Disclaimer: Shore, Jacobs, Singer, et al., own everything. The lyrics belong to various bands. The books mentioned belong to the authors who wrote them.

Summary: He wonders when it got so easy to just...let them all think what they wanted. Because they had.

Rating: FRM for various reasons that have yet to materialize completely.

Reviews are always encouraged and appreciated.

...Last year's wishes are this year's apologies...Every last time I come home I take my last chance to burn a bridge or two...

He gets on the bike and just...drives. The scenery is a blur and he likes it that way. The voices, the memories, and that all-encompassing smell (like day-old coffee grounds topped off with a lit fart--possibly an intestinal rupture) are less tangible and he can pretend just a little bit that they don't exist. The season was late, forgot to mark his birthday as that time to make everyone's lives hell, and is now trying to make up for it in as quick and shoddy a way possible. The road home from Boston is slick and treacherous with late winter sleet (already cleared, piling up yet again) and he's a good deal less careful than he knows he should be. Somehow, he makes it home in one piece. He doesn't know if he should thank or curse whoever made it possible. Their faces flicker through his (just barely there) consciousness. So he says thank you, slowly, quietly, to the ones he's most certain about. His mother gets a thank-you and somewhere above him, the blurriness that's become his vision as of late extends to his mind's eye. Her hair is less shiny, her eyes less hazel. Her smile (usually filtered with what little sunlight there seems to be left) is getting shaky. He doesn't like that so he opens his eyes. He's on the floor on his back and doesn't remember how he got there. His left side hurts but he's too tired to do anything about it so he shifts into a more comfortable position on his hallway floor and goes to sleep.

He keeps having little lost moments, where he can't figure out how what got where. At first, he'd assumed it was because of the ketamine. Then everything started sliding downhill and he tried to care, to forestall the hurricane, but didn't have enough strength. Didn't have the urge, really, to give a damn. It's become a long-lost luxury, trust--not that they hadn't been passing acquaintances to begin with. Because he doesn't have any now. He remembers being able to trust and part of it makes him want to laugh because he'd honestly thought the hardship that came with the caring (that sneakiest of sidecar passengers) was just...card and parcel, part of the package.

But the first rip at the (apparently not industrial strength) tape came when he trudged into Cuddy's office, fire licking up and down his leg (was he the only one around able to see the flames, smell the smoke, feel the searing) and she'd looked at him with that dismissive glint in her eyes and told him to get a fellow to do it. He'd been so desperate, he'd actually resorted to wheedling.

She'd done it, then, and for a while, his trust (though shaken and stirred) had allowed him to believe that it had worked. Then he'd watched her smirk at him with self-satisfaction and wave her hair in his face as she sang what he later termed 'The Placebo Song.' He hasn't been able to listen to that band since then, but tonight their lyrics won't leave him alone.

Remember me when you're the one who's silver-screened...Remember me when you're the one you always dreamed...Remember me whenever noses start to bleed...Remember me...Special needs...

He realizes he's rambling and that there isn't actually any music playing, and he catches himself. Tells his Inner Greg to shut the hell up for once. Doesn't he have anything better to do? He's sure Miss December, 1979, is still up there somewhere in one of the file cabinets. Hell, if not, then Carmen Electra will do. Just leave the rest of him out of it, please, he wants to sleep.

Then he wonders when the hell sleep sounded more appetizing than sex. He doesn't have any day-old children to take care of, after all. He exhales sharply and sits up.

He feels wetness over his mouth, lifts a hand to his face and his fingers come away bloodied. He wants to laugh just a tiny little bit, then, because didn't he see an X-Files episode like this? Scully was in a departmental meeting or briefing or something, he vaguely recalls. He's glad he hasn't courted that particular death anymore than strictly necessary. But Scully had had cancer then, too. Everyone expected her to go crawling into a church and beg God to heal her, but she hadn't. Her relationship, she'd said, was between her and God and she would let things follow their own course down here. Whatever God's doing up there...well, let's hope those efforts make the straits a little wider, more easily passed.

He remembers that Mulder was the only one who truly understood her need for space. Cuddy got it, eventually, during his first trip to Mass Gen and she, alone, gave him the chance to breathe that he'd needed. Then his fellows had come rushing to the door, glowing and bright because it wasn't cancer for him, not at all. It was neurosyphillis and the fact that there are only so many ways you could contract it hadn't even occurred to them. It was strange, how empty he felt after he told them it wasn't his case.

Some masochistic part of him wanted to get the real case file, still sealed tight in its US Postal Service Air Mail envelope and sitting right within his reach on his computer desk. But he didn't. He wonders when it got so easy to just...let them all think what they wanted. Because they had. Foreman still won't look him in the face, Cameron refuses to fix him coffee in the morning and that might arouse suspicion if he let anything but guilt arise on his face. Chase is the only one who hasn't acted any differently. Even when he lashed out and punched Chase in the face, even when he made comments about Australian animals and short shorts, Chase just seemed to take it in stride with a strange sort of smile on his face. He wonders why.

Chase had hugged him in his office and lied about crying, but there had been a large wet spot on his shoulder and Chase's hands had trembled in his grip. He was afraid and hadn't hidden it very well. He seemed to barely have tried. And that was when House, too, knew it was real. There wasn't going to be waking up from the last year and seeing that it turned out to be some extended ketamine-induced hallucination. Those where quite short and manifested themselves most tangibly at night when he'd wake up cold (colder than his power bill--always paid with direct deposit--should have allowed) and he would shower until the heat ran out before curling up under three blankets and doing calculus in his head to try and distract himself from the fact that Steve didn't seem the least bit bothered by the arctic feel of the apartment. He knew rats only sweat through their tails, but he wants to make sure his favorite (and only...and...oh, my Lord, did he just para-quote The Lion King?) rodent in the whole universe was better than he was. But the door latch has been giving him trouble. His fingers are getting clumsy and while that's okay on a piano because you can explore, it's less okay when wielding a scalpel. It's starting to hurt to use the cane on his right and he's given the weakened left a few trials, but that hasn't worked out at all if the healing bruises under his shirts are any indication. There always seem to be various contusions and it hurt to move more often than not now. And when he could, sometimes an invisible hand would poke him and make him stumble. He's taken to gripping his walls as often as possible. The maintenance crew at work continually complains to Cuddy about the fingerprints he leaves all over the walls just as soon as they're done polishing them.

So he went back to Boston on the train (because he barely trusts himself to get home or to work on his bike now, let alone to another state) and he let them poke and prod them and he didn't talk, didn't look at them. He undressed and let them stare at his leg and prod him some more, answered their questions and they gave him strange, fake reassurance in their faces when he blanked out in the middle of a response and again when it took a five minute break before he could successfully count down in nines from ninety-nine to sixty-three.

They watched him list to the side and lean heavily on the cane as he went to the bathroom for the urinalysis and seemed to notice that the leg wasn't why that time. Shitter was kind enough to seize his car and its questionable origin means he'll never see it again unless there's a police auction sometime soon which he probably won't win because where's the 'fairness' in that?

They ask him if his vision is ever tilted, or whether he smells things that no one else does. At first he frustrates them, trying to answer as vaguely as possible, making sexist comments about the female attending and enjoying their barely-hidden scowls. Then embarrassment floods him as he tries to stand and not only is the deviant leg non-cooperative, but the supposed favorite had decided to throw a tandem revolt, as well. He fell fast and cracked the back of his head on the examination table, gaining their undivided attention and a tomography scan, which reveals a concussion as well as golf-ball sized mass near his parietal lobe.

"Shit," he heard one of them mutter, staring at the scan on the lightboard. "Well, there's no chance we can let him go--we'll have to admit--"

But he grabbed his cane from the side of the wheelchair the orderlies placed him in and hurled it as hard as he could. It flew and would have smacked both across the backs of their legs had it been remotely on target. Instead it hit the window and put a big, spidery crack in it.

The cane itself is still in good shape, resilient little bugger. Takes a lickin'...

"I'm snot---aying her," he tried to snarl, but the words wouldn't shape themselves properly. He thinks he's got a new appreciation for Zeppo from seven months ago. He took a breath and glared at them as harshly as he could manage. He turned the wheelchair expertly, glad that his perception and aim hadn't faltered that badly yet, and demands to the nurse that he wants to discharge himself AMA.

The nurse, a new student in the Gregory House School of Intimidation, hitched a breath and tried to persuade him, but he grabbed the edge of the counter above him, pretending for the moment that those weren't legs dangling uselessly below him and locking eyes with hers. He knows she can see that one of his pupils is quite enlarged and closes that one.

It's not like his peripheral vision has been doing him any favors recently anyway. "I am Dr. Gregory House, 'ead of Di-aggg..." He rides out the shame as his awareness fizzes out on the word and takes another breath before trying again. "Diagnostics at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospit-tal." There's only another little hitch that time and he ignores it.

"I'll call someone there to order a car service for me. My motorcycle can be picked up sometime tomorrow. If you want, you can have copies of my file faxed to Dr. Lisa Cuddy--she's my boss."

He knows they won't do that, but they consent to let him order a car to get home. He does, but he tells himself it's only because he's exhausted and wants to be able to enjoy the ride instead of wishing it would just end. He doesn't let himself dwell on the idea that those feelings might not only apply to the bike.

...Been looking forward to the future, but my eyesight is going bad...And this crystal ball is always cloudy except for when you look into the past...One night stand...

He has his first seizure in his office. He wakes up on the floor, the cane jutting out at an awkward angle from where he lies on the floor. It's dark and Wil...son...is shining something in his eyes. A wave of anger breaks over him and he'd jerk his shoulder out of Wilson's hand, but he's full of sand and grit; his throat salty and bitter. He tries to talk, to yell at Wilson to get the fuck out of his face and leave him the hell alone (like you've been doing for the past fucking year), but his voice won't work.

"Lisa, order a CAT scan," Wilson's telling the phone as he presses both of House's arms against the rough carpet beneath them to keep him still and House has never hated him more than he does in this moment. The hate he feels is palpable and he can feel it sliding out of the corners of his eyes and see it in the way the lights overhead get hazy around their edges and he's so tired, he just wants to go back to sleep. It'll help him stop being angry. He can pretend that they'd never stopped caring and that this is the way it's always been. So he does.

(We don't fight fair) they say your head can be a prison...Then these are just conjugal visits...People will dissect us 'til this doesn't mean a thing anymore...

He wakes up in a room. It's familiar, but dark and he can't decide for sure where he is. He wishes the two figures sitting in chairs at the end of his bed weren't there, either, because if they're there he can't pretend. He'd rather now they didn't talk, but Wilson was the last person to follow that directive on a good day. There are no more good days.

"You let--"

"I didn't do anything," he rasps, closing his eyes and grimacing at the way his throat hurts. Lisa gets up, walking about of his wobbly field of vision, to return from wherever with a plastic cup of ice chips. She's wearing latex gloves and when she tries to place one in his mouth, his arm cooperates enough to send the cup and its contents flying away. Lisa flinches, though he can only see it in the way her waist shifts and her legs scuttling back a few centimeters.

"You have a tumor," Cuddy began calmly, but Wilson cut her off, tossing the papers onto House's bed with a rare show of temper.

"Glioblastoma multiforme! An almost certain death sentence!" He snaps, and a bang sounds a second later. Another sound, plastic hitting the floor. The cup Cuddy must have picked up was just sent to the floor again. "You're going to die! You knew!"

"Of course I knew," He says, then, his voice so quiet, so still that both their blurry faces (he wonders where his new glasses are after going through all the trouble of getting them--he hopes they're not broken because he's gotten used to seeing only ones of things again) look at him. "Just like I knew something was wrong with my leg. Just like I know something is probably wrong with my liver. So what?"

"So...so..." Wilson stares at him and he glowers back, the anger he tries to keep buried coming back again. This time he lets it sit, pool, and curdle in his stomach. Sour, hot. He's so angry he might vomit. Then his body ricochets forward and he remembers that he's not just angry. Cuddy grabs an emesis basin from somewhere else and has it under his chin as the refuse spills forth. She's rubbing his back as his abdominal wall continues to clench and spasm. He sees colors more sharply than he has in months. Brown, white, something clear and viscous. And red. Only a little and it transfixes him, like it did when it came out of his nose. The spasms have ended for now but he still sits forward, staring into the basin.

He sees Cuddy's hands shake as she takes it upon herself to wet a nearby washcloth and wipe his face. The cloth is soft on his face and he leans into it before he can stop. His eyes burn and he doesn't realize he's crying until her arms surround his back.

"Get out," he says as forcefully as he can, but his voice is hoarse and further muffled by Cuddy's breasts. He usually likes them but not like this. Right now, he thinks he might hate her a little. She backs up a little and there are tears in her eyes and her hand runs through his hair (and his anger at her melts away like the errant ice cream drips he once licked off her thigh that day at Lake Michigan) so he alters his directive just a little. She stays.

"Make him get out," he says as loudly as he can, which isn't very.

"And there you go again," Wilson snaps, and House sinks back down onto the crook of Cuddy's neck. He's almost certain she can tell he's crying and hopes she doesn't share that face. "Pushing--"

"We lied to him," Cuddy says, her voice harder than it was a moment ago, but her hand is still soft on his back, rubbing against the residual dry heaves and he'd like nothing better than to go to sleep, but if he's asleep, he can't focus on the deep pressure on his back. He can't focus on the wall outside with all it's loudness and brightness and distraction and mess. Explorations could wait until later. Now was good for rest so he would grow big and strong.

He remembers thinking that maybe he could grow enough for Daddy to stop being mad because he was so small. But he didn't grow out, just up. He's still too damned skinny.

You're perfect just the way you are.

Hush, little baby, don't say a word...

Maybe that was his mother's plan when she used to lay those pillows on top of him when he took his afternoon nap on the rug. It was a soft, heavy quiet and he's missed it for so long. But Cuddy was still talking, wasn't she?

"--we've lied to him, discounted him at every turn, drove him away from us because his trust and our word--as we proved time and time again--meant nothing. So don't you dare stand there atop your high horse and lecture him for not letting us shoot him down yet again."

"But Wilson's God," he manages to croak, lacing the words with as much sarcasm and anger as he can muster at the moment and it's back, the fury, and he can hear Wilson gasp at those words.

"That's...not what...we were just..."

"You used to be my friend. Now you're sick of playing my fucking conscience. Where the hell has your conscience been all this fucking time? Atlantic City? Was that when things started to be too much for you and you started to realize..." He's talking too much and running out of breath, but he can't seem to stop now. "That being my friend was getting to be too much so you decided to have my soul bumped off by one of my mob buddies? Well, so much for reliable connections..." He knows he's not making any sense but he thinks

To hell with it and blunders on any-damned-way.

"Or was it when your patient turned out to have a serious disorder that you and your Amazing Wonder Boy Oncologist powers totally missed, putting him in a wheelchair and destroying his quality of life for eight years and--hey..." he pushes against Cuddy's shoulders to gain leverage but sucks at that, too, so he falls short of his target and can feel her hands gripping his arms and lowering him safely back to the pillow. His voice is getting hoarser and hoarser and he's crying again, but he's tired of trying to pretend like nothing hurts so that the ones who inflict it can say it's his fault and wash their hands of him.

"Speaking of quality of life, who the fuck cares how someone lives just so long as they do, right? And if they tell you something's not working, you're sure it's something they must have done wrong and can't be something you did because you know everything and it's impossible that you could be the least bit responsible for how fucked up and miserable you make everyone you know, isn't that right, Dad?"

He's vaguely aware that they're looking at him like he's grown a second head and Cuddy's saying something, stroking his hair back and then he feels something in his ear and hears a beep.

"104.4--he's burning up," Cuddy's saying and she starts pulling the sheets and blankets off. And then there's something cold all over his body, but that's the last thing he remembers.

...I'm a leading man and the lies I weave are oh so intricate...