A/N: For a standard disclamer see my profile. The lyrics on top are from "Even Deeper" by NIN and Trent Reznor is one more person that's not me (thank god).
Warning: This is not a happy story. In fact, it's a major angst-fest. You've been warned.
"I hear them call
I cannot stay
the voice inviting me away
do you know how far this has gone?
just how damaged have I become?
when I think I can overcome
it runs even deeper
everything that matters is gone
all the hands of hope have withdrawn
could you try to help me hang on?"
"You're a coward, House. You find fault in everybody, because you're afraid to look at yourself," said Wilson.
House wanted to scream at him. Wanted to walk to him, shove him against the wall and yell out every single thing that Wilson refused to see. Because House refused to believe that Wilson truly didn't understand. It had to be denial, he had to know, even if he didn't know it consciously - if he didn't know, it would mean that House really was all alone, because no true best friend could miss something that big. Alone.
House wanted to explain to Wilson that it wasn't just his laziness that made him late for work, day by day. That every single morning he woke up to the blinding agony, pain so intense that it made him moan through clenched teeth and feel like puking his guts out. Then he reached for Vicodin, took a pill or two and waited, afraid to take a deep breath, because every minute move sent new flashes of pain through his body. He wanted Wilson to understand what it cost him to make the first, tentative attempt to sit up, when Vicodin finally kicked in. He wanted Wilson to know that on a bad day he had to lay motionless, sometimes for a whole hour or longer, whispering to himself, quiet nonsenses of fake comfort, slowly coaxing himself into getting up. Things he desperately needed to hear and believe, but no one was there to say them, no one but him. That the knowledge how much it would hurt was terrifying, nearly to the point of chaining him to bed permanently. And that every morning came the chilling realization that this was it. There would be no miracles, no one to save him, no help and no change. Not ever. Every wisp of a dream where he was whole again blown to the wind, mocked, crushed by the unforgiving light of the morning. All he wanted was to allow himself to curl up (carefully always so carefully because it hurt hurt hurt so much) in a tight ball on his bed, allow himself to close his eyes and allow himself to cry, until he finally disappeared and the nightmare was over.
House wanted Wilson to see him get up anyway.
He wished Wilson would understand how walking with a piece of white-hot iron embedded in his thigh felt. Every step a battle, a raging war on its own, the paralysing fear of a hundred steps more chased away by quietly drying out courage. He wanted him to know how hard it was to push the pain far enough to be able to think, to function, to remember. He wanted him to know how desperately House wanted to take one more pill, and then one more, to make things a bit easier. At least for a short while, because it would never really leave, would forever stay barely hidden behind the nearest corner. How he wanted to keep taking them, one by one, or a whole handful at once - until nothing mattered any more, because there was nothing left to feel.
House wanted Wilson to understand what it meant when he opened the orange bottle and forced his hands to stop trembling, and shook out a single, white pill.
Wilson should realize that there were other drugs, other ways to take away a fraction of his daily agony - things that would work better than Vicodin. He searched everywhere, tried everything, when he still believed the answer might be out there, waiting to be discovered. When he still could bring himself to hope. They left his thoughts scrambled and confused, they made it impossible for him to work. Losing his brilliance, his intelligence, his memory - the very idea horrified House, but he knew it would cease to matter as soon as he took the new pills. They would numb the monster gnawing at his leg and they would numb him - he would be a shadow, a pale imitation of himself, but he wouldn't care. His life would be empty, it would lose it's purpose, but there would finally be an ounce of relief. He could lose himself in the fog and rest, finally rest, no longer afraid.
House wanted Wilson to know that he would trade his reputation, the excitement and the puzzles for numbness in a heartbeat, but he refused to give up watching people everyone else gave up on walking out of the hospital. That House considered it worth the price.
Wilson should be the one who noticed that House wasn't really fine, didn't really feel like smiling, cracking jokes and playing pranks. That he didn't push, insult and alienate people just for his twisted amusement. Wilson should see through the act and know that he didn't let anyone see inside him past the miserable jerk and complete bastard face that he put on every day, because then they could catch a glimpse of the daily nightmare that was his life and everything would fall apart. No one could know, because in this blinding hurricane of pain a small gesture of kindness could break him and he knew that this time he wouldn't dare pick himself up.
House wanted Wilson to be the only one who could see past his walls, because if he knew that Wilson understood and was there to catch him, he could allow himself to fall.
"You're a coward," said Wilson and all House could do was convince himself to keep breathing, because at this moment thinking about future more distant than the next inhale and exhale was unbearable.
Wilson couldn't or wouldn't see, and for all his courage that pulled him through day after day of hell, House couldn't force himself to simply show him. If there was one thought that horrified him more than the miles long string of years, months, days and seconds yet to be endured, it was Wilson finally seeing – and letting him fall.
"Maybe I am," he said and the walls stayed in place, crumbling slowly and slipping between his fingers one grain of sand at a time - like his courage.
Few months later House came to his office, without knocking, as usual and stood in front of his desk. Wilson waited for his friend to say something, plop down on a couch, insult him, order Wilson to buy him lunch – do any of the things he had done a thousand times before.
He didn't and Wilson felt something cold grow inside him. Something was wrong, horribly wrong.
"I need to show you something," said House, his voice so frail and quiet that it hit Wilson like a punch to the face. Then he looked up, bright blue meeting soft brown, and Wilson forgot how to breath.
House was gone. This couldn't be House. This had to be some stranger, who mysteriously wore House's face (too pale when did it get so pale and thin), House's body (trembling he's trembling he's), House's creased and rumpled clothes. House could play the poker face like no one else, lie through his teeth, hide anything he felt uncomfortable with behind a mile high concrete walls. This stranger in his best friend's skin had no defences and let Wilson see all.
What he saw made him want to weep, scream, run away, curse every god that ever existed. Everything but recognize the unbearable pain that was staring him in the face. It wasn't supposed to exist, it had no right to exist, because it was the polar opposite of Life. Not Death, Death is merely the Life's end, it's logical and unavoidable consequence, the final piece of the puzzle. This was Nothing – a Life crushed, tortured, cruelly mocked and abandoned to despair. A barren and cold place where Hope did not dare to tread.
It was locked inside House's sky-blue eyes, begging him for understanding without a shred of hope, or his prized dignity and fierce pride, because they were shattered and stripped from him too.
Wilson desperately searched for words, but couldn't make a single sound, a single move. One tear ran down House's face and Wilson saw the walls slowly go up, with agonizing effort, and realized that this burned-out wasteland had been there for years.
"How long..." he finally managed. Wilson's voice was rough, as if he screamed until his throat was raw and bleeding.
"Eight years. Four months. Eleven hours. Thirty two minutes." House's voice was barely a broken whisper, but every syllable tore through Wilson like a roar of a nuclear explosion.
House closed his eyes for a second. "I just needed someone to understand," he said and left unsteadily.
When Wilson's heart finally started beating again (a minute later a moment hours an eternity later) and he jumped up from his chair, and threw open the door, House was already long gone. He ran to his car, not hearing the calls of his shocked co-workers, every sound drowned by a piercing cacophony of the world falling apart. Later he couldn't remember the run, the ride, the desperate dash to the green door – all that was left were broken images, snap-shots of reality.
His shaking hand trying to turn on the ignition, adrenaline setting his entire being on fire.
Someone's voice begging, pleading, bargaining. His voice? He couldn't recognize it.
Street lights, melting into a blurry line of orange, white and pale blue.
White knuckles on a steering wheel.
Golden letter "B" gleaming on a partially opened door.
And House – sitting on his couch, like he did a thousand times, when Wilson brought beer and a movie and they laughed together at the bad acting and cheesy special effects, and everything was still fine (it wasn't it never was so very wrong everything so hopelessly wrong always).
House looked up and smiled.
For half a second Wilson felt the crushing wave of relief, pure, blinding joy, million words of endless gratitude on a tip of his tongue (thank you thank you I'm so sorry sorry please).
"Thank you," said House and pulled the trigger. And the sky fell.