Summary: Wilson is given an unexpected opportunity to prove his friendship to House. This story is my own attempt to make sense of the unsettling disruption of the House-Wilson dynamic in Season 3, so mention is made of many of the S3 plotlines and character development. House-Wilson-Cuddy angst, hurt/comfort, introspection--my usual gig. ;) x-posted
CHAPTER FIVE: THE BEST-LAID PLANS
After Wilson leaves the room, Cuddy stares at House for so long that finally he demands, irritably, “What!”
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 Wilson hangin’ around my place wringing his hands and melting his eyes every time I say ‘owie’?”
“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 Wilson, judging by recent history, would just let me strangle in it.” House’s eyes go distant.
Cuddy knows he’s remembering that disastrous Christmas Eve, when he’d overdosed on a stolen prescription. Wilson had left him lying in his own vomit. And things between the two men had changed rapidly after that. Whatever it was that had bonded them so deeply seems to have broken. What surprises Cuddy is that Wilson’s feeling the loss as keenly as House is. Wilson’s come to her several times to talk about it; he’s utterly lost without House, his unlikely best friend.
Cuddy had figured that Wilson would quickly fill his life with dates and sports and all the people who’d previously avoided him because of his association with House. She’d figured that House would simply become meaner, more miserable, even more of a loner. Of course, she’d been right about House. But about Wilson, she’d been completely wrong. And now she worries constantly about both men.
“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 Wilson’s return. “Bad news,” he tells them. “The agency’s overbooked, can’t start shifts until tomorrow.” He looks at House. “So I guess you’ll have to wing it tonight. Good news is I’ve got your meds, and a wheelchair waiting. So we can leave whenever you’re ready.”
“Now that’s what I’ve been waiting to hear,” House proclaims happily. “Home, James!”
Cuddy goes with them to Wilson’s car. She and Wilson step away a short distance and go over a few details again. They aren’t really discussing anything important, but they want to give House some privacy while he adjusts to standing and walking with the cane in his left hand, and gets himself settled in the passenger seat. He blows the horn impatiently, and they both jump. Cuddy pats Wilson’s arm, and watches while Wilson puts House’s backpack in the trunk, then gets into the car. Cuddy shakes her head sadly as they drive off.
On the ride home, House keeps his eyes trained out the side window. Wilson glances over when House gives a soft hiss of pain; he’s cradling the right hand again. “Might wanna lift it up a little; help with the throbbing,” Wilson says casually.
House gives a soft, derisive snort at the unsolicited advice, but Wilson notes that a few seconds later, House has lifted his right elbow to the armrest, and his bandaged hand is lying against the window. House has closed his eyes, leaned his head back; he looks a little more relaxed.
As Wilson pulls up to the apartment, House is already opening the car door. “Been real. Thanks for the ride,” he says.
“Oh, no,” Wilson responds as he retrieves the backpack from the trunk. “Orders from the top; I’m not to leave until you’re safely settled.”
Wordlessly, they enter the apartment together. “Almost dinner time,” Wilson says. “Want me to fix you something?”
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.