Title: Wilson's Heart [unrelated to the episode of the same name]
Genre: Angst, Friendship, Hurt/Comfort
Characters: House, Cuddy, Wilson
TimeLine: After episode 5.01, Dying Changes Everything and up to episode 5.05, Lucky Thirteen
Summary: Wilson has resigned from PPTH. House appears to be handling it in typical fashion—except for one very small thing.
A/N: Short, simple, and predictable—because sometimes, we find comfort in those things.
Shortly after Wilson had told House that they weren't friends anymore—and, in fact, may never have been—Cuddy happens to spy House, seated on the floor alone, outside Wilson's newly emptied office. He looks angry and miserable, lost and fidgety—and if rubber bands were living creatures, there's no doubt in Cuddy's mind that they'd shortly be holding a funeral for the one House holds in his hand—his fingers are worrying, twisting, torturing it. Cuddy shakes her head and slips away, unseen.
The next day, walking by Wilson's now-open office door, Cuddy stops when she sees House standing inside, holding something, looking thoughtful. House doesn't acknowledge her when she walks in and stands beside him; he only mumbles, "Couldn't have meant to leave this. Must've fallen behind a shelf or something. Housekeeping must have found it. He'd want it back. Never did understand why these idiot thingamajigs meant so much to him…."
Cuddy moves in closer, to get a better look at the object which has so entranced House. It's an almost shapeless, dried blob of clay, apparently meant to represent a heart; it's painted Pepto-Bismol pink. "Dr. Wilson" has been scrawled in a child's crooked hand across the front of it in glow-in-the-dark green marker. Cuddy reaches out her hand to take it, but House shakes his head and slips the bauble into his pocket.
"I'll take care of it," is all he says as he leaves the room. Cuddy stares after him, sadness in her eyes.
Over the next few days and weeks, Cuddy never knows where the little talisman will appear. Many days, House carries it inside his jacket pocket. Cuddy sees him, hand in pocket, surreptitiously running his fingers over its smooth, childishly-formed contours when he's deep in thought, or thinks no one's watching. Other times, when Cuddy knows House is alone, she'll sneak a careful glance through the blinds and see the heart sitting on his desk, and House, leaning towards it, studying it intently, expectantly. Almost… almost as if they were deep in conversation, and he was awaiting an answer.
One night, after Wilson's been gone for over three months, House is at the hospital late, in his office, working alone. Cuddy stops in to wish him good night, and something odd catches her eye; there's a minute, muddy-green glow atop the balcony dividing wall. Cuddy moves casually to the balcony door, pretends to simply be scanning the hospital grounds.
The tiny heart is almost indistinguishable in the darkness; all that's visible is Wilson's glowing name—and two shot glasses, both full, one on either side of the heart. It's the loneliest, most melancholy tableau Cuddy's ever witnessed.
Two days later, Cuddy figures it out. The small ornament is much, much more than simply a souvenir, a reminder, for House; it's become his touchstone, his poignant replacement for the heart of a man he'd loved, the only person he'd ever really trusted. It's no wonder that he keeps the trinket hidden, keeps it safe in the way he couldn't keep Wilson safe, couldn't protect their friendship. So Cuddy keeps his secret safe, too.
A month later, Wilson returns, is reinstalled in his office, things are finally beginning to settle down. The second morning, House and Cuddy are in Wilson's office, the three of them exchanging their usual affectionate barbs. House, who's been leaning against a bookcase, is paged back to his own office, and after he leaves, Wilson finds his eyes drawn to a bright spot on the bookshelf, uncovered when House had walked away.
"What's that?" he queries Cuddy; Cuddy recognizes it immediately. Sitting on the upper shelf is the gaudy little heart. Cuddy walks over and picks it up carefully; it's still warm from having been tucked snugly inside House's pocket.
"Something House found in here, a while back. He's been… keeping it safe for you while you've been away." She hands the heart slowly back to Wilson, staring into his eyes, begging him wordlessly to get the message. And he nods, and closes his hand securely around the trinket.
Later that afternoon, Wilson enters House's office. House looks up curiously from his video game. "What's up?"
Wilson smiles at his friend. "Not much. Just wanted to return something that belongs in here." He takes the heart out of his pocket and holds it up for House to see. Then, he places it safely and discreetly into House's top desk drawer, and turns to leave. "Thanks," he says as he walks out, "for taking such good care of it for me."
And House nods, and almost smiles.
Supplemental Author's Note 06.03.09: Wanted to mention that in the last couple of months, I've been getting an amazing number of new readers--and lovely reviews--for the Devil trilogy. So many, in fact, that due to RL difficulties [my father passed away quite recently, after a horrid illness] I've not been able to keep up with all the wonderful, eloquent comments. Please, forgive me--and consider this my most sincere thanks, for all your kindness.
Oh, one other thing--I'm [s-l-o-w-l-y] resuming work on the sequel to The More Things Change, should you still be interested in that. Please don't give up on me!!