Title: Fifty-Minute Hour
Characters: House, Wilson
Word Count: 600/575
Summary: Because others are concerned, both House and Wilson seek out help. An exercise in futility? This series began with Visiting Hour, Happy Hour, and Midnight Hour. (these should be read in order, please!)
A/N: The title for this one comes from the traditional length of a counseling session.
FIFTY MINUTE HOUR: House
This is a crappy idea. Of course it is; it isn't his idea, it's Cuddy's. Which automatically makes it suspect, of course, but this time there's more. She's told House--in no uncertain terms--that if he doesn't keep this appointment she's set up for him, she'll suspend him. Indefinitely. An indefinite amount of time to mull over what his decisions have done to the only person in his life who's ever cared about him just because he's House.
Not because he's a phenomenal diagnostician, not because his presence at Princeton-Plainsboro brings in the big donations. Not even because they're somehow related and, well, you have to care about family. No; Wilson cares about House because he wants to. And House would never admit it, not even to himself, but that makes his friendship with Wilson worth more than all his other relationships put together. So House shows up at the stupid appointment.
The psychiatrist is young, and self-important--two strikes against him. The third strike comes when he asks the first question. "Dr. Cuddy tells me that you've been sleeping excessively, even at work; shall we talk about the issue you're trying to avoid?"
Strike three, House thinks. You're out! He smiles at Dr. Arbeson, and it's a deceptively kind smile. "Sure," he says pleasantly. "What are the magic words that'll fix killing your best friend?"
House notes, with satisfaction, that the young man's eyes have just doubled in size. "You're... admitting to... committing a murder?" the psychiatrist asks hesitantly.
House leans back in the chair, closes his eyes. "Yup. Worst kind of crime, too. Kind I can't be punished for. Wilson's lost his medical license; he's in jail for two years, and he's lost me. I might not look like much of a prize to you, but that idiot's actually told me that the only two good things in his life are his job, and me--go figure, huh? So... I make sure he'll never work as a doctor again, and then I get him locked up for a couple of years. Not like I can stop by once in a while with a six-pack and a movie, is it? He's still breathing, but he's dead. Do you get that?"
"And you're... feeling a lot of guilt about this."
House lifts his head and regards the doctor with wry irony. "They pay you to figure that out? I'm in the wrong specialty!"
Dr. Arbeson has recovered his professional mask. “You need to come up with healthier coping mechanisms than avoidance; perhaps I can help you do that. Start by acknowledging your depression.”
“I’m not depressed, you moron,” House almost shouts. “I’m angry!”
Arbeson looks smug. “Depression,” he says sagely, “is simply anger without enthusiasm.”
House looks hard at Arbeson. “Here’s something they didn’t teach you at Harvard. Sometimes guilt is a valid feeling. Sometimes our choices have consequences. And sometimes people we care about have to live with those consequences, while we get off scot-free. Got a pill, or a bandage, or a nifty slogan for that?”
Arbeson simply stares back, and House sees, with cold amusement, that the psychiatrist is at a loss for words. House checks his watch.
“Seems I’ve used up nineteen minutes; gives you thirty-one minutes to dig out your DSM-IV. Maybe you can find the diagnostic criteria for ‘crappy friend.’ If I were you, I’d start under H. Then,” he says as he stands and grabs the doorknob, “at least the insurance company’ll know how to reimburse for this illuminating—” he checks his watch again, “—nineteen minutes and thirty-two seconds. And make sure you tell Cuddy I was here.”
House is halfway out the door. He turns around and says one more thing. “Sometimes, guilt is just… guilt. No fancy names, no simple cures. And we live with it.” And then he’s gone.
FIFTY-MINUTE HOUR: Wilson
Wilson enters Dr. Ambegley's office and smiles shyly. It's evident that he's uncomfortable, ill at ease, and the psychiatrist makes an effort to greet him warmly.
"So nice to meet you, Dr. Wilson," he says, extending his hand.
Sadness radiates from Wilson's eyes. "It's just Mister now," he says. "Or... James."
They seat themselves, and the psychiatrist says, "That's as good a place to start as any. Would you like to discuss how you feel about the loss of your medical license?"
Wilson rubs his hand across his face; it's difficult to tell if his unutterable fatigue is physical or emotional. "I'm sorry," he begins, "that it hurts House so much. He'd never admit that he feels guilty about my license. But I know him, and he does. I'm afraid it's gonna affect him. When he can't avoid dealing with emotional issues, his physical pain increases. I'm worried about that."
"But there's nothing you can do, so that concern isn't productive for you."
"But you don't understand House. He's... different. And now that I'm not around, he'll shut down. Every aspect of his life will suffer. His diagnostic skills, his interactions with others. And his health. That's my primary concern right now, his health--mental and physical."
"I have to point out, again, that you're powerless to intervene there." Dr. Ambegley watches as his statement causes real pain to settle across Wilson's features.
"If I could just... talk to him. Let him know that nothing's changed, that I still worry, I still care...."
The psychiatrist feels uncomfortable now--but he has to ask. "I'm inferring from the... degree of your concern... that you and your friend House might, well, have a… relationship?"
Wilson smiles with open amusement. "If you consider that someone you met, decades into your life, is your brother, always was your brother--even before you knew of each other's existence--then yeah; we have a relationship."
Now it's Ambegley's turn to smile. "And I take it you're the big brother?"
Wilson actually laughs. "Well... not chronologically. But in every other way, yeah." Wilson continues to talk animatedly about House, shares his concerns with Ambegley, and a few times, loses himself in the recollection of happy memories.
Dr. Ambegley watches the expressions, the memories, playing across Wilson's face. Finally, he interrupts gently. "James, our time is almost up. Do you realize you've spent over forty minutes telling me about your friend, and your friend's problems? We haven't talked about you at all."
Wilson looks steadily at the doctor and says simply, quietly, "You don't understand; we've talked about everything I needed to talk about. House isn't... doing well. His problems are my problems. Fix things with House. Can you do that? Then I won't need help either."
“I’d like to see you again, next Thursday,” Ambegley says. “Are you willing?”
Wilson smiles gently, almost condescendingly, at the kind doctor who wishes he could help. “I feel guilty, taking up your time when there are so many others who could benefit. But… sure.”
The psychiatrist shakes his head and sighs as he scribbles out Wilson's scrips for anti-depressants and sleeping pills. Ambegley's an intelligent man; he knows he's just come up against a rare situation. No sage words, no amount of medication, will benefit this man in front of him. Even if Ambegley could wave a magic wand, produce the lost license, he knows that its value to Wilson would be negligible compared with his other loss. Only one thing will help him—and it’s the one thing Ambegley cannot do for this intriguing prisoner. He needs what no one can supply; James Wilson needs to be reunited with his brother.
And onward to: Random Hour