tipped toward him. As if from a distance, he heard House saying his name, and then saying other things, talking to someone else. He didn't care. He wanted to rest. All he wanted was to rest.

***



He woke up to bright lights in his eyes and a cold table beneath his back. "What –"

"He's conscious," he heard, and he recognized the voice, female, cool, professional, but couldn't give a name.

He flinched as fingers opened his right eye, and the light returned. "Hey!" He tried to bat the hand away, but his arm felt heavy.

"Dr. Wilson, it's Pamela Becker. Do you know where you are?"

Pam Becker – an internist, she worked in the E.R. Someone he got called in to consult for. "I'm in the E.R.?" His voice was high and raspy.

"Yes, you were brought in a little bit ago."

"What's –" Wilson cleared his throat and made himself open his eyes. He was in an E.R. room. Pam and two other people – nurses – were in the room with him. He had a heart monitor to one side and oxygen running to his nose. A nurse held out a cup of water, and he reached for it and tried to sit up, but the room swam slightly. He felt a steadying hand on his shoulder, and looked up into Pam Becker's eyes.

"Don't try to move yet," she said. 

"What?" Wilson couldn't remember anything past falling asleep on House's couch. "But I –" He swallowed. "What's happening?"

"You had a depressed heart rate and respiration. We're not sure what caused the episode. Dr. House said you lost consciousness."

"House," Wilson said, licking his lips. They tasted a little salty, and still like strawberries. "Where is he?"

"I'm here." He heard the voice, but couldn't actually see him. The calmness of his voice wasn't at all reassuring. "You're doing fine."

Wilson closed his eyes. "What are you doing now?"

"We gave you .5 mg of Atropine and your heart rate is fine, now." He heard Pam shifting closer and opened his eyes. "We need to figure out what caused this. Have you been ill lately?"

"Just this flu," Wilson murmured. His chest was bare, and the exam room was cold. That was why he was shivering. "Could I get a blanket?"

"Sure. Nausea, fever?"

"Nausea and vomiting, fatigue, chills, but no fever," House answered, and Wilson was grateful, even more so when he felt a blanket being secured over him, and smelled House's usual mix of deodorant and soap. He opened his eyes and saw the sleeve House's shirt next to his head. "Did I miss anything?"

"Dizziness," Wilson said. "And my vision is blurred now, but that's probably the atropine, right?"

"Probably."

"You're stable," Pam said. "But I'd like to keep you overnight. And I'm guessing that Dr. House is about to take you out of my service, anyway."

"Excellent deduction, doctor."

"Thank you," Wilson said, meaning both of them.

"Feel better." She nodded to him, then to House, and left the room with both nurses in tow – though she pulled the blinds before she did.

"She's a smart one," House said. 

"Uh-huh. What happened?"

"You blacked out," House said. Wilson nodded and tried to push himself up again, and this time, House helped him. The room didn't spin quite so terribly, so he stayed sitting up. It made him feel less like a patient, and less like sleeping.

"And I didn't wake up?"

"I don't keep atropine at home," House said. "And I didn't think morphine would do much good."

Wilson nodded loosely. "You called an ambulance."

"Well, the place gets so lonely, sometimes, I thought some fresh faces would liven things up." He put a steadying hand on Wilson's shoulder, and for once seemed to understand that Wilson didn't have the energy to pull the whole conversation out of him. "Your heart rate slowed into the 40s, and you were unresponsive. As much fun as it sounded to try and drag you down the stairs and throw you over the back of my motorcycle, I decided it might be a little quicker to get guys with gurneys to come by."

Wilson cleared his throat. He felt shaky and anxious, both of which could be after-effects of the atropine. "Did I stop breathing?" he asked, his voice very quiet.

"No," House said.

"But I was unconscious."

He shrugged. "You just missed the fun of a ride." He stepped back a little but kept his hand on Wilson's shoulder, and Wilson realized he'd started to shake. He let House help him to lie down again. "The question you should be asking isn't what happened, but why did it happened."

Wilson blinked up at House and groaned. "You're already writing this stuff on your whiteboard, aren't you?"

"Nah," House said, but Wilson could tell he was grinning. "Cameron's doing that. I'm taking the patient history. What could cause bradycardia in an otherwise healthy almost 40-year-old male?"

Wilson sighed. His chest was sore, and he lifted a hand to rub it. Traitorous, traitorous heart, he thought. Haven't I always been good to you? "You already have a theory, don't you?"

"Could be nothing," he said.

Wilson felt a flare of annoyance and fear in his stomach. He closed his eyes. "Please don't put me through anything painful just for fun," he said.

"Would I do that?"

"I'm serious, House."

"I know." He opened his eyes again. "I'm your medical proxy. Don't worry, I won't let that power go to my head."

His pager rang, and Wilson shuddered. He didn't want House running off to anywhere, right now; he didn't mind being alone in the hospital when he was working, but he was sore, and tired, and a little confused, and maybe a little bit frightened. The atropine was feeding his anxiety. He couldn't help it – as House pulled away to look at his pager, Wilson reached out, wrapped his hand around House's forearm, needing the contact. He felt his face flush, with embarrassment and fear and delayed shock.

"New symptom," House said, looking down at his hand. "Clinginess."

Wilson closed his eyes and pulled his hand back. He heard the scrape of a chair across the floor, and opened his eyes to see House dragging one over with his cane.

"You had a page," he said.

House shrugged. "Like I said, new symptom." He sat in the chair, then reached out and put his fingers around Wilson's wrist, like he might be checking Wilson's pulse. "I'd better stay and observe."

***



They found a room for him after an hour, and Wilson was finally able to go back to sleep at around 2 a.m. House left sometime after that, though Wilson wasn't sure precisely when, because he didn't wake up until someone came by with breakfast at 7, followed swiftly by Dr. Barnes on rounds. He felt pretty good, all things considered – no nausea, no dizziness, none of the old symptoms, all of which he happily reported.

She nodded and made a few notes in his chart. "Since you're stable and feeling better, I'd say you're OK for release so long as you're going to follow up right away with your own physician."

"I'm sure he'll find me," Wilson said, and Pam laughed.

"Stick around until after lunch, then," she said. "I'll write up discharge papers for the afternoon."

She left and Wilson went back to toying with the dismal food that had been brought in. He wanted House to return with a diagnosis – some strange flu strain, maybe, or a reaction to the Anzamet. Wilson was actually betting on the last one.

While he was toying with his stale toast, the door opened and Claire came in.

She was a pretty thing, young and too thin but pretty, with curling blonde hair and wide blue eyes. She'd been working in oncology for almost six months now, though she'd only been Wilson's daily nurse for the last two or three. They got along well, though, and he was glad to have her on staff – though at the moment, he wasn't sure he wanted to see her at all. Sitting in a hospital gown in a hospital bed wasn't exactly painting the perfect picture of authority. "Hi, Dr. Wilson," she said, just barely peeking around the door. "I don't want to bother you for very long."

"Come in," he said, pushing his plate away. "You're not a bother."

She smiled her pretty little smile and walked in, closing the door behind her. "Everyone on the ward wants to come over." Wilson sighed. "Don't worry, I got them to just agree to let me come over and tell you that they're all thinking about you. Dr. Barnes was real nice and said you needed your rest, so I think you're in the clear."

"Thank you," Wilson said, deeply relieved. "I should be going home later today."

"That's great news. Did they figure out what's wrong?"

He shrugged. "Low blood sugar, probably," he said, though he knew that wasn't possible. He didn't need his personal medical profile making the rounds of the place, though, and he hadn't seen House yet that morning, so he didn't know what, precisely, the diagnosis was. He pushed his plate away. "Nothing too serious."

Claire wrinkled her nose. "That looks pretty seriously bad."

"Then it looks a little better than it tastes." Wilson leaned back in the bed and couldn't stop a yawn.

Claire smiled. "I should let you rest," she said. "But do you need anything, before I go?"

He shrugged. "Not unless you've got some pancakes in your pocket."

"No, but I could bring you some oatmeal from your office," she offered, and he grinned.

"That sounds wonderful."

"I'll be right back."

Claire brought the oatmeal and a granola bar and promised to check in again before he left. After she left, Cuddy dropped in to check on him and to make sure that he wanted House to take up his case.

"I'm not sure it's much of a case," he said, pouring himself a glass of water. "He gave me some Anzamet yesterday for my nausea, and I think that was probably the problem."

"Usually, there are people – partners, parents, sometimes lawyers – standing between House and his ability to do whatever he wants to a patient. He's got medical decision-making power over you."

"Only if I'm unconscious, at which point he can put me through all the painful tests he wants," Wilson said. "But up until that point, if I say no, I have a better chance than most of those other people of getting him to respond."

Cuddy shrugged. "Maybe. Anyway, you should take the rest of the week, rest up, kick this bug."

Wilson started to argue, but the door had opened partway through Cuddy's sentence, and House answered for him.

"Never turn down an offer like that," he advised. "In fact, I'm sensing he'll need some quality at-home care."

"Yes, probably every day during your scheduled clinic hours, right?" Cuddy said. She'd turned fully to face House. "Speaking of which –"

Wilson tuned them out, turning his face into the pillow instead. This isn't right, he thought briefly, even as his eyes were closing. He'd just woken up, but now –

"Hey!" He felt the sharp sting of House's hand on his face, but he couldn't shake off the sleepiness. "Wilson, stay with me," House said.

"Just tired," he murmured. "It's OK, just tired."

"It's not OK," House said. He was shouting, and Wilson couldn't figure out exactly why. "You're going into shock, for Christ's sake someone get me some atropine!"

***



This time he came around more quickly, and in more of a panic. The atropine made his heart race and his adrenaline surge, and having House's staff buzzing around him and Cuddy snapping orders and the monitors going haywire didn't help at all.

House ordered a battery of blood tests and an EKG, all of which sounded reasonable – if completely fucking scary – to Wilson. He knew, logically, that the most common cause of bradycardia was ischemic heart disease, which didn't make any sense as his physicals had never showed any sign of cardiac trouble. The acute causes were even less encouraging: hypothyroidism seemed like the best case scenario, and so he readily signed off on TSH and T4 tests.

"Nothing," House said, throwing the papers down onto the table over Wilson's bed. "You're the healthiest man alive."

"The last twenty four hours aside," Wilson said, setting down the journal he'd been reading. Well, he'd been trying to read it; he couldn't focus.

"Right." House sighed and dropped into the chair next to Wilson's bedside, hooking his cane on the rails of the bed. He looked nearly as tired as Wilson felt, and Wilson guessed that he'd probably had even less sleep than Wilson. "We'll get you a Holter monitor."

"And I'm staying here."

House looked up. He actually looked a little sheepish. "I'm not comfortable with you being too far from a half-milligram of atropine, yet. But you feel free to make that call on your own."

Wilson shrugged. "It's not like I have anywhere to be." He'd had Tad Michaels, his sort of next-in-line in Oncology, come in for about half an hour after lunch, and they'd talked through all of his upcoming cases and settled everything out for the next few days in the department. And as Cuddy had pointed out, Wilson had sick days built up from the last millennium, so he could afford to wait this thing out.

"Yeah." House pushed out of his chair. "You want to get something to eat, though? Take a stroll down to the cafeteria?"

"In a gown with a hole in the back? I think I'll pass."

House leered. "You never let me have any fun." He stood up and snatched his cane. "I'll find you some clothes, then will you go?"

Wilson agreed, and fifteen minutes later, he was walking down the hall wearing a pair of green surgical scrub bottoms, a black T-shirt of House's, and his hospital-issued slippers. He was tired enough that he used the rails in the hallway to steady himself a few times, but other than that, he didn't feel bad – just a little ridiculous.

House kept up a steady stream of chatter and sarcasm over dinner, and Wilson was grateful for it. He didn't want to think about anything that was going on with him. If it wasn't a thyroid or endocrine problem, then it was his heart, whether the EKG showed it or not. At least cancer hadn't come up as a possibility yet – he'd hate to have to consult on himself.

After dinner, they went to House's office to sit for a while, because Wilson wasn't quite ready to bed down in his room yet for another long, unrestful night. The fellows were in the conference room, and Wilson ignored his own listed symptoms on the board when he took a seat at the table. Cameron gave him a cup of tea, and he sat and joked around with them all for a while, none of them talking about the huge, black-marker question mark that was just over his shoulder.

"How can you be so critical of the working girls, Cameron, if you've never tried one?" House said, leaning against the counter, twirling his cane. "I'm willing to bet that we could get enough money together just in this room to help correct that deficiency in your education."

Chase snickered, and Wilson lifted a little in his seat, thinking to grab his wallet for show, but of course he didn't have his wallet with him because he was wearing pants without pockets. He stood, anyway, intending to carry his mug to the sink. Instead, his head swam as soon as he stood, and only Foreman's quick intervention kept him from fainting. Foreman and Cameron lowered him to the chair, and he put his head down on the table.

He wanted to cry. His head hurt, his stomach was rolling, he was afraid to open his eyes and see the room spinning, and he was too tired and suddenly weak to push away the fingers groping at his neck for a pulse. "I'm fine."

"You're an idiot," House said. Wilson felt a jacket being draped around his shoulders. "And you're freezing."

"Thank you," he mumbled. He couldn't lift his head yet, not even when House drew back. "What's it at?"

"60," House said. "Not great, but steady for the moment. Chase, get a wheelchair. Foreman, get .5 of atropine, just in case."

"No," Wilson said. "I've had too much today already."

"You're right, let's just let your heart stop, shall we?"

"Greg," Wilson muttered, finally drawing himself up, "you can't kill me just because you find me being right annoying."

House smirked but didn't laugh. Chase and Foreman left, and House turned to Cameron, who also looked ready to cry. "Cameron, go away for a minute."

She didn't question him, just stood and walked out, though she touched Wilson's shoulder as she left.

House stepped around and leaned on the table next to Wilson. "How are you feeling?"

Wilson stared at him for a moment. "Tired, and a little dizzy, but I'm fine," he said quietly. "Or, well, not really, but not a major attack this time."

"I meant," he said, leaning in and pulling his jacket more tightly around Wilson, "how are you doing with this – all of this?"

Wilson narrowed his eyes, then flinched. "Oh, God, I'm brain damaged," he said, pressing his hands to his head. He had a headache, come to think of it. "How long was I out at your place? Oxygen deprivation?"

House's hand clenched around Wilson's wrist. "You're not brain damaged," he said. "At least, no more than you were before. No oxygen deprivation." Wilson dropped his other hand and looked up at House, who did look serious. "You don't have to be brain damaged for me to be nice to you."

"Uh, one of us must be," Wilson said, but House's smile was actually kind. Wilson sighed. "Two days ago, I was fine. Annoyed with you, but fine. And now I can't stand up without falling over."

"Which seems pretty acute, to me." Wilson nodded. "You haven't called your parents."

"If it's acute, then there's no reason to worry, right?"

House smiled, just barely. "Exactly."

The door opened behind them, and House squeezed Wilson's wrist and then let it drop. "Got it," Foreman said, holding a syringe and a glass bottle of atropine. Wilson turned and put his arms into House's bike jacket.

"Let's keep that in here in case Wilson decides to drop out on us again," House said, pushing off of the table and limping over to where he'd left his cane. "But I don't think we need it at the moment."

Chase and Cameron returned at the same time, Chase pushing a wheelchair. Wilson wanted to object, but he was shaking and not at all confident in his ability to stand up.

"Haltor monitor," House said. "Starting now. I'll wake up the whole damn cardio staff if I have to. Cameron, take him back downstairs, and you two try not to leak too much overcaring on the floor on your way down. Foreman, Chase, stick around, we're going to figure this out."

And Wilson believed that was exactly what they would do, right up until he had his next attack, the following morning, in the cafeteria. He lost consciousness at the breakfast table, but not before he'd heard House call a code.

When he came around from that, after a full milligram of atropine, he began to consider the possibility that something was really wrong with him. He saw that idea flashing through House's eyes, too, and then across the faces of his perplexed staff. Wilson closed his eyes against their concern and tried not to listen to the possibilities they bandied about. He was still tired. This was all getting out of control. He let a nurse slip an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth and drifted to sleep.

When he woke up, there were police officers outside his room.

"They think what?" Wilson was sitting up only by virtue of the bed being propped up, because he was still feeling weak and trembling from his last attack. House's fellows were standing near the doorway, Cuddy near the foot of his bed. He had two blankets and a sweatshirt, now, but he couldn't stop shivering.

"Your tox screen came back positive for hydrocodone," Cuddy said. "In massive amounts."

"How massive?" Wilson asked, a little breathless.

"Much more and we'd be talking about permanent liver damage," Foreman said.

"And you think House is poisoning me? With Vicodin?" Wilson rubbed his forehead and pressed on his temples.

"Does your head hurt?"

"Only because of this conversation," Wilson snapped, then felt bad, because it was Cameron. "Where is he? And which one of you idiots called the cops?"

"None of us, actually," Chase said.

Wilson looked over at him. "The police just magically heard about it?"

"We don't know who called them," Cuddy said, "but Tritter is involved."

"So House is in jail." Wilson felt like throwing up, but for once, he knew it had nothing to do with his mystery illness. "That's perfect. Don't I get a say in this?"

Cuddy looked at the fellows, and they slipped out of the room. Once the door was closed, she stepped up to the side of his bed. "Have you been taking his Vicodin?"

"No!" Wilson couldn't believe he was being asked this stuff. "You've seen how he is about that stuff – you don't think he'd notice if a huge amount went missing?"

"Then have you been getting it on your own?"

"No." Wilson shook his head. "I took a couple Tylenol last night, but I can't even – I'm not crazy, and I'm not a drug addict. And I'm not suicidal. I know hydrocodone doesn't work for me – I had a bad reaction after shoulder surgery in college."

Cuddy stared at him, really looked hard at him, for a moment. "I believe you," she said. "Though I don't know why. You've hung around House so long, it seems impossible that his craziness hasn't rubbed off."

"In other ways, yes, but he hasn't actually managed to make me mentally insane." Wilson sighed. "He's going to need bail."

"I'll take care of it," she said. She squeezed his hand before she left, and Wilson felt a wash of relief. If it was just a reaction to hydrocodone, they had only to find the source of it to solve the problems. He wasn't dying; he was being drugged, which was troubling, but there was nothing wrong with him.

Tritter came in and asked a few uncomfortably pointed questions after Cuddy had left. "I'm not going to cooperate with you," Wilson said. "Not for this. He's not drugging me."

"Sure he's not," Tritter said. "You live with Dr. House. So there's opportunity for him, right there – and we both know he's got the means."

"Ah, but motive," Wilson said. "You may hate the guy, but he's my best friend."

"Does he need a reason? Maybe he's just finally crossed the line into craziness," he said, pacing by the foot of Wilson's bed. "And he's more than your best friend, if I'm correct. He's also your lover."

Wilson felt his face flush. He'd never spoken with anyone other than House about their sexual relationship, and he couldn't imagine House had given it away. That meant that either Tritter was guessing, or he'd heard rumors from the staff.

"As much of an ass as he is as a doctor, I'll bet he's ten times worse when you're sleeping with him."

Wilson gritted his teeth. "By your theory, I'd have more motive to poison him than the other way around."

"Unless he found out you're cheating on him."

Wilson felt his mouth drop open. "What?"

"You know, that's almost the reaction he had, when we were talking about it at the station," Tritter said. His grin was positively malevolent. "You two have the same acting coach? Get some kind of group rate?"

"I'm not cheating on House," Wilson said. That was certainly something he couldn't explain to Tritter, because he couldn't even explain it to himself. It wasn't as though he and House had ever set up any rules for their relationship. As far as he knew, House could have been spending his days off having massive orgies with hookers. Wilson hadn't stopped flirting with the nurses, but he also hadn't taken any home (or gone home with any) for months. More than that, he hadn't really thought about it.

"Funny, because I have a report filed in my office from a young woman who says you are."

Wilson narrowed his eyes. Tritter had found some fake witness against him? "What possible good is this doing?" Wilson said. "You're, what, trying to break us up? Don't you have better things to do like, oh, say, finding out who's been drugging me?"

"I think I've found that out," Tritter said. "Maybe you should have a talk with your boyfriend, when he gets released. Sure hope no one's messed up his pretty face for you."

He left, and Wilson sat there, speechless. His heart was actually racing with anger, which seemed like a good sign. He wanted to pick up the phone and call House, but he probably wasn't out of jail yet. He couldn't think of anyone else to call, so he called House's staff.

"It explains everything," Foreman said, leaning against the door and looking very, supremely uncomfortable. Wilson wished he'd take a lesson from Chase, who was practically lounging against the opposite wall, as though it was vacation day on the ward. "All of your symptoms could be caused by the hydrocodone overdose."

"And you really think that House would do that?" Wilson asked.

"No," Cameron said, though Wilson had expected her sincerity.

"No way," Chase said, and Wilson saw that Foreman was shaking his head vigorously, which was a good sign.

"He can be a dick," Foreman said, "but this isn't his way."

"Then you guys have to help me figure out who's doing this," Wilson said. "Because otherwise, either House is going to lose his job and go to jail, or I'm going to get locked up in the psych ward."

Foreman nodded. "We should assume the delivery system is something environmental, then. Something from your office or your place."

"Which is also House's place," Chase said, "and he's not showing any signs of overdose."

"He's built up a tolerance," Cameron said. "The levels could just not have as big an effect on him."

"No way. The amount of hydrocodone we found in Wilson's system would've pushed even House into noticeable overdose."

"Foreman's right," Wilson said. "Plus, I've been getting worse since I've been here. So it can't be something that's confined to home."

"Have you had any dietary changes? Anything you ate and drank here and at home?"

Wilson shrugged. He couldn't really think of anything out of the ordinary. "I've had only hospital food," he said. "And before I had the attack at House's place, I'd had some oatmeal, but House had eaten the same stuff for breakfast, and I'd had it every day that week."

"Still, it can't hurt to test it," Chase said, and Wilson agreed.

"There's some in my office, too," he said.

"Right." They started to file out, but then Foreman turned around. "You probably shouldn't eat or drink anything until we get this figured out."

"Agreed," Wilson said. Food didn't even sound appealing at the moment.

It sounded even less agreeable later that evening, when he heard House's voice in the corridor outside his room. He wasn't just angry – he sounded thermonuclear. Wilson pushed himself out of bed, glad to find his legs steady beneath him, and over to the door, which he slid open, then stepped into quite a scene.

House was shouting at Claire, who was clutching a balloon and a box of candy in front of her. "Here he is, let's just ask him, shall we?"

"What's going on?" Wilson asked, leaning on the door.

"Dr. Wilson, I'm so sorry," she said. "I had to tell him."

"Tell who what?" he asked, looking from Claire to House and then back. Claire met his eyes and then tipped her head toward House, and Wilson suddenly understood. Tritter had heard about his relationship from Claire. Of course, she'd picked up on it. They'd seen each other almost every day for the last two months; she'd seen him the mornings after some very wild nights with House, when he'd had bags under his eyes and marks on his neck. They'd talked, once or twice, about their current relationships, and she'd mentioned a distant, non-committing boyfriend, with which Wilson had commiserated. She was a smart girl. She'd put it together, and Tritter had probably scared her half to death – though maybe not so closely as House was doing right now.

"Get in here," Wilson said sharply to House. After House had limped past him, he reached out and took the candy and balloon from Claire. "Thank you for these," he said. "But it would be better if you went pretty far away, for a while."

She nodded and fled. Wilson took a deep breath, tried not to think about the number of people looking at him, and turned back into the room. He set the flowers on the bed table, then closed the door and the blinds. When Wilson turned around, House had his back to him. "What in the hell was that about?" Wilson asked.

"Would you prefer I'd waited and shivved her in the parking lot?" he sneered. 

"I'd prefer you answer my questions," Wilson said. He walked back to the bed and sat down. "So she told Tritter about us."

"Right," House said, "that's what I'm angry about. And not at all the fact that there was something for her to tell about."

Wilson leaned back in his bed. His head hurt again, just a little. "I don't understand," he said.

House turned, and his eyes were absolutely flashing with anger. "You're screwing her."

"What?" Wilson sat up, and ignored the slight shimmer of the world around him. "I am not."

"You just said –"

"I said she told Tritter about you and me, House, not about me and her," Wilson argued. "Which, by the way, there is no me and her, so –"

House took a step closer to the bed. "She told him you're having a thing."

Wilson rubbed his face. "That's impossible."

"Past experience to the contrary," House said, and Wilson felt like hitting him.

"Christ, House, I'm not cheating on you." He pressed his head against the pillow. "Tritter thinks you're drugging me because you think I am, though, so please continue down this road until you've proved him right."

House sighed. "I'm not drugging you."

"I know."

"And you're not drugging you."

"Again, something I know."

"Maybe she's drugging you," House said, and Wilson was grateful for the quick, logical turn of his voice. It meant things were back to normal, or as close as they could be.

"I sent your staff out to check everything in my office."

"But you haven't been eating anything but hospital stuff this whole time. And I eat half of your food, anyway, so –"

"Yeah," Wilson said, moving his legs so House could sit on the edge of his bed. House rested his hand on Wilson's calf, which for House was like a hug. "I know."

"Unless –" House looked at him for a second, and Wilson could practically hear the wheels turning. "Unless I was having a reaction. Where did you get that tea, the stuff at home?"

"It was a gift from the nurses," he said, shrugging. "Trying to wean me off of cola."

"I was sick for three days before you were, and I got worse every day until you left – because while you were there, you were giving me quarts of that stuff. What if the tea is laced?"

Wilson connected the dots in his head and nodded, sitting up. "That makes sense – the attacks at your place, yesterday morning, last night in your office, I'd been drinking the tea then."

"But not every time," House said.

"There's another common factor," Wilson said, but before he could get it out, Foreman and Chase walked in. They were carrying the box of oatmeal packets from his office.

Chase held one packet up, then turned it over. A few fine flakes spilled from the top. "Every single one of them has a puncture near the seam," he said.

"And I bet if you test them, you'll find they're positive for hydrocodone," House said. "Better pull that special Wilson tea from our office, too."

"Makes sense," Wilson said, leaning back on the bed. "The worst times were when I'd had them in combination."

House smiled, a thin smile. "You're cured."

"But who –" Foreman asked, and Wilson shook his head.

"You should probably check those chocolates over there," House said. "Bet they're loaded with the good stuff."

"And after you do that," Wilson said, settling his head against the pillow, "call security."

***



By the time Wilson was discharged the next morning, all of the details had spilled out. Claire hadn't actually been out to get Wilson – she'd been out to get House. Her sister had been in his care about five years ago, and though she'd survived, she'd lost custody of her children after he'd revealed some kind of mental problem. So Claire had set out to hurt the people closest to House.

"How nice for her that the people closest to him are you," Cuddy said, helping Wilson on with his jacket. "Being around him really makes you a target."

Wilson shrugged. "Or it makes me safer," he said reasonably. "Who's someone more likely to shoot at in a bank robbery? The kindly doctor or the one daring him to pull the trigger?"

"Only a pussy brings a gun to a bank and doesn't use it," House said. His cane was hooked over the back of the wheelchair he was pushing. "Get your ass in here so we can go home."

"Oh, yes, I absolutely get what you see in him," Cuddy said, shaking her head, and Wilson blushed.

The other outcome of the whole ordeal had been his and House's sudden outing. Wilson still wasn't sure exactly what had happened, but somewhere between Tritter's questioning of the staff and Claire's arrest and confession, Cuddy and House's fellows had clued in on their relationship. Wilson still suspected that House had just flat-out told them all and was using the Tritter thing as a cover, but he found he didn't much care for how it had happened. Everyone had been reasonably kind about it so far – Cameron seemed OK with it, and Cuddy was enjoying herself immensely, while both Chase and Foreman had been looking at Wilson like he'd lost his mind, but no one had thrown any fits.

House wheeled him downstairs and into the lobby, then left him with Cuddy while he went to get the car – Wilson's car, which he'd had to specifically request House drive, as he wasn't sure he could yet stand a ride on the bike.

"I'll be back in on Monday," Wilson said.

Cuddy shrugged. "Take more time if you need it." She paused, and Wilson looked up. "I gave House the next few days, too."

"That was awfully kind of you."

"Least I could do, after I accused him of trying to kill you."

Wilson heard a roar that could only be one thing, and he sighed. "You know," he said, pushing to his feet, "I love the guy, but I'm not sure you're wrong about that last one."

He did have to admit, though, that the fresh air did feel pretty good.