A/N: Thank you so much, everyone, for sticking around for this albeit short though lovely journey. I hope I have kept everyone in-character and made my readers happy! This is the final installment of Everybody Hurts - title credit goes to the fabulous REM song of the same name.
Sorry the ending his awful – I've never known how to write a good final line.
The drive was miserably long, though it was probably only ten or fifteen minutes to Wilson's place, give or take. House drove with purpose, doing his best to keep his periphery off of Wilson, who was trying (and failing) to keep any sort of emotion from reaching his eyes. He was studying the familiar landscape, watching trees and mailboxes pass as House drove, distracting himself from the place he was returning to.
House was speeding, his foot like lead on the gas pedal, and he considered humorlessly the odds of getting pulled over at such a tense time. What would he possibly say? I'm sorry, officer, I'm bringing this man back from the hospital because he attempted suicide? He snorted to himself at the image of this, then realized his insensitivity and tried to mask it with a cough. If he were being honest with himself, he would admit that he'd probably punch the cop in the face and then do a good amount of jail time.
He whipped into the driveway, just as he had the night before, pulling beside his own motorcycle. Bile rose in the back of his throat and he swallowed it down, forcing himself to forget the dread, the insanity.
With a sigh, he shut the car off and pulled himself out of the seat, putting a generous amount of weight onto his cane. His leg was throbbing as if it had a heartbeat of his own. His forehead seemed to be miming it. Slamming the door shut, he turned to Wilson, observing as he gathered his things and started toward the building.
Dressed in House's clothing, Wilson seemed to be a different man. Less professional, less put together. More human. With his hair spiked in all sorts of directions and stubble growing around his lips and nose, he could almost be similar to House. Both were broken in different ways – House mostly by his childhood, Wilson by his adulthood. Both were intelligent. Both were the best in their field. Both, House thought sadly, looking for acceptance, looking for love; though only one of the two could admit it to himself.
When they reached the door, Wilson fumbled for his keys, but House simply reached forward and turned the knob, throwing the door open before him. "Sorry, forgot to lock it," House uttered quietly, the first thing either man had said since earlier that morning in Wilson's hospital room. "Left in a hurry." He was still snide, still sarcastic, but gentle. Sensitive, even.
They ventured into the apartment, Wilson visibly shaky as he stepped into his own living room. The couch pillows sat where they'd supported his drunken form the previous night. The phone sat on the coffee table next to an empty glass, sticky with the residue of alcohol. The bathroom door was still open, the light was still on, the fan was still whirring lightly. Everything was exactly the same as they'd left it, except for the man standing in the midst of it, dressed in his best friend's clothes.
House eyed Wilson with concern. It didn't look like he had any plans to unfreeze. So, House set his cane against the couch and leant forward, picking the phone and glass up off the coffee table. Limping, he returned the phone to the hook and placed the cup in the sink, washing it with a mundane sense of ease, as if he wasn't doing something completely out of character. The normalcy of the act was eerie.
Wilson watched him with an absentminded wonder, as if he wasn't sure where he was. House picked up an empty bag of chips that Wilson had presumably left, tossed it in the trash, and pulled the vacuum from the closet, plugging it in and capturing the crumbs in the whirlwind. Wilson remained unmoving.
"Just catching up on my chores," House yelled over the scream of the vacuum. "I was hoping I'd get a raise in my allowance." He shrugged dramatically and shut off the machine, winding the cord up and returning it to its home in the hall closet.
Wilson then seemed to snap out of it, placing his bag on the couch and scratching the back of his neck. House faced him, maybe a yard or so away, and tilted his chin. "Alright?" he asked.
Wilson nodded once, as if he were unsure, and then did it a second time, and a third. "I'm fine," he answered, but the timbre of his voice did not indicate that he was all that fine.
"Fantastic," House said. He looked toward the bathroom. "Next up is the scene of the crime."
But Wilson was sinking into the couch cushions, dumping his head into his hands and shaking his head. "House," he said, a lone syllable in the shrinking room. "What is going on with me?"
His words were empty and broken in a way that would normally disgust House, make him turn away in fear of contagion of the emotion. But now, coming from a hurting Wilson, it broke something in him, and he found himself on the couch, with little to say to comfort his friend.
Awkwardly, he wrapped a long arm around Wilson's shoulders, squeezing the far one in support. Wilson folded like a house of cards against his friend's side, coming to pieces on the living room furniture. House didn't have anything to say, but didn't need to – his presence seemed to be enough for Wilson, who had sufficiently cried himself out in a gruelingly long five minutes.
The pair sat uncomfortably for a moment after, Wilson unsure of how to pull away, of how to deal with this new and improved Gregory House who was tolerant of actual emotions.
"Don't get used to this," House said, breaking the silence and pushing himself to his feet. His shirt was wet, his body stiff from sitting still for so long. "The touchy-feelies are giving me the heebie-jeebies." He started stalking away, heading toward the bathroom, before stopping. He didn't turn around. "Now, you need to get over it."
He pushed the bathroom door completely open, resisting the urge to vomit everywhere when he discovered Wilson's day-old sickness all over the floor. Sighing agitatedly, he pulled a can of bathroom cleaner from under the sink and coated the floor in it. He grabbed a towel from the closet and lay it over the mess, dropping to his knees beside it.
Wilson appeared behind him, no longer looking as if he were in a stupor. "I've got it," he said, his voice strong, steady; Wilson-like. He knelt next to House and continued to wipe the floor, balling up the towel when it had been used to its full capacity. He grabbed the roll of paper towels from under the sink and wiped up the remainder, spraying the disinfectant one final time over the linoleum. Wilson gathered the soiled towels and walked into the kitchen, shoving them into a trash bag.
House rose to his feet and stepped into the bathtub, inspecting the bullet hole in the shower wall. It was stuck in there fairly deep. All of the shower tile would need to be replaced, maybe the studs and the drywall too. Wilson walked into the bathroom and sucked in a breath, then exhaled it slowly.
"I'll get the pliers," he said quietly, and disappeared momentarily. When he returned, he stepped into the tub next to House, loosening the vicegrip and placing it over the bullet.
"Doubt that thing's going to budge," House observed. Wilson heaved as hard as he could and nearly lost his balance. House remained silent. "Let me guess… you don't want to explain to the repairman why you tried to kill your shower."
Wilson didn't respond.
"Next time you try to take yourself out, make it a little less girly," House suggested. "If you had actually shot yourself, that's usually one hundred percent effective."
"You know," he began again, stepping out of the tub and settling himself on top of the toilet seat, "if I hadn't known you for half my life and watched you overcome not one, not two, but three divorces, I might think that marinating in your own grief was your usual way of coping with life's miserable circumstances," House said nonchalantly.
Wilson said nothing again, keeping his back to House as he tried unsuccessfully to remove the bullet from his wall.
"The unfortunate thing is that I have known you for half my life, and have watched you overcome difficulty several times in your past. This leads me to believe that the depression is a symptom."
He waited for Wilson to respond. Nothing.
"For what, you say? I knew you'd ask. Hell, it could be anything! Hypothyroidism. Porphyria. Hypopituitarism. Mad cow disease. Lupus –"
"For the love of God, what are you, Web MD? The depression is not a symptom, House!" Wilson bellowed, clawing at his own hair with his hands. "You need to understand that sometimes, people do things that are irrational. Sometimes, people try to hurt themselves. I lost the woman I believed was the love of my life for a stupid, preventable reason. I watched as she realized she was dying – as she died! Not everything is a symptom – sometimes, it's the problem!"
Of course he felt that way, House thought. Though he seemed put together, Wilson was no less of a crack head than the rest of them, what with his usually blind optimism and faith in everything that –
As if during a power surge, House's brain shut down, and then lit up again, far brighter than it had before. "But the problem is when the problem looks like a symptom," he uttered. He looked at Wilson. "Are you going to drown yourself in this bathtub if I run off mysteriously?"
Wilson, still angry, closed his eyes and shook his head with force. That was all House needed – he was out the door.
Plunging the doors open to the hospital room, House limped slowly to his patient's side and held out a small cup with a single pill in it, ignoring the confused look from Thirteen as he did it. She looked at him questioningly, untrustingly, and did not budge. "What?" she simply asked, shrugging her shoulders. "You want me to just take that?"
"Carbamazepine," House responded. "Two hundred milligrams. Twice a day, and soon enough you'll be back to running in circles to nowhere."
"She doesn't have epilepsy," Thirteen fired back, annoyed. "We've already ruled that out."
"Who was your attacker?" House asked. "Someone you knew? Someone you didn't know? Someone who doesn't exist?"
The patient looked taken aback. "I don't remember," she said sternly. "I don't remember before, or really much after. I just know I had been beaten up."
"Beaten up? Or just kicked to the curb. I mean that metaphorically, of course, considering you kicked yourself to the curb."
"I don't understand."
House pressed a hand to his forehead. "Many people have their first seizure and don't think much of it, let alone notice it. Your run was in daylight. If they didn't find a shred of DNA on you, it's highly unlikely you were actually attacked; your body just feels like it was, and certainly thinks it was."
"That still doesn't explain the hyperglycemia," Thirteen prodded, refusing to believe that the entire team had missed something as elementary as epilepsy. "If anything, hypoglycemia would've brought on the seizures."
"That, or Cameron burning her retinas with a penlight in the ER." House paused for a moment and looked his patient in the eyes. "How regular are your periods?"
A brilliant shade of scarlet filled her cheeks and nose. "Is this relevant? I'm an athlete. We aren't exactly regular."
"On a scale of one to Cuddy, how miserable of a human being do you become during that special time of the month?"
She froze, sensing he had made some sort of connection. Her voice came quietly. "Ten," she answered. "Definitely a ten."
"So what," House gloated, turning his head to face Thirteen, "causes high blood sugar, bad menstrual cramps, and a mustache on our not-so-Kenyan's face?"
The patient self-consciously drew a hand beneath her nose, turning red again. Thirteen's face morphed from one of confusion to understanding as the gears of her mind whirred. "Polycystic ovary syndrome," she breathed.
"And what," House continued, "is often linked to PCOS?"
Thirteen refused take the bait.
House shook the lone pill in the cup again, setting it down on the patient's food tray. "The only question left is what came first? The exploding ovaries or the epilepsy?"
House pulled his car in front of Wilson's place and honked twice. A few seconds later, his figure appeared in the doorway, one hand palm-up in front of him. What do you want? he was asking with his body language. House beckoned him over.
"Get in," he ordered, pushing the door open. Wilson rolled his eyes and slammed it shut.
"I'm not done cleaning up my place," he argued.
"Do I look like I care?"
Wilson sighed and shook his head.
"You hungry?" House asked, ever the ice breaker in the tense times of their friendship. Wilson couldn't resist, and House knew it. Predictably, the younger man smiled and threw open the passenger door, settling himself in the seat. House pulled slowly away from the curb, the windows down as he did.
"Everybody hurts," House sang, serenading Wilson sardonically with the song on the radio, an old REM tune, "...sometimes."
This got a slight reaction from Wilson, though not what he'd been hoping for.
The sun was setting already; it seemed the day had flew past, despite the lack of sleep that House had gotten. It still seemed like moments ago he had almost lost his friend to suicide in a bathroom. He had almost been too late, he constantly reminded himself, as if it would take some of the pain from Wilson. If House's mystical mind had figured it out five minutes later, he would've been alone.
In reality, he probably would've been half in a bottle of Smirnoff with a Vicodin prescription in his own bathroom.
"I'm feeling better," Wilson said after a few minutes of driving, interrupting House's depressing reverie. He was still in House's clothes, though he looked a bit more comfortable in them now.
House didn't move. "Good," he replied. "I was getting sick of the sob story. Hopefully now I can get back to insulting you in all the right ways."
"Thank you," Wilson stated, two words that held a million more within them. House weighed his possible responses, trying to decide what he could possibly say that could set them back on a path of normalcy. Maybe, it occurred to him, this was the new normal – maybe Wilson would never be quite the same as he used to be. Maybe House would need to learn softness.
So with a thousand possible responses mingling in the back of his throat, countless ways he could portray this new horizon, he chose the three most reliable words in his arsenal, three words that would ensure that things remained the same.
"You're an idiot."
And they laughed, driving somewhere, nowhere, anywhere, each comforted by the man at his side.