Disclaimer: I don't own House MD or any of the characters in this work of fanfiction.
Summary: post Bombshells. House calls Nolan from a motel room and shares with him everyone's reaction to the end of his relationship with Cuddy.
Author's Note: my first House MD fanfiction. I've been reading House fanfiction for a long time, but it was my frustration over the hypocrisy in the show that stopped me from ever feeling capable of writing for this fandom. With the hypocrisy of Bombshells being ridiculously high and recognized by a lot of fans, I changed my mind and realized that I could still write a story. Hope I did it justice. Oh, by the way, I deliberately misinterpreted the preview for Monday's episode.
"I think I made a mistake," House says. His voice is as dull and lifeless as the last decade has been for him. He twirls a pill from finger to finger.
"House?" the voice asks confusedly for a moment - just a split moment - before it continues, "What happened?"
House sighs, ignoring the question and nearly dropping his phone. He bows his head and grips his leg. "I think," he says slowly, trying the words on for size, "that I'm tired - and I don't know how much longer I can do this."
"Where are you?" the voice asks, a little more anxiously than natural.
House looks around his hotel room, with the suitcase crammed with wrinkled shirts and the pill bottles sitting on the nightstand beside him. He hesitates, opening his mouth once and closing it awkwardly.
A tad more urgently still, the voice says, "An address, House. I just need an address and I'll be right there."
House opens his mouth and before he can close it again, somehow he has said the address for the shitty motel he's at.
He can hear the noises of someone reaching for their shoes on the other side of the phone. "I'm on my way, House. Should I be calling an ambulance too?" the voice asks.
House looks at the pill in his hand. "No," he says slowly. "No ambulance needed."
With a hint of relief, the voice says, "Alright. That's very good. Until I get there, why don't you stay on the line, tell me what's been happening since our last session -"
House snorts lightly and says in an accidental harshness, "I wouldn't even know where to start, Nolan."
Lightly, empathetically, Dr. Nolan suggests, "The beginning."
"The day after Cuddy found out I had relapsed and broke up with me - "
"You and Cuddy began a relationship?" Nolan interrupts with mild surprise.
"You gonna let me tell the story?" House snips slightly, realizing that Nolan is still the same exact therapist he walked out on months ago.
"By all means, tell the story."
"The day after Cuddy broke up with me," House reiterates, "Wilson came over."
House looked around his bedroom, trying to figure out what had woken him up. Then, a loud banging occurred again. He started, sitting up, and as he did so, the bottle of pills rolled off his bed.
"House!" he heard, along with the sound of his front door being opened.
"Co- coming," he said, clearly his throat and trying to stand up. He grabbed immediately for the bed, as his leg almost gave out. He sought his cane and realized - with a swear - that it was on the other side of the room.
The pain was always worse in the morning. He leaned forward, grasping at his leg, and reaching instinctively for the bottle on his nightstand - but it wasn't there.
"House," Wilson said from the doorway, taking in the scene with one, quick sweeping gaze. "How many did you take?"
House leaned forward, his nails digging into his leg, before he stood up. Immediately, he sat again, his eyes roaming for his pills.
"Cuddy called me and told me what happened, and she was so hurt and shocked, but you know what, I almost wasn't. I had thought that you could -" was the background noise for House's morning routine.
"Get me my pills," he rasped quietly, seeing no other easy option but still not quite looking at Wilson after his demand.
Wilson's tirade screeched to a stop. "You have got to be kidding me," he said, looking at House.
House looked up and met Wilson's eyes with no hesitation. He did not speak.
"You're serious," Wilson decided with a nod.
"Well," he continued, ignoring House's protest, "You're an idiot. Don't you understand, House? You've been clean for a year, and now, because you can't deal with an adult relationship, like everyone else has to, you throw in the towel. You've just ruined the best thing that's ever happened to you, the best thing that will ever happen to you, and you're just going to say, 'Oh well, that's fine. Hand me a Vicodin.'"
"Wilson -" House tried to interrupt again.
"This time's going to be different. You want to be an addict? Fine. But no more of this, no more of me making it easy for you. I'm not writing you a script, I'm not helping you destroy everything."
"Wilson!" House roared. Wilson stopped talking, looking less surprised then he probably should have. "You don't want to get me a Vicodin, fine. Get me a fucking ibuprofen then. It sure as hell doesn't stop the average headache, but I guess it's better than nothing for someone who is missing a chunk of their thigh."
Wilson looked at him, turned around, and grabbed the ibuprofen off the top of House's wardrobe. "Don't be an ass," he said oddly calmly, tossing the bottle to House. "If it's good enough for everyone else, it's good enough for you. You're not special, House," he said, without a hint of malice. He might as well have been discussing the weather. "You don't deserve special treatment."
Wilson whirled around and left the bedroom. Dry swallowing two ibuprofen, House stood up, wincing. "Do I deserve any treatment?" House shouted after Wilson.
He heard the storming footsteps stop.
"You know, I'm not sure what it is you're more pissed off about - me getting dumped, me taking one Vicodin, or the fact that you're the last to know about everything!" House yelled. Somehow, Wilson's calmness had made the whole thing worse to House.
He moved towards the doorway and stared at Wilson's frozen back. "Maybe I'm an addict, maybe I'm always in pain, and maybe I'm completely fucked up - but I think the thing that bothers you the most is the fact that I don't need you to tell me any of that." The last part was said as a harsh, whispered declaration.
Wilson began to move again.
"I already know it's too late for me!" House called, even as Wilson opened his front door, "And it just kills you that you're not needed for any of this!"
A slammed door. Wilson was gone.
Quietly, Nolan says, "I can understand why you would feel that it's too late."
House breaths in the sound of the traffic from Nolan's side of the phone. He can hear a world beyond him.
"But it's not too late, House. You did the right thing, calling me."
House ignores the praise and says, "I didn't go to work the next two days, but when I did -"
It was like the last few months had never happened. House shuffled into the hospital, pill bottle in his pocket and snark ready for fire. "House!"
He turned around, trying to turn his face into something resembling casual. It was more of a grimace than a grin, but he was still bearing (baring) it. "Cuddy," he said, jovially.
She looked taken aback, then said, "You didn't show up the last two days."
He rolled his eyes and said, "Nope."
"Any reason why, or are you just choosing to be unprofessional?" She said it like it was an insult, a reprimand, but really it was one of her stereotypically probing questions.
He hummed slightly in the back of his throat and walked towards the elevator. He jabbed the button with his cane once, then twice, before it opened. The elevator doors were half closed before Cuddy's manicured hand forced its way in.
She slipped in the elevator and was silent as House pressed his floor number. The elevator seemed big with just the two of them. Cuddy didn't say anything at first. Then: "You can't just skip work."
House twirled his cane around in a big dramatic circle.
"I know that we broke up," she said, with a voice that meant I'm trying to be reasonable right now, but you're just a child, "But I can't excuse you not calling in sick. If you're not going to come in, you have to call."
"Have I ever called in when I'm sick?" House asked sardonically. "Ever?"
"Well," Cuddy said, pausing, "No, but that needs to change. Although we're no longer in a relationship, people are still going to be observing our behavior. If it seems like I'm letting you get away with things, people will think it's because I feel badly for you -"
"And we can't have that," House finished for her. The elevator dinged as it reached his floor and the door opened.
He stepped out, and looked around the floor. He turned back stopping the door from closing with his cane. "People won't look at you any differently, Cuddy," he noted. "I'm the addict, and you're the one who got away." He removed his cane and the door began to close. He looked at her eyes in that last moment and said, "You don't have anything to worry about. You're going to be just fine."
He couldn't identify the look in Cuddy's eyes, but it wasn't anything he had ever seen before. Things were already different.
"Her cavalier attitude must have seem insensitive considering your break-up," Nolan observes.
"She's just worried about her job," House says. "I shouldn't have expected anything different." It's not a self-piteous statement, oddly enough, rather a personal reprimand. Relationships are all about change, but now that theirs is over, he doesn't know why he thought Cuddy would be any different.
"You hoped though," Nolan says.
House looks at the bottles and knows what they mean. "Maybe I did," he realizes.
Nolan allows the revelation a moment of silence, before he asks, "What happened next?"
They did their regular differential diagnosis, white board and all. He sent the minions off for the usual testing and moved towards the coffee machine. The abnormal sensation of eyes on the back of his head caused him to say, "Too idiotic to do the blood-work on your own, Foreman? I'm sure Masters can help you out, if a med-school student is smarter than you." It wasn't an insult up to his usual standards, but it was an off day, after all.
"How did you -" Foreman began to ask, then changed his mind. "I just wanted to say, well, we just wanted to say -" he floundered.
House turned around and took in the sight of Foreman, Chase, Masters, and Taub all looking sufficiently awkward. "That Wilson told you everything and that you're all here for me, if I suddenly feel the need to go all Doctor Phil on you," House sniped. "Masters thinks there are other fish in the sea. Chase here thinks I should go to a bar and get drunk. Taub thinks I'm an idiot, but I'm his boss and he's getting divorced, so he's not one to talk, so he's just going to stand there looking ridiculous. And Foreman, well, Foreman will have no problem with reporting me to Cuddy if he thinks I'm off my game, no matter the potential awkwardness."
Masters opened her mouth, but Chase gave her a look. She closed it.
"That about it?" House asked, enjoying the looks on their faces. "Or do we all have to hug before you can go be doctors so our patient won't die?"
Taub backed out of the doorway and left; the others followed. House went back to his coffee, but sighed when he heard the clearing of a throat.
He knew it was Chase before he turned around.
"Doctor Phil is overrated," Chase said, at least having the sense to look contrite, "But I do have something to say. So - just drink your coffee and ignore me, or I'll look like a - a - sad wombat all day."
He couldn't help it. He choked back a little bit of a laugh at Chase's pathetic attempt to cheer him up.
"People are gonna tell you that you've made a big mistake and that it's all your fault," Chase said. House knew what he was thinking of and it took all of his willpower not to mock him. "They're going to say that you've ruined the best thing that's ever happened to you." At that, House looked up. "And maybe -" Chase breathed. "- they're right. But even if they are, ignore them. They're going to judge, and they're going to be high and mighty, and they're going to be better than you, but they're also going to just as miserable as you."
Chase paused and looked at House, seeming like he was trying to see if his words had made an impact. House inclined his head in acknowledgement.
Chase nodded back and moved towards the doorway. "House," he added, like it meant something, "at least you're honest about it." Chase shrugged and then left.
"What floor are you on?" Nolan asks.
House looks around his hotel room and realizes he has been pacing. He feels - suddenly - as though there is no air in the room. He goes to the balcony and looks down at the parking lot. He takes in big gasps of air.
"Seven," he says.
"House," a voice says to him suddenly. He drops his phone and turns around. There is Nolan in his hotel room, looking a little alarmed. "House, what are you doing?"
House realizes how it must look, him standing on the railing of the balcony. He looks out at the parking lot and at the families with their laughing children and the bickering couple and the people who have never thought about jumping.
Until this moment, he realizes with a start, it has not occurred to him how easy it would be to jump. He gets down, slowly, and turns around to face Nolan.
Nolan looks at House and the hotel room with the single bottle of Vicodin sitting next to a bottle of ibuprofen. It is like one of those horrible before and after pictures, only what no one ever says about the after picture is that it has its own baggage and agony attached.
"I only took one," House says, if only to get Nolan to calm the fuck down.
Nolan takes a breath and some anxiety melts out of him. "That's good, House."
House laughs bitterly and says, "Oh, yes, tell the addict it's good that he's only this -" he holds his fingers an inch apart "-screwed up. Hey, at least he didn't OD."
Nolan looks at him, calm and lecture-ready, "You know relapses are common. The fact that yours was a year later and of this small a magnitude is nothing short of remarkable."
House turns his face away, feels something catch in his throat.
Nolan waits patiently until House looks at him again. "Maybe people don't change," he says, adopting House's anthem, "but you have clearly tried and that shows remarkable strength."
House sits down on the motel room bed. "That's what people say to addicts to make them feel like they have the potential to be anything more."
"True," Nolan concedes. "But shouldn't the fact that someone feels you can be something more be reassuring?"
House looks at the pill bottles and then at Nolan. He realizes he can breathe again, and yet, he is the same person he has been for years. All the therapy, all the trying, all the attempts at being better and changing who he was for Cuddy, no one has noticed any of it.
"Maybe if anyone other than my therapist thought I could be something more, it would be," he admits.
Nolan looks taken aback, but acknowledges the validity of House's words. "Perhaps," he says, "Those around you are quick to judge."
House looks at him and nods.
"I think," Nolan says carefully, "that we should talk about that and if your current environment is really the best place for you to be in."
House looks at Nolan with surprise. It has never once, not seriously, occurred to him that he could leave and start over, that maybe he could be someone somewhere else. He looks at Nolan, his eyes bare from the shields he's become accustomed to, his emotions nearing, for the first time in a decade, something resembling hope. He nods.
It will be a long time before he goes back to Princeton-Plainsboro.