A/N: It's been a good ride, kids—I'm sad to see it end. However, as many of you know, sequel's already in the works. My thanks to all for coming along on the journey. mjf

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.

"Everything okay?"

"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.