Despite the increased pain in his right thigh, House has to admit that he's enjoying the ride back to Princeton. The weather is good, the traffic is light, the bike is running well.
And none of those things even remotely explain the smile on your face, you moron, House says to himself. Can't even be honest enough to tell yourself the truth; that's just... pathetic. Admit it; you're happy. You're actually... happy. May not last long, but it's here now. Enjoy it.
House thinks about the long week he's just been through, and about everything that's still coming up, some of which will be difficult, even painful. But for right now, what matters—all that matters to House—is that there's an end in sight, a conclusion to Wilson's nightmare.
Gotta tell Cuddy, give her time to find somewhere else to put the guy who's in Wilson's office. What's his name? Oh well, doesn't matter now. Only been there four months anyway; that’s not long enough to learn his name.
House wonders what Wilson’s thinking about right now, wonders how long it’ll be before he’s ready to come back to work. Me, I’d wanna come back right away. But Wilson… he might want to take some time, ease into it. Cuddy’ll just have to understand; Wilson’s always been the cautious type. Shouldn’t be a problem, though; Cuddy’s told me often enough that I could learn a thing or two from ‘the careful approach’.
House laughs aloud; Cuddy can think what she wants, but it sure isn’t the careful approach that’s getting Wilson out of jail. Sometimes, doing the right thing means taking risks—no one knows that better than House. And when it pays off, it pays off big.
As House pulls up to his building and gets off the bike, he can’t deny the physical pain any longer. The few steps to his door are agony, and by the time he collapses on the couch, each breath is a labored gasp. But he’s still smiling. He allows two bitter Vicodin tablets to melt on his tongue; relief will come faster that way.
He leans his head against the back of the couch, rubs at his leg, and he remembers.
House had been eleven years old that summer, a skinny misfit, a loner. His dad had been determined that they’d run together in the annual Father-Son Marathon. To that end, his father had shouted him awake each morning at , and they’d run. When House would be ready to collapse with pain and fatigue, when each breath was fire in his throat, his dad would laugh at him, egg him on, shouting, “No pain, no gain, you wimp!” And House would force himself to go on, tears making hot, steady tracks down his thin face.
Until one day he’d collapsed. He’d spent the next three weeks in bed, muscles bunched in a hard, tight knot in his thigh. In all that time, his dad had entered his bedroom only three times. The first time, he’d told him to “suck it up and get back out there.”
The second time, the young House, hope in his eyes, had said to the man looking disdainfully down on him, “Hurts so bad I must’ve made a lotta gains, huh, dad?”
“Baby!” his father had growled, and had slammed the door on his way out. The last time, the day of the race, he’d looked at the boy writhing in pain—no doctor was ever called—and whispered, “I raised a sissy.” During these bedside visits, there was no mistaking the look of disgust on his father’s face. And all three times, on his way out, he’d turn in the doorway and hiss, “No pain, no gain.”
All these years, House has felt the expression was macho garbage. He didn’t know what lesson his dad had intended to impart, but what he’d taught his son was that pain was to be hated, because it diminished him, made him less of a man. And—over three decades later—House was still living his life with that belief. After all, the only gifts pain’s ever given him are a dark way to view the world, and a dependence on narcotics—not exactly advantages.
But this pain—this is different. This pain is his friend; it’s tangible proof that he did something good today, something right. Wilson’s gonna get his life back. And House? A couple days of hurting like hell is a negligible price to pay for regaining his friend. “You were right, dad,” he whispers aloud into the dark room as he massages the thigh.
“Whaddaya know, you old bastard; you finally called one. But this time, I had a different teacher. Didn’t force the words down my throat. Didn’t call me names even though he had every right to. What he did was showed me how to handle it. Never said a word; just gave a damned good demonstration.”
House thinks of Wilson’s quiet grace, his acceptance, all these months, in the face of a pain House’s father couldn’t begin to imagine. He’d shown House that pain didn’t have to diminish him. In fact, House thinks, it’s the opposite. Embrace the growth that pain can bring, accept it for what it can accomplish, and the man doesn’t diminish—but the pain does.