Rating : PG-13
Spoilers : For 8.01 Twenty Vicodins, uses a little from the sneak peeks/promos for 8.02, ignores or contradicts the rest.
Characters : House & Wilson friendship
Warnings : Angst, off screen violence
Summary : House is out of prison, Wilson is keeping his distance until he receives a page from the emergency department in the middle of the night.
The page came at three o'clock in the morning. The message was familiar, and it set his stomach clenching. House had been brought in, condition serious but stable. Wilson lay back on the bed and closed his eyes. It had been over a year since he'd been expected to rally to House's side for some crisis or other. He'd tried to see the events of that terrible day as a defining moment of his life, a change of direction for him. As the weeks went by with no sign of House he'd tried to make a fresh start, to form some more normal friendships with his colleagues, colleagues who'd always been wary of him because of his association with House. Somehow, though, his colleagues had remained just that, colleagues. And apparently he was still the go-to person for House related problems, wonderful.
House had been out of jail a bare seventeen days. He was still on parole, and would be for another few months, whatever trouble he'd gotten himself into tonight could send him straight back to jail. Wilson tried to tell himself he didn't care. That he hadn't wondered how House was doing many times over the months he'd been in jail, that he hadn't changed the channel every time a show he was watching had a prison scene. He tried to tell himself that he didn't miss the random fun and chaos House bought into his life, the spark that House offered. He didn't miss House stalking every detail of his life, interrupting his work, and generally driving him crazy. Over the last seventeen days he'd had to admit that he was lying to himself, he did miss him, but he sure as hell hadn't missed this.
Serious but stable. Emergency room. Right. Wilson got out of bed, threw some clothes on and drove back to the hospital he'd left only a few hours earlier. He'd see House, make sure he was okay, they had been friends for twenty years after all, it was reasonable to have some sort of concern for him. He didn't hate House, despite what he had done, but he just couldn't be drawn back into the madness with him. House wouldn't let him help, and it tore him apart to have to stand by and watch House destroy himself, over and over again. He didn't want to be collateral damage in House's eternal quest to make himself as miserable as humanly possible.
This emergency room call proved that nothing had changed. He was much better off without House in his life. He was sure of that.
House was still on a gurney in the emergency department when he arrived. Wilson strode briskly up to the young intern who appeared to be in charge.
"Sir, you'll have to wait in the visitors...Oh, Doctor Wilson, thanks for coming in. He was unconscious and you're listed as his medical proxy and next of kin, we thought we might need you but he's regained consciousness now."
Wilson's gaze travelled to the man on the bed. House was awake now, but clearly in a lot of pain. His face was a bloody mess, covered with bruises and cuts and his clothes had been cut away to reveal extensive bruising all over his torso.
His question was directed at the intern but House answered, his voice slurred.
"You did not get all that in a bar fight, House." Wilson folded his arms across his chest and glared at him. After all that had happened House still insisted on playing stupid games. "Who attacked you?"
House looked away. "Told you. Bar fight. What are you doing here anyway?"
Since House had returned, Wilson had maintained his distance. He hadn't made a formal declaration that they were no longer friends, this wasn't grade school after all, but he also hadn't been to see him in his office, or on his apartment, hadn't enquired how he was faring, hadn't bought him lunch or dropped by to gossip. House had seemed to respect this, and had kept his distance. Wilson had seen him around the hospital of course, and had heard grumblings about him from all the people who thought the hospital had been shot of him for good. They should have known better once Foreman was appointed Dean.
For all his miserable nature and totally inability to get along with people House had a knack of forming attachments. Foreman had tried to leave years ago but had come back into his circle, just as Chase had been drawn back, and Taub and Remy had also been sucked back in, more than once. As soon as Foreman was appointed Dean of Medicine he had started a campaign to get House out of jail and reinstated, and had encouraged him to try and contact his old fellows and hire them back. Wilson was mildly surprised that Foreman hadn't come to his office and tried to convince him to patch up his ailing friendship with House, for the good of the hospital of course.
And now Wilson was here, again, standing next to House's hospital bed.
"We were friends for over twenty years, House. Forgive me for wanting to make sure you weren't dying."
"Well, according to junior here I'm not, so you can go now."
Same old House, nothing had changed. Wilson nearly turned away but he looked again at House, saw the weariness and pain he was trying to conceal, saw a desperate look in his eyes. Despite his words House didn't want him to leave.
He turned to the intern. "Fill me in."
Wilson sat in the visitor's chair in House's private room. There was only one chair, a reflection of the fact that everyone knew House would have only one visitor. House hadn't allowed anyone to visit him in jail, wouldn't accept any phone calls, and had done the entire stretch in self imposed exile. Wilson would have visited, despite his misgivings, because House didn't deserve to be left to rot alone in jail, and he knew Thirteen and Chase had also requested visitation, even Foreman had made the attempt. House had refused to put anyone on his list of approved visitors. Just as he had in Mayfield he insisted on spending his entire sentence cut off from anyone who might gave a damn.
Now Wilson sat in the chair and watched House sleep, as he had so many times before.
House's right hand was in a cast, three fingers had been broken. Wilson rubbed his own right wrist, broken in his jump away from House's speeding car. It had healed well but there was still occasionally an ache to remind him of that day.
A large gash on House's chest had been stitched, as well as a head wound, there were numerous other cuts and bruises, three cracked ribs and extensive bruising around the scar on his right leg, where he'd apparently been kicked multiple times. House would be in a lot of pain for days, and discomfort for weeks. Maybe headed back to jail. The police had arrived to interview House but he'd been asleep and they'd left, saying they would come back later.
"Still here?" House rolled his head on the pillow and peered at him, one eye open, the other puffy and closed up. He'd been cleaned up a little but still looked like someone who'd lost multiple fights with champion boxers.
"What happened?" Wilson asked again.
House groaned and turned his head away. "Not this again. Christ, Wilson, you haven't spent more than two minutes with me since I got out and now you want to know every little detail of my life."
"Grievous bodily harm is not a 'little detail' House, someone beat you up, and deliberately broke your fingers. This was not a bar fight. For once in your life just tell me the truth, you owe me that."
There was a long silence and Wilson sighed and stood up. He should have known better, after all this time.
"There was this guy, in jail...when he heard I was getting out he demanded I get him some more Vicodins. He was already getting two a day from me, but he wanted more. To cut a long story short, I didn't get them for him. " A slight smile crossed House's battered face and Wilson wondered how he could find that amusing. "So...he sent his boys to my place to make sure I regretted it." House's voice was flat, his recital monotone, all amusement gone. He waved his left hand at his body. "I got off lightly, no permanent damage."
No permanent damage. Wilson closed his eyes in pain. He'd heard nothing about House's jail experience, no-one had as far as he could work out. House had made a few smart comments and most people figured he'd escaped relatively unscathed, he certainly seemed much the same. 'Same old arrogant bastard' is how he'd heard one doctor put it, cursing under his breath in the oncology lounge.
"Didn't you tell someone, I don't know, the warden, or a guard or someone about this guy? I'm not even going to ask how he expected you to get twenty Vicodins, I don't imagine they take forged prescriptions there." He heard the bitterness in his voice, those forged prescriptions had hurt almost as much as the broken wrist, he should have put a stop to that much earlier than he did.
"If I'd snitched I'd be six feet under by now, that's one thing they'll never let pass. Haven't you ever watched any prison movies? "
There was a light tap on the door to the room and Wilson turned around to see two police officers in the doorway.
"Need to interview him now, if you would wait outside." One of them said to Wilson, the other went to stand next to House. Wilson looked uneasily from the cops to House.
"It's okay, Wilson, the police are our friends." House said in a sing song voice. His gaze flicked up to meet Wilson's and he jerked his head to the door. "I'll yell if they bring out the rubber hoses."
"He's weak, and in pain, don't take too long," Wilson warned the officers who looked at him politely but said nothing.
Wilson left the room, glancing back uneasily, almost expecting to see them handcuff House and drag him away.
When the officers left the room they passed Wilson in the corridor.
"Did he tell you what happened?"
"Apparently two guys broke into his apartment, beat him up, looted the place and then took off. He didn't see their faces, he doesn't remember anything about them, he says it must have just been a random burglary. " One of the officers told him. "Pretty much the same thing any ex-con would say. He's on parole so he shouldn't be associating with anyone with a criminal record, he's not going to admit anything if he did know them. We'll make a report about the burglary, put it on file, but without anything else to go on..." He shrugged, a bored expression on his face.
Yeah, Wilson thought, it's going straight in the too hard pile. He could tell the officers didn't really believe what House had told them, but they also didn't seem to care. They'd looked at House, seen his battered face, checked his file and marked him down as an ex-con, technically still a prisoner even though on parole. Nothing worth wasting their time on, unless it was to find a way to send him back to jail. This would be House's new reality whenever he had a conflict with the law, there'd be very little benefit of the doubt given.
He nodded to the officers and went back into House's room.
"They might try again you know," he said as he sat down next to the bed, "you should have told the police..."
"No, if he wanted me killed I'd be dead. This was just to ensure that his reputation remains intact in the prison, doesn't want to lose his top billing."
"Wilson, leave it, it's over. It doesn't matter."
"It matters to me."
House stared at him and then slowly quirked a small smile. He looked down at his hand. "Guess you think this is poetic justice? Karma? My right hand, your right hand?"
"Not funny, House."
The smile disappeared and House dropped his gaze to the blanket on his bed.
"I didn't know," he said quietly.
Wilson leaned forward. "You didn't know what, House?"
"I didn't know that you'd broken your wrist."
Wilson scoffed. "The foremost diagnostician in the country, probably the world, couldn't tell that my wrist was broken. You didn't see me jump out of the way? You didn't see me holding it while you walked right past me? "
House looked up, his expression completely serious. "I didn't see you when I was driving towards the house. I didn't know... I wasn't going to do that. I told you to get out and I was just going to drive off, keep driving, maybe never come back. It was..it was just too much, seeing her happy, moving on with someone else when I was..." House looked away for a moment, swallowed and then took a deep breath. "I got to the top of the street, and I just turned around and drove straight at the house. I didn't think about it, didn't look around, I didn't see anything but the house. When I crashed into the wall it was..." he looked away again, "it was like being free. Everything just dropped away. It was like the cannonball into the pool at the hotel. When I walked past you, you could have had a flashing neon sign over your head and I wouldn't have noticed. I said I felt much better, and I did, for the first time in months. That's all I was thinking about, that's all I was feeling ."
"You wrecked Cuddy's house, you could have been killed, you could have killed me, or someone in the house, and you thought it was, what...fun?"
"Not fun, just a...release, from everything. From everything that had happened. Sorry, I know that's not what you want to hear."
Wilson got up and went to the window in the wall, looking out at the busy hospital corridor.
"Why did you come back? Nobody was really looking for you, you could have stayed away. But you came back, took a guilty plea and ended up in jail for a year. Foreman said you told him you didn't have any intention of practicing medicine again. That you were intending to leave the country as soon as your sentence was served. So why did you come back?"
He turned back around and saw that House was shifting in the bed, trying to find a comfortable spot. He watched for a moment and then went over and helped him rearrange himself on the bed, for once House let him help.
"I went into town, to the university library to get some books. Where I had been staying, right on the beach, was completely isolated, there wasn't much in the way of news from the world, I didn't have a computer, didn't have much of anything. When I was in the library I went online, and one thing led to another, and then I was reading a newspaper report of what happened. That you'd been hurt jumping out of the way of the car. Then another report saying Cuddy had left the hospital. I hadn't really realised up till then exactly how badly I'd screwed up. I'd hurt you, and I'd driven her out of her hospital. I walked out of the library, took the first plane back, got arrested at the airport, and took the deal they offered me, one year in prison."
"And you thought doing jail time would just erase what happened? That all would be forgiven? We would welcome you back and you could just get on with your life like nothing happened?"
House shook his head, "no, I thought that I'd lost everything that ever mattered to me. You'd never forgive me for hurting you like that. There wasn't anything I could do to change what had happened. I intended to do the sentence, then go back to Fiji, get a PhD in physics, study dark matter, stay as far away from humanity as I could so I didn't hurt any more people. You said once that I bring misery to everyone around me, well, you were right."
"What changed your mind?"
"There was this guy in the jail - lupus boy - doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with him, I could. I couldn't not solve the puzzle - no matter what it cost me, which was another eight months in jail. Turns out they don't really care about whether you're right in the slammer, they just care if you don't follow the rules. They wanted me to fall in line, so...eight months and this..." he gestured down to his battered body. "I can't stay away from the medicine, Wilson, no matter how much I want to, I couldn't when I left Mayfield, and I can't now. I have a gift." He added the last line bitterly and Wilson understood why. House's gift had been both a curse as well as a blessing all his career.
"And what happens next time you're pissed off about something, House? The next time you're angry at the world? Monster truck through the lobby? Sarin gas in the clinic? Sniper rifle on the roof?"
"I won't do anything like that again. I told you, I'm staying as far away from humanity as I can, even here."
"Does that include me?"
"It should do. You shouldn't want anything to do with me."
Wilson sighed and sat down in the chair again, rubbing his face. He was tired, and confused, and uncertain. He didn't know where they could go from here. House had been to prison, he'd served time for what he'd done, but that didn't erase it, nothing could. But he was here, now, in this hospital, and Wilson didn't think that he could pretend that he wasn't anymore. He had known that when House got out of prison he'd most likely end up back here, no one else would employ him and a doctor with his skills just couldn't not practise. If he had wanted to really make a break from him he would have left, followed Cuddy across the country, started a new life. He hadn't. He'd stayed, and now House was here, in a hospital bed, again , and Wilson was going to have to make a choice.
He'd had over twenty years of friendship with House. Maddening at times, frustrating as hell, but good times as well, great times sometimes. House was the most dynamic person he'd ever met, everyone else just seemed like pale cardboard cut-outs compared to him. When House was in a room he lit it up, and the force of his personality drew people to him, people equally attracted and repulsed. How many other people could have gotten forty fellowship candidates to play his insane games? Or have Chase and Foreman content to remain on his team for so many years, long past the time they should have moved on.
He'd told House once he was a good friend, which he was, at times, in his own bizarre way. He knew House would die for him, but he could also hurt him terribly - had hurt him terribly, many times.
"I don't know House, I don't know if I can keep doing this. There's only," he found himself swallowing past the lump in his throat, "there's only so many times I can watch you do this to yourself, and to me. I need you to...I need you to heal, to get better...to make some changes."
"I don't know if I can, Wilson." House replied, fixing his gaze on Wilson, "I can't promise you that I'm going to change."
"You need to try, can you at least do that? I don't want you to change who you are, but I want you to make changes in how you live your life. Because, this can never happen again. You might do something you can't pay with by a year in prison. Someone could die, and I know, I know , you don't want that." He took a steadying breath. "I want to help you, House, I want to help both of us, but you have to let me, because the way things are just isn't good for either of us."
House stared at him, his eyes wide, he opened his mouth to say something, then stopped. Then he nodded once. "I'll try."
It wasn't much, but Wilson told himself it was a start.
He got up. "Get some sleep, House. You look like hell."
"You'll come back?" House asked, seemingly casually but Wilson could see the fear and doubt in his eyes.
"Yes, I'll come back," he said, knowing it had been inevitable since the call from the emergency room. This is what he did, this is what they did. Things would be okay again.
Until the next time.