Welcome to my 2nd Fanfic – Rated T for I guess adult themes and violence (but no swear words this time!). I'm crap at this rating stuff so just consider yourself warned that this fic deals with the occurrence and aftermath of a physical attack on a major character.

Okay this first chapter is pretty dark stuff – major House angst involving physical violence (see above). Vaguely inspired by clips from the trailer of Episode 7 showing House getting into a fight in what looks like one of the exam rooms. Further chapters to follow – will involve HouseWilson friendship and hurt/comfort etc but no specific romance pairings (or at least, I don't think so!)

Sorry to be so mean to House but sometimes you just can't beat a good bit of angst! 

Reviews and constructive criticism welcomed, as always…

In Self-Defence

House paused for a moment in the doorway of Exam Room 1 and regarded his latest patient dubiously. The man's hair was long and unkempt and his clothes rumpled and stained. Despite the cold weather outside, he wore only a thin t-shirt with no jacket and his bare arms were huddled around his midriff. His sallow face looked older than the 31 years his file indicated. He sat huddled on the edge of the examining couch, his jean-clad legs swinging restlessly.

The patient looked up at House as he slowly closed the door behind him and he immediately took note of the glassy look to the man's eyes. He let his gaze drop to the patient's wiry arms as he limped slowly across to the counter and laid the man's file down. House was examining the patient closely even as he casually used his cane to hook the legs of the wheeled stool and drew it closer.

He sat down with a sigh that was a mixture of relief from taking his weight off his leg and a measure of trepidation at the prospect of dealing with this latest clinic patient. He opened the file on his lap and mentally bet himself five bucks on what the patient's complaint was going to be

"Soooo, Mr..", he consulted the top page of the file, "..Hardwick. What can we do for you today?"

The patient took a moment to reply and to House it seemed he struggled somewhat to focus his mind on the fairly simple question. An unaccustomed feeling of concern settled in House's stomach.

The man's voice was dry and harsh when he spoke and he seemed to look through House rather than at him. "I've..umm.. I've a headache. It's really bad – I've had it for days. Can you give me something for it?"

House nodded to himself thoughtfully – it was always nice to be proved right.

He ran his eyes over the remainder of the patient's file and snapped the folder shut decisively. "A headache eh? And you've had it for days.." He regarded the man consideringly and asked "Have you taken anything for it?"

"Ummm… er, yeah, I took some aspirin but it didn't help."

"Riiiight" House breathed, feeling his patience begin to slip away from him.

"Well then, a headache that lasts for several days and doesn't respond to over-the-counter pain medication - I guess we'd better have a look at this eh? Maybe do a CAT scan or something, make sure it's not a brain tumour or something nasty, hmm?" he said, not bothering to hide the growing sarcasm in his voice.

The patient seemed to snap out of his daze at that and he threw a nervous glance at House, his voice was tight as he hurriedly demurred, "Uh, no – that's ok. I get headaches a lot, all I need is something for the pain."

House gave the man a level look that spoke volumes of scepticism. "You have repeated headaches that require prescription pain medication but you don't want to have any investigations performed?" he pushed.

The patient scowled but didn't answer and House figured he had worked out that the game was up. With an impatient sigh he gave a flick of his wrist and tossed the clinic file carelessly onto the nearby countertop. The patient started at the sudden movement and House's uncomfortable feeling intensified as he took note of the man's increasing agitation. The solid wood of his cane felt somehow reassuring in his grip as he levered himself to his feet. House placed the cane solidly before him and leant on it with both hands, his manner deceptively casual as he spoke to the patient.

"Mr Hardwick, I get the feeling this is not the first time you have visited a clinic complaining of these symptoms and the fact that you don't want any kind of investigations leads me to believe you don't actually have any symptoms and that a headache has nothing to do with why you are asking for prescription pain medication."

The patient remained sullenly silent and turned his head to avoid House's unforgiving gaze. He made no move to vacate the exam room however and House, as ever, had little sympathy for time-wasters. He regarded the man with barely concealed impatience. "Next time you go to a clinic to try and score drugs, you might want to wear a jacket," he advised him with a pointed glance at the bare arms he was still defiantly hugging to his midriff. "Track marks are something of a giveaway, diagnostically speaking."

That brought the man's attention back to House and the look in those eyes made him straighten his stance somewhat, his fingers tightening on the handle of the cane. House didn't like the way sweat had started to spring up on Hardwick's forehead and the glassy eyes were starting to look a little wild. For a moment House was all too aware of how far away the door to the exam room was – and just how much the loss of a significant chunk of thigh muscle affects mobility.

Hardwick's face was as sullen as ever but there was a hint of desperation in his eyes as he muttered, "You're not gonna give me nothing?" House kept his face impassive, and even managed to refrain from making a sarcastic comment about the use of double negatives, and calmly said "No."

Hardwick unwrapped his arms from his midriff long enough to slide himself from the examining couch. He stood for a moment glaring at House who simply nodded his head in the direction of the closed door to the patient's left. "Door's that way," he added helpfully. When Hardwick didn't move immediately House found himself instinctively shifting his grip on the cane in front of him. The uncomfortable feeling he'd had about this patient suddenly coalesced into a palpable air of danger as the man stayed leaning on the exam bed, his agitation becoming more obvious as he looked wildly from the door, to the doctor before him and then to the closed cupboards and drawers lining the exam room.

Interpreting that look correctly, House warned him, "There's nothing in there that you want. We don't keep those kinds of meds in here." Hardwick turned a naked gaze on him and the desperation was now evident in his eyes - and right then House knew this was not going to end well. "You get me something then!" the man snarled. House shook his head slowly, doing his best not to aggravate the man, realising now that any sudden movements could escalate things rapidly out of control. "Can't do it," he said firmly.

The tension between doctor and patient filled the small room, humming in the air between them, a potential for violence that stretched thinner and thinner with each passing minute. When it snapped, it was sudden and explosive.

In the space between one breath and the next House saw the desperation in those eyes turn to uncontrollable rage at being denied. Pure instinct made him bring the cane up a second before the patient lunged towards him and he managed to get in a solid blow to the stomach before Hardwick slammed into him, knocking him off-balance, two sets of hands now struggling for possession of the cane. With a strength born of desperate rage, his assailant twisted the length of the cane in House's hands, trying to wrest it from his grip.

Struggling to keep his balance, House could feel he was losing his grip on the smooth wood of the cane and, with a brutal jerk, Hardwick twisted House's wrist back on itself and slammed the end of the cane sharply into his right thigh. He couldn't help crying out as jagged pain stabbed through his leg and the quivering muscles gave way beneath him, sending him crashing to the floor at Hardwick's feet, leaving the cane in his attacker's hands. The jarring impact of his shoulder and hip taking the brunt of the fall knocked the breath from him even as his injured leg burned with fresh agony as it slammed into the unforgiving clinic floor.

Instinct made him curl around the source of his pain, gritting his teeth as the damaged nerves in his leg screamed with fire. The first blow of the cane impacting across his back snapped him back into some sense of self-preservation and he tried to straighten, to do something to defend himself but, even as he moved, his leg muscles spasmed agonisingly and he let out a muffled scream even as Hardwick rained further blows down on him.

The pain roared through him, drowning out thought or consciousness and it was a moment or two before he became aware that Hardwick's frenzied attack had ceased. Curled helplessly on the floor he struggled to breathe through the red waves of agony. His eyes were clenched shut and dark spots seemed to dance in the periphery of his vision. His head was pounding. Through the dizzying pain he became aware of harsh breathing and a low keening moan – it took an age for him to realise the sound was his own. From seemingly far away there was a muffled crashing and banging noise and House realised dimly that Hardwick was turning the exam room upside down, searching desperately for drugs.

A scream of rage was followed by the impact of a projectile bouncing off his shoulder and the distinctive clatter of his cane skittering across the tiled floor beside him. Forcing himself to breathe through the pain, House struggled to raise his head from the floor. He caught a quick glimpse of enraged eyes from which all sanity seemed to have fled before the impact of Hardwick's foot slammed into him. The kick caught him in the chest, the bruising force of it tumbling him over onto his back. His vision swam nauseatingly as he gasped for air, unable even to cry out when another kick landed against his ribs.

House struggled to breathe as unrelenting pain washed through him, his body screaming with fresh agony at each vicious blow. He was almost glad of the stunning impact of a hard boot against his temple, setting off violent fireworks behind his closed eyelids, leaving his head swimming dizzyingly for a long instant before blessed darkness swallowed him whole.

To be continued…