WHERE WERE YOU?
Greg House and James Wilson have been friends for a long time. They've discussed everything from movies to women to politics and religion. Their relationship is an easy one, mostly, and they know each other's strengths and foibles. They know how to make each other laugh. They know how to make each other angry. They have no secrets.
As House sees it, they know everything there is to know about each other. Or at least Wilson knows everything about House. There's just one thing that House doesn't know about Wilson, and it's been eating at him for six years.
So tonight, after a pretty good movie and too much very good beer, House decides to ask. He grabs the remote and turns off the TV. Then, he turns to his best friend in all the world and asks him. "Where were you?"
Wilson, slightly drunk, looks confused. "On your couch, I think. Why, did I leave and forget to let myself know?"
House won't be dissuaded. "Where were you when it happened?"
"Did I miss an alert? I didn't know we were watching the news…."
"Okay, I'll spell it out, then. Where were you when I had the infarct?"
Wilson's eyes widen, and he sobers up quickly; he feels like he's just been blindsided. "Where the hell'd that come from?" He's angry, and he's not sure why. This conversation suddenly feels dangerous.
"It didn't come from anywhere. It's just a question. I'm curious." House's tone is mild, but his posture is not. Both hands are clenched, and his knuckles are white.
"House, you know where I was. In California, at the ALL conference. I was presenting a paper on that new chemo protocol, and—"
"No, damn it! Why didn't you come back?" House is surprised at the anger in his own voice.
"House, you had Cuddy, you had Stacy. You were pretty much out of it. I called six times a day—you shoulda seen my cellphone bill!" Wilson smiles. House doesn't.
"I had Cuddy and Stacy. I didn't have my best friend, he was out golfing under the palm trees—"
"House, that's not fair!"
"No, but what was happening to me without my permission—hell, without my knowledge—that was as fair as a day in May, right, Jimmy?" House sneers.
So that was it. "You think I could've stopped the surgery." It isn't a question.
"We'll never know, will we?" House's voice is cold.
Wilson takes a deep breath. He's entering dangerous waters, and he weighs his words carefully. "Stacy asked my opinion. I agreed with what Cuddy wanted to do. That wasn't a decision Stacy should have had to make alone."
"That wasn't Stacy's decision to make! And it wasn't yours, either." House is breathing raggedly; he's given up trying to control his anger.
"You gave her your medical proxy because you trusted her."
"Misplaced trust; it's a wonderful thing." House's laugh is bitter, humorless.
"I didn't come back because she asked me not to. She figured it was better that there was someone you didn't blame."
"Selfless of her."
"Yes, actually, it was. Would you have let me help you recover after the surgery if you'd known?"
House stares into him, says very slowly, "I'm all finished recovering; you can leave now."
"You don't mean that!"
"I think this little chat is over. Shouldn't you be out looking for your next needy cripple?"
Wilson stares at him. "Oh, nice segue, House. You traveled from angry to vicious without even stopping at cruel."
They stare intently at each other, two boxers squaring off for the next round, both suspecting that this fight won't have a winner.
House speaks first. "Why are you still here? I asked you to leave."
Something has to give, and it's not gonna be House. Wilson takes a deep breath, decides it's not gonna be their friendship, either. He'll give; he'll give.
"I'm still here now because I wasn't there then. You needed me, and I wasn't there." He looks House square in the eye. "I'm sorry I wasn't there. I'm here now. I'm staying."
House looks at him. "I needed you." It comes down, all of it, to this one simple truth, this one festering hurt.
"I know. I should have been there. I'm sorry." An acknowledgement, an admission, an apology. A balm for the wound, finally.
House takes a deep breath. "Thanks for clearing that up."
Wilson knows all there is to know about House, and now House knows everything there is to know about Wilson. And so they move on.