A/N: Well, here's that resolution I was talking about. I hope you enjoy it. It's not Slash in any real or graphic sense, but I suppose you could read the last bit that way of you wanted to. Contains slight spoilers for the episode 'Resignation.'
Conflict: A disagreement or clash between ideas, principles, or people.
Resolution: A formal expression of the consensus at a meeting, arrived at after discussion.
Conflict Resolution: Wilson pushing. House cracking.
Greg House had this uncanny ability to...feel things differently than most people. It was something he'd more or less stopped thinking about, stopped analyzing, many years ago; but every once in a while it came back to taunt the inner most workings of his mind.
It wasn't that he didn't have feelings - he wasn't a sociopath by any means, despite the rumors that claimed otherwise - he could just function outside the realm of pesky human emotions. He felt what he should - he just felt it later. It's what made him a good doctor. It's what made him great in a crisis.
Wilson had asked him about it a long time ago, back when serious conversations had existed on only the cusp of their friendship, when it was still safe to lie and not care.
He could recall the details of the event astonishingly well - considering he'd been more than a bit tipsy at the time- but that was all just a part of this particular character flaw. They'd been at a bar late one night after work; drinking, bitching and joking, when a young man on the other side of the room had gone into acute anaphylaxis.
Wilson had pulled out his cell and called for an ambulance immediately, sounding nervous on the phone, stumbling over his words. The younger man was out of his comfort zone, and that had made House smile a little, despite the circumstances. It was the first time he'd seen Jimmy truly flustered.
"House!" Wilson had shouted. By this time, that young man had collapsed onto the floor and his face was rapidly draining of color. He'd be dead before the ambulance got there, of that House was sure. "Get over here and help me!"
Jimmy was fending off a frightened bartender and a herd of overeager and drunk onlookers. He was failing miserably in the process of keeping their sort-of-patient alive.
House had sighed and evaluated the situation with the cold and calculating clarity with which he used to diagnosis the whole world. He'd come up with a plan of action before he'd even turned on his barstool.
He'd seen it done once on a daytime TV drama - not ER - and he'd heard stories about it in med school. He'd actually always hoped he'd someday have the chance try his own hand at it - he just wished he were more sober for the big event.
Within seconds, he'd been on the floor with his friend and the now barely alive guy, who'd stopped clawing at his throat at least. Back then, there had been no leg pain to stand in his way.
Wilson had looked panicked and terrified, pale and on the verge of collapsing himself. The bartender looked like he was debating between staying put and making sure no one died in his establishment and rushing back behind the counter to dispose of the illegal drugs he no doubt had stashed there. Everyone else had just stood gaping like an idiot.
House already had a straw in his hand.
"You." He'd pointed to a blurry looking guy near the front of the crowd. "Give me your pocket knife."
The large man with the scruffy face had hesitated. House rolled his eyes aggrievedly. "Now." He'd insisted. "Or he dies." Gesturing to the body on the floor, flopping around like a fish that would soon have to be returned to the water or cooked for dinner, he widened his eyes just enough to convey seriousness.
He'd had the pocketknife within moments.
"Please tell me you're not about to-" But Jimmy's words were cut off. They were a bit useless at that point anyway, as House already had the straw cut and the knife plunged into the guy's throat.
Less than a minute later had their not-patient breathing again, color returning to his features and House dragging his friend up and off the floor by the collar of his shirt with his bloody hands.
"We gotta go." He'd said and hastily told the bartender, "Keep pressure on the underside of the cut. He might bleed out." A do-gooder from the masses - probably a designated driver, House hoped at least - leapt forward to comply with his order. "And have the ambulance take him to Princeton General."
"House," Jimmy started, but by then they were out the back door, leaning against a brick wall, sirens could be heard faintly in the background.
"That -" He'd gestured vaguely to the chaos on the other side of where they now stood, "-is a lawsuit waiting to happen."
"We can't just-"
"Yes we can." He'd interrupted. "And we are. He'll be fine."
"Yes I do." He'd cut off again, beginning to feel repetitive. "You better hope no one remembers our names."
"That." He'd glared mockingly, sounding explanatory. "You say that too much. We've gotta come up with some fake names."
At that point, it was really just getting old. "Will be fine. Now stop it. We're gonna take a walk around the block. Sober up, wait for the ambulance to come and go and then we're gonna go get in your car, drive home and pretend this never happened."
"You saved that guy's life." Jimmy had seemed somewhat humbled, eyes wide and shining, gaze unwavering.
"I save lives everyday. So do you. It's called being a doctor." They had started walking, with House leading the way and staying carefully cloaked in the shadows provided by the dim lights on this city street.
"Not like that." Jimmy had said, and House had to remind himself that he'd been a doctor much longer than this younger man had. He'd found his innocence, his ability to be so easily awed, amazingly adoring.
Though he'd never admit that.
It was the true beginning of their friendship. Their real-life, deeper-meaning, psychoanalytic friendship. It was the beginning. Of something new.
On their slow walk around the block, Jimmy had asked him how he'd managed all that without panicking, without losing his grip and slicing open the guy's jugular. Even in the best of circumstances, he'd said, a good doctor is only ever prepared for the medical side of things. Comforted by the machines and medicine they have at their disposal. You didn't panic. I've never seen anything quite like that before.
Only House did panic. As they were rounding the second corner on that block, his heart sped up and his hands started to shake, he'd felt clammy and nauseous. Jimmy noticed, House knew he had, but he said nothing. The older doctor acknowledged the feelings for what they were at this point; moot.
He'd doubled back and doubted his own ability to do what he'd just done, he argued with himself that he was drunk, his hand could easily slip, the straw was not a tube and none of it was sterile. In fact, if this part of his brain had booted itself into function at the proper time, he might not have just slit open a guy's throat with a biker's pocketknife.
He might not have saved his life.
So years later, after time had eroded so much of them, they were back again at this point:
Greg House felt things at a different rate than most people.
He'd feel grief days or even weeks after others had moved on and let go. He'd hang unconsciously onto anger longer than anyone really wanted him too, exploding about the incident that had angered him months after the fact, looking almost surprised with himself when the words spewed out in a seemingly odd setting.
Sometimes James thought he was the only one who even came close to understanding the twisted logic and mess of contradictions that was his best friend. He probably was.
So when Greg told him about the not-patient and his not-murder-attempt he knew it wouldn't be long before Greg got around to actually experiencing the emotions that should have sprung forth that night almost a week ago.
Sometimes it took months, sometimes - like that night at the bar - it took only minutes. It varied depending on the seriousness of the situation and how much Greg was suppressing. James had a feeling, though, that this impact wouldn't take much longer to hit.
He was right.
James was still sleeping on his friend's couch, and he had no intention of leaving anytime soon. Greg hadn't pestered him about finding an apartment, hadn't played any juvenile pranks that ended in him wetting the bed or doing all the dishes just to make himself smile.
In fact, he'd been astoundingly calm the last week or so, since he'd limped into the hospital and started playing games with everybody.
"He probably just got into a fight." Chase dismissed Cameron's concern as he scanned over a medical file, vainly looking for something to alleviate the boredom they were all currently facing.
He blamed that boredom, if nothing else, on Cameron's inability to drop this subject.
"But with who?" The petite brunette sounded pained and Chase saw Foreman roll his eyes.
"Who cares?" The other doctor snapped. "A patient, a guy in a bar, a drug dealer. What does it matter?"
"It doesn't bother you that our boss has inexplicable injuries?" She fought back, reminding Chase of the incident last year when Foreman had 'stolen' her article. He suddenly had the distinct urge to go down to the ER to see if they needed any extra help.
"They're not inexplicable." The ER was looking better and better. "He just doesn't want to explain them."
"And that doesn't bother you?" She asked again, sounding much like Cameron always did - morally outraged.
"No." Foreman slammed shut his own case file. "I could care less what House does in his free time."
"What about you, Chase?" Cameron turned on him. "Do you care that House has been in more pain in usual? That he's taking even more Vicodin? That he jumps every time someone walks into the room?"
At that, Chase raised his eyebrows slightly. "He does not."
She sighed exasperatedly and clenched her teeth. "You guys don't notice anything." She was seething.
"Look," he tried to calm her, because he knew if he didn't, no one else would. "Wilson's moved back in with House. Whatever happened or whatever's going on, I'm sure he can handle it."
"That's your solution?" She snapped. "Let someone else deal with it so we don't have to?"
"It's not our problem to deal with." Foreman exclaimed before Chase had the opportunity, spreading out his hands on the table and lying down logic. "He's our boos. We work for him. We're not supposed to have a say in his personal life."
Cameron opened her mouth to argue again, but Chase beat her to it. "He wouldn't give us the time of day even if we did try to pry."
Two pairs of eyes met hers, one defiantly, one almost sympathetically with an added layer of firmness. She was outnumbered.
"Fine." She was still seething, but she stood up and walked towards the door. For a split second, Chase was terrified that she'd do something that they'd all later regret. Instead, she just declared, "I'm going to the clinic. Page me if we get a case." She turned around before mumbling, "Or if either of you grow a moral conscious."
Then she was gone, and Chase let out a breath of relief.
"Do you think she's gonna try to talk to him?" Foreman asked after a few moments of relatively tense silence.
"I hope not." He answered honestly. "Really, what good has ever come from trying to talk to House about something personal?"
It was a rhetorical question but Foreman nodded in agreement. It wasn't often that these two shared an opinion, but for now, Chase was glad to have someone on his side.
"Is Wilson really living with House again?" He questioned curiously and Chase let yet another file drop to the desk. Maybe it was time to find a crossword puzzle. "Or did you just say that to shut Cameron up?"
"I heard them talking this morning." He explained, shuffling things around until he found the magazine he was looking for. Much more interesting than case files. "Wilson's either sleeping on House's couch or House is camping out in his motel room. But they're defiantly living together."
"That's good." Foreman nodded absently and only looked up again when he felt Chase's gaze. "It is." He insisted. "House is much more tolerable when he's got someone to share his misery with."
"True." Chase nodded, not being able to deny that fact. "I just hope it lasts."
"If you keep doing that, people are gonna start to think you're an easy target." Wilson greeted House late Friday night, stepping into his dimly lit office and commenting on the elder's man out-of-character jumpiness.
"I'm not doing anything." House denied, lowering his head again to study the thick textbook open on his desk.
"You're acting scared." Wilson pointed out plainly, keeping his hands firmly mounted on his hips. With his tie slightly loosened and his hair messed from running his hand through it too many times that day, he looked almost readied for battle.
"No I'm not." But House didn't look up, didn't even act indignant. Wilson knew he was cracking.
"It finally sunk in, didn't it?" A pointless question, as he already knew the answer, but it was a strategy, a foothold he had to use. "What happened last week. The fact you could have died."
"You know," House snapped, looking up for the briefest of moments but not catching his eyes, "I don't recall you being this annoying after I got shot."
That, Wilson hadn't been expecting, his grasp on the conversation faltered, and House took advantage of it. "Getting shot," he was rationalizing, "Much more deadly than having a knife wielded in your general direction. Yet we never had an in-depth conversation about that."
Wilson widened his eyes and took another step forward, debating on sitting. "Do you want to have a conversation about that?" He inquired genuinely.
He'd always wanted to discuss it, House's odd request for Ketamine, the rise and fall of his leg strength, even the shooter himself, his reasoning, his logic, anything that would let Wilson know House had indeed at least been affected by the guy's actions.
"No." House snapped now, crushing all hope that that would ever happen. Whatever House felt towards the shooting would remain locked within in his own mind for the time being. "I want to go home."
Wilson saw opportunity to regain his balance, so he seized it. "And I want you to admit that you're at least a little affected by what happened last week."
But it was Wilson's turn. "Cameron came to see me today. She'd worried. She thinks you have PTSD."
House's eyes widened in anger. At first, Wilson didn't understand, but then, "You didn't..."
"No," he sighed, a little hurt that House could so easily accuse him of that sort of betrayal. "I didn't tell her anything. But she's smart; she's got an eye for detail. She probably started to notice how... Skittish you've been lately."
"I have not-"
"And Cuddy keeps asking me why you haven't been to the clinic," he interrupted again, trying to get all his cards on the table now. He could decide what to do with them once they were all laid out and facing upwards. "She said you haven't seen a patient in days. Could that possibly be fear?" He asked, couching worry in logic. "Fear of being alone with someone you don't know?"
And this time, House kept quiet.
Jimmy only had one hand left to play.
"And you're not bugging me about moving out."
"You have no place to go." House rolled his eyes as he stated the obvious. It might have been an attempt to anger Wilson, or get him to indulge in self-pity, but the younger man wouldn't fall pray to that trap again.
"You always annoy me to death." He said. Now at the edge of his friend's desk, he could hear the older man's shallow breathing; see the death grip he had on the side of his book. "Every time I've stayed at your place. Five AM jogs after my first wife kicked me out, consults at three-thirty in the morning about who Joey was destined to end up with, Dawson or Pacey, after your infarction. The pranks, the dishes. But now?" Greg had lowered his head, but James kept going. "Nothing. You don't even steal my food."
"It's been off-par lately." He retorted, instinctively hiding behind his sarcasm.
"I can only draw one possible conclusion." He had trip nines, two aces, his chips stacked and he was going all in with confidence. He was going to win this game. "You don't want me to leave."
Silence didn't get the chance to spread very thickly between them. "It was Pacey."
Okay, wildcard. "What?"
"It was Pacey, not Dawson." Dawson's Creek. James' had just laid down everything he had and Greg was discussing a teenage soap opera. "Joey ended up with Pacey. A lot of people didn't think that was right, thought it went against fate or their soul mate connection-"
"Goddamn it, House-"
"-but I always liked the way it ended. Dawson was a tool. At least Pacey could cook."
"You need to see someone." If games weren't going to work, then blunt honest truth was the next course on the menu. So to speak.
"You want me to cry my eyes out to some shrink about how I made a bad call and ended up with a knife at my throat for a few hours?" A lot was revealed in that statement, James noted, but Greg wasn't finished. "People go through worse things everyday. People get raped or they die slow, painful deaths-"
"And they get shot and threatened and almost go to jail for drug use, too. Should those people just sit back, grin and take it? Because they weren't rape victims and they aren't dying?" James was at his wits ends with this fight.
Finally, he sunk down in the chair across from Greg, wondering where they would go from here.
Instead of responding, Greg just bit his bottom lip slightly, turning his chair halfway around and staring out the window at the barely visible crescent moon. This time silence did span out thickly between them, seeping into the cracks of what had been said, what was left to be said and what would always remain cloaked in silence.
"C'mon." James finally whispered softly when he realized nothing more could be done. Not here, not now. "Let's go home."
The apartment was quiet. It was late. James could breath and feel his lungs expanding. Reach for the Chinese cartons on the table before him and hear the delicate scrape of a chopstick against folded cardboard. Lean back into his makeshift bed and the crinkling leather would sound loud, echoing in the silence.
He was waiting.
After the infarction - after Stacy had left - Greg had been plagued by nightmares. For about a month after his first - and only - go at physical therapy. He'd wake up in the middle of the night, gasping and sweating, sometimes crying out for comfort and something he believed he'd lost.
James would come into the bedroom and offer what comfort he could.
Greg would always be sitting up, grasping his right thigh like it was the only thing tying him to reality, keeping him afloat in an ocean of despair, the undercurrent rippling unrelentingly just below the surface.
At first, James had thought it had been the pain. Having the majority of your thigh muscle surgically removed hurt like a bitch, and Greg would be in constant pain for the rest of eternity. But after a while, James started to notice that he never reached for the Vicodin, never groped around for his lifeline.
Then he'd realized something, worked out the truth for himself. Greg wasn't waking up in pain. He was waking up in panic. Clutching his leg. Because he thought it wouldn't be there. His fear was mounted in a firm foundation of betrayal and anger. It hurt the Oncologist to see, to realize that this is what had become of his best friend.
Five years later, and he was waiting for a new sort of pain to manifest itself. He knew it would come. He was so sure.
Only it didn't.
Hours later and James was still sitting quietly on Greg's couch, waiting for something - he wasn't even sure what anymore. His eyelids were far from feeling heavy, though, the weight of exhaustion was not pressing down on him. The weight of worry, however...
Finally, James sucked in a deep breath and stood. The floorboards creaked under his weight, his back cracked after having been in the same position for so long. He moved slowly, with the caution he normally reserved specially for sneaking out of the house in the morning when he didn't want to wake his wife.
There was no wife anymore. Only House.
He reached his friend's bedroom door and was surprised to find that it wasn't shut all the way. Normally Greg liked to keep his privacy in tact. James just added this new anomaly to the list of things that sprung from the not-so-traumatizing events of last week.
Greg wasn't a heavy sleeper by far, but he wasn't exactly easy to wake, either. As James stood gingerly at the foot of the bed, his own long shadow casting an eerie blackness over the older man, he considered their lives.
In retrospect - as could be said of almost anyone's life - so many things could have been done better. Wrong decisions and hasty actions had led them both down roads and on journeys that echoed now with regret and anger. Sadness and helplessness. James did not like to revisit those places.
So much of the last six years could be summed up in the way Greg was currently curled around himself in bed. He was as close to the fetal position as he could manage with his leg and the covers had slipped away at some point during the night. He was shivering.
Not from the cold alone.
In this image, Greg House seemed almost helpless. Vulnerable. Which made James' heart beat a little faster with fear for himself - because when Greg wasn't strong, the world started to crumble just a little.
This was the life they had constructed for themselves, with the help and hindrance of others. James could stand there and contemplate their stupid, screwed up friendship and their stupid, screwed up lives all night. And six years ago, twenty years ago, a lifetime ago, he probably would have.
But if Greg had taught him anything, it was that forward was the only direction worth moving, and nothing could be gained by dwelling on the past. So he moved forward and stopped only when he reached the other side of Greg's bed.
Sitting himself down gently, trying to keep the mattress bending as minute as possible, James reached forward and gently swiped his hand through his best friend's thinning hair. It was the only comfort he had to offer.
Greg leaned into the touch subconsciously and the younger man found himself smiling. There was hope for them.
"...Jimmy..." came the slight sound. No more than a hitch in his voice, a fading breath.
"We're gonna be okay, Greg." He assured quietly, letting the words drift from his lips into the other's subconscious. "I'm gonna take care of you."
There was no verbal reply - he was still sound asleep - but a soft sigh wafted upwards and lifted a weight somewhere deep inside him. He would do anything for this man. Had done so much already.
James stayed on the side of the bed, his hand in Greg's hair, offering silent comfort that he knew they both silently ached for day in and day out, until the sun peaked through the bedroom windows and he knew it was time.
To move on. To let go. To change things. To make good on his promise. To take care of his best friend. To see him happy again, no matter what it took.
A month later, James started slipping ground up anti-depressants into Greg's coffee.