Title: Hard Knock Life (2/2)
Rating: PG, for some disturbing subject matter
Word Count: 1,978
Summary: Kutner has a panic attack. Wilson lends advice.
Pairings: None. Kutner+Wilson friendship...a rare thing indeed.
Warnings: Spoilers for Season 5's "Here Kitty"
Disclaimer: Do I sound like David Shore? I hope not, because if I do, this might mean that I have a brain problem!
A/N: Written for sick_kutner's Sick!Kutner/Sick!Wilson Challenge! Prompt#4: Kutner (or Wilson) begins seeing a therapist specialized in treating doctors and discovers that Wilson (or Kutner) is seeing the same shrink. (I have taken some liberties with the prompt, no offense to the creator as it was a wonderful prompt! In my story Wilson is already seeing a shrink but Kutner isn’t; I couldn’t think of a better way it could work for them both to be seeing the same shrink already, and then this idea came to mind.)
Kutner managed to make it to the bathroom just in time, for as soon as he crouched down in front of the bowl, everything came up in an overwhelming succession of painfully dry heaves. He hadn’t had much of an appetite that morning, so his stomach didn’t have much to mix with other than bile. After several moments of puking, his ribs hurt so much that he could barely sit up.
Exhausted, Kutner sat still for several seconds, as much to his relief; the nausea began to subside as quickly as it came. Though still slightly dizzy, he managed to pull himself into a somewhat comfortable position, still shaking uncontrollably from the whole ordeal.
It was then that the swooshing sound of the toilet flushing from within the stall next door to him jolted him awake. “Hello?” came a wary, yet gentle and very concerned voice, followed by a tentative knocking on the wall between the two stalls. “Are you okay in there?”
Kutner froze at once, as he recognized the voice immediately to be that of none other than the oncologist Dr. James Wilson, House’s one (and perhaps only) friend. Wilson, whose girlfriend Amber (he still thought of her as Cutthroat Bitch) they had fought so hard to save and failed…Wilson, who ate lunch with House every day, like clockwork---and who gave advice if the patient had signs of possibly cancerous symptoms.
This was not good, Kutner realized. House couldn’t know he’d gotten sick because of what were probably just nerves, due to some stupid cranberry juice stunt. As rumor had it that House told Wilson everything, as the two were best friends who had known each other some fifteen-odd years or so. Kutner knew that if he revealed himself-- that if Wilson knew, then House would know and he was screwed, for House would know just how lily-livered he truly was.
Yet, he couldn’t just sit there and say nothing, which would only cause Wilson further concern---and perhaps then Wilson would have to alert the ER that there was someone in the stall who was unresponsive, and then everyone would know it was him.
He decided the best course of action was to make his identity known to Wilson and to Wilson only. Besides, while Wilson was House’s best friend, he didn’t seem to be like House at all…then again, Kutner hadn’t known the man for very long. He decided it was worth the risk, and took a deep breath as he prepared himself to speak.
“Hey, Dr. Wilson,” Kutner managed to say, in spite of the sudden aching in his throat, “I’ll be okay, thanks…I don’t know why I just got so sick, I think something I ate must have disagreed with me…”
“Dr. Kutner?” Wilson’s voice was full of shock and surprise. Then, Kutner could hear the creaking distension of an opening and closing stall door. “I didn’t know it was you… Does House know you’re in here?”
“No…” Kutner gagged and spit out the last of the bile with relief. “No one does…except you, that is,” he added begrudgingly, wishing that he had never been found.
“Can you stand up? Do you need help?” From the close proximity of Wilson’s voice, Kutner guessed that the man was standing directly on the other side of his door.
“Nah…I can get up myself, thanks,” Kutner muttered, and somehow he manage to stand up on wobbly feet. Even as he did, however, he was dreading having to explain the “blood” on his clothes. He knew he couldn’t avoid Wilson forever, and that at some point would have to tell him what happened. Bracing himself for a thousand questions, Kutner announced, “I’m coming out,” and waited for Wilson to stand back, as he pushed open the door.
“Oh, my God,” Wilson exclaimed, his eyes widening with horror upon first sight of the “blood” that had completely soaked through Kutner’s shirt. “What in the hell happened to you!? Are you---are you hurt?” Wilson stammered, “Do---do I need to go page the ER or something? Or---or is that the patient’s blood---?”
“It’s not mine and it’s not the patient’s,” Kutner cut him off quickly, while stumbling wearily in the direction of the sink, desperate to rid himself the leftover bile in his throat. He realized it was now or never---time to face the music. “House spit cranberry juice all over me,” Kutner confessed bitterly, “pretending it was his own blood.” Grateful to Wilson’s new expression (which seemed to match his own feelings of rage) he was nevertheless still embarrassed and proceeded to douse his mouth out with as much water as his cupped hands would allow to rid himself of the taste.
“Shit,” Wilson expressed in a voice which vocalized both his anger and sympathy, which Kutner appreciated more than he would ever allow Wilson to know. “I’m so sorry, Dr. Kutner…House can really be a jerk sometimes---but then again, that goes without saying.”
With his eyes on the sink, watching the water swirl effortlessly in a whirlpool and disappear down the drain, Kutner said, “I’m assuming he probably told you about my being an orphan?”
“Yeah,” Wilson admitted softly, sounding regretful. “Unfortunately, he did...and I’m sorry he did, because it’s really none of my business.”
Something about that statement irritated him and suddenly Kutner knew why. “Why are you always so sorry?” he blurted out without thinking, whirling around to face Wilson directly, looking him straight in the eye. “He’s the one who spit at me, who made a fool out of me in front of everyone; not you! You didn’t blab about my secrets to the whole classroom either…and it’s not like I have anything to be embarrassed about with being an orphan, you know,” he added hotly, (though he knew he wasn’t really angry with Wilson at all, but was really angry at House), “it’s just something that happened to me, that’s all; people die everyday, no matter who loves them. It’s not like I wanted to be an orphan; it was just how it happened; just how things happened to be.”
Wilson blinked in bewilderment, seeming completely at a loss as for what to say. He’d never heard Kutner be so adamant before, nor speak so candidly about himself. “I’m…” For a second, Kutner expected Wilson to finish that statement once more with “sorry,” but Wilson simply exhaled sharply and shook his head with disgust---not at Kutner, but rather at himself.
“I don’t know what to say, Dr. Kutner,” Wilson muttered, remorsefully shaking his head, “I just don’t…except…” He hesitated, blushing fiercely, and much to Kutner’s amazement, glanced sharply away as though afraid to face him.
“Except what?” Kutner demanded, however warily; part of him didn’t really want to know. Finally satisfied that he had cleaned his mouth out entirely, Kutner forced himself to turn back around towards Wilson again, waiting expectantly and anxiously for his new companion to continue.
“Forgive me if this is none of my business as well, but…” Wilson winced, but went on, “Do you ever experience, um…panic attacks?”
“Um…” Now Kutner wished he could simply disappear, but he knew Wilson well enough to know that Wilson would keep on persisting, if he tried to avoid an answer. “Now that you mention it, well…” He cringed, trying to forget all the nightmares he’d had as a child, and the flashbacks that felt like nightmares during the day. “Well, yeah um, sometimes, I guess I do…but when I was a kid I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and panic attacks happen naturally when you’ve gone through a traumatic experience,” he confessed. Immediately the blood rushed to his face, as he’d feared that he’d said too much---but Wilson only nodded sagely in response, as if he’d experienced some sort of trauma-related experience himself.
He would have continued to feel embarrassed if Wilson didn’t look more so; the Oncologist's face had turned beet red in seconds and he was staring resolutely down at the floor. “PTSD…House told me about how you witnessed both your parents get shot…I’m so sorry that you had to go through all that, Kutner….it must have been a devastatingly painful ordeal.”
“Thanks. But I’m not surprised that you know all that too,” Kutner muttered, and sighed with submission. Even though he was mad that House had divulged his entire history to Wilson, he was actually glad that Wilson knew, and seemed to understand where he was coming from. He was surprised to find that just talking to Wilson was actually helping him feel better. The nausea had all but disappeared, and he didn’t feel light-headed or even the slightest bit dizzy. To his amazement, it appeared that Wilson was right---he’d had a panic attack, the first one in years. Though it was a relief to know he hadn’t been poisoned, even the thought of having a panic attack scared him---because he’d assumed that as a whole, he was better. “Maybe I should start seeing a therapist again,” he suggested, more to himself than to Wilson.
“How long has it been-- since you’ve seen one?” Wilson questioned him nonchalantly, as though seeing a therapist was no big deal---they could have been simply talking about a patient’s health or the weather.
“About twenty-one years ago,” Kutner confessed, “my adoptive parents had me see a therapist the first year I was with them, when I was nine…but it was only for about a year. The social worker had insisted I do it. That was the last time, because after that, I saw no one.” He tensed as he waited anxiously for Wilson’s response, not even knowing why he cared so much what it would be, but he did.
“Maybe that is a good idea,” Wilson agreed, much to his relief and surprise. “I see a very good therapist right here in town. Her name is Julia Goldstein. She specializes in doctors who have anxiety disorders and depression, and ironically she’s also a grief therapist. Naturally, I started seeing her after Amber died…Perhaps you’d be interested? I’ve got her card in my wallet.”
For some reason, this random act of kindness on Wilson’s behalf left Kutner stunned, completely unsure of what to say. He was grateful but at the same time overwhelmed that Wilson would care so much as to give him some guidance. Part of him was afraid to begin the therapeutic process again, but he knew that in the long run, it would help…besides, he’d been dealing with some insomnia lately, and perhaps Julia Goldstein could help him find a better way to cope than playing video games all night long.
“Yeah, I’ll give it a try,” he heard himself saying, taking the card from Wilson’s outstretched fingers, “Thanks.”
“No problem. Hey, you better change and get back to the conference room, if you want to keep your job,” Wilson added in warning.
“Thanks for the advice,” Kutner replied, and he meant every word from the bottom of his heart.
“No worries. My door is always open,” Wilson added with a quick wink and a small smile, as he headed for the door, leaving Kutner the privacy he desired.
Kutner shut his eyes and breathed in deeply as he pocketed the card, knowing he’d have to come up with a very good excuse as to why it had taken him this long to change his shirt and wash his face. However, for some reason he was suddenly feeling brave, and knew that he’d find some way of coping.