Bottleneck
By Angelfirenze

Disclaimer: House is not mine. If he was, this story wouldn't have been written and this idea wouldn't have been had. Quote from 'The Days'. Johnnie Taylor performed the song the lyrics originate from, 'I'll Keep On Lovin' You' from his album, Eargasm. I simply can't imagine why I keep listening to it...

Summary: He's certainly experienced worse for longer but that never mattered and does even less so now.

Notes: I was tired of cataloguing House's untreated medical problems that vanish without a trace soon afterward. Alas...

Timeline: post-'Not Cancer', just to be thorough.

...When you're gone, I really miss you and my world just don't revolve...

It shouldn't have been nearly as simple as it was to sneak his medical file out of Cuddy's office. He doesn't know why it's still there in the first place, but that's not something he's willing to dwell on at the moment. It's difficult enough keeping his mind off the fact that there's a necessity for this at all. Whether it's real or imaginary, it still prevents him from keeping something close to normal hours. He could at least manage that once upon a time. Now he can't even do that but he can't get up the effort to care. At least going out of his mind with exhaustion, panic (seizures even if he doesn't want to acknowledge the way his body twitches and tingles and every fucking thing else without his express permission), and muddled sensory input is a vacation from the loneliness.

Compared to that, he can't really bring himself to complain -- not that he would if he could. So the moments when his words get lost on their way out of his mouth and nothing in his head makes sense aren't as bad as they could be. He's certainly experienced worse for longer but that never mattered and does even less so now.

House realizes it's probably not normal that he is updating and revising his own medical file, that he would feel forced to do so, but he doesn't see any other option. They're all blind now -- he supposes his disguise worked even better than he'd ever hoped. He wonders if, since the mind is such a powerful thing, that it would mean he's an Immortal now. The result of that hypothesis would mean that he could down as much Vicodin as he wanted and it would never mean a thing. He never thought that scenario might make him cry, but it does.

He prints out the freshest page of his most recent symptoms (auras -- scotoma to the right of his already dimmer visual field, nausea, overwhelming dread -- brief or not bouts of unconsciousness, tremors -- a rash and swelling in his face he still doesn't know the origin of) and adds it to the already thick sheaf open on his desk. Sensations and lack thereof documented religiously (odd, that, really) because he can't afford to forget anything, even if it means a recurrence or repetition.

He believes that anyone else (or just Cuddy and Wilson) would leave out whatever doesn't suit them.

Well, no -- he shouldn't say that. He doesn't think his old team or the new one would which is, again, odd. He doesn't know what he's done to earn their allegiance or the reverse, but at this point he'll take what he can get. He doesn't have a choice in the matter. He winces at the memory of the old kids and their overenthusiastic investigation of his 'cancer' and the worry and the eerie brightness in their eyes and souls when they beat down his door in the middle of the night to tell him it was only neurosyphilis and the new kids and their cold, calculated revenge, watching passively as he squirmed and groaned on that table while they stuck and yanked at his insides. Somehow, it manages to convalesce into a strange sort of detached reassurance. They'll do whatever it takes to make sure he's still alive, even if it's only to continue drawing paychecks and no amount of lying or mockery or general disdain is going to send any of them packing.

It's like a morbid security blanket. Being cared about but not enough to ignore what they don't want to consider. It helps him breathe through the panic, if nothing else.

He wonders if the bright red line of Target pharmacy prescription bottles is indicative of anything other than his bone-deep need to keep knowledge of their existence away from prying eyes.

Carbamazepine. He's been on that one for two months now and it helps for the most part, but the tinnitus strikes at the oddest moments and pretending that he can make out what people are saying over the buzzing is rather a chore. But he's not complaining. The stiffness in his muscles from spasms and seizures, the migraines, nausea -- he figures it's a fair price to pay for still being alive. Or maybe the part where he's still alive at all is the reason they continue to follow him. It's getting to be more difficult than he can manage, the anxiety (not at all helped by the nightmares of screaming metal and red scarves and blood and hair that rip him from sleep sending him into more seizures despite the higher nightly dose) making it almost impossible to ignore the sounds of doors opening and closing, thuds and thumps he continually tells himself aren't real but can't shake off the paranoia until he's dragged himself out of bed to look.

He can't drive, he can't bathe in a tub. He wonders why he can't muster up the energy to explain to Cuddy why he's even later than he used to be. Then he remembers that it's useless and pointless and all manner of inane. She doesn't want to hear it. None of them do, certainly not Wilson. But even the things he can't tell them don't make him regret getting off that shiny, safe, white bus so much as the looks on Wilson's face that he sees when he closes his eyes.

He wishes he could say none of it matters, but he's slipping his medical file (he's lost count of how long it is; all he sees are letters superimposed on a stack of pages) into an overnight envelope for Brittain over at Princeton General all the same. He doesn't want it emailed or faxed because that requires a scanner he doesn't personally own. He's tired of relying on Cuddy's ignorant hospitality for things that will never be acknowledged unless he wishes dearly that they weren't.

He imagines there are typos in the new pages, but caring requires energy and he'll need to save that if he intends to go to work tomorrow. He wonders when his memory became so automatic that reciting symptoms and causes and effects to the tune of medical jargon became static buzzing around in his broken head. He supposes it's a good thing that he has the fellows because moving and writing are getting harder (Brittain tries to tell him that his physical therapy three times weekly -- every day now -- for the last nine years certainly worked in his favor regarding trying to train his brain yet again, but he's not seeing anything notable and, anyway, what does it matter?) but he figures that being a doctor does have its advantages. No one expects his handwriting to be legible just like they don't expect actions to have consequences in regard to him. Just as well. He tries to pretend it's all a plan he's come up with, ignorance and exclusion. He can almost convince himself that it's part of the scheme he's had going all along.

But it's back to that energy component and he just doesn't have that anymore. When it isn't his head aching, muscles twitching, burning, his arms numb, extremities tingling, it's his shoulder or his neck or his stomach. Rubbing the nickel-sized scars in those places helps, but not for long. He belches sycophantically, short bursts of exogenous gases bursting forth from his stomach and grimaces as acid follows and he swallows again.

The pills are lined up on the table, their bottles behind them -- tools, assistance in his folly. They've now become like another layer in the armor he wears (or maybe it's a hole slowly being dug) to hide from the world.

He wishes he knew where the dirt went so he could cover himself. He's cold and lonely and feels dead inside. There's no way to feel alive now that he can see and maybe that's why he doesn't quite hate his body so much anymore. He can't form memories while he's seizing so for all he knows, Wilson could walk up and spit on him and he wouldn't be the wiser. Hell, he's pretty sure he'd think he drooled on himself so no biggie, really.

But then he remembers that Wilson hasn't been around in months. Cuddy extended her arms after the fog parted enough for him to see, but then she decided she was tired of waiting for him to crawl into them, he supposes, so she switched over to Wilson instead. That's fine, he tells himself. He's tired of trying, but doesn't know what to do now. He can't think of anything so he simply seals the envelope and sticks it in the hall for the mailman. He doesn't like to think about when he got too tired to even bother killing himself, but that (just like everything else) feels extemporaneous so he does the only thing he can do. He picks up the last in the line of pills (Tegretol for seizures; Cytotec and Protonix for that pesky peptic ulcer; an entire milligram of Xanax for the panic attacks and nightmares that only make the seizures worse -- he has a feeling the carbamazepine isn't working if the fact that he woke up on his bedroom floor yesterday is any indication. His arm is still sore all the way down to his wrist, but he doesn't want to be checked for sprains because that would mean a splint and appearances must be kept up) and drops it down his throat before taking several minutes to prepare for the rise to his feet. He passes his bathroom on the way to bed and glances at his reflection through the darkness. It'll take some time to get used to his new haircut but it's easier to cover the scars on his scalp if he gets it styled professionally. It's worth, he figures, the extra money if the chinks in his armor are sealed over for now. He doesn't want to know what'll happen when they're too big to hide.

He's still having too difficult a time seeing a reason to care. He's just glad (God, he's glad about something? Alert the media...) they don't know about it.

"You look sad," she'd told him, the brightness in her face after finally coming back into the vivid story her eyes were trying to paint for her all along. He'd wanted to tell her, "I know."

There hadn't been anything else to say.

...There are times I feel like I hate you so, but when I hate you I still love you -- that's the way (that's the way) love goes...

FIN