A/N: Written for the House Fox Forum Friday Night OC Challenge - prompt: House receives flowers. Rated T for some bad language and "adult themes". With thanks to Dr Seuss.
"We are here! We are here! We are here!"
House was feeling dazed, but peacefully dazed, just as he had for the past forty-eight hours since he'd walked into Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital. He had been strangely unconcerned by the medication they'd given him, and uninterested in the initial meetings he'd had with those apparently now responsible for his care. He'd given up, resigned himself to suffer through whatever was going to happen next and didn't much care what that was.
"We are here! We are here!"
It took him a moment to recognise that the shouting was coming from the television in the corner. The small, funny-coloured characters jumped up and down with an energy House could no longer relate to.
"We are here! We are here!"
A few of the other people in the television room were either mouthing the words or chanting along with the television out loud. They looked seriously mental, House thought, but then that was because they probably were.
As, clearly, was he. It was his television room too.
"Give it up, Horton, before they bring out the lithium!" called a slightly hoarse female voice nearby.
There no longer seemed any need for hurry, ever, so House slowly turned his head to the woman who'd spoken. She was in a chair a few feet away, in pyjamas that were covered in sailor-tattoo style hearts that made her look young, but he guessed she was early thirties at the youngest. One leg was tucked up beneath her and her fingernails had been bitten to the quick. Her brunette hair was in a chin-length bob and it was by far the shiniest and healthiest thing in the room.
She looked at him and raised her eyebrows. "The movie is teaching children the important lesson of believing in things they can't hear, see or touch, no matter who tells them otherwise." Her irony was painted on thick, just the way House liked it.
"Important lesson," House echoed, nodding. He noticed she had a sketch book in her lap and a grey pencil in her hand. He couldn't see what she had written or drawn.
"Some of these people learned it a little too well," she said. She impulsively ripped out a page of her book, screwed it up and threw it at the TV. "Put Horton in the loony bin! That elephant's delusional!"
House chuckled and the woman looked pleased by her outburst.
A nearby nurse came over. "Audrey, you've been told before about your interruptions. Other people are enjoying the movie. Don't spoil it for them."
Audrey shrugged and as soon as the nurse's back was turned she gave House a wink. "Don't you feel like you're in day care sometimes?" she asked him, casually shifting in the chair to face him. "They're going to turn around and watch this movie again from the start as soon as it ends. They always do. And then they go to therapy and the therapists wonder why they believe in talking kangaroos."
House shrugged. Talking seemed like a big effort.
"You're new," she said, clearly unphased by the lack of response. "I can tell because you're still bothering to wear clothes."
House looked down at his jeans, t-shirt and runners. He didn't think he had enough energy for anything in his life anymore, but she was right, he had actually got out of bed and dressed himself. He figured that somewhere down deep, below where the drugs could penetrate, he must possess a glimmer of hope. Perhaps it was only the simple hope that he wouldn't be reduced to the never-getting-out of-his-pyjamas stage, but it was a hope nonetheless.
"What are you in for?" House asked, figuring maybe it was worth trying to make a friend. She was the only person who'd spoken to him in two days – not including doctors and nurses.
"I'm a sex addict." She grinned at him and House saw the glint of mania behind her eyes.
"Nice," he said, trying hard not to smile back. She had one of those infectious faces that made you feel what she was feeling. He wondered what it would be like to be around her when she was depressed and instantly decided that whatever it was, it wouldn't be fun. "Any particular kind of sex?"
"Nope. Any and all. Whenever, wherever." She stuck the tip of her index finger in her mouth and bit down on a little piece of skin, peeling it back from her cuticles. She then picked it out from between her teeth and examined it before flicking it across the room. "My mom committed me when she walked in on me sucking off the plasterer who'd come to fix a crack in the wall." She smiled again.
House could tell she was lying. Not necessarily about the sex addiction – that could well be true, although he doubted it was the only reason she was there. But she'd never had her mother surprise her as she fellated a plasterer – that comment was entirely to see whether he'd be shocked by it. He wasn't.
"Did the plasterer reciprocate?" he asked politely.
"Actually, no he didn't. Selfish bastard."
"You're the one with the addiction," House pointed out. "He was just fixing a crack."
"He didn't fix my crack."
House nodded again, not giving any reaction, wondering how far she'd go to get him to respond. It was actually quite amusing. He felt his brain begin to struggle a little to escape the haze it had sunk into, in order to be more alert for this conversation.
"Don't worry about them," she said, leaning in confidentially. "You can pretty much say whatever you want in here. No one gives a shit."
Well that'd make a nice change, House thought.
"Look, I'll show you." She lifted her head and addressed the room at large. "Anyone want me to suck their cock?" None of the other patients so much as twitched, but a nurse walked by and tutted. "Au-drey," she said scoldingly.
"What are you in for?" she asked House, ignoring the mild reprimand.
He took in a breath before answering. "I heard a Who."
Audrey threw back her head and laughed, laughed so hard and long she wrapped her arms around her stomach and tears began to roll down her face. A couple of people nearby also began laughing, although they clearly had no idea what was so funny. House felt his own mouth curl up, almost against his will; she laughed with her entire body and soul, resistance was futile.
"Oh, you're funny," she said, gasping to regain her breath. "You made me laugh so hard pee came out."
"Greg? Greg?" A voice called in the background; House barely heard it and certainly didn't pay any attention to it.
"You're fun to have around," Audrey said, still breathless and chuckling. "Are you staying long?"
"Hopefully not long," House said, wondering if he really meant it.
"Greg? Greg House?"
The House finally registered and he turned around. "Yeah?" he asked in the general direction the noise had come from.
"Is your name Greg?" Audrey asked, but House was focussed on the nurse walking towards him. She held a bouquet of flowers in her arm, brightly coloured, expensive blooms, wrapped in layers of tissue paper, each one a different shade of blue.
"Here you go darlin', someone loves ya." She smiled broadly and laid the flowers in his arms like a baby before turning on her heel and leaving.
"Who are they from?" Audrey asked, rising up on her knees on the chair to get a better look.
"Gimme a chance," House muttered, detaching the white card from the ribbon it had been stuck to. With tape, House noticed, not a pin.
The hospital is way down on lawsuits. Need you back soon. W
"Wilson," House said under his breath, not even conscious of mouthing the word.
"Wilson? Your boyfriend?"
House rolled his eyes.
"Are you gay?" she asked, not giving up. She leaned even farther forward and was now peering over his shoulder.
"No, I'm not gay."
"Wanna fuck then?"
This time House couldn't keep in a wry laugh. He looked away from her as the chuckle burst out of him. "No, but thanks," he said finally.
She shrugged, and he imagined that she was chewing gum; that, like a bored teenager she'd blown a bubble and snapped it back – his refusal didn't matter because nothing mattered. He checked again – no gum. He'd imagined it. It was just a thought, he knew it was just a thought, it wasn't a delusion. There hadn't been any of those since he'd got out of Wilson's car and handed over all his belongings.
As far as he knew.
Shit, this whole place could be a figment of his own mind. Who knew? Maybe this time instead of sex with Cuddy as a panacea, his brain had invented flowers from Wilson in a psychiatric facility. It didn't seem like a particularly House-like thing to invent, though. Sex he could understand. Flowers? Nah . . .
Audrey reached over him and House couldn't help noticing her bra-less breasts press against his arm. She reached into the bouquet and picked out a thistle-like blue flower that House didn't know the name of, sitting back in her chair and studying it closely.
"What?" House asked. He dumped the flowers on an empty chair nearby.
"Look," Audrey said, holding the flower towards him. Her voice held reverence and House couldn't decide if she was about to say something profound or mock him.
"What?" he asked cautiously, without leaning forward to look at the flower as she clearly wanted him to.
"There's a speck."
House gave a little snort; so mocking it was. Only her face was composed, serious. Not a hint of a tease.
"A speck." His voice dripped with sarcasm.
"I hear something," Audrey said, tilting her head. "A voice."
"Want to be careful – they put you away for things like that," House said lightly, trying to ignore the anxiety beginning to swell in his gut.
She smiled at him, a sweet, beguiling smile.
At that moment House heard the voice too.
Gingivitis, evidence of teeth grinding, hoarse voice.
"It's sweet and it's singing," she said, still smiling at him.
Chronic cocaine usage leading to psychosis and paranoid delusions. House shook his head. "I'm not sure we're hearing the same voice."
"Oh, I think we are," she said, her smile dropping and her gaze piercing.
Suddenly House wasn't so sure that it had been a good idea to try to make friends.
"I'll show you mine if you show me yours," she said, quirking her eyebrows, one side of her mouth curving up.
House knew she wasn't talking about sex.
"Audrey! Therapy! Dr Lawson is ready for you." A nurse walked over and held a hand out.
"Oh, goodie," Audrey said, the thick blanket of irony back in place. She stood up and twisted her feet into ridiculous fluffy slippers with teddy-bear heads on them. She took a couple of steps and then turned back. "Thanks Greg, I really enjoyed our date. Maybe we could catch another movie together sometime? I hear they're showing Donnie Darko tomorrow." She shook her head and snorted a laugh, highly amused by her own joke. "Yeah right!"
House watched her walk away, her shuffling making the decapitated bears wobble obscenely. He had no idea what to make of what had just happened.
"Shit!" Audrey turned around and came running back. Breathless, she handed House the blue flower from the arrangement. "Take care of your speck," she said.
"I will," House said, too startled to say anything else. And then she ran away again.
House looked at the flower in his hand. He had heard a voice. It was his inner voice, his power of analysis, diagnosis and observation. Not Amber. Not Cuddy. Not Kutner. HIM.
He felt a little smile curve his face and he tightened his grip around the flower.
For the first time, he felt there was a chance. A chance that he might beat this. That he might come out the other side, intact and competent.
He'd found his Who.
Now, like Horton, he just had to fight for it.