SNAPPED

Title: Snapped

Genre: Angst

Rating: PG

Characters: House, Wilson, Cuddy

WordCount: 2175

Spoilers: 4.15/4.16; House's Head/Wilson's Heart

Summary: Tag for episode 4.16:Wilson's Heart. He felt when it broke, an actual physical sensation.

A/N: Did you know that blackmare_9 is brilliant? Her suggestions always and magically make my stories say what I want them to say.

The first time House awakens after the deep brain stimulation, he doesn't want to open his eyes. His first thought is Amber's going to die—or she's dead already. God, Wilson, I'm sorry. His second thought is Cuddy's here. I'm in a hospital bed, and Cuddy's here. Must be bad.

And then it comes back to him—not in neat, easily-assimilated pieces, and not in a breath-catching rush, either. He just… didn't know, and then in the next moment he does. The bus collision, the amnesia, the replay of the accident, the cardiac arrest, the return to consciousness with Amber's name on his lips. The ensuing days, trying to keep Wilson's girlfriend alive, trying to keep Wilson together. Trying to stay alive himself—not because he wanted to live, but because he'd lived his miserable life by the credo that there is no dignity in death—not even for him. A release? Yes; he'd grant that. But no dignity. And he had to keep trying to stay alive, because Wilson needed him. If it turned out to be his time to die, he'd fight it. He couldn't die, not until he'd given Amber back to Wilson.

He remembers Wilson's quietly desperate request, remembers Wilson's certain nod when House had asked, "You want me to risk my life?"

He'd been relieved when Wilson had nodded; if he risked his life for Wilson, then Wilson would know how much he cared, how hard he was trying. How sorry he was. Then Wilson couldn't hate him. So he'd undergone the DBS. He remembers sitting in that unyielding chair, his head bolted immobile, trying desperately to shift his eyes to the right, to Wilson, needing just a quick look of reassurance from his friend—but it hadn't come. So he'd reached into his brain for it—their nexus, the intangible thing that bound them so closely together, that gave House safety. And then he'd seized. Chase had begun shouting for Wilson to help him stabilize House, but that hadn't been House's concern, because by then House was back on the bus, with Amber.

She'd been so beautiful, so calm. He'd been distraught. He'd told her that lonely, misanthropic drug addicts were meant to die in bus crashes; she wasn't. He remembers now that he'd cried without shame, telling her that he couldn't get off the bus because he didn't want to be in pain anymore. And because he didn't want Wilson to hate him.

"You can't always get what you want," Amber had reminded him with an enigmatic smile.

So he'd stood up, gotten off that bus with all the dignity he could muster—he had to stick around so he could give Wilson what he needed—even if it meant being the target for Wilson's anger. House had known he still might die, but even stronger than the ignominy of death itself was his need for Wilson to forgive him, to… not hate him. So he'd strode smoothly away from Amber's cool serenity, limped brokenly back towards Wilson and the waiting pain.

Because he remembers all of it now, he also knows one thing; he'd failed. He'd not only not given Amber back to Wilson, he'd as good as killed her. He's sorry now that, this first time awake, he's closed his eyes again, because the only picture in his mind as he's pulled back into the sedation are Wilson's eyes the way they must look right now. The hurt, the surprise, the grief. The pain. Too much pain….

There's one good thing about his closed eyes, though; in his dark isolation, he can still feel the bond that ties them, each to the other. He'd never put it in words, not even to himself—but it's something he can feel, even now. It's a living thing, their bond, maybe the only living thing that survived the crash whole and intact. Normally, he doesn't acknowledge it; its existence can be a hindrance, an annoyance. Not now, though; now, he needs that unspoken covenant, the way he needs the oxygen and the fluids and the medicines they keep pumping into his body. He returns to his unnatural, medicinal sleep, gratefully feeling the hum of their connection just beneath his skin.

The second time House awakens, Cuddy's still there; he can hear her breathing quietly, evenly. He opens his eyes and looks at her. Obviously exhausted, curled asleep in the chair by his bed. And still in the same clothes; she hasn't left him. But they aren't alone; House senses that someone's watching him. And there's Wilson at the door. Standing there uncomfortably, like he doesn't belong inside his best friend's hospital room, at his bedside.

House's speech isn't really intelligible, sensible yet. So the best he can do is beseech Wilson with his eyes. To come in. To sit down. To… forgive him.

But Wilson only gives him two small, odd smiles. The first seems to say that he's glad House is improving. The second smile is smaller, and sorrowful, and seems to speak of his loss of Amber. But before House can attempt to get out even a few garbled words, Wilson turns from the door and is gone. House closes his eyes sadly, but the thrum of their connection somehow still beats in his ears.

Wilson comes back several times, of course. He asks all the right medical questions, peruses House's chart carefully. If his tone is a bit too professional, his manner a little distracted, well, House can understand. He's here, isn't he, honoring their bond under difficult circumstances.

They only really talk once. House is still having residual difficulty transferring thought to speech, so conversation is hard work—frustrating and tiring. But House has to try, and he counts on Wilson to be an effective interpreter.

"You doing all… all…"

"I guess I'm all right, House."

"I'm… gonna… okay… you know… back bot… bot… bother you… no time." House smiles crookedly.

Wilson stares at him. At first, House thinks it's because he's managed to say so many words all at once—but then he realizes that Wilson's angry. The power of speech leaves him again as Wilson starts to shout.

"You? You? What about Amber, House? Remember her? The woman I loved? You're gonna make it out of this. You've got blood flowing through your veins, air moving in and out of your lungs. Your heart is pumping. And Amber…. So forgive me if this one time I can't focus all my attention—" Wilson abruptly stops talking, shakes his head fiercely, and storms out of the room while House watches mutely. When Wilson returns a few hours later, neither of them mentions what had occurred. As a matter of fact, they both find it easier, during Wilson's brief chart-checking visit, not to speak at all.

On the third night, Wilson is alone in the room with him when House begins seizing. It isn't much; he seems to have simply lost control of the left side of his body, his arm and leg engaged in a macabre dance, his tongue too thick in his mouth to form words. Wilson understands what's happening, and presses the emergency bell. He tells House in his soothing doctor voice that it's all right, this isn't unexpected after all House has been through, it's only temporary, try to stay calm.

As doctors and nurses and other personnel arrive, House hears Wilson's cellphone ring. Through the haze of trying to control his own body, his fragmented thoughts, House is very much aware that, mid-crisis, Wilson has left his room. That's the last clear thought he has before the IV Ativan takes over, and he sleeps.

Later, when the sedation lifts, he doesn't have to open his eyes to know that Cuddy's back; he hears the click of her heels as she moves around his bed checking monitors, adjusting lines. But he has a question, so he opens his eyes to let her know he's awake. Immediately, she's leaning over him, smiling worriedly. "You're okay, House. Just a little seizure; the EEG looks good. No—don't try to talk."

He ignores her. "Wi—Wil—sss." He makes a frustrated noise deep in his throat.

"Wilson got a call," Cuddy says, as House nods impatiently; he knows that.

"Where is…." he croaks out. Cuddy reaches for a cup of water, puts the straw to his lips as she answers.

"The call was from Amber's parents. The… service was earlier today. They wanted to take Wilson to dinner before they left town."

"So he'll… be back soon." House is happy that he got out an entire sentence, even if it was just above a whisper. But it's taking so long for Cuddy to respond that House is beginning to wonder if he'd unknowingly garbled the words.

Finally Cuddy answers. "I… I don't know, House. He didn't say." Cuddy avoids looking at him.

After another sip of water, House is ready to talk. "I was seizing when he left; he'll… be back… he'll… be worried."

Cuddy gives him a false smile. "I'm sure you're right. But he's got a lot of things on his mind right now, so I wouldn't be surprised if—"

"'Course he's got things on his mind," House interrupts. "His best friend's in ICU. Get him… a cot. Don't… don't want him sitting… up all night… he's… exhausted…."

"That's not what I meant," Cuddy says gently. "It's not all I meant. Amber—"

"Amber's dead. I'm not." Okay, so it sounds… cold, even to House. But it's the truth. "He'll be back soon; get… the cot."

Cuddy stares at him a moment, then leaves the room.

When she returns, she's followed by two men from Housekeeping; they set up the cot in the corner of the room and then leave. Cuddy walks over to it thoughtfully, idly straightens the linens. "I'll just stay with you until he gets back, okay?"

House nods at her. He wants to stay awake until Wilson returns, but he's tired, and he's still got a lot of Ativan in his system, and maybe he'll just close his eyes for a few minutes….

In the morning, the first thing House does is open his eyes and look in the direction of the cot, and when he sees the blanketed body, he feels better already. Then the pile of blankets moves, and the body turns over, and it's Cuddy. When she sees that he's awake, she gets up and hurries toward his bed.

"I'm sorry; he didn't get back. Maybe he decided to take the Volakis' to the airport, or—"

"But he called." It's not a question, but Cuddy has to answer it.

"No, House. I'm sure he will, though, when he can." House has turned away from her; he can sense her discomfort, knows she's at a loss for words. She rests her hand briefly on his shoulder, but when it tenses under her fingers she sighs and moves away from the bed.

Two hours pass. House pushes away his untouched breakfast tray and refuses to speak to anyone, but he never closes his eyes. At 9:04, his vigilance is rewarded; he sees Wilson out in the hall. He'll have to come in; House's chart is in the room.

House watches Wilson intently; he's stopped to chat with another doctor. The conversation is slow and serious, but Wilson even smiles once, sadly. House is still watching as the stranger puts his arm around Wilson's shoulder in a gesture of comfort. They turn around, away from House, and begin the long walk down the hall together.

House's eyes are on Wilson's receding back as his brain reaches out desperately to find the bond, to feel it. And for just a moment, he's back in Atlantic City, telling Wilson, "I don't want to push this 'til it breaks." Wilson chooses this moment to turn around and glance briefly in the direction of House's room before he continues on his way.

And House feels the pull, then the agonized snap—a physical sensation of something that's there, and then it's not. House takes a deep breath, and it's like breathing in fire.

His leg hurts; he wishes it didn't. So he pushes the PCA for a hit of morphine. His head hurts; he wishes it didn't. So he presses his head as far into the pillows as he can, allowing the pressure to ease the pain.

His heart hurts; he wishes… he wishes …. But there's no specialized equipment, no fast-acting tonic, no complicated surgery for this wound, this pain.

And so House closes his eyes one more time. He wishes it could be the final time, because the best reason he has for ever opening them again has just walked down the hall, trailing the jagged remnants of what was once unbreakable.