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.
02/10/06: PLEASE NOTE-- These are the final four chapters in this story. I'll start posting the second book, Battling the Demons, starting next week. Many thanks for all the support, kids!
Chapter One: Can't Sell What You Don't Have
Chapter Two: House Is Down
Chapter Three: House in Hell
Chapter Four: Cuddy Lies
Chapter Five: Wilson Cracks
Chapter Six: Distance
Chapter Seven: And Then There's the Truth
Chapter Eight: Please Push Back
Chapter Nine: Mood Music
Chapter Ten: It's A Deal
Chapter Eleven: No Pain
Chapter Twelve: A Talk, A Prayer, A Promise
Chapter Thirteen: What the Hell?
Chapter Fourteen: Questions and Answers
Chapter Fifteen: The Plan
Chapter Sixteen: Trust
Chapter Seventeen: Facing Fears
Chapter Eighteen: Going Under
Chapter Nineteen: House Sleeps
Chapter Twenty: Hours
Chapter Twenty-One: Blip
Chapter Twenty-Two: Safety Net
Chapter Twenty-Three: Family Matters
Chapter Twenty-Four: Blip, Redux
And the final four chapters:
CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE: Battle
“Don’t look like you’re in front of a firing squad without a blindfold, House. Just a few things to talk over, get straight. That’s all.” Wilson feels bad already—House looks so drawn, so vulnerable right now. He needs to be sleeping. But he has a right to know how this is gonna play out.
House looks almost amused. “You haven’t noticed, after all these years, that these little ‘talks’ rarely end well? I haven’t been a captive audience since the infarct, though—I like being able to make a dramatic exit. Not gonna be happenin’ today, I guess.” He sighs.
Wilson smiles. “Why do you think we’re doing this while you’re still hooked up? If I’d wanted to give a soliloquy, I’d find an empty room. Or knock you out again.”
“Yeah…that ‘knocking out’ part…might not spare me the soliloquy. Something real interesting about level 3; ya don't read about it much from the patient's point of view; it was kind of… interesting, getting to live it...I heard you earlier, you know. The 'brothers' thing. All that family crap."
"Uh-huh," Wilson says, tentatively. He thinks it’s crap?
"I just wanted to let you know, you're a little slow on the uptake, Jimmy. I figured all that out years ago. Second time I opened my door and there you were, looking all pathetic, needing to bunk on my couch again. Yup, knew it right then. Remember like it was yesterday. Always wanted a little bro, someone to keep in line. Glad you finally figured it out, though."
Wilson is more than touched by this, but their rules say he's not allowed to show it. So instead, he asks, "Remember anything else?"
"Bits and pieces." House thinks he knows what Wilson is asking. "I remember most of that cheap-budget horror flick this morning." His mouth twists as he thinks about it. "That one's destined to become a cult classic for sure... Couldn’t have been fun for you."
Wilson knows that this last line is House-speak for, "Are you okay with it?" so he answers in the same language. "Just real happy I was there; no one should have to watch that kind of movie alone."
"Yeah, and you did really good, Jimmy. Really good. Couldn't ask for better company. But remember the popcorn next time, 'k?"
"You've got it." They’re both silent a moment, each reliving their own memories of the nightmare.
House finally breaks the silence. “Still listening. Still waiting for you to spill.”
When Wilson raises his head, meets his eyes, House can read the determination there. I knew I wasn’t gonna like this.
“In a couple hours, I’ll disconnect you from all this junk. You’ll take your Vicodin, we’ll wait a while, I’ll take ya home. And things will change.”
“Change…how?” House asks, suspiciously.
“Hear me out, okay? I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I need to just say it—so please, save your comments, questions, and applause for the end, all right?” He smiles weakly. House doesn’t speak, just stares at him, waiting.
“First off—I’m moving back in for a couple of months. I’m not gonna ask you if that’s okay—it’s gonna have to be. But if you can see your way clear to putting up with it, with me, I’ll consider not bringing the blow dryer—no promises.” House doesn’t smile, just keeps that unnerving stare fixed on Wilson’s face.
“I’m gonna cook, and you’re gonna eat. You must’ve lost 25 pounds, maybe more, in the last few months. I cook. You eat. And clean up.” He looks at House, takes a deep breath; House hasn’t started bellowing yet, maybe they’d be okay.
“This next one’s a biggie, House. Really important. I made a big mistake for the last four, five months. I didn’t listen to you. Maybe we could’ve prevented a lot of this if I’d listened, maybe not, doesn’t matter now. So I’ll be listening—but you need to be talking. I know it’s hard. Not asking you to be Oprah, turn ‘sharing’ into an art form, or anything—but you’ve gotta talk to me, let me know what’s going on with you physically.”
House shifts uncomfortably in the bed, but remains silent.
“I don’t care how you let me know something’s wrong, something’s changing, just so you let me know. Just tell me, make a joke, hell—couch it as an insult, I don’t care. I’ll translate it into English, and I’ll get on it. I…decided I don’t want to kill the diabetic, okay?”
He sees House’s eyes widen at the reference, knows he’s got his attention. “I’m switching the Vicodin; staying with the hydrocodone, getting rid of the acetaminophen. We need to raise your therapeutic dose of the hydrocodone without destroying your liver. We’ll start you at 80mg a day. Same stuff you’re on now, higher dose, just with aspirin instead. We can go as high as 120mg a day, if we need to. But you’re gonna need to tell me as soon as the 80mg stops controlling the pain. And you’ll have the lab pull a liver profile every three months. The results will be sent to my office.”
He locks eyes with House. “If I’m going to be your physician, I’m going to be your physician. Not just a scribble on a prescription.”
House finally speaks. “I didn’t ask you to be my physician. You got a problem with my scrips, fine—I’ll get Chase to do it. Not a prob, wouldn’t wanna put you out.”
Wilson can tell he’s angry—and hurt. “House, you need a doctor. I didn’t ask for this, but now that I’ve…won the role by default, I guess, we’re gonna do it right.”
“You’re just not getting it, are ya, Jimmy? I’m not looking for a doctor; I can handle this myself, got the letters after my name, and everything. Thought you were my friend, though. Didn’t realize my scrips were such an ethical dilemma for you. Didn’t know it was such a hardship, being friends with me. Tell ya what, make it easy for you. I’m releasing you from all your heavy responsibilities. You’re not my doctor. Not my friend. I’ll find another doctor; never needed a friend in the first place. Now call Cuddy, and get out—you’re upsetting the patient, and you’re such a fine, compassionate physician I know you wouldn’t wanna do that.”
Wilson is up, pacing the room. He’s too angry to be hurt, too upset to weigh his words. "Do yourself a favor, House—when you find that other doctor. Get a stupid one this time, one who'll just let you talk circles around him with your brilliance, while he smiles and scribbles the magic letters on his prescription pad. And I'll start working on your eulogy."
Wilson can’t believe what he’s just heard himself say. He turns, stricken by his own vicious words, to see how much fresh damage he’s inflicted on his wounded friend. The apology is already in his eyes, and forming on his lips.
House is regarding him impassively—face blank, eyes hooded and unreadable.
“Oh, my God. House, I…I didn’t mean that. I’m sorry.” He returns to the chair by the bed, sinks into it, lowers his head into his hands. I blew it, he thinks, miserably. He’ll never forgive this….
And House, still unreadable, states flatly, “Call Cuddy. And then go to hell.”
CHAPTER THIRTY: Peace Talk
“What the hell am I doing here, House? And why are you alone; where’s Wilson?” Cuddy is confused, and angry, and it’s the third time she’s asked the questions—she’d been a lot more polite the first two times. When Wilson had called and asked her to come up, she’d been working on staffing to cover the time off they’d need for House to recover. Wilson had said no emergency, House just wanted to speak with her. So here she is, she’s been here a couple of minutes, Wilson’s gone, and House isn’t talking. He hasn’t even looked at her yet. So she sits. And waits.
As she’s about to ask House the same two questions for the fourth time, he finally makes eye contact with her, and speaks.
“Wilson’s off the case.” That’s all he says, but his eyes are telling her the rest of it; they’re aching with hurt, the kind that even morphine won’t ease.
So Cuddy waits some more. He’s not gonna talk until he’s ready. Maybe I should’ve insisted on staying when Wilson spoke with him; I knew it wasn’t gonna be pleasant, just figured they’d work it out somehow, they always do. Damn you, House, just talk to me, let someone help you, okay?
Finally, House speaks. His voice is weak; it’s clearly an effort. “I sent him away. He wanted to be my babysitter—no go. He thinks I can’t be trusted to handle my own life, my own—” He indicates the right leg with an angry sweep of his arm. “I don’t need that. I don’t need him.”
Only Cuddy would be able to hear the hurt, rejected little boy behind those words, and she does, and she responds the only way she knows how, by forgetting the brilliant doctor in front of her, forgetting even the vulnerable patient in front of her. She responds, by instinct, to the frightened child who’s lost his best friend.
“House, I know you’re hurting—"
He interrupts her angrily, “You don’t—"
“Shut up, House. You’ve gotten so good at denying your feelings that you won’t even take comfort when it’s offered. I’m speaking here; you’re listening. Got it?” She glares at him. “Answer me.”
He cocks his head at her. “You told me to shut up; I was just following orders.”
“Then you picked a fine time to break out of your usual pattern and start listening. I’ll try this a little slower, purely out of consideration for your drug-addled mind. I’m going to tell you some things you need to know, and you’re not going to just hear me, you’re going to listen to me. Got it?”
Despite himself, a small smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. “Yes ma’am, oh scary, dominant, boss-lady, sir.”
Cuddy bites back her own smile. “Good. Now that that’s settled, where was I? Oh, yeah, your feelings. Emotions aren’t a disease, House, you can’t cure them. You can pretend they don’t exist, if you want to, but guess what? Then they come back and bite you on the ass. They’re funny like that, forcing you to acknowledge ‘em when you least expect it. And the longer you exile them to some locked room in your brain, the stronger they are when they break out.”
Cuddy realizes it’s 12:30pm, and since she’s apparently inherited the patient, she says, “Just let that sink into your brain a minute while I play doctor here. Wilson’ll kill me if I neglect you, just a quick assessment, and then back to it.”
“Wilson doesn’t care; I was just his bald-headed cancer kid for the weekend. Probably couldn’t get a date or something.”
Cuddy almost drops the bag of saline she’s hanging to replace the one that’s just about run dry. She takes a deep breath, finishes up, then pins House with her fury.
“Why, you insufferable ass. How. Dare. You. How dare you? You know, House, you’ve always had 'blind insensitivity' down to an art, but you’ve outdone even yourself this time.”
She stands over him, hands on hips, eyes flashing—even House has never seen her this furious. “Hey, Cuddy, take it easy. I only meant that Wilson’s got a whole ‘need to be needed’ thing goin’ on; he picked me for his current project. I’m just not interested, that’s all; okay?”
“No, it is not okay.” She sees on the monitor that his respiratory rate’s climbing; he’s even paler than he was before. Back it down, Lisa; you can get your point across without worsening his condition. Remember that little boy? Lost his best—his only—friend.
She forces herself to sit down, breathe deeply. When she speaks again, her voice is calm, almost gentle. “I’m gonna tell you some things that you don’t know, but you should, and I’m also going to tell you some things that you could’ve figured out for yourself. Just close your eyes and listen. But don’t fall asleep on me, okay?”
She watches as he gratefully closes his eyes, watches as the numbers on the monitor fall back to within normal limits. “First of all, just so it’s out on the table, I care about you. Wilson cares about you. God only knows why we do, but it’s the truth, and you’ll just have to accept it, like it or not. And we worry. But I don’t have anything on Wilson; he couldn’t care about you more if you were family. You're vital to him, actually, the one constant he has in his life, an anchor for him—and that gives you a responsibility. You’ve made it clear that you’re not big on responsibility, but you can’t shirk this one. I won’t let you.”
She touches his arm lightly, and he turns toward her, opens his eyes. She smiles, says “Close ‘em; I’m not done. Now, that’s the part you could’ve figured out for yourself if you didn’t have a full-time job pushing people away, but hey, I’m happy to enlighten you. Not often I get to tell the great Dr. House my diagnosis.”
She sees him smile a bit at that. “Here’s the part that you couldn’t know. Wilson is not only the doctor we all wish we were, he’s the friend we all wish we could have. He hasn’t just taken care of you this weekend; he’s cared for you. In my entire career, I’ve never seen any patient have all of their needs met during hospitalization—but I’ve been privileged to watch that happen over the last 40 hours. And he not only worried about you—he paged me when I was on my way home last night to tell me to go by your place to look after your stupid rat. So I fed it, but I did draw the line at socializing with it. Sorry about that." And you don't need to know that I overcame a huge rat-based phobia to do it, either.
"What I’m trying to get you to see here is that he thought of everything. He talked to you as if you could hear him. He handled you as if you were a preemie. He insisted that you not miss one dose of eye drops, not one glycerin swab for your mouth. He advocated for you when I wanted to put you in the unit. He totally disregarded his own needs in favor of yours.”
She sees House frown at that, and she knows he’s listening. She rests her hand on his arm; he doesn’t pull away. “He wouldn’t rest until he made sure I knew everything about properly caring for you, right down to arranging that leg just the right way, not letting it get stiff, even how to set up the pillows. And after your dream this morning, he was ready to collapse; he could barely stand, his hands weren’t even steady anymore. And still he refused to leave your side. I had to threaten to sedate him, and I had to lie to him about the length of time he needed to rest.”
House opens his eyes at that. His voice is anxious, worried—and he doesn’t bother to try to hide it. “You threatened sedation? He was that bad? Did he get any rest? Is he okay?”
Cuddy looks at him, hard. Ah, I’ve gotten through! “Unlike another, less cooperative, physician on this staff, eventually he follows orders. I made sure he got a few hours. He’ll be fine. Now I’ve got a question for you. Did all that sound like a nice little Home Depot weekend project to you?”
“Go get him," he orders her. He realizes how it sounds, and amends it. "Please.”
“I don’t know where he is; you threw him out before I got here, remember?”
“If what you said is true—and I don’t doubt that it is,” House sighs, “you’ll find him just outside. On the balcony.”
Cuddy walks to the balcony doors and sees Wilson, just as House had said. It’s still raining, and he’s soaked, but there he is, as close to his ill friend as he can figure out how to be. She steps out, motions him over to House’s side of the balcony, puts an arm around him, and ushers him in.
CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE: Détente
As Cuddy and Wilson enter the room, House looks over at Wilson and says roughly, “You look like hell. Cuddy must have some scrubs in her magic Mary Poppins bag over there,” he indicates the supply cart with a tilt of his head. “Go dry off, get changed. Take your time—give us a minute.”
Wilson doesn’t respond, doesn’t even really look at House. He just takes the scrubs that Cuddy hands him and leaves the room without speaking.
“Cuddy, you’re my physician of record.”
“Yeah, for all the good it does either one of us. You haven’t seen me in that capacity in years. You don’t even come to me for your scrips, guess I’m harder to con than Wilson.”
“So…would it bother you if he handled the day to day stuff? I’d let you keep the title; I know I’m a catch.”
“Bother me? I’d be ecstatic! Maybe he’ll even be able to talk you into that employee physical you’re only five years behind on. But why not bestow the esteemed title on him? Trust me; I’d eventually recover from the crushing blow.”
“Can’t do that. Anything…big…ever happens, might need you to…make decisions. Don’t wanna put him in that position.”
“Gee, thanks, House, put me there instead.” But she understands, and nods her head. “Okay; consider it done.”
Wilson returns then. His hair is damp, and unruly for once, and the House-sized scrubs swallow his smaller frame. Cuddy even notes bare feet peeking out from beneath the puddles of cloth.
He looks so young, she thinks. Just hand him a teddy bear and he’s ready for bed…. This isn’t an office; it’s not even a makeshift hospital room. It’s a daycare center, and I’m the damned director! Oh, Lisa, suffer from 'babies on the brain' much? Shut up, clock.
House regards Wilson, who’s meeting his gaze straight-on. “Wilson, you’re a moron.”
“House!” Cuddy explodes. “I wasn’t expecting a chorus of Kumbaya, but you two could at least pretend to like each other.” Both of them are now studying opposite walls. “Or if that’s too much, pretend you know each other. House, this is Wilson. Wilson, House.” She heaves an exasperated sigh, tosses her hands in the air.
Wilson turns to House. “Why do women have to be such emotional people?”
“It’s a whole different language, Jimmy. Don’t try to figure it out; just when you think you get it, they lapse into this incomprehensible dialect—they call it ‘PMS’, I think.”
Cuddy glares at them. “And why do men have to be so stubborn, so…so… obtuse? You two are unbelievable!” Guess I get to be the fall-girl here. She smiles to herself—everything’s going according to plan.
“Now, where was I when I was so rudely interrupted?” House asks rhetorically. “Ah, I remember—my insightful character assessment.” He looks at Wilson and repeats, “You’re a moron.” Wilson notes that House’s voice is weakening; he moves to the bedside chair so House won’t have to try so hard.
“Why are you killing yourself for me? I’m not worth it.” House states this flatly, as fact. Wilson knows that he’s not fishing for kind words; he’s asking the question because he’s genuinely curious, and because he sincerely believes he’s not worth it.
“I don’t know,” he answers honestly. “Every time I’m sure I have it figured out, you throw me a curve ball. Which I drop. And then, I’m back to wondering why, myself. I only know that I do it because I want to do it, and maybe that just has to be good enough. For both of us.”
House’s eyes are closed now; this conversation is costing him his small store of strength. But he’s determined to continue. “Can you do…this…and come out of it alive?”
“House, I’ve survived three ex-wives; you’re not that bad, I don’t have to try to read your mind ‘cuz you’re pissed I left the toilet seat up, I don’t have to write you a monthly check, I don’t even have to remember your birthday. I think I can handle it.” As long as you come out of it alive, I’ll be just fine.
“Then you’re hired.” It’s almost a whisper now. But he’s still fighting to stay awake; he seems almost fearful of sleep.
“As my first official act as your personal physician,” Wilson says, keeping his voice light—but the tone firm— “I hereby decree that it’s naptime in the land of House, where I will stand guard against all devils and dragons and clinic patients and other scary creatures.”
House smiles faintly. “And the Evil Witch, too?”
“I’m still here, House,” Cuddy laughs. “But you’re in luck; I need to go order your new and improved Vicodin from the pharmacy, and deal with a couple of pesky staffing issues. So I’m departing the kingdom right now. The next time you see me, you’ll be getting ready to leave too. For an entire week; that should give you happy dreams.”
He doesn’t answer, and Cuddy and Wilson exchange a satisfied look when they see that he’s asleep.
“Thanks, Cuddy,” Wilson whispers to her. “I don’t know how you fixed it, what you said to him, but…thanks.”
She smiles. “Let’s see if you’re still thanking me about midway through this next week. You may be begging me to let you come back to work, and reminding me that I’m his physician of record. We may have won this battle, but something tells me it’s going to be a very long war….”
“That’s the plan,” Wilson says. “I want this war to last at least another thirty years. More, if we keep the battles interesting, and maybe let him win one or two, here and there.”
“If anyone can pull this off, it’s you,” Cuddy assures him. “Just…don’t let him get to you so much, okay?”
“I could say the same to you. But we both know it’s too late. He’s…House. The rules are different, and they change every day. People who care about House are just…along for the ride.”
“Yeah, and hanging on for dear life!” Cuddy laughs. “Look, you’ve only got about 45 minutes of peace left, and I want to have the new meds up here when you wake him. I’m gonna get going. You’ll be okay?”
Wilson looks into Cuddy’s warm, concerned eyes, looks over at House, safe and sleeping soundly. “For right now, Cuddy, I couldn’t be better.” And he means it.
CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO: House, Home
When Cuddy returns to House’s office with the meds, she notes that all the equipment’s been discontinued, but House is still in bed, still sleeping. Wilson is sitting at the bedside, chin in hand, just watching him.
He stands, joins Cuddy at the desk. She hands him the new pill bottle. “I guess I’ll wake him up, get these in him,” Wilson says, looking at the bottle. He sounds reluctant.
“No… yeah… I don’t know.” Wilson looks over at House, considering. “He woke up about twenty minutes ago, let me d/c everything. But when I told him he could trade in the gown for real clothes, he said ‘later’ and nodded off again.” Wilson pours a cup of water from the carafe, opens the bottle and pours two into his hand.
“Nothing wrong there,” Cuddy says. “We know he’s debilitated; he’s still sedated, too. We weren’t expecting handsprings.”
Wilson still looks worried. “I know. It’s not that. If he were an ‘official’ patient, I’d be keeping him another 48 hours. He needs rest, observation.”
“It’s not like he’s going home to an empty apartment, Wilson. He’s taking his personal physician with him.”
“But that’s just it.” He lowers his voice to almost a whisper. “He’s not strong enough to be left alone. We didn’t expect this; we’re not set up for it. I can’t even leave him alone long enough to get to the grocery store. And believe me, there’s nothing in that apartment except beer and peanut butter. Maybe a science experiment or two in the back of the fridge from when I last cooked.”
“Covered.” Cuddy smiles. “I’m having groceries delivered there now; the super agreed to let ‘em in.” Almost sounds like he’s making up excuses.
“Thanks—glad one of us is thinking. I’m just worried, I guess, and way too tired.”
“And… he hasn’t figured out yet that he’s weak as a kitten, and you’re not expecting him to react…well…to that.”
Wilson smiles tiredly. “Bingo.” He heads over to the recliner. “House. House, wake up. Your Super-Vic is here.”
House stirs, opens his eyes while Wilson raises the head of the recliner. He tries to hand House the pills and the water. House takes the pills, ignores the proffered cup.
“Full glass of water, House. Every dose.” House glares at him. “Okay, most of the time.” The glare doesn’t waver. Wilson sighs. “Occasionally.”
House finally nods shortly, takes the cup. Cuddy catches Wilson’s eye, draws an imaginary tally mark in the air on what is obviously House’s side of the battlefield. Wilson scowls, humorously, at her.
“You wanna go back to sleep, House? We’ve still got at least a couple of hours before we can leave.” Wilson takes the cup from House. Almost empty, he notes with satisfaction.
“Let’s just go home, Jimmy, okay? Put on a movie, kick back. Not that House and Wilson’s Excellent Adventure hasn’t been fun and all. I’m just ready for it to be over.” He’s uncharacteristically subdued.
Before Wilson can veto the idea, Cuddy says, “I don’t see why not. There’s really nothing else he needs to stay here for; you can monitor him at home.” House shoots her a look that’s almost grateful.
“I don’t get a vote?” Wilson asks.
“No!” both Cuddy and House answer in unison.
“Get him dressed, get him out of here, Wilson. Have you got extra shoes in your office?” she asks, looking pointedly at Wilson’s bare feet. When he nods, she says, “Okay, I’ll get those for you. I’ll give you ten minutes.”
“I can get myself ready," House mutters irritably. "I’ve been dressing myself for almost a year now, and I got that whole shoelace thing down last week.”
“You’re a little…more tired… than we expected, House, that’s all.” Wilson says cautiously. “And all the sedation hasn’t cleared yet. All Cuddy meant was, you might need a little help.”
“Just bring me my clothes.” Cuddy retrieves his clothing and hands it to him. She glances, sympathetically, at Wilson, and departs.
Wilson forces himself to sit down at the desk, across the room, and pretends to be busy with House’s chart—he knows better than to hover. All he can do is glance up casually once in a while, and pray he doesn’t see House on the floor.
Somehow, House manages the task. By the time he’s fastening his belt buckle, his hands are trembling and he’s breathing like he’s run a mile, but he even limps the four steps necessary to retrieve his cane.
Wilson watches covertly as House lowers himself to sit on the edge of the recliner. He gives him a couple of minutes to catch his breath before he asks, “How’s the leg?”
“It’s…good. It’s really good.” He looks at Wilson. “The rest of me… not so hot.” He admits this grudgingly, but at least he admits it.
“You’ve been in bed for two days. You haven’t eaten. You’re heavily medicated. Give it time.” Wilson tries to make the words soothing, but not solicitous.
“You went to med school for that? Steve could’ve figured that out!”
Cuddy picks this opportune moment to appear—with a wheelchair. House eyes it distastefully, says, “That is so not happening.”
Cuddy shrugs at Wilson, mouths, ‘Let him go.’
Wilson finishes putting his shoes on, pretends not to notice House leaning far too heavily on his cane after just a few steps, pretends not to see the hand holding the cane tremble on the grip. How the hell is he gonna pull this off?
Cuddy says quickly, “I’m really sorry you…mmm… twisted your ankle on that uneven entrance at the elevator, House—please don’t sue us. I’ve been meaning to have Maintenance take a look at it, find out why the car doesn’t stop flush with the floor; guess it must’ve slipped my mind. Just tell anyone you see on the way out that it’s my fault.”
House doesn’t look at either one of them as he stands there a few moments more before lowering himself into the chair. When he looks up at Cuddy, he meets her eyes and nods once, slowly, approvingly.
When they reach the parking lot, House stands. He appears to be scanning the lot. Cuddy says to Wilson, “I’ll stop by later to check on you.” Wilson nods, and she turns to go back into the building with the chair.
House appears to Wilson to be… somewhere else. His eyes are focused on something distant, something… not pleasant.
“House, c’mon, time to go home.” He watches as House shakes his head sharply and refocuses on the present.
Wilson hides his concern; he knows that the past two days have awakened sleeping demons for House, and he knows that House will have to battle them alone.
He senses also that fatigue and weakness have, for now, stripped House of that infamous protective wall of his. So he does the only thing a good friend can do. He places a gentle hand on House's shoulder, ignores the small roll of that shoulder as House tries--not very hard--to shrug off the hand, says "It's been a long weekend--let's blow this popsicle stand."
And then, without seeming to lead at all (because he cannot strip away his friend's dignity, too), he gently guides House out into the rain, towards the car—towards home.The second book begins here: Battling the Demons.