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HOUSE M.D. FIC: Heart-Shaped Box

Title: Heart-Shaped Box
Fandom: House M.D.
Rating: PG-13
Pairings: Gen for S7. House/Wilson friendship.
Summary: No one wants to acknowledge the true nature of Wilson’s heart trouble. Written for the We *heart* Wilson V-Day challenge at Sick!Wilson.
Warning: Includes a minor spoiler from 7X12, "You Must Remember This."

Wilson paused at the head of the stairs and braced his hand against the wall, wincing at the sudden constriction in his chest. He felt decidedly light-headed, too. Must still be under the weather from my recent bout with the flu.

He walked slowly to his office, trying not to be unduly worried by his harsh, shallow breaths. When he opened the door, he discovered a CD-sized, heart-shaped box wrapped in a flourish of gold ribbon sitting on his desk, but no note. Curious, Wilson dropped into his chair and unraveled the ribbon, then lifted the lid and sniffed suspiciously at the contents. The bittersweet scent of the chocolate truffles inside made him cough painfully.

Closing the box and setting it aside, Wilson arranged the files for his morning appointments neatly on the desk and began reviewing them. He was still short of breath a few minutes later when House’s head, followed by his entire lanky frame, insinuated itself into his office.

“You’re late,” he greeted Wilson curtly.

Sometimes the best defense was a good offense. “Technically, no. What are you doing here so early?”

“Rode in with Cuddy.” House plopped himself onto the chair facing Wilson’s desk, reaching automatically for the heart-shaped box. He opened his mouth to pop in a chocolate, chewed it thoughtfully for a moment, then cocked his head. “You’re practically panting. Elevator out of service?”

“I always take the stairs when I’m not with you,” Wilson retorted, massaging the back of his neck, hoping that the pounding in his head and the ache behind his ribs would subside. He was getting tired of always being the considerate one in this friendship, if what he and House had could even be dignified with that word in recent months, and he knew that this uncharacteristic response couldn’t fail to get the other man’s attention.

Sure enough, House gave him a sharp look, but then apparently decided to let it pass. “Well, you must be letting yourself go if a few flights of stairs leave you like this.”

Wilson gritted his teeth. “I’m still getting over the flu.”

House looked genuinely surprised, then had the grace to appear embarrassed. Self-absorbed bastard didn’t even notice that I was out sick all last week. But rather than apologize, House adroitly changed the subject.

“About tonight. V-Day.” He made it sound like a decisive battle to be fought.

“What about it?” Wilson asked, hating himself a little for being willing to play along. He tried to take a deeper breath past the tightness in his chest.

“Saint Valentine,” House said, “was jailed, beaten, stoned, and ultimately beheaded for aiding and abetting early Christians. Whoever decided to make him the patron saint of lovers had a sick concept of romance.”

“Actually,” Wilson pointed out, “he’s considered the patron saint of lovers because he was a priest who performed illicit marriages.”

“I rest my case,” House said, grabbing another chocolate out of the box and popping it into his maw.

“Nice try. You still need to do something special for Cuddy tonight.”

“Speaking of nice tries,” House said, “I thought you’d sworn off dispensing relationship advice. Which you clearly should, given the state of your own social life.”

“Who are you, and what have you done with the man who’s always accused me of rushing into all the wrong relationships?” Wilson tried to keep his tone casual, but he could feel his chest tightening further, like a clenched fist was squeezing his heart; the blood was beating erratically in his ears. He had expected his body to settle down by this point, but if anything, his heart rate and perspiration had only increased; he could feel cold sweat running down the back of his too-snug shirt. He yanked at his tie to loosen its chokehold and tugged ineffectually at the collar.

“Wilson?” House paused with the third chocolate midway to his mouth.

“Guh. My heart is… House?” Wilson heard a note of real panic in his voice. He tried to rise, feeling alarmingly light-headed, but the dizziness forced him back into his seat.

House leaned over, looking surprised, and pressed his fingers firmly to Wilson’s carotid pulse. “VT,” he announced. “What the hell?”

“Don’t tell me you… urgh… me again,” Wilson slurred. His vision was beginning to darken and fade. House’s puzzled frown was the last thing he saw before passing out and slumping forward onto the desk.

***

An indeterminate amount of time later, Wilson became aware of Foreman’s somber voice droning a few feet away. “CBC and CHEM-7 were normal… no structural abnormalities in the lungs or heart…” The words faded in and out. Though feeling hazy and ennervated, Wilson tried to force himself to focus.

“Could be complications from the flu.” That was Chase.

“Environmental toxins seem…” Wilson lost the thread of Taub’s thought process as he became aware that he was on oxygen, the nasal cannula tickling his nostrils. He tried to reach up to adjust it, but it felt as though his bones were made of water.

Suddenly House’s tense voice cut through the discussion like a scalpel. “My money’s on environmental. You two – search the patient’s home. Here’s his key.”

Shit. If the fellows were sent out to search the condo, they were bound to discover Sarah, and once House learned about his secret new companion, Wilson knew he’d never hear the end of it.

“Are you sure?” asked Masters, sounding surprised.

“The patient is obviously unfit for questioning,” House barked. “Besides, this is Wilson the master of mendacity we’re talking about.”

“I only meant,” Masters said plaintively, “that since you’re most familiar with his home, I thought you might want to search it yourself.”

House said nothing, but Wilson could hear Foreman murmuring something, presumably to Masters. He struggled to force his eyelids open, but he was so, so tired. Summoning all his strength, he heard himself make a mewling sound, then shut his mouth again, feeling humiliated.

“Dr. Wilson?” That was Chase’s voice, close, as if the young doctor were bending over him. “Can you hear us? I think he’s waking up!”

But the effort had exhausted his resources. His head swimming, Wilson allowed a wave of darkness to sweep him into sweet oblivion once more.

***

The next time Wilson came to, he felt considerably more human, although still weak and disoriented. He could hear an argument taking place in a semicircle around his bedside and managed to crack open one eye.

“He got the cat recently. He was out with flu-like symptoms last week. He clearly has a rare cardiac complication from toxoplasmosis,” House snapped.

“There is no evidence of that,” Foreman argued.

“You’re forgetting the curious results from the CBC and CHEM-7!”

“CBC and CHEM-7 were normal,” Taub reminded him.

“Those were the curious results!” House almost shouted.

“The ELISA was negative for toxoplasmosis,” Chase said, his frustration suggesting that it wasn’t the first time.

“It has to be toxoplasmosis. You’re not detecting antibodies because his immune system is depressed. Run a damn PCR for T. gondii.” He leveled a glare at the unmoving Chase. “Your date will just have to wait.”

All of them,” Taub added under his breath.

“Why can’t Taub or Foreman do the PCR?” Chase whined. “They obviously don’t have any plans tonight.”

“All the more reason to let them go early so they can spend the evening having other people’s coupled bliss rubbed in their faces.”

“Thanks,” said Taub.

“You’re an ass,” said Foreman.

“I already have Valentine’s Day plans,” Masters piped up, as if anyone had asked.

Bridget Jones’ Diary and a gallon of Rocky Road?” House hazarded.

“Not even close,” she said, blushing.

“Oh, I forgot, they’d be way too old for you. Maybe something in the Ringwald oeuvre?”

Wilson couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer, although he felt oddly comforted to know that his secret was out and House was on the case. Once again the surrounding voices became less distinct, and soon they had vanished entirely.

***

When Wilson opened his eyes again, Chase was standing by his bedside, adjusting the oxygen regulator with an expression of long suffering. There was an IV line taped in place to his right hand; Wilson flexed his fingers experimentally, feeling a slight pinch.

“Chase?” Wilson croaked weakly. He licked his lips and tried again. “What’s… happening to me?”

Chase laid a soothing hand on his shoulder. “You apparently suffered an episode of ventricular tachycardia while House was with you in your office. House thinks it was due to myocarditis secondary to toxoplasmosis. We've got you on doxycycline, but I’m running the PCR right now to confirm.”

Wilson felt himself frowning. “What… do you think?” he rasped.

An uncertain shrug. “The ELISA was negative, and there doesn’t seem to be anything physically wrong with you.”

“But you… have an idea.” He was rewarded by a brief flicker of emotion on Chase’s face. “Tell… me.”

Chase glanced around quickly, then bent closer and said in a low voice, “Dr. Wilson… I think you may be suffering from broken heart syndrome.”

“That doesn’t make any sense… Sam left me… weeks ago,” Wilson objected. “Wouldn’t the symptoms be… less severe, not more?”

“I wasn’t talking about Sam,” Chase said, raising his eyebrows significantly.

“Then… who…“

The door to his room slid open. “Jimmy!” House cried jovially as he hastened over, leaning heavily on his cane. Wilson was touched by the relief evident in the other man’s voice. “You’ve been holding out on me. Should have known you were getting some pussy on the QT.”

Chase rolled his eyes and left the two of them alone.

“Her name’s… Sarah,” Wilson told him. “Oh, shit. What time is it? She needs her shot.”

“You really know how to pick ‘em,” House drawled. “Trust Captain Cares-a-lot to bring home a cat with diabetes on top of toxoplasmosis.”

“Had to take her. Belonged to… my neighbor.”

“Jesus, Wilson. People like cats because they’re self-sufficient. They’re also aloof, temperamental, rough-tongued, only reliably on hand at mealtimes, and contrary pains in the ass.”

“So are you saying… that I’ve found… the perfect substitute… for you?”

“I’m saying,” House scowled, “that you’ve managed to pick an animal that lacks all of the desirable traits of the feline persuasion yet still possesses all of the annoying ones.”

“I rest… my case,” Wilson wheezed.

He thought he heard a smothered uptake of breath that might have been either chuckle or a sob as he drifted off to sleep again.

***

Wilson woke, gasping, from vaguely disturbing dreams. He felt as if a heavy weight had settled on his chest, squeezing the breath from his lungs and causing his pulse to skyrocket in response to his oxygen-deprived tissues. Even as he struggled against his lassitude to sit up, his eyelids popped open to reveal… a pair of anxious yellow eyes in a fluffy, white, whiskered face. Seeing that he was finally awake, Sarah leaned forward and licked him delicately on the nose.

“Oof,” Wilson groaned. “How did you-“ A motion in his peripheral vision made him turn his head to behold House, blinking in the chair by his bedside. Wilson watched his friend take off the reading glasses that had slipped askew while he dozed.

“You don’t have toxoplasmosis,” House said gruffly. “And I had to bring her in. She was due for her insulin.”

“You could have given her the shot,” Wilson pointed out, breathing more easily as Sarah disembarked and stretched herself along the length of his thigh with a scratchy purr.

“Nah. Syringe thumb,” House said, demonstrating. “I’ll probably need PT.”

“Yeah,” Wilson said, feeling an abrupt unclenching in his chest that had nothing to do with the departure of ten pounds of pussycat. And then, running his hand down Sarah’s silky, vibrating back: “Thanks.”

House nodded. “So… want to tell me what’s been going on?”

“Not especially.” House just waited; the man could outstubborn a cat. Finally Wilson huffed, “Look. You’ve only had attention to spare… for two things lately. Mysterious ailments… and the person who’s having sex with you.”

House cocked his head. “And you decided on the first approach? Way to go.”

Wilson felt his lip twitch. “Yeah. In the sober light of day… I’m a serious buzzkill.” Basking in House’s appreciative smirk, he suddenly realized that the glass behind the window blinds was dark. “Wait a minute… What time is it? Don’t you have a dinner date?”

The other man shrugged. “Cuddy’s with a doctor. She’s used to being alone.”

“House,” Wilson began warningly, but his friend was already hauling himself to his feet.

“Relax. I promised her something extra special tomorrow. Tonight we’re gonna have Chinese food and watch Wife Swap.” House held up a hand to fend off any protests. “Don’t get up. I’ve already got your credit card.” He disappeared through the doorway, and Wilson released a sigh that was equal parts relief and exasperation.

Only then did he notice that the small heart-shaped box from his office was sitting unobtrusively on his bedside tray. On impulse, he fumbled for the lid with his left hand to find the box empty of chocolates. Instead, inside was a note written in House’s firm, untidy hand: Eat your heart out, it said, and then, in much smaller script below that, I’ll make this up to you.

Wilson knew that House hadn’t just been referring to the candy. He leaned back against the pillows and closed his eyes, his heart lighter than it had felt in months.

Comments

( 36 comments — Leave a comment )
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resm
Feb. 13th, 2011 02:31 pm (UTC)
I loved House's take on Valentine's here! Everyone was very in character and I think you portrayed their friendship beautifully and consistently throughout. Thanks for sharing! :)
flywoman
Feb. 13th, 2011 03:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I love writing this friendship in all of its perversely endearing permutations.
kirili
Feb. 13th, 2011 02:56 pm (UTC)
That's such a sweet idea! And a great way to explore that complicated relationship. Repressing himself ill does seem like a very Wilson thing to do.
flywoman
Feb. 13th, 2011 03:06 pm (UTC)
This story was unusually sweet for me - thank you for letting me know that you enjoyed it!
(no subject) - kirili - Feb. 13th, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
sheppa
Feb. 13th, 2011 03:01 pm (UTC)
Perfect!
Just stumbled across your stories and am loving them. Thanks so much for sharing!
flywoman
Feb. 13th, 2011 03:08 pm (UTC)
Music to an author's ears :). Thanks so much for letting me know!

P.S. Adorable icon!
chocolate_frapp
Feb. 13th, 2011 04:26 pm (UTC)
just fantastic!
flywoman
Feb. 13th, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
alternatealto
Feb. 13th, 2011 04:26 pm (UTC)
I was glad to see you'd added more to the bit of this you posted earlier!

I think my favorite part of this was Masters commenting that House should be the one to break into Wilson's place, since he knows Wilson better than anybody else. House's silence afterward was pretty eloquent of a rather guilty conscience.
flywoman
Feb. 13th, 2011 05:43 pm (UTC)
Well, of course House also used to live in the same condo, so he probably knows where to look for anything suspicious.

Thanks for your comments!
nightdog_barks
Feb. 13th, 2011 06:18 pm (UTC)
This is excellent -- I really enjoyed it, and the way you turned what was once Wilson's line (about his wife being used to being alone) on its head was a great stroke.

Terrific read. :-)
flywoman
Feb. 13th, 2011 07:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much *beams* - I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed it. And very pleased that you caught the line echoing S1 Wilson!
srsly_yes
Feb. 13th, 2011 07:29 pm (UTC)
The story had the authenticity of real episode. Loved:

“Jesus, Wilson. People like cats because they’re self-sufficient. They’re also aloof, temperamental, rough-tongued, only reliably on hand at mealtimes, and contrary pains in the ass.”

“So are you saying… that I’ve found… the perfect substitute… for you?”


Perfection.
flywoman
Feb. 13th, 2011 09:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much *grin*. I'm quite fond of that particular exchange as well!
mmorgan317
Feb. 13th, 2011 08:52 pm (UTC)
Awww, that was good! I loved House's take on Valentine's day and his little "I’ll make this up to you." message as well. SO cute!
flywoman
Feb. 13th, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much - glad to hear that you enjoyed my contribution to the challenge!
jezziejay
Feb. 13th, 2011 08:58 pm (UTC)
Still love it - for all the reasons I've already told you. It's so rare for a friendship only fic to make me squee this much - it really is that good :)
flywoman
Feb. 13th, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad that you let me know about the challenge! This is probably the sweetest fic I've written - not just in this 'verse, but ever - and the positive response has been extremely gratifying!
menolly_au
Feb. 13th, 2011 09:38 pm (UTC)
Great story - I always love your dialogue, it always rings really true, not just for House/Wilson but for the rest of the cast as well.
flywoman
Feb. 13th, 2011 09:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I always really enjoy the writing process when the characters are creating dialogue inside my head!
petitecuriosity
Feb. 14th, 2011 06:24 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this. I don't often read friendship fics, but I particularly liked this one. Everyone was very IC; it's honestly something I really appreciate in a fic, when an author writes about a particular pairing (friendship or otherwise) but keeps the other characters in the story in the story in character as well. :) I enjoyed the part where House forced Chase to stay behind when he had plans, saying that he allowed Taub and Foreman to go home to wallow in their loneliness. Very Housian. I liked everyone's responses to this. In all honesty, I don't particularly care for Masters, but I like how you've written her, especially the part where she suggested that House search Wilson's place since he's likely more familiar with it. She has rare moments of snarkiness that make me dislike her a little less, and you've described one well here.

I also enjoyed earlier on in the story when House was complaining about Saint Valentine and Wilson told him that he still had to do something with Cuddy. It was just very...them.

(I know this is a friendship fic, but I totally read the part where Chase told Wilson that he had broken heart syndrome and then House entered the room with my slash goggles on. I tried not to I swear! lol. ;) )

I rather enjoy the nickname "Captain Cares-a-lot." It made me smile.

“Jesus, Wilson. People like cats because they’re self-sufficient. They’re also aloof, temperamental, rough-tongued, only reliably on hand at mealtimes, and contrary pains in the ass.”

“So are you saying… that I’ve found… the perfect substitute… for you?”

Loved these lines.

“Not especially.” House just waited; the man could outstubborn a cat. Finally Wilson huffed, “Look. You’ve only had attention to spare… for two things lately. Mysterious ailments… and the person who’s having sex with you.”

House cocked his head. “And you decided on the first approach? Way to go.”

And these. It's this sort of subtextual banter between them that I enjoy. :)

And of course I loved the last part, with the note House left behind for Wilson in the empty box. Of course he'd eat all the chocolates, but still show, in his own, sarcastic, subtle way that he cares.

I really think you've illustrated their friendship quite well in this fic; when Wilson really needs House, he comes to his rescue. You really described his frustration toward his team well; sort of understated and sarcastic at first, but growing in intensity as it took him awhile to figure out what was wrong with Wilson. And House realized he was hurting Wilson and did make it up to him; he said "I'm sorry" without verbalizing it, by leaving the box behind and rearranging his plans with Cuddy to spend time with him. (And also by sitting by his bedside and bringing in his pet cat.)

Also, thank you for providing a believable explanation as to why Wilson wasn't in last episode. I agree with what someone else here said, that Wilson would likely repress himself sick. :)

Also, perfect title for this fic. (Love that song by Nirvana by the way.)
flywoman
Feb. 14th, 2011 12:36 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed the part where House forced Chase to stay behind when he had plans, saying that he allowed Taub and Foreman to go home to wallow in their loneliness. Very Housian. I liked everyone's responses to this.
Thanks for mentioning this; it still makes me smile when I reread that exchange!

(I know this is a friendship fic, but I totally read the part where Chase told Wilson that he had broken heart syndrome and then House entered the room with my slash goggles on. I tried not to I swear! lol. ;) )
I wanted to write a House/Wilson fic appropriate for all audiences, as it were... but that doesn't mean you aren't encouraged to read more into it than explicitly stated *grin*.

It's this sort of subtextual banter between them that I enjoy. :)
THIS is my favorite thing about the show; no actual slash required (although it can be a nice bonus ;)).

I really think you've illustrated their friendship quite well in this fic; when Wilson really needs House, he comes to his rescue.
This reflects recent conversations around here about how House doesn't give people what they want, but he will give them what they need (as when he attends Cuddy's b-day dinner).

Also, thank you for providing a believable explanation as to why Wilson wasn't in last episode.
A lot of folks on the H/C lists were also unhappy about his absence, but an equal number seemed honestly surprised to have it brought to their attention. Since we see the show from House's POV mainly, it made sense to me that he hadn't really noticed, either.

Love that song by Nirvana by the way.
The lyrics seemed so appropriate for Wilson... "priceless advice" and "eat your cancer" especially. And for all the glimpses we catch into House's head, Wilson conceals so much that his heart strikes me as something of a "black box" in scientific lingo - we see what goes in and out but aren't granted access to its inner workings.

Thanks so much for all of your lovely, lovely comments - in part because I so enjoy getting to editorialize a little ;).
(Deleted comment)
flywoman
Feb. 14th, 2011 12:22 pm (UTC)
What a pleasant surprise!
*grin* No characters were slashed or killed in the making of this fic. Also, I am, like, the Ebenezer Scrooge of Valentine's Day, so this was a pleasant surprise to me too.

You do Wilson's perspective very well.
Thank you! I don't write from Wilson's POV often, although I did for my first fic in this fandom. Glad you thought it worked!

I enjoyed Wilson's not-so-subtle jealousy of Cuddy (which is definitely there - I totally agree) and House's rather more subtle acknowledgment of Wilson's feelings and his right to be hurt.
Although I write H/W slash as well as friendship, I felt that there was already sufficient canonical cause for platonic jealousy and apology that I wanted to explore.

Thanks for your comments!
rincewindy13
Feb. 14th, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)
*content smile*

Very cute story and perfectly in character. Thanks for sharing!
flywoman
Feb. 14th, 2011 11:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you - glad to hear that you enjoyed it!
pinigir
Feb. 15th, 2011 02:15 pm (UTC)
Loved it! Loved House's actions and the interaction between House and Wilson.
flywoman
Feb. 15th, 2011 09:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I love writing these guys.
pingback_bot
Feb. 16th, 2011 06:54 pm (UTC)
Episode 7x12
User damigella_314 referenced to your post from Episode 7x12 saying: [...] post-episode [...]
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