After getting decked by Wilson and then invited to dinner, House didn't quite know what to expect when he was finally ready to go home after the lung transplant case. He was beyond tired, and briefly fell asleep in his office, feet propped up in the usual position on the corner of his desk. When he woke up a short time later, he looked around and marveled again at Foreman's handiwork. All of his stuff was back in its place, and he was still surprised, yet truly grateful, that Foreman had done that for him. Might not be a bad boss after all, he thought, as he hauled himself up and left for home.
Home – another wonderful thought. He couldn't wait to see his old place, even if it was full of a year's worth of dust. Wilson had the keys all that time, of course, but House had no idea if he'd ever checked on the place for him. He doubted it – not visiting him in jail seemed a pretty strong indication that Wilson had spent that time trying to forget about House in every way. House took a cab home and tentatively opened the door to his apartment. He flipped a light switch and was somewhat surprised that the power had been turned on, wondering who had taken care of that. He stood in the entry a long moment and just looked around. He had never been so glad just to be home, in the privacy of his own place. His eyes were immediately drawn to the piano, and he walked over to it and sat down on the dusty bench. He placed his hands on the keys, closed his eyes, and started playing. It didn't matter what. The instrument was out of tune, but that didn't matter either. He couldn't believe how much he'd missed this, and all of a sudden felt hot tears start to spill from his eyes.
The sound of knocking on the door startled him, and he stopped playing. He quickly brushed his hands across his eyes and got up to open the door. Wilson stood there with bags of take-out food, looking a bit stunned by House's appearance.
"Hi," Wilson said. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm better than okay. Why?"
"You seem, I don't know - you look like you've been crying."
"You're kidding, right? What would I have to cry about?"
"This must be a big adjustment for you, huh?"
"Just come in already and let's dig into that food. I'm starving."
Wilson took the bags into the kitchen and started opening cartons of Chinese takeout. House stayed in the living room and tried to collect himself. This is what he'd wanted, right? To have Wilson back in his life. But he knew he had more work to do if he really wanted Wilson to forgive him.
Wilson brought the food into the living room and put it on the coffee table.
"Thought you wanted a steak, Wilson. Why the Chinese instead?" House asked.
"Well, I did get a beef dish and a pork dish. I just thought – it's a tradition with us, you know?"
House smiled. "Yeah – tradition. Thanks. What do I owe you for this?"
"It's on me."
"No, that's one tradition I wanna get away from. I've let you treat me way too often over the years."
"Is that what the cafeteria Reuben was about? You wanted to shock me – make me realize that you can be generous?"
"Guess that plan didn't work, huh? You threw it in the garbage."
"Not because I didn't appreciate the gesture. I was just worried about my patient, and angry that saving her didn't seem to be your top priority."
"I know that now."
They ate for a while in awkward silence, and Wilson finally looked up at House as if he wanted to say something, but then hesitated and went back to eating.
"What?" House asked.
"It's nothing. I just…it's nothing."
"It's obviously something, Wilson. What do you want to say?"
"I'm sorry I never visited you in jail, House," Wilson finally blurted out. "I did think about it, often, but I just couldn't make myself do it."
"No, it isn't."
"It would've been depressing for you, Wilson. You didn't miss anything, believe me."
"But it might've made it easier for you."
"Maybe. Maybe not. Being reminded of what I was missing on the outside might've made it even worse."
"So, what was it like, really?"
"What was it like?" House thought about that for a long moment, and then said, "I don't really know how to answer that."
"Well, it was no picnic, but probably not as bad as you're imagining. I mean, it wasn't all bad."
"What made it not all bad?"
"I had a buddy, sort of. We were both targets, in a way – too physically vulnerable to fight back against the bullies running the place. And he played chess."
"You were allowed to play chess?"
"Yeah. He wasn't much competition for me, but he did get better over time."
"Did he ever beat you?"
"No. Playing kept my mind occupied, though."
"I had an old Walkman."
"Where'd you get that?"
"What did you have to barter?"
"What do you think? Pills."
"They had you on narcotics?"
"Well, not the whole time. At first they tried to wean me off, but it didn't work. My cellmate complained because I was up all night pacing, and puking every hour, so they put me back on Vicodin pretty quick."
"How much did you get?"
"Four a day, but I had to give up two of them."
"Who forced you to give them up?"
"The goons who ran the place."
"Didn't the guards run the place?"
"Ha! I wish. There's a hierarchy in prison, Wilson. The long-timers have power over the newcomers, especially if the newcomers are perceived as weak."
"You're not weak."
"They saw me as weak. That's all that matters."
"After you got the radio, you still had to give them half of your pills?"
"Yeah – just to keep them from periodically pummeling me."
"So you went ten months on two pills a day? That's quite an accomplishment."
"It didn't feel like an accomplishment. I did what I had to do to survive. Without the music, I don't think I would've made it."
Wilson cocked his head, and turned around to glance at the piano. "When I showed up here, had you been playing the piano? I thought I heard music as I was coming towards the door."
"That explains it."
"Why your eyes were red and damp." House looked away from Wilson and sighed. "It's nothing to be ashamed of, House."
"I know," House finally said. "I just … once I started playing, it was kind of overwhelming, you know? I missed it so much, Wilson. I missed a lot of things, but that was a big one."
"And what about people? Did you miss people?"
"Well, I was surrounded by people all the time. Too many people. People who didn't know me or understand me or give a crap whether I lived or died. I thought about Cuddy a lot, and I thought about you."
"Well, Cuddy's gone, but I'm still here. You still have me."
"Do I, really?"
"That's good to know."
"There are others, too, you know, who are glad you're back. You should've seen Foreman at that board meeting. He really made a case for you, with people who didn't wanna hear it. But he convinced them. He's got your back; don't forget it."
"I never thought he gave a damn. Who knew?"
"You have friends, House – more than just me."
"But none better."
"I haven't been much of a friend for a long time."
"That's not your fault. I'm the one who snapped and did something incredibly stupid."
Wilson couldn't argue with that, so he just went back to eating. "So," he finally said, "You really can't go out until the ankle bracelet comes off, huh?"
"Nah, but being here isn't so bad."
"Guess we'll have to keep getting takeout, then, for a while."
"Guess so." House looked up from his food, surveying the room and then settling his eyes back on Wilson. He couldn't think of anywhere he'd rather be than in his own living room eating takeout with this man for company, and a smile slowly formed on his face.