How to Succeed in Therapy Without Really Falling


The first thing they taught him was how to fall.

As soon as he could stand without crumpling, as soon as could take enough vicodin to keep from blacking out, House was called in to meet with a physical therapist.

He remembered snowboarding as a child, frustrated with first having to practice the art of landing safely on his behind before gaining access to the mountains above, furious that everyone expected him to fail. Why else would anyone make him learn to fall?

Instead of learning how to stand up on his own, walk or even run, he was taught how to shift his body to the left if he felt himself slipping, so instead of trying to catch himself, he would just fall on as much of his left side as he could manage. It was safe, they had said, and practical, since it was inevitable that he was going to fall many times in the remainder of his life. By falling the proper way, he could easily be able to prevent greater injuries in the future.

Except there was no snow to cushion his falls now; this time around, he didn't have any more hope than his physio did. If expecting him to fall was such a trend among everyone else, House didn't see why he shouldn't jump on the bandwagon too.

But he refused to let someone teach him how to fall.

"I'm not going back," he said to Wilson as they drove away from the hospital. After forty-five minutes of excruciating leg exercises and falling onto a blue mat, House was too exhausted to make it to the car on his own. Flat out refusing a wheelchair, he leaned heavily on Wilson, saying nothing until he could finally collapse into the passenger seat of his car.

Ever the optimist, Wilson said, "it wasn't that bad." It was as good as it ever could be to have to watch his friend fall and yell and clutch at his leg, sweating and straining from the exertion and hating everything about it.

He didn't look over at House until he heard the rattle of a pill bottle and saw him struggling to pop off the cap of his vicodin prescription. "You just had two before PT."

"It hurts," House growled, having finally succeeded in removing the cap, and popped a vicodin in record time. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes, frenetically drumming the fingers of his right hand on the door handle as he silently pleaded for the narcotic to kick in faster.

"Don't fall asleep," Wilson warned. "I'm not carrying you in." He knew full well that no matter how bad the pain was, House would never let him.

"Don't tell Stacy," House answered, drawing a deep, shuddering breath.

"About what?"

"That I'm not going back."

"I thought you were just saying that out of anger."

"Well I'm angry."

"You're going back."

"Don't tell me what to do," he snapped, loosening his seatbelt and wincing as it tightened again, the thin strap feeling impossibly heavy on his chest. So he just unbuckled it, struggling to get comfortable.

"You're going back to PT!" Wilson said vehemently, "I can't believe you're even telling me this! This is what's going on now, this is something you have to deal with."

"I wouldn't be in this mess if only-"

"Right, you'd just be dead," Wilson snapped, loud and angry enough to cut House off, beating his palms against the steering wheel. "Stacy didn't give you the infarction, but she saved your life. It was either this or… or nothing." He couldn't bring himself to say the word death again, remembering all too vividly just how close House had come to it.

"So just shut up."

"You can bring me over to your place," House said, indifferent to Wilson's last words. "Stacy will think I'm at the hospital, but she won't know a god damn thing."

"Shut up, House! You took too many vicodin, you're not thinking straight. Shut up."

"That's not an excuse," House muttered, his hands going to his thigh and cautiously, so carefully, he tried to calm the oncoming muscle spasm. "It's a stupid waste of my time."

But what else would House do with his time? Lie in bed, watch TV and try to distract himself from the incredible pain in his leg? If anything, the therapy could just have been a distraction, one that House didn't even have to buy into. He could just go to take his mind off things for one hour a day, and if it worked, then it worked. If it didn't, then nothing was lost but idle time.

Wilson heard the labored breathing of House falling victim to the spasm and glanced over at him, his momentary apathy lost to the new rush of concern. "Should I pull over?"

"Drive," House commanded, surprising Wilson with how controlled his voice was. His face, however, gave everything away, as Wilson stole another glance before having to look back at the road.

House could not touch the scar. The pain, and actually feeling it under his fingers, pulsing and searing and real, was too much for him to handle. It was doubtful that he would ever wear shorts again.

For the rest of the drive, Wilson could not bring himself to look at House. He wasn't trying to be apathetic to prove a point anymore. The sight of House in that much pain was just… a shock, like being pushed into a pool of ice water or, he thought with regret, onto a blue therapy mat.

House learning how to fall was not a comforting sight. It shattered any of Wilson's remaining hope that he would ever be able to function normally again. The fact that they were teaching him to fall was only the first step down a long road of teaching House to cope with his new disability instead of helping him overcome it. To accept inevitable falling would be to accept that this was it, and neither Wilson nor House wanted to believe it.

Wilson kept saying that things would get better; House just refused to cope. To cope would be to go down without a fight. He didn't want House to give up.

"When did they schedule your next session for?"

"I'm not going," House snapped.

"I know," Wilson said. "When is it?"

House did not respond, bowing his head over his thigh and trying not to grab at the dead, useless remainder of muscles.

"I'll… take you to my place. We can order in."

"But once I'm in the car, I'm powerless. You could drive me off a cliff, for all I know."

"Do you really think that I'd take you back to physio?"

Casually, House answered, "yes."

Wilson tried his hardest not to be hurt by this. It was as if House expected betrayal from everyone he knew. However, he had been betrayed and in the worst way. It was no wonder if he stopped trusting people.

But it still hurt. Wilson valued his friendship with House above a lot of things. Like his marriage, which had taken a direct hit after House's infarction. Wilson had given a lot up for House, and all he got in return was blatant distrust?

"You're an ass. What time is the session?"

"Two-thirty. Thursday." House muttered reluctantly. "Could you get my crutches?"

Wilson silently obliged and waited to see if House needed help getting out of the car. He couldn't help but notice how unsteady he was on his feet, how close he looked to just collapsing at the front door.

"I'll see you Thursday," House said, and went to face Stacy.

House didn't need anyone to teach him how to fall. He knew how to fall.