Spoilers through season 4's finale. So many folks are writing post-Wilson's Heart fics, thought I'd give it a shot too.
"Where's House?" Cuddy asked, walking into the conference room.
Foreman shook his head, "I thought you picked him up this morning."
"I stopped by, but he didn't answer. I thought he caught a ride in with you. Did you call him?" Cuddy asked.
"And what? Ask him to tap the phone in Morse code?"
Cuddy stared at Foreman, closing her eyes briefly as she realized the weight of his words. House hadn't uttered a single word since he came out of his coma and tried to whisper whatever it was he tried to whisper that fateful day.
She walked with set determination over to House's desk, thumbing through piles of paperwork, hoping to find something, anything that might lead to his whereabouts. House had been back to work less than three days and now Cuddy began to wonder if it was too soon. Against Foreman's strong advice, she had allowed House to return under strict rules; several breaks a day, he was not to be left alone for long periods, he was not allowed to stand at the whiteboard and he was not to drive anywhere. By law, his seizure forced the temporary suspension of his license anyway. Cuddy had stayed at his place up until a few days before his return, when he finally kicked her out. House could only take so much mothering and despite his not quite healed skull, Cuddy left with strict orders for him to text her for absolutely anything. She and Foreman acted as his chauffeur, and she alone was his cook, his maid and if he could have talked, she would have been his confidant. And yet, House had not yet said a single word since his feeble attempt shortly after waking up from his coma, nor did he write anything about it to express himself. His written words were generally short and most often work related.
House had remained in hospital for nearly two and half weeks following his seizure, the last several days really weren't necessary, but Cuddy insisted and he didn't resist. He didn't resist anything. He ate whatever food was brought him, he never once made a face or complained when the therapists came in to work with him. He was up and walking around within a week, refusing to be confined to the bed all day, but that was the extent of his stubbornness. Cuddy would sit and watch him, wondering where his will had gone, wondering where that spark could be, wondering why he permitted her to hold his hand every day without pulling back or flinching away. She wondered if he'd ever recover his personality or if he would remain this quiet ghost of a man, a man who once resisted absolutely everything and now, resisted nothing. He allowed doctors and nurses to fuss over him with nothing more than a distant look on his face. Visitors came and went and though he rarely acknowledged their presence, he didn't fight visits either. His former fellows visited once in a while, Chase the least often, guilt ridden. Wilson of course, hadn't stepped foot anywhere near House, since that fateful day. And House never asked for him, or for anyone else. She made it a point to visit him every day, to let him know he was not alone, but she strongly felt the effort went unnoticed. It was then that Cuddy decided she needed to get House back to work as soon as possible, back to exercising his mind, his wit, his intelligence, his need to solve puzzles. So, once he was home, she talked him into returning to work. Again, he didn't fight it, he just agreed passively.
Cuddy sat in his desk chair, and held up the mini whiteboard House now used as his mouthpiece. It was wiped clean, nothing on it to indicate where he had gone. For all she knew, he could be at home, he could be in the restroom down the hall, he could be…well, she didn't want to think about where he could be.
"Maybe he's in the clinic?" Foreman suggested not looking away from the symptoms listed on the whiteboard, marker in hand.
She stood and turned to leave, nodding, "Maybe."
"I told you it was too soon. He has a cracked skull that hasn't fully healed."
"Would you rather he sit at home contemplating suicide?" She asked, daring Foreman to turn and face her.
Foreman shot her a sharp look, "Yeah Cuddy, because I want him to commit suicide." He said sarcastically.
"If you see him, tell him I want a word with him."
Cuddy approached Taub in the clinic, "Is House here with you?"
"No, haven't seen him."
"Where are Kutner and Hadley?"
She could see from outside the lab that House was not there either, but she entered anyway, hoping the two youngest fellows would know where he might be.
"House isn't here." Hadley said, not looking up from her work.
Cuddy placed one heel inside the room, pivoted and headed back the way she came when Kutner called out, "I'm nearly finished here, I could run over to his place if you want."
"Thank you." She said, not turning back.
The click clack of her heels echoed down the hall as she retreated from the clinic, heading towards the stairwell. Cuddy ran through all the possibilities once again. He's not in his office, the lab, the clinic, Kutner's checking his apartment. Where else could House be? And then a distinct possibility occurred to her, food.
Cuddy made her way to the cafeteria and looked around hopefully. She glanced at the food stations, the cashier stand, the salad bar and as she peered out over the various tables, a pang of sorrow coursed through her veins. There, in the far corner sat Wilson. Head down, a hardly touched salad pushed to the side, gaze intent on a nearly full glass of iced tea. Long gone were the days she would walk in to find the two former friends seated together mid laugh, House smirking while snatching food from Wilson's plate, or the look of mocked annoyance coming from Wilson at House's act of thievery. They no longer so much as glanced at one another, much less conversed, waved, nodded, cared.
She quickly poured herself a cup of coffee, paid and headed towards Wilson's table; the coffee a simple excuse to sit near him, talk with him, hope for him. She approached his table with a carefully constructed half smile gracing her face; it was neither patronizing, nor false, though it lacked true happiness and was laced with a dash of caution. She forced herself to appear content, calm, normal, or at least as normal as normal could be in this new altered realm of loss.
Wilson looked up from his seemingly interesting tea, nodded briefly and waited for Cuddy to sit down.
"Hey." She said.
Knowing she dare not mention House, nor his absence, Cuddy tried to keep the conversation simple, "Board meeting tomorrow at nine."
"I'll be there."
"You should eat." She said, motioning towards the salad.
"You've lost weight." So much for keeping the conversation simple. It was a statement she could not deny, Wilson had lost close to twenty pounds in the month since it happened. Cuddy closed her eyes, finally realizing what day it was. One month. One month, exactly.
She looked at him, willing him to meet her gaze. With a sigh, he looked her in the eye, nodding almost imperceptibly.
"You should take some time off."
Wilson shook his head, "Can't."
"We could get someone to cover yo…"
He cut her off, "No, I mean I can't just sit in that hotel room all day. I need to be here. I need to work."
Cuddy wanted so much to tell him to talk with House, to forgive. She had tried twice before; the last only a week prior, with the yelling match leaving her in tears, a wall in the clinic dented from his fist and Wilson beet red and in need of a sedative. She opened her mouth trying to find a way to ask without asking about House but couldn't bring herself to do it. When it came to mentioning his name, she just didn't dare utter a word on the subject, not even when it came to wondering his whereabouts, wondering if he was okay, wondering if he was alive.
Wilson watched her internal struggle, knowing whatever words rested on the tip of her tongue had to have been about him. And without so much as a word, Wilson stood and headed back towards his office.
"Hello?" She answered.
"Dr. Cuddy? It's Kutner. He's not here but his bike and car are."
"Okay, thanks." She said before hanging up.
Cuddy stared at the paper perched on her office desk, picked up the phone and dialed the first number in a long list of local and not so local ER's.
"Where could House be?" Hadley asked, taking a seat nearest the whiteboard.
"No idea. Let's focus on the patient. Lab results?" Foreman said.
"All negative." She replied, "Kutner called me a few minutes ago. House isn't at his place, but both his bike and car are there."
"We need to work up our patient since he's not here. Let Cuddy worry about him." Foreman said, annoyed.
Taub looked up at Foreman, somewhat in disgust, "Do you have any idea what today is?"
"Uh, Tuesday?" Foreman replied, somewhat sarcastically.
"It happened one month ago today."
Foreman closed his eyes guiltily, having not remembered the anniversary. With a sigh, he said, "Okay, let's figure this patient out and then we'll look for him. Deal?"
Hadley and Taub both nodded in agreement.
He placed the cane on the first step and looked up, half expecting to see a familiar face, but it was a new driver, just as it had been the day before and the day before that, and the day before that. Always at a different time, usually late in the evening, he would find himself climbing those stairs, so familiar yet so foreign, just as he had that horrific night. He slowly climbed up, deposited the money into the receptacle and walked back to his seat. The same seat. The same smells. The same metal bars above running from front to back and occasionally from floor to ceiling. The same route, though in reverse this time.
He rode mindlessly, hoping, wishing, pleading, wanting a garbage truck, or a semi, or a slick banana peel, anything, to cause the bus to crash. But no matter how much he wished he could relive that moment, back to the instant in which he should have died, wished he had died, it never happened. It wouldn't happen. Fate dealt him the winning cards in a game of solitaire; there he sat alone on that bus, no one sitting to his right, not her. Not anymore.
And then there it was. He watched as the intersection that divided his life, passed him by, refusing to open its jaws once more, refusing to consume the bus and all on board as it had exactly one month before. And then it was gone, a memory, a moment, an instant. Just like her. And though he was not on the bus, he too was gone. She took his heart, leaving only a skeletal shell behind. And House was left alone.
"There." Hadley said, pointing at he scan.
Kutner stood, "I'll get Wilson."
Moments later, Wilson walked in warily, unwilling to face him. Glancing around the room he noted he was no where to be found and he relaxed. Wilson walked over to the light board and immediately saw the cancer Hadley had pointed to only moments earlier.
"I've got it." He said, snatching the scan from the light board and reviewing the file as he walked away.
"Okay," Taub said, turning towards his co-workers, "I'll check out the bars near his place."
"I'll stay here and check out his usual hiding places." Hadley said, removing her lab coat.
The team headed towards the stairwell, and from the rear of the pack, Kutner said, "I'll check with the OTB parlor and the local liquor stores."
"We'll find him," Foreman said, facing the team, "I'll check in with Cameron and Chase, see if they've seen him and then I'll check the park. Cuddy's still checking with other local hospitals." The team turned the corner and descended the stairs.
Wilson stood outside his office, chart still in hand, silently watching them disappear.
"Thank you, yes, I'd appreciate it if you could let us know if he's brought in." Cuddy said shortly before hanging up the phone.
Wilson stood in her doorway, indifferent to her business, knowing it was about him. Knowing he was off somewhere causing yet someone else to worry about him, to look for him, to venture out because of him.
Cuddy looked up from her desk, her tired eyes not quite meeting his, "Hi Wilson."
"I've decided to take a half day."
She nodded, "You should. Get some rest."
"Were you going to tell me?"
She eyed him, "He'll turn up. Always does."
"I'm not looking for him. He's not my responsibility anymore."
House limped the three blocks down and one block across slowly, methodically. Soon, the grass greeted his cane and he found himself passing row after row after row. Rows of what once was. Rows of former mothers, fathers, children, friends, lovers. Rows of life now extinguished.
He knew full well what day it was. He counted down the days one by one, keeping the tally locked within the vast expanse of his muted mind. And there, beneath the fresh green shoots not quite covering the length of the grave, he found her. He wasn't sure what he was doing there. They weren't friends, they weren't lovers. They weren't even co-workers. Just two people whose lives crossed paths briefly, unfortunately. Star crossed likely-would-have-been-best-friend-in-laws who now shared certain truths in common, a violent crash which left him mute, her dead and Wilson distant.
He removed his backpack, and carefully withdrew a single white rose; white, signifying remembrance. Feeling somewhat awkward, he placed the rose on top of her headstone, stood, closed his eyes and tried to apologize, but no words came. He leaned heavily on his cane, centered in front of him, unable to speak, unable to bring himself to access the speech center of his brain, unable to verbalize any of it. And when he opened his eyes, he didn't bother to swipe at the fresh tears now gracing his cheeks.
House popped two vicodin, turned back towards the road and limped heavily towards the pavement, not noticing the man leaning against the car, watching, waiting. As he neared the road, he looked up and saw Wilson there, completely unaware he'd had an audience. He placed his hands up defensively, shook his head, tucked his chin and moved towards the opposite side, avoiding both Wilson's gaze and path. And House continued on towards the road, over one block and down three, leaving Wilson to grieve at Amber's grave.
Wilson sat on his knees for more than an hour, staring at the rose while talking to her, whispering to her, wishing their lives had not taken such a turn. He tried to imagine what she would have said, what they might have done that day, what restaurant they would have frequented that evening. When his toes were numb and his knees weak, he sighed, pulled out his cell phone and sent Cuddy a brief text message.
"Call off search. Found alive."
Wilson stood, his heart perhaps slightly softer than it had been just over an hour ago, though no less lonely. He got into his car and drove aimlessly while nearly convincing himself that he was not actually looking for him. Wondering where he may have limped off to, wondering where his bike or his car might be.
A short while later, he found himself pulling his car into the small parking lot behind the bar. The bar he got drunk at. The bar she had to visit. The bar that would be her downfall. And he sat, watching the main road from the side mirror, watching as a bus stopped across the street, delivering passengers and boarding new victims.
He snatched the keys and ran towards the bus, hoping to see her, wishing he could have been on that bus, wishing he had been home to intercept that fated phone call, wishing for what could never be.
He waved at the bus driver to wait and he poked his head in, looking towards the rear of the bus, but she was not there. Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He shook his head, not comprehending what he himself could have possibly been thinking. Wilson wondered if he was beginning to lose his mind.
Walking back towards the stairs, he stepped down and watched as the bus doors closed and the bus ambled off towards its next stop. Wilson crossed the road and entered the bar. The same bar. He slapped a twenty on the counter and said, "Scotch."
Turning on the bar stool to look around the bar, he searched their faces hoping to find hers. And upon not finding what he so wanted, he turned his attention to the windows, to the bus stop off in the distance. He downed the drink, placed the glass down on the bar and headed towards the bus stop. Wilson sat on the bench and waited for the next one to arrive. When it did, he boarded, handed over the fare and chin down, walked back towards the seat he knew she had occupied that night. He looked up, hoping to find it empty and when he did, his eyes fell upon him, seated opposite her seat, his lips drawn tight, eyes seemingly sunken in, gaze not quite meeting his, not daring to make that connection.
Wilson silently sat in her seat, eyes facing forward, sitting opposite him and he too stared straight ahead. Wilson watched him from the corner of his eye, daring him to look, daring him to stand and walk away, daring him to throw something, daring him to raise his cane threateningly, daring him to be just as angry as he was, daring him to be infuriated with Wilson as he should be for abandoning him when he needed him most, daring him to yell about insisting on that damned deep brain stimulation, daring him to speak, daring him to revert to his old self, daring him to demand Wilson's friendship, daring him to be House.
Turning to look at him, Wilson wondered what House was thinking. He wondered if the House he knew still existed, wondered if that damned surgery he had insisted upon had lost him his best friend forever. House turned his head to look at Wilson and they stared into one another's eyes, each willing the other to speak. And so in silence, they sat with the aisle dividing them, bus barreling down the long and winding road, not knowing what stop they would get off on.
House suddenly stood, placing both feet into the fissure of the aisle between them, and now towered above Wilson. Wilson silently hoped that House wouldn't walk away, and to his surprise, House raised his hand, the back of it facing Wilson, and he motioned a small, succinct sweeping wave, asking Wilson to scoot over. And he obliged. And again, the two men sat wordlessly, facing forward on the bus for some time.
Without looking at him, House placed his right hand on Wilson's left knee and gave a squeeze, a squeeze Wilson knew to be an apology. He turned to look at House.
"I don't blame you." He said quietly, relieved he allowed himself to say those words.
House closed his eyes and shook his head. Wilson watched his friend, his heart breaking for him, for her, for himself. He finally saw just how much all of it affected House, how deeply the crash had hurt him. How deeply he had hurt House. How much House had blamed himself.
Slightly louder than a whisper, Wilson continued, "You shouldn't blame yourself either. It was an accident, you couldn't have known. She couldn't have known. None of us could." House kept his gaze focused on the seat in front of him, unable to look at Wilson.
Wilson watched him, seeing him struggle with the gravity of it all and without caring what the other passengers thought, he wrapped his arms around House's chest and back from the side and hugged tight. And House raised his hands, his upper arms trapped by his best friend's embrace, and patted Wilson's arms reassuringly.
"I'm so sorry." Wilson whispered.
House shook his head and rasped, "Don't be."
Wilson inhaled sharply and pulled away to stare at House, "House!"
Realization dawned on House as well, and he turned to look at Wilson, a genuine smile touching the corners of his mouth.
"What took so long?" Wilson asked.
House looked at his friend and answered in a strained voice, "Nothing to say," and shifting his gaze to the seat in front of him, he said, "And no one to say it to."
Wilson reached his arms up to once again embrace House, and with tears in his eyes he said, "I don't know what I would have done if I'd lost you both."
Embarrassed, House broke the embrace, "Geroff me. No, I won't go on a date with you." Wilson smiled as he faced forward in his seat, never so glad to be pushed away by one of House's sarcastic remarks.
House stood as the bus pulled to a stop, "Time to get off." Wilson looked out the window and found they were a block from House's apartment. Nodding, he stood and followed House down the stairs.
House sat on his couch with the phone on his right side, Wilson on the left. He looked over at his overly thin friend and shook his head, "I'm ordering pizza and you're eating at least half."
"You'd better call Cuddy first, she's worried sick."
House smiled deviously, "You dial…"
Wilson knew exactly what House planned to do and took the phone from him and dialed Cuddy's cell phone number.
"House?" She answered, recognizing the phone number on the caller id, "House, I'm on my way. Tap the phone twice if you're okay."
"Cuddy, it's me."
"Wilson?" She asked, shocked, "Is he okay? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, but it's House. He's, he's…" He let his words torture her momentarily before handing the phone to House.
House placed the phone to his ear and said in a raspy, still infrequently used voice, "Talking."
He could hear her gasp and begin to cry on the other end of the line, "Too bad I don't have video conferencing; I bet the twins are giving a great show with all the heaving you're doing."
"It's good to have you back, House," She said, smiling through the tears, "So, you two are okay?"
House glanced at Wilson, "We will be."
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