I don't own House or Wilson, or Cuddy, and this fiction is not intended to violate the owners' copyrights. The legal validity of this story is not important-please take it as a fantasy. It is AU, a one-shot, set after Season 8.

Greater Love

"Will the prisoner please rise," the bailiff ordered.

House climbed awkwardly to his feet, leaning heavily on his cane. The gray pin-striped suit, new at his first court hearing and arraignment, now hung on him.

"Normally, a prisoner stands for sentencing," the judge said, but your case is very complicated. Please be seated for now, Doctor House. This is going to take a while."

Startled, House stood for a moment more. His attorney touched his arm. House eased himself back down into his chair. He rested his cane against the table and stared down at his clasped hands.

The judge continued, "We have heard three days of remarkable testimony as to Doctor House's character, following the District Attorney's explanation of the charges against him. Since the defendant turned himself in and pled guilty to everything, I find myself in the peculiar position of overturning some of the guilty pleas.

"Let's start with your failure to report to prison to complete your original sentence. The Parole Board acted within its authority but beyond the bounds of reason. I am sentencing you to one month to complete your previous sentence, satisfied by time served. The rest is overturned on the grounds that the extra time was assigned to you due to your heroic act in saving the life of a fellow inmate, despite knowing the likely consequences.

"Then we have the matter of your prank regarding hockey tickets flushed down the toilet and damaging the hospital's plumbing and an extremely expensive piece of equipment. Doctor Wilson admitted to flushing the tickets in his final letter. He said that he certainly had no idea that the tickets wouldn't dissolve in water and he said he did it out of frustration that you had no intention to use them. While I'm not convinced that is what occurred, I can't argue with a man who is dead and beyond cross examination. And I see no purpose in trying to draw any criminal act out of what seems to be nothing but a failure to discard something wisely on the part of an unknown party. No criminal act has been committed and the extension of your jail sentence is hereby vacated. The hospital's insurance has covered the cost. The actual cost will be charged to Doctor Wilson's estate, despite the complexity of that estate, consisting in part of your estate that you left him, except, of course, you aren't dead, and other bequests are involved, and Doctor Wilson left the bulk of his estate to you. Your accountant says you can afford it, and still have enough to live on for a considerable length of time. Court costs also will be charged.

"There is the matter of faking your own death. Because the insurance company ruled it a suicide, no settlement was paid to your mother. It's a moot point.

"Now we come to two charges that are more serious. The first is flight to avoid incarceration and prosecution. It was probably interstate flight. Your exact whereabouts are hard to verify and Doctor Wilson made sure that there is little objective evidence to place you anywhere for the last five months. With hard work and considerable expenditure of the taxpayers' money, witnesses or surveillance camera footage might be located. The Federal Attorney for the State of New Jersey and the District Attorney have both concluded that since you turned yourself in, prosecution is not worth the cost and effort. Federal and State charges are dropped.

"However, you did impersonate a dead man. And in your own unique and convoluted way, even that turned out for the best. By returning to set the record straight, you provided closure to the man's family. In all likelihood, had you not done so, they would have never known what happened to him. It is, nonetheless, a serious matter.

"Accordingly, I sentence you to serve four to twelve months in the custody of the New Jersey Department of Corrections. I am modifying the order to avoid the disastrously misguided placement you received in your first sentence. You will serve in the Correctional Institution at South Woods where you can receive the treatment that will be part of this order. You will not be sent to the general prison population. I am also issuing a protection order against Doctor Sykes, who refused your reasonable request to try a simple treatment to save the life of your fellow prisoner. Doctor Sykes will have no contact with you and no say in your care.

"Now this is where you will have to work with us, Doctor House. I am ordering you to participate in therapy to deal with your grief over Doctor Wilson's passing and also for anger management, along with other psychological treatment deemed necessary after assessment, subject to my approval. In addition, you will be assessed and treated for management of your chronic pain. Testimony by the expert witness presented by your counsel indicated shocking neglect by your physicians in this regard, even though they were your friends. If it takes a court order to seek some relief for you, then it is high time!

"And last but hardly least, I order that you will be kept under a suicide watch until I can be convinced that it is safe to release you to general treatment. I agree with Doctors Foreman, Chase, Cameron, Cuddy, and the late Doctor Wilson, that it is desirable that you return to the practice of medicine. If you complete your treatment successfully, not only will you be released from prison, I will recommend the reinstatement of your medical license."

The judge clasped his hands on the wooden desk. "Please rise, Doctor House." He waited while a shocked-looking House was helped to his feet by his attorney. "Being Jewish, Doctor Wilson most likely would not have used these words from the New Testament, John fifteen, thirteen. They are, however, appropriate to your strange journey. 'Greater love hath no man but that he gives his life for his friend.' This, Doctor Gregory House, in your most baffling and difficult , magnificent, and misguided way, is what you did for Doctor Wilson. Accordingly, I'm giving you your life back. Don't throw it away." He banged the gavel. "It is so ordered."

House's attorney reached out to shake his hand. House took his hand mechanically. Foreman, then Chase, clapped him on the shoulder. Thirteen walked around the wooden rail and stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. House's mother, arm supported by Doctor Foreman, threw her arms around her son's neck. House stood with his gaze focused resolutely on the floor in front of him.

All of House's supporters stepped out of the way as Lisa Cuddy came to stand facing House. Her hands were clasped nervously in front of her. "House," she called.

House jerked his gaze up to meet her eyes. "I'm sorry, Lisa," he said. He looked away.

"I'll visit you," she said, "when you're ready."

"Why?" House asked, voice barely more than a whisper.

Cuddy did not get the chance to answer, as an officer moved in to secure House's wrists in handcuffs. House allowed himself to be led away, limping heavily without the support of his cane.