KidsNurse (kidsnurse) wrote,

The Devil, You Say (Book One of the Devil Trilogy)

TITLE:  The Devil, You Say
CHARACTERS:  House, Wilson, Cuddy
SUMMARY:  A study of the psychology behind the HouseWilsonCuddy bond.  Introspection, angst, hurtcomfort.  Wilson and Cuddy realize that there's a difference between dependence and addiction when House's worsening chronic pain causes a collapse in front of his team.

Previous Chapters: 
And today's chapters:


Wilson fumbles to open the door, realizes it’s locked, and turns helplessly to Cuddy. Her hands are shaking, but she manages, finally, to get the key in the lock and push open the door.

House is on the floor, eyes wild, groaning; his white hands have a vice grip around his thigh. They rush to his side; there’s no recognition of either of them in his eyes. Wilson, trying to straighten out the tangle of his body so they can assess him, sees the note in his hand and pries it loose. He scans it quickly-- I did something you’d call stupid--, wordlessly hands it to Cuddy as he kneels and takes House’s face in his hands, trying to force him to make eye contact. “House! What did you take? Look at me, Greg. What did you take?

His voice is so forceful, his use of House's first name so rare, that House’s attention is caught, even through the pain. Wilson looks scared, he thinks. What the hell is up with that? “Nothing,” he says. Wilson gives him a rough shake. “Really… nothing,” he gasps out the denial as forcefully as he can manage. He tries to get a hand down to massage his thigh, but Wilson, eyes full of panic, is preventing him from moving.

“House! This is not a joke! Tell me what you took; I’m trying to help—”

“Nothing,” Cuddy interrupts him, overwhelming relief evident in her voice. “I’ve just finished checking; it’s all here. Not even a Vicodin missing.” She tries to laugh, but the fear is still too fresh, and finally she sighs and sinks down into a chair.

“Are you certain? He couldn’t have gotten something else?” Wilson wants to believe her. Although House is clearly in unspeakable pain, he doesn’t appear overdosed, or even high; but if he’d taken something in the five minutes that Cuddy was gone, it might not be evident yet, and they could still help him.

“James, I’m certain,” she says, trying to calm Wilson. “I was gone less than five minutes, he can’t exactly run the 100 yard dash even on his good days, and the door was still locked when I returned, remember? All the meds are intact. He must have just had time to write the note, and then he fell, or passed out….” Her voice trails off; there was still the matter of the note.

“People….” House moans. “I could use a little help here.” He tries a crooked grin, settles for not screaming aloud. Then he’s lost to the pain again, quits even trying to focus on what’s going on around him.

“Let’s get some morphine and Compazine into him before we try to move him,” Wilson says to Cuddy. Although he’s finally let loose his grip on House’s head, he hasn’t removed his hand from House’s shoulder, nor his eyes from House’s face.

Cuddy rises to prepare the meds. “I’ll call for a transport team too,” she says, avoiding looking at Wilson. “I’m admitting him. He’s suicidal, and it’d be irresponsible and just plain dangerous not to put him under supervised care.”

She waits for Wilson to object, is relieved when he simply stands and gathers the IV fluids and the BP cuff. He reconnects the line and gets a set of vitals, then watches carefully while she injects the meds into the port. He leans down, says something quietly to House, to which House, eyes puzzled, responds with a vehement shake of his head, no. He gently replaces the O2 cannula in House’s nose, and then turns to Cuddy. “I think we can get him back to bed now,” he says.

Cuddy’s eyes widen; had Wilson even heard her? “I think it would be wiser to let the transport team move him, James,” she says kindly. “That way we’ll only be putting him through the discomfort once.”

Wilson finally leaves House’s side. He walks across the room, motioning for Cuddy to join him. “Lisa,” he says, voice low, “I asked him if he wanted to kill himself. He said no, and seemed genuinely puzzled by the question. I believe him. Please. Let’s get him settled, comfortable, let him rest a bit. Then we’ll talk to him. If you think he’s in any danger at all, you won’t get an argument from me. I’ll make the call myself, as a matter of fact. But I think there’s something else going on with that note, and I want to give him a chance to explain.”

He sees the doubt, the hesitation on Cuddy’s face. “Listen, I know there are several very good medical reasons to admit him. But I can think of a hundred psychological reasons why that would be the worst thing for him. And if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know that’s true.” Cuddy is still glaring at him. “This is House, Cuddy! Do you really think I’d do anything that might endanger his health?”

Cuddy finally lets her face relax, unclenches her hands, takes a breath. “All right, then,” she says briskly. “Let’s wait another ten minutes for the meds to kick in, then we’ll get this man back to bed.”

Wilson thanks her silently, and she squeezes his arm, tries to give him an encouraging smile. Then they return to their patient.


CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Questions and Answers

Cuddy and Wilson watch House—and he watches them. He’s trying to fight off the effects of the meds Cuddy’s just administered; he wants to know what’s just happened, why they’re so upset. But every time he manages to formulate a coherent question, one or the other of them shushes him, saying they’ll talk later, when he’s comfortable again. He wants to talk now, and Wilson is unhappily aware that he’s becoming even more agitated.

“House, don’t fight it so hard. Just go with it.” House glares at him, but Wilson notes that his eyelids are at half-mast. “It’s okay, pal. We’re right here, and we’ll still be here when you wake up. Just take a little rest, let the morphine do its job; we won’t leave, we can talk later, everything’s fine….” He lets his voice drone on and on, murmuring assurances, insisting on rest, until finally House acquiesces and allows his eyes to close, pulls in a deep breath, and surrenders to sleep.

Wilson rolls the reclining chair over to where House had fallen, and he and Cuddy are able to return him to it easily, without causing him any apparent discomfort. Cuddy spends a few minutes getting a set of vitals, jotting them down, straightening the office. She doesn’t look at Wilson, doesn’t say anything as she works. She looks miserable.

“Cuddy, talk to me,” Wilson finally says. “Something more than that note is bothering you. I don't think that you still believe it was meant as a suicide note, but you’re still upset.”

Cuddy meets his kind, inquisitive eyes with her own guilt-filled ones. “I never should have left him. It was a stupid thing to do.” She holds up a hand when she sees that Wilson is about to interrupt her, and continues, “Yeah, I know it was only five minutes. I know there was no choice. I even know that junkies go through this every day, alone, without physicians to monitor them. But I also know that they die alone every day, too.”

Wilson doesn’t try to argue with her; he’s already had the same thought, and he’s come to terms with it, understands what could have happened, has taken comfort in the fact that it hadn’t been any worse than it was. He knows that Cuddy will have to work through that process herself. And he knows she will, so he leaves it alone.

“I stopped by to see Foreman on my way to House’s place,” he tells her. “I wanted to settle something with him. He said a pretty cruel thing when House collapsed yesterday, and House heard him. He pretty much called House soulless. I needed to know why. I went there prepared to do battle with an arrogant sonofabitch, and I left thinking how unbelievably lucky we are to have him on our team.” He laughs at Cuddy’s confused expression, and settles in to tell her all about the insightful conversation the two men had shared.

When he’s finished talking, she looks as awed as he’d been. “He was up at 3:00 in the morning, trying to help House?” she says; her own view of the young neurologist is undergoing the same transformation that Wilson’s had. “It makes sense now,” she continues. “He doesn’t loathe House, he loathes his condition. That’s pretty amazing. No wonder he was so quick to believe my story; it just motivates him to search harder.” Then she laughs. “Can you imagine House’s face if he knew that Foreman’s pulling such a big one over on him?” Wilson laughs too, and a bit of sadness lifts from them both.


It’s been over an hour, and House has stabilized. It’s time to talk. They hate to wake him, but they have to know, and they’re aware that he’s anxious to explain it. Cuddy puts a hand on his shoulder, gently says, “Wake up, House. We’re ready to listen.” She rubs his shoulder until he responds.

House rouses reluctantly, but appears aware and rational. “How’s the pain?” Wilson asks.

House considers. “Tolerable. What the hell happened?”

Cuddy explains the phone call, her brief absence, meeting up with Wilson on her return, and how they’d found him clutching the paper. How they’d been certain it was a suicide note. House is listening keenly, focused on every word. When Wilson hands him the small piece of paper, he studies it for a full minute before he looks up at them.

“I heard the phone call. I heard you leave. Then I had a visitor—”

“You couldn’t have, I locked—” Cuddy starts to interrupt, but Wilson puts a hand on her arm and shakes his head almost imperceptibly.

House continues, “I made a deal with him. My soul, in exchange for 24 hours without pain. He left. There wasn’t any pain. I got up and wrote the note.” He looks at Wilson. “I just figured you’d think it was a stupid deal.” He looks down, silent a moment. “I didn’t mean to scare anybody. Sorry,” he mumbles. Then he looks up and begins to speak again, his voice intense. “I walked the halls for a while; they were empty, I didn’t see anyone. Then I went out onto the grounds and watched the sun come up.”

He sees the look that Wilson and Cuddy exchange, turns his head to look out the window and sees that the sun is just rising now. He nods to himself, as if that confirms something. “Then, I wanted to go home, so I came back here to try to find my keys. But my leg started to hurt again. Then it spasmed. My guest returned, said that our contract had been breached because someone had prayed for my soul.” Neither House nor Cuddy see Wilson’s eyes widen. “I cried out, I guess, and then you were here.” He stops talking, and they can see that he’s in diagnostic mode.

After a moment he says, almost as if he’s lecturing a class, “The phone call was real. Cuddy’s leaving was real. And the note is real. Nothing else actually happened. The morphine caused a waking hallucination. Wasn’t just a dream; there’d be no note. I incorporated reality—Cuddy’s call and departure—into the hallucination. I must have been subconsciously thinking about what Foreman said when I went down yesterday, and I turned it into my reality. There is no logical time continuum during hallucination; an hour can take a minute, a minute can last a day….”

Cuddy and Wilson both flash back to the extraordinary lecture he’d given to a class of interns a year ago; he’d used his own infarction as a teaching case. He’s doing it now, too; same clinically detached tone, same coolly analytical demeanor—he could have substituted “the patient” for the word “I” and they’d have thought he was discussing an interesting case. Last year, however, the raw hurt that had been in his eyes had been evident to those closest to him—Wilson, Cuddy, his team. The same look they see now, and they know how much this formal objectivity is costing him.

He sighs, and his eyes go distant for a moment, and they think that the meds and the weariness are pulling him back under. Then he focuses again. “It was good,” is all he says.

All the thinking, talking, analyzing, has worn House down, and he leans his head against the pillow and closes his eyes. It appears he’s going back to sleep, and Cuddy stands to get the BP cuff. His eyes open immediately. “I’m not finished. There’s one more thing.”

He looks at them both, a firm, resolute gaze, and says, "I did not plan to kill myself. But just so we're all straight here, if I ever do decide to go that route, I won't mess it up." He turns his head to Wilson, locks eyes with him; "And I will arrange it so that you are not the one to find me. I may be soulless, but even my cruelty has boundaries.”

Both his friends look as if he’s just punched them in the gut. He smiles almost gently, trying to take some of the sting out of his words. It doesn’t work, and he’s sorry, but he wants them to know that he is the only one responsible for his own life. Or death.

“And before anyone starts making any plans for a cozy cocoon in the psych ward, I do not currently have suicidal ideations. I do not have a plan. I do not pose a danger to myself or others," he rattles off the answers to the pertinent questions on the standard psych intake form. "Satisfied?"

Wilson and Cuddy look sadly at each other, both realizing that he means every word, that he's thought about this in his patented, reasoned way, that he's quite sane. And they know that if this man decides that death is what he wants, or needs, no one will be able to stop him. The only comfort that either can take is that, clearly, he's also decided that now is not the time.

“I need to sleep now,” he says. He closes his eyes and allows himself to float away.

Wilson turns to Cuddy. There are tears in both their eyes, and each pretends not to see the other’s fear. Then Wilson reaches out, and they hug for a moment. As they turn together to regard their battle-worn friend, Wilson puts a hand on her arm. “We need to talk,” he says.


A/N: All medical procedures discussed in this chapter are fact-based.


Wilson and Cuddy walk to House’s desk and take seats. Wilson looks more intense, more focused than Cuddy’s ever seen him, and even before he begins to speak she senses that he’s staked a lot on this conversation.

“I need for you to hear me out before you say anything, Lisa. Are you willing to do that? Because if you can’t hear everything I have to say before making a decision, I’m not going to waste my time or yours. More importantly, I won’t waste his time.”

Cuddy sighs. “You two are aging me more than you know. From him, I expect it. Sometimes, I even enjoy it. It… amuses me. But from you? Why does the world suddenly seem off-kilter?” Wilson just looks at her, waiting. He’s serious, and won’t engage in banter. “Okay, hit me,” she says. She rests her forehead in her hand and closes her eyes: It’s only 8:00 in the morning; can this day get any longer?

“What would you say if I told you I can get him back to where he was a year ago?” Wilson asks.

“You know I’d say go for it. But you can’t do that… can you?”

“It’s pretty well acknowledged that chronic pain alters the neurons in the brain. The brain adapts to these alterations by memorizing the pain cycle, and firing off all the right amounts of agony when certain nerves are stimulated. It’s like a computer program—push A, and B always happens. But when you start throwing breakthrough pain into the equation, the brain doesn’t like the disruption. So it begins to assimilate the breakthroughs into the cycle. After while, you push A, and B and C start happening.”

Cuddy is fascinated. “And that’s what’s been going on with House?”

Wilson nods. “It’s been going on for several months now. It’s getting worse; we’ve all seen it. The only way to stop it is to break the cycle, keep it broken long enough for his brain to ‘forget’ the pattern, at which point it’ll just go back to having A trigger B. We do that for House, and his daily pain levels roll back to what they were about a year ago.”

Wilson sees that he still has her full attention, and she doesn’t look doubtful, so he continues. “It should take 24 hours. We put him on a continuous morphine drip, and keep him close to ‘3’ on the sedation score chart—sedated and difficult to rouse.”

“A chemically-induced coma?” Now she’s looking doubtful, and Wilson knows that she’s remembering the events of almost seven years ago.

“No, that would be level ‘4’. I said he’ll be difficult to rouse, not impossible. And, after the first sixteen hours, I’ll start moving him to level ‘2’—still sedated, but easy to rouse. I’ll keep him there the rest of the time. Then, once he’s awake, we immediately start him on a therapeutic dose of Vicodin, and, after a few hours, well, he’s good to go.”

“So what’s the catch? It sounds good. We’ll put him in the unit right now and get started.”

That’s the catch—no unit.” As Cuddy’s eyes widen and she opens her mouth to speak, he reminds her tersely, “You agreed to hear me out. I’m not finished. The procedure isn’t medically complicated; it simply requires intensive monitoring.”

“Hence the term Intensive Care Unit,” Cuddy interrupts impatiently.

“Not necessary. And not a good idea. The whole hospital’d know inside of an hour—including his team. And all the psychological contraindications still stand. Cuddy, this is what I do, and I’m good at it. When we did the study in January with twenty bone cancer patients, there wasn’t a single untoward incident. And while right now it could be argued that House is medically fragile, not one of the study patients was as generally healthy as he is.”

If I agree to this—and that’s a very big if—what would you need?”

“Not much. A cardiac monitor with a pulse oximeter would be the biggest thing. I’ve got a friend at the Hospice pharmacy—we can get the scrip for the morphine through him, he doesn’t know House. He’ll recognize the name, and I might have to answer a question or two later, but he won’t breach patient confidentiality. A few other supplies and some more O2, fluids, and Compazine should cover it.” Wilson sees that she’s still on board. “There’s just one more problem,” he says.

Cuddy closes her eyes and massages her temples. “And I’m sure you’re going to share it with me.”

“This is one you can’t share—I wish you could. I can’t do this without House’s informed consent. He doesn’t trust anyone, and why should he? And I’m going to be asking him to trust me with his life. He’ll be totally reliant on me for 24 hours, completely vulnerable--without control. And that’s not an easy thing to ask of anyone. But House—well, he’s not exactly your average, uninformed patient, blindly placing his trust in the all-knowing physician.”

“You’ve got a remarkable gift for understatement,” Cuddy observes dryly.

“So if you’re agreeing to this, I’ll need to wake him and talk with him—alone.”

Cuddy throws both hands in the air; "Sure, why not? I was getting tired of this job anyway. And who knows? Maybe opening a private ICU in an office wing will someday generate revenue. Silly me, I don't know why I didn't think of it before… no, scratch that, I do know why--this is insane!"

Wilson's grin reaches his eyes; "This is House. It fits."

Cuddy chokes back a laugh. "All right. You've got your 24 hours. But I'm warning you--one blip and he's in the unit."

Wilson looks at her, all traces of humor gone. "No. You know there'll be blips. You've gotta trust me. He's gotta trust me."

Cuddy sighs, nods. "I'll set it up. I don't know how, but I'm certain I'll think of something. God knows, these last seventeen hours have taught me how to break the rules with the best of 'em. 'Course, the best of 'em is House, and even he's never suggested creating a hospital inside a perfectly good... hospital."

She fixes Wilson with an exasperated eye. "You may have just outclassed your partner in crime with this one, Dr. Wilson." Cuddy rolls her eyes. "Safety? Honesty? Merely abstract, overrated concepts in my book." She walks out, muttering about unnecessary risks and liabilities, and Wilson knows she’ll take care of everything. Everything except convincing House.


A/N: There’s a line in this scene that those of you who’ve read the recaps of the Actor’s Studio HL interview will recognize immediately. I had to borrow it; it just so belongs here.  (This chapter originally publised 11 June, 2006)

With thanks (and birthday wishes) to HL, although Wilson is the one who says it here.


Wilson waits an hour; he’s spoken with Cuddy, and she’s got everything arranged. They should be able to begin no later than noon. This way, if all goes according to plan, he’ll get House out of here late tomorrow afternoon. A full day at home Monday, and he’ll be able to return to work Tuesday. Sounds real good—now all I’ve gotta do is get House to agree to be utterly vulnerable, powerless, and unaware. ‘Oh yeah, and House, one more thing; this would really be easier if you’d just put those little trust issues aside too.’ He shakes his head. Yeah, Wilson, and tomorrow, he'll be begging for clinic duty, too; this is so not gonna fly.

Finally, he decides to just wing it, speak to House’s knowledge of medicine and his uncanny grasp of scientific logic. That’d sell him on the procedural part. For the emotional aspects, Wilson has an angle—the truth, plain and unembellished. And painful and risky. But finally, comforting. Wilson believes, strongly, that there is comfort to be found in even the hardest truths. Everybody lies. “Not this time, House. I’m gonna have to count on your keen diagnostic skills to see the truth this time around.”

He walks over to House, who’s made good use of the hour; he’s been sleeping undisturbed, actually appears peaceful to the untrained eye. Wilson almost wishes he weren’t so well trained and could pretend not to see the quivering, involuntary tremors in the right thigh; it looks as if there’s a fan blowing lightly over him, gently ruffling the sheet over his leg.

As Wilson reaches out to wake House and begin what he hopes is the most persuasive argument of his life, he hears Cuddy’s key in the door. She wheels in a small supply cart, overflowing with all the items Wilson’s requested. She removes its drape so Wilson can check it. “Hospice is sending the morphine over now,” she says. “I told them to deliver it to your office. I’ll bring it in when it arrives. I ordered some Narcan too, in case you need to bring him out of it.” She looks at House, then back at Wilson. “You haven’t spoken with him, I take it?”

“Not yet. How’d ya know?”

“I haven’t received any complaints of excessive noise from two floors down yet. Dead giveaway.” She wheels the cart over to the side of the room, out of House’s line of vision, and says, “I pity the acting administrator when inventory week arrives and all this stuff’s gone missing.” When Wilson shoots her an alarmed look, she says, “I’m gonna make sure I plan my vacation for around that time.” She cocks her head at him. “Maybe I’ll appoint you to do it…poetic justice….” She laughs when Wilson sticks his tongue out at her.

She looks again at House, then back to Wilson. “You can do this. Get it over with; it might not be as bad as you think.” They share an amused look at the patent absurdity of that statement, and she says, “Look, you convinced me. Yesterday, I would never have believed that you could pull a ‘House’ better than House himself and today I’m along for the ride. Miracles happen. Make another miracle.” She gives his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Call me when the fireworks are over,” she teases as she leaves.

Wilson takes a deep breath, then another. He sends up a quick prayer. And then, “House, can you wake up a minute? House?”


Wilson has presented all the medical aspects of his plan. He’s done it clinically, factually.

House has listened patiently, not interrupting at all. That’s a good sign…isn’t it? thinks Wilson. And then House looks at Wilson and his eyes are blank, unreadable for once.

“No,” House says flatly. “Thanks for the lesson. But no. Not a snowball’s chance in hell, in fact. Pardon the reference.”

Okay, time to bring out the big guns. “House, listen. Obviously, I think this is the best thing for you, in my professional opinion. But beyond that, well, it’s like this. You’ve been telling me for a long time that things were going downhill. And I blew you off because I couldn’t deal with it.” He sighs. “Selfish, I know. So you were forced to deal with it alone. You don’t have to deal with it alone anymore. I’m listening to you now; so’s Cuddy.”

House gazes at some faraway spot on the wall. “But I’m not talking anymore. Failed ‘shares warm fuzzy feelings’ in kindergarten, ya know.”

Here we go. “House, I have no right to ask this. My guilt isn’t your problem. But I’m having a hard time living with myself right now. The only thing that’s gonna change that is maybe being able to help you. I….I guess what I’m trying to say is, I need to do this for you. I need you to trust me again.” He smiles ruefully. “Pitiful, yeah. But there it is.”

House’s eyes are still blank, still pinned to that spot on the wall. “While all this is very interesting—touching, even—I’m not your confessor. Go find a priest, a rabbi…just leave me out of it.” When he stops talking, his words hang cruelly in the air for several moments.

Wilson’s hurt has grown so large it’s a presence in the room with them. He hates himself for that. He’s not gonna do it. I’ve failed; I’ve failed him. Again. When he speaks, his voice is resigned, and he’s speaking more to himself now than to House. “I didn’t deserve to even ask…I’d hoped…believed…you don’t deserve to suffer, House. I turned a blind eye to your suffering…no compassion there, huh? sorry…guess I need to rethink the whole empathy thing…guess I lost it somewhere between too many patients and not wanting to believe how much you were hurting…but you were the one who paid…probably my patients did too….”


“Huh?” Wilson is startled from his sad reverie. House is looking at him now.

“Okay,” House repeats. “I’ll do it. But it’s not for you. On the off chance that I do have a soul in here somewhere, I don’t wanna be responsible for all those cancer kiddies losing Dr. Compassion, not on my account. So I’ll do it. Don’t make me repeat it again; I might change my answer.”

Wilson knows he needs to cover his shock, even his happiness. Yeah, wrapping him in a big warm hug and thanking him profusely would just get me tossed over the balcony anyway. So he slips into the role of practical physician. “Good, then. We’ll get set up. When the morphine arrives, we’ll be able to get started.” He sees that House’s eyes have followed his to the supply cart. Damn, I meant to cover that stuff.

House’s baleful glare at the catheter kit is so comically pitiful that Wilson can’t help but laugh sympathetically. “Don’t worry about that. I’ll take care of it once you’re out. Not that torturing you doesn’t have its appeal, but even I think your body’s been doing a bang-up job of that already.”

House eyes him, the traces of months of utter frustration written on his face. “Nah, gee, ya think?” he asks sarcastically, but there’s a little humor in there too.

Wilson decides there’s no time like the present for having one more honest conversation. So yeah, I’m a masochist, let’s just get all this truth stuff over at once.

"House, I gotta tell you something. There was one more part of your hallucination that wasn't...hallucinatory. That part about someone praying? That would be…me. in the chapel on my way back in, and I...uh...had a little talk. With God. Okay, intellectually we know it's a coincidence that I should do what I did, when I did, but you gotta admit, the timing's kinda freaky, House."

"You talked to the big Dog about me? Jimmy, I'm touched! Way cool! What'd He have to say?"

Wilson cocks an amused eyebrow at him. "He said to tell you 'no hard feelings.' Said you'd understand."

House stares at him for a minute--and then he laughs. And he keeps laughing, seemingly unable to control his mirth. Finally, he tries to regain control. "I had this awesome deal, and I should've known--" he interrupts himself with more laughter. "Cameron, I could've believed. Even Father Chase. But you!" More wild laughter, and now it's verging on hysteria. Wilson leans over and raises the oxygen flow. "I had this sweet deal, and my best friend screws it up 'cuz he's worried about my soul..." he gasps.The laughter is starting to die down, finally.

Wilson waits patiently for House to catch his breath, but it takes a while, because he's still laughing at intervals. When Wilson is pretty certain he's finished, he looks curiously at House. "Would you have really done that? I mean, if it had all been for real? Would you have sold your soul? Is it that bad?"

House grows instantly quiet, contemplative. "Yeah, it's that bad. There are hours--days, even--when I'd do just about anything for relief.” He looks hard at Wilson, needs to make certain he really gets it now. “You know that." Wilson acknowledges the truth of the statement with a regretful nod. ", I wouldn't do that. I found something out, Jimmy. It's really weird, but...I found out it's better not to know. If you're reminded what 'normal' is, it hurts bad when they take it away again. You can't really miss what you don't remember.”

The two friends sit in silence for a moment, both lost in their own thoughts. Then House reaches out, grasps Wilson's wrist. "I'm trusting you," he says, and there is something like wonder in his voice. He'd never expected--he'd never wanted--to trust again.

This is not the time for banter, and it's not the time to allow House to scurry back behind his walls. Wilson looks at him and this time, this one time, he allows all his love and loyalty for his very complex friend to shine in his eyes. He covers House's hand with his own and says simply, "I'll keep you safe."

Chapter Seventeen: Facing Fears

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