He started fumbling in the dark for the light, his hand hitting the bedside table with a soft thud and then dragged across his reading glasses, knocking them to the floor. He cursed softly and his fingers found the slender shape of the lamp. Illuminating the room with the dull artificial light, he was of course, alone.
"Where are you?" House asked himself sardonically this time, reprimanding himself sharply with the tone of his voice over the rain outside for his foolishness of speech. The conscious state of living returned. The clock read 3:18. He'd only been asleep for an hour. As his eyes adjusted to the light, the pain in his leg focused just as sharply. Exhaustively he swung his legs over the side of the bed, biting his lip in pain as he shut his eyes. It would have been better to stay in a horizontal position. He tried to massage the pain out. It wasn't working. Deftly, his hand found the amber prescription bottle without looking. He took three, the pain churning his stomach and electrifying even the slightest movement beyond withstanding. He tasted blood as he swallowed them and wiped at his lip. He'd broken skin.
He wanted morphine but he waited and the pain began to slow into a thick syrupy hum.
"He went into cardiovascular arrest after we put the syringe in," Taub continued, warily watching as House rummaged one-handed through the cupboards.
"Where's my goddamn coffee mug?" House demanded. It was the red mug, looking for the red mug.
"We got him stabilized now," Kutner added. Kutner stood by the door, feeling too jittery to sit and knowing that he'd have a better chance of dodging things, should House want to toss them, if he were standing.
"Where the fuck is it?"
Thirteen watched impassively, instinct telling her to keep her face still. The fellows went silent; House clearly wasn't interested.
"Well pardon my French, no need to stop out of prudence," he said as he left the room to go out to the balcony.
Cuddy was banging on the glass, he could see her reflection. He waited a few moments, pretending not to hear her over his head phones and then lifted himself carefully off the floor to go unlock the door. Walking towards her he could see smudges on the glass. Whose idea had it been to have so much glass in this place?
"House, your team has been - are you alright?"
Like a child, House thrust his hand behind his back, cursing himself for not leaving his jacket on.
"Mild infection, working on it, it'll be cleared up soon. You were saying?"
Cuddy didn't continue, instead aggressively taking his arm and peeling off the loose bandaging to examine it. When she looked up, House hated the look of pain she had. He was the one in pain. No one else needed to look that way, he had it under control.
"House, just...go, get a nurse to help you with that, and then go," she ordered and turned to leave. She didn't stop.
"Go where? Home? Don't really like the place anymore, needs to be redecorated, you know?" House muttered quietly to the empty room, though he wanted to shout it.
He tried his best to tie the bandages on his own, but quickly became frustrated and tossed it on the table. Looking at his skin he felt squeamish. It was one thing to see it on another body, but feeling it and seeing it clearly on your own was another thing. Stupid, how could he have let it get infected? He worked in a hospital for fuck's sake. Of course he'd forgotten about cleanliness though. It wasn't something he thought about when all he wanted was some temporary relief from the pain. Although, he could have at least boiled the blade. He needed help to clean this up now.
He thought about who to call; none of his fellows. They didn't need to see the disarray, nor were they ready too. He could call Cuddy, but she'd get over sympathetic and insist on staying to clean up the rest of the flat as well. He began dialling a number.
"Where are you?"
"House? I'm at home. What do you want?"
"I need you to get over here and help me fix a bandage. And can you pick up my prescription, seeing as it's on your way? I mean, I would, but my arm's all gross and infected..."
He heard a sigh on the other end.
"Right, I'll be there in about twenty minutes. Couldn't you have called Cameron or Chase?"
"There. Do you need anything else?" Foreman asked, putting the bandages back into their case. He looked House in the eye, his face unmoving. House had made the right call.
"No...thank-you," House said, lifting his arm appreciatively to indicate the bandaging. It was well done.
"Right. If you need anything, call Cameron or Chase, and then me. I'm sorry. But I don't know what to say to you."
House nodded curtly. He'd call Foreman first.
"Foreman...where's my Vicodin?"
The clock flashed 4:46 a.m. It'd been a nightmare that'd woken him up, but he couldn't remember it already.
"Where are you?"
House reset the clock, it stopped flashing.
House turned around. It was Chase.
"Your infection cleaned up?"
"House, I'm sorry-"
"House," Chase said sternly, stepping in front of him. He came at him from both sides. House left his arms limp, wondering why this repeat performance had to happen in such a public place. He did note that Chase was bold enough to do it in the middle of the lobby. Maybe he was trying to prove that he was sorry. He didn't have to. He could feel Chase's breath on his ear; like a fly, he wanted to swat it away. The unbalanced feeling of an embrace made him shift his leg, already in pain to try and steady himself. Chase let go and apologized.
"Want to go for a drink?"
House was surprised to be considering it.
He hadn't meant to drink so much at the bar; it wasn't a habit he wanted to cultivate. If he was going to get drunk, it was better to do so in his own home, where no one would have to half-carry him to the car and then into his bed. Of course, Chase and Cameron had done so without a word of protest. It didn't change that he'd put himself in a more vulnerable position than necessary. Strangely enough, it didn't matter. It wasn't because he trusted them, though in most situations he would. It just didn't matter. He shouldn't have gone though.
"Should we stay?" He heard Cameron ask worriedly.
"He probably doesn't want us too."
"Well yeah, but should we?"
Chase didn't answer; he was probably looking at the door to his room that they'd failed to close completely. He would have thought that he'd blacked out too, but he would have checked before talking. But maybe he wouldn't remember in the morning anyway.
"Where will you sleep?" House jeered from his bed. He didn't like being this drunk. He hadn't been able to control deciding what he'd just said, and when he said he'd been just as out of control; the words had slurred together lazily, his tongue feeling too heavy for his mouth. It reminded him of his father. It made him angry. He just wanted to sleep.
"You can't keep avoiding this," Cuddy bore down on him.
"I'm not. Everything I do is a reaction, isn't it?"
"You know what I mean," she said through gritted teeth.
"It's not your fault."
"No, it's not."
"Why are you acting like it is?"
"...House, maybe you should take a break. A holiday...go...visit your mother, I don't know."
"A holiday? Where are you going to send me this time?"
"You can't keep going on like this," she warned. Her blouse wasn't cut so deep today. She'd done something to her hair. She'd been crying. That wasn't his fault either.
"We found the guy who did it."
He'd gotten it from his father one year for his birthday. He'd been meaning to pawn it, he hated guns. It was a nice piece, but he hated it nonetheless. Guns were for idiots, or at least they were most predominantly used by idiots.
Who was he kidding, this was the most idiotic thing he'd ever planned to do in his life. He was idiot. But it didn't matter. He loaded the ammunition and shut the case. It felt heavy in his hand, and he hadn't ever shot a gun before, despite his father's enthusiasm for the things. He wasn't going to need to aim very much though.
"Where to, amigo?" he said, looking down the barrel into the face of the painting across from him. The eyes looked dead today.
It'd been easy to find the guy. Roland Livingston, 39, divorced, three kids, Professor of Economics at Rider University, made redundant six months ago. None of that mattered though. Not a lot mattered these days.
He'd found him working at a tutorial centre downtown. He got in pretending to be looking for a tutor for his "son".
"So, when will your son be available?"
He looked older than he was, drawn, tired. He looked as though he'd been starving for the last six months. He was wearing braces on his wrists. Was that why he'd lost control? It didn't matter, didn't matter. It was like a child's sing-a-long in his head, all the things that didn't matter. The gun felt heavier and heavier in the briefcase he'd brought along, sinking into his lap. He'd even dressed up for the part, wearing his most conservative looking outfit. He'd actually had to go out and buy a new shirt, though that was the extent of the preparation.
"Next Thursday," House answered pleasantly. It was amazing how much of the act was in the voice. His mouth was upturned gently, and he knew it gave him a gentle countenance.
"Actually, let me check that, you know kids, they're always so busy. I just can't keep up sometimes."
Roland Livingston nodded in agreement, but didn't make eye contact. He was nervous. Like a bug.
Opening up the brief case, House marvelled at how easy it was to get in the place with the thing. It looked so disproportionately large in the case somehow now that was here.
"Yes, next Thursday," House said, pretending to check a day planner, "Where would you like to meet?"
"Where did you go after it happened? Did you go home to your wife and kids? Or maybe you went out for a drink. You would have needed it after that."
"I'm so sorry..."
House sat on the end of his bed, examining the primal machine in his hand. Enfield Mk 1, antique, British service pistol, never fired.
He still wasn't another idiot with a gun. He'd go to pawn it the next day.
"Where's the best place?" House asked the open telephone book in his lap. He wondered if he could channel his rage into his hands and tear it in half like they did on that martial arts show he'd accidentally recorded the other night.
The next day, he hadn't gone to the pawn shop. He'd solved the case at the hospital, but it hadn't brought any exhilaration. Roland Livingston had left a message promising to plead guilty and apologizing again. He'd listened to records for seven hours straight, he hadn't gone to bed yet, but it was six in the morning.
He went into the kitchen and got a glass of water. He hit the replay button on the message machine. He cringed as he heard the beeps. He'd always hated those and wondered why they had to be made in such piercing frequencies. They could have thought of something better. He rested his hand on the counter and downed the last of the water. It felt gritty in his throat. Maybe he should have gone with something stronger.
"House, I'll be home late, I've got some paperwork to do. Don't wait up. I'll be taking a cab home so you don't have to get me. Don't forget to do the dishes, please, please, please. You know I won't go to bed until they're done, and then I'll probably just wake you up. Love you."
"House...I called an ambulance...please, can you come...?
"Greg...where are you? I need..."
"House, its Cuddy. He's in the ICU."
"Dr. House? It's Roland Livingston. I'm so sorry...I'm...sorry. I just thought I'd phone and tell you myself that I'll be pleading guilty. I know that it isn't much, and it might mean nothing to you, but...I'm sorry. I promise I'll plead guilty."
The revolver felt cold against his temple. He shifted it further back, closer to his ear.
"Does this matter?" he asked aloud. The revolver moved with his slight movements of his skin as he spoke. He knew it didn't matter. He knew he hadn't seen anything before, nothing that had made sense. There was nothing that had been new, nothing that hadn't been a distorted memory or a delusion he knew himself perfectly capable of creating.
"Where will I go?"
He wondered if he'd go to the right place. There were a lot of dead people over the course of history, was he going to find the right one? It seemed too much to hope that he'd be waiting. But House knew that he'd been wrong before. But he was also almost always eventually right. He remembered telling them that.
"Where are you?"
"House, it's me, Chase. Where are you? I'm coming over."