Wilson is there when House is brought out. He's moving slowly without his cane, his face creased with pain and exhaustion. There is a faint tremor in his hands and his eyes are rimmed with red. Wilson watches him with concern. He's still feeling a lot of anger and resentment towards House but he can't be oblivious to the man's withdrawal symptoms. He's seen them enough times to recognise the hell House is going to go through in the next few days, detoxing under the court order. Again he curses the circumstances that have brought his friend to this point. If only Cuddy hadn't had the cancer scare, if only she hadn't found out that House had taken a Vicodin, if only she had been more understanding, if only House had tried to win her back instead of going on a hedonistic binge, if only they had both been different people...
If only he hadn't gotten out of the car.
If only he'd stopped House. Somehow.
He folds up the bunch of paperwork they gave him at the desk and shoves it into his pocket. He holds out the cane he's retrieved to House and watches as he slowly takes it. Neither of them have said a word, not here, not in front of the bored police officer.
It's not until they are standing on the steps outside the police station that House talks to him.
"Did you bring my Vicodin?"
Wilson's left hand curls into a fist. The cast on his right prevents the action but his fingers twitch.
"No," he answers curtly, "surely a genius like you would be able to understand the terms of your bail? No alcohol, no narcotics, no fleeing the country. I've just put half my life savings up in bail for you. I don't intend to lose them."
"You won't lose the bail money if I take some pills, that's only if I flee the jurisdiction. So you better lock up my passport because there's an island bar with my name on it, just waiting for me."
Wilson knows that House had been forced to surrender his passport upon arriving back in the country so he ignores the ideal threat.
"You need to detox, House. It will be better if you do it now, rather than..." he trails off, not willing to face that reality right now, the thought that House may well be going to jail for real. Surely the court will see that he was completely screwed up when he drove his car into Cuddy's house? He can't be held responsible for his actions. Except, he had the presence of mind to get Wilson out of the car first, and to walk calmly away afterwards, return home and pack a bag, and get on a plane.
He knows how it looks. House went to his ex-girlfriend's house, saw her on a date with a new boyfriend and in a fit of jealous rage drove his car through her house. Domestic violence. There's been a campaign all over the news advocating treating domestic violence more seriously, it's an election year, House has had previous skirmishes with the law. They're going to throw the book at House. House is going to jail, they both know that.
House looks away from him, apparently he's not willing to say the words either.
"I don't want to go to rehab," he says quietly, looking down at the ground. Wilson hears the fear in his words. He doesn't know exactly what happened during House's last rehab, but he knows it must have been bad. "I need the pills, I'm in pain."
Wilson closes his eyes momentarily. He knows House has chronic pain, he didn't prescribe Vicodin for him for years for no reason. He knows that his pain is worse now because of the recent surgery, surgeries, on the leg. (And there is another point where he should have stopped House. What sort of lunatic thinks they can operate on their own leg? He should have insisted House see someone, maybe had him held for forty-eight hours...) But he also knows that House survived for a year without the pills, and there is no choice, one of the conditions of his bail was that House not take any narcotics. If House breaches that he'll be back in jail, and he won't be coming out again.
He shakes off his thoughts and opens his eyes again.
"I'm not taking you to rehab," he says, "you're coming back to the loft with me. We'll stop by your place first and get what you need. You're staying with me until this is over. You can't have narcotics but I will do everything I can to help you get through it. Then you can go back on the regime you had before you relapsed. "
House looks at him, and there's a flicker of somethingin his eyes. It's not gratitude because House doesn't do that, maybe it's relief. That this hasn't broken their friendship, that Wilson isn't abandoning him.
Or maybe Wilson is just seeing what he wants to see.
They don't talk about what happened when they get back to the loft and House is grateful for that. It's already been a day without his pills and it's all he can do to put one foot in front of the other let alone focus on discussing what a useless shit of a human being he is. He knows Wilson will have plenty to say on the subject, and there will be post mortems and recriminations and probably shouting. At some point he'll have to face up to what those few mad moments have done to his life, but for now he just wants to soak in Wilson's tub and then crash into oblivion on his old bed. Maybe, if he tries hard enough, he can pretend that Wilson never kicked him out of the place, that Cuddy never came to him when he was at his lowest, and that he didn't drive his car through her wall.
Wilson waits until House is in the bath and then makes the arrangements with work. Cuddy is not surprised that he wants a week off, she agrees easily but doesn't ask about House and Wilson doesn't mention him. House has always been the thing that they have in common, a bone that they sometimes fought over, sometimes shared, and sometimes snapped in half and each took their own piece away. Now she's relinquished him to Wilson entirely. He doesn't know if he is strong enough to carry him by himself. He's tired and hurt, and House is heavy. But there's no-one else, not for either of them.
He carefully clears the loft of alcohol, pouring each bottle down the sink. Then he calls Chase and asks him to bring over what he will need. When it arrives he locks the supplies away and puts the key around his neck on a chain.
He's woken at midnight by a low soft moaning coming from House's room, followed by the sound of retching. He lies awake staring at the ceiling for a minute before he can gather his strength to go and see to his friend.
It could be because he's done this before, it could be because he's not been taking the pills for so long this time, or it could just be the fact that he's not tied to a bed in a cell, but this time it's better. It's not that it doesn't hurt, it does, the pain makes his normal pain levels seem like a walk in the park, but Wilson is there, and he has a seemingly endless supply of non-narcotic medication, ice packs, heat pads, whatever House needs it seems Wilson has it. House lies in his old bedroom in the loft, sweating into the sheets, shaking and trembling and moaning with pain, and Wilson fetches and carries, cleans him up, wipes him down. He doesn't lecture and he doesn't complain, in fact he doesn't talk much at all. He's just there.
Every time he looks at the man he sees that cast on his arm. The break that he caused. It looms larger and larger in his mind until he sees it in his nightmares. He sees Wilson lying on the ground, dying, because he didn't get out of the way in time. He doesn't know why Wilson is hanging around, why he's taken time away from his patients to do this. He doesn't know why Wilson wants to help him when he should be running the other way.
He wants to ask him why, but he's afraid. He's afraid that if Wilson stops to think about it he will decide that he shouldn't stay.
Wilson knows that the worst is over when House comes out of his bedroom, dressed in an old pair of jeans and a tee shirt. His feet are bare, and his hair is tousled. He looks like he's woken from a thousand year sleep as he shuffles along the hallway without his cane.
House takes a seat at the table in the kitchen. He puts his hands on the table and Wilson can see they still shake with a fine tremor. But as he looks at Wilson his eyes are clear, and when he talks it's without the anger and despair that has been in his voice the last few days.
"You didn't need to jump," House says calmly, in a flat tone of voice as if they were discussing the weather. House's eyes flit to the cast on Wilson's wrist and then dart away again. "You wouldn't have been hurt if you had just stayed where you were. I missed you by a mile."
Wilson's mind is full of accusations and justifications, of all the ways he can rip into House and make him pay for what he's done. He wants to take House by the shoulders and scream into his face, anything to make him realise what could have happened. He takes a deep breath, wills himself to patience.
"You were driving your car at full speed straight for me. I didn't know what you were going to do. I thought you were going to veer away but you kept coming. I didn't think, I just tried to get out of the way. I was scared, House. Can you understand that? My best friend, my friend of over twenty years was driving a car at me, and he's been so mixed up lately that I couldn't trust him not to hit me. I didn't know what you were going to do."
House looks at him then, and there's a small nod. A little agreement that yes, Wilson had a right to be scared.
"You didn't need to jump," he repeats firmly. "I would never have hit you."
"You could have killed Cuddy, and her guests. What if they had come back into the dining room? What if the impact from the car had caused a collapse in the house?"
House is looking at him now, his eyes wide. It's like he still doesn't get it. He still doesn't realise how serious what he did was.
"Nobody was hurt. Well, I'm pretty sure the car will never be the same again..."
"You traumatised her, House!" Wilson yells, banging his hand on the breakfast counter. "She can't sleep without pills, she won't let Rachel out of her sight, she can't go back to her house. She handed in her resignation yesterday, she's going. She's leaving the hospital. That's what you did. She loves you...loved you, and you did this to her."
Wilson is furious at House. For all her flaws, for everything she did wrong in their relationship, Cuddy didn't deserve this, she didn't deserve what House did to her, what House took from her. Wilson has to try and make him understand what he has done.
"You hurt her, House. Don't ever say that no-one was hurt because you hurt her. And you hurt me."
He stalks out of the room, leaving House sitting there. He doesn't know if he's gotten through to House, if any of it will affect House. He doesn't know if House will care.
Wilson goes back to work. House is left alone in the loft. There's not a drop of alcohol in the place, and of course there's no little bottles of Vicodin stashed around the loft, like there are at his apartment. He could leave, could go back home and get the pills. He could take enough to numb away this pain, to make it all go away. He starts the journey several times, once he gets as far as the door to his apartment before he turns around and leaves.
It's not that he thinks he shouldn't have Vicodin, he knows he needs it, he's in pain and he needs his painkillers. It's just, the last time he relapsed he lost Cuddy. Two pills, that had been all that had been needed to kill that relationship. If he takes a pill now he might lose Wilson, and if he loses Wilson he may as well take the whole bottle and call it quits for once and for all.
So he takes the damned ibuprofen and tries to pretend it's enough. He meets his lawyer, and faces the reality of what she tells him. Minimum of a year, could be much longer. He flips on the television and watches some of those prison reality shows. He calls Thirteen, but hangs up before she can answer. He wonders if she will be there when he's released, with a martini and a promise of a road trip, if only to ensure he'll still be around when it comes time for him to kill her.
The letter from the hospital Board terminating his employment comes the same day as the one from the New Jersey Medical Licensing Board suspending him. That's the day when he makes it as far as his apartment door before turning away.
Cuddy leaves. There is a large party of course, speeches from the Board members, gifts, flowers, drinks. Wilson stands on the periphery, watching as her friends and colleagues wish her well. Everyone knows why she is leaving, everyone knows what happened. It seems to Wilson that no-one in the whole hospital has any sympathy for House, although he's heard people laughing about what happened, saying they deserved each other. People who have hated House for years have approached Wilson, telling him what a fool he's been all this time. Only House's old team have asked him how House is, what he's doing.
He puts down his drink and makes his way out of the room. He feels like he doesn't belong there. She's never been his friend as much as she's been his ally. House was always first for her, as he was always first for Wilson.
"Wilson," her voice is soft behind him and he turns.
"Hey, good party." He smiles, tries to be the good supportive friend, the man everyone expects him to be.
She makes a face. "Half of those people who are wishing me well would have stabbed me in the back a few weeks ago. Deans don't make a lot of friends."
Nor do oncologists who are friends with Gregory House, he thinks. Cuddy comes over to him, and hugs him tightly.
"None of this is your fault, Wilson. I made a mistake, I thought I could be with him. I thought if I loved him it would be enough, that we could make it work. I was wrong, but I don't regret trying, I do regret hurting him though. I'm glad he still has you, but be careful Wilson, don't let him destroy you."
"He's sorry, Lisa..."
She makes a sound, halfway between a strangled laugh and a cry.
"Even if that were true, sometimes sorry just isn't enough."
She releases him and steps back, tears on her cheeks.
"You've been a good friend James, to both of us. Please, keep in touch."
He nods silently, he'll keep in touch with her as he kept in touch with Stacy. Two women House has hurt, and two women who have hurt him. It seems he's always destined to be in the middle.
He takes the bike to see what remains of her house. She doesn't live here any more, no-one does. The house sits silent, the front wall still in ruins, although it has been boarded and secured. No doubt the insurance companies are arguing over costs and procedures. Either way he'll be paying. It's the least of his worries.
He gets off the bike, his leg stiff from the ride, and stares at the house, trying to remember how he felt that day. He'd been in pain, from the incisions and the surgery, from the failure of yet another attempt to fix his leg, to provide some relief from the misery it brings him. The break up with Cuddy had still been an enormous open wound, something he didn't like to probe too closely. She'd cornered him, forced him to admit how much she'd hurt him. He'd decided to try and move on, to return the hairbrush that he'd kept from her when he returned the rest of her things. He was going to walk up the path, give it to her, and then go and get drunk with Wilson. Close that chapter of his life. Move on, get over it, all those things he was supposed to be doing.
Then he'd seen her with the man, laughing, carefree, while his own heart was breaking. He'd been angry, so angry. At her, at the nameless guy, at this crappy life, at himself most of all.
Smashing the car into her house had brought him peace, had silenced all the thoughts that had been running through his head. All he'd felt was a cathartic release of all the anger, and the hurt and the blackness that had been consuming him. He'd let it all out, in this moment of madness and it was like being free of a terrible burden.
When he'd walked away it had been with a lighter tread. When he'd stood on that beach and looked out at the ocean, he'd felt only peace.
He'd hurt her, and he'd enjoyed it. He'd hurt Wilson and it hadn't mattered to him. He'd found some happiness by hurting the people who loved him.
That's what scares him. What has he become?
It's the last night. House's lawyer has arranged a plea bargain, a year in jail, followed by a year of community service. It's better than the alternative of a court case, where he'll be found guilty - grief and loss and drugs aren't an excuse in the impartial eyes of the law - and up to five years in jail. It's better than Cuddy and Wilson having to stand up in court and give testimony against him, testimony that will send him to jail.
To Wilson it seems that maybe it means that House is taking responsibility for his actions, admitting his mistakes. Maybe it's some sort of commitment to start fresh after the year. He doesn't know whether that's just wishful thinking on his behalf and House isn't saying much. House has been clean for the last five weeks as far as Wilson can tell, but the spark that used to light his friend up is gone, the restless energy is gone. House is adrift, lost, facing a future full of uncertainty.
Wilson makes them both a nice dinner, and they eat quietly in front of the television. Wilson tries not to think about what House will be eating tomorrow, where he'll be. He can't stop thinking about all the prison movies he's seen, and wondering how House will function there, with his cane and his smart mouth and his inability to bend, to be what others want.
"How's the wrist?" House asks, his eyes fixed on the television, his words casual. Wilson looks at him, the cast came off a couple of weeks ago, House has never mentioned it, never asked about it.
"It's fine, simple break, no loss of function. No residual pain, no weakness."
"Good." House says and pushes his food around before putting his plate down, he's still looking at the television, not at Wilson. "I didn't want to hurt you. I didn't want to hurt anyone. Not like that."
"And yet you drove your car into a house."
"I might have been a bit upset at the time."
"Don't...don't say it was just a stupid moment." He thinks of the dive into the pool, the experimental medicine, the self surgery, the drug binging, House has been destroying himself ever since the breakup with Cuddy. "You need help, House, really serious help. You can't go on like this." I don't think I can either, he adds to himself, but doesn't say it aloud.
"I'm going to jail, Wilson."
Wilson swallows hard, he knows. Maybe the jail will have some sort of program that House can do. He knows it's a forlorn hope. House needs proper professional care, and he's only just accepting that now, when it's too late. It seems to be the story of House's life - only realising what he's risked when it's too late to do anything about it.
"It's only a year," he says, although a year in jail sounds like a lifetime to him now, "when you come out..."
When he comes out House will have no job, no license and another year of miserable existence in his past. If he comes out. House has precious little to hold onto at the moment, and he seems so fragile that it would only take a breath of air to knock him over for good.
"I'll be here," he says without hesitation, "I'll be here for you when you get out."
House looks at him then, his eyes hollow. He shakes his head.
"You're an idiot then, you should get away while you can. I'll only hurt you again."
It's not that he hasn't thought about leaving House to it, maybe following Cuddy's example and starting fresh somewhere else. But he walked away once and discovered his life was much better with House in it, for all the pain he can bring. House is his family now, and he's not about to lose another brother to the darkness, not if he can help it.
"I'll be here," he says and House shakes his head again.
He gives everything to Wilson for safekeeping. The keys to his bike and to his apartment, his wallet, his phone, the watch Kutner gave him. It's eerily similar to when he went to Mayfield. He'd come out out of there thinking there was some hope for the future, that maybe he could turn his life around, maybe he could find the happiness that had eluded him for so long. For a while things had seemed better, just a tantalising promise of what could be. He wishes now that Cuddy hadn't come to his door that night, although he doesn't know what he would have done if she hadn't. Maybe it would have been better.
He shoves a few bills in his pocket so that he'll have some money on him when he's released. Enough for a taxi, if he needs it. Then he sits silently in the car while Wilson drives him to the courthouse.
The judge passes the agreed upon sentence and the court bailiff steps forward to handcuff him and lead him away to his new life. House stands rooted to the spot as his hands are fixed in front of him. As he's led away he turns his head and sees Wilson in the courtroom, standing still and watching him.
When he clears out the meager contents of his pockets so they can take them away for a year, he finds a shiny key, hidden in one corner. A key to the loft, House hadn't put it there, it must have been Wilson. He holds onto the key for a minute, reluctant to surrender it but then hands it over and watches it go away. It will be there for him when he gets out, maybe Wilson will be too.
Wilson drives to work, ignoring the empty seat beside him. When he's at the hospital he goes straight to his office, sits behind his desk and pretends that everything is normal. He glances out to the balcony a few times and when he goes to lunch he averts his eyes from the diagnostics offices. House hasn't been there for a few weeks now, and his name is gone from the door, but it still hurts to see the others brainstorming in there without him. The team have been nothing but kind to him since it happened, but he doesn't want to see them and feel their sympathy. He doesn't want to see them try and fill House's place.
At night he returns to the loft by himself. He picks up Sarah as he walks into the kitchen and holds her tightly to his chest, feeling her purring with contentment against his shirt.
There's a calendar on the wall and he grabs a pen and crosses out the date.
One day gone.