A brave man once requested me to answer qustions that are key. "Is it to be or not to be?" and I replied, "oh, why ask me?"

House was nine when he first learned the word "suicide".

He's known of the idea before then. A voracious reader, the nine-year-old had once often stumbled across the idea in some of the novels he read, but then it had always been abstract. Had always happened to someone else.

It was when he was nine years old that his best friend at the time called him up at eleven at night, absurdly late for their young age. Now, House can not even remember his friend's name, but he will never, ever forget his voice.

"Greg? Greg, are you there?" House had nodded, once, sleepy enough to forget that the telephone didn't translate images.

"Greg..." The word broke, and House sat bolt upright, not tired anymore. Just scared. This boy sounded broken. Hollow. His voice... "Greg, Jude...Jude just..." And that's when suicide became real for House.

Even before the rest of the story was told House realized what the boy's oldest brother had done. Dumped by a flighty girlfriend, his straight A's had plummeted until he got stuck in the middle of the class. After report cards had been issued, his merit scholarship for the college he'd gotten into had been dropped.

Though the boy had obviously called in hope of reassurance, of sympathy, House, at nine, had no capacity for these things. Even simple niceties like "I'm sorry for your loss" or even just "I'm sorry" escaped the emotionally detached child. He hung up without saying a word.

That night he cried into his mattress, using his pillow to muffle the sounds so his parents, asleep, unknowing, in the next room wouldn't suspect anything was amiss.

The sword of time will pierce our skins. It doesn't hurt when it begins. But as it works its way on in the pain grows stronger watch it grin.

At sixteen, there was another suicide. A whole group of them, called a group or a cluster. House was graduating early, had worked his way to the top of the Senior class, was hoping for a way up, a way out.

This time the person wasn't a friend of a friend. It was a teacher. The woman's death started a rash of suicides, the worst streak the town had ever seen. At graduation, the class that had started out at one hundred and fourteen people had dwindled down to one hundred and three. Six were dead because of suicides.

House had tuned out the grief councilor's schpeel about there being nothing the students could have done. At sixteen, House knew for a fact that he was smarter than any other person in his grade, and a good few of the teachers. They had no way to see it coming, but he should have known.

Once, House needed to make up a test after school and had walked in to find the teacher crying at her desk, looking at a picture. House, in typical House fashion, had asked, rather abruptly, for his paper and turned away from the woman, embarrassed for her.

At sixteen, House knew he wanted to be a doctor. Not because he wanted to save people, but because there were some mysteries that were just begging to be solved.

Suicide is painless. It brings on many changes. And I can take or leave it if I please.

He was twenty-four, a baby intern doing rounds and staying up a hundred hours a week on coffee and adrenaline and sheer will power. He wasn't yet into drugs, wasn't yet in pain, was just working out of spite, to prove he was better than everyone else.

It was one o'clock am on Christmas Eve when the woman came in. House, working in the ER at the time, glanced down at her and reached out to grab the clipboard handed to him by the EMT. He scrawled DOA at the bottom of the paper, signed it, and began to walk away....

...Just to rush back as they were pulling the bag up over the woman's head. There had been suicides all week, as the cold, the darkness, and the loneliness of the holidays drove people over the edge. This one shouldn't have phased House at all.

Except that the woman was young and pretty. "Just one second. I'll wheel her to the morgue." The EMTs shrugged and left to grab coffee and complain about missing Christmas with their families.

House glanced at the woman's wrists and looked away, appalled. He knew the facts --- more women attempted suicide, more men succeeded. Women attempted to romanticize the event by slitting their wrists or taking pills. Men shot or hung themselves.

According the scant facts laid bare on the chart, the woman had a husband, two teenage sons. They had all been in the house, had been downstairs preparing Christmas dinner and hanging lights when she took her own life.

The energy House had had a moment ago drained from him. Suddenly, he needed to cry, or to scream, or to pick the woman up and throttle her. Because who was she to decide that her family was going to suffer so that she could preform one permanent, selfish act?

A hand clapped down on his back and House glared up at the face of a senior intern. The man's face was soft as he stared at the woman. "You can't save them all, House. Sometimes...sometimes things just happen."

They both knew that House never had a chance to save the woman. They both knew that House would always remember that night, would always think that somehow, it had all been his fault.

I try to find a way to make all our little joys relate without the ever-present hate. But now I know it is too late.

He was thirty, his first year at Princeton-Plainsboro. At that point, he was a resident, a young one and moving up fast through the ranks. Again, it was a holiday, this time Valentines Day. House always volunteered to work holidays, and switched with co-workers so he's double or triple his shifts. It paid extra, plus he wouldn't have to see his family.

It was usually women who took their lives on Valentine's Day. There had already been one that day that House knew of, passing through the hospital in a nameless, faceless, cold manner. This suicide was different. It was a male. He was House's age. He had electrocuted himself.

"How do they know it was suicide?" House asked out loud to no one. One janitor stared at him, shrugged, went back to sweeping the floor as House sat beside the body. In a minute, the next of kin would arrive, sobbing, and House might as well wait for them where he could rest.

"I mean, he stuck his hand in a socket. Maybe he was unplugging his lamp, or plugging his his electric nose trimmer." House glanced at the corpse, noted his slightly singed hair. "Maybe he was just incredibly dim-witted."

There was a hundred reasons for accidental death in this man's case. A hundred ways for it not to have been suicide.

The front doors burst open to reveal a man that bared a striking resemblance to the corpse lying beside House. For a moment, House stared between the two, looking blankly from one to the other. First, he muttered something about getting caffeine next time he saw some then, louder, "They should outlaw twins. They just screw up the rest of the world."

The twin had already crossed the floor and threaded his hand into the corpse's. Ordinarily, House would have left him alone to have a minute alone, but it was Valentine's Day, he had no date, and the man had been electrocuted. Those were reasons enough to stay.

"I have cancer." The live man muttered, one hand pushing the body's hair back. It had spiked on end as the electricity wreaked havoc on the nervous system. "I had just called him...told him I have...months...not years, like we thought. I was on my way over. We were going to...talk, you know?" The man pressed his head against his brother's and House looked away, self-conscious, for once, and feeling like an intruder.

"Now I have to play catch-up, bro." The man murmured. "Now I have to live without you. How's that fair?"

And that's the part that House always remembered. The question, the plea, the simple wish that all this might have some meaning. How's that fair?

The game of life is hard to play. I'm gonna lose it anyway. The losing card I'll someday lay, so this is all I have to say.

Kutner had been alive, vital, had had a heartbeat. House saw the man just the day before and had pushed past him so he could get into the elevator. Once inside, House stuck his tongue out and pushed the DOWN button. Kutner had looked exasperated, tired, but still a little amused.

If anyone on his team was a candidate for suicide, it would be 13, living with the disease that was slowly, surely, going to strip her of everything that made her unique. Her intelligence, her motor skills, her ability to string a sentence together. Or Taub, whose love life was more convoluted that the plot of General Hospital. Those were the people House wouldn't have been surprised to find taking the long walk off the short cliff.

But Kutner was young, innovative, interesting. Young. Just a baby, really, a boy who loved comic books and video games. A child who petulantly turned his number upside down just so he could continue to play with the big kids.

His death had affected House in a way that he no longer thought was possible. After years of working in a hospital, a doctor had to separate himself from pain and death, just to preserve their own sanity. But when Foreman had called, tears evident in his voice, House had felt something clench in the place he claimed his heart wasn't.

Suicide. Impossible, if only because the cases House remembered throughout the years, the pivotal moments that always stuck with him, all centered around that theme. It was a cardinal sin, according to the church House didn't give a damn about. The only people in Hell who had no chance of redemption were those that committed suicide. They'd already taken their own lives once, so why should God give them a second chance?

But if there was anyone who needed a second chance, it was Kutner. Standing in the middle of the man's apartment, House found himself smiling with a gentleness he'd never be able to show around people who knew him. This was the way he dealt, the way, he worked through the pain every time something hit him hard. He'd find out everything he could, solve the mystery in his own head, then walk away.

And he'd always done it alone.

Yet, somehow it didn't make him angry when the door opened to reveal Wilson. It certainly didn't surprise him. He felt something unexplainable rise in his chest and he managed a small twitch of the lips, a polite greeting smile. A thank you.

Wilson always knew when he needed help, even if House usually told him to buzz off.

"I'm glad you're here." House said quietly, not finishing the thought on purpose, because he still had some dignity left. Instead he whispered it to himself, quietly, reflectively, "because I couldn't do it alone."

'Cause suicide is painless. It brings on many changes. And I can take or leave it if I please.

And you can do the same thing if you please.

Poor, poor Kutner. There's no way that death was fair (I thought he was the best of the new team). Sigh.

Anyway, the song was "Suicide is Painless", the theme song for MASH (yes, it has words).

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