Title: Desperado. See the lyrics of the Eagles' great song, which I think are perfect for House.

Rating: T. Again, I will never cross the line into extreme, blow-by-blow recountings of sex. Were it a movie, we wouldn't pass PG-13 tops. This story does mention physical abuse.

Disclaimer: The characters are not mine, etc. Wish they were. If they were, several things in S5 would have been different.

Speaking of which, in my world, Kutner will not die. He was my favorite of the fellows, and his method of ending was so far against his character and his fairly recent remarks (i.e. Painless) that I thought it was implausible. I have known a few people who committed suicide. Not one of them at least in retrospect if not at the time had absolutely zero indication of personal problems or being under stress. I don't rule out killing some other character by some method, as a few of them have tempted me occasionally. :)

By the way, I was watching a rerun of Daddy's Boy this week, which reminded me all over again when I first knew that there WAS an abuse storyline, if they ever wished to develop it. In particular, House's statement - totally seriously - to Cuddy that he hated his father, his expression at the dinner right after his father tells him he doesn't know how lucky he is (that is indeed hate based on long and extreme history, not just on that one statement - great job, HL, as always, saying so much without words), and his attempted explanation to Cameron and his clear incompleteness and inadequacy of that explanation compared to the previous events of the episode. He knew he had to tell her something to have any chance of getting her to leave the topic alone in the future, but even later in adulthood, abuse victims do not simply talk about it openly, not without a lot of processing and help which House obviously has never had. That whole episode SCREAMED abuse to me, and this was way before One Day, One Room came out. I wasn't sure they would choose to go that way in the future, and in fact hoped that it wouldn't be something to come up in every ep, but I had no doubt that they had laid plenty of groundwork there to mention abuse later if they wished to. Great stuff. I love watching the early seasons; they just had more zing. HL is awesome in any season, but the overall dynamic of the show had more zing in past years.

This story is a sequel to When Pranks Go Wrong, and you really need to read that one first to understand the back story. It will probably be updated more slowly than Pranks, as I have more going on, but it will be updated regularly.

(H/C)

Music from a piano wrapped around the chilly February evening, alternately mirroring and warming it in turn, filled with the emotions of not just winter but of every season of the soul. The hopes of spring, the growth and warmth of summer, the melancholy beauty of fall, and the storms but also fireplaces of winter - all were in the progressing medley that fell effortlessly from long, graceful fingertips caressing the keys. A listener might not have known until seeing that the fairly complex progressions were played with only one hand. Many at PPTH would not have believed, even after seeing, that the source of the exquisite melodies was the sarcastic ass they knew as Dr. House.

His left arm was folded across his lap, supporting the cast that held it temporarily prisoner, and his eyes had closed as he played. He was seeing - and reliving musically - the tremendous emotional range of the past two weeks.

They knew. The thought still terrified him on some deep level. His most deeply guarded secret was now shared by his two best friends. He had never meant to let them into that closet, had wished desperately that they would go back out and leave him alone again, had watched in dread for any sort of pity on their parts and in wonder when he saw none. Wilson was still agitated and uncertain at times on how to deal with this, but there was no pity, and to his amazement, it hadn't become the elephant in the room. He and his friend could still spend an evening watching monster trucks on TV or joking about Wilson's love life. And Cuddy . . . Cuddy had been nothing short of amazing the last few weeks. She more than Wilson could willingly take whatever he felt like telling her, listening with unfailing compassion but at least not visible shock to startle him into shutting down. She also could leave the topic totally alone, not even trying to approach it sideways. She truly was letting him know that whatever he chose to tell her any given night - be it something or nothing - was perfectly fine with her. She was giving him back the control that he felt had been ripped involuntarily from him by the disclosure, and he loved her even more for it.

A fault line rippled through the smooth melody, and then it recovered and went on. He loved her. The thought replayed in his head like a stuck record of a favorite song. Did he? Could he? Could she? And was there indeed any hope of it changing anything? He still wasn't sure, not of his own feelings but of hers. He also dreaded dragging her down with him. But what if she could bring him up instead? He had seen much more of her the last two weeks than usual, but tomorrow night, they would officially go out on a date together. He was ecstatic. He was terrified.

To his relief, the work dynamics had not changed at all. He still harassed Cuddy, and she still parried with the skill of a sword master. He still stole lunch from Wilson. The rest of the hospital staff still rolled their eyes when they saw him. The only challenging part at work had been explaining why he suddenly was not doing clinic duty. He and Cuddy had discussed it the evening after his first day back. Telling the truth was impossible, both to protect her professional reputation and authority with the rest of the staff and to protect his privacy in the future, when he had gone through the two months she owed him for hurting him and started working down the hours he was getting in exchange for going into therapy. On the other hand, saying nothing was also impossible, as the grapevine was a very healthy one at PPTH. Silence and extended freedom from the clinic would invite people to guess that Cuddy had been responsible for the trip wire. No, they needed a plausible and totally untrue excuse. The answer was research. House was doing research on a specific exotic condition, with a donor promising large contributions contingent on his help with this disease, and due to the time that took and the status of the big-name donor, she had let him off clinic duty indefinitely to focus on other things. The story was perfect, with enough detail to satisfy but not enough to be proven wrong, and with Wilson publicly backing it up, the PPTH staff had accepted it without question.

Therapy. House hesitated again just slightly on the thought, and then his right hand resumed the music. He wanted this to work, if it could, but he still wasn't sure it would make any difference. It would also be bringing yet another person into the circle of knowledge, albeit a total stranger, at least. But Cuddy had asked him to. He hated to disappoint her.

The date tomorrow night with Cuddy. The appointment with the psychiatrist in New York the day after. They loomed like twin mountains on the horizon. He hoped he didn't manage to screw up either one.

A perfunctory tap on his door sounded, and Wilson entered with his key immediately after. House didn't still have someone staying with him overnight each night, but Wilson and Cuddy still alternated coming for dinner, and he appreciated their company. It held the ghosts at bay until he went to bed each night, falling into the sound arms of zolpidem. He had never realized how much better he would feel by simply getting a sound, full night of sleep each night.

Wilson set down the grocery bags he was holding and eyed his friend. "Cuddy's Serenade?"

House hadn't realized he had automatically switched to playing it. He immediately switched. "Actually, I wrote a new one just now. It's called Wilson's Meddling." He shifted into a stumbling attempt at a melody whose main characteristics were its extreme effort and not quite getting there in spite of that.

Wilson grinned, acknowledging the barb good naturedly, and then headed for the kitchen. "What about stuffed peppers tonight?" he called.

"As long as I only have to eat one of them, I could survive it," House replied. He didn't want to admit how much Wilson's food, even the healthier of it, was growing on him.

"I'll get started then. Sorry I was late tonight."

"Patient?"

Wilson came back to the kitchen door and nodded. "Just a kid. We just got the diagnosis back today, and his parents were freaking out, of course. He took it amazingly well. Most of the kids do." He was lost in memory for a moment, back in the conference that had run late as he tried to give hope where honestly, there was not much, and even the limited road ahead would be filled with side-effects.

House stopped playing and got up. "Better get the peppers started if we want to eat tonight," he said. Wilson recognized the sympathy that House couldn't quite express outright and the attempt at distraction.

"Right." The oncologist retreated to the kitchen and started unpacking ingredients from the sack. He heard House limp down the hall to the bathroom and close the door. As Wilson was lining up his vegetables on the counter, his cell phone rang, and he pulled it out. "Hello?"

"Hello, James, this is Blythe!"

Wilson glanced worriedly toward the hall. "Hi, Blythe. I'm a little busy right now, I'm afraid. Did you need something?"

"No, I just wanted to make sure we were still on for lunch on Saturday. I'll be leaving tomorrow afternoon, probably stop in a motel part way, but I should easily be in Princeton by noon."

Wilson kept his voice down and his ears peeled. "Right, I'm looking forward to it. Nothing has changed on this end."

"Wonderful. I am looking forward to seeing you, James. I wish I could have seen Greg, but I understand about him being out of state." She chuckled. "I'll probably get a more accurate picture from you of how he's doing than from him anyway."

"I'm sure you will," Wilson said with feeling. He heard the toilet flush down the hall. "I've got to go. See you at noon Saturday, my place."

"I'll see you then. Thank you, James." She hung up, and Wilson was just returning the phone to his pocket when House came down the hall.

"Did I hear the phone ring?"

"It was my cell. Just a quick consult," Wilson said, pretty sure that House couldn't have heard anything more definite across a few rooms and through the closed bathroom door. House accepted it and settled down on the couch, turning on the TV. Wilson returned to stuffing peppers. Part of him felt guilty for setting up lunch with House's mother behind his back, but the other part rationalized it out. House certainly had enough going on emotionally at the moment; avoiding his mother was why he'd picked a Saturday psych appointment in New York in the first place. Wilson really had no intention of his friend finding out. He would meet Blythe privately for lunch - at his place, not a restaurant - would open her eyes to how incredibly oblivious she had been during her son's childhood, and she would go off, like House, to think through things and start to process them. He'd even suggest that she get a therapist herself - anyone that blind clearly needed help - and maybe down the road sometime, she and House would have a much-needed conversation when they'd both had time to prepare for it. She would understand things so much better once she knew, as Wilson himself did now. She needed to know. It would be good for her to start her own process of getting in touch with reality.

Wilson put the peppers in the oven and went out into the living room with two beers, which he opened first in the kitchen since House with his broken wrist was having trouble with that these days. House was still channel flipping, but he stopped at CSI. "Let's see how many errors I can find this week."

"Sounds fun. I don't know why they don't hire you as a consultant on all TV shows. Just think of all the expert advice they're ignoring." House chuckled appreciatively and grabbed one of the beers from Wilson. The oncologist found himself studying his friend out of the corner of his eye as he ostensibly watched TV. House was looking good. His color was better, his movements, if not easy, about as good as they got. Wilson had done an MRI on his full leg, which did turn up enough inflammation and chronic changes in hip, knee, and foot to make Wilson and Cuddy feel guilty at questioning his increased pain level. He was continuing on high-dose NSAIDs on a strict schedule at every meal, along with the usual Vicodin, and it was making a difference, Wilson thought. Furthermore, the more regular eating habits that this mandated, plus the fact that he actually was sleeping well these days, were having a positive effect on his general health. And Cuddy . . . Cuddy was beyond good for him. Wilson just hoped that his two friends could safely navigate all the obstacles of a relationship successfully. But yes, even with a broken wrist and the still recent scar down the side of his face, House was looking good at the moment.

No, there was absolutely no reason why House needed to know that Wilson would be having lunch with Blythe on Saturday.