AN: Italics are excerpts from Bulfinch's translation of "Daedalus and Icarus."
Dædalus built the labyrinth for King Minos, but afterwards lost the favor of the king, and was shut up in a tower. He contrived to make his escape from his prison, but could not leave the island by sea, as the king kept strict watch on all the vessels, and permitted none to sail without being carefully searched.
House held the film up, studied the shadows in the sunlight that cut across the room. He traced his fingers lightly over the image, the deep cut in the rectus femoris, the wider but shallow valley of the vastus lateralis.
Wilson had to stop himself from saying anything, from falling back onto the comfortable language he'd use to explain medical procedures to patients. The platitudes that normally came to mind were no good now. "It could be worse," he wanted to say, but didn't. House knew how much worse it could have been -- and just how bad it actually was.
"They give you any idea on when you'll start PT?" Wilson finally asked.
House shifted slightly in his bed. He didn't look at Wilson and instead slid the films back into the envelope. "Not until they can do the initial workup without a morphine boost."
Wilson nodded slightly. He knew the therapy would have to start soon, or House risked losing even more muscle, not to surgery this time, but to atrophy. The longer it took to get him up on his feet -- if he was going to get back on his feet at all -- the more strength he would lose in the remaining muscle. The more deconditioned the leg would become. And those remaining fibers had more work to do now. House would have to call on them to do the work of the muscle that was gone forever.
"Don't do that," House said, and Wilson looked over at the bed to see House staring at him.
"Don't do what, exactly?" Wilson frowned and pushed himself up away from the wall. He walked to the side of the bed and found himself placing his right hand on the rail near House's shoulder. It had become a habit with him in hospital rooms, moving close enough to provide comfort, but not so close he'd invade someone's personal space.
"That," House said, and nodded at Wilson's hand. "Don't ..." He paused, turned to look up at the ceiling. "Stop treating me like a patient."
Wilson sighed. "But you are ..."
"I'm not your patient." House glanced over at him, then back up at the ceiling. "Stop trying to book my rehab schedule for me." He looked away from the ceiling and down at the bed, at the line of his legs under the blanket. "I know what can happen if I wait too long. I knew what would happen before, but no one would listen to me."
House leaned back into the mattress and pillows. He took a deep breath, released it. "I know what I have to do," he said.
He wrought feathers together, beginning with the smallest and adding larger, so as to form an increasing surface. The larger ones he secured with thread and the smaller with wax, and gave the whole a gentle curvature like the wings of a bird.
Therapy didn't go well. It never did. House never said what happened inside the concrete walls of the rehab rooms, their floors covered with exercise bikes, cushioned mats, tables, treadmills and parallel bars. But Wilson could tell he was in pain at the end of every session. He reminded himself that House was in pain at the start of every session too.
Wilson tried to give House his space, but couldn't stop himself from watching. From worrying.
He knew that House was trying, that he was forcing the muscles to work even as the pain fought him back, tried to make him stop. For a few weeks, House was winning. H made steady progress, from crutches to cane, even a few halting steps with nothing under his arms, no support beneath his palm.
Wilson wanted to reach out, to guide House to the safety of a chair the first time he saw him take those lurching steps, but House stopped him with a glance and reached the chair on his own. He sat and gripped his thigh tightly in his right hand.
Wilson started to think that maybe House would beat the pain after all. Drive it into submission until there was nothing left but a slight limp.
But there was no hope. Pain doesn't go away, doesn't diminish just because you're stubborn, doesn't fade just because you're strong, and the drugs can only do so much.
Weeks passed into months. The cane stayed. So did the pills.
Months passed into years.
One night, as House dozed on the couch after dinner, Wilson studied the contours of House's leg underneath the cotton of his sweatpants. He tried to remember the outline of the leg as it had looked before, and compared his memory to what he could see now and added up what House had lost.
When at last the work was done, the artist, waving his wings, found himself buoyed upward, and hung suspended, poising himself on the beaten air. He next equipped his son in the same manner, and taught him how to fly, as a bird tempts her young ones from the lofty nest into the air.
House moved slowly down the hall. His right hand gripped the IV stand. He was wearing an old pair of shoes Wilson had brought from House's condo. The ones he'd been wearing a week earlier had been confiscated by police along with the rest of his clothes.
Evidence, they had said. They also had said they expected to have the guy in custody within the first few hours. Then within days. But all they had found were dead ends and a hotel room booked under a false name.
Wilson wanted to blame them. He wanted to blame everyone who was there: Foreman and Chase for not tackling the guy, Cameron for not hitting him with something that would have thrown off his aim.
He tried not to think about how he had voted with the rest of the board to reduce the on-site security as part of the cutbacks after Vogler left. They had thought that they could get by with a few guards in the ER and the clinic, where they were more likely to be needed.
He'd tried to tell Cuddy she shouldn't feel guilty. There was no way anyone could have known what this lunatic was planning. She'd stared at him for a moment, then shook her head.
"We're all guilty of something," she'd said.
None of House's team knew who the guy was. Wilson took the photo they'd grabbed from the video monitors near the main entrance and had sat with it for hours, trying to remember if he'd seen him. He spent one afternoon next to House's bed as House slept under the effects of the ketamine and went through House's case files, hoping to find a name or case that would trigger his memory.
"I remember doing this, before," House said and Wilson looked over at him as he took another step forward. "In my dream," House added, and Wilson nodded. "Doing the post-surgery shuffle, but Cameron was there instead of you."
"All the people your subconscious could have dredged up and all you came up with was Cameron?"
"I guess Pamela Anderson was booked into someone else's hallucination."
House had told him of the vivid images after the shooting, but only in bits and pieces. Wilson was surprised he'd said anything about it at all. He wondered if House had been scared in his dream or just angry when the shooter appeared next to him.
House stopped and leaned back against the wall. He looked tired, pale. He'd lost weight during the five days he'd spent unconscious and dreaming.
House rubbed one hand down his leg to the knee, then back up.
"Well?" Wilson asked.
"It's weak, but still no pain." House smiled. "Feels great."
"Icarus, my son, I charge you to keep at a moderate height, for if you fly too low the damp will clog your wings, and if too high the heat will melt them. Keep near me and you will be safe." While he gave him these instructions and fitted the wings to his shoulders, the face of the father was wet with tears, and his hands trembled.
Then rising on his wings, he flew off, encouraging him to follow, and looked back from his own flight to see how his son managed his wings. As they flew the ploughman stopped his work to gaze, and the shepherd leaned on his staff and watched them, astonished at the sight, and thinking they were gods who could thus cleave the air.
The club connected with a solid thunk of wood and metal making contact with the hard plastic of the ball. Wilson watched it fly out, veer right, then curve to the left.
"Well that hook certainly makes it look like you're back to normal," he said.
House leaned down and set another ball on the tee. "You're just bitching because even after a seven-year break, I can still drive the ball further than you."
"And you'll spend just as much time in the rough getting it out as you did seven years ago," Wilson said. He took a swing and watched as his ball flew straight down the center of the driving range.
There were only a couple of other people out this early. A haze hid the horizon and dew sparkled in the bright morning sun. House had woken him up at a little after 5 a.m. with a phone call, telling him to grab some clubs and meet him outside in thirty minutes. House drove them more than twenty miles outside town, to a course Wilson had never heard of.
"Neither has anyone else," House said.
House had hidden himself away once he left the hospital. He'd done the same thing after the infarction, not wanting to see anyone, trying to avoid every glance, every sign of pity from anyone who had known him before.
Now he was doing the same. Wilson wasn't sure if it was because House wanted to surprise everyone once he got back, or because he wasn't sure the treatment would stick, and he didn't want to see those looks again.
But everything seemed fine so far. A textbook case, but then Wilson reminded himself that House never did anything by the book.
Wilson had watched as House's limp decreased, as his pace steadied. He walked with House around the block, then down to the coffee shop a half-mile down the road. He'd heard House's ragged breathing the first time he managed to run – a lopsided lope that he managed to maintain for two blocks before coming to a stop with his hands on his knees. When House started wearing shorts, Wilson noticed the muscle tone returning to his calves – the difference between the left and right leg weren't as noticeable.
Wilson heard House's club connect with the ball again and watched the ball soar off to the left once more.
"You could try a different grip," he said.
"There's nothing wrong with my grip," House said. "It's these crappy clubs. I need some new ones."
Wilson shrugged. "Maybe you should wait a few weeks," he said.
Wilson wanted to believe the pain wouldn't come back. He kept reassuring House – and himself – that it had worked. But he knew the numbers, and so did House. Fifty percent was a lousy statistic. It was a coin toss – heads or tails – and the coin hadn't landed yet. It was still in the air, rotating end over end while they both waited for it to fall.
He tried not to think about what would happen if it landed with the wrong side up. House had bet heavily that it wouldn't. Wilson was beginning to think that maybe he should make some plans for what to do if it did.
Maybe the pain wouldn't be as bad. Maybe they'd be able to treat it with a booster treatment.
Or maybe House would start up where he'd left off, taking Vicodin like candy and downing it with alcohol or a morphine booster. Back to the roller coaster moods that pissed everyone off. Everyone.
Or maybe this time, House would just give up.
They passed Samos and Delos on the left and Lebynthos on the right, when the boy, exulting in his career, began to leave the guidance of his companion and soar upward as if to reach heaven. The nearness of the blazing sun softened the wax which held the feathers together, and they came off. He fluttered with his arms, but no feathers remained to hold the air. While his mouth uttered cries to his father it was submerged in the blue waters of the sea.
Wilson stood outside on the balcony in the dark. From the far corner he could see a sliver of House's office. The lights were still on and every few moments House came into view. His limp had gotten worse even in the couple of hours since he'd left Wilson's office. He leaned heavily on a corner of the desk as he walked around it.
House was back where he'd started. Maybe even a few steps back, Wilson thought. Last time he hadn't expected to improve. This time he'd started to relax, to believe, to be happy.
Wilson had known he was grasping for straws when he'd convinced Cuddy to hide the truth. He doesn't even know now what it was he expected would happen. He knew they couldn't hide the truth for long. Doctors, nurses, orderlies – dozens of people had seen what happened in the lobby, Cuddy had said. Did Wilson really expect a little humility would turn House into something different? Something that he never was? Something he had never been?
He shook his head and leaned back against the wall. He dropped down to the concrete floor, the bricks scrubbing against his back as he slid down. He could only see a corner of the ceiling in House's office now and he stared at it.
Wilson had never thought House was a god. He was no saint. Not even a choirboy. But Wilson couldn't imagine what his life would have been without House there. And it had become so easy to scare himself with the images of House leaving him, leaving them all forever. Of House making a mistake that would leave him just a shell of who he was. Of House just fading away.
Maybe he'd just disappear. Not show up one day and never return.
During the past year or so, Wilson had started to have recurring nightmares of the day he'd answer the phone, get the call telling him he needed to come to the morgue, to identify the body. It was the call he used to imagine getting about his brother. Now House had the starring role.
Sometimes, in the nightmares, he's watching as House plunges over a railing, off into nothing, and Wilson can do nothing more than watch and grab at air where House had stood.
Or maybe he'd go the way the woman did in his hallucination, with the Corvette's engine running hard and going nowhere.
The light from House's office dimmed, then disappeared. Wilson whispered House's name, but didn't move, didn't call out. Instead he sat and stared at the spot where the light used to be, until it blended with the dark blue of the night sky.
His father cried, "Icarus, Icarus, where are you?" At last he saw the feathers floating on the water, and bitterly lamenting his own arts, he buried the body and called the land Icaria in memory of his child.