Summary: "Two years after that, Wilson took [the poster] down, and no one ever asked him why. They understood."
Characters: Wilson-centric, ensemble gen
Disclaimer: not mine, no profit, don't sue.
Original story: Stage Five by thedeadparrot
Notes: with thanks to my splendiferous beta.
stage one (denial)
Foreman strides casually into Wilson's office, determinedly professional. Nothing's wrong, he tries to work into his posture. Everything's perfectly normal, his polite smile says. He deliberately avoids looking at the blank space on the wall opposite the desk. "Dr. Wilson," he says briskly. "I need a quick consult."
He pretends not to notice the dark circles under Wilson's eyes or the tight set of his shoulders. "Yes, Foreman, what?"
Foreman places the scans on his desk. "Chase is convinced it's paraneoplastic dermatomyositis, but we can't find any trace of cancer in the patient's scans. Just wanted you to double-check them for us."
Wilson looks them over, but there's no cancer there, just like Foreman and Cameron have been arguing for the past hour and a half. "Not a chance," Wilson finally concedes. "But you might try—"
"Yeah," Foreman says, cutting him off as politely as possible. "We already did. I just wanted to be sure."
"If you need help, you know," Wilson starts.
"Thank you, Dr. Wilson," Foreman says smoothly. The last thing Wilson needs right now is to see someone else running the Diagnostics office. "We've got a number of alternate theories floating around, I'm sure we'll manage. I do appreciate the offer, though."
"If you're sure—"
"I am," Foreman says. "Thanks again. Everything's fine."
And as long as he keeps repeating it, he's sure, everything will be.
He doesn't look at the empty wall again on the way out. He occasionally wonders where the poster went, but it doesn't really matter, does it?
stage two (anger)
It's not lupus, it doesn't even bear the remotest possibility of a passing resemblance to lupus, and Cameron's the goddamn immunologist here and she would fucking know, wouldn't she. She neatly swipes the marker out of Foreman's hand and uncaps it.
"Lupus doesn't explain the arrhythmia," she says as calmly as she can manage, underlining the symptom on the whiteboard with three broad swipes.
"We haven't ruled out the possibility that that's an unrelated condition," Chase argues.
"Occam's Razor dictates—"
"—that sometimes the simplest explanation is that there are two unrelated illnesses, one being lupus and the other a minor condition of arrhythmia," Chase finishes smoothly.
"I'd hardly call it a minor condition," she retorts. Chase glances over at Foreman, who quirks an eyebrow, and their lips twitch in unison. I'm not overreacting, she doesn't protest, because she knows they can read it in the slight flush of her cheeks and the roll of her eyes, and worse, they're probably right. Even if they're dead wrong about the lupus.
It's just that their solve rate still isn't as good as it was before, and sometimes she just wants to scream.
And it's perfect timing, as usual, when Wilson pokes his head in to make sure everything's okay. "Tricky case?" he asks.
The dull ember in the pit of her stomach suddenly flares, and she's just so goddamn sick of it, the hypocrisy of it all, acting like everything's the same as it always was, and Wilson, trying to pretend they need him when everyone knows he's the one who's using them as his goddamn emotional crutch, and why can't he just fucking admit it already and move on?
"We're fine," she says shortly.
Wilson's face is pale and drawn, and he should not be here. "Need a consult?"
"No, we're doing just fine," she snaps. It's almost a shout.
He jerks back as though she'd slapped him. Good. No, Wilson, we don't need you. We never have. The one person who did isn't here anymore, and it's time and past you faced the goddamn music.
It's not usually in her nature to be a bitch like this, but if she learned anything from House, it's that sometimes, you have to be cruel.
stage three (bargaining)
"Paperwork," Cuddy repeats skeptically.
Wilson pinches the bridge of his nose. He doesn't need lunch so much as a nap, Cuddy thinks, but she does what she can, because they're friends and that's what friends do. "I've gotten backlogged since – well, it's a mess," he says.
"Yes, but once you've finished it, it just gets passed off to me," she points out. "What makes you think I want to deal with it?"
"It's lunchtime, James. The time of lunch. There is a noticeable lack of lunch in this office."
"I'm really not hungry."
"That's all right, I was planning on stealing your fries anyway."
"I thought you were trying to eat healthy these days."
"Calories off someone else's plate don't count. Come on, James. The cafeteria's special today is meatloaf. It's going to be quite the spectacle. Even you can't resist a bad meatloaf."
He almost looks like he's vaguely considering smiling, which Cuddy counts as a victory. "Well, if there's meatloaf," he says.
"Come on," she wheedles. "My treat. Just this once."
"Just this once," he agrees tiredly, but he stands and follows her out of his office.
I'll pay for your lunch as often as it takes. She smiles to herself. This could get to be a habit.
stage four (depression)
There's a piano in the shitty little bar down the street from the hospital. Chase never used to notice it; now he nurses his fourth gin and tonic (light on the tonic) and wishes to God they'd hire someone who actually knew how to play the damn thing. Right now, the pianist (as vile a misnomer as Chase has ever encountered) is determinedly whacking his way through some painfully sentimental old tune, rendered nearly unrecognizable; on the bar stool next to Chase's, Wilson shudders and hunches further over his Jack Daniels. Only his second, Chase thinks. The man's nowhere near drunk enough to weather this new form of torture.
He didn't know there was a piano in this bar. He didn't know the incompetent at the keys would be playing this song. He can tell the instant it hits Wilson all over again, the white knuckles grasping the Jack, the way it all snuck back up on him when he least expected it. This wasn't Chase's intention, but really, does it make a difference? Fuck.
Irrelevantly, he wonders how hard the piano could possibly be to learn to play. He could learn, he supposes. Just for the hell of it.
He orders another round of drinks instead.
stage five (acceptance)
"It's appropriate," House insisted.
"I don't even like that movie."
"Lying whore," House said. "You totally mainlined all those old movies back in high school. The angst! The rebellion! The distorted yearnings for domesticity! Also, James Dean in leather."
"I may have had a thing for Natalie Wood," Wilson conceded.
"You may have had a thing for Sal Mineo, you pervert."
"I just don't know what you're trying to imply," Wilson said, reluctantly unrolling the poster. "I have many causes, you know."
"Dying children, world peace, extramarital indiscretions," House ticked off on his fingers. "Hopeless cases. Free lunches."
"Sado-masochism," Wilson muttered under his breath.
House grinned. "The leather helps, doesn't it? C'mon, Jimmy, how can you resist? He's just so sullen."
"Reminds me of someone I know."
"It's like looking into a mirror," House said fondly. He gave Wilson a gentle whack in the shin with his cane. "Come on, we haven't got all day. It's lunchtime."
"It's ten thirty in the morning!"
"James Dean resents your mindless conformity to pithy social constructions of appropriate meal times," House informed him. "Look at that burning resentment."
"I'm going to be looking at his burning resentment every day for the rest of my life, apparently," Wilson grumbled.
"Like that's anything new," House said, grinning when Wilson rolled his eyes and reached for the stickytac. Life would probably be a lot easier for Wilson if he could just learn to accept the inevitable from the start, but as any good rebel knows, the whole point is in the fight.
Wilson spread the poster across his wall with careful fingers, and House leaned back comfortably against the desk to admire his work.