1House sobbed, sitting on the floor of his office, knees hugged up tight against his chest.
His face was wet.
Why was his face wet?!
What was going on!?
She was in front of him, blood streaming out of her leg around the brushed steel pole.
It must be blood.
He raised shaking hands up to his face, and tried to wipe it away.
It kept coming out.
He was crying blood.
He was crying out her blood.
No! She couldn't lose more blood than she already had!
He crawled forward, and the blood kept dripping down, onto her beautiful face.
He pulled her red scarf off, but it was wet, heavy, soaked with blood.
It was everywhere, surrounding him, a sea of blood, they were drowning in the—
He gasped, jerking back so fast he cracked his head on the wall of his office.
"House, are you okay?"
He knew that voice.
He looked around.
He was in his office.
There was no sea of blood, no dying amber.
His hands were empty and wet with tears. Not with blood. Just tears.
Warm, salty tears.
He wiped his face, and his sleeve came away with just more tears.
All of a sudden, his stomach rebelled, and he threw up onto the carpet, heaving miserably even after he had brought everything he had eaten up.
A hand rubbed over his back, but that only made him sicker.
Finally, with a last, trembling heave, he collapsed forwards, lying on the puddle of vomit, unconscious.
Wilson sat on the edge of House's bed, watching his friend move restlessly in his sleep, mumbling feverishly.
He sighed, and reached out, gently shaking House's shoulder.
House curled, arms around his head, whimpering.
"House," said Wilson, loudly, gripping both his friend's shoulders and shaking them, "House, come on, wake up!"
More desperate mumbling, more breathless whimpering.
"House! House, come on! HOUSE!"
House was crying now, in his sleep.
"House, come on! It's okay, wake up!"
Another round of shaking, and House finally shot out of the bed, knocking Wilson over onto the floor and falling on top of him, tangled in the sheets, confused, and extremely upset.
Wilson grunted, shoving House off his stomach.
House was throwing up again, miserably.
"Come on," said Wilson, quietly, gripping his friend around the shoulders, and helping him drag himself to his feet, "let's get you to the bathroom."
House didn't answer.
He walked when Wilson tugged on his arm, and he sat when Wilson gently pressed on his shoulders.
His eyes were closed, and he was trembling, violently.
Wilson sighed, and ran cool water over the washcloth, gently wiping House's face.
"Come on, buddy," he said, "it's okay. Can you look at me? Look here, okay?"
House's blue eyes slowly made their way up to Wilson's brown ones, and a look of deep, deep hurt crossed his face.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, lowering his eyes, "I'm… so sorry."
He was trembling more violently.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm—"
House jerked, looking up at Wilson's face.
"Do you know where you are?"
House looked around the room.
Not the hospital.
He reached up, rubbing his eyes.
Then he realized Wilson was watching him, and dropped his hand.
"I'm fine," he said, and limped out past Wilson without another word.
Wilson tried to follow him into House's bedroom, but House slammed the door before he got near it.
He sighed, shaking his head, and went to sit on the couch, to wait until House felt in control again.
A few minutes later, the door opened, and House limped out.
"Hey," said House, plopping down on the couch next to Wilson, "you want pizza?"
Wilson stared at him.
"House… not even you can get over—"
"Get over what?" snapped House, "I had a bad dream. I was confused. There's nothing to get over."
"You had a panic attack earlier."
"Again. Nothing to get over. I'm fine. Now, pizza?"
Wilson shook his head, "House, you need to talk about this! Panic attacks and nightmares are usually triggered by things that are stressing you out! You want them to keep happening?"
House looked at him, silent.
Wilson doesn't know.
He doesn't know what Cuddy and Cameron and Chase and Brenda and everyone that's been around House for the last six months knows.
That this was actually a good day.
That days when he's not on the bus more than he's in reality are good days.
House looks away, and gets up.
"I'm going back to the hospital. Got work to do. Let yourself out."
He limps away, out the front door.
Wilson stares after him, dumbfounded.
"House," he says, just as House gets to the door, "what's wrong?"
House turns around, and looks at him calmly for a moment.
"Nothing," he says, "I just have work to do."
And with that, he's gone.
He doesn't go to the hospital, though.
He drives to a park, and it's so late out that there's nobody there.
He sits on a park bench, and lets himself break down, head in his hands, body trembling uncontrollably.
He doesn't want Wilson to know.
He doesn't want Wilson to pity him.
Because that would be worse than Wilson hating him.
But it hurts.
And he's alone.
And it hurts.
He presses his hands over his chest, because it hurts so much.
It's comforting, though. This pain.
It's the only thing he really knows, pain.
The only emotion he understands.
And he wishes it would stop.
But he isn't scared.
He isn't uncomfortable. He isn't awkward. He doesn't have to try to figure anything out.
He understands this pain.
The puzzle he's always known the answer to.
Every second, of every day, since he can remember.
He understands pain.
Later, he gets up, and limps to his car.
He drives back to his apartment, and is surprised to find Wilson asleep on his couch.
He sighs, and watches his friend's face.
He reaches down, and gently brushes a few strands of brown hair out of the younger doctor's sleeping face.
Wilson stirs, and opens his eyes.
"Mmm… House?" he mumbles, rubbing at his face with one hand.
"Yeah, Jimmy. Go back to sleep. You look terrible."
Wilson smiles sleepily, and closes his eyes.
House tugs the couch blanket up over him.
"Get some sleepy, Jimmy."
He limps into his bedroom, and collapses onto the bed, exhausted.
He doesn't close his eyes, though.
He doesn't want to dream.
So he lies awake.
And he doesn't dream.
He doesn't see the bus.
He just sees his ceiling.
This is worse than being on the bus.
He would rather be in pain than act in fear of it.
He's much more used to pain than fear.
He closes his eyes, and sleeps.
And he dreams.
And Wilson doesn't wake.
And he dreams.
He wakes, and he's screaming.
Because he's had a break from the bus and is instead dreaming of the tub and the ice.
And those were times when he was afraid.
When he was terrified.
When he begged.
When he asked, and it didn't come.
When he cried out for help, and none came.
When he still believed in good.
He has always believed in right.
But he stopped believing in good a long, long time ago.
He was alone.
Wilson hated him.
He had done every damned thing he could, he had pushed himself until his body and mind gave out.
He was broken, and he had failed.
And Wilson left him broken.
And nobody came.
He cries, and shakes, and sobs for hours.
And nobody comes.
Someone does come, though too late.
It's Wilson, and he's frantically worried about his friend because he finally woke and noticed the sounds coming from the bedroom.
And as House slides off the bed, throwing up again, he's smiling.
And he laughs.
Because he's gone.
It's just too late.
Five years later…
Chase smiles, as he enters the familiar room, and pulls up the familiar chair.
He reaches over, and gently shakes House's shoulder.
Nothing, but then again, getting a response wasn't really the point.
"Hey, House," he says, "it's Chase. Brought something I thought you'd find interesting."
He opens the journal he brought with him.
"West coast journal of experimental medicine. You know how Foreman got a job out in California? Well I found an article by him. Thought you'd get a kick out of it."
He starts to read, ignoring the blank blue eyes, the lids only half open, as they have been since Wilson brought House into the hospital.
House has been catatonic since that day.
A nurse comes in, and Chase pauses reading to help her give House his meds.
She leaves, and he picks up the journal again.
House's kids moved on to various hospitals—Chase doesn't know where, with the exception of Thirteen, who moved out to California with Foreman.
Cameron split up with Chase and moved to Minnesota.
Wilson quit oncology and got a job at a childrens' hospital somewhere in Arizona.
Cuddy got an offer for dean at the mayo clinic and took it.
Chase himself found out that he was listed as House's medical proxy.
This explains why Cuddy listened to Chase when he explained House wanted ketamine after he was shot.
Chase has continued to work at Princeton Plainsboro, but he's now running the diagnostics department.
It's strange, with a dean of medicine other than Cuddy.
But at least he has time to hang out here, that way.
One of the monitors beeps, and he looks up from the journal.
House's pulse-ox has fallen off.
He stands, and gently reattaches it to House's finger.
"Hey, buddy," he says, quietly, gently brushing the backs of his fingers over House's cheek, "hang in there, okay? Just get better. Stay in there as long as you need to… but… I miss you."
Chase didn't realize how much he cared for House until he was like this.
A nurse comes in, "Dr. Chase? Someone's looking for you."
Chase raises an eyebrow, "who?"
"Um, a patient?"
Chase sighs, "where are they?"
"In your office."
Chase groans, and, setting the journal on the bed, leans over House, smiling reassuringly, "gotta go. People dying, all that. I know you understand."
Later, Chase has closed his eyes, as he stands next to the bed, hand gently resting along the side of House's face.
He lost the patient.
He had them admitted, and he was reading through the file, when they just… died. Their heart gave out.
The autopsy is scheduled for the next day.
He looks around, and there's nobody there.
So he leans down, and he's about to kiss House on the forehead, because he feels that this is appropriate, when he realizes those eyes are open all the way.
And they're looking at him.
"What, are you trying to molest me?" asks House.
Chase blinks for a moment.
Then he finishes the gesture.
House shoves weakly at his chest.
"Get off. I'm already back, I don't need a kiss, Dr. Charming."
Chase laughs, quietly.
He should be shocked, surprised, delighted, elated.
But all he feels is relieved.
Relieved and pissed off.
Pissed off soon overcomes relieved.
"Do you have any idea how bloody much you've worried me?!" he yells.
"Uh," says House, "yeah. I… could hear you. I couldn't respond. But I could hear and see you."
"I'm sorry," says House, quietly.
Chase shakes his head, "you're back."
Chase turns away, putting the journal from House's bed on the table.
Then he turns back to House.
Who is blank again.
He hurriedly shakes House's shoulder.
House blinks at him, "what?"
Chase bites his lip and shakes his head.
It's pretty clear after a week, that House is only there when someone's interacting with him.
But… Chase finds this a tremendous improvement over five years of avoiding bedsores.
House is completely weak, because everything has atrophied.
Especially his leg.
Chase helps him off the bed for the first time, and he collapses.
Chase catches him, though, and sits him on the chair.
He's gone again, but Chase can tell it's because of the pain his leg is giving him.
Chase schedules him for PT, and takes him down, talking to him all the way.
There aren't that many people left here that knew him five years ago.
Brenda is still here.
And a few interns that are now residents.
But a lot of people moved on after Cuddy left.
The new dean, while he was a decent guy, and did a good job, just wasn't Cuddy.
House isn't there during PT.
But Chase doesn't mind.
He's good at picking up the pieces.
And… this time it's easier.
This time there's still someone in there.
House isn't there when he's in more pain than usual, and he isn't there when he's alone.
But when Chase is with him, when they're talking…
It's a month after he woke, when House is released from the hospital.
Chase takes him home, and they sit together, and watch TV.
House is incredibly open, for House.
But Chase knows this isn't the fault of him being there only some of the time.
He knows it's because of the five years Chase stuck by a shell of a person that might one day be House again.
It's because off all the things he said, all the things House heard.
It's because House knows Chase loves him, and although Chase never said in what sense, it doesn't seem to matter to House.
Because House knows Chase knows what it feels like to be abandoned, and he trusts the younger doctor to never do that to him.
So they sit and watch TV, and though it doesn't seem like much, it's a lot.
It's a lot for both of them.
Chase takes House to work with him, after that.
It isn't hard.
Charlie, the dean of medicine, avoids the diagnostics office.
And there aren't any other employees besides Chase.
He and House sit at the table, and play checkers with paperclips because Chase can't find the chesspieces, but he can find the board.
House seems tired, but he doesn't say anything.
Chase eventually pushes the gameboard a bit to the side, and House looks at him.
"Get some rest," says Chase, and House nods.
House still has tortured dreams.
He's had them for the last five years, and he still has them now.
Chase watches House curl up on the recliner, and his blue eyes drift shut.
Chase sighs a bit, and lays his own labcoat over his… what? … friend. Yes. That was probably the word.
House snuffles a bit more, and Chase pulls a chair over, sitting backwards in it as he watches House sleep.
As House starts to toss and turn, Chase reaches over, and grips House's hand.
House seems to calm, and Chase sighs, relived.
Sometimes, contact is enough.
Sometimes, it's all it takes.
Just for House to know someone is there, that he's not alone.
Just like when he's awake.
Chase smiles, as House's face smoothes out, pain and fear lines disappearing.
Chase remembers the first time he saw House clean-shaven.
It had been disconcerting, how open the man looked. He looked… kind of dorky, and common. Just some guy in a hospital bed.
Chase bought a razor with a guard on it, so it would leave some stubble.
House was still House. Even if he was catatonic.
Back in the present, Chase gets up briefly, to get the file he's been working on. The patient isn't that sick, for once, so he has time to actually do tests, and stuff.
He likes it when he gets a case like that. Before, it meant he had more time to visit House.
Now, it means he has more time to actually interact with House.
House stirs slightly, and Chase grips his hand again.
House opens his eyes.
Chase nods, "yeah. I'm here."
House nods to himself, and closes his eyes again.
Chase squeezes his hand, and waits until he drifts off again to look back down at the file.
House eventually wakes again, and Chase shows him the file.
They go back and forth over the diagnosis, House comes with him to the lab, and they both pretend it's because House wants to check Chase's results, and not because he'll not be there if Chase leaves him in the office.
Then comes the conference.
Charlie talks Chase into coming, and Chase has little choice about bringing House.
He can't leave him alone for an entire night.
House is like a toddler. And Chase isn't about to call a babysitter.
So House grudgingly puts on a suit and tie, and Chase follows him around the apartment with a comb, trying to get his hair into something resembling order.
Chase loves times like these.
When House is the House that he remembers.
House rarely isn't there at the apartment, these days, at least when Chase is home.
Chase is glad.
Chase never thought he would be happy to have House snapping and snarking at him from another room, but… he is.
They sit at a table, and House is a bastard to everyone around him, and Chase tries to mediate things to avoid a fistfight breaking out.
Then, suddenly, he hears a familiar set of voices, and looks over his shoulder.
Foreman and Cameron are there.
Chase taps House on the shoulder, and House turns around to look.
Foreman, Cameron's mouths drop open.
Chase realizes he has forgotten to tell everyone House woke up. He just hadn't talked to them in so long…
House and Chase get up, and come over to talk.
Cameron can't stop staring at House.
Finally, she breaks down, and grabs him around the shoulders.
House grunts, and for a moment, he's blank.
Then Chase touches his shoulder, and he looks at the younger doctor, sighing, and gently easing Cameron off.
Chase smiles, and turns back to Foreman.
A few moments later, he notices that House has wandered off, and has to stop talking to look for him.
Foreman spots him in the crowd, and points him out to Chase.
Chase realizes what happened, when he sees the person House is watching.
Who hasn't noticed House's presence.
Chase shoulders through the crowd, and grips House's shoulder.
House looks at him.
He looks… hurt.
He's not there, but Chase can see a residual expression of pain on his face.
Chase sighs, and leads House away, out of the main room.
He puts his arms around the older doctor, and House rests his head on Chase's shoulder, trembling.
Chase sighs, as he feels the tension eventually leave House's body.
House leans on him, and Chase pulls a chair over, so House can sit down.
He looks… weary.
"You wanna go home?" asks Chase, squatting and gripping House's hand.
House shakes his head, calm again, "nah. I just… got kind of shaken."
That's the first time House has ever admitted to being aware of when he's not there.
He's talked about how he just couldn't make himself move or respond, during the five years.
But he never seems to know what Chase is talking about, when Chase tells him he spaced out.
Chase sighs, and squeezes House's hand.
"Okay," he says, and stands, giving House a hand up, "let's go get drunk on the punch and see if we can get laid."
House laughs, and starts to follow Chase into the main room.
The door opens, though, and two people come in.
Chase, feeling a sudden wave of protectiveness, grabs House's hand.
House's fingers tighten almost imperceptibly on Chase's.
Wilson turns from his female friend, and stops.
How he looks reminds Chase a lot of House when he isn't there.
Wilson turns to his date, and says something quietly to her.
She nods, and leaves.
Wilson turns back to stare at House and Chase.
House's hand is tightening more and more in Chase's.
Chase squeezes back.
"What… when did…"
"A few months ago," says Chase.
"Why didn't you tell me?!" says Wilson, loudly, and House flinches.
Chase feels anger rising up.
He lets go of House's hand, steps forward, and punches Wilson on the jaw.
"You did it to him!" he yells, "and you're mad at me for not telling you he healed?! Why, so you could come and hurt him all over again?!"
He's furious now, completely out of control.
He starts to yell, scream, lash out at Wilson every way he knows how.
He yells until he's completely hoarse, until he has no voice left to yell with.
Wilson is curled on the floor now, arms around his head to protect himself.
Chase feels himself being dragged off, and punches the person doing the dragging.
Five goddamn years of anger at Wilson are all coming out at once.
Suddenly, there's a hand on his shoulder.
It isn't the person who's holding him back.
Chase slumps in the person's grip, and they let go, allowing him to sink to the floor, crying.
House kneels next to him, and holds him close, as he cries.
Wilson slowly uncurls, and looks at House, his nose dripping blood onto his white dress shirt.
House shakes his head, eyes fixed on Wilson as Chase clenches his hands in House's shirt.
"I know you didn't mean it," he says, quietly, and Chase can feel the vibrations of House speaking.
Wilson nods, raising a hand to check if his nose is broken.
Then, Foreman and Cameron fight their way out of the people crowded by the door, and they are followed by Cuddy, who kneels in front of Wilson, and looks at House.
She looks at the same time both sad and happy.
Sad for the past, for all the pain all of them have gone through.
Happy that he's sitting there, holding the sobbing blond close, instead of lying unresponsive in a hospital bed.
Cameron kneels by House and Chase, as Foreman hands Cuddy a wad of tissues to press to Wilson's nose.
"OW!" says Wilson, loudly, at the pressure on his nose, and the tension breaks.
House laughs, and Wilson glares half-heartedly.
House gently eases Chase, who has fallen asleep, off, and Cameron lays him out on the floor, wiping the tears off his face.
House stands with a grunt of pain, and limps heavily over to Wilson, giving him a hand up.
They both fall.
They sit, looking at each other, and Wilson knows.
He knows that the hurt he imparted to this man in front of him is something that cannot be forgiven.
But he knows, also, that House doesn't hate him.
And that's something that he didn't know, though the last five years.
Five years of his life that resembled very strongly House's ten years of self-destruction.
Then, he realizes.
House isn't there.
Wilson panics, and shakes House's shoulders.
House doesn't respond.
Wilson stares at him, breathing heavily, horror in his eyes.
Chase stirs, and sits up.
He sighs, and crawls over, to wrap an arm around House chest from the back.
House blinks for a moment, then turns his head, looking over his shoulder at Chase.
"No more beating people up?" he asks, cheerily.
Chase smiles, weakly, "no, I think I've fulfilled my quota for the next five years."
He looks at Wilson, and his eyes hold no remorse.
Wilson shakes his head. He doesn't expect forgiveness, or apology.
Chase nods, then resumes his conversation with the older doctor.