Chapter 1

"Need a favor."

Cuddy looked up from the patient file spread out across her desk to see House limping in. "Forget it. You're not getting off clinic duty."

He rolled his eyes. "Oh, jeez, you read my mind. What if I'm hung over? That might inhibit my ability to diagnose all the runny noses out in the waiting room."

Cuddy sighed, frustrated. "House, I am not letting you off clinic duty for a hangover."

"That's nice, but it's not what I came for."

"Then what do you want?"

House paused. "My leg is hurting more than it should. I need you to up my Vicodin dosage."

"I'm not going to give you more drugs when you're addicted enough as it is."

"Okay, here's what'll happen if you don't up the dosage: I'll suffer from severe pain and I won't be able to concentrate on my job, which means you lose more patients, which means I become much more of a liability than I already am. On the other hand, if you do, I'll have a lot less pain and therefore be able to focus on things other than myself."

"You only focus on yourself anyway," Cuddy said. "What about Wilson? Why aren't you bugging him about this? He's the one who writes your prescriptions."

"Can't find him," was the only explanation House offered.

"Oh, please, House. I know for a fact that if you want to find somebody, you always find them whether or not they want to be found." Cuddy frowned. "He's not still angry at you about Amber, is he?" When House said nothing, she continued. "Go find him. Talk. Kiss and make up already. You might get some drugs out of it."

House didn't usually do as he was told, but now he used it as an excuse to go find his former best friend, although he would never admit that to himself or anyone else. Following what he knew to be Wilson's ritual at this particular time of day, he pushed through the door to the cafeteria, his eyes scanning the mess of tables for the oncologist. He finally spotted the Boy Wonder's hunched shoulders in the corner table.

Wilson looked up and sighed discontentedly when House plopped into the chair opposite and snatched a handful of food from his untouched plate.

"Fries?" Wilson offered dryly.

"Nope," House replied, stuffing them in his mouth and reaching for more. "Had some when I came in."

Wilson sighed again and pinched the bridge of his nose. "What do you want?"

It was then that it occurred to House that his former friend was paler than usual, and dark circles had formed beneath his eyes. "I need pills. You write my prescriptions," he stated. "Or had you forgotten?"

"I remember," Wilson said, glaring at him. "I also seem to remember something along the lines of you killing my girlfriend. Go pester Cuddy for drugs, or steal them from the pharmacy; I wouldn't put that past you."

With that, he turned his attention back to the newspaper on the table, signaling that the conversation was over. House ignored it. "I tried Cuddy, and the pharmacist packs a mean punch."

"We all know that your cane doubles as a weapon," Wilson fired back. "I'm gonna be straight with you here. I want you to leave. Now."

House searched his friend's eyes for any trace of emotion he could find that would allow him to stay – guilt, sorrow, anything. Instead, the Boy Wonder returned the stare with a look of stone, his mouth set in a grim line and his jaw clenched. No anger, no sadness – just exhaustion.

House sighed and stood, resigning not to push him too hard. He opened his mouth to say something, then thought better of it and limped away without a word.

Later that afternoon, after enduring another differential with his minions, House threw his oversized tennis ball against the wall over and over again, pondering over why Wilson looked so ill. Was it because there was something actually wrong with him, or just a long string of sleepless nights after Amber was snatched from his side? House ran over their conversation at lunch until his brain was exhausted, trying to catch any signs that would point to either possibility (beside Wilson mentioning House's responsibility for Amber's death) and coming up with nothing. Until it finally hit him, and he announced it to the empty room:

"He wasn't eating."

The door to Cuddy's office banged open for the second time that day, and she covered the mouth of the receiver to protect the colleague on the other end from whatever House was about to say to her. Her eyebrows shot up expectantly.

"Wilson's sick."

"Hold on," she said into the phone, pressing 'hold' and setting it down. "What do you mean, 'Wilson's sick'?"

"He looks like a zombie, and he's not eating. I talked to him in the cafeteria; he never touched his food."

"Yeah, different people deal with grief in different ways, House. It's not an illness to miss somebody after they've died. The concept might be foreign to you—"

"Wilson," he interrupted her, "is not the kind of guy who abandons everyday necessities because somebody dies. He wallows, but he doesn't starve himself."

"And just how many of Wilson's loved ones have died since you've been friends?" Cuddy asked him, reaching for the phone again. "He's just unhappy right now. Don't try to make it into something it's not."

House strode forward and pressed the hang-up button just as she picked it up again.

"Dammit, House—" Cuddy started.

"He is sick."

"With what?"

"I don't know, but I can figure it out."

Cuddy huffed a frustrated sigh. "Go do your clinic hours."

"Thirty-eight-year-old male," House announced, limping into the conference room.

"We…have a new case?" Taub asked. "Before we finished the last one?"

"She has MS. Run the tests later." Going over to the whiteboard, House picked up a marker and wrote down two symptoms in his messy handwriting.

"Starvation and aggression?" Foreman read dubiously. "We're treating someone for rabies?"

"If it were that simple, we wouldn't be wasting our time. Also, rabies doesn't cause starvation. But, you are the neurologist; I wouldn't expect you to know that."

Foreman shot him a look as Thirteen cut in. "Is the starvation on purpose or is his body rejecting it?"

"We don't know."

"Well, does he have a medical file we could look at?"

"Probably. But I thought it'd be challenging to do without."

Thirteen cast a confused look at Taub and continued. "Okay… What if it's just stress?"

Taub nodded. "Stress could cause all—"

"It's not stress."

"Can we test this patient for anything?"


"Is…the patient imaginary?" Kutner asked.


Taub was growing tired of this game. "Dr. House, you've given us practically nothing to go on. Can we go run the tests for MS on our real patient now?"

House glared at him, then huffed a sigh. "Fine. Go."

Staring at the board, he heard them leave, and almost jumped when Foreman's voice interrupted his thoughts.

"House, do we know this person?"

"I do. Stripper asked me to treat her boyfriend in return for a month's worth of free lap dances."

Foreman quirked an eyebrow. "You haven't given us the patient file, and those symptoms are ones that you would never be concerned about in a normal case. This one worries you."

House shot him a look, silently willing him to shut up.

"It's Wilson, isn't it?" Foreman said.


Foreman sighed and stood, heading for the door. "Well, when you have a file or more of a base for diagnosis, let us know."

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