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Title: Bearing Strain
Author: lit_luminary
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairings: Wilson; House/Wilson friendship.
Summary: Cuddy calls Wilson at five in the morning: the conversation we didn't hear.

The buzz of his phone vibrating breaks into Wilson’s sleep, and he grunts into his pillow and reaches for it, blinking bleary eyes at the backlit screen: Cuddy, calling at five A.M., and that goes straight to his adrenals.

There’s exactly one reason she’d call him this early, and he prays Please, don’t let House be dead as he answers it with, “What happened?”

“He’s in recovery at Princeton General,” Cuddy says.  She sounds weary, but—thank God, thank God—Wilson doesn’t hear any grief. “He’s going to be fine.”

He releases a long breath as those words make way for a second thought—Goddammit, House, not again!—and he remembers a dozen examples of self-destructive insanity that’d put his heart in his throat. Then he asks, “What did he do?”

“He was taking an experimental medication, trying to regenerate his leg muscle,” Cuddy says. “It hadn’t been approved for human trials, and it gave him tumors. In his leg.” Now she breathes deeply, and Wilson braces himself.  “He called me, and I found him excising them in his bathtub.”

“In—he was operating on himself? In his bathroom?” Instantly, thoughts of bloodstained tile and sepsis crowd into his mind. “He…“

And then he trails off helplessly, because this is only one more entry on a long list: broken fingers, inducing migraines and tripping on LSD, faking brain cancer, a knife in the wall socket, and on and on until the most recent: toxic experimental drugs.

“House will be fine,” Cuddy repeats. “He’s on broad-spectrum antibiotics to ward off infection, and they didn’t have to take any additional muscle from his leg. He may need to be on crutches while the incision heals, but he’ll be back to his usual irascible self in a week or two.”

“Right. So he can start this entire cycle over again, and sooner or later the phone’ll ring at some ungodly hour and you’ll say ‘I’m so sorry, Wilson; House is dead.’” He hears the bitterness in his own voice and squeezes the phone so hard his hand aches: House can’t keep going like this, and Wilson cannot stand to get that last call. “At least tell me he called you before he started going into shock.”

“No.  I was last on the list,” Cuddy says. “When you didn’t answer, he went through his entire team first.”

Wilson curses himself for setting the phone on vibrate, for every extra minute House had spent with his leg gaping open. “Chase, even Taub would’ve been more able to handle any complications,” he says. “I’m sure it wasn’t personal.”

“He wanted me to finish the surgery,” Cuddy says after a moment. “He was alert and lucid; whether he was sane is debatable, but…he’s in recovery now. He’s not conscious yet, but I thought…”

“I’ll sit with him,” Wilson says. “You go home. Sleep.”

They exchange goodbyes, and Wilson gets out of bed, peels off pajamas and starts putting his work clothes on like armor: respectable, responsible Doctor Wilson, who deals with this kind of thing and worse all the time and handles it with grace.

“God, House,” he says to the empty room. “Why, why do you do things like this?” Doesn’t he realize that if he just asked for help—that people care about him, dammit, and if he killed himself…

Last year, the surgery to transplant a lobe of Wilson’s liver, the echo of House’s voice: If you die, I’m alone.

It’s as true for him as for House: oh, he has plenty of acquaintances, superficial friendships, but no one else knows him as well or matters as much; Wilson thinks of Danny and of Amber, and knows losing House would be worse.

Something has to change; something has to give, because House can only be impossibly lucky so many times; because the heart-jolting fear of so-late-it’s-early phone calls and the bedside vigils never get any easier.

He leaves food and water for Sarah, since he doesn’t expect to be home for at least a couple of hours, and drives to Princeton General on autopilot.   Shock and anger are fading; all that’s left now is numb exhaustion, because House has done this kind of thing too many times. Because Wilson knows him better than anyone else, had seen the warning signals, and it still hadn’t been enough.

In the recovery room, Wilson reaches for the hand that isn’t tethered to an IV line and entwines his fingers with House’s: contact would never be allowed if House were awake, but since he’s not, Wilson allows himself the solid comfort of touch, of feeling warm skin and the faint beat of a pulse.

He promises himself he won’t open with accusations of insanity; that he won’t put House on the defensive and shut down any chance of meaningful communication: he has to make House see the need to stop this for his own sake, not for Wilson’s, and that can’t happen unless House sees the usual cycle break.

“We need to talk,” he says to himself, “and we both need to listen, because there’s got to be a better way than this.”

END.

Note: ‘Bearing strain’ is a mechanical term—i.e., the deformation of weight-bearing parts of a machine when subjected to a load.

Date: 2011-05-17 05:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tuckatangent.livejournal.com
Nice!!! Thanks for Wilson's POV. I missed him in the ep. Also nice to include the IV line; I was wondering about that in the show. I wish the House writers would write Wilson as sensitively and in character as you do.

Date: 2011-05-18 12:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Thank you very much for commenting! It does seem that every time something Significant is going on with House's health, Wilson vanishes into a plot hole somewhere... In any case, I'm glad to hear you enjoyed my characterization (especially as I write Wilson's perspective relatively less often than House's or Chase's).

Date: 2011-05-17 06:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] captainpookey.livejournal.com
Very nice! This is an excellent little "missing moment", rings very true to the show and the relationship of these characters. Thanks for sharing.

Date: 2011-05-18 12:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm always happy to hear my characterization works for a reader.

Date: 2011-05-17 08:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] menolly-au.livejournal.com
Very nicely done, I like the idea that Wilson is dreading that early morning phone call telling him House is dead - because really, if you were House's friend you'd live in fear of that. I wish we'd seen something like this on the show...

Date: 2011-05-18 12:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Thank you! I imagine Wilson would have to fear that, and that he's had nightmares of House's death/receiving news thereof more than once. I also wish the show had included more House/Wilson interaction (ideally, Wilson would've been the one to pick up the phone), but ah, well: more fodder for the fic writers.

Date: 2011-05-17 10:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rincewindy13.livejournal.com
Very touching.

Wilson thinks of Danny and of Amber, and knows losing House would be worse.



Thanks for sharing!

Date: 2011-05-18 12:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Thank you! I had to include that, because really, if Wilson ranks all his relationships honestly, House is the Most Important.

Date: 2011-05-17 11:49 am (UTC)
ext_471285: (Default)
From: [identity profile] flywoman.livejournal.com
Darn it, I was going to write one of these, but you got to it first. Very nice!

Date: 2011-05-17 12:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bmax67.livejournal.com
Doesn't mean you can't write one too!

There can't be enough fic from this episode.

Date: 2011-05-18 01:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and doubly glad you wrote a fic of your own: there's plenty of room, especially as we have very different styles.

Date: 2011-05-17 12:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bmax67.livejournal.com
Great fill-in for the scenes I wish we could see but never get the chance.

Date: 2011-05-18 01:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Thank you! I wish the writers would get over this habit of having Wilson vanish/be conveniently indisposed when House is in crisis, but as it is, well, fic writers will have plenty to play with while waiting for the finale.

Date: 2011-05-17 01:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cuddyclothes.livejournal.com
Wonderful fic! Thank you so much!

Date: 2011-05-18 01:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Thank you for commenting! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Date: 2011-05-17 04:49 pm (UTC)
ext_25882: (Roman Brooch)
From: [identity profile] nightdog-barks.livejournal.com
Ah, I really liked this. Lovely touches throughout, and a great last line.

Date: 2011-05-18 01:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Thank you. I'm detail-oriented by nature, so it's always nice to have readers appreciate the little things.

As for the last line, I thought that that would have to be what makes things different: that Wilson resolves to listen instead of gearing up to lecture; to communicate instead of cornering House with accusations.

Date: 2011-05-17 09:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] smiddlecn.livejournal.com
I like this. It's a shame we didn't get a scene like this last night. Oh, and I think it's a nice, Wilson-ish touch that you had him remember to feed the cat before he left. It's the sort of thing Wilson would do on auto-pilot while thinking 101 other things.

Date: 2011-05-18 01:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Thank you! I also felt the lack of something like this, which is why I had to write it.

Remembering to feed the cat went in relatively late in the writing process: it was rather my remembering that Wilson, knowing House was stable, would remember to feed Sarah on the way out.

Date: 2011-05-18 01:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] topaz-eyes.livejournal.com
So wonderful--I could hear Cuddy's weariness and Wilson's fear and anger were palpable.

Date: 2011-05-18 01:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
Thank you! I write by hearing their voices, so it's always nice when a reader picks up the same sound (so to speak).

Date: 2011-05-18 08:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] damigella-314.livejournal.com
"of all the great writers, the hardest to catch in the act of greatness." [quoting by memory, so very likely off]
That's how this fic felt to me. No line sticking out and calling for notice. Just quiet perfection throughout. Soothing freshness after the harsh burn of the episode.

Date: 2011-05-18 08:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
No, you weren't off; Virginia Woolf said that of Jane Austen, and I'm honored you feel it's worth saying to me.

I love the quiet moments, the ones that so often happen offscreen. There was so much drama in the episode that I wanted the calm after the storm--and, in particular, to look at the thought process that kept Wilson quietly supportive instead of tripping House's defenses with a lecture.

(If you're interested in what else I've been writing lately, I have a new piece here (http://lit-luminary.livejournal.com/18185.html#cutid1) that attempts to deal with my issues with S7 Chase's characterization.)

Date: 2011-05-18 08:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] damigella-314.livejournal.com
[OT Somebody recognizes my citations of Virginia Woolf!!! Yeah!!! dances wildly]
[and yes, I can think of no more honorable comparison. I meant it as such.]

"the thought process that kept Wilson quietly supportive instead of tripping House's defenses with a lecture."
Your fic also matched/explained very well Wilson's attitude, watching in silent pain until House is ready to admit he needs help to go to the bathroom.

Date: 2011-05-18 08:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lit-luminary.livejournal.com
(Well, my degree is in English literature: it's the sort of thing I should recognize, and precisely why I'm so touched. And her essay "A Room of One's Own" is one of my very favorite pieces.)

For Wilson, a nurturer/caregiver by nature, one of the most difficult things in his relationship with House would be the knowledge that even when House very obviously needs help, he seldom accepts it. Occasions like this mean striking a balance between how much he wants to give and how much House will take.

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