Pairing: House/Wilson friendship, House/Cuddy friendship, and others...as for actual pairings, not quite sure how/if those will emerge yet :)
Warnings: implied non-con, violence and non-con of a flashback/memory sort, mild language, general angst and trauma and darkness
Summary: House endures the unimaginable...will his friends be able to deal with it? Will he be able to deal with it? A story about damaged human beings, and ultimately recovery and healing
Losing a patient was never easy.
There were dozens of agonizing moments involved in the whole terrible process – that sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach when he realized that despite all his efforts, the disease ravaging his patient's body had already won; the self-conscious guilt that came with informing the patient and their family that there was nothing more he could do to save their life; and in the end, the bitter anguish of loss that came with the death of someone he had usually treated for long enough to allow his emotions to become dangerously invested.
But the worst part, Wilson decided as he wearily drew the pen across the stark white form on his desk – was the paperwork.
Paperwork that reduced a tragic but meaningful life to carefully chosen words designed to protect the hospital from any liability for its loss. Wilson sometimes wondered if he was the only one who realized that, beneath the technical medical and legal terms he used to write his report, was a person.
In this case, Meaghan Reynolds.
The report didn't say it – of course not, it wasn't "medically relevant" – but Meaghan liked chocolate pound cakes from the local grocery store, and loved to listen to corny old country music on the radio, and preferred the company of a good story to entertaining television shows.
Meaghan Reynolds was four years old when she died.
And the useless report Wilson was writing up would do nothing to ensure that the person she was would be remembered.
Maybe it was the dark swirling circle of his thoughts that made him more irritable than usual when he heard the unexpected but intimately familiar voice in the darkened doorway to his office – or maybe it was just the fact that he had thought he was alone in the building, and House's flat, matter-of-fact voice had startled him.
"I need a ride."
"Geez, House, do you have to scare me like that? Normal people…say something when they walk into a room."
Wilson jumped, dropping the pen to his desk with a clatter as he cast an irritated glance in his friend's direction. Frowning in confusion, he glanced at the small clock, ticking away the seconds on his desk. House had left the building nearly an hour ago, heading for his motorcycle to make his own way home.
"I did," House reminded him. "I said I need a ride."
"What happened to your bike?" Wilson asked with a weary sigh. "I thought you went home already."
"It's gone. I need a ride," House repeated the words a second time, and Wilson's frown deepened at the oddly flat sound of his friend's voice.
He raised his eyes to scan House's face, relieved to see that the older doctor's face was set in his usual barely there sardonic grin, but troubled to find that for once, the expression did not seem to go any farther than his lips. House's eyes were blank and a little two wide.
Something was wrong, though Wilson could not quite put his finger on what.
Still, his usual habit of dealing with House did not shift as he snarked back at him, "Do I look like one of your hookers? And I've still got a bit of work to do, here. You might wanna catch the bus, if you don't wanna wait."
House was silent for a moment, and Wilson looked up at him again, his head tilting slightly as House limped, slower than usual, into the faint glow from his desk lamp, and he got his first good look at his friend.
"No, you don't look like a hooker," House conceded. "Though come to think of it, my personal favorite could be your sister, there's such a strong resemblance. Wonder what that says about me?" He paused just a moment before adding in a strangely quiet voice, "And I'll wait. Take your time. I might just…take a nap."
The weak, ill-timed barb was wasted on Wilson, whose eyes slowly widened as he rose to his feet, looking House slowly up and down. His jacket was torn in the front, and all his clothes appeared rumpled and tattered as he limped slowly toward the sofa with the help of his cane, on legs that seemed unsteadier than usual. His hand on the top of the cane trembled visibly, and with each step, he winced with pain.
"What's wrong? What happened?" Wilson demanded, a note of concern creeping into his voice as he started to come around the side of his desk. "Did you get in an accident and wreck your bike? Are you all right?"
House waved a hand at him in annoyance, edging painfully toward the sofa across from Wilson's desk. "I'm fine," he replied, though Wilson still heard that strange flatness in his voice. "Bike got stolen, that's all. Keep your distance, Florence Nightengale. I just might bite."
"That's all?" Wilson echoed in disbelief. "That bike cost you 5,000! My 5,000! And all you've got to say is 'that's all'?" He followed House around the desk, despite the other doctor's gruff warnings, and reached out a hand to steady him as he began to sit slowly, painfully down on the sofa. "Were you there when they took it? Did the thief hurt you? Have you called the police?"
House jerked away from Wilson's helpful hand, and Wilson drew back, startled by the sudden, unexpected movement that seemed more like a flinch than a gesture of annoyance, despite House's agitated response and irritated roll of his eyes.
"I said I'm fine, didn't I? Just give me some space, Wilson, will you? And no, I haven't called the police. Why bother? They won't find it, anyway. By now it's probably already painted a different color and missing its VIN number. What's the point?"
Wilson shook his head slightly, his mouth open in an incredulous question, unsure what to say to that. That bike was one of House's most prized possessions, and the idea that he was not doing everything in his power to get it back was unthinkable. He hesitated a moment, considering, before continuing in a firm, insistent tone of voice almost always reserved for House's most unreasonable moments.
"Well, we're at least going to get you checked out, House. You're hurt, and we've gotta be sure you're all right…"
"I'm all right, okay?" House insisted, though his wince as he slowly, awkwardly settled himself on the couch belied his words. "I fell when they pulled the bike away from me, that's all. I'm not hurt, so back off." He lowered his head, his words a barely distinguishable mumble as he added, "Freakin' mother hen."
"So you were there when they took it," Wilson concluded, pointing his finger at his friend in a gesture that would have been almost victorious, if not for the worry that now showed in his warm, dark eyes. "House, you need to at least go down to Emergency and let them check you out…"
The tone of House's voice left no room for argument, but Wilson could not help but notice the slight tremor in it, uncharacteristic of his bold, self-possessed friend. The incident must have shaken him more than he was willing to let on, he decided. A moment later, he made a second decision.
"Fine. Then I'll check you over when I finish here, okay? Give me five minutes, and I'll be ready to go."
"Going. Yes. Sounds good," House mumbled, his eyes closed, his head resting against the back of the sofa. He frowned then, Wilson's first words finally registering with him. "Except for that first part. I am a doctor. I don't need a doctor. Especially an over-sensitive, neurotic mess of a Jewish mother like you."
Wilson relaxed slightly, convinced that despite House's acerbic protests, he would be able to assure himself of his friend's well-being at some point before dropping him off at his apartment. Judging by the weary posture of the older doctor on the sofa, the sheer exhaustion evident in his trembling limbs, Wilson was fairly certain that House would not put up much more than a verbal resistance to his efforts.
Still, more than a little anxious, he rushed through the last of his work, setting aside the report on Meaghan Reynolds to be completed the next day, and contenting himself with simply putting his desk in order in preparation to leave. He hated to admit it, when his friend was likely right that nothing was really wrong with him, but his concern for House trumped his responsibility to his job at the moment.
With a heavy sigh, he rose from his chair, putting a few files into his briefcase and zipping it closed as he moved around the desk and toward the sofa. He frowned when he noticed that House was not sleeping, as he had expected, but just staring blankly up at the ceiling, his eyes dark and troubled…almost…haunted.
Well…more haunted than usual, anyway.
"Hey," Wilson spoke in a voice that was unusually soft. "You okay?" As he spoke, he reached out a hand toward House's shoulder to gain his attention.
House's reaction alarmed the younger doctor, as he jerked his arm away from Wilson with a sharp intake of breath, nearly falling over sideways on the sofa in his attempt to evade the simple touch of the other man's hand. Wilson immediately backed off, his hands raised in a placating gesture.
"Damn it, Wilson!" House hissed as he pulled himself back upright on shaking arms.
"Hey, easy, buddy." He tried to lighten the mood with a laugh that came out more nervous than amused. "Easy, just…trying to wake you up." He cringed inwardly as soon as the words were out of his mouth, aware that what might have been a convincing excuse to anyone not House would be easily discounted by the astute, observant medical genius that was his best friend.
"I was already awake," House snapped, leaning forward on the sofa with a visible effort, though not acknowledging Wilson's slip. The younger doctor was not sure whether that was a cause for relief, or concern. "Ready to go?"
"Yeah," Wilson confirmed, reaching out a tentative hand toward his friend's arm, though not quite closing the distance between them. "You gonna knock my head off with your cane if I try to help you stand up?"
House gave him a sneer of mock amusement, even as he reached out his own hand to accept Wilson's offer of help, rolling his eyes in frustration at his own need. As he put a cautious hand around his friend's back, under his arms, and helped him to stand, Wilson wondered again, uneasily, whether it was mere exhaustion, or some as yet unknown injury, that was making House so visibly weak and shaky.
A moment later, he got his alarming, horrifying answer.
"Okay…here's your cane," he murmured as he placed the support in his friend's hand, glancing behind him as he helped him steady himself. "Do you need any help getting to the…?"
His voice trailed off into stunned silence, just as House interrupted him irritably. "Please, Wilson. I already told you, I'm. Fine. All I need from you right now is a ride home. I don't need your help walking, I don't need a physical in the emergency room, and I don't need a frickin'…"
His voice trailed off as his eyes settled on Wilson's face, blinking almost sleepily, as if struggling to focus. With an effort he turned his gaze in the direction Wilson was looking, toward the couch cushion on which he had just been sitting. Wilson's eyes were wide with horror, and he was staring between the dark stain on the couch cushion, and the matching deep red stain on the back of his friend's tan-colored pants.
"House…what the hell?" he muttered, aghast as he raised his eyes to meet House's suddenly averted gaze.
His brilliant blue eyes hazy and distant as he stared down at the bloody stain on the sofa, House suddenly wobbled on his feet, his weight falling more heavily on Wilson's supporting arm. He glanced up at his friend, blinking rapidly, a lost look in his wide eyes as he suddenly slumped down onto his good knee on the floor, Wilson going down with him in an attempt to hold him upright.
"House? House! What happened?" As Wilson found himself in closer proximity to his friend, one hand sliding under his jacket to help hold him up, he felt something warm and wet and sticky on his fingers, and drew his hand away with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, finding them stained with dark red blood. "House…what the…?"
"I think…" The great doctor's voice was slurred with confusion, his eyes becoming blank and unfocused, as he stared down at the blood on his friend's hand. "I think…maybe I do…need a doctor…"