The sun was coming in through the window. It was red on his eyes, bright, warm.
The blankets were drawn up over his shoulders and arms. His body felt too heavy too move, blood too thick to move as smoothly as it should. He thought of swollen veins and the sluggish march of blood. It did not worry him that he could not move. He knew it was only because he was missing the will.
He did not reach for empty space in the bed anymore. He did not delude himself into moments of bliss because they were too crushing once the illusion broke. It was not difficult to accept the fact.
He'd felt alone like this before.
It was not alone because he had no one. There were people who loved him and he loved them back. There was his family, who, save for the one who'd left long ago, never turned from him when he needed them. It was the alone he felt when he remembered that he was empty. Emptiness that infected him from the inside. That could happen at any time; it'd just been happening in crippling frequency now.
Like cancer, it was not always so obvious that it was there. Like cancer, there was always a desperate regime to try and force it back. But cancer never disappeared. It could become benign, but it could also become malignant. That's what the loneliness felt like; constant remissions. He did not invent this feeling, but it was powerful enough so that anyone else who noticed it couldn't speak of it. Like in a fairytale, it was as though there was a lock over the words, or that the truth became cursed in the minds of others, the cancer spreading outwards and manifesting as dubiousness. It was poison.
He felt defective when he wanted to talk about it. It was defective because words were too unsophisticated and so were bodies. The loneliness was something else, something intangible but entirely palpable within each single spirit. Metaphysical poetics that no one understood but remembered because it was the closest they could get to a description of what they really meant.
It'd be easy to go back to sleep. He didn't have anyone to take care of today and had no will to take care of himself. Sometimes he hardly slept at all. Sometimes, he overslept. The rhythm of routine had gotten knocked aside and subsequently he entered instead an unpredictable cycle of feeling too much or too little. It was always one extreme or the other and it was always the most amplified when he was alone. So he listened to Foreman on the phone. He allowed Cameron in. A commitment to punctuality to meals with Cuddy always provided enough sense of purpose for him to show up so that she wouldn't be disappointed. Chase struggled to talk and knew that it made it worse; a silent agreement kept them at a respectful distance.
The obvious absences plagued over unspokens, unscripted and viral, doing as they would even as they weren't there.
It was much easier to talk about her than it was about him.
He'd leave the hospital, he already decided that. Two months and he still didn't want to go back. It still stuck in his throat when he tried to say it. It came out strangled. Throat tight, what he heard unnerved him, but he'd follow through. Cuddy understood. He might have stayed if Cuddy pushed for him too, but he didn't think so.
The apartment was bare. He'd removed all her things. As for his own belongings, there weren't many. The walls had an empty sound to them, but the space was full of echoes. He needed to get out of here too.
Time moved the shaft of light over his face till it had removed itself completely. He still hadn't moved. Casting out a line he looked for a reason to remove himself from his place. The day was his and he didn't know what to do with it. It might have made it easier if he'd filled his time with distractions, but anything he did was only out of necessity and failed to take his mind elsewhere. The interactions he had with others, those were merely groundings to reality, brief and intermittent ways to fill time. There was nothing he committed himself too. It was easier to bathe in self-indulgent grieving. He should be on his meds, those would make it easier, he was told. They remained untouched in the medicine cabinet for weeks. Their compounds weren't what he was looking for.
There was nothing he wanted to do, or more correctly, nothing that he could do to achieve what he wanted. Ever since she'd gone, things hadn't fit in their right places any more; work, friends, routines. Their function no longer extended to him. He could live 'life' and give the appearance of normalcy, but why bother, it still left him empty. A terrible melodrama where he often felt like he was the only one in the cast. The ratings must be soaring in the housewives and daytime demographic right now.
Which would mean that House was watching too. Often, he knew that House saw him as entertainment. He'd never been overly offended by that; House saw everyone as entertainment. What was different between them, was that sometimes House contributed. He wasn't just watching, he was participating in earnest and could even do it without malicious intent. Or at least that's how it'd felt at the time.
The sun continued to drag on over him slowly, but it was still early. If he got up now, there'd still be a full day ahead of him. The thought was daunting.
He'd gotten caught in a self-induced paralysis. He got by, because people wanted him too and he was dependant on that not by choice, but by necessity. It'd never been easy to take care of himself. Taking care of House had made that less of a conflict with everything else. If he was taking care of House, it meant that he had to lead by example to a degree, subsequently taking care of himself in a roundabout way. But now he'd gotten stuck. From what Cuddy told him, he wasn't the only one. But it was better this way. They both had things to learn. Of course over a decade of co-dependency would take a toll in the detoxifying stage, he knew that. He wouldn't be the one to give in, so he told House to leave when he came to his door. Testing the waters of separation was what would be best for them right now. Maybe that was the way they'd have to live, in the end. He hoped not, but right now he needed to be alone. It hurt like hell, but he'd made the decisions to go through with it. It was important to know that he could live without House, just like he had to live without Amber.
He'd shut the door and meant it, even though he wanted nothing more than to have things the way they were and let House in so that they could begin to set everything back to the way they were before Amber. They'd been friends; saying that they weren't was simply the best defence that he could think of. He tried not to think of how much like the truth it tasted as he said it. It only tasted foul now, but not because of the truth. The bitterness came from the knowledge that he'd had the gall to say it and the aftertaste was charcoal as he thought of the numbed horror in Houses' expression as he walked away.
There was no intent in him to apologize for it though. House had said things equal and worse. And when it'd been in genuine anger, it was what he'd needed to hear. Maybe House could have lessened the blow, but to expect that would have been to expect the invasion of extra terrestrials or Cuddy being the vessel of an immaculate conception. It simply didn't happen.
The anger he'd felt there towards House had been entirely sincere and even if the statement hadn't been the truth, it looked like House had needed to hear it.
It didn't feel as empowering as he'd imagined, to be holding all the cards, but that didn't come to him as a surprise. All the reasoning that justified why he had them were solid, but their mass was suffocating. Had House ever felt like this, or was he too frigidly rational for such emotional burdens? Judging by that expression he must have felt like this, at least once. He wasn't a complete monster. Though, one could argue that it wasn't an absence of feeling that made a monster, but rather the denial of them. But he wasn't interested in classifying what House was and wasn't. House was House, and that'd been enough. It turned out that it still was, even if he wasn't talking to him.
Finally, the desire to leave the collected warmth of his own body broke the paralysis and he pushed back the fabrics that'd enfolded him in sleepless tangles. It was not because he wanted too, it was merely that his depression had begun to drift to another room. In resignation, he followed it, moving into the living room and settling in the chair. It had belonged to her too, but he figured that he'd simply leave it behind once he'd found his own place.
The sunlight illuminated the room into a washed out palette of colours, lacking the original vibrancy he'd seen it in. His skin crawled to get out of there, but he made no move to leave, thinking of the generic cleanliness of hotel rooms. Though both options were equal in their discomfort, they did not void each other out, leaving him in a stagnation of misery.
He hardly reacted at all when he heard the telephone ring, he sight sliding through the bleached colours of the room to look at the receiver. It was easy to not answer, but he'd made the pact with himself that unless it was House or a telemarketer, he'd answer it. It took a few steps to cross the room and read the display. He was surprised to see that it was Blythe.
She sounded strained and apologetic and he told her that it was fine, that she shouldn't be sorry to call. She was welcome to anytime. Blythe called like this sometimes, when she couldn't get through to her son.
He hummed a response.
"James, John is dead."
His tongue searched for words, but only found a sound. "Oh."
"Greg hasn't answered any of my calls since I told him, James, can you tell him that I need to talk to him?"
Before he realized what he was agreeing too, he was assuring her that yes, he'd talk to him. He could hear her wrestle with tears in her voice and felt an inflammation of anger swell; the first fully formed feeling he'd had about House since he'd told House that he wouldn't answer the door again.
"James, tell him to please come to the funeral, please. For me."
"Yes, Blythe, I'll make sure. I promise."
She thanked him and it echoed through his head. The colours of the room did not brighten, but became saturated into darker tones, looking drab and choked. He was not ready to see House again. It was difficult to conceive a method of persuasion. He hung up, desperately searching his mind for a way to convince House to go. Would going for his mother be enough? Standing in the murky colours of the room, he found himself again pinned to the spot. But now he'd made a promise and he knew how she'd feel if he failed her. He brought his hands up to his face, pressing his palms into the sockets of his skull and released a hiss of air from between his lips. Gravity pulled his arms downwards and he fell into step towards the room to get dressed.
He'd be at work, convincing himself that his father's death meant nothing to him and carrying on with his day as though nothing had happened. This was repugnant because of Blythe's obvious state of distress. House would know about that too, but his powers of denying responsibility, as par usual, were astounding.
The paralysis was lingering, but it lessened more and more as he drove in measured calm to Princeton-Plainsboro. He had a duty to do; one that didn't belong to him but that his character had committed him to. There was no further hesitation in carrying it out.
There was shame in the back of his mind; this was him giving in. He'd done it enough to recognize it immediately. It was for Blythe, but it was for him too. Of the three of them, it was least intended for House. It was difference enough to ensure that he didn't simply turn the car around and go back.
He parked the car near the end of the lot. His space had already been taken, the politics of parking spaces continuing on despite the story behind it. Amber's was gone too, and it shouldn't have felt offensive, but he couldn't shake the idea that they'd been wiped away from the hospital as easily as a sheen of dust. They hadn't been dirt; simply the accumulation of time and the intersections that came with it and other people. Their overall impact had been easily whisked away. It was difficult to not take it personally, even if it was only a set of parking spaces.
Inside, things looked the same. He hadn't expected them to change, but the continuity in everything gave him the feeling of being left behind. It happened everywhere, not just at Princeton-Plainsboro, but he hadn't gotten used to it and didn't expect to. Spending so much time in unintended isolation had made him feel alien to the linear existence of the life he didn't feel a part of. Perhaps he hadn't been a part of it before either, but being conscious of it made the world of difference.
He made a beeline for Houses' office. They were in the conference room, House facing inwards with his back to the glass. Kutner saw him first, but that didn't prompt House to see what he was looking at. Foreman was arguing with House, Thirteen too absorbed in seeing who would win. Taub was the one who made the indication that he was waiting behind the glass.
Watching House turn to face him seemed agonizingly slow, and his expression read nothing. He turned back to dismiss his team but they were already leaving. Wilson looked down so that he didn't have to see their quizzical expressions as they went past, hands resting on his hips as he braced himself for what was coming. Once they'd gone, he stepped in, drawing his eyes up to Houses' face slowly enough so that he didn't overload his sense of confidence and leave. It was difficult to look at him, illuminated by the light from the window so he took several steps in to level the playing field. To convince House, he'd need to see his face so that he could gauge what was working and what wasn't.
"Hi," House said slowly, reaching around for a way to start. It surprised him that he didn't simply attack him with the obvious reason for his presence. "How are--"
"House, cut the crap. You're going to your father's funeral."
House didn't answer, calculating his reaction. He studied Wilson's face as intently as Wilson had intended to study his. Wilson tried to keep everything clear from his face, but it wasn't something he'd ever been skilled at.
Wilson hadn't been expecting that and he felt his mouth half open with another of the unformulated words that he'd been plagued with because of the inactivity of his conversational habits.
"But you're coming with me."
Wilson eyed him with suspicion. It wasn't going to be that easy, he sensed. He'd have to be on guard for any escape attempts. The fight was only beginning. But he'd already made the promise and come this far.
"You drive," House said, picking up his backpack from a chair and then draining the last of his coffee. "We'll make it a road trip."
Wilson thought that he might say that this wouldn't change anything, but House was out the door before he could take the opportunity. Resigned, he followed after him, unsure of what to expect and falling into step beside him. He wouldn't have, taken the opportunity to say it. It hadn't wouldn't have been the truth and it's relevance had passed.