Chapter 34: Full Circle
Author's Note: Wow. Here we are, guys. The last chapter. Thank you all for staying with me. Remember everyone, this story is AU starting halfway through "Moving On".
Disclaimer: I do not own House MD.
As he comes out of his medically induced sleep, his hand immediately crawls his way down his leg, though at first he doesn't know why he's doing so. With a few blinks, he remembers the horrific past night. Please let it still be there, he pleads to no one in particular. Please don't take anything else away from me.
His hand trails over his knee, and with a squeeze, he realizes with a wave of blissful relief that his leg has not been amputated.
"You're lucky." A voice says from beside him. When he turns his head to see a very worn down Wilson next to him, he can't help but sigh in mild disappointment. Some part of him had hoped that perhaps he would wake up to Cuddy sleeping at his bedside, her hand in his, like after the DBS.
Apparently this time, he is not so lucky.
"What are you doing here?" He sighs. He still sounds hoarse and weak.
"You hoping for someone else?" Wilson asks knowingly.
"Hot nurse, candy striper, someone who doesn't speak English, someone who doesn't speak judgmental." He deflects. He mentally prepares himself for one of Wilson's patented, House-you're-screwing-up-your-life-because-you-like-being-miserable speeches.
Wilson surprises him by pushing himself out of the chair and grabbing a piece of paper tucked into a pouch at the foot of his bed.
"You've got mail." Wilson shares, unfolding the paper. "'I hope your legs feels better, and I hope we can be friends again soon, you bloody scallywag.'" Wilson reads. Rachel. Rachel wrote him a letter? Though he doesn't let it show, a hint of warmth flares in his chest. He opens his mouth to say something, but then chooses to close it instead.
"I have to pee." He says abruptly, not ready to face any genuine emotion so early.
"That's a good sign." Wilson says, placing the paper on a small table across from House's bed. Wilson offers him a bed pan, but House waves him off.
"I'm a big boy." He says as he pushes back the sheets and blanket. He swings his legs over the side.
"Of course you are." Wilson sighs, coming around to his side of the bed. He looks down at his heavily bandages legs and winces involuntarily. Wilson moves to help him out of bed, but he quickly slaps his hands away, and Wilson reluctantly withdraws.
He attempts to stand on his own, his leg screaming in protest, but it is still too weak to support his weight. As soon as he releases the rail of the hospital bed, his leg gives out, and it's all he can do to stop himself from crashing to the ground.
He gasps in pain, and Wilson simply stands, a silent observer to his struggle. Well, temporarily silent.
"You're an ass." And here comes the judging.
"What? For trying to walk on a freshly mangled leg? Or for performing surgery on myself? For thinking I can solve my emotional problems with rat medicine? If you're going to nag, the least you can do is be specific." He tries once more to stand, but this time Wilson helps him regardless of his wishes.
"Come on." Wilson says, and he is suddenly glad that in spite of his mistakes, in spite of the hell he's been through, Wilson is still here. He is grateful for that much, at least. Wilson throws House's arm over his shoulder and puts a hand on his chest to help him stand and walk.
"Listen to me." He says, his voice urgent. "You can't keep going like this. Something has to change." He sounds more emotional than he is used to hearing from his friend. Wilson always cares, but it's rare that he sounds so... he doesn't know. Scared? Hurt? He's not quite sure.
"Can I pee first?" He asks sarcastically before making eye contact with his best friend, their faces only inches away from each other. Wilson's face expresses the seriousness of the situation. It's not time for cute deflections, jokes, sarcasm. It's time to deal with things, to face up to what's happened. "I know." He says quietly.
That appears to be enough for Wilson, for now. But he knows that his words have not alleviated the deep worry that is written all over his friend's face.
I can't keep going like this.
"Any particular reason you just left your boyfriend alone in there with his ex-wife?" Wilson asked Thirteen as they exited the elevator on the first floor. Hennessy and Cuddy both glanced curiously at her, apparently wondering the same thing.
"They have some unresolved issues. They can't resolve said issues with me in there being the elephant in the room." Thirteen reasoned with an unconcerned shrug.
"How long have Chase and Cameron been divorced for?" Hennessy asked, clearly not knowing the story behind the two doctor's divorce.
"It's been about two years, hasn't it?" Cuddy asked, looking to Wilson for confirmation. He nodded.
"Roughly." He responded as he opened the door to the cafeteria, allowing the others to walk in before him. "Hard to believe, isn't it?"
"It's kind of hard to believe they were ever together in the first place." Thirteen commented. "I like Cameron, I always have. But I know Chase, and I don't have a clue how they stayed together as long as they did."
"In some relationships, compatibility..." Cuddy shrugged as she took her place in the cafeteria line "It's not necessarry." Wilson pursed his lips, obviously knowing who Cuddy was referring to.
When they had each received their respective orders, (scrambled eggs and toast for Hennessy, a bagel for himself, an English muffin for Cuddy, and waffles for Thirteen) they retreated to the booth that Wilson and Cuddy typically sat at during their weekly lunches.
They ate in relative silence, each of them subdued by the distinct absence of House.
"Kim, you've got a double specialty, right? Neurology and psychology?" It had completely slipped his mind that the young woman was a neurologist as well. She nodded, covering her full mouth with a hand.
"Do you agree with Collins? Do you think House will wake up today?" A deep set feeling of unease had settled inside of him. What if this was more serious than any of them had guessed? House still wasn't awake...
"Well..." She began hesitantly. "If I were in her position, I would've made the same prediction. But with House..." She sighed, setting down her fork. "If I've learned one thing about that man, it's to expect the unexpected."
"You stood me up." Cuddy accuses as soon as she pushes back the curtain to reveal his bed in the ICU. He looks at her wearily over the top of his glasses.
"Sorry. I should have scheduled my patient's internal bleeding for Thursday."
"You're still playing the same petty passive-aggressive games." She states, anger flashing like lightning in her stormy eyes.
"Got you to go all the way to the second floor of the building you work in." He takes off his glasses and sets them on the bedside table. "Boy, did I screw you."
"You said you were going to change!" She bursts out. It's only been two days. Does she expect him to magically turn into a mature, responsible person over night? Has she even met him?
"Check the sign. It says you've got to treat me with intensive care." He snarks.
"I'm expressing my anger, you should try it! Right now. Let's finally have our fight." She begs, simultaneously angry and pleading at the same time. He doesn't understand how women can feel so many things at once.
"All we do is fight." He responds tiredly.
"No, all you've done is pull pranks... or have temper tantrums with Wilson, never me... marry mail order prostitutes, make me go to your wedding-"
"Dominica is a licensed esthetician." House interrupts at the express intent of annoying her.
"YOU CUT OPEN YOUR OWN LEG!" She yells.
"So all this was about you?" He asks rudely.
"You don't think it's even related? House, we've never even had a conversation about our breakup. You are obviously still angry at me, and it's hurting both of us."
"Wow. I didn't realize the incredible healing power of lunch."
He is straining to hold back his fury. Why does she want them to fight? Why would she want this magical, healing, closure-giving fight? He can't do this, he can't have this conversation with her. There is a reason he's essentially avoided her like the plague since the breakup.
Because if they finally have this fight, he's afraid of what he might say... of what he might do.
Chase and Cameron were actually having a conversation - not strained, just two old friends reminiscing and catching up. Despite the rather unfortunate situation he found himself in, he actually was laughing and smiling a little.
Being around Cameron reminded him of when things were... simple. Okay, simpler. Nothing was ever simple at PPTH. His mind drifted back to the days when he, Foreman, and Cameron were young, inexperienced doctor, dutifully following House and trying to learn from the cantankerous diagnostician.
"Do you remember the fifteen year old heroin addicted super model who slept with her dad, then ended up being a man?" Cameron asked, chuckling.
"Hard to forget. I think that was the most ridiculous case we've ever had." Chase responded with a slight smile.
"Any interesting ones since I've left? Well, more interesting than usual?" She inquired. Chase took a moment to think about the question.
"Hmm... well, we treated a cat hoarder a few months ago. Actually adopted one of the cats we found at his house... one of the hundreds. God, you couldn't imagine the smell." He suppressed a shudder at the memory of the odor of Jason Lakeland's house.
"Wow, which one of you?" She asked.
"It was Thirteen's idea. We just kept her in the office. No one really cares, everyone's accustomed to just letting the diagnostics department do whatever we want." He paused for a moment. "We named her Amber." He added softly.
Cameron was about to respond when they heard a soft moan from the bed. Both of their heads immediately jerked in House's direction.
"I think he did." They both got out of their chairs and made their way to the incapacitated doctor, leaning in close.
"House?" Cameron asked. "Can you hear me?" Chase bent forward as far as he could, so his ear was almost directly next to the doctor's mouth.
"...don't want to be you again..."
He sees Wilson's feet under the curtain, and he uses his crutches to spread apart the shield and reveal his friend, standing there with his arms crossed and classic caring-too-much look on his face.
"You're forging my names on prescriptions again!" Wilson starts of immediately, and House feels a moment of deja vu to nearly five years ago, when he had stolen Wilson's pad when the ketomine treatment had worn off.
"No." He replies simply, leaning forward on his crutches. "What you just said implied that I stopped at some point."
"Twenty minutes ago I put a notice out to all local pharmacies to require vocal authorization before filling in my prescriptions." Wilson shares as he uncrosses his arms, disappointment evident in his voice.
"Do you have any idea how much extra work you've just given yourself? You're not going to last a week." His defenses go up. And once more, he gets the delight of being under the judgmental scrutiny of Dr. James Wilson.
"I've been dealing with this for years... but it's over... your liver, your hearing, never mind the fact that each scrip your write is a separate felony. You will serve time, so could I!" He emphasizes as House leans his crutches against his hospital bed.
"You've chosen this moment to give me crap about my vicodin use?" He asks rudely, wishing Wilson would just leave him the hell alone. Being out of bed so soon after his surgery has taken a lot out of him. Right now, he just wants to get the hell out of the hospital, and sleep... and forget. Wilson picks up his vicodin bottle and reads the label.
"You filled this three days ago, now it's almost half gone."
"So is my leg!" He snaps as he begins collecting his things and shoving them in his bag. He hesitates for only a second before tucking Rachel's letter into the pocket of his leather jacket, which he also stuffs into his bag.
"It's a MONTH'S supply!" Wilson retorts. "The amount your taking has nothing to do with physical pain." How he expected Wilson not to figure out about his extra vicodin use or go without psycho analyzing him for it was beyond him.
"Okay. So maybe I am trying to numb myself a little. Because I'm trying to change. I'm trying to stop being self destructive." He explains.
"So, you can only handle not self destructing by being self destructive?"
"What do you want from me?" He asks, struggling to keep his voice down.
"I don't know House, but I'm worried about you." Of course he is. He's always worried. "I don't know how many times I can watch you cut off pieces of yourself. Now it's the ICU, next time it'll be the morgue! You're miserable, and you're angry, and I want you to actually DEAL with that, and not try and just medicate the issue away." He lectures. He's been able to see since he woke up in the ICU how much this is tearing Wilson up on the inside, but right now, he's not concerned about that.
"No. You know what I feel right now?" He asks rhetorically. "I don't feel miserable or angry. I don't feel good or bad. I feel nothing." I feel empty. He doesn't add this, however, because he doesn't want a speech on how he has to find meaning in his life or some such bullshit. He's learned to embrace this emptiness that has swallowed him since the break up, learned to hide himself in it. "Which feels great." He adds.
Wilson finally notices that House is collecting his things. "What are you doing?"
"Moving on. In the direction of my house." He says shortly as he throws his blue backpack over his shoulder. "Where I've got some more pills." Okay, he says that out of spite. Worry Wilson a little more. But he's pissed off, which is exactly what his friend wants. Mission fucking accomplished. Wilson looks at him with sad eyes as he brushes past him and out of the ICU without another word.
He sighs a deep sigh as he throws one leg over his motorcycle and haphazardly straps on his helmet. It's time to head home after his brief stint in the hospital. His leg is screaming with pain in spite of the dozen or so vicodin he has taken since his surgery. The only thing that rivals the pain in his leg is the pain in his heart. He had slammed shut the door on his feelings when Cuddy ended their relationship, and has been trying to outrun the heartbreak that was bound to catch up with him eventually. Wilson wants him to talk, to let it all out, but how the hell was that going to help? He feels much better numb. When he is numb, when he doesn't think, that's when he's okay. That's when he is normal. The vicodin and booze are the only two things that can halt his constantly racing thoughts, emotions, and of course, his pain.
As he starts up his motorcycle and rides smoothly out of PPTH parking lot, his thoughts flash to his pledge to change. How many times has he said he would change? Obviously since he finds himself making the empty promise yet again, he has failed miserably on his previous attempts. It has taken landing in a hospital bed for him to think that maybe it is time to try again. But could he really stop who he was? His friends (well, friend) always blame his rash, rude, and reckless actions on his vicodin abuse, or his alcohol problem, or his leg pain. As if that wasn't his fault as well. But do any of those things really have anything to do with it? Or is it just him? He's been consistently alienating people since he learned how to talk. He has always been rude, always been selfish. Peel away the addictions and pain, both emotional and physical, you don't have some self sacrificing saint. You still just have House. A misanthropic, bitter, apathetic son of a bitch. He thinks bitterly to himself as he stops briefly at a red light.
It doesn't matter, he decides, whether he changes or not. Because he will always be miserable. He will always be the man that-
His self pitying thoughts are cut off by a blaring car horn. Jerking his head to locate where the noise was coming from, he has only time to see the massive headlights of an eighteen wheeler before a slamming, unbelievable force crashes into him. He lets out one choking, strangled noise, then his entire world goes black.
House's eyes split open, revealing a familiar white space. He feels the cold steel underneath him, the lack of leg pain, and it only takes him a second to know where he is.
I'm on the bus again. He realized. His mind raked over the memories he had recovered since the one that was triggered the night before. For the first time since the crash, he has gained a true understanding of who he was before his memory was destroyed. Before he was, to put it in the most dramatic way possible, reborn.
He had see a man who was hurt, tortured, damaged and broken. Victim of a life of tragedy that was half his fault, half not. A man who had missed the lesson on how to cope, how to express his feelings without completely self destructing.
He couldn't bring himself to hate who he was before, anymore. He only felt sorry for him. He breathed deeply, and he smelled her, the scent of lavender wafting around him. The woman whose eyes he had watched close as she bled half to death on the floor of the cross-town bus. The woman whose voice had haunted him, dragged him to the brink of insanity. The first face he remembered when he woke up.
"Hey, House." She greeted, catching his eyes. He looked down at himself, and he was dressed in a hospital gown. Nothing hurt here, and it was a blissful feeling. "Long time no see."
"No kidding." He responded, shifting in the seat and enjoying being able to move without a bolt of pain tearing up his leg. "I remember."
"You remember some things." She said with a shrug, her long blond hair trailing down her beige coat. A red scarf was wrapped around her neck. The same red scarf he had wrapped around her leg when she was impaled. "Come on, quit dwelling on the past."
"I technically just learned the past, making it the present." House replied, running a hand through his hair. "Am I... am I dead? I thought I was dead the last time I was here."
"And you weren't then, so why would you be dead now?" She asked, a small smile forming on her red lips as she ruffled his hair. "This time, no semi. You just bumped your head."
"Am I going to remember everything?" He asked her worriedly. Just the few months worth of memories he had experienced were tearing at his heart. Everything from the pain in Cuddy's eyes as she said goodbye to him for the last time, the disappointment directed at him by Thirteen, the worry and sadness of Wilson's words as he pleaded with him to stop destroying himself.
"I don't know." She answered honestly.
"I don't want to." He said. "It's... I understand, now. I understand him."
"Him?" Amber questioned.
"The old me." He corrected. "I don't get it. You said I was getting a second chance. A second chance at what? If I'm just going to remember how shitty my life was, become the same misanthropic bastard..." He sighed, leaning his head back against the seat. "What the hell is the point?"
"You should have died." Amber observed. "That semi should have killed you, or the cardiac arrest afterwards. Why do you think you lived?" She inquired curiously. He shrugged.
"I never really put any thought into it. I was lucky." He raised an eyebrow at the ghost of the dead doctor. "What, are you saying it was divine intervention?" She shrugged with a smirk, averting her ice blue eyes. She stared out the window, even though outside of the pristine white bus, there was nothing but empty space.
"You're still alive, House." She said. "That's something that you should be grateful for."
"Yeah." House muttered quietly.
"Do I sense some unresolved issues?" A voice asked from behind him, right next to his ear. It wasn't Amber's. He jerked in his seat, turning to meet the eyes of the speaker, which were identical to his.
Electric blue eyes bore into him. Dark circles hung underneath them. He took in the other man's appearance. He had wild gray-brown hair that didn't seem to have been brushed in quite a while. A condescending smirk hung on his completely unscarred face. His muscles were thinner than his own, and he was skinnier as well. He twirled a cherry cane in one hand, examining him with an intense, curious gaze.
"Look who finally joined the party." He said. The man's voice was deeper than his own. Since the accident, his has remained slightly hoarse and nasal.
"You're..." He gaped at the other man, who rolled his eyes at his dumbfounded expression.
"What? Don't recognize me?" The man asked, cocking an eyebrow at him. He leaned forward, stomping the cane on the ground and resting his chin on the handle. The disturbingly familiar eyes held a spark of amusement. "Pretty sad, really... considering I'm you."
"Is there a God tonight, up in the sky, or is it empty just like me?"
A/N: Worry not, all questions will be answered in the sequel. There was a point to House reliving all these terrible memories. The sequel to "Empty", the working title of which is "Meaning", will show House on an emotional and mental journey to find out who he really is, and what he wants. I don't know when the sequel will be along, but hopefully it will be worth the inevitable wait. Now, I just want all of you - readers, reviewers, followers, and favoriters, that this story would not have happened without you. This being my first fan fic, all the love from you guys gave me the confidence to write my little heart out, and I have grown so much as a writer. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
By the way, if you guys ever get bored, I've been told my profile is mildly entertaining. If you liked "Empty", you'll probably like my other stories as well.