Chapter One


I'm always the one to pick up the pieces. Always the one with the level-head. Always the one to think things through. The one to watch his ass. The one to help him out. The one to watch out for him. I'm always there for him...every time...every single damn's me.

I'm always the one to pick up the pieces. I was the one to show up at his apartment at one in the morning when he got drunk over Stacy. I sat through the angry screams and the uncontrolled tears. And I spoke softly when he yelled and comforted him when he cried. I was there the next morning when the ache of his heart combined with the pain of his hangover as well as the damage to his leg caused him to overdose on Vicodin. (I was there every time he did that)

I'm always the one to pick up the pieces. I was the only one to stand up for him against Vogluer. I was going to loose everything for him...for our "screwed up friendship". This friendship where he can't give an inch so I give a mile. Where he leaves things in pieces and I come in to clean them up. And I'm the only one that really knows him. The only one that sees across the distance he places between himself and everyone else. I'm the only one who can get through to him...and sometimes, he doesn't even listen to me. He's too wrapped up in his pain to give a damn about anyone else, even about me. Even though I'm the one that's always picking up the pieces.

But I can't pick up his pieces when I can't pick up my own. Just for once...I needed him...needed him to be the one to pick up the pieces.

But he can't do that…


"I'm sorry, the doctor is not in." Gregory House replied leaning off his couch to nudge the blinds closed with the tip of his cane.

"House!" Eyes narrowed and jaw clenched, Cuddy's face took on the look that she always wore when House was uncooperative...which was nearly all the time. Even through the glass, front wall of his office he could hear the stiletto on her high-heeled shoe clicking as she taped her foot impatiently on the tile.

House responded by reaching over and turning up his stereo, which was currently playing "Baba O'Riley" by The WHO.

I get back to my living…

"House, you haven't taken a case in two weeks. Cameron is doing YOUR clinic duty."

I don't need to fight…

"Chase and Forman are playing…."

He shoved the volume dial up to max so that Cuddy's voice was drown out entirely.

To prove I'm right…

She must have realized his intentions this because she yelled even louder, but couldn't manage to scream over the pulse of the piano and clash of drums.

I don't need to be forgiven…

Yelling, perhaps, wasn't the best word, she was actually screeching. It was a harsh, piercing note that cut through House's ears like a white-hot bolt of pain…but House was used to dealing with pain. Pulling the pill-bottle out of his pocket he dry-swallowed a Vicodin.

"HOUSE!" Cuddy's voice managed to cut in during one of the lulls of the music.

Greg rolled over on the couch and pushed the blinds open. He began the painstaking process of rising to his feet. His leg was always stiff after he first stood up, so his limp was more pronounced. If Cuddy hadn't already known this she would have thought that House was purposely exaggerating it in order to curb her anger by making her feel sympathy for him.

"What?" He mouthed; she couldn't hear him through the door.

His eyes sparkled with that thrill of defiance.

The song seemed to present his exact philosophy: he didn't need to fight to prove that he was right; he was already so assured of it. And as for forgiveness…well, House didn't make any mistakes.

"Get down to the clinic and do your hours instead of making Cameron do it. And we have a hospital full of cases, find one and get Foreman and Chase to start working on it instead of throwing balls of paper into trash cans!" While, he couldn't hear her over the music, House could read his boss's lips perfectly well, and even if he hadn't been able to, it was all too clear what she wanted.

Get up off your ass, Greg. Go deal with the sniffly-nosed kids down in the clinic, Greg. Stop being a bastard and listen to me, Greg.

Same old story.

"Sorry, can't hear you." He said and closed the blinds again. Lying back down on the couch, he grabbed a pillow and pulled it over his eyes.

Two more songs had played before Cuddy finally left. House turned down the music and listened to the sweet sound of her heels disappearing down the hall…it was far more dulcet than any other melody.

Taking the pillow off his eyes, he leaned forward and massaged his leg. He could feel the cragged surface that was now where his thigh muscle had once been. Even through his thick jeans he could feel every uneven surface, every scar. It was simple repetition that had imprinted them in his mind. The layout of that wound was known so well to him, that he didn't even have to touch it to feel it.

"House?" A very disgruntled looking Cameron was scowling at him through the door between his office and the conference room. "House? The clinic is filled with flu patients, we need help down there."

"Get Forman or the Australian boy." He considered going over and closing those blinds too, but didn't want to go through the trouble of standing up again, maybe Cameron would just go away in a second.

"I just sent them down there, but it won't be enough, clinic is still overflowing." Cameron seemed truly annoyed; House found it very amusing to find a scowl on her lips which were normally turned up in a soft smile or pulled into a straight line in deep thought.

House shakily rose to his feet and leaning heavily on his cane moved over to the door. His crooked stance mirrored the pout of his lips as he glared back at her through the glass.

Some brief battle of wills seemed to occur as their eyes were locked before Cameron finally surrendered, turned and moved out of the conference room. He watched her back until the elevator door closed in front of her auburn hair, white coat, and lipstick lined frown.

Two down. He allowed himself a slight smile, maybe he'd get away without ever doing a single bit of work today.

He'd just started to sit back down when he heard the door open behind him. Half-leaned over the couch, he cocked his head, almost dog-like in manor; he couldn't have heard that, the doors were locked. Turning his head slowly, he looked over his left shoulder.

James Wilson, House's best…and only…friend was standing in the doorway dangling a key from his middle finger. "You really shouldn't let me get a hold of your keys when you're drunk."

"You made copies!" House moved to reach for the key, but his leg was still too stiff. Wilson nimbly slipped away and placed the key into his breast pocket. Greg knew that he wouldn't win any wrestling match he attempted to provoke, so he let it go for the moment.

"Your office key, your motorcycle, your apartment…all of them." James replied, sitting down behind House's desk.

"What are friends for if not backstabbing?" Replied House tartly.

"Well, this friend is here to warn you that you better stay hidden in your office. Cuddy is on a rampage, if she finds you..."

"She already did find me, I refused to come out."

"Good God, House! The woman is ready to shoot you!" Wilson leaned forward and pulled a small packet out of his pocket.

"Shame, because I'd love to see her mad. Every inch of that sexy body trembling." He made a cat-like noise in the back of his throat. "She's way too hot to be a hospital administrator; who do you think she slept with to end up here?"

Glaring at Greg, obviously telling him to drop the irreverent topic, Wilson took a lozenge out of the packet..

"Hey! Hey!" House moved as quickly as he could across the room and snatched the packet from Wilson just before he could slip it back into his pocket. "I'm the only one of us who can pop pills here."

Wilson made a grab after House, but the other man quickly spun away, he was agile enough when he wanted to be.

"Throat lozenges? Tsk Tsk Tsk. I would have expected more of you. If you're going to encroach on my territory at least do it with some real drugs." Greg tossed the package over his shoulder.

Wilson had to lean nearly out of the chair to catch it. There was a reason Greg became a doctor instead of a sports-star, even before the accident he'd never been the most coordinated person ever.

"I'm only taking them for pain." James Wilson fought to keep the slightly hostile tone out of his voice.

House flopped (well, as close as he could come to flopping without causing himself injury) down in the chair across from Wilson. "Where as I take mine 'cause they taste like candy." He reached into his pocket and tossed a pill into the air before catching it between his teeth.

"How many of those have you taken in the past hour?"

"How many of those lozenges have you taken in the past hour?"

"Throat lozenges aren't habit forming. And I don't think it's possible to overdose on them."

"Why are you taking them anyway?"

"You're a nosy bastard! And for a doctor, you're not very perceptive. Throat lozenges only treat one condition."

"Another reason I stay away from the clinic, no sick people to catch things like that from." House picked up the over-sized tennis ball and leaned back in the chair, hurling it up at the ceiling, and watching it fall back to his waiting hand.

"Well, you can't stay away too long, Cuddy goes on break soon and ten dollars says she drags you down there." James reached for his wallet.

House snorted. "You'll be paying for my lunch tomorrow."

"I do that most of the time, you just take mine." Wilson waved a ten dollar bill teasingly before sliding it back into his wallet. "But I have a feeling that even you won't be able to stand up to that woman on the warpath." Rising, Wilson said, "Besides, I could always just give her the key to your office." And with that he moved out of the room.

"That's cheating! If you do that the bet's off!" But Wilson had already left.

House leaned back in the chair and hurled the ball towards the ceiling again. He watched it rise and fall.

But he wasn't the only one observing it. Staring back through the partially open blinds, Wilson watched.

The ball itself was like House. A constant cycle, never managing to stay level, sometimes on the way up other times on the way down, and every once in a while hitting a high and a low and when he hit that low there was always a hand to help him back up. Wilson was that hand.

House had been on his way up again for the past few weeks, still addicted to pain and pain medication, still anti-social, still hostile and sarcastic, but better, for House. The ball brushed against the ceiling then began its decent again.

When would House start to fall again?

And I'll have to be there to help him up.

Wilson turned away from the window and moved back down the hall. He only had a few minutes left on break, his throat was killing him, maybe he'd head down and grab some coffee…or preferably some tea….and then hide from Cuddy for a while so that he could put off her yelling at him about House before she finally left to go yell at House some more. A dull ache was growing behind his temples and he didn't really feel like being yelled at.

He reached out and pushed a button on the elevator and headed towards the cafeteria.

One floor down, the doors opened and Cuddy stood there glaring menacingly. The look in her eyes would have cut through steel (or her preferable goal, House's flesh). "Where the hell is House!"

Wilson suppressed a groan; the high-pitched note of hysteria in Cuddy's voice had a way of doubling the pain of his headache. "Hiding in his office."

Cuddy pressed her lips together into a thin line and slammed her manicured nail into the door-open button and stormed off the elevator. Every heel click shot through his head.

Yeah, that cup of tea sounded amazing right now.