Chapter 1

House felt like a complete idiot.

He looked back at the past day and he couldn't make sense of his own actions. Why had he crashed the car into Cuddy's house? He could have been a murderer now. Sure, he had seen them go to the kitchen, but they could have come back. Or (he shuddered at the thought) Rachel could have run back alone. He could also have killed himself. And yet it had seemed like a reasonable thing to do. First he had wanted to smash Cuddy's window with her brush, and then… then he just thought using the car would be funnier. Very funny indeed.

He must have been crazy. Possibly an effect of too much Vicodin and too much alcohol, mixed with the painkillers they had given him in the hospital.

Wilson could have stopped him, of course, but he couldn't very well say it was his fault. Wilson. God. He could have killed Wilson. Then they wouldn't have needed to lock him up in prison, because he would have killed himself, too. Instead, he was now going to spend who knows how much time in jail, possibly the rest of his life. How he had even hoped to make it out of the country was also a question, and one that showed how badly his brain had been working. By the time he had arrived at the airport, they were waiting for him. They'd been very discreet, and just "accompanied him" for questioning. He had been so high when he arrived in prison he had hallucinated the interrogation room was a tiki bar and the corridor to his cell a tropical beach.

Luckily when he regained his senses Wilson had answered after the first ring, and had brought him some necessities for the night; toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and Vicodin. They hadn't wanted to allow it at first, but Wilson had made an outrageous fuss and threatened to have them all sued until their bank accounts bled to death, and they relented for the night. Wilson. Wilson with his sprained wrist in a splint, who hadn't even scolded him. He just nodded when House had tried to say he was sorry, and nodded again when he said he'd been acting like a criminal idiot because he was stoned. When House said he wanted to detox again, Wilson had smiled a bit, and answered "We'll see to that. Together."

The thought of being forced to detox while in jail scared him. He wished so much he had gone drinking with Wilson instead. He was so exhausted that he finally fell asleep.

Wilson waited, his head in his hand, the one which wasn't into a splint. His heart ached at the thought that House was probably starting to detox right now, in a cell in that same building. The idea made him almost sick. Unless the prison's top medical officer had granted Wilson's request, which was unlikely. At least soon he would plead in person for his friend.

"Dr. Wilson, you may come in now. Dr. Collins is waiting for you."

"Good morning, Dr. Wilson, sit down please."

"Thank you for seeing me so fast, Dr. Collins. It's really urgent."

"I've seen your documentation, and I've granted Dr. House methadone therapy for the next three days. In fact, he should already have gotten his first dose. For a long term perspective, I'll need to go through everything you submitted. Plus, there are some issues that I'd feel more comfortable discussing during my leisure time, especially since I'm very busy here. Will you join me for drinks tomorrow night?"

Wilson was surprised, but not too much. There were some irregularities (to say the least) in House's medical files, and an office inside a prison was probably not the best location to mention them. He nodded, and Collins pulled out one of his cards, scribbled an address and a time, and handed it to Wilson. "Call me if you can't make it, and we'll reschedule."

"Thank you so much, Dr. Collins. I'll see you tomorrow."

A reprieve. Three days of methadone, the guard had said, watching him while he swallowed thankfully. He felt better immediately after, not because the effect was so fast but because he was giddy with relief. Three days. He should be worried. But he was so happy at the thought of three whole pain free days that he decided not to think of the future.

A memory came back from the Sunday school: Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Indeed, House decided, and he lay down on his bunk and closed his eyes with a sigh.

Wilson had googled the address, and had been surprised to see it was a high-class private club. Rumors were that anyone but WASP Republican males was still unwelcome as a club member, but maybe this was just gossip. He dressed at his best, and brought along a copy of House's medical file.

He was shown in a private room, with two elegant couches and a coffee table. Collins was already waiting for him, and Wilson noticed that even in this informal setting the man issued self-assurance and a quiet authority. Maybe it went with his job.

A waiter came to take their orders, then returned with their drinks, politely mentioning he would come back only if called and leaving the bottles behind. When he left, Collins's eyes focused on Wilson. "I went through Dr. House's file. There are several, how shall I put it, anomalies. The main one seems to be that he forged your signature on all of his recent Vicodin scripts and didn't even try to hide this fact."

"I… uh… had allowed him to do that. I was very busy and had no time. It's my fault."

"Dr. Wilson, you know such a declaration will only send your own license in the trash can without saving Dr. House's. On the basis of these documents, I should stop any opiates completely."

"And let him detox in jail? The pain was terrible even in Mayfield… he would die this time. Or go insane."

"I agree, Dr. Wilson. There's another reason besides my lack of time why we're discussing this here, and not in my office."

"What do you mean?"

Wilson was scared and agitated, but he saw Collins was very calm. "Dr. Wilson, have you ever wondered why I chose to become a prison doctor?"

"Hi, House."

"Hi, Wilson. How much did you have to pay to arrange for a personal interview?'

"Nothing, it's one of my privileges as your physician. But we're being recorded, remember. That closed door is just an illusion of privacy."

"They told me. Still, an illusion is better than nothing."

"How are you?"

"Better, for the moment. The methadone works very well, and my leg seems to be healing right on schedule. No infection."

"That's almost unbelievable, but good to know. I have arranged for you to get a series of tests, mostly on your brain, to see if we can prove you were not responsible for what you did."

"That would be a great thing, because what I did…"

Wilson put his finger to his lips. "Don't say it."

"Well, let me just say I'm very, very sorry. I'm especially sorry about hurting you."

"It's nothing, really. Look, I'll take off the splint so you can see. Here."

House fingers carefully checked Wilson's wrist, and Wilson felt their warmth go through to his heart. And then he thought of the near future. Oh God. The future.

"House, you'll have to detox."

"I know. Hell, I wantto detox. The question is where and how."

"On the where, unfortunately, there's no discussion. Here. The standard approach would be total opiate withdrawal, starting tomorrow.".

Terror flashed immediately in his eyes, but House didn't say anything for a while. Then he sighed. "I should have thought of that. Are there realistic other options?"

Wilson passed the fingers of his right hand through his hair, then breathed hard, trying to calm down. "I have contacted a pain management specialist, who has proposed a more gradual approach, with methadone being scaled down while other pain control methods are introduced. It would take about a month."

"That sounds perfect. I'll probably be stuck here a month anyway, until my pre-trial audience. So what's the problem?"

Wilson sighed loudly. "It's much harder to obtain permission, especially because of your… precedents. In fact, very hard. I will have to do… something I'm not quite comfortable with."

Wilson couldn't say more. In fact, he shouldn't have said this either. But he was frightened, and he needed reassurance. He needed to know House was really committed to detoxing. Wilson stared at House intensely, hoping to somehow communicate with him without words.

House stared back. "You mean, I better be serious about it."

"Yes, House. You will not get a second chance to do it so easily." Wilson felt his stomach get upset, a bitter bile taste in his mouth.

"Wilson, are you sick?"

"I think I'll skip the cafeteria curry from now on. Whatever they put in it, it doesn't agree with me." He looked at House, then he was overwhelmed by a sudden desire. A need. He spoke before he could change his mind. "House, can you hold my hand?"

House looked back uncomprehendingly, then even more puzzled once he realized Wilson meant the right hand. "Won't I hurt your wrist?"

"No. Just be careful. Touch… touch my fingers. Don't ask questions. Just do it, please, and forget it afterward."

House seemed completely confused, but when his eyes met Wilson's he apparently sensed the desperation in him, because he got hold of Wilson's hand and caressed finger after finger silently, while Wilson struggled to hold back his tears.

House looked concerned. "Are you in pain?"

Wilson shook his head. "No. No questions, House, please. Just do what I ask you to."

They remained silent, House's fingers on Wilson's until the prison guard came to tell them that their time was over.

Wilson sat at home, the telephone in front of him. He looked at his watch. Five thirty. Still half an hour to take a decision. A decision. Why did hehave to decide? Why couldn't someone do it for him? He wanted to say no. He pretty definitely wanted to say no.

He looked at House's test results again, at the reports from the psychiatrist he had consulted. There were good chances that House had really not been in control of his actions, the meds he had been given shouldn't have been mixed with either Vicodin or alcohol, and House hadn't been told about this upon discharge. In fact, he shouldn't have been discharged at all - AMA discharge was of course not an option for psychiatric patients, and House should have been one.

House had wanted to inflict Cuddy's property some damage, but he had been unable to estimate what the risks were to himself, to everyone who was or might have been in the house, and to Wilson. The psychiatrist said that he probably thought the only effect would be the glass shattering. Crazy, but not criminal. Or at least not as criminal.

And now this man who had been through so much pain was supposed to go through so much more. The psychiatrist had been clear: House may very well die if forced to undergo a sudden detox without proper medical care, and his sanity would almost certainly have permanent damages. He and the pain specialist had warmly recommended the slower protocol, but an expert lawyer (that Wilson had finally managed to find with Stacy's grudging help) had told him that such requests were basically never granted, and that only a very favorable report of the prison's medical officer could tilt the decision in House's favor. He said such reports were few and far between, and seemed to consider it impossible that House, with his precedents, would get one.

Five forty. Wilson felt his stomach knot up. He removed the splint. Looked at his hand. Turned it, looked at the fingers from every side. Touched them and closed his eyes, trying to repeat House's massage. At least there had been no questions. Wilson knew what he had to do, and what he wanted to do, and they were not the same. He would have vomited if he hadn't already done so for most of the afternoon.

Finally, an image came to his mind unprompted, that of House breaking his own hand to face a week without Vicodin. Suddenly in Wilson's mind what he wanted and what he needed coalesced into one and the same. It was five forty-seven. Wilson picked up the phone, and wasn't surprised when after just one ring he heard a voice he had already learned to dread say "Dr. Collins speaking" at the other end of the line.