A Face To Call Home
House blinked his eyes open in the dark, but he the flying dust and ashes made his sight foggy and teary. He lay waist-deep underneath a pile of crushed wooden boards and the metal bars of what must have been the old, rusty headboard of a bed. All around him, the walls of the barrack had collapsed and the last crumbs of falling debris were still landing resignedly on the ground. A stethoscope hung from a hook pinned to what had been the entrance door and was still miraculously standing in its place. Gritting his teeth, House managed to sneak out of the trap, choking his right thigh with his fingers to suppress the wrath of the dead muscle. Eventually, he rolled down the pile of rubble and landed flat back onto the floor, panting heavily as the bad leg jolted in a few scary spasms.
There was blood dripping from his left ear. His eye socket was swelled and pulsating, sending a twinge of pain to the whole left side of his face at every beat of his heart. He couldn't see almost anything from where he lay: the sun had set and both the gas lamps that lit the small, enclosed space were gone, shot to darkness by the soldiers' rifles.
"So. Are we going home now?" Wilson stood on top of the pile, arms and legs crossed, dressed in his famous dark brown, flannel formal suit, carrying his leathered brown briefcase, his trench coat and red woolen scarf hooked on his right arm. His look was so out of place there, that House couldn't help but smile at his own inner sense of humor creating a perfect image of his best friend exactly as he would have looked on a normal, random winter weekday in Princeton in the past twenty-five years.
"Go away, Wilson." House's tone sounded somewhere between pissed and resigned. "I've got enough on my plate right now."
Wilson ignored him.
"I want to go home. I'd suggest you do the same." He declared.
House laid his leg upon what was left of a wooden stool, rubbing it with both hands.
"It's not like we can be torn apart, is it?"
Wilson hopped off the pile of wood, twisted metal and shattered glass in an agile move and sat down beside House.
"So why are you even here?" He asked playfully.
House closed his eyes, tilting his head back to relieve the pain in his eye and ear. "I probably got a concussion, that's my problem right now." He whispered. "Not in for self-therapy."
"Too bad." Wilson spread his arms. "I'm not gonna be here much longer, you know."
"You died." House noted flatly. "You're not gonna be anywhere, ever again."
"I'm always here." Wilson whispered. "I'm always with you."
"I don't believe in that sort of crap, you know that."
"I did. I believed in that sort of crap..." Wilson's hand touched House's shoulder. Chills ran down his very spine at that feeling.
This is so real.
"...And you're still seeing me." Wilson continued. "You still need me. I won't leave until you can walk on your own, House."
"I hit my head, I'm hallucinating." House's voice trembled. "You're just my memory of Wilson."
"Fair enough." Wilson smiled honestly. "But if nothing, we do live on in those who have loved us."
There was a moment of silence between the living and the dead, a frozen picture of House, bleeding profusely from a head wound, lying alone on a pile of dirt and rubble underneath a collapsed hutch of sorts.
What am I even doing here.
"Where's everybody else?" Wilson asked.
"I don't know. I heard the nurse scream, then the place blew up. I passed out. The soldiers must have thought I was dead."
"Where's the nurse then?"
"How the hell should I know."
"She's your nurse. You should go and check." Wilson flashed a look around. "Where's your patient?"
"Dead." House pointed at a wounded man in his thirties, lying motionless, stomach-flat in a puddle of blood. There was a gaping hole in his left temple, and several others pierced his back.
"They came for him." Wilson noted. "They wanted him."
"I kind of got that." House tried to sit up. His entire world went spinning all around him. "I just took him in, for god's sake."
"You took in the wrong person, apparently."
"He was sick. I don't usually choose sides. Sick is sick."
"I know, House." Wilson nodded. "I know."
"They could've spared the clinic." House managed to stand and pulled his cane from the rubble, miraculously whole if not for some minor scratches and a partly missing handle. "I was just here to inject vaccines."
"They must've thought you were hosting rebels."
"Yeah," House snarled. "They must've thought that. It's so Red Cross."
"So, what are you gonna do?" Wilson asked casually.
House turned back. "I need to find the nurse. And then get back to the hospital."
Wilson's stare looked scarily like he could read every inch of worry in House's.
He knew me well.
"You should go home, House." He whispered.
"I will. I just need to find Sadia, my nurse."
"No, I mean…" Wilson's compassionate gaze pierced House's soul right through. "Home. You cannot escape forever. You need to go back."
House turned from worried to plain sad.
"I've nothing to get back to."
Four months earlier.
Cuddy lay with her eyes wide open in the dark of her bedroom in San Francisco. That house she had tried to love like a home, those walls she had painted herself, every inch of loneliness that they enclosed were dissolving at that very moment into an explosion of inner warmth, something boiling up from her guts, rushing to her head, fogging up her rational mind in an aura of bliss. She had found herself crying, chin pointed into the crook of his neck, sweating and weeping at the same time. His hold was firm on her shoulder blades as they were catching their breaths, releasing their bodies for a passing fraction of time before diving back into it, deep into the unity of their bodies fading one into the other.
"House." She had whispered. "What are we doing?"
He had seemed to come back from the longest of journeys as the heat of their orgasm faded, lingering between them for a moment before dissolving in the dark of the first night of December in California. There had been no explanation to this shared moment of theirs, no rational line of thoughts that he could have possibly followed, to get where he was now, naked and panting into a mess of blankets, with her flavor in his mouth, her smell in his nostrils, her skin under his fingertips, in an unfamiliar room filled with her gracious presence that could light up the darkest of nights, warm his cold and grieving soul, forgive his mortal sins like a personal deity of sorts, some saving grace he could always find and he couldn't possibly be deserving of, who nevertheless was willing to help him up once again.
They had fallen back into the warm embrace of the bed sheets, where all the unexplained and unexpected of that night had rocked them both to sleep.
"House… what are we doing?" She had repeated, addressing the silent air around before falling into a dreamless sleep.
And then, neither had ever mentioned it again. Even the kiss they had almost shared the morning after was awkward again, out of place again, as if House and Cuddy's secret was a secret even to them.
"What?!" Foreman stared up at Cuddy from his desk, eyes popped out and surprise hanging mid-air between them.
"He showed up in San Francisco. I swear I had no idea."
"That's…" Foreman hesitated. The passing image of House's nametag stuck beneath the wobbly leg of his coffee table colored up his memory for a second. He tried to restrain his sense of realization, but it was overwhelming and surreal at the same time. "I must say, I had my own suspicions that he was alive somewhere." He added. "But that's incredible."
Cuddy sat down in front of him and bent forward, elbows pointed against the wooden surface, hands intertwined. "He took care of Wilson till the end. They were living somewhere along the coast. I have no idea how he pulled that off…" She shook her head, slightly perplexed herself even after all those months she had known him alive. "But he did, Foreman. And I've known all this time."
"He must have changed his name or something." He wondered.
"The way we met…" Her voice broke for a moment. "It was by chance. He had no idea I was working in San Francisco…" She swallowed a lump of tears. "When Wilson died… he was admitted to my ER first." She lowered her stare down to the silky, shiny polished table. "House was there. With him."
Foreman sat back. "And you saw him." He whispered.
"Not exactly." Cuddy stood again and began pacing the room, hands on her hips. "He tried to kill himself the day after Wilson's death."
"He did. I think he was just… overwhelmed. He jumped off a pier." Cuddy turned back to Foreman, trying to hold on to that very real moment, otherwise she thought she wouldn't believe her own words. "I saw him limp down the boardwalk. I swear I thought I was hallucinating." She shook her head. "But I wasn't. I rushed outside to see if it was him and by the time I got there he'd jumped already."
"And you saved him."
"Yeah. Sort of."
"Where is he now?" Foreman asked.
"That's the problem." Cuddy whispered.