This chapter follows 7x23 "Moving On". Now I go AU, bitches!
If House's hand is the pair of deuces then she's forgotten something important. You can't have a pair without two cards. I can't forget that either. This story bounces between Third Person (House) and Third Person (Wilson).
This chapter rated T for themes on gender, a suicide attempt, etc.
Sunlight glinted off the crest of every wave. Nearly naked sunbathers lay spread out on the endless white sand. Surfers caught the largest waves, gliding in to shore on wings of water before tumbling out of their flight somewhere between land and sea.
At the beach-side hotel bar, House sat watching the sunlight glint off of the bourbon in her glass. She downed the last swallow. Someone on the beach started setting up for a bonfire.
"You want another one?" the bartender asked.
"No, I think I've had enough," House said, passing the glass back to him. "What do you think I should do today?"
"I don't know, go home?"
"Not tonight," she said. "Cheers." She tipped him and limped off down the beach. The sun glinted off the water into dull blue eyes, pricked at numb sunburned skin. Wind pulled at curly hair and week-old clothes. The sounds of revelry and seabirds faded around her as she retreated from the beach paradise into herself.
She pulled a pill bottle out of a pocket and just held it. Three months. She'd brought along a three month supply of vicodin. Wilson was right; she was taking way too much. One week and almost a month's worth was gone. She rubbed her thumb over the name on the bottle, the last reminder of the table she'd left, the hand she'd folded, the life she threw away.
A thousand miles south and she hadn't gone far enough. She stared into the sea as the sun set into the Caribbean.
The next thing she was aware of was the tide. Waves lapped at her feet and her cane was getting progressively shorter. She put the bottle away and pulled her cane out of the wet sand with a 'shlupp'. Night was falling. The bonfire shone like a star on the sand, farther away then she'd imagined. Too far. Not far enough.
It was never far enough.
That man was staring at her again. It wasn't his fault, she was the one who kept looking in the mirror. And every time she did that man stared back, disappointment etched in his features. He looked ten years older than her, gaunt with dark bags under his eyes. Long, stringy gray hair. A face covered in stubble. Haunted blue eyes spoke of terrible things done and witnessed.
There was a knock on her hotel room door. She found tonight's entertainment, a leggy blonde maybe half her age. She wasn't up to anything tonight but gestured the girl in anyway.
"Hi, my name's Candy," she said, licking her lips and slinking with a seduction that didn't reach her eyes.
"Drop the act for tonight," House said. "What's your real name?"
"Roberta," she said, suddenly unsure.
House gestured Roberta to come inside. House limped to the bed and sat down next to a beat-up guitar, a cheap new acquisition she planned on leaving here when she moved on.
"So, um," Roberta said. Nervousness and confusion followed her every move.
"Sit down and listen," House said. "That's all I need tonight."
She hadn't gone nearly far enough. She was still bingeing on booze and whores in the same casino. She had to get farther away or she'd just end up dragging herself back to the same table to try and pick up her cards and play the same hand against the same players. That's why that man still stared at her from the mirror. She hadn't changed. She hadn't tried to. She hadn't even left the casino.
That ended now. Roberta waited as House wrote something and stuffed it in an envelope. She handed it to the girl and sent her off with her pay. Once alone House started to pack. West. This time she'd head west.
There were things out west that could help her change.
"I'm pressing charges and that's final!" Cuddy snapped.
Wilson stood in her office, ignoring the irony. Cuddy was uninjured while his arm was in cast and sling from what House did to both of them. Yet here he was, trying to protect House from her own consequences.
"And I'm posting an opening for new department head," she said dismissively. "Diagnostics."
"You can't!" Wilson protested. "What about House? That's her department and you know it."
"I don't give a rat's ass if it is his department," she said, emphasizing her view of House's gender. "Also, do not call that bastard a woman in front of me. That man is not a tranny, he's insane. And what he did to my home just proves it! Now get out of my office. Out!"
Wilson slammed the door behind him, cracking one of the glass panes. He stormed to his office, the urge to destroy something rising. It all came crashing down at the sight of the sealed envelope on his desk, familiar scrawl addressing it to him, postmark from somewhere in Florida. He sat down and tore open the letter.
By the time this reaches you I'll be long gone. I've gone south until I hit the water and it still isn't far enough. I'll go west this time.
I'm not coming back. I can't come back and not because of the thing with Cuddy. Princeton was a dead end anyway, nothing there but being the good little boy everyone wanted. Everyone but you. You were the only person willing to see me as me, even before I found out. I wish I could've taken you with me.
I can't tell you where I am. I don't know where I'll be by the time you get this. I just know I can't stay here.
I love you, James. I wish I'd known sooner. About everything.
Wilson sat at his desk, eyes scanning the page over and over. A scream shook him out of his funk, the sound of shattering glass followed. It took a moment for him to realize the scream was his own, the shatter was his stapler thrown at his Vertigo poster. He collapsed back into his chair and cradled his head in his hands. Why did she leave? he thought.
Why did you leave?
The sky was dark and angry as the storm raged offshore. Waves pounded the sand, prelude to the torrent that was coming, fierce and unstoppable.
A lone figure stood on the beach, an empty pill bottle in one hand. A one-piece bathing suit and a sarong were all that protected her from the elements, mist soaking through it all. With each crash the waves reached closer and closer, eager to take this willing sacrifice into the storm and rip her apart. The wind grasped cold fingers at her shoulder-length hair and tore at her sarong, threatening to rip it away to be consumed by the storm, to reveal a tell-tale crotch-bulge and the angry scars marring her right thigh.
Marathon electrolysis, gray-market meds, false papers, nothing was enough to find Gillian House that new casino. Instead the old one seemed to encompass the whole world. And now here she stood, broken and nearly broke with nowhere to go and nowhere to return to.
Someone else joined her on the beach. "Senora, you must come inside!" the man shouted. She could barely hear him over the wind. "The storm, she is coming!"
"Five more minutes, Manuel," House shouted.
The man ran back inside as the rain started to fall. She looked out at the storm. The water was rising faster now; the storm surge was coming ashore. Out there somewhere was the eye. In a few hours that eye was supposed to pass overhead.
She wouldn't live to see it.
She ran her thumb over the fading name on the empty bottle. This was the last bottle she had, the only thing she had left to remind her. The 'James' was almost gone, rubbed away by her own musings. And now the rain was dissolving the paper it was printed on, washing the name away once and for all.
There was nothing left for her, not anymore. Not if she wanted to avoid returning to that table to face casino security. There would be prison time for her transgressions, not just driving her car through Cuddy's window but also for running away. She couldn't do that, not alone. And she was alone.
"What, Manuel?" House demanded.
"I am not going inside without you!"
Then you will die, House almost said. She looked out at the waves, crashing only a few scant feet away. Two steps and she would be able to let go. Two steps and she really would be alone. Alone with the Nothing. Forever.
Warm hands wrapped around her shoulders. "Please, Senora," Manuel said. "Don't do this."
"I'm alone, Manuel. I've done terrible things."
"You have done wonderful things, Senora. You have been good doctor to my family for two months. You saved my wife and son."
"I delivered a baby," House snapped. And that's all it had been, delivering a baby. Yes, labor had been difficult on the mother and she would have died without help and the hospital was too far…
"You delivered my son, Senora. You saved my wife." Manuel tugged at her, drawing attention to the water at their feet. "Please, Senora. You are not alone."
Water washed over her bare toes, softening the almost rock-hard sand beneath her feet. She had done terrible things. She'd killed Amber, maimed Cuddy's future, belittled and insulted everyone around her. She'd pushed them all away so hard that they all came back. That was the key, wasn't it? That they all came back.
She'd saved lives, countless patients. She'd begun lives, even the son Manuel named for her. She'd offered relief from pain and misery to patients and colleagues.
The waves tugged at her legs, the wind howled, and the storm drove stinging rain in an attempt to claim its prize. House turned away from the fury and let Manuel bring her inside. Away from the hurricane.
The rain pounded impotently against the walls of the hotel. House listened to its song. The wind sang a different tune now that there were walls between her and the storm. It took a singularly strong fury to destroy that which a lifetime could construct. House had become that fury, spinning through her own life like a tornado. Perhaps she had succeeded at tearing her life down to the foundations. But somehow she didn't think so.
Building a new life was hard. It was more difficult than she could have ever imagined. The least she could do was see if her old life still stood.
Maybe there was hope.
Another boring meeting of department heads. Wilson trudged down to the conference room where he suspected Cuddy was going to announce who she'd finally chosen as new head of Diagnostics. Smart money was on either Chase or Foreman.
Wilson scoffed. Foreman was an unimaginative hard-ass who would run the department into the ground with his lack of foresight. Chase was too chronically distracted to be head of anything, much less a department, but at least he was mentally flexible. Either way, unless by some miracle House was back this meeting likely marked the beginning of the end for Diagnostics as a department in this hospital.
He sat down in his chair. He couldn't even bring up the energy to hope.
The other heads filed in and Cuddy called the meeting to order.
"DUDE looks like a laaaay-DY!"
The room jumped at the overly loud noise coming out of Wilson's phone as he grabbed it and ran from the room.
"House!" he shouted. "Where the hell are you? Tell me you're okay! Please don't hang up, please be okay, just tell me where you are!"
"I turned myself in," House said.
Wilson collapsed against a convenient wall and slid to the floor. "You're okay," he said, the weight of the situation burying him until his voice sound like awe.
"I'm okay, Wilson, I promise," House said. "Know any good lawyers? Stacy isn't returning my calls."
"I'll find you one, I swear it," Wilson said. "Just, talk to me. I need to hear your voice. Where have you been?"
"Around. Florida sucks. Got my beard removed in Texas. Went to Mexico and played village doctor for a few months. I ended up staying rent-free in this guy's hotel after I delivered his son. Difficult birth, I was surprised when the mother survived. We had a hurricane; that was fun. Don't you have little bald-headed kiddies to be taking care of?"
"I was in a board meeting," Wilson admitted. "You remember when you stole my phone and changed all the ringtones?"
"I've done that a few times. Which one?"
"After your surgery."
"Oh yeah, that one," House said.
"You remember the one you set for yourself? I never changed it back."
House's laughter was the best sound in the world. As long as she could laugh like that Wilson knew everything was going to be okay.
He just didn't know how.
A few notes.
The ringtone is "Dude Looks Like a Lady" by Aerosmith.
Manuel and House are speaking Spanish. I'm not good enough with Spanish to try and translate so just pretend.
The hurricane was a real thing. Her name was Arlene, she was a tropical storm early this season, and she made landfall in Veracruz, Mexico. This fact was rendered unimportant upon rewrite but it gives a fairly exact location as to House's whereabouts.
I have one more story along this particular character interpretation. I need to wrap up a few of the loose ends that canon saddled me with, such as why House is only supposed to serve a year in what could very easily be a 15-20 year sentence (aggravated vehicular assault, at least one assault with a deadly weapon charge, and fleeing the scene of a crime are the felonies I count off the top of my head).