AND SO IT GOES

AND SO IT GOES…

House sits alone at his desk pretending. The fact that he's alone, he thinks, just makes the pretense that much more pitiful, but what's he gonna do? It's who he is.

The pretense today involves pain—but not the usual sort. Today's pain involves people. Human beings. Emotions. Feelings. He didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings—he just wasn't thinking. And just because Stevens is an ass doesn't mean that House can't see himself enjoying his company, under different circumstances. Maybe… maybe he'll invite the guy out for a beer, give it a try.

It's not that he's lonely, or anything; after all, he's got Wilson. It's just that if he stops to think about it, he's gotta admit that what he said to Stevens—but he's not going to stop to think about it. This pain, it's unfamiliar, not like the leg.

His leg, he realizes, is actually almost behaving itself today; he gives it a 6 on the scale. Another Vicodin, and he'll be able to concentrate wholly on his new pain. So he doesn't take another Vicodin.

What he takes instead is a deep breath, because Wilson's out in the hall, and clearly headed in his direction. And from the forceful sound of his footsteps, House can tell it's lecture time. In this, at least, he isn't disappointed.

"How the hell could you tell Stevens that your car mechanic is a better diagnostician than he is? It isn't his fault that the patient presented with atypical symptoms for angina. And—just in case it slipped your mind—those misleading symptoms write your paycheck!"

"Oh, good; then we can get rid of Cuddy, thought that was her job."

Wilson sighs explosively. "Not gonna play word games with you, House—I don't have the time. Some of us are actually responsible for more than one or two patients, you know. I'm only here because—lucky for you—Harmon came to me with your latest little gaffe instead of going to Cuddy. Seems he figures I'll have a better chance of getting you to apologize to his best cardiologist than she would."

Wilson stops talking and studies House. It's probably just wishful thinking on his part, but does House actually look a little guilty? "House, it's just politics, part of the job. Play the game; say you're sorry, okay?"

Wilson's hopes die inside House's loud scoffing noise. "Let me get this straight," House says. "Word games are a waste of time, but we give social games a fancy name and make them a prerequisite?"

Wilson grits his teeth. "You can't just go around insulting your colleagues," he says patiently. "It's not conducive to friendship; more importantly, it makes for a lousy work environment. Then patients suffer."

"Patients suffer because their doctors are asses. I didn't say anything to that goon that wasn't true."

"Just because it's true doesn't make it right, House. And next time, he might think twice about coming to you with a tough case. What's your truth worth then? A life?"

"He'll come. He'll come because I'm the best, and he needs what I can give him. Only thing that'll change is, he won't waste my time with all those stupid social niceties. The way I see it, that's a win/win—win for the patient. More importantly, win for me." House grins triumphantly.

"You hurt his feelings, and you don't care," Wilson says slowly as House nods. Wilson closes his eyes, tips his head back, and tries to swallow his frustration. "And you know why you're so infuriating? You're right. Every damned thing you've said is true. You don't need friends; you just need puzzles." Wilson shakes his head.

"Now you're getting the idea," House observes smugly.

Wilson looks hard at House. "All right, then. Here's one for you. Why in hell do I stay friends with you? Puzzle that one out for me, why don't you?" Wilson shoots House a disgusted look, turns on his heel, and exits the office.

House stares after his friend, telling himself not to worry. He'll be back. Wilson won't give up on him. Wilson always comes back.

A sudden sharp spasm causes House to wince, pulls his thoughts away from feelings, emotions, messy stuff. The pain in his leg has jumped now, from a 6 to a 9. He takes the bottle of pills from his pocket and thumbs the cap. No. He slips the vial back into his pocket and sighs. House sits quietly, not pretending anymore, allowing his leg free rein. Because there's nothing confusing about this, nothing sneaky or complicated.

This one thing, this physical thing, is, in the end, the only pain that House can understand. He closes his eyes, and welcomes it.