Post 7x23. I actually published another story before this, but I didn't like the rate at which things were unfolding. So here it is, a newer and different version. But the storyline is going to be similar – if you read the previous one you'll know what to expect. But I much prefer things to be developing at this slower rate. Hopefully you guys will enjoy it more too.

It was two years before they saw him again. Turns out he had the heart to turn up at his own mother's funeral.

Wilson and Cuddy were there, out of respect for the genial old lady whom they had met several times. They watched him limp in the door halfway through the funeral service.

He was at there for a whole fifteen minutes before the cops turned up and slapped the cuffs on him. He didn't even struggle.

House rubbed his spasming thigh with both hands, trying to ignore the pain that radiated from his wrists as he placed pressure on them. Struggling futilely against a guy twice as strong as you would do that.

"Heard you got the good stuff from the doc. Hand them over."

House ignored the tattooed guy looking for a drug fix standing in his way. He limped to the side, intending to pass him, only to find himself smack against the wall with his arms behind his back. Again.

He struggled futilely, only to have the grips on his wrists tighten and twist.

"I need the pills." He whispered. He swallowed, and added as an afterthought, "Please…"

Big Guy ignored him, as he always did. Finally locating the pills, they let go of him, but not before shoving him to the ground. He landed on his right side.

House struggled to his feet. He watched his pain relief, his Vicodin, go down Big Guy's throat.

As he watched them saunter away, he leaned against the wall waiting for the flames engulfing his right thigh to ebb. He limped back to his cell, using his hands to support himself against the wall.

"You've got a visitor."

He looked up to see the warden standing outside his cell.

And the answer was the same. Every single month for the past year, the answer was the same. He knew who would be waiting outside. He came once a month, same day, same time. Every single month.

"No visitors today, please."

Wilson looked up as the door opened and the warden walked in, the person he wanted to see conspicuously missing. The warden gave him an apologetic shrug.

The first time Wilson got to see House was when the head warden had called him. 7 attempts to visit House in prison finally resulted in one visit, and that was only because House didn't have a say in the matter.

He had arrived at the prison hospital one hour later only to see House covered in bruises, right leg casted. House looked at him for a moment, then shifted his eyes away.

He sat down next to House, and there was a long silence. How does one start a conversation with someone in prison?

"How are you?" Wilson finally ventured.

House chuckled softly, but the smile didn't reach his eyes. Only Jimmy Wilson would ask how life in prison was. "As good as it can ever get."

"What happened?"

The smile slid off House's face. He turned away from Wilson, and looked out the window. It wasn't very often that he got to see something other than brick or grey walls.

"Turns out being a cripple doctor who helps out in the clinic and has access to drugs, but can't actually supply drugs, doesn't make you very popular in the yard."

Wilson looked at his friend. He expected to see resentment and anger burning in House. Instead, he saw only a kind of bitterness and resignation. There was no fight or fire in his eyes, and Wilson didn't know what to make of that.

So they sat there in silence for what seemed like hours before Wilson managed to gather his wits about him to try resume a normal conversation. House simply listened.

House opened the 63rd letter from Wilson. He received one every single week despite the fact that he almost never replied with one of his own.

Wilson always tried to make the letter sound upbeat, like it was any other conversation that he had with House. There were updates about General Hospital, Prescription Passion, hospital gossip, the going-ons of the hospital and the Diagnostics and Oncology Department.

Foreman was the Head of Diagnostics. Masters finally got her medical license, and was working with the rest of the team. Thirteen's Huntington's was getting worse, she had embarked on a brief but serious relationship with Chase that ended when she decided she didn't want to be a burden on him. Taub had two boys.

It wasn't that House didn't want to reply to Wilson. In fact, he was goddamn grateful for Wilson's letters. They kept him connected, reminded him that there was a world beyond the grey walls he was trapped within.

Cuddy. His thoughts wandered to her, as they always did so often. Cuddy had found a new job in New York, and had moved there. She couldn't deal with the fall out, the fact that House had literally destroyed her home, and could have killed Rachel in the process. So she had left without a goodbye to make a clean start where her crazy ex-boyfriend couldn't ruin her life. She wanted to get as far away from him.

And House couldn't blame her for that. He wanted to escape from himself too.

House hobbled back to the bed and lay back down on the miserable mattress. He closed his eyes and hung tight to the only thing that connected him to the outside world.

Almost every single time, his thoughts would wander to the same topic. He still remembered feeling exhilarated, feeling free as he stood on the beach that day four years ago. The destruction he had caused was a good outlet for the feelings that had boiled over when he saw Cuddy with another man. He had smiled.

But it was short-lived. The toll of the countless years, the ever-present pain weighed him down. As he stared out at the vast blue ocean, he knew he could never be entirely free of the demons that haunted him. Not even when he was a continent away from them. Not for the rest of his life.

Those two years abroad, he had relied on his skills to supply some drugs here and there to the locals. The police back home had frozen his bank account, and he had had to start all over again in a new country. But he had gotten by. However, such dealings often came with shady personalities, and he had endured a fair share of beatings. As he was pummeled and cursed at each time, he felt that he deserved it. He had done many horrible things – performing unauthorized procedures, insulting patients, forged prescriptions, and been a drug addict. But none had been as horrifying as his final act of destruction back home. So he took each blow and each broken bone as a deserving punishment.

He had come back two years later because he loved his mother, and he would never have forgiven himself if he didn't go. He didn't need to make yet another mistake in his screwed up life. He knew the consequences, but he still came back.

He had sneaked a glance at Cuddy and Wilson as he was led out of the funeral in handcuffs. He felt something in him die as he saw their disappointment.

And so he had come to a conclusion in the large amount of spare time he had in prison.

The infarction had changed him. His dad had been one cruel bastard, and had imbued in him that bleak perspective and the distrust in others.

But it was with his own actions that he had pushed and tested so many people in his life, driving them away from him, squandering the million chances they had given him, committed many mistakes in the effort to find the answers to the puzzles. The answers and the certainty that came with were the only things that gave him security and comfort, and (dare he admit it) hope.

That there had to be a reason behind the seemingly inexplicable things in the world, such as getting infarctions and having half a thigh removed, getting shot by strangers, being abused by your own dad. That the two times in his whole life that he had given his heart to another person, they had ultimately left. And that the world was not the cruel place he had known it to be since he was five.

In the end, there was no answer for all that had happened in his life.

He was tired of running away, tired of constantly searching for answers. The fight against the current that was his miserable life was just too tiring. Tired of clinging onto a hope that seemingly did not exist.

He took the letter and shoved it under the mattress together with all the letters he had collected over the months.

Gregory House was finally admitting defeat.

Clutching a plastic bag containing his meager belongings and his cane, House limped out the gates of the prison, finally a free man. Only to see the one person he had been avoiding for the past four years.

Wilson unfolded his arms and rose from his car at the sight of House. Their eyes met for a short while before House shifted his gaze to the floor in front of him. He didn't move a step further away from the prison gate. Wilson walked up to his best friend.

"Why are you here, Wilson?" muttered House. You don't have to do this.

"To take you home." Wilson jerked his head towards the waiting car, "Come on."

They spent the evening with a couple of beers in front of the TV, watching trashy monster truck rallies that Wilson had taped. They even managed to some semblance to the witty banter and snarks that they used to engage so easily in years ago.

But with every minute that passed, House felt parts of him die little by little. For the first time in 4 years, he was eating Wilson's cooking, sitting in Wilson's couch, watching television with Wilson. And he couldn't deal with it. He felt unworthy of it. He felt unworthy of Jimmy The Faithful Best Friend.

"It's getting late, Wilson. I'm going to bed."

Wilson looked at his watch. It was barely 9pm. By House's usual standards, the evening had barely begun. He glanced at his friend. "Okay, I'm feeling tired too."

House struggled to his feet, barely hiding a grimace of pain. His right thigh had been a prime target in jail, and he was no longer on the Vicodin seeing how he had had all his pills forcibly taken away from him anyway. As he turned to limp back into the room, Wilson spoke.

"House, before I forget. I've already applied to have your medical license reinstated. I spoke to the new dean, Jones, and he's willing to take you back as soon as you get your license back."

The silence hung in the air like deadweight.

"Thanks, Wilson." He swallowed hard, "You're… you're a good friend."

The last statement came out barely louder than a whisper, but Wilson heard it clear and true.

Something was not right.

The next morning, Wilson lugged his body out of his room and left for work, not bothering to wake House, whom he knew always slept in anyway.

He came back in the evening to an empty house. House's room door was shut, and he knocked on it, "House? You there?"

There was no answer.

Wilson pushed open the door. The room was pristine, the bed was made. It hadn't even been slept in. And there was no sign of House. Wilson spotted a piece of paper on the desk. He picked it up with trembling hands.

I'm sorry, was all it said. And attached was a cheque for 31,892 dollars and 83 cents.