A friend challenged me to write a House/OFC fic.

I was just really bugged by how TPTB keep insisting that people don't change. And I agree with that, because if you're stuck in the same environment and with the same people – there is no real incentive to change. So here it is - me sticking House in a different environment, with different people.

Wilson hammered on the apartment door.

"House? House! Open up!"

He'd silenced his phone during his dinner with Sam, not wanting to be disrupted. He'd checked his phone after dinner, and found Foreman's numerous voicemails.

As soon as he heard the usually unflappable Foreman describe House's emotional and physical state after losing his patient, he'd apologized to Sam, cut the dinner short, and dropped her off at home. Then he had sped all the way to House's apartment, breaking all the speed limits.

"House!" Wilson pounded on the door, not caring if he was disturbing the neighbours. "Open up or I'm coming in!"

Oh god. Wilson had no idea what House was doing. Knowing House, he could have done anything. He could be drunk and dead to the world, or smashing things up in his house. Or, Wilson thought with a shudder, downing Vicodin. Relapsing.

Wilson scrambled for the spare key he knew was at the top of the door frame. But when he turned the doorknob, he found that it wasn't locked. It opened easily.

The apartment looked remarkably normal. Messy, but that was House's usual.

"House? Are you here?"

He walked slowly down the hallway, a cold fear in his heart at what he would see.

There was no one in the bedroom. Then he went to the bathroom, and he gasped. Shards of the mirror lay all about the floor. Then he saw the hole in the wall, where the mirror used to be.

The two amber vials caught his eye.

He scrambled over to them, careful not to cut himself on any sharp glass, and checked their labels. They were from House's old stash. What did it mean, that House actually kept Vicodin around? Was it a contingency plan?

Worst of all, the vials were empty.

Wilson felt like vomiting. He ran out into the living room, trying to think of where House could have gone. Then he noticed – a few books gone. House's most prized trinkets and books. House's guitar gone. He ran to the bedroom. Wardrobe wide open.

He ran out to the garage. The bike was still there. Wilson felt some relief – at least House wasn't out there somewhere busting all the speed limits and putting his life at risk on that bike.

But the car was gone.

2 hours earlier

He sat against the bathtub. Just him, under the yellow light of the bathroom. Around him lay the shattered remains of the mirror. And in his hands was the amber vial.

He had tried so hard over the past year to stay clean and to pursue a happiness that didn't have Vicodin in the picture.

And yet here he was now. Running back to the pills.

He'd tried so hard to find happinesss, be happy, and change for the better. And yet it wasn't enough. He'd gone off the pills, but it wasn't enough.

Cuddy's words played over and over again in his head.

He had nothing.

He shook out two pills. He could almost taste them. He could almost feel the numbness that they would bring. Then it wouldn't hurt so much anymore. He clenched his fists around the pills. He'd been clean for one whole year.

They had never been willing to give him a chance. Wilson, maybe. But Cuddy? No, definitely not. She had Lucas now. And Wilson… Wilson actually paid his team to take him out. That was definitely a new low in their friendship.

Ever since he left Mayfield, and came back, he'd been playing catch up. And now it felt like he would never be able to catch up, ever. The one time he tried to connect and build meaningful relationships, the one time he tried not to be a misanthropic bastard, they don't give him a chance. He felt like he was running and running and running, but he was getting nowhere. He was stuck.

So it was just him, and the pills.

He downed the pills - he could feel them slide down his throat, travel down his esophagus. Soon, he would be able to feel relief. There would be no pain.


He lurched over to the toilet bowl, and dug his fingers down his throat. He gagged, and his stomach emptied its contents into the toilet bowl. Fuck this. Before he knew it, he was emptying the contents of the vials of pills into the toilet bowl. With a trembling hand, he reached out, and flushed the toilet.

He collapsed back on the ground against the tub. His heart was pounding in his chest, and he breathed heavily.

He'd almost thrown away a whole year of sobriety. He couldn't do that. He couldn't throw it all away.

He would always be haunted by the memories of those first few days in Mayfield – the chills, the bone-crushing pain, the vomiting, being tied down to the bed, having to rely on others to change the sheets and feed him and wipe him down. And his hallucinations; having Amber and Kutner appear. He'd thought he was losing his mind, which was the only thing he ever had.

It was the only thing he had now. He couldn't risk it.

He couldn't – wouldn't – do it again.

The pills were not an option. The pills were not going to be an escape for him.

He was alone.

So now what?

He liked being alone. Before the whole mess that was his growing attraction to Cuddy, he had been alone and fine. Okay, so there was Wilson. This time, he was probably without Wilson.

More alone, then. But he could handle that.

He always did manage to get by, be it when his entire team had quit, or when Wilson had left after the bus crash. Or when he was just a kid, at the mercy of his dad's 'punishments'.

That was when he decided: it was time to leave.

He couldn't find comfort and escape in pills any more. So leaving was the only form of escape for him left. What else did Princeton hold for him? Now, all it held for him was painful memories.

He needed to get away from here.

He painfully pulled himself up from the ground. He dragged himself over to his closet, and grabbed his spare cane.

He took a shower, and redressed the wound on his shoulder. Then he threw a couple of t-shirts and jeans into his suitcase. An extra pair of Nikes. The majority of the space went to his most prized possessions – a few rare medical textbooks, a few odd mementos here and there.

He hesitated, but grabbed a single picture. It was one of the three of them - him, Wilson and Cuddy. It was at some fundraiser they had managed to drag him to a few years back. They were standing casually together, drinks in their hands. Wilson and Cuddy with megawatt smiles, and him with just the slightest smirk.

He stuffed it into his wallet. Then he grabbed his guitar, zipped it up in its case. He contemplated writing a note, but decided against it.

He limped over to his apartment door. He looked back at the place he'd lived in for the past decade.

Then he walked out, got in his car, and left.