Disclaimer I don't own anything to do with "House, M.D." or anything affiliated with the show.
The corridor is eerie late at night when there are so few people around. The typically manned nurse's station is forlorn. There are no interns scurrying about nervously, nor beds being trolleyed to and from the elevator. No sound of shoes squeaking on the floor or the quiet chatter of self-important doctors that congregate outside patients' rooms when discussing the next course of action to take with their patient. To Gregory House, it amplifies his loneliness, each sole step that he takes echoing lonely down the long corridor like the sound of a lost child crying into the dark of night.
One thing House hates is the rhythm of his footsteps. Once upon a time, he could walk as straight and evenly as the next person, without pain, without hindrance. He used to walk with ease, not feigned confidence like he does now. Now he walks with the rigidity of bitterness, body language as sharp and caustic as he himself is.
He listens to the uneven "tap, tap-tap, tap" of his shoes on the floor, accompanied with the cold click of his cane and each step he takes seems to echo louder and louder -- his loneliness building into a crescendo as he tries to catch up with Wilson. The drink he chugged down back in his office doesn't help. Gregory feels somewhat sluggish, and his mind weary and his reflexes slightly off-kilter. Funny how he drinks to forget -- pseudo-confidence -- and yet here he is, reminded as loud as a voice shouting into a megaphone just how lonely he is. Desperate, really. For company, for reassurance, for --
Gregory doesn't know what he is desperate for. Another Vicodin, perhaps? Another drink? If he wanted either of them, he'd be back in the dark silence of his room, choking back tablets or pouring himself yet another hit of whiskey, or maybe even sculling the contents straight from the bottle by now. Or perhaps both.
He who drinks alcohol and chows down pills at the same time is nothing short of an ignoramus, he's always said to others in various arrogant ways. Do as I say, not as I do, has been another of his many catchphrases to reason away self-paradox. A man of contradictions -- of many flaws, more accurately -- and he's never been ashamed to be that way. Not outwardly, anyway. Pseudo-confidence.
Over the tap, tap-tap, tap of his footfalls, he hears the elevator ding and with a muttered curse under his breath, he speeds up in vain to catch up with Wilson. He's going to feel the fool when face-to-face with Wilson -- Not losing your face in that bottle of dram, then, House?, Wilson is bound to smugly remark -- but Gregory's urgency for company -- not pseudo-company, anything but pseudo-company -- is greater than considering consequences right now.
Pseudo-company. He tries to shake that thought from his mind as he rounds the corner and sees the elevator doors open, moments from closing. And there is Wilson, inside the elevator, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed and staring up at the ceiling. House's breath catches slightly.
That's what he's desperate for. An antidote to his loneliness. An aphrodisiac. Wilson.
Biting his lip, House presses on, saying loudly as he nears the elevator and the doors begin to slide closed, "Have some decency. There's a cripple wanting to alight here."
Wilson pushes away from the wall with a look of mild surprise and quickly thumbs the open button, the doors shuddering to a momentary stop before sliding back open again with a faint whirring sound. Not meeting Wilson's eyes, Gregory grunts quietly in pain -- his leg and back ache -- as he steps over the threshold and into the elevator, about-facing as he moves beside Wilson.
"What happened to your pseudo-company?" Wilson comments, hitting the close button before he takes a step back and leans against the wall once more. House isn't looking at Wilson, but he can feel the scrutiny of his colleague's eyes upon him. "Thought you were drowning yourself in liquor."
Gregory glances sideways at him with a deadpan expression as the door whirs shut, though he doesn't meet his eyes. He feels too ashamed to be that bold. Oddly.
He quickly shakes that word from his mind as the elevator jolts slightly. It begins to descend slowly and House remarks airily, "I felt like an argument. Problem with liquor is it doesn't bite back. It just burns your mouth and makes you want to pee a lot."
He sees out of the corner of his eyes Wilson crossing his arms defensively over his chest. "It really is something to be sought after only for the purpose of deliberate altercations."
"Isn't that what I only ever seek your company for, Wilson?"
"I think you're mistaking me for Cuddy."
House pointedly looks at Wilson's chest and remarks, "I always thought you were missing something."
Gregory hears his colleague scoff quietly as Wilson lolls his head to the side to look up at the numbers above the door that light up with each floor they lower to. After a moment of silence, Wilson says, "So, you followed me because you're somewhat drunk and angry about what we just talked about in your office, and now you want a person to vent your pent-up bitterness at?"
Why did he follow Wilson? Escape from pseudo-company. Seeking that aphrodisiac. It's always all about escape. "Actually, no, I have kidney problems and you're just the thing that helps them flush out properly."
Wilson pushes away from the wall and stands closer to him. Under the man's dark-eyed perusal, House feels uneasy -- naked, again. Damn, he hates feeling naked, and having followed Wilson into this lift makes him feel all the more exposed. Ashamed.
There's that word again.
Gregory looks away -- at the doors, at the walls, up at the numbers, down to his shirt, at anything but Wilson. The silence in the elevator is thick and suffocating. It feels like they will never reach the bottom. Say something, or turn and face the corner, House wants to snap.
It's like Wilson has read his mind, for he speaks. "Why does everything you say have to be a sarcastic comeback, House?"
House, relieved for the break in quietness, is quick to reply, "It's more fun that way."
Wilson, much to House's chagrin, doesn't miss a beat. "Pseudo-confidence?"
House hates having his words used against him. He inwardly wishes he had never said anything about that back in the office. That was the problem with friends -- they listened, but they always remember the things one doesn't want used as salt to rub against a wound.
"How about making 'pseudo' your new catchphrase?" House says defensively, meeting Wilson's eyes for the first time since entering the elevator. "Dr. Jimmy Wilson, oncologist -- or perhaps, more accurately, 'pseudo-miracle worker'."
"Or how about this: chemotherapy, the pseudo-cure to cancer."
House can see Wilson is getting angry, and Wilson retorts sharply, "Vicodin and alcohol: Dr. Gregory House's pseudo-escape from loneliness."
House freezes for a moment. Those words sting. Such truth, and this truth hurts. Another reason why he buries himself in his work -- the truth of life is painful and filled with bitterness, and why subject oneself to that when it can be ignored? Have a life of emptiness and the truth of life can never fully sink its fangs in. Except it can and will, because an empty life leaves one with nothing but the raw, harsh truth of reality to focus on. Another reason why Gregory has addictions -- to escape reality.
Gregory looks away, feeling -- not for the first time that night -- defeated. Naked. Ashamed. Foolish. He should have stayed up in his office and drank himself blind. His placebo. The easy way to escapism -- no people to complicate things or dig up bones. Leaning on his cane, he habitually moves his other hand to his pocket and feels the bulge of the Vicodin bottle, suddenly desperate for a pill. Hydrocodone numbs things. Not just the physical pain but the dark storms in his head. It's his therapist. Another one of his placebos.
Just as he digs his hand into his pocket to pull the bottle out, the elevator jolts as it reaches the bottom floor and dings, the doors sliding open. House steps forward, intent on getting out of there as fast as he can.
Wilson's hand lands on his shoulder and grips it. House, though he jumps at the sudden contact, defiantly tries to stride forth but the hand clenches tighter and just as defiantly pulls him back. Forced to turn, Gregory faces Wilson with a scowl on his face.
In Wilson's dark eyes there is concern. It is written in the lines on his face and upon the terse poise of his lips. House hates it when his colleague gives him that look. Damn him, damn him for being humane and showing concern. They hold eye contact long enough until the elevator dings again and the doors slide shut. Gregory feels that flutter in his chest and his breath hitches slightly again. That feeling of desperation rising in him once more; desperation for this aphrodisiac. Being no one else in the building has called for the elevator, they remain stationary, staring at each other.
"Yes?" Gregory finally says curtly after a moment of silence; silence that is as thick and heavy as a shroud.
Wilson continues to gaze at him heedfully, as if trying to discern what is rolling through Gregory's mind. The sound of pills rattle in the bottle as House screws the cap undone -- his hands are shaking slightly -- and he hurriedly throws a pill in his mouth, dry-swallowing with a grimace.
Wilson watches closely all the while with a tired look on his face. "Why do you do this to yourself?"
House shrugs -- trying to shrug away the man's hand still clasped on his shoulder -- and replies sarcastically, "Because it makes me feel good, Dr. Phil."
Wilson sighs wearily, close to defeat, and shakes his head. "But not because you want to."
"What's it to you, anyway?" House tries again to shrug his colleague's hand from his shoulder, though it does nothing but cause Wilson to tighten his grip further.
"Believe it or not, House, I am your friend. Which, quite frankly, is much more than you deserve. Typically, when one considers another to be something of a friend, there is a little thing called duty of care."
"You care for me fine, you're a great pal, Jimmy -- you write me prescriptions."
Gregory sees the other's face wash over with an expression that is rare for Wilson -- shame. It's like House is staring at himself for that precise moment. "No," Wilson replies in a quiet, almost timid voice. "I… enable your addiction."
Loneliness, addiction -- addicted to Vicodin because he's lonely, addicted to loneliness because it's all he's ever known for such a long time. Because it's his safe place. His pseudo-confidence.
Addiction. He hates that word. Such a telling word, a truth he point-blank tries to ignore.
Gregory feels his discomfort grow -- this is going much too deep, much deeper than he would ever be comfortable dealing with. And like in any situation where he feels threatened by the imposition of emotion, he instantly tries to rise above it with sarcasm.
"Bad boy," House dryly remarks.
Wilson lets his hand slide from House's shoulder, a look of irritation on his sharp, angular face. "Can you just stop being an arse for one minute?"
"Let's see. I took the hydrocodone--" House glances down at his watch "--roughly two minutes ago, so another thirteen minutes to go for the drug to filter into my blood stream and I might comply."
The sigh Wilson gives is a familiar one. House has heard the sound of it many times over; a deep draw in of breath and then an over-exerted exhale. The sigh of defeat, Gregory likes to think of it as. "Just… go back to your office, House. Back to your pseudo-company," Wilson advises tiredly. "I'm going home."
With that, Wilson takes a step forward, stretching his arm out to push Gregory out of the way before House moves in front of him, blocking his path.
"Alright, alright," House replies abruptly, holding a hand up in surrender. He doesn't want Wilson to leave, not really. He doesn't want to go back up to the dark emptiness of his office, or to the placebo of his alcohol. "Alright, you win."
Halting in his tracks, Wilson says exasperatedly, "It's not about winning, Greg. Everything to you is about winning, about getting others over a barrel, snuffing the life of help that people offer you with your predictable sarcasm. You have the ugliest case of pride I have ever seen in a person, House."
Gregory looks down as he toys the end of his cane on the carpeted elevator floor. A million sarcastic responses flood his mind but, for once, he keeps his mouth closed. The truth in Wilson's words -- the shameful truth -- is too strong to deny. The desperation for this aphrodisiac is too insistent. The need for an antidote for his loneliness is too urgent.
"You don't…" Though his head is turned down, he knows Wilson has stepped in closer towards him, feels his hand upon his shoulder again -- this time, gently. "You don't have to do this to yourself."
"It's all I know," House confesses reluctantly with his eyes still trained on the floor, his voice quiet and pensive.
Wilson steps in closer and places his other hand on House's other shoulder. "No, it's not. It's all you allow yourself to know. You weren't always like this. Before the accident, you were --"
"-- nice, pleasant, nowhere near as bitter," he snaps, upturning his head to look at his friend. "I've heard it all before, Wilson. Thanks for reminding me yet again."
Wilson gives that sigh of defeat again, looking stung at House's retort. He keeps his hands clasped on his shoulders, gripping firmly, and in spite of how bristly Gregory is the touch feels reassuring. He's forgotten how soothing genuine human touch can be, how comforting warm hands can feel. It's been too long to recall the last time he was truly touched. The longer Wilson's hands remain upon him, the more Gregory feels his defenses crumbling.
"I'm not trying to remind you of anything," Wilson murmurs, another half-step taken in. "I'm just… I'm just telling you as it is -- you know me, Greg. Have I ever done anything but?"
Gregory sighs wearily, a part of him still fighting against what is happening, another part of him wanting it more than he needs air to survive. He shakes his head after a few moments and closes his eyes, suddenly tired. So tired. Exhausted. All his bitterness and emptiness, it has left him feeling completely depleted.
"All that Vicodin, alcohol -- you don't need that stuff. All this pseudo-company, this wall you build up around yourself…"
House feels Wilson pulling on him slightly and in any other situation Gregory would have wrestled from his grip and made a testy remark, something about Wilson's marriages failing because he was secretly in the closet the whole time. But at this very moment, feeling exposed and vulnerable and having nowhere else to turn to, he submits; he slowly leans into the touch, slowly presses his forehead against Wilson's shoulder.
"You don't need…" Wilson's lips are by his ear and his breath is warm, low voice soothing to Gregory. And it's like anything with House -- all his dependence is met with addiction, with desperation. With hunger.
He pulls back just as Wilson says again, "You don't need all --" and Gregory cuts him off with a sudden kiss, lips on lips, eyes squeezed shut. Wilson utters a sound of surprise but House ignores it, pressing harder into the kiss. He begins to move his lips, feeding into the touch with growing urgency and, within a matter of minutes he is kissing Wilson desperately, almost violently, cane clattering to the floor as he reaches for Wilson with both his hands.
"House --" Wilson tries when he attempts to peel his lips from Gregory's, mouth claimed again harder and deeper as Gregory grips him tight and begins to push him backwards, limping with each frantic step. Wilson meets the wall and the kiss breaks for a moment, for a breath of air before their lips meet again, this time both of them feeding from each other with equal need. Clawing at each other, gasping between hitched breaths, bodies pressed against each other hard and hot.
The elevator rapidly becomes stuffy, beads of desperate sweat inking along their foreheads as they exchange muffled groans and grunts around their entwining tongues. This is the aphrodisiac House yearns and he wants more -- though the more they kiss, the harder it becomes to catch their breath and slowly the kiss dwindles to a soft caress of bruised, puffy lips before they break away. House, his eyes still shut, presses his forehead against Wilson's, gasping, still clutching him tight by the scruff of his jacket.
Wilson gulps loudly, places his hands on Gregory's arms and gently urges him away. "House --"
"Speak. Don't speak."
House catches his breath and slowly lets Wilson's jacket go. He pulls back -- looking at the floor, too ashamed to meet the man's eyes -- and he steps away with a pained limp, dropping his hands to his side. "It's time to go home," he mutters. "Time to…"
Wilson pulls away from the wall and shakily stoops down, clutches House's cane and stand up again. "House," he begins, handing the cane to him, "I think --"
"Just don't speak," Gregory cuts in as he retrieves his cane from his colleague and leans it against the floor. Turning around awkwardly, he reaches for the elevator buttons and pushes the open button, the door whirring open and a cool rush of fresh air breathes in, bathing over Gregory's sweat-slicked skin.
"House!" Wilson calls as Gregory begins to limp out of the elevator. Gregory ignores him, striding towards the entrance doors. "House! Greg! Wait!"
He's still breathless when he reaches the door, exiting with the sound of Wilson's footfalls jogging behind him to catch up. Stepping out into the rain-soaked evening -- a cold wind that whorls around his still-shaking body -- he feels Wilson grab his arm and he's whirled around, facing his disheveled looking friend.
"What? What do you want?" Gregory brusquely asks, shrugging from Wilson's grip.
"I…" House can tell that Wilson is confused -- as confused as House himself feels -- and he waits for Wilson to complete his sentence. Instead, his colleague finishes in a defeated voice, "I'll… I'll see you tomorrow."
House holds his gaze for a piercing moment but he doesn't say anything. Turning on his heel he begins to walk off into the cold night, away from Wilson, away from all of that. The taste of James Wilson's lips still upon his tongue. Still wanting more but too confused to think clearly about it right now. He just wants to head home, back to his loneliness, back to his pseudo-company, back to think.
He will talk about this with Wilson tomorrow. Maybe.
The word maybe echoes in his mind with his limped footsteps on the rain-drenched footpath.