They’ve been in the car for ten full minutes before either of them speaks. “Thanks for picking me up,” Wilson says.
House still doesn’t speak—just nods his head.
“And… thanks for everything you did, to get me out of there so fast, and clearing my name, getting my license back, and—”
“You don’t have it back yet,” House points out, abruptly. He sounds almost angry.
“No, but I will.”
“And all of it would’ve happened eventually if I'd done nothing at all,” House says, in a monotone. “All these touching expressions of gratitude are, therefore, unnecessary.”
Wilson stares at House, whose eyes are glued to the road in front of him. Yeah, there’s no question—House is angry.
“House,” Wilson begins tentatively. “What you did, it was—” Wilson stops speaking and looks around in confusion as House suddenly swerves the car to the right, and pulls it off the road.
House slams the gearshift into Park and turns to face Wilson. “Shut up. Just shut up, okay? I didn’t do anything great. I didn’t do anything I shouldn’t have done months ago. You don’t owe me anything. I don’t want your gratitude. You think maybe we could just get past this thing without the touching scenes?”
House is glaring at Wilson now—but Wilson sees, hidden behind the supposed annoyance, the plea in House’s eyes.
So that’s it. House is still hurting; he still feels guilty. And I’m adding to it by making him think about everything that’s happened. Wilson looks away, stares out the passenger window.
Too bad. Too damned bad. Time for both of us to own up to everything that went wrong—and everything that went right. He turns back towards House.
“No. No, I don’t think we can get past this—not without talking about it.”
House shakes his head, takes a deep breath, and carefully maneuvers the car back onto the road. Wilson fears they’re going to spend the rest of the drive in silence; he jumps when House suddenly begins shouting.
“Okay, fine! You wanna talk? Let’s talk. I blew it! I blew it with Tritter. I blew it with Cuddy. I blew it with rehab. Okay? And I blew it with you. Then—just in case you missed it the first time—you went to prison, and I messed up again. I’m a screw-up, okay? Happy now?”
House is breathing rapidly. He has the steering wheel in a death grip; his knuckles are white. Wilson waits a minute, and when he speaks, he keeps his voice deliberately low and calm; his tone is gentle.
“I blew it too, House. Long before Tritter was even in the picture. My best friend came to me for help. He was honest with me, and he was scared. And I laughed at him. Someday, I might be able to forgive myself for that. But I’ll never forgive myself for allowing things to get so out of hand for him that he was willing to risk everything.”
House shoots Wilson a quick glance, and sees the sincerity on his face, the regret in his eyes. House takes a deep breath, and allows himself to relax, just a little.
Wilson continues even more quietly, “I meant everything I wrote to Cuddy. Everything.”
House nods slowly, and they continue on, in silence again. But now the silence is comfortable, and comforting, for both men.
When they arrive in Princeton, Wilson is baffled. “You turned the wrong way, House. The hotel is north of here.”
“No, I didn’t. My sense of direction is flawless.”
Wilson frowns. “North is left; you turned right.”
“Yeah, because that’s the way south is,” House says. He looks pleased with himself.
“And… you’re going south, because?”
“Because I’m pretty sure that’s where my apartment is. Could be wrong, though. Only lived there fifteen years, after all.”
“House! If I don’t get to the hotel by three, I’ll forfeit my reservation.”
“You don’t have a reservation,” House says smugly. “Cancelled it.”
Wilson stares at him. “And you did that, because?”
“Because any idiot knows that hotels are hotbeds of infection. You see that study that shows two-thirds of the remote controls in hotel rooms had fecal bacteria on ‘em? And the bedspreads?” House gives a comically exaggerated shudder. “You’ve got an infection; suppose you spike a fever. You’re not thinking straight, and you actually use the remote to change a channel. Then,” House continues, deepening his voice dramatically, “weak with fever, you collapse onto the bedspread, and all those nasty, hungry little bacteria crawl into that draining wound. Death! You really want to risk it? You’re a doctor; surprised you didn’t think of that!”
I’m a doctor. And I’ve got my best friend back. Wilson shakes his head thoughtfully. “Don’t know what I was thinking. Going to a hotel would just be… stupid.”
As House pulls up to his apartment, they’re both smiling. They’re home.