What did you screw up?

Greg House swallowed the last of the Southern Comfort and slowly screwed the cap back on. He picked up the bottle and examined the label, a slow grin spreading across his face. He preferred single malt scotch. This bottle was a left-over memento of Wilson's three-week stay at his apartment four years previously. It had laid forgotten in his pantry behind 32 oz plastic sports cups and half-empty peanut butter jars for that long.

You must have been pretty desperate

House smirked his self-deprecating smirk and stretched out on the couch with his hand over his eyes. He let out a long breath and waited for the alcohol-laden sleep that would grant him a few hours peace.

But Nolan's question kept coming back to him, like a song that was stuck in his head, even though he only knew the first line of the chorus.

What did you screw up?

I don't know, he had answered honestly.

It wasn't something he had wanted to think about. Because he knew if he thought about it hard enough, he would figure out the answer. But now it was it was the only thing on his mind.

He thought back to the six months he had shared the loft with Wilson. Yes, he had been an ass. He drank milk straight from the carton, he left his clothes in the dryer, played his guitar loudly regardless of the time of day or night. But he hadn't done anything so extraordinarily terrible. He had tried... tried to be something better, someone better than he used to be. He had put forth a genuine effort to think of someone other than himself.

What did you screw up?

I don't know.

Would it have made a difference if he had opened up, if he had sat down with Wilson and really shared? Really had a real male bonding moment?

House snickered at the thought. He wouldn't even have known where to start. Even if he had, Wilson would probably chalk his bizarre behavior up to drug use and start testing his urine for Vicoden again.

Besides, they had had a few moments.

The drive home from the medical conference would definitely fall into the "moment" category.

Wilson hadn't said anything for an hour since they had left the lakeside resort. It was a silence that teetered on uncomfortable and would have landed squarely in the awkward zone if it hadn't been for House's strong sense of denial and The Stone's Get Your Ya-ya's Out turned up to eleven. In the middle of "Love in Vain," Wilson suddenly leaned over and turned the power off.

"Thank you."

House raised his eyebrows, "For what?"

"For what you said, for doing what you did, it really meant a lot."

"You already thanked me. No need to go on about it," his eyes narrowed. "Is that what you've been stewing over for the past eighty mile markers?"

"When most people want to consol their best friend, they take them out to a bar, get drunk, and not talk about it over a movie—"

"I can recall several occasions when—"

"But you didn't this time," Wilson glanced over at him. "You drugged me, stole my pants, stole my speech—"

"Stole another man's identity…"

"But you did it to make me feel better."

"I did it so you wouldn't be suicidally, career-endingly, incarceratingly depressed."

"I wasn't that depressed."

"Says you."

"You were looking out for me."

House stared out the passenger's side window.

"You really went out on a crazy-ass limb to make sure I would be okay…"

"Just so we're clear, you're done with this self-destructive streak?"

"I think I got it out of my system."

"Good. Now I can go back to being self-destructive and stop trying to be… you."

"You're not me, House," Wilson paused and wiped some condensation off of the windshield with the sleeve of his shirt. "I don't know what I would have done, had the situation been reversed."

"You wouldn't have had to do anything, because I would have never—"

"Well, whatever," Wilson cut his tirade short. "You're not normal, House. Normal people don't pull the shit you just did to snap their friends out of wallowing in self-pity. But I appreciate it. That's all I wanted to say."

Then he had sighed and turned the CD player back on.

House continued to stare out the window.

"You're welcome."

He had said it softly, but he could tell by Wilson's grin that he had heard.

What did you screw up?


He reached for the bottle again, peering at the bottom, searching for any remnant that could ease him past this self-torture and into something resembling sleep. It was empty.

I didn't screw up. I am screwed up.

Memories from that night resurfaced slowly but persistently, rising like vomit in his throat. There was nothing left to keep them at bay. No alcohol, no pills, nothing…

He had emptied the bottle of whisky, but knew it wouldn't be enough that night. He decided to go out before he could reason himself out of it. He hadn't realized where he was going until he was almost there. By the time he rang the doorbell, it was too late to turn back. He wasn't even sure if he would have if he had had the chance.

"House, what time is it?" Wilson was wearing blue, flannel pants and a dazed expression.

"It's early. Come on, let's go get a drink. I'm driving."

"House, you've clearly already had a few. You drove your motorcycle over here?"

"Come on! If you buy, I might even let you drive back."

"I'm not going anywhere. Any neither are you. Come on in. Sleep it off on the couch. It's yours anyway."

"I'm not tired."

"Well, come in anyway."

"God, Wilson aren't you sick of this?"

Wilson tried to comb down his fly-away hairs in a gesture that clearly stated "I'm-too-tired-for-whatever-is-coming."

"Sick of what?"

"Sick of this same tired cycle of hopeless romance you always subject yourself to."

Wilson blinked and crossed his arms.

"You fall in love with some tragic, needy bimbo, she screws you until you're senseless enough to propose to her, and by the time the sex becomes infrequent and you've sobered up to the point where you can see what a mistake you've made, again, you already locked in a marital prison. So you spend a few obligatory years being passive-aggressively pussy-whipped until you can't take it anymore. You get divorced, then, you suddenly have time for your ole buddy House again!"

"You're incredible!" Wilson threw up his hands, "Only in your head could my relationships possibly revolve around you!"

"Who said anything about—"

"You couldn't care less that my past marriages have failed! In the end, the only thing that matters is that I don't have time to deal with you and your… narcissism."

"I'm just trying to do you a favor—"

"You're trying to do yourself a favor—"

"Trying to save you from that soulless bitch in there that made you into the woman-fearing coward that you are today."

If he had been a bit more sober he would have seen Wilson's fist coming at his face from a mile away. After all, he had time to shake off the remnants of sleep, cross the threshold and close the distance between them before pulling back and belting him across the right cheek. As it was though, House ended up colliding with the banister in the hallway and collapsing to the floor before he had even fully understood what happened.

When he opened his eyes, Wilson was sucking on his knuckles, his face screwed up and registering something between regret and anger.

"Stay out of my relationships, House."

Even in House's inebriated state, Wilson's eyes looked glassy. His steps were slow and hesitant as he headed back into the flat and shut the door. But he had still left him there. House was almost proud of him.

You got angry.

The swelling of his cheekbone had gone down quickly, but the bruise on his arm from where he had fallen into the railing was still there when he went to Nolan's.

What did you screw up?

Nolan was smarter than he looked. But not smart enough.

Wilson is the closest thing you have to a safe relationship. You'd have to something major to screw it up.

That's why he had left his therapist with no intention of returning. House wasn't stupid. He knew he was never going to be happy. But he had thought that he might be capable of being not so miserable. Nolan had given up before he'd gotten to the real problem.

What did you screw up?

He hadn't seen Wilson in three days. Not since that night.

He had pushed too far, too hard.

He knew Wilson would come back. He always came back. But he would trust him a little less, be a little less open, be a little less his.

House was alone again.

He had screwed up.

Pulling his hand away from his eyes, he saw that his face was wet. He gave the bottle one last hopeful glance, but there was nothing left to wash down the tears.