Habits And Distractions


The mornings are cold, so cold when House wakes alone in his bed. He puts that down to the fact that it's still February, barely out of winter. That's why it's so cold. Yes, that's the reason. Or so he tells himself.

It's always on his left side that he wakes; a habit he's formed since the infarction. Always on his left side, on the right-hand side of the bed -- another habit, and God knows, habits are so hard to break -- because that's just the way it came to be when Wilson used to sleep on the left side of the bed, on his right. So they could look at one another, though of course they never admitted to each other that was the reason. But that Wilson's not there -- it's been almost a month since Wilson last slept in his bed -- is not the reason why the mornings are cold, House tells himself. No, not at all. It's because there's frost on the windows and a chill in the air that cuts deep into the skin that it's so cold; a chill that only a scalding hot shower can get rid of.

Yes. Yes, that's the reason.

He rolls out of bed -- fuck, his thigh hurts more in the cold -- and limps to the bathroom. Strips his clothes off as he waits for the water to reach the right temperature and then steps under the hot spray, where he washes and scrubs away the chill, until his skin is raw and pink. Funny how, when he finally steps out of the shower, it doesn't matter how warm his skin is he still feels cold deep inside. Bitterly cold.

Just like how their relationship had become towards the end. Bitterly cold and empty. Because what they had wasn't based upon admittance. It never was. Even though they loved each other, or so House was certain they did, they never even mentioned that daunting 'L' word to each other: love. No "I love you". Nothing like that. House always talked in riddles and jokes, and when Wilson talked it was always without ever actually saying anything. So many things were always left unsaid and--

No. Best not to think about that.

House dresses -- jeans, a t-shirt and his Nikes -- and makes his way out to the kitchen, cane thump-thumping on the wooden floor, and he opens the fridge and stares at the contents. Orange juice or milk? Toast or cereal? Or maybe a Vicodin. Or two. His leg is hurting badly. More than usual.

No, he thinks to himself, it's not psychosomatic. Fuck that shit. It's just a bad day. That's all.

He retrieves the milk from the door shelf, pops the spout open and drinks from the carton, and out of habit he expects to hear Wilson's chastising voice behind him, telling him to use a god damn glass. Yes, habits are so hard to break.

A bit like how their relationship was: a habit. It never used to be that way. It used to be good. But it became that way; a habit. A bad habit, made up of caustic remarks, bitter fights that amounted to nothing but equally bitter, unresolved silences and sometimes cold, empty fucking. House isn't sure when it started to become that way. He's not even sure why it ended up that way. It just did. Maybe because, deep down, they were never really happy. Maybe they both weren't really ever happy with being… well, gay. Or bisexual. Or whatever they were. Or are. House certainly struggled with it for a very long time; a lot more than he let on. He still struggles with it. Wilson definitely struggled with it. Maybe that's why it went so sour. Unspoken resentment about their sexuality; resentment they had both grown to silently take out on each other because neither of them had ever fully come to terms with it. Yes, maybe that was it.

Whatever it was, their relationship became nothing but a habit; a bad, bad habit. And bad habits are always the hardest ones to break.

A bit like Stacy -- she was a habit, wasn't she? A habit he couldn't seem to break. Just like his dependence on Vicodin. Except he needs his Vicodin. Just like he needed Stacy. Or so he thought.

Just like he needed Wilson. Or, really, needs. He needs--

No. Best not to think about that.

Habits, all habits. Funny how what goes around comes around, in so many different guises.

Hmm. Best not to think about that, either.

Coffee next. Coffee is always a good distraction. He tips one, two, three scoops of coffee grounds into the Moka pot and waits for it to brew. Waits and waits, it feels like he's going to be waiting forever. A watched kettle never boils, he thinks to himself. That's what Wilson used to say to him when they'd both stand around bleary-eyed and dishevelled in the kitchen, picking sleep out of the corners of their eyes and stifling yawns, desperate for that first pick-me-up coffee of the day.

His mind wanders to that time Wilson had said that very thing to him as he pressed up behind House and kissed his neck in a rare display of affection -- they were never really affectionate with each other. The occasional peck on the lips, perhaps, or sometimes they'd absently lace their fingers together when they sat on the sofa and watched a film, but otherwise they never really touched. House has always liked his personal space, and Wilson just wasn't typically affectionate by nature. Plus, there was the added factor of that unspoken struggle they both had with their sexuality. But that particular morning House had found himself back in bed, coffee completely forgotten, face pressed into the pillow with Wilson balls-deep inside him. What a pick-me-up that had been. They'd ended up late for work that morning. They'd--

House snaps out of thinking about that. It hurts to think about it, not that he'd ever admit that to himself. The ache inside him is hunger pain, nothing more. That's what he tells himself. Yes, just hunger pain. Nothing a slice of toast can't curb. A bit like this thigh -- it's nothing a Vicodin can't control.

The Moka pot is boiling and he sets about making himself a cup of coffee; strong, bitter coffee that hits directly into his veins and kick-starts his system.

One cup, two cups later, the coffee hasn't really killed the coldness inside him but he feels buzzed and distracted enough to be able to ignore it. He slips himself a Vicodin, holds a slice of dry toast between his teeth as he shrugs on his motorcycle jacket, and gathers up his helmet and keys before he heads downstairs, eating the toast.

The cold February morning air hits him in a sharp blast and, after setting his helmet down with the half-eaten toast clenched between his teeth again, he fumbles with the zip of his jacket, cursing under his breath when it gets stuck halfway. Stupid fucking jacket.

He wrestles with it, muttering to himself impatiently and it makes him think back with an ache in his chest to that time this very same thing had happened, and Wilson had taken over. He'd stepped up to him and brusquely slapped House's hands away so he could grasp the zip and help him with it. Wilson had remarked that he'd seen a child about the age of three in clinic the day before acting the same way as House when the kid couldn't do up the buttons on his shirt. Though Wilson was chastising him, he'd said it with an air of affection in his voice. That was how he often talked to House before it all went sour -- Wilson would never directly say anything to the effect of affection, but his intentions and sentiments towards House were displayed in such a manner in moments like those. House had been irritated with Wilson and his meddling, though he secretly appreciated the help, and--

The zip suddenly comes unstuck. Pulling it up to his neck to shut out the cold, House glances to the spot where Wilson's car used to be parked every morning. The last time he'd seen the car there was the morning before Wilson had walked out on their relationship for good. Or, rather, House had told him to leave.

Or maybe it was both.

Yes, it was both.

No. No, best not to think about that. Best not to think about any of it; that would be a good habit to get into.

Good habits are just so damn hard to form. As hard as bad habits are to break.

He quickly eats the rest of his toast without actually tasting any of it and then tugs his helmet on. Cane affixed to the side of the bike, he mounts the bike and roars the engine to life before taking off for work. He manages not to really think about Wilson until he's pulling into the car park of Princeton-Plainsboro. He sees Wilson's Volvo parked in its usual spot and House feels that familiar twisting ache in him that he knows he can't put down to hunger pains.

Best not to think about it, he tells himself again. Best to look away.

After parking up the bike he heads inside and, no, he's not praying to himself that he doesn't see Wilson. Not at all. He's thinking about the latest case that's come in. That, like coffee, is a good distraction. Woman, 34, symptoms that look a lot like Paroxysmal Nocturnal Haemoglobinuria; seemingly unexplained clots occurring in strange parts of her body, bone marrow dysfunction, anaemia.

Yes. Yes, he's thinking about the case. Thinking about that is a good distraction. It works, too, for a while. Mind focused on the case and differential diagnosis, Wilson's pushed to the back of his mind.

That is, until House sees from his office Wilson walking past.

Funny how seeing Wilson stirs so many things within him at once: anger, bitterness, loneliness, resentment, confusion, pain.


Best not to think about that.

Look away, he tells himself. Just look away. Out of sight, out of mind. That's a good habit to get into.

Except he can't look away. He just can't. Bad habits are so damn hard to break, it doesn't matter how confusing they are. He stares at him, watching Wilson stopping to talk to a doctor who's holding a file open in his hands. He just keeps staring and when Wilson glances up to look at him, they lock eyes and there's that shred of coldness in Wilson's eyes. Along with something House finds eerily familiar. Longing? Regret? Or maybe he's just imagining things, because Wilson looks away again and a moment after that he's walking off until he's out of sight.

Yes. Out of sight, out of mind. That's the best way to be, House thinks to himself as he looks back down to his work. Except, why are things always so much easier said than done? Why does--

Don't question anything, he tells himself. Don't ask questions. To distract himself, he fetches himself a fresh cup of coffee and, two cups of coffee and a Vicodin later to curb the throbbing pain in his thigh he's buzzed and focused back on the case, Wilson pushed to the back of his mind again. Wilson stays there for the rest of the day, until it's time to head home.

House attempts to not look at Wilson's Volvo still standing that same parking space as he mounts his bike, and he attempts to not think about the fact that heading home to an empty, cold place is going to remind him of how much he truthfully misses Wilson. No, he tries not to think about it when he parks his bike up outside his home and he really tries not to think about it when he enters his apartment.

His cold, empty apartment.

He sets about making distractions for himself -- another hot, scalding shower that is so hot it feels like it's burning his skin, yet when he gets out of the shower he still feels cold inside. A cup of coffee, two cups of coffee, another Vicodin, a half-heartedly cooked meal of packaged pasta and sauce that he manages to burn to the bottom of the pan. He never was much of a cook. Wilson was a good cook, though. Was. Is. Still is.

No. Don't think about Wilson.

He watches television blankly as he eats his tasteless pasta meal until there is nothing left in his bowl, and when there's nothing left to distract himself with, he stares at the television, absently rubbing his thigh.

Until he's so tired he can barely keep his eyes open. He pushes himself up off the sofa, switches the tv off and then heads to the bathroom to clean his teeth. Into the bedroom, he strips and slips under the cool covers, rolling instantly onto his left side, on the right-hand side of the bed, and he stares at the spot where Wilson used to sleep. Force of habit; always a force of habit.

His mind wanders because he's just too damn tired to stop it from doing so. He sleepily wonders if Wilson thinks about him; if he lies in bed at night just as House is doing now and thinks of him. He wonders how it could have turned out if they'd learned to deal with their sexuality. He wonders what it could have been like if they were just more open with each other. He wonders what it would have been like if he'd just admitted to Wilson that he loved him.

Still loves him.

House shifts onto his back, facing away from the cold, empty part of the bed, that last thought echoing uneasily and remorsefully in his mind.

Best not to think about that.


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