CHAPTER FIVE: THE BEST-LAID PLANS
Cuddy shakes her head at him; House is reminded of the times he’d disappointed his mother with his behavior in public. He finds, to his dismay, that he’s actually having to stop himself from squirming uncomfortably under Cuddy’s steely gaze.
“What’d I do?” he asks again, and he recognizes the same plaintive note in his voice with which prepubescent Greg had asked the question; his mom had called it a whine.
“Like you don’t know. You just cut off your nose to spite your face.” Yeah; his mom used to say that, too.
“Why? Just ‘cuz I don’t want
“Yeah, I can see where having to deal with real caring and compassion would be a hardship,” Cuddy says dryly. “So instead, you’re willing to pay strangers to pretend to care; you’re willing to let your best friend sit in his hotel room and worry himself sick over you. All because of your stupid pride. People can choke on their pride, you know.”
There she goes, channeling my mother again. That’s just… weird. “Well, if I choke on my pride, good thing there’s a doctor here; I’ll bet you’re trained in the Heimlich maneuver and everything. Whereas
Cuddy knows he’s remembering that disastrous Christmas Eve, when he’d overdosed on a stolen prescription.
Cuddy had figured that
“That night,” she begins carefully, “Christmas Eve. It killed him to leave you there, you know.”
“Could’ve killed me too,” House observes.
“He was doing what he thought he had to do, to help you. He was seeing you kill yourself by pieces; watching that was destroying him. By Christmas Eve, he wasn’t thinking straight anymore.”
“He was willing to let me die, to prove some stupid point.”
“And you were willing to kill yourself to prove the opposite point. In chess, I believe that’s called a stalemate. But the game didn’t end in a draw; you both lost.” Cuddy steps closer to House, places a tentative hand on his arm. “I’ve spoken with him about this, House. I know how badly he feels. Can’t you forgive him? He knows now that what he did that night was wrong—”
“What he did was right!” House interrupts so fiercely that Cuddy releases his arm, takes a step back. She stares at him, stunned.
House continues, “What he did was right for me. Made me take a look at a few things. Made me pull my act together. Made me go to Tritter—for all the good that wound up doing.” House laughs bitterly.
“I don’t understand. If you believe that he did the right thing, then what’s changed between the two of you?”
House meets Cuddy’s eyes, and holds them locked with his own, in almost the same way he’d tried to connect with the autistic boy. Cuddy’s aware that he’s searching inside her for something… vital. Apparently he finds it, because he nods to himself and begins to speak. His tone is low and serious.
“I said he did the right thing for me. It was wrong for him. It wasn’t who he is, what he does. He thinks he’s supposed to protect me. He went against his own nature, sacrificed everything he believes about friendship in some moronic attempt to help me. He thinks he failed, let me down. And he can’t live with that.”
Cuddy stands very still, almost afraid to breathe. I’ve known House a lot of years; he’s never talked to me this way, never opened up like this. Whatever he’s got to say, it’s important. And it’s the truth—his truth, anyway. She nods slowly, indicating for him to go on; he’s got her full attention.
“Then this happens,” House indicates the bandaged right hand. “And he wants to rewind that night, atone for his behavior. He wants to make it come out right this time—but right for him, not for me.”
House fixes Cuddy with a serious gaze. “If I keep him out, then he’ll get past what he did that night, no matter what happens this time around. Gonna take a while, but he’s stronger than he thinks he is; he’ll get through it. But say I let him back in now, let ‘im go all warm and concerned, indulge all that guilt. I let him do that whole thing he does, take care of me, get his ‘need’ fix. And then this turns out….” House pauses, takes a breath. “If I die, he’ll never get past it. It’ll eat at him, destroy him. I’ll take him down with me.” House smiles without humor. “And that goes against my nature. I’d prefer my death to be a solo act; no one gets hurt but me. Just call me a selfish bastard….”
I’d call you anything but. “I understand,” Cuddy says softly. And she does, just as she understands that this conversation, this admission, has cost House dearly.
Both of them are silent for several minutes, each lost in private thoughts. Then Cuddy ventures tentatively, “I want you to think about something. This’ll probably turn out to be nothing. You’ll be back to work in a few days, and nothing will have changed. Nothing. And you’ll have blown your chance to get past it, get things back to whatever it is the two of you call ‘normal.’ You’ll have blown his chance.” House opens his mouth to speak, and Cuddy holds up a hand. “Just think about it.”
Any response House might have given is cut off with
“Now that’s what I’ve been waiting to hear,” House proclaims happily. “
Cuddy goes with them to
On the ride home, House keeps his eyes trained out the side window.
House gives a soft, derisive snort at the unsolicited advice, but
Wordlessly, they enter the apartment together. “Almost dinner time,”
House ignores the question. He sits down on the couch, props his legs on the coffee table, and grabs the television remote. “This is as settled as I get. Bye,” he says, eyes already on the TV screen. Argue with me. Insist on making dinner. Make up some flimsy excuse; I’ll buy it. Just don’t lea--
Wilson clears his throat and looks hard at House. “You’re the boss,” he says, his voice devoid of emotion. He drops the backpack, turns around and walks out. House shuts his eyes tight against the sound of the door thudding closed.