Disclaimer: I don't own them. *sniff*

A/N: Unbeta'd so please forgive any mistakes.

Damn Kutner! Why'd he have to go and kill himself like that? I didn't even see it coming, which is ironic all things considered. What am I supposed to do now? I guess I could still follow through with my plans, but… great, my door's opening. Oh goody, it's Cuddy.

"He needs a friend," she tells me.

"I can't deal with this and House."

"You need a friend, too."

Ah, too late for that. "You couldn't give a crap what I need! You just want someone to take care of him." And I'm too damn tired to do it anymore.

"He told Kutner's parents it was their fault."

Great job, Cuddy. Lay your guilt trip on the Jewish boy. Better yet, the Jewish boy who already caters his life to House's every need and whim. Oh great, she's just going to stand there and stare until I give in, because she knows I will. My shoulders sag under this new burden of responsibility. I swear, just before she turns to leave, I see a triumphant little smirk on her face.

Bitch.

Why did House have to come here? I really don't want to be in Kutner's apartment. I guess he wants to find answers, but I'm… I think I'm scared that's exactly what he'll find and then he'll know. Nope, I can't let that happen. Not for my plan to go smoothly.

"Just for the record," I call out to announce my presence. "I'm uncomfortable violating a dead colleague's dignity." Or the fact that you seem to be doing it with such ease.

"It's only violating if we find something," he retorts as he turns to look at me. "Good to see you."

Something in my heart stirs at his greeting. Could it be that he means it? That this sudden loss has changed him to someone who's capable of showing concern? Maybe I should humor him. "What are we looking for?"

"He was hiding," House muses as he moves further into the apartment. "Why?"

"Shame? Fear?" The familiar words seem to ring especially loud in this cramped space, so I quickly ask, "Are you okay? It's okay not to be okay." At least that's what I've tried telling myself.

He's impervious to my words, as usual. Instead of acknowledging me, he studies something in a display case. "Colonial Warrior Blaster, number 101. He spent months tracking this down. He had passions."

Wow, I'm impressed. House had taken the time to learn something trivial about one of his ducklings. "He was obviously in pain." I shake my head and shrug, wondering how House could know about Kutner's hunt for some collectable toy and not about how he must have been feeling on the inside. "Does it really matter why?" Oh, how I wish you would say yes, House.

He's moved on to study a pair of photographs on the wall. "He hung the bad with the good. His loss beside a reminder of what he gained. He was open about the pain. Should mean that if he got worse, he had no reason to hide it."

Okay, that hit a little too close to home. I need to get out of here, now! "Here's how we're going to handle this, House. We're going to leave here and go to the closest bar and drink and tell stories about the time Kutner almost blew up an OR and pass out in our own sick. Sound like a plan?" Please say yes.

House ignores me – what else is new? – and wanders into Kutner's bedroom. I hesitantly follow him, immediately regretting my decision as I see the dried blood covering the floor and bedding. I anxiously rub my neck and force myself to look away. I don't know how much longer I can take this.

"What are we missing?" he wonders aloud.

I look sharply at House and narrow my eyes.

"You've got that look. You figured this out."

This? No, House, not even close. But I did figure out what I needed to know. I can't help the anger that creeps into my voice. "You're not here because you care about Kutner." God, was I really ever that foolish? "You're here because it's a mystery. You're here for the puzzle!"

"I didn't miss anything because there's nothing to miss." Again, House is oblivious to my words. Perhaps even to my existence. "He didn't kill himself; he was murdered."

I can only look at him, the man I once considered a best friend, and wonder why it had taken me so long to come to my decision. I'd given him one last chance to prove that he cared about another human being, but instead he confirmed what I'd always known deep down inside.

I turn and walk away in silence, since he's not going to listen to anything I say. I take a small amount of satisfaction as I finger the pill bottle in my pocket.

Well, House, come tomorrow, you'll have another puzzle to solve.

Too bad you'll have to violate my dignity to do it.

~end~