Take As Directed.
SEASON/SPOILERS: "Three Stories", sprinklings of the rest of season, so anything could be fair game.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Yep, it's been done. Another House post infarction/pre series fic. But the muse felt inspired and I'm working off a theme here and trying to answer a couple of my own plot hole questions (i.e. how did Wilson, an oncologist, get to be House's prescribing doc?).
I am not a doctor. Anything medical has been heavily researched (or questioned to death to my friend currently in medical school who thinks I'm odd, lol). All quotes about Vicodin should are taken directly from various sources. The Internet is one awesome place, but feel free to drop me a line about any glaring errors and I'll fix 'em right up.
Hydrocodone is habit forming. It is possible become physically and/ or psychologically dependent on the medication. Do not take more than the prescribed amount of medication or take it for longer than is directed by your doctor. Withdrawal effects may occur if acetaminophen and hydrocodone is stopped suddenly after several weeks of continuous use. Your doctor may recommend a gradual reduction in dose.
They were the words anyone could read off any Internet site, the words any good doctor would tell you. Good advice, followed by the majority of people that were handed Vicodin prescriptions following a painful injury or wisdom tooth removal.
Of course, the majority of the population wasn't in his position. Had his problem, and lucky enough for him, happened to be a doctor and know every disgusting little detail and the dry hard fact that unlike dental surgery, his pain wasn't going to disappear.
Bitterness was much easier to handle when wrapped around facts, especially facts that only he managed to see and only he managed to point out before his doctor blinked at him and said, "well, yes, that is a possibility and I assure you that we are exploring every option."
Bullshit. If they'd been exploring it, they would have seen it right away. If he hadn't been so out of it between the extreme pain maybe he'd seen it sooner.
He could blame his doctor for missing it, he could blame Stacy forever for going against his wishes without giving him so much as a warning. It was easy.
Much harder to blame himself.
Now he could blame the world on his physical pain, finger the bottle of Vicodin in his pocket and wish that if it couldn't manage to make him completely forget about his leg, it could make him completely forget about everything else.
Wallowing in self-pity could be so exhausting. Worse than the looks he got that first day he ventured out, crutches in tow, feeling like the whole world was staring. Stacy held his duffle bag and his prescriptions, as he managed, painfully, to make it to her car, trying to ignore the fact that she had to open the door for him so he wouldn't fall flat on his face.
The ride was silent. He'd spent a month at PPTH, doing inpatient therapy, mulling over what his life was about to - had already really - become.
Vicodin is used to relieve moderate-to-severe pain.
"I'm sorry," were the first words he'd heard when he woke up. They were soft and feminine and for a second he'd thought he'd imagined them. She'd said them before and he'd been confused. Why was she sorry? It was his decision, his leg, and while he knew it was stupid, knew it could and probably would kill him, he couldn't do what she asked.
So when he managed to open his eyes and look at her face, he saw the lines of intense worry. The small smile, but soft eyes, revealing more than her lawyer built exterior could ever show.
"Nothing to be sorry about," he mumbled again, wondering for a brief moment if he hadn't fallen asleep yet and that time and reality were playing some confusing trick on him. He licked his lips. They were dry and his brain was fuzzy.
She blinked and said nothing.
It was when his head managed to clear that he realized what had happened. He felt the bandages, felt the pain. The eyes said it all.
The eyes never lie.
Too bad people always do.
Wilson came. Took Stacy's chair as she headed out to get coffee. Wilson was wearing a suit jacket and his red striped tie, the one he always wore when he went to a conference. His shirt was wrinkled, looking like he'd slept in it. He was sans the lab coat he wore every time Greg saw him at PPTH and he found the image disturbing.
"No coat," he said, his voice sounding foreign to his ears.
"Yeah," Wilson answered.
He swallowed. "How much?"
Wilson let out a breath. "A lot."
He took in those two simple words and mulled them over. "Show me."
"Greg, Cuddy's coming in this after-"
He shook his head. "Don't want to hear it from her. I want to hear it from you."
Wilson was silent a moment. "Okay. I'll get some paper."
He didn't say a word as he watched Wilson sketch. He didn't blink at the amount. Wilson, for his part, let him be and didn't sugar coat the facts, presenting them exactly for what they were and what they meant.
It was no wonder that he was already being considered as oncology's next department head when Sanderson retired. Lots and lots of practice giving bad news.
Being good at giving bad news. An oxymoron of sorts, he thought distantly.
"Thank you," he managed to say when Wilson quieted, again finding it ironic that his friend was so good at presenting the facts, the bad news, that Greg felt he needed to thank him.
Wilson simply nodded his head and settled back into the chair.
"How was the conference?" he asked.
Wilson gave a short laugh. "God, Greg..." He shook his head. "Boring."
"They usually are." If he looked straight ahead, ignored the bandages, the pain, the beeping of the heart monitor, the guilt hidden in Stacy's eyes, he could maybe, just maybe, survive.
"Open bar at least?"
"Of course," he repeated. His leg was ignoring his plea to be ignored. Ha, another blast of irony. Was he doomed to suffer nothing but for the rest of his existence?
One hand crept up to the covers and he couldn't control the hiss that escaped his lips. Wilson was up and grabbing the control for his pain meds, pressing it into his hands.
He shook his head. "Don't need it."
Wilson pushed the button for him. "Don't need it or don't want it?"
The morphine filtered into his system and the pain settled into a steady throb. Still there, but, for the moment it was almost bearable.
"You didn't hesitate to ask for it before," Wilson said and he closed his eyes.
"You've been talking to Stacy."
He sat back down. "Maybe."
"She called you?"
"She was concerned."
"I'll bet." Concerned enough to go against his wishes. "What did you tell her?"
Wilson sighed. "I told her..."
He raised a hand. "No. I don't think I want to know."
"...to wait. Give it twenty-four hours."
He almost laughed. "No, you didn't. If you were here, you'd have told me I was being an idiot."
"No, I think you're turning me into you. I have something called a bedside manner. Nice little thing, you learn it at medical school, along with respecting the patient and all that jazz."
He fingered the control of the morphine pump. "You're not my doctor. You're my friend."
Wilson leaned back. "Yes, I am."
"You'd offer your medical opinion, sure, but you can't stop yourself from expressing your personal one."
"Yes, but --"
"I knew Stacy would call you." He knew it all along. Stacy wasn't completely stupid. She was frustrated. Sure, Cuddy had ripped the case out of her staffs' hands when she discovered the mistake and, while he'd heard that she was a good and respected physician, he, nor Stacy, really knew her. Cuddy would be honest, but didn't know him and how stubborn he was. That he didn't want to let go a leg, of a past life. She'd present facts and Stacy would be confused.
Didn't mean he still didn't blame her. Stacy, that is.
"You really tell her to wait?"
Wilson looked him straight in the eye. "Yes, I did. You're too stubborn to do otherwise. You could have remained stable."
This wasn't the whole story. "I'm sensing a but, here."
Wilson shifted in his chair. "You know, as well as I do, that you'd need the debridement done eventually. If you value your life, that is."
He swallowed. "Maybe. Maybe not. But it's still my choice, right?"
"My choice, right?"
"House, legally..." Wilson sighed. "There's no winning with you."
Again, he almost let out a laugh. "No, I guess not."
Stacy returned, coffee in hand, eyes still guilt-filled. He said no more on the subject. Not to Wilson, not to Stacy, not to Cuddy as she examined him and gave her own version of the facts, a similar remorseful expression in her own face.
He thought about his office and how he left his golf clubs leaning against the filing cabinets, next to the over following stack of charts he'd finished reviewing just before this whole mess started.
They weaned him off the morphine quickly and switched him to oral stuff. Waved little plastic cups bearing Vicodin in front of his face.
Avoid alcohol while taking Vicodin. Alcohol can increase drowsiness and dizziness caused by the medication, possibly resulting in unconsciousness and death. Also, acetaminophen can be damaging to the liver when taken with alcohol.
A week later, the pain was still awful and they were trying to taper off his Vicodin. Trying to move his stupid useless leg, talking about physical therapy and rehab.
Deep down inside, he knew the fact that pain hadn't subsided by now was a bad sign. The word "chronic" loomed on the horizon, despite the fact that no one would admit that was looking more and more likely. He started therapy. He let Stacy try and cheerlead, anything she needed to make those him stop seeing those eyes. The pain after therapy was so bad, they brought the Vicodin back, upping the dosage, letting him get to the maximum 40 mgs hydrocodone a day.
That was same script he finally left the hospital with as well. A temporary prescription, he was told. That much acetaminophen could damage his liver if he continued to take it long term. He could become addicted to the hydrocodone.
They also told him not to drink while on the medication, either, but the minute he got home, he asked Stacy to pour him a glass of scotch.
Her eyes widened.
"Greg, with the meds-"
"I just want one and I took my last pill hours ago. Christ, Stacy, it isn't going to kill me. I just..." he let his sentence trail and they stared at each other. For a moment, he thought she wouldn't back down. Not without a fight, anyway. It was one of things he loved about her. Her spunk, her fire, her way of not putting up with his crap and dishing out her own when she wanted to. She, in so many ways, was his equal.
He still loved her, really. Despite what she did, despite his deep down hatred of her deceit and her actions, he loved her.
He wasn't sure if would ever be enough, but for the present moment, it helped contain his resentment.
He should have known something was wrong when she said nothing, turned, and proceeded to pour. He took a sip and let her walk into the kitchen before he reached out for his Vicodin and downed one with another sip of Scotch.
The next time he attempted such a thing, however, was a different story.
He continued to go to therapy, but Stacy stopped taking him. He pretended not to notice that gradually, her side of the closet seemed to migrating to her mother's. Wilson picked him up and he'd struggle toward the door with the crutches - which despite all his effort in the world, he still couldn't master - and head toward his car.
He came home one evening to an empty house and an unsealed letter on the piano, "Greg" scrawled across it in a script he'd always remember.
He didn't open it, didn't read it.
He knew what it said.
They loved each other, but he couldn't forgive her, she couldn't move on, and they were both heading for a brick wall. The only difference was she could stop herself from the collision. His brakes had already been cut.
He'd downed two pills this time, not the prescribed one, and a tumbler of Scotch when Wilson came back in through the front door, looking for his keys.
He'd never thought he'd be sitting on his couch, a plastic bowl in his lap, while his best friend shoved a finger down his throat and proceeded to tell him what an idiot he was and that as a doctor he should know better.
Of course he should. Didn't mean that would stop him.
Wilson's marriage was on the rocks before the infarction happened, and James had already been spending his lunch hours with his divorce lawyer. As soon as the papers were signed, he spend that time at Greg's house and poured the Scotch down the drain, saying no more. At least until Greg was off Vicodin.
Off Vicodin. Oh yes, and on to some other wonder drug that could at least manage to make his leg pain just a manageable nuisance instead of a screaming bitch. They could sure as hell try. He'd let Wilson suggest a new pain regiment to him, to his doctors, would even forgo the Vicodin for a week, two weeks, a month. But they all failed in his eyes, and back to the Vicodin he went, each time welcoming it back like a long lost puppy.
He also bought more Scotch.
Take Vicodin exactly as directed by your doctor. If you do not understand these directions, ask your pharmacist, nurse, or doctor to explain them to you.
Wilson tried; Wilson was a good friend. And Greg, for his part, wasn't suicidal. Not in the least. He could still hold his liquor and he wasn't a complete idiot. He didn't mix meds and alcohol, at least not in front of Wilson, and not nearly as often as Wilson first thought he might.
He was even contemplating working again, doing something to get mind working again. To see other people's pain and forget about his own. Solve medical mysteries like it was playing Clue - the who, what, where.
He didn't think about Stacy.
No, that was a lie. He did think about her, had a few wet dreams and a few nightmares, both ending with a throbbing leg and a hand grabbing the nightstand for his Vidodin.
One night, he rolled the bottle in his hand, reading the label, seeing the dosage, prescribing physician, his own name and address, and threw it across the room, the plastic exploding against the wall and sending pills all across the corners of his cluttered bedroom rug. There was nothing wrong with his arm or his aim, that was for sure.
The next morning, the pills were lost to the mess and he couldn't really bend down to look for them anyway. He found his crutches and limped to the living room and turned on the Price Is Right, and tried to ignore the pain creeping up on him.
When Wilson came to pick him up for physical therapy, he was in agony and every millimeter he moved sent shooting pain down his leg.
"What happened?" were the first words out of Wilson's mouth.
House managed to smile sheepishly. "Me and the pill bottle, well, we had a fight. I lost."
"You're going to have to be less cryptic or I'm taking you to the ER."
"Geez, James, no need to get all melodramatic. I got pissed, threw the bottle. Now my bedroom rug has been infested by Vicodin, and possibly dust mites, but hopefully they'll eat the Vicodin and die off."
"Or you could just do your laundry."
"What a concept. Now why didn't I think of that?" He rubbed at his thigh. "I'm out of refills; I need a new prescription. Cuddy won't give it to me without an exam."
"Funny thing, a doctor wanting to examine a patient before prescribing him medication."
Greg glared at him. "You, her, me, hell all of Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, knows what's wrong with me. Just write me the scrip and we'll drop by the pharmacy so I'm not driven to kill myself before PT."
"I'm an oncologist."
"Yeah, and? You did my last physical before this whole mess started. The insurance company didn't care. Besides you write for narcotics all the time."
Wilson shook his head. "All right. Just this one time. Next time you cough up the time and the fifteen dollar co-pay for the office visit." Wilson dug through his coat pockets where House knew he usually threw a prescription pad. He took it and a pen out and looked at him before scribbling.
"You can't take Vicodin forever, Greg. The acetaminophen will eventually kill your liver."
"Until someone can find something better, I can sure as hell try. So why don't you stop wasting your time and start telling me something I don't already know." He knew he was being curt, but his leg hurt so much he didn't care. Wilson handed him the prescription. "Thanks."
"Yeah," Wilson said, "Just this once."
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Do not take a double dose of this medication. Wait the prescribed amount of time before taking the next dose.
More PT. He always pushed himself in that respect. He hated the crutches with an absolute passion and with a little Vicodin in his system, finally managed to bear a small amount of weight on the leg.
So, he ordered himself a cane. And not one of those crappy aluminum deals the hospital doled out. A wooden one, from one of those fancy catalogues he managed to get his hands on while watching a three a.m. infomercial. It arrived it the mail in a long, thin package that itself was already a fantastic alternative to the crutches.
It hurt like hell at first. And when the pain settled, it still hurt more than before and his hand and shoulder felt the pressure of the added weight. But it was freedom, in a way. A cane was easier to carry. Less bulky. It didn't stop the stares, but nothing did. Things were different. Whether on crutches or welding a cane, people still held pity in their eyes as they offered you their seat on the bus or opened a door.
He wished they'd disappear. They didn't and instead, his thoughts about returning to work did.
Wilson had been pushing him to go back to work. And surprisingly, so was Cuddy. His physician had recently become the interim Dean, although word on the street was she'd be the permanent Dean before the year was out, and she was looking to get him off his medical leave of absence. But he knew the looks patients gave him as he limped through the front doors on his way to physical therapy. Would they look at him any differently if he threw on a white coat and tried to treat them? He didn't like dealing with patients much before, hated clinic hours, considering them a necessary evil he had to endure in order to tackle the big mind-boggling mysteries of medicine. Dealing with patients who gave him a sympathetic glance or were bold enough to ask what happened to him would just make the entire process even more painful.
In light of her recent promotion, Cuddy had turned his care over to another doctor named Boulder, that lived up to the expectation his name suggested and that House rarely saw. Instead, he'd walk up to Wilson's office from PT, fish out the prescription pad he knew Wilson kept in his front drawer, and wait for his friend to return and fill it out.
Much easier than seeing the new guy.
Wilson objected, being the man he was, but even he caved, as House figured James learned writing the dose out and handing the paper over was easier than continuing to argue with him. Either way, he got Vicodin and no questions. Not ones he couldn't dance around, anyway.
One particular day, Greg sat back in Wilson's chair, his legs propped up on another chair, his hand absently rubbing his thigh, and his empty pill bottle next to the computer screen. The prescription pad lay on top of the small pile of charts James had currently piled in his inbox, a pen conveniently next to it. His eyes were on the game of Solitare he had open on Wilson's computer screen.
Wilson entered, lab coat on and pocket protector in place, as usual, and stopped in front of the desk.
"I just wrote for you, House."
He clicked the mouse across the computer screen. "Nah."
Wilson picked up the bottle. "Last week."
Greg shrugged. "It's been a bad week. Extra PT session and all."
Wilson grabbed the pad and bypassed the pen for one from his pocket. "You only have an extra session because you skipped out on PT completely last week."
"I was tired."
"No, you weren't."
"General Hospital was on. Getting good and all."
"I'm sure it was." Wilson handed him the scrip. "You need to go."
He said nothing and carefully lifted his feet off the chair, using his hands to lift the right down. He couldn't help the groan that escaped. Wilson passed him his cane.
"New tie?" he asked, gesturing towards the blue and white striped piece of material Wilson was currently sporting. "Who are you trying to impress?"
"No one. And it's not new."
He smiled. "Oh, it's new and it's definitely for someone considering it's a vast improvement over your usual Thursday morning neck attire. Probably for that new pretty red-headed nurse I saw walk by your office and peer in when I got here."
"Julie? She and I are just friends."
"Julie, huh? See, you know her name already. Not just friends."
"So, I know her name. Most people would consider that a normal, friendly thing to know about their coworkers. Maybe you should try it sometime."
"Not worth the effect. You see, every new useless thing I learn just pushes some other useless thing out. And I'm already chock full of all the useless trivia my brain can handle." He got out of the chair and made his way to the door, stopping at the doorway. "Although, I do suppose it's a good thing I own a tux."
Three weeks later James was engaged again and House was sprawled out on his sofa, leg propped up, watching Entertainment Tonight and shaking his Vicodin bottle. The distant rattle told him he probably had about seven left, give or take a couple. Eerie that he knew such a thing, considering it was kind of drug addict sense and all, but he thought of himself as simply observant.
The TV screen flashed to a commercial and he flipped the lid. His last dose was a little over three hours ago, and while that was a decent amount of time, Wilson, Boulder, and his own medical training reminded him he needed to wait at least four, maybe even try and stretch it to six.
But he was in pain. PT was hard that day and he'd been on his feet so much that his ankle was even swelling. Probably enough of a concern to call Boulder's office and schedule an appointment, but taking another Vicodin or two was a much more appealing option.
He dumped two pills out into his hand and stared a moment at them. It had been over three hours; that was pretty close to four.
He swallowed them dry, the bitterness sitting on his tongue even after the pills were gone, and tried not to think about the fact he'd probably be needing another refill a little earlier this time.
Other, less serious side effects may be more likely to occur. Continue to take Vicodin and talk to your doctor if you experience: constipation; dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, or decreased appetite; dizziness, tiredness, or lightheadedness; muscle twitches; sweating; itching; decreased urination; or decreased sex drive.
He finally went back to work. Cuddy offered him his own department, a new one they had been discussing - the Department of Diagnostics. House could now call himself a diagnostician, although one could argue that every doctor was one of those, so that title was really just full of crap.
Still, it sure sounded good. Too bad he didn't care. Too bad he simply sat in his brand new office in the brand new shiny glass encased wing of the hospital thanks to yet another big shot donor offering up millions. Simply sat and played with his Gameboy. He completely mastered six different games over the course of two months.
And treated a grand total of three patients - and one of them was over the phone. The other two were so easy to fix that it was laughable.
Cuddy's brow furrowed and she shoved him in the direction of the clinic, reminding him of his obligation, telling him he needed to actually treat patients.
Well, after the first woman gave him a sad glance and a ten-year-old asked him if he was a patient or a doctor, despite the fact that he was wearing the telltale white coat, he limped straight out of the clinic and into Cuddy's newly settled office and announced he was through with clinic duty. Surprisingly, she didn't badger him about it.
He also stopped wearing the white coat. He knew he was a doctor; the rest of the world didn't need to know. Let them think he was a patient for all he cared. It gave him less people for him to try and care about.
He started throwing letters asking for consults in the trash and ignored his answering machine.
Cuddy suggested he hire a staff. Two or three doctors. Probably hoped it would turn him around. He looked at resumes, but never held interviews. Instead he spent his time dividing them all into three neat stacks - interesting, average, and no way in hell. Then he ignored them.
To be honest, most afternoons, after he ate lunch, he was tired and nauseous, and sat back and pretended those symptoms were side effects of the cafeteria, and not of the continuing amounts of Vicodin he was taking.
Not the Vicodin, right. And it wasn't the Vicodin that had him disinterested in both the opposite ex and his right hand.
Just like the picture of he and Stacy didn't taunt him from his lower right hand drawer.
Every so often, he'd think of her. Wonder where she was, what she was doing, if she was as miserable as he was. Most of time, he truly hoped she was. On rare occasions, he didn't.
He simply didn't hope for anything.
Time passed and the seasons started to blend together. Winter came around again and the icy streets taunted him. He'd given in to a few things; gotten hand controls for his car when it was apparent his leg couldn't handle the gas pedal, at least not for extended periods of time. And to be honest, he didn't drive often - he really wasn't supposed to when he was on his meds - so he only drove to work when he needed to. But the ice was a different animal all together. The ice he couldn't completely avoid by simply taking the bus.
He was standing on the sidewalk outside the hospital's main doors when the inevitable happened.
Which of course meant he fell, and of course he fell on his leg and the entire world seemed to think that was some kind of big deal. Unfortunately, when he couldn't get back up, he was forced to realize it might just be that.
He refused help and Cuddy had called Wilson, who had dragged a wheelchair out over the snow and after some prodding, finally forced him into it.
"You're not calling Boulder," he insisted, glaring at anyone that dared to stare at him as Wilson pushed the chair through the ER and towards an exam room.
"Oh, and why shouldn't I do that? That's right, you're fine. Can't support yourself on the leg even with the cane, but yep, still fine."
"He'll probably want to do an MRI." House was thankful when they reached the gurney, despite the fact that the ER was far from secluded, but at least it was currently fairly quiet.
Wilson stopped the wheelchair. "And again, that's a bad thing because...?"
"Boulder's too obsessive."
"Most doctors would consider that being thorough."
"Most doctors aren't me."
"Of course not. How silly of me to think that."
House just glared and reached into his pocket for his familiar pill bottle. He pulled it out only for Wilson to snatch it out of his hands.
"Hey, that's mine! Get your own."
"They'll just mask the symptoms. You know that. Besides, didn't you take one an hour ago?"
He just reached out for the pills. "In case you didn't notice, I fell and it hurts."
"Oh, now it hurts. Funny, because just two minutes ago I could swear you said it was fine."
Wilson shook his head. "Seriously, no. Not until I or Boulder takes a look at that leg."
"You or Boulder? You're giving me a choice?"
"You should be that lucky. I look, if it's serious, I call Boulder."
"How about you look and give me back my Vicodin?" House reached out again for the pills, but Wilson lifted them out of reach. "Nice. Taunt the cripple while you're at it." He sighed. "You're a sadist, you know."
"I try." Wilson leaned against the gurney. "You need help? Because we can't really do this with you in that chair."
He looked from the gurney to the wheelchair to Wilson. He shifted and felt slightly lightheaded and wasn't sure it was from the fall, the leg, the pills, but he supposed it didn't matter in the end. He was a silent a moment.
"Yeah," he admitted. "I do."
Three months later he received a phone call and hired his first staff member, a young Australian named Robert Chase.
Take each dose with a full glass of water.
Chase didn't seem to mind that House rarely treated a patient and that most of his time was spent sitting on his ass. Chase, for his part, filled the time by doing crossword puzzles and flirting with cute nurses and lab techs. On the off chance that House did take on a patient, Chase did as he was told, dealing directly with the patient and letting House remain in the his office, putting the puzzle pieces together on his newly purchased white board.
Greg wasn't sure what possessed him to get such a thing, but writing the symptoms out in big bold marker - even using different colors if he so desired - helped map out the basics. Of course, the whiteboard didn't get that much use; House still threw out letters and emails, only managing to grab a patient if truly prodded.
Thus far, Wilson did most of that prodding. Slipping the file across his desk as if he'd see it and suddenly be like "wow, I need to treat this person." But Wilson was good. He only picked out the difficult cases, Greg's specialty and one weakness.
"The diagnosis is a heart attack."
House blinked. "Okay. Sounds good to me."
"She's not responding to treatment. Would you at least take a look?" Wilson opened the file. "She's my cousin."
House took the file and glanced at it. "Your cousin is sixty-four years old?"
Wilson didn't flinch before responding. "Third cousin."
He raised an eyebrow. "Oh, well that makes all the difference, doesn't it?" He glanced down again, determined to shut the file, when something in the medical history caught his eye. He paused.
"Still think it's a heart attack?"
He mulled it over before picking up the phone and dialing. "Nope. She's allergic to her cat."
"A cat allergy? You got that from reading the history?"
House leaned back in his chair. "No. I'll get what I really need over the phone."
Wilson did a double take. "You're actually calling a patient?"
"It's been known to happen every one in a while. Now either sit and be quiet or leave."
Wilson continued to push harder after that, but House never yielded beyond that phone call. Luckily for him, Wilson was busy in his own department, getting his promotion and moving his office.
Greg, being a friend, did help in the move. Well, helped as much as someone with one bad leg could. Which basically meant he gave his opinion on where Wilson should put his diploma and golf trophies and popped a Vicodin.
"You should take those with water," Wilson told him as he stepped back to admire his handiwork.
"This way's easier. Never know when you'll be around water and pain waits for no man." He studied the shelves. "I think the diploma needs to be on the right."
"So you're willing to chance choking and a bad aftertaste?" Wilson shifted the object. "Better?"
"Better," he agreed. "Your wife would be proud."
"Yeah," Wilson muttered.
House leaned against the desk, shifting his weight off the bad leg and propping his up. "Trouble in paradise?"
"My in-laws are coming this weekend. And her sister."
"Fun. I'm guessing they don't like you any better than the last time."
"If it's at all possible, I think they hate me more than Julie hates you."
House shook his head. "Nah. Julie hates me way more. No contest. Though, if you want, I can come over this weekend and you can compare. Make a chart, even."
"Oh, yeah, like that would go over real well." He paused. "Maybe I'll just come to your place Saturday night."
"Couch is all yours, but I doubt it will score you any brownie points with your wife."
Wilson shrugged. "I'm a doctor. I'll tell her I'm working late. She's getting used to that."
"Yeah," Greg said, "but, interestingly enough, so are you."
Only your doctor can determine if it is safe for you to continue taking Vicodin.
Five p.m. was his favorite time of the day. Lock the office door, shut the lights, go home, take a pill and put his leg up, and watch Wheel of Fortune and Entertainment Tonight. He almost made it to the elevator, when Cuddy stepped into his path.
"Your billings this month are non-existent."
"So is your blouse." He pushed the button for the elevator. "I like this game. What other obvious things do we feel like pointing out?"
She sighed. "I need your paperwork on my desk."
"I need a million dollars and a fully functioning leg. Too bad neither one of us is going to get what we want." The elevator doors opened and he stepped in. Cuddy held the door.
"You skipped your appointment. Again."
"Ah, someone's been talking to Boulder. That's not very nice, doctor-patient-confidentially and all." The elevator chimed again, but Cuddy still held onto the door.
"You used to be my patient."
"Well there you go. 'Used to be.' Does officially becoming Dean give you all sorts of power I don't know about?" He pushed the button again. "I have work to do."
"You mean you have nothing to do. And apparently, neither does Dr. Chase, I hear. What's the point of having a staff if they do nothing?"
"One person isn't a staff."
"It took you over a year to hire one person. I'd appreciate it if you started making his salary worthwhile."
House shrugged. "What I can I say? He's lonely." He reached into his pocket for his Vicodin. This conversation was making his leg hurt.
"Then hire someone else and start taking on enough cases to make them both worth the expense." He didn't answer, just popped a pill. "I could make you do clinic duty."
"I'm not going back to that clinic." His tone turned serious and he didn't meet her eyes.
She let go of the elevator door. "I want that paperwork on my desk. And reschedule your appointment with Boulder."
Two days later, he was shifting through his interesting pile of job applicants when Wilson wandered in.
"What are you doing?"
House shifted the stack of papers in front of him. "Cuddy told me to go get Chase a playmate." He picked a sheet off the top and read the name. "Allison Cameron. Chase and Cameron...nice ring to it, don'tcha think?"
"They both start with C, if that's what you mean." Wilson sat down. "You're really going to hire someone else?"
"And start taking more cases."
"Something tells me you had a powwow with the enemy."
"Cuddy isn't the enemy."
"Of course not. Let me rephrase. She's the devil in a low-cut blouse."
"She could fire you."
"No way. I have tenure. And a friend who recently acquired a seat on the board." He dropped the resume back into the pile. "Besides, she wouldn't fire me."
"No, I guess she wouldn't." Wilson paused and leaned forward. "She saved your life. Don't blame her for-"
"I don't blame her," House interjected. He shifted.
"She's not Stacy," Wilson said simply as he got up and picked up the CV House had been looking at and scanned it. "Doctor Allison Cameron, huh? Looks good to me. You should interview her."
"Yeah. I think I will."
Wilson looked at his watch. "I have to go. Let me know when you set up the interview and I'll sit in if you want." He headed for the door.
"Yeah," Greg repeated, watching Wilson leave before turning back to Dr. Cameron's credentials.
Vicodin is one of the most widely prescribed pain relievers and has become one of the most frequently abused.
Greg hated interviewing. It was the reason why he never wanted to head a department and was simply happy being an attending in infectious diseases, sorting through cases, taking the most interesting ones, passing off the others. Interviews never told you exactly what you wanted or needed to know. Yes, they were informative and his intuitive nature gained him a lot of information about a person in a small window of time, but some puzzles took just a little longer to put together.
With Chase it had been easy. His father had called and House picked up his CV and thought, sure, why the hell not. Rich overachiever, son of an alcoholic and obviously estranged from the person who called on his behalf, Chase had plenty of attributes to challenge his brain.
Chase also worked in intensive care and dealt with weeping families and dreary situations. Meant House didn't need to do those things himself if he so desired. Not a bad deal.
But when he found himself face to face with Doctor Allison Cameron, he was somewhat surprised.
She was pretty. Actually, she was beautiful. A little skinny, but definitely easy on the eyes. Neatly dressed and trying to seem confident. Right away it seemed like she had something to prove, because a girl like her didn't just go into medicine for the prestige. She could have been a model and made more money and had life handed to her on a silver platter.
Which meant, of course, that she was a puzzle.
He liked puzzles.
Wilson sat in the chair next to her as House skimmed her resume.
"Mayo Clinic..." he read, trailing off. Cameron's credentials were fine. He'd seen better, but the best marks didn't make someone a good doctor. Just like a good bedside manner did crap if you couldn't figure out what was wrong with your patient in the first place.
He closed the file and looked right at her. "Okay, Dr. Cameron. Why do you want this job?"
She didn't hesitate. "Your reputation is one of the best on the East Coast."
He contemplated that. "Nice try, but why don't you try telling me something I don't already know. And I've heard the 'because I like helping people' line already. If that was really true, you could just as easily be doing it at Princeton General or some other hospital in the country."
"I want to work with you," she said. "No other hospital has that."
"True. I am one of a kind, but again, that's not why you're here." He reached into his pocket and pulled out his ever present Vicodin. He popped a pill, but didn't break eye contact, and wondered if she'd be bold enough to comment on it. She hadn't said anything about his leg, but then again, he'd yet to actually get up out of his chair.
"Of course it is," she simply insisted and shifted in her chair.
"You're lying." House put away the pill bottle, looked away, and started clicking his mouse. "Have you ever been a model?"
"No." She looked taken aback. "I don't see how that would have any relevance on my qualifications as a doctor."
House looked back up at her. "Oh, it's relevant." He went back to the computer screen. Abruptly, he got up and made his way over to the white board currently sitting in the corner of his office. Propping his can up over the edge of the board, he dragged it forward.
"House," Wilson started.
"No comments from the peanut gallery," Greg shot back as he started writing. He finished and stepped back. The words "lower abdominal pain, acute onset," "short term fatigue," "late menstrual period," "nausea and vomiting," "tachycardia" filled the board and at the very bottom he had written, "uses a IUD."
"Differential diagnosis. And I will allow you one handicap." House got up and headed towards his conference room, leaving both Cameron and Wilson bewildered. He called Chase's name and a moment later Chase came in, looking surprised.
House stepped back. "Meet Dr. Cameron. You're going to help her with that." He pointed to the board and looked at his watch. "I'll give you ten minutes, starting...now."
"Now?" Chase asked at the same as Cameron said "ten minutes?"
"Ah," House said, placing the marker in Cameron's hands. "You're wasting valuable diagnosis time. Feel free to shout out answers. I'll probably tell you you're wrong, but who knows. Maybe you'll get lucky." He grabbed his cane and limped back to his desk. "Now play nice."
Chase looked at the board. "Easy. She's pregnant."
Cameron shook her head. "She uses a IUD."
"And how many IUD babies get delivered every year?" Chase countered. "It could be an ectopic pregnancy."
"Wrong!" chimed House as he sat down in his chair. "She's not pregnant."
Wilson watched the exchange and leaned forward. "What are you doing?" he whispered.
"You'll see," House responded back cryptically.
"How old is she?" Cameron asked.
"So you want a history? Interestingly enough, that is one of first things a doctor should do. She's thirty-three, slightly overweight, a smoker, has allergies, and a family history of heart disease and diabetes."
"Taking any medication?"
"Well since you asked, she's suffers from serious migraines that often require Imitrex injections."
"That doesn't seem significant," Cameron muttered.
"It could be appendicitis," Chase ventured.
"Nope. White count's only slightly above normal." House picked up Cameron's resume and started leafing through it again.
"Slightly above normal is still above normal," Chase said. Cameron stared at the board.
"Could be a tumor," she finally said. "Ovarian. Is there a mass?"
"As a matter of fact there is," House said. Cameron frowned.
"But it's not cancer," she said.
"I don't know. What do you think?" She was quiet a moment and looked back up at the board.
"It could also be ovarian torsion," she finally said. "You'll probably need to do a laparoscopy to be sure either way, though."
"You don't say. " House lowered her file. "When can you start?"
Symptoms of a Vicodin overdose may include slow breathing, seizures, dizziness, weakness, loss of consciousness, coma, confusion, tiredness, cold and clammy skin, small pupils, nausea, vomiting, and sweating.
It had been a very bad morning. His leg was screaming at him despite the Vicodin, it was hotter then hell outside, and his damn car took twenty minutes to start.
Cameron had started the week before. He'd known the second he'd interviewed her that she probably had issues, but what about he still had no idea and that intrigued him. Wilson often told him he liked a puzzle. He supposed people were puzzles, despite the fact that he didn't like the majority of them.
Still didn't mean they weren't interesting.
He popped another pill on the elevator and tried to stay upright as his leg threatened revolt. He'd already done the fall-and-can't-get-up thing in public and frankly, it wasn't really his cup of tea.
He'd entered his office and noticed Cameron had gone through his mail and placed the consults she deemed worthy on his desk. Of course, worthy for her meant every single one, as she seemed determined to make the world a better place by fixing anything and everything she could.
He just dropped them in the trash. He contemplated briefly typing his own letter with a string of symptoms, a sob story, and a fake name and sending it, but that seemed too much effort just to play with Cameron's head. Especially when he could do other things that weren't as draining. He knew the fact that he trashed consults bothered her and she'd only been there eight days.
After his impromptu differential diagnosis/interview, he'd also managed to insult her on the first day. He'd done the same to Chase - it was kind of a right of passage of sorts -- and Chase had brushed it off and seemed appeased with doing very little and getting a paycheck. Cameron had been greatly offended and for a moment, he thought she might just march out his office door and never come back.
She didn't and apparently had a chat with Chase, as he often saw the two talking through his glass divider. Yet when he managed to poke his head in, there was silence.
They were probably talking about him. Oh well, at least it kept them busy. He'd save the letter writing for another day.
He put his bag down and again, rubbed his thigh. Maybe it was the weather. Rain and the cold always made the pain worse, so the humidity had to be doing something. Any type of heat usually helped his leg, but with his luck lately, it was probably doing the opposite. He turned the computer on and deleted emails, before getting up and moving to his more comfortable chair, where at least he could put his leg up and suffer in peace.
Cameron poked her head in and muttered "Morning, Dr. House" and glanced towards his trash and as usual, frowned. But she said nothing and left, shutting the door. He closed his eyes.
He wasn't sure how much time passed but the Vicodin was not kicking in and the pain was starting to make him nauseous. He had a metal garbage can, but it was all the way across the room next to his desk and he sincerely doubted he could make it that far in his current state. Besides, his puking would attract motherly attention from Cameron and the last thing he wanted was another look of sympathy from her. He swallowed and reached into his pocket.
He stared at the pill bottle. How many had he taken that morning? One in the elevator, yes, but did he take one when he woke up? Or had it been two? He closed his hand around the bottle tightly, grimacing as his remaining thigh muscle decided to spasm before settling into a slight numbness. In the back of his mind he realized that probably wasn't a good thing, but the pain wasn't helping him think clearly.
Not enough, apparently. He flipped off the lid and popped two. If he just sat and they just kicked in...
Next thing he knew, someone was shaking him.
He cracked his eyes open. Whoever it was just needed to go away. They began shaking him harder. He finally opened his eyes enough to focus on the person in front of him.
"How many?" Chase had something in his hand. A pill bottle, his mind sluggishly told him.
He blinked, extremely confused. "How many what?" he managed to ask, although the words seemed to stretch on forever.
Chase shook the bottle. "Pills."
He blinked again. He was so tired. "Two. I took two." He had taken two. His leg hurt. But two sounded wrong. Had he taken more before that?
"How long ago?" Chase seemed like he was almost screaming and House wished he'd disappear. In the corner of his vision, he saw Cameron move, but he wasn't sure and he got dizzy when he tried to move his head to find out.
"Just now, I think," he muttered. He wasn't sure how much time had passed, it all blended together.
"Crap." That was Chase.
"Why? Two is a standard dose." Cameron. He closed his eyes. He was tired of trying to figure out where she was.
"Right. But he usually takes one. And that's after he takes one or even two when he gets up." More bottle shaking. "I don't know how many he had left."
"Had left? You think he OD'ed?"
"No. He was in pain when he got in."
No shit Sherlock, House thought. God, they just needed to go away and leave him alone. His leg still hurt, damnit.
"He was? I didn't notice that."
He swallowed. Even with his eyes shut he was dizzy. And nauseous. Again, great.
"You'll start to pick it up. The pain determines whether or not he's just an ass or a complete ass."
"Sounds like fun. We should get him to the ER."
"No, we should call Wilson first. He'll know how many were left." There was a slight pause and House felt a hand on his chest. "Respirations are ten. I have feeling we'll need to-"
House swallowed and opened his eyes. Cameron's brow furrowed, but Chase ran for the garbage can and got it under his chin just in time. He remembered vomiting and heard Wilson's voice and orders being shouted.
Thankfully he passed out shortly after that.
When he finally woke up enough to recognize his surroundings, he realized he was staring at blinds and a glass wall.
Crap. Hospital room. Complete with the fishbowl feel. He swallowed. Throat hurt like hell and of the bits and pieces he could remember, he was pretty sure he'd been on the receiving end of a gastric lavage, which topped his list of things he'd never want to go through again. He heard someone shift and turned his head to see Wilson sitting next to him, sans white coat and wearing scrubs, and looking extremely worn out.
"I did something stupid didn't I?"
"That would be the understatement of the year, I think."
He swallowed again, trying to clear his throat. Wilson seemed to notice his discomfort and got up a poured him a glass of water from the pitcher next to the bed. He rolled the tray table over and helped House with the glass.
"How long?" He managed after a sip.
"Since you threw up and passed out in your office? Twenty-four hours."
"Please tell me I didn't throw up on Chase."
Wilson shook his head. "No, you missed him. I wish I could say the same about myself."
"Guess that's why you're not wearing the coat, then."
"You're getting my dry cleaning bill."
"Fair enough." He lay back on the pillow, feeling extremely worn out. For the first time he noticed his leg was propped up, a pillow under his knee. And while it still ached, the pain was much better.
Wilson sat back down.
"You scared the crap out of Chase."
"Chase? Now that's surprising. I would have put my money on Cameron."
He looked down, lifting his hand to study his IV. "It was an accident."
Wilson sighed. "I know." He sat down. "You have a pinched nerve and some swelling. Probably hurt like hell."
"You should have stayed home. Made an appointment with Boulder or at least have called me." He paused. "Do you know how many pills you managed to take?"
House closed his eyes. "I'm not really sure, to be honest."
"Six. Over the course of about an hour, near as anyone can figure."
"I lost count."
"Yeah," Wilson said, and Greg wasn't sure if he believed him.
"I'm not suicidal."
Wilson blinked and was silent a few seconds before he muttered a quiet, "I know" again.
There was silence before Wilson continued.
"I think you need to get off the Vicodin."
"Off the Vicodin? Not a chance. I admit, I did something stupid, but those pills are the only things that help the pain. Pinched nerves hurt. I learned from my mistake."
"I sure as hell hope so." Wilson sighed again. "You only have a pinched nerve because you stopped going to PT all together. And you don't do the exercises you need to do at home. There might be less pain-"
"No, there wouldn't." House interrupted. "I've been through this before. Even with PT four days a week, I still needed the Vicodin round the clock."
"Hydrocodone is addictive, Greg. And you know that. You'll build up a tolerance, if you haven't already, and you'll keep needing to up the dosage. It isn't a good choice long term."
"I don't care. It's my only choice."
"Maybe." Wilson got up. "Boulder wants to do another MRI this afternoon just to make sure there's nothing else going on with the leg. You also have the standard pysch resident stopping by."
"I'm sure you can get through it. I have rounds to do so I'll drop by later." He slid the door open and paused a moment. "Greg?"
"Four to six hours is recommended for a reason. Chase wasn't the only person you scared the crap out of."
The door slid shut and House stared at the wall.
Vicodin is an effective pain reliever when used properly and in the short term. Careless, inappropriate, or deliberate misuse of Vicodin can be dangerous. If you are taking Vicodin now, talk to your physician about a pain control strategy that does not include Vicodin or other addictive pain medications.
He supposed his accidental overdose should have taught him a lesson. It did, but perhaps not the one it intended. He didn't give up the Vicodin. He'd feared that perhaps Wilson would stop writing for him, but he didn't. Instead, Greg noticed that he'd underlined the instructions with a heavy black marker.
Wilson also suggested Greg make an appointment to talk to a pain management specialist.
House wanted to laugh. Pain management, indeed. If Vicodin didn't make the pain disappear, then something non-narcotic certainly wasn't about to become his miracle drug.
"The pain won't just disappear," Wilson told him, "hence the words 'pain management.'"
"I hate the words 'pain management.' They could shove a spike through my thigh and hand me Extra Strength Tylenol and call it pain management. They might as well be handing out sugar pills."
"Ah, yes, because studies show that sugar and Tylenol are actually one in the same. I'm just asking you to talk about options, House. I'm not stealing your Vicodin and flushing it down the toilet. Although, that would probably be easier."
House leaned against his desk, taking the weight off his leg. "If you enjoy seeing me in immense pain, but all means, yank my meds."
Wilson sighed. "I don't like seeing you in pain, no. But there are alternatives out there."
"You know I tried everything."
"Every single thing?" House just glared at him. "Okay, but for how long?"
Wilson thought for a moment. "Neurotin."
"Licensed for use in nerve pain and epilepsy. Too bad I don't have epilepsy. It did shit for the pain. Sure did a lot to my state of consciousness, though. The headaches also sucked. Guess they would have really sucked if I'd been having seizures."
"You took it for three weeks."
"And it didn't work. Moving on. What else you got?"
Greg rolled his eyes. "Another anti-seizure med. I'm sensing a trend here. Common side effects include rash and long-term use can cause blurred vision. Oh, and yes, it won't help my damn pain. Come on, James, I would have figured you'd be better at this game, being the oncologist and all."
"Right. And I'll just write you a prescription for Fentanyl while I'm at it."
House shrugged. "It is the oncologist's drug of choice and one that actually works. Too bad most patients are too busy throwing up to notice."
"I don't know why I even try." He sat down.
"You're giving up already? There are so many more out there."
"So many more for you to shoot down, you mean." Wilson scrubbed his forehead with his hand. "Elavil."
"An antidepressant? What exactly are you implying here, Wilson?"
"Nothing. You know damn well it can be used to treat chronic pain."
House started playing with his cane. "Of course I do. It all also causes dizziness when getting up. What's your point?"
"Every drug has side effects. Vicodin has plenty and most of them are much worse than a little dizziness. Elavil could actually help you sleep through the night, which, in turn, could actually help improve your pain."
"It could also cause insomnia, coincidentally, which kinda defeats the whole purpose." He set his cane down. "I never slept more than five hours straight even before the infarction. Stacy used to complain I'd wake up her up because I was restless."
"Well, then, it might improve your mood."
"Nothing improves my mood."
"I've noticed." Wilson leaned forward. "Exercise also helps."
"And I walk. I like it."
"You walk, yes. But you're almost as good at avoiding PT as you are at avoiding work."
House walked around to his desk. "It's an art form, really. I've been practicing."
James shook his head. "I just can't win against you, can I?"
Greg looked at him. "You should know by now, Wilson, I'm a very sore loser."
Keep all appointments with your doctor. If your pain is not controlled or continues, call your doctor.
Two fifteen and he was going strong. On Gameboy at least. In the real world he was sitting on his ass, but in the gamer's world he was kicking some monkey ass.
He almost smiled at the poetry.
Greg looked up. Cameron had poked her head in.
"I'm busy," he said, returning his gaze to the game.
"It's two fifteen," she said.
"Yes, and?" Damnit, dead again! This game was much harder than he thought.
"What appointment?" He threw the Gameboy down in disgust. "I've already lost the game, so you might as well just spit it out."
"With your doctor. It's at two fifteen." She paused. "I saw it on your calendar."
"What calendar would that be? Because last time I checked, I didn't believe in such a thing." He met her eyes. "Someone's been snooping through my desk."
"No, I haven't." She immediately tensed and he knew she hadn't. Cameron couldn't lie her way through a paper bag. "I was going through your mail-"
"My garbage, you mean, but please continue," he interupted.
"Your mail," she continued, emphasizing the word 'mail' this time, "and I saw the reminder you'd written."
"Ah." He picked the Gameboy up again. "Well, then, you must also know that I'm a big boy and can keep track of my own appointments."
"You said you don't even have a calendar."
"All up here," he answered, pointing to his head as he started the game up again.
"Then why did you write it down?" He heard her shift her weight. He paused the game.
"Why do you care?" he asked, meeting her eyes. She looked a bit taken back by the question.
"Because I do. It's human nature to care," Cameron told him.
"Human nature," he repeated, "such an interesting and fickle thing. It makes you want to save the world and ignore it all at the same time."
"What wrong with trying to save the world?" She looked right back at him and he had to give her credit for not fleeing.
"Nothing," he admitted, "but some things are just hopeless."
"You're not hopeless," she told him and he put the Gameboy down and reached for his cane.
"Who said I was talking about myself?" He watched her frown at him as he pushed himself up and headed for the door.
"Where are you going?"
He stopped in the door frame. "Appointment. It is two fifteen after all. Tell Wilson thanks for the written reminder when he drops by in fifteen minutes to see if I went."
When House returned an hour and a half later, Wilson was sitting in at his desk.
"I was a good boy, Dad. Remembered where it was and everything." He sat down in one of the chairs in front of the desk. "I got your post-it."
"I know. Talked to Cameron."
"Ah." They sat in silence a moment.
"So?" Wilson ventured.
"As you expected, but don't think I'm letting you say 'I told you so.' I'd rather eat my cane."
"I'll settle for pizza and beer. With you paying, naturally."
"And I suppose it will be eaten on my couch as well, then?"
Wilson nodded. "Of course. Julie just bought a new white couch."
"White? Now I know that wasn't your idea. Pity if next time I drop by, I forget to take my shoes off before I put my feet up." House leaned back. "Got a new scrip for Vicodin so I don't need you to write for me this week."
"Good. He up the dosage?"
"Yep. And before you open you mouth again, yes, Boulder wants to do yet another MRI."
"And you're letting him do it."
Greg shrugged. "He gave me meds. When I'm not in pain, I'm more agreeable."
"I think I'd have to agrue that point. When?"
"Next week. I get to miss work all afternoon and I'll even have a legitimate note to show Cuddy."
"I'm sure she'll frame it." Wilson paused. "So did you make the other appointment?"
"What other appointment?" he asked innocently, shifting in his chair. For the first time, he realized he and Wilson were sitting in reverse positions and he felt oddly naked not sitting behind his desk.
"So I take it the answer is no, then."
"Were you really expecting anything else?"
"No, I guess not."
House shrugged. "Well, then, your expectations have been meant. What else can you ask for?"
"Nothing, since you actually listening to me is out."
"It's a two way street, buddy. I told you not to marry what's-her-name. The blond one."
"Kristin. She killed you in the divorce settlement."
"She did," Wilson agreed.
Greg absently rubbed at his thigh and fished through his pocket for his pills. "You didn't listen then."
"I suppose not."
Greg popped a pill. Score one for him. "So...pizza, beer, and Blockbusters?"
"Yeah," Wilson responded. "But I'm driving."
House put the lid back on the Vicodin. "You'll have to. I took the bus this morning." He shook his pill bottle. "I really shouldn't be driving."
Wilson smiled. "Good idea."
Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage; do not take more than 4000 mg of acetaminophen per day.
He knew the month was coming to a close when Cuddy was on his heels.
He didn't frequent her office much; at least he didn't on his own free will. Cuddy's office was right off the clinic and that was the last place that Greg ever wanted to visit. But Wilson dutifully put in several hours there, more than he was obligated, frankly. James claimed that it was a doctor's job to help sick people. House knew that the extra clinic hours meant more time spent at the hospital and less time spent at home with his wife.
Therefore, if House was bored and actually ventured out of his office before Wilson had a chance to venture in, he sometimes needed to set foot inside the clinic to find his friend. He tried to ignore the stares from outlookers and their loved ones before finding the right exam room and distracting the oncologist from seeing patients.
This time, before he even had a chance to hit exam room two - Wilson's prefered room - Cuddy stopped him.
"Contrary to your belief, I don't actually like hassling you every month for paperwork."
"Really? That's not what you said last night in bed," he responded without a beat, loud enough to turn a couple of heads.
"My office," she hissed. "Now."
"Ooo. I'm in trouble. She's gonna call my mom," he whispered loudly to the nurse at the desk. The woman looked up and raised an eyebrow before returning to her paperwork.
He followed Cuddy into her office, his cane tapping. She walked around to her desk to face him.
"Do I have detention?" he asked, sarcasm dripping.
"That would be a waste of my time," Cuddy responded. "Not to mention this isn't high school. Is paperwork really that hard? Considering the actual amount of work you do, I'd think it would be easy to review a blank sheet of paper."
"That requires a pen. I afraid I'm just fresh out of those. But I can run on home and get one if you want."
She looked down at his leg. "I'd like to see you try."
"Nice." He shifted his weight. He'd been on his feet the last half hour and his leg was protesting.
"Paperwork," she repeated.
"Fine. I'll get right on it." He searched for his familiar bottle and popped it open. Two left. He took one and shook the bottle. "If you'll excuse me, since I'm down here, I need a refill."
He turned to leave, but Cuddy walked around and cut him off at the door. "You just picked up a prescription less than four days ago."
"Really? Four whole days. What, have you been getting the pharmacist to keep track and report to you?" She just looked at him. "You want that paperwork, you'll move out of the way."
"If you need more this soon, you're taking over 4000 milligrams of acetaminophen a day."
"Wow, Dr. Cuddy. You can do math. Congratulations. I'm in pain."
"So I've heard. Have you had your AST levels checked recently?"
He blinked. "I think that's a stupid question."
She didn't back down. "Is it?"
"Yes." House held up the pill bottle. "Now would you look at that. Next to refills it says three. Oh, and here's the prescribing doctor's name. I think you know him. Doctor James Wilson. Why, he's got an M.D. and everything. Guess what that means?"
Cuddy stared at him for another moment before finally moving. "Paperwork," she said yet again. "And there better be something on it or I'll start making your hours in this hospital more worthwhile."
"Oh, I'm so scared," he shot at her. He knew exactly what she was threatening. "I'm not working in that clinic. You can't make me."
She headed back to her desk and grabbed a folder before heading back his way. "Now is that supposed to be a challenge? Last time I checked, the clinic was an obligation in your contract." She paused to thumb through the folder. "But you know, we do have one thing in common. We both have a weakness for difficult cases." She handed him a stack of papers. "Fill them out and return them. I don't care how. Get Chase or Cameron to run them down. At least then, they'd actually be doing something useful, which is more than I can say about you."
House left her office, papers in hand, and headed straight for the pharmacy.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
"She's cheating on me."
It was two-thirty in the morning and pouring. Greg was restless and his leg ached relentlessly when it rained and now matter how much scotch or Vicodin he managed to consume without killing himself, it didn't touch the pain. He'd already given up on sleep and moved to his arm chair to watch infomercials about the latest kitchen wonder gadget when he heard the knock. Before he even opened the door, he knew immediately who it would be.
"You have a key," House said needlessly as he stared at Wilson. His friend was completely soaked and had his tie wrapped around his left hand. He seemed to be in pain.
"I couldn't find it," Wilson responded. "Did you hear what I said?"
House waved him in. "Of course I did. But considering the fact that you flirt with every pretty female thing on two legs, I surprised you're upset she was doing the same. Move in. You're dripping on the rug."
Wilson inched in and House closed the door. "I haven't cheated on Julie."
"What is that supposed to mean?" House put aside his cane and grabbed Wilson's hand. Wilson hissed.
Greg didn't respond right away. Instead he started unraveling the tie causing Wilson to wince even more. "What did you do?"
James looked sheepishly at the floor. "Let's just say one window on my car will need replacing."
"You put your hand through a car window? Now that sounds like something I'd do." House studied the injury. James had managed a pretty deep cut on the inside of his palm. It had to hurt like hell. He probbed around the injury, seeing if anything was broken.
"I know. I must have been channeling your spirit or something. Ouch. Watch it! Ever heard of the word 'gentle'?"
"You need stitches. And you've broken your hand."
"I figured." James stared at his palm. "The ER's probably a madhouse."
"On a night like this? Probably." House rewrapped Wilson's hand, binding it so he couldn't do any further damage, then picked up his cane and started looking for his shoes. "Got the keys to the clinic on you?"
"So I can fix your hand. Unless you'd like to sit in the overcrowded ER. My leg can't take those chairs." House found his shoes. "You better change, though. I think you left some stuff here last time you were over."
Wilson nodded. "Yeah. Thanks." He hissed again as he jarred his hand.
"How bad's the pain?" Greg asked.
"Okay. Been better," Wilson admitted.
"Liar. You're still sober and that cut's pretty damn deep, not to mention the break. It's gotta hurt like a bitch." House limped toward the couch and reached for the Vicodin bottle he'd left sitting on side table. "Here." He threw it and Wilson caught it with his good hand.
"It'll take the edge off since I'm obviously driving and in this weather, it could take a while. Not to mention it'll help when I actually need to touch your hand again."
"You're not supposed to share your meds."
"I don't have cooties, I promise." House shrugged. "But if you'd rather be in pain, be my guest. Getting changed will be fun."
Wilson stared at the bottle and at his hand again and sighed. "I shouldn't be doing this," he muttered as he flipped open the cap and shook out a pill.
"You know where the water is," House told him and sat down to wait.
Twenty minutes later, Greg was staring at the rain through his windshield. Wilson sat in the passanger's seat, cradling his hand.
"What really happened?" House asked as they sat at a stoplight.
"I told you. I really put my hand through the car window."
"I know that's what you told me, but that's not what happened. Most people don't break their hand from busting through a car window."
"And I can't be special?" The light changed and House creeped forward.
"Your car wasn't parked outside."
"I took a cab."
"Why?" He wasn't ready to let this go until he got more out of his friend.
"You really need to know?" Wilson sighed. "Why am I asking? Of course you do. I went home at six. Managed to have a semi-civil dinner with Julie. That is, until my pager went off. One of my patients took a turn for the worst and I headed back to the hospital."
"Julie wasn't happy, then."
"No, she wasn't. Let's just leave it at that."
"You caught her when you got back, didn't you?"
"Yes. And the hand did actually go through my car window."
"Maybe. After you took a swing at the garage wall." Wilson turned to look at him and House gave a small curt nod towards Wilson's hand. "The scrapes on your knuckles. They're obviously from a cement wall."
"I just saw red. I'm trying. Really." James was silent a moment. "I don't ever mean to stray," he admitted softly.
House turned into the hospital parking lot. "You never do. It's just part of your philosophy. You just love to be in love. With everyone. But there's one thing about love that you can't change no matter how many women you marry. It always bites you in the ass." He pulled into his parking spot and turned off the ignition. "Come on. I'll fix your hand."
If you take this drug over a long period of time, you can become mentally and physically dependent on it, and you may find the drug no longer works for you at the prescribed dosage.
He watched Wilson through the glass and half pulled blinds. The mother was teary and the patient was staring down at her blanket.
Wilson was giving bad news. Again. House figured the oncologist probably gave his "You have cancer" and "I'm sorry, the treatment's not working" speeches at least five times a week. Oncology was a depressing field, there was no doubt, but Wilson seemed to like it. Greg supposed that the specialty did have its strengths, like telling a patient they were in remission; that could make some people's entire week.
Wilson was comforting the mother now. He couldn't be sure, but he could put money on it, he'd swear she was thanking him.
Imagine that. Thanking a doctor for telling you that your daughter's dying. Being good at giving bad news.
He blinked, and for a moment, had a brief flashback to the infarction. To James carefully diagramming the muscle removed. House had thanked him, then. Thanked him for giving him bad news.
He tapped his cane on the floor. Interesting.
Wilson came out, heading to the nurse's station to give orders, sign the chart, and pass it off.
"They say thank you?"
Wilson looked up, surprised to see him. "You were watching?" he asked as he handed the chart to the nurse.
"Glass walls. Free country."
Wilson shook his head. "You have a reason for this visit?"
He shrugged. "Do I need one?" He paused. "Do all your patients say thank you?"
"What kind of question is that?"
"It's legitimate. You're an oncologist. When you walk into most patient's hospital rooms, it's a good chance they're about to hear the big "C" word. Not exactly high on everyone's to do list. Not with the high association with dying and all."
"You know as well as I do that cancer's not a death sentence." Wilson started walking down the hall. House followed.
"True, but the words radiation and chemotherapy don't exactly conjure up images of puppies and rainbows. You didn't answer my question."
"Oh, you mean about the thanking."
"Yes. I sure as hell don't get thanked when I give bad news, so I'm wondering why exactly you do."
"Do you think that it could have anything to do with the fact that I use such things as tact, sincerity, and kindness when I talk to patients?"
"I'm always sincere," House countered. "And you do get thanked a lot, then."
They reached Wilson's office and Wilson stopped. "Maybe I do. Why does it matter?"
Greg reached into his pocket. It was almost noon and his brain turned on its need meds switch. His leg was protesting as well, but not too badly. Still, he might as well does it before it started screaming, as it most definitely would. Maybe he should take two. "It doesn't."
"Yes, it does. To you, anyway." Wilson opened his door and walked in.
House popped the Vicodin before following him inside. "You can't get thanked every single time."
Wilson flipped on his computer. "Why not?"
House shook his head. "No way."
"I told you that actually being caring and supportive goes a long way."
"Every time..." He trailed off in disbelief. He knew Wilson was good, but didn't think anyone was this good. James gave bad news in a good way. Irony snaked its way around him again just as it did after the infarction. It made him think more than he wanted to. "Some of your patients have to be angry. Throw things even."
"I didn't say they don't. Why does this fascinate you?"
"You know why."
Wilson sat down. "I don't think I do."
House leaned against the desk. "I'll give you ten bucks every time someone says 'thank you' when you tell them they're dying. Not that they have cancer, that they have cancer and there's not a damn thing that everyone can do about it except try, and probably fail, to control the immense pain and suffering they will undoubtably go through."
"Nicely worded. I'll make sure I say just like that. Then, I'll duck when they do throw something." Wilson seemed to think it over. "You're on."
Hydrocodone suppresses the cough reflex; therefore, be careful using Vicodin after an operation or if you have a lung disease.
August was always an interesting month. The real start of the college year was approaching, and for a teaching hospital situated in a ritzy college area, the effect was definitely felt.
House appeased Cuddy and took on one case mid-August. An easy one, but it gave Chase and Cameron something to do and a chance to flex their lab skills out. He was well aware that he didn't need his staff to be running tests that a tech could do and normally did, but then they didn't learn anything new and spent the day in the conference room waiting three hours for a test they could have run in ten minutes. He preferred hands-on.
Towards the end of the month, he found himself once again flipping through resumes. For some reason he didn't really understand, he had a surplus of money. His reputation was obviously worth something, still, not that he doubted himself. Cuddy was surprised, however, and suggested he use it before whoever awarded it to him came to their senses and yanked it away.
And so another job was available, new applicants filtered in, and once again he went back to sorting them into three piles. One man caught his eye and he laid his resume on top of the interesting pile before launching his no way in hell pile into the garbage.
The search was exhausting, and to make matters worse, he'd been fighting a cold for the last week. Except for the ever-persistent leg problems, Greg considered himself fairly healthy. He never got the flu, even when surrounded by those who had it.
Which of course, made it even more frustrating as he coughed into his hand as he started reviewing the average pile again. Or tried to cough, really. It came out half-heartedly and never cleared whatever evil had decided to nest itself in his lungs. He made a mental note to pick up some Nyquil on the way home.
"You getting sick?" He looked to see Wilson standing in front of his desk.
He sighed. "I have a cold. And don't you have work or something else more important to do?"
"Of course, but someone told me you were under the weather, therefore dampening your already oh-so cheery mood."
"Yeah, well, Cameron's a tattletale. And wrong."
Wilson sat down in his familiar chair. "Wasn't Cameron."
"Chase? I have a hard time believing that one."
"You have a hard time believing that someone might actually care about another human being's welfare? Or just yours?"
"I'm not going to answer that."
"Ah, avoiding the question, then." House half-coughed again and rubbed his chest absently. "Seriously, you okay?"
House cleared his throat. "Seriously, I'm fine and perfectly capable of taking care of myself without inference from the boy wonder oncologist."
"This from the man who needed a post-it note reminder to see Boulder." House just glared. "Okay, okay. Just checking. It's part of this whole friendship thing." Wilson leaned over to look at a stack of resumes. "You're hiring again?"
"Would that be such a surprise? But, no, right now I'm just looking. Someone out there likes me, because I've got a surplus of money hanging around."
"What were they thinking?"
"Obviously that I'm wonderful, of course. World renown." He picked up the CV he'd previously laid down on his interesting pile. "Eric Foreman. Johns Hopkins. 4.0 GPA. African American. If that doesn't say affirmative action hire, I'm not sure what does."
"I'm pretty sure that's racist."
He shrugged. "Maybe. Or it could be PC. I didn't really pay much attention to that seminar."
"And by much attention, you mean you played Gameboy through it."
"I beat my high score that afternoon. You're just jealous because you haven't been able to beat it since."
Wilson rolled his eyes. "Yeah, well, some of us doctors actually see patients instead of holing up in our offices to play games and watch soaps."
"Really? Then it must have been some other Dr. Wilson that watched General Hospital with me last week."
"I had to watch. You're one that made the bet."
"Which I won. And you should have known better," House said, throwing Foreman's CV back on the pile. His chest hurt and his leg was starting to remind him that his next Vicodin was due. He felt a cough coming on and couldn't stop it, but it came out weak and left his chest more congested than before. Even he could hear the slight wheeze in his breathing when he was done. Perfect. It was definitely time to go home. He needed Nyquil and Vicodin, and not necessarily in that order. Perhaps even some antibiotics, although he doubted he'd be unable to get those without admitting to Wilson he felt like crap.
He leaned back into his chair, suddenly exhausted. "I'm fine," he repeated. But Wilson was frowning. Great.
Wilson's frown deepened and he reached into his lab coat pocket for his stethoscope. "You're not fine. Sit up."
"What are you doing?" he protested, but slumped back in the chair. Truthfully, he felt worse than he had in a long time. But he still didn't want to admit it.
"Seeing if you're lying," Wilson told him, sliding the stethoscope across House's back. He shivered.
"Damn thing's cold."
"Shut up and breathe." He let out another sigh of protest, but it turned into another shallow cough. Wilson frowned. "Cough again."
He did and the frown deepened. "Your cough reflex isn't kicking in."
"Huh." He mulled that over.
Wilson finished and looped his stethoscope around his neck. "I think you have pneumonia."
"You're lying. It's a chest cold. Okay, maybe bronchitis, but definitely not pneumonia."
"Well, you're wrong. There is a first time for everything."
He shook his head. "I'm never wrong. I don't have a fever, no worsening cough, no sputum."
Wilson laid a hand across House's forehead. "You feel warm to me. Besides, acetaminophen can hide a fever. And hydrocodone suppresses the cough reflex, you know."
"Of course I know. I went to medical school, too. Write me a prescription for antibiotics. I'm going home."
"Not without a chest x-ray."
He thought a moment. "Fine. But you better-" He pushed himself out of his chair mid-sentence and found himself incredibly light-headed. He slumped forward and would have hit the ground if Wilson hadn't latched unto him.
"That's it. I'm admitting you."
"You're overreacting," he muttered. The spin stopped spinning and he pushed Wilson away and lowered himself back down into his chair. "I just need to sit."
"Right. I'm getting a wheelchair."
"Like hell you are."
"You need a chest x-ray."
"Fine. But just because I can't cough doesn't mean I can't walk."
"You can walk all the way down to the clinic?"
"No. I can walk all the way down to x-ray. Then, I'm going home." He was being an extremely stubborn bastard, but frankly, he didn't care. Wilson looked like he was about to argue, but just sighed instead.
"Fine." James handed him his cane. "Walk to x-ray. Pass out in the hallway on the way. What do I know?"
He glared at his friend and took his cane.
House actually managed to get there, leaning heavily and wheezing. But he was so exhausted that when that was done, he didn't balk when Wilson stood next to him, the dreaded wheelchair in hand. Instead he sat, let his friend guide him to an empty exam room in the clinic and stared at the chest x-rays.
"I was wrong," he admitted and suddenly he felt defeated, a feeling he'd always secretly harbored, but never let overwhelm him.
He hadn't been this ready to give up since the infarction -- the misdiagnosis, really -- had happened. This had turned out to be a crappy day.
He didn't go home. Wilson admitted him.
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed.
Greg was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Irony reared it ugly head again and it was getting old. Doomed to follow him for the rest of his life.
Wilson took away some of his Vicodin because of the lung infection and his pill bottle was lower than he or his leg felt comfortable with. But he was no longer taking up space in a hospital room, so he supposed that was an improvement.
Still, it didn't stop him from combing his nearly empty and useless medicine cabinet for any old prescriptions. Ha, he almost laughed at the thought. Like his leg would leave no Vicodin untouched.
House lucked out. He could hardly believe it. Tucked in the very corner was an old pill bottle. He looked at the date. Yep, they were old. They dated back to the very first days of the infarction when he tried to go without the Vicodin. Before he realized that that was probably the stupidest thing he had ever decided to try.
Before Stacy left.
He leaned across the bathroom sink and stared at the bottle. That's when he realized what he was about to do. What the hell was he thinking? He was actually contemplating taking medication that was close to five years old.
He left the bottle and lowered himself onto the toilet, rubbing at his thigh.
Stupid pills. Stupid leg. Stupid pneumonia.
No, that wasn't right. Or completely fair. Stacy was far from stupid, and although he could never forgive her, couldn't stop blaming her, he couldn't say she was an idiot. She always knew what she was doing. She was a lawyer; it was her job to think about consequences.
He closed his eyes. God, he missed her. Couldn't look at her without seeing guilt or his own stupidity in her eyes, but he still missed her.
Still loved her.
More irony, all wrapped up in a long expired bottle of Vicodin. He pushed himself up and pulled the bottle off its shelf and found his eyes once again staring at the faded label.
Hours later, Wilson stopped by and Greg was sitting at his piano, plucking out a melancholy tune. A glass of scotch sat on top of piano, half-full.
The Vicodin was in the trash, untouched.
Prolonged use or taking dosages greater than prescribed can lead to physical tolerance or physical and emotional dependence. Withdrawl symptoms can occur if Vicodin is discontinued after prolonged use. The longer you wait the more difficult it can be to kick your habit.
Three days later, he felt it. He was back in his office, yet another CV in hand, when he knew he'd done something stupid.
He'd dumped the odd prescription. But then he decided to try cutting down the Vicodin again. He wasn't sure why. Maybe he was trying to prove something to himself. Maybe he was trying to forget. Either way, less Vicodin meant more Scotch.
A trade. One vice for another.
He'd also been avoiding Wilson. He was snappy and unpleasant, even more so than he usually was, and Wilson would notice. Greg knew what it meant and he didn't like it, couldn't admit it, and didn't need James to point it out.
He was concentrating so hard on not thinking about the pain or the Vicodin that he didn't see or hear Wilson enter. He looked at the new bottle of pills Wilson had placed on the desk.
"You're out," he repeated. "You were out yesterday. You didn't drop by."
"I know," he said softly and he reached for the bottle. He flipped the lid and tipped a pill out. He let it sit in his hand.
Wilson nodded and sat down. There was a silence for a moment.
"I tried. I survived, even. That has to count for something, right?"
House stared at the pill a moment longer before popping it into his mouth. The familiar bitterness sat on his tongue and he savored it. That scared him, but he wasn't ready to deal with it. He just wanted to move forward and function.
He wasn't addicted. Wasn't dependant. The Vicodin was the only thing that worked and he wasn't ready to try something else. He was different. It wasn't a drastic change, at least not to him, but it was a change.
He wondered if Wilson understood. He looked at his friend and then turned back to his piles of resumes.
"I'm going to hire Foreman."
"You haven't interviewed him."
"Don't need to. He has something that Chase and Cameron don't have." He'd dug through Foreman's file and with a little hunting, had found the man's one indiscretion with the law. Foreman had street smarts. Very useful.
Wilson gave him a small smile. "Missing puzzle piece, huh?"
He shook his head. "The puzzle is never finished. That's what makes it so interesting."
Hydrocodone is habit forming. It is possible become physically and/ or psychologically dependent on the medication. Do not take more than the prescribed amount of medication or take it for longer than is directed by your doctor. Withdrawal effects may occur if acetaminophen and hydrocodone is stopped suddenly after several weeks of continuous use. Your doctor may recommend a gradual reduction in dose.
November came. Foreman started. Chase did another crossword and Cameron still politely answered his discarded consult requests.
Three days later, he walked down the hall with Wilson, and for the first time in ages, he noticed the stares again.
"29 year old female, first seizure one month ago, lost the ability to speak. Babbled like a baby. Present deterioration of mental status."
"See that? They all assume I'm a patient because of this cane."
"So put on a white coat like the rest of us."
No way in hell. He leaned heavier on the cane. Might as well give the gawkers a show. "I don't want them to think I'm a doctor."
"You see where the administration might have a problem with that attitude."
Or just Cuddy.
"People don't want a sick doctor." Did he mean that; was sick really the right word?
"Fair enough. I don't like healthy patients. The 29 year old female..."
"The one who can't talk, I liked that part."
Wilson was convinced that House should take the case. So much so that he played the 'cousin' card again. House popped a Vicodin. It didn't really matter if it was true or not, it got a reaction, and Wilson knew it would. Just like grabbing someone's cane and keeping him from getting on the elevator and heading back up to his empty office and empty caseload did.
"I already had her transferred from Trenton General."
Yes, Wilson was still trying.
He wondered when he had stopped.
He looked at James, who still had a hand grasping his cane, not willing to give up. Whether if was on the patient or his friend, Greg wasn't sure, but determination reigned in his gaze.
He took the file.
Please post a comment on this story.
Legal Disclaimer: The authors published here make no claims on the ownership of Dr. Gregory House and the other fictional residents of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. Like the television show House (and quite possibly Dr. Wilson's pocket protector), they are the property of Fox Television, David Shore and undoubtedly other individuals of whom I am only peripherally aware. The fan fiction authors published here receive no monetary benefit from their work and intend no copyright infringement nor slight to the actual owners. We love the characters and we love the show, otherwise we wouldn't be here.