this was not written as slash, but it is very easy to read as such.

i can't get the spacing to work on this, so there's stupid ellipses for dividers.

spoilers for the season 4 finale.

the instrumental life

He feels stupid, like a little kid, but try as he might they won't stop coming. Little sobs, or hiccups maybe—he can't tell. He wants them to stop though, because he can't help but feel like each and every hitch is a tiny loss of control. He feels like he is losing control of his body.

So he takes all of the pain meds left over from his stay in the hospital, and when that's gone, he goes through his reserve of Vicodin, and when that's gone, he moves onto the morphine. When the liquor is all he has left, he thinks to himself that it has to last him the rest of his life, but the bottle of whisky is gone in just a few hours. Finally, he has nothing left, so he just sleeps and dreams.

But he does not like to dream, because in each dream he sees Wilson walking away from him. He can't help but feel that every time he sees him go, a little bit more of something dies. What it is that is dying, he cannot quite say, but the word "hope" comes to mind. He can't help but feel that maybe he deserves it. He is losing control of his life.

Cuddy comes one week later, drags him into the shower, and tells him to get a grip. House leans into the hot water as it washes away the filth of a week spent sleeping on the floor, but even when the grime is gone, he still stays, until long past the water has run cold, until Cuddy pulls him out of the spray and tugs a shirt over his head. She tucks him into bed (sheets so tight he can't move, just like a real mother), and then leaves with a promise that she will be back the next morning. She promises that she will bring House to Princeton-Plainsboro, even if it's in an ambulance.

That night, he dreams that they are having sex, but when he tries to kiss her, her face becomes Amber's. He wakes up feeling cold.


He goes to work on Monday, and by Tuesday Foreman has given up trying to make him participate in the differential. For the first few days, he sleeps on the recliner in his office, but once he realizes he can see Wilson through the balcony door, he moves outside. He pokes out a loose brick in the dividing wall, and sits all day against the rough surface trying not to look. He tells himself he is being obsessive, because each time he looks he feels a pang in his heart, like a guitar string tightened much too far. He understands now Wilson's lectures about needing the pain. He needs this hurt. He deserves it.

He killed Amber, and Wilson hates him.

He hates himself too, and takes pride in the fact that at least they share in that one feeling. He recognizes this as self-pity, but he is too tired to care.

But Wilson does not hate him, because his hate is unusual. When Wilson hates, it means he cares, and since Wilson does not care anymore, House figures this has gone far past hate and moved into the terrible stage of indifference.

And this means House does not get the punishment he knows he needs to feel better, the punishment he needs to show his repentance.

So, he watches Wilson through a hole in the wall, and when Cuddy gives him a script for Vicodin, he lets the paper sit in his pocket. Each time he moves, the paper crinkles and reminds him of how much he is giving up, and how much he gave up before.


He doesn't tell anyone that he's stopped taking the Vicodin, and when he starts to detox he tells Cuddy he has the flu. Every two days she stops by his apartment and makes sure he hasn't killed himself. She changes the sheets and makes him chicken soup. On those nights, she'll carry him from the couch to the bed and tuck him in like a good boy.

When he returns two weeks later, House overhears from the nurses that Wilson has made friends with Harris from Nephrology. He remembers Harris. Soft-spoken, mild mannered, but with a good sense of humor. Harris will never steal his prescription pad, or borrow five-grand. He'll never get busted by the cops or sabotage his apartment. He won't make Wilson worse by just being there. He'll be a shoulder for him to cry on—something that House could never be.

But Harris will never risk his life for Wilson. He will never understand him like House does. He will never love him as much.

And at this thought, House begins to get angry. How is it that in all their years of friendship, Wilson had learned so little about him to not understand that the oncologist is all House has? He prided himself on being the only one who could read House's signs, so how could he miss the feeling of utter betrayal, the sense of complete loss, that he felt when Wilson asked him to undergo the memory procedure? Then he wonders if maybe Wilson did see the signs, and asked anyways—maybe the only person whom House loves, and the only person that had ever loved him, had already moved on. When this thought occurs, House realizes that he is starting to feel sorry for himself, and smashes the pestle on his desk into his damaged thigh.

This anger is not an uncommon feeling, but each time he begins to fume, his leg burns, and the script in his pocket crinkles, and he remembers that being angry is not going to solve his problems. Being angry won't bring Wilson back. The only thing that can do that is to be sorry enough that Wilson can see from across the dividing wall.


Wilson has drawn the blinds on his door, butHouse still sits outside. Foreman comes periodically to ask about a case. Taub appears once or twice to tell him to man up, and gives a few examples from his own tragic adulterous life to make House see that it really isn't all that bad. Kutner brings him coffee twice a day.

One day, Thirteen tells him that she has Huntington's, but he is in too much pain to comprehend, much less sympathize. These days he has to use crutches to get around. He is forced to take the bus instead of the bike or his car, but he doesn't mind because lately just seeing Wilson hasn't been enough to break his heart. He welcomes the fresh waves of hurt as they roll through his body like a whiskey ocean. They are smooth, and they burn, and when they mix with the agony of his leg, he can almost forget.


Two months after he lost his connection to the world, Cuddy tells him that the board has revoked his tenure, and he's been fired. House isn't shocked, as he vaguely remembers her giving him warnings, and updating him on the board's actions. Frankly, he could care less. He leaves the building that day without packing up his stuff, not intending to return for it, but the next morning Thirteen and Kutner show up at his door with cardboard boxes. They tell him that Foreman's been put in charge of Diagnostics. They tell him that Cuddy's trying to get him reinstated. He shuts the door in their faces.

He spends three days sleeping, and on the third night, he gathers all the pills he's saved in the last two months. He dreams about taking every single pill one by one, and following each with a big glass of water because he knows that Wilson hated it when he dry-swallowed his Vicodin. In the end though, he just goes back to sleep. He feels like he has lost control of his life, but something, perhaps the sight of all those pills, has stirred something in him he thought long gone. What it is, he cannot quite say, but the word "hope" comes to mind.