Authors Note: This is my first House fan-fiction. I like to think I've gotten the characters down. I hope you'll enjoy, and let me know!
House moved back into his apartment on a Friday evening. It had been a long, frustrating day, a fitting culmination to a long and frustrating week. It had started Monday evening, when House's car had stalled out on the drive home. He'd managed to coast his car to the curb but when he reached for his cell phone to call Wilson for help, he couldn't find it. He'd gotten out of the car and gone into the only open business along the street, which happened to be a seedy-looking bar. The bar tender let him use the phone. Wilson sounded irritated and House knew he could hear the sounds from the bar.
When Wilson reached the bar, he found House sitting on a stool, an empty glass in front of him. House quickly handed the bar-tender some cash and followed a fuming Wilson out the door.
"You're drinking again?" Wilson demanded as soon as they were outside.
"No," House protested.
"It was a ginger ale. I ordered it after they let me use the phone." Wilson rolled his eyes, clearly not believing House's explanation.
"Where's your backpack?" he demanded.
"In my car." House started toward his vehicle but Wilson stopped him.
"Give me your keys," Wilson snapped. "I'll get it." House handed over the keys and watched his friend stalk away. To his surprise, Wilson didn't simply retrieve the backpack but got into the car. A second later House heard the battered vehicle's engine roar to life. Wilson drove it up to where he was waiting. He put the car in park, leaving the engine running, and got out. "You'd better get going before it stalls out again." He stalked off to his own vehicle and House followed his advice, climbing back into his car and driving off toward Wilson's condo. The car didn't stall again and House breathed a sigh of relief when he found a parking place near the building's entrance.
House had been in the apartment for over ten minutes before Wilson arrived. The oncologist's shoes were soaked, as was the bottom two inches of his pant legs. He stalked into the apartment, shrugging out of his coat and flinging it across the couch. He strode into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him. House stared after him for a moment, then picked up the coat and put it away. A few minutes later Wilson emerged, changed into his pajamas and slippers. He stalked past House without a word and went into the kitchen. House wasn't sure what to say to him. He could hear him banging things around in the kitchen. He went to the doorway and stood there for a moment as Wilson opened cabinet doors and then banged them shut without taking anything out.
"Bad day?" he asked. Wilson slammed another door shut and gripped the edge of the counter, his back to House. His knuckles were white.
"This…isn't working," he said after a long silence. "I can't…I won't watch you self-destruct, again."
"I'm not self-destructing," House said, trying to keep himself calm. He didn't want to get pulled into an argument with Wilson. The younger man turned around then, glaring at House.
"You called me to come get you from a bar, House," Wilson said, speaking slowly as though House was a naughty and not-very-intelligent child. "What am I supposed to think?"
"Right. Your car just happened to stall out there, in front of the one bar between this condo and the hospital."
"It was ginger-ale," House yelled before he could stop himself, his resolve to avoid an argument forgotten. "It was a god-damned glass of ginger ale. I guess I should've asked for a receipt, just so I could prove it to you!"
"Maybe you've got some more dog urine for me to run tests on," retorted Wilson.
"Hand me a cup; I'll save you the trouble of blocking up the toilet this time," snapped House. Wilson pushed away from the counter, striding toward House. For a moment House thought Wilson was going to hit him, but instead the younger man pushed past him. House turned to follow. Wilson strode into his bedroom, slamming the door shut behind him. A few minutes later, House could hear him talking to someone and he realized that Wilson was telling Amber about the events of the evening.
Wilson talked to Amber late into the night. House spent the night on the couch. Wilson wasn't whispering this time and House could make out every word when he was in the shrine. It felt too intrusive to lay there, listening to his friend pour his heart out. It was also creepy, knowing that Wilson was talking to someone who wasn't there.
House had thought that things between him and Wilson would get better after the conference. He thought Wilson would understand that he did care, would realize that he could talk to House about his day rather than talking to his dead girlfriend. That, in turn, would allow House to talk to Wilson about something more important than "24" or "The L Word." But each night Wilson retreated to his bedroom, the whispering began, and House was left with his own thoughts. House wasn't sure what to do. His instincts were in favor of pushing Wilson on this, but he knew he didn't have good instincts when it came to relationships. He remembered too well Wilson accusing him of needing to push relationships to the breaking point.
In the morning, House got up early. He'd barely slept and his leg was throbbing. He wanted to soak in a warm bath but he knew that he'd be in Wilson's way. He took a quick shower, dressed, and made his way to the kitchen, intending to make breakfast as a peace offering. He found Wilson there ahead of him, starting a pot of coffee. He paused in the doorway, wondering what to say. Wilson spoke without turning around, startling him.
"This isn't working, House," he said quietly. "I… I can't do this. I want you to leave." House felt like he'd been punched in the gut. He wanted to argue with Wilson, to tell him he was wrong, but he knew it wouldn't do any good.
"I'll be out by the end of the week," he said quietly. He limped away from the kitchen, getting his coat and back-pack from the closet, and left the apartment.
House had spent the rest of the week preparing to return to his apartment. He'd called the utilities to get the power and phone turned back on at his appointment. He'd arranged for a maid to clean up the place. He'd even called Nolan and explained what was going on. Nolan had told him that it was ok. Clearly Dr. Wilson had issues of his own to deal with, and this was an opportunity for House to make new connections. Nolan was concerned that since his return to the hospital, House had not connected with anyone; he had gone back to the (screwed up) relationships he'd had with the people there. He gave him an assignment to make an effort to meet someone new.
That Friday was also the day House's luck ran out. He'd been avoiding Cuddy fairly successfully since their return but that Friday he wasn't able to evade her. He had just reached his office and shrugged out of his coat when she came in.
"I need you in the clinic this morning," she said, skipping any greetings. House hung up his coat, working to keep his face free of emotion. Every time he saw Cuddy he remembered that awful breakfast with Lucas. It took him a moment to get his face under control but he still didn't meet her eyes when he turned.
"Ok," he said. He started for the door.
"Ok," she repeated. He wasn't sure if it was agreement or a question. He decided to ignore it and made his way out of the office and down the hall toward the elevator. He could feel the eyes of his team following him. He was surprised and relieved when Cuddy didn't join him in the elevator. He wondered if she'd gone to talk to Wilson about him.
By noon House was tired and hurting. He'd seen dozens of people, most of them parents convinced that their children's sniffles were swine flu. His leg was aching and the sarcasm had ceased to be entertaining after the third semi-hysterical mother. He'd stopped arguing with them and just ordered the tests.
He finished with his current patient (a college student who'd contracted an STD – seriously, had none of these kids ever heard of condoms?) and limped out to the nurses' station. Nurse Brenda looked up at him and he dropped the chart into the tray.
"I'm going to lunch," he told her, hobbling away before she could respond. Instead of heading to the cafeteria, however, he got into the elevator and went up to his office. He wanted to stretch out in his chair and rest his leg for an hour. He'd just dropped into the chair and was picking up his leg to put it up on the footstool when Foreman came into the conference room. House saw the blue file folders and sighed. He levered himself up out of the chair and limped into the conference room.
"Got a case," Foreman said, flipping a file folder toward him. House reached to make the catch but the folder slipped from his hands and fell to the floor. House sighed, stepped over the folder, and dropped into the hard chair at the end of the table. He reached out to snatch the file folder from Thirteen's hands. She rolled her eyes at him before getting up and retrieving the folder from the floor. House could feel the metal edge of the chair biting into the back of his legs, adding to his discomfort. Foreman started to review the patient's symptoms. House interrupted him, ordering Taub to list the symptoms up on the white board. Taub arched a brow, but didn't say a word as he picked up the marker and started the list. House had been different since Cameron left and neither Taub nor Thirteen were sure how to take him. At times he was the same old House, sarcastic and rude. Other times he just seemed… weary. Today he was weary.
House had hoped that the case would provide him a distraction, but within two hours he had it figured out. He sent the team off to start treatment and returned to his office. He had just settled into his chair and put his leg up onto the footstool when Cuddy stalked in.
"Lunch time is over, House," she said. "You should've been back to the clinic an hour ago."
"I have a case," House said.
"Had a case," retorted Cuddy. "Your team is starting treatment now."
"Right." House got out of the chair and started out of his office. Cuddy frowned after him. She'd hardly seen him since their return from the conference. When she did see him, he never met her eyes. He didn't argue with her, leer at her, or make obnoxious comments about her wardrobe. Cuddy wasn't sure what to make of it. It was certainly making work less stressful for her, but at the same time there were moments when she missed their sparring.
By the time the clinic closed at 6pm, House's leg was screaming in pain. He limped from the elevator to his office. The lights were all off but someone had left the coffee pot on. House could smell the burnt beverage in his office and he limped through the dark office to turn it off. He sighed in disgust, imagining the burnt sludge on the bottom of the pot. This wouldn't have happened, he thought, if Cameron was here. He felt a fresh surge of irritation at the thought of her. What had she been thinking? Moving away from PPTH wasn't going to turn back time. Dibala would still be dead, and Chase would still be guilty. A change in venue wasn't going to change anything else. Cameron wasn't stupid; she should have realized that.
Down in the dark parking lot, the battered old car started reluctantly. House hadn't driven it much after he got the bike; he knew he needed to get it to a shop. He missed the feeling of freedom that riding the bike gave him but the wreck in Middletown had finished it off. He'd intended to replace it but then Kutner had died, the hallucinations had started, and he'd wound up in Mayfield.
The car stalled once as House was leaving the hospital parking lot. He got it started again and drove slowly toward his apartment. It was a Friday night and someone on the block was having a party. There was nowhere for House to park and he wound up going around the corner and parking there. He got out of the car, gathered up his duffel bag of clothing and his back-pack and started the painful walk back toward 221 Baker Street. He had just rounded the corner when he heard the woman yell.
"Maggie!" The voice was frantic, the sort of tone that panicked mothers got when they couldn't find one of their children. House paused, looking for the toddler who was causing the commotion. He wasn't fond of children but he wasn't going to stand by and let one run out into the busy street. He didn't see a child, however, but a small dog, running headlong down the sidewalk straight toward him. A leash trailed behind the dog. House dropped his bag to the ground, wondering how he could block the dog's escape. To his surprise and relief, the dog came to a stop, jumping on his good leg. Now that it was up close and relatively still, House could see that it was a red miniature dachshund. He looked down into the dog's face and couldn't stop his lips from twitching into a smile. The dog looked back at him, eyes wide and trusting and tail wagging.
"Maggie, you idiot," panted the woman and House looked up as she reached him, catching a glimpse of her before she bent down to scoop up her dog. The woman had dark brown hair, pulled into a braid down her back. Her eyes were brown and her skin, beneath the flush that running had caused, was fair. When she stood back up, dog in her arms, he could see that she was young, perhaps in her mid-twenties. The dog looked over at him, her tail still wagging, and House reached out tentatively to rub behind her ears. "Thank you so much," the young woman said, sounding slightly breathless. "She just got away from me. I have no idea where she thought she was going." The last sentence was delivered as much to the dog as to House, in an exasperated yet affectionate tone.
"Glad she's ok," House said gruffly, moving to collect his duffel bag.
"Well, uh, thanks again," the young woman said, moving aside so House could pass. He nodded, feeling embarrassed, and continued on his way to his apartment.