Had he not been holding on to her, his left hand gripping her right and his hand holding on to her shoulder as if it was the last thing tethering him to the earth, he would have simply collapsed. Cuddy's hand on House's face calmed him, but only slightly. She could feel him tremble: his arms, shoulders. His legs seemed to be made of rubber, and she knew he wouldn't make it to her sofa.
"House…" she settled him back against the nearest vertical surface and held onto him as he slid to the carpet gently. He was silent; his eyes lost in something beyond her comprehension. She had seen him that way so many times. In his zone: concentrating so deeply, so completely inside his own mind he barely could hear anything but his own beating heart. But he would come out of it moments later, seconds, more often, with an idea, a cure—an epiphany. It was his genius. But this was terrifyingly different.
Cuddy had no choice but to sit on the floor with him; his death grip on her hand made it numb but she feared trying to let go, lest he be lost forever. She knew something was terribly wrong. And that was all she knew. His.."no, I'm not alright," haltingly spoken as if through a dream made her stomach churn and her heart break. She waited; for what, she did not really know.
House seemed to come back to himself, if only a little; his expression no longer so far away, so lost. He breathed out, almost gasping for air. "My mind…I can't…it…" He couldn't think of the right words. House got up suddenly, lurching for his cane, nearly losing his balance as he swayed as if drunk. Suddenly agitated, he seemed to be seeking something on Cuddy's desk. "I need to know I'm real…that this…" He stopped, picking up a letter opener.
Cuddy watched in horror, realizing what he intended with it. "NO! House!" She practically knocked him over grabbing from his hand as he had begun to dig the point into his left palm. "Listen to me!" She knew she had to get her own rising panic under control. Remember that she was a doctor; dean of medicine and this was someone in crisis. House, in crisis. She needed to keep it together; whatever was going on with him was not good. House gazed at her with desperate eyes before collapsing into the sofa, broken, his hands clenched into tight fists, his eyes closed against the demons.
Cuddy had the presence of mind to lock the door. No one needed to see this; to see him. Not like this. But she quickly came back to him, kneeling on the floor in front of him. House allowed her to take his hands in hers. They were like ice; trembling. Grabbing the throw, she quickly wrapped it around his shoulders, never letting go of his hands.
"House, do you know where you are?" She hadn't really known where to start; how to start, or even where he was. He nodded. At least he could hear her. She ruled out several conditions, crossing them out on the white board in her head.
"You helped me," he said suddenly. "The other night. I…I told Wilson I couldn't go to rehab. It wouldn't work, and then I thought…" The words were coming out haltingly, slowly. He was clearly confused. "But that didn't happen, did it?"
"What?" She had lost his train of thought completely.
"We…you…" Slowly, it came out. Fragmented bits, spoken between lengthy pauses, during which she could only hear the silence of his agony. Slowly she put it together. Some of it anyway. He had come to her after seeing Wilson. House had been hallucinating; Wilson knew it, and together they had been trying to figure out why. And it came down to the drugs. At least that was House's best guess.
It was so real to him. So…"None of it was real…We didn't…" House fought with himself for a moment of clarity, to be rid of the barrage of images: Kutner, Amber, Cuddy—her hands entwined in his hair, her mouth on his. "Cuddy, I think I'm losing my mind…I can't…"
"Talk to me. Take a deep breath…" she sat on the sofa with him, thigh to thigh. She rubbed his back, evoking in his tormented mind an image from the other night.
"I don't know what's real," he said finally, flatly. He seemed to be emerging from it, coming back to himself. "It was so real…the other night. You didn't leave. You took me home. You took care of me all night…"
"You've been exhausted, House. Are you sure you didn't dream it? That you weren't simply dreaming?" Cuddy did not want to believe what he seemed to saying. It just wasn't possible. He must've been dreaming. That's all. Fantasizing.
"It was real to me. As real as Amber had been for two weeks before that. Only I knew she was dead. I could tell…"
"Amber…?" She felt House's back relax a bit and he seemed more himself.
"When I couldn't sleep. I started seeing things…that weren't there. Amber. She was a hallucination. And I knew she was a hallucination. I knew she wasn't real. I was sure it was the sleep. I knew that it was somehow connected to Kutner's death. But I could tell the difference between what I was seeing and reality. The other night…" She could feel the tension build again. She held his hand tighter, trying to keep him tethered. She touched his face gently and his eyes closed against the intensity of his feelings.
"The other night I…It was real. As real as you are now. And truthfully, I can't even tell that we're really having this conversation or whether it's all in my mind. I just don't know." Cuddy looked at him confused. He sounded rational. How could he not…?
"I'm not imagining white rabbits or March hares, and I know that Amber's dead; that Kutner's dead. But you…your touch. Your breath on my neck…" He stopped, collecting himself enough not to reveal more. His eyes were wide and scared. A child lost in the forest. "I can't trust myself to know what's real and what's not. I knew that even the other night, when I told you I quit. I can't…"
"What do you want to do? Do you think it's Vicodin? Causing this? You could try rehab…"
"There's a hospital. It's old, but I know one of the docs. Head of the neuropsychiatric unit. He's more neurologist than head shrinker. From Hopkins. He knows his stuff, despite his chosen field. But it would… I'd trust him…" she understood what he was trying to say. The fact that he was a neurologist…But still…
"Are you sure?" House trembled slightly, his eyes reacting to something on the far side of the room. He closed them, sucking in a breath. "What?"
"She's always there, Cuddy, in the periphery. Taunting, mocking. I can't do this anymore…I don't have the…" House heaved a sigh, turning towards her. She looked into his eyes and saw nothing but despair. He blinked back tears that had gathered and now threatened to pour forth unbidden.
"Look at me, not at her. I'm real. My hands are real. My touch. Is real." She swept her thumb beneath his left eye, and suddenly she was holding him as he wept. Maybe for the first time in years. Cuddy simply waited, simply holding onto him until it subsided. When he sat up again, his eyes were red-rimmed and desolate.
House nodded slightly: an acknowledgment. She saw resolve within the sadness of his nearly-transparent eyes. "What's the name of that hospital?" she asked quietly. "I'll make the call. And the name of your friend there." Arrangements made, they went to Wilson, who would see House--protect House --on this next leg of his journey home.