Thursday, April 9, 2009
On the couch, nursing my damn leg
Gregory House, M. D.
I took the day off from work today. Told Cuddy I had to go down to the Depart of Motor Vehicles to renew my license and registration because I forgot about it and they sent me a notice. It was a lie, but it's none of her damn business that everything is ganging up on me
and my leg has been feeling like it's made of lead.
Every time I turn around, there stands (or sits …) Amber Volakis with that self-satisfied smirk
on her face. I can't get rid of her and it's driving me crazy. She talks to me like she's my
mother and I'm her kid.
Oh no ya don't kiddo … I've got a mother, and she's already got me crazy. So take a hike. Get lost. Bye bye. Good riddance.
Wilson has been so nice since we got back from Lexington that I just want to punch his lights out and leave him unconscious in a corner somewhere. He knows something is up, but he hasn't figured it out yet. He'd be grossed out if I said I've been spending days and nights with
his dead girlfriend. He'd probably punch my lights out. It's getting harder to concentrate and harder to focus beyond the damn leg pain.
I stink like booze and I think I'm still a little plastered. I finished a fifth of Maker's Mark last night and spent the night on the couch with the heating pad. Didn't help. My Vicodin bottle
is almost empty. I need another scrip, and it's way too soon. I still have the stash in the bath, but that's for emergencies. Wilson will crap himself if I ask for another one …
I still have that: 'nobody-tells-me-what-to-do' thing that's imbedded so deeply in the basic blueprint of who I am, that I wonder if I can ever get it out.
I'm working on a particularly difficult case, and it's trying to fry my brain. There's this man and his wife; each determined to die so they can donate their organs to each other. Both of them are circling the drain and still fighting about who's going to live and who's going to die. I haven't figured it out yet … but I will. I will.
I keep seeing Amber, damn her, around every corner and skulking in the lobby and the cafeteria and my office. The kids keep looking at me like I've got two heads, and things are getting dicey. I need to do something …
Dad though … fortunately he stayed at home in Lexington … sleeping with the dog.
Foreman said he'd page me if there were any drastic changes in the case, but so far, nothing.
I finally admitted to Wilson that I've been hallucinating … and he looked at me with that puppy face he does so well. He said: "Hallucinating what?"
I told him My Dad. But it's not Dad.
I can't tell him about Amber. It isn't because I don't want to hurt him. That's crap, and he'd catch on right away. I don't want to see the exasperation on his face because he'll think it's just another one of my schemes to screw him over. It's not, but I know I've cried 'wolf' so many times that he'd think it was …
For now I nurse my wounds and watch what I say and try to keep the lid on. Don't know
how well that's working. I'm a mess and the more drugs I take, the more I need, and it won't be long until things go completely out of control. I asked for it, I guess … but what the hell
am I supposed to do? Die screaming in agony?
The freak-show stuff at work is getting me down. Cases I used to breeze through like shit through a goose are getting harder, and my mind doesn't focus long enough for me to figure out the clues logically and get the job done. Every move I've made lately is being watched by somebody. I feel eyes boring into my back everywhere I go, and I want to curse and swear and tell them to just knock it the hell off and let me alone. Can't do that though, or they'd know for sure that I was nuts.
Foreman told me yesterday to get the hell out and go home and get some rest before I end up killing someone.
Cuddy told the kids they weren't allowed to write scrips for me anymore, no matter how much I threaten … or how hard I beg.
Cameron looks at me with cow-eyes … and the expression is flat-out pity. I can't stand it. I won't go near her.
Chase doesn't give a shit anymore. He's a blank slate. Good for Chase.
Thirteen comes to work exactly at nine … goes home again precisely at five. She's the only one who still treats me like a human being. She and Wilson; although Wilson is beginning to lose a little ground on that one.
Taub and Kutner? Taub looks at me like I'm the idiot of the month. Kutner shrugs and makes profound statements that sound like he's a professor from Harvard … but there's a deadly gleam in his eyes that tells me he's checking me out for the funny farm. Who-the-hell knows? Screw it!
Ahhh … my fuckin' leg!
Right now I'm hearing a key in the lock.
Oh hell, it's only Wilson.
"Hey …" Wilson said.
"Hey yourself. You look like a Geek bearing gifts."
"I think that's 'Greek bearing gifts …'" Wilson moved the empty Maker's Mark bottle off the coffee table and set down the bag of Chinese food he'd been holding. He turned to House with a frown of concern.
"What're you doing here?" House wanted to know.
"I brought you dinner. You look like you haven't eaten in a week. I know you lied to Cuddy. You don't need a new license or registration, since you got them a month ago. There's been no change in the two people your team is treating …"
House did a slow burn. Something wasn't being said … "What else?"
Wilson sat on the coffee table and leaned forward. Their faces were very close. "Lawrence Kutner is dead, House. He killed himself this morning … or late last night. He didn't report for work and didn't answer his land line or cell phone. Hadley and Foreman went looking for him. He was in his bedroom … on the floor, half under his bed. I told Cuddy not to call you; that I'd come over this evening and tell you in person. I'm sorry."
House did not say anything right away. He was propped awkwardly on the couch, his hand,
as always, covering his thigh. The heating pad lay crumpled where it had slid onto the floor. House's dark head went down. He took a deep, shuddering breath and looked up again at Wilson's face, eyes suddenly red-rimmed and bright with unshed tears.
"Gunshot wound. They found the gun."
House had his bottom lip between his teeth, his lined face a topographical map of misery. He was not weeping, but he was close.
Wilson's face was a mere three inches away, blotchy with a sympathy he couldn't hide.
House took another deep breath, and this time the tears fell. There were too many to hold inside any longer. His chin went down onto his chest. Ironically, the first thing that came to his mind was the fear that he might soon be seeing Kutner again, talking to him in the afterlife.
Wilson moved in, his arm reaching across to clasp House just behind the shoulder. Gently, but firmly, Wilson drew his friend's head forward onto his own shoulder. The front of his white work shirt was quickly saturated as House allowed himself to be comforted by this most important person in his life.
"Do you have any idea how much you mean to me?" Wilson whispered. "It had to be me who told you about Kutner. I knew you could face it in the cold light of day, but with the way your life has been going lately, why should you have to?"
"What do you mean?" House pulled away and sat back, hissing in pain as his leg began to cramp again.
"I don't mean anything," Wilson whispered. "Except that I care about you in every way possible whether you believe it or not, and I didn't want you hearing about this from anyone else, and have to use your 'I-don't-give-a-shit' attitude until you could sneak out of there. This way you didn't have to."
"Do you think I'm weak?"
"No, House. Anything but. But you need a break. I can't let you end up like Kutner. I don't know what's been going on with you lately, but I know something is. If you choose not to tell me, that's okay. I just wanted you to be able to get used to what happened to him before you have to listen to all the nasty speculation that's going to breed like Ebola virus around that hospital."
House took a deep breath and pulled away from his strangle hold on Wilson. Gingerly he sat up. "What made him do it? Why would he kill himself? He had the makings of a good doctor. I never saw it coming, did you? Never saw it …"
"No, House. No one did. It took us all by surprise, and we were shocked. I'm sure there'll be an inquiry. For now, have something to eat and if you want to talk about it, then we will. If not, I guess it can wait. He's not going anywhere …"
It wasn't like they had much of an appetite. The food was spicy and delicious; kept piping hot in the insulated containers. But the ritual of eating seemed almost disrespectful in light of Dr. Kutner's body laying cold and still in the hospital's morgue.
"Sorry, Wilson," House said finally. "I just don't have much of an appetite. Thanks anyway."
"Me either," Wilson agreed.
As he sat there, he became aware of House's body suddenly stiffening. The blue eyes widened, and House's full attention riveted on the baby grand piano in the corner across the room.
"House?" He said, "what are you looking at?"
House continued to stare as his forehead broke out in cold sweat and tears once again threatened to break through the iron grid of his control. House was at the end of his rope.
Vibrato: searching for the pitch. No bass, all treble clef; the tinkling sound of tiny bells. Treble clef on the baby grand. Then the voice. Unmistakable. Feminine. Familiar, wavery, not quite on key …
"Enjoy yourself … it's later than you think …"
Amber Volakis in the style of Kenny Gardner.
He must have spoken her name out loud. Wilson was looking at him like he had just pulled the bung out of a leaky canoe.
"W-what did you say?"
"God, Wilson, I'm so sorry. I'm so freakin' sorry. It's happening again and I don't know how the hell to stop it."
"Stop what? House … what? Talk to me."
"I'm losing it, Wilson. I've been hallucinating for weeks. It started at Mom's, and I don't know how to make it go away."
"Hallucinating what? Are you hallucinating now?"
"I've been seeing Amber. She's been popping in and out since we had lunch at the Country Cupboard in Lexington.I never meant for you to know. I didn't want to make it more difficult for you than it already is. I'm so sorry. The news about Kutner got it all going again … and she's over at the piano right now. Ahh … Wilson …"
Wilson paused and looked across at House's baby grand. No one was there, and no music was playing. "House, it's all right. She's not really there."
"Yes. She is. In my screwed-up mind, she is …"
Quickly, House was up; on his feet and grabbing his cane. He raced from the living room and hurried down the hallway to the bath. The door closed and Wilson could hear the sounds of retching. What little food his friend had consumed did not stay down long. Wilson got up and walked down there also. He stood by the bathroom door, quietly waiting.
Finally the door opened again and a pale, washed-out House emerged. He was hobbling, the toes of his right foot barely touching the floor. The cane was nearly useless. Wilson half led, half carried him to his bed; helped him into it and helped him lie down.
House was still whispering, "… sorry, Wilson … so sorry …"
Wilson left him for a few minutes and went back to the living room to turn off the TV, wrap up what was left of the Chinese food and put it in the refrigerator. He turned off the lights and hurried back to the bedroom.
… and he did what had worked before.
Wilson climbed into the bed and spooned himself against House's back. With his right hand he reached down gently until he found House's right thigh. And he cupped it. And rubbed. And pressed at the knotted flesh.
House turned his head a little so Wilson could hear him.
"I'm losing it, Wilson. I'm losing myself, and if I don't do something soon, I'm going to lose you too. And I don't want that. I couldn't stand it."
"Shhh … House. You're not going to lose me. Life without you is unbearably dull. I found that out last year when we tried to hate each other."
"I brought this on myself, Wilson. I wouldn't listen and my pain has turned me into someone I can't stand. I can't stand the pain, and now I can't stand the drugs. I have to go to rehab and do it right this time. Will you help me, Wilson? You told me once that you know a man in Philly who can get me into a good drug rehabilitation center. If I don't go now, I'm gonna die. I don't want to die."
"You're not going to die, House."
"How the hell do you know?"
"Because I made a promise to your mom that I'd look out for you, and you don't want me to break a promise to your mom, do you?"
"Oh God no! If you did that, we'd both be dead."
Against his spinal column, House could feel the pressure of Wilson's stomach as he tried valiantly to suppress a burst of gallows laughter. "See? All the more reason I should keep
you alive. Or maybe I'll just keep you. Period."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
Wilson lifted his head and peered over House's shoulder just as House lifted his own head and turned to look back at Wilson. They came very close to butting noses. "If you don't know what it means, then you're not the genius I thought you were."
"Okay. Just confirming a theory I had. We have to go to Kutner's funeral."
"Yeah. I know. Will you be up to it?"
"Yeah. I'm sorry I spilled the beans about Amber."
"It wasn't your fault. When you get out of rehab, she'll go to her final reward forever. But I'll be able to keep something even better."
"Yeah, I know. I grow on you, don't I?"
"Like mold, House. You warm enough?"
"Yeah. G'night, House."
"G'nite Wils-s …"
"I love you, you possum pancake …"
But the other man was already snoring.
This story has been a pain-in-the-you-know-what from beginning to end. Continuity has been a beast, and I'm still not sure I got it right. I took liberties with the ending, so please don't complain that House didn't go to Mayfield at the time I said he did. (I KNOW!)
I also took great liberties with House and Blythe's backstories. And even greater liberties with the friendship-relationship between Gregory House and James Wilson. I admit I did have a good time with John House's military training foolishness, and the chapter with him flying the F-14. Also, the story of how and where and when and with whom Blythe got pregnant with the son that we all adore so much.
I am sad HOUSE is over. It's like a member of my family has died. These stories are our way of keeping him (and Wilson of course) alive.
To those of you who stuck with me to the bitter end should all get medals for "beyond the call of duty".
I sincerely appreciate the reviews and the PMs … great fun.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I may see you all again.
Or I may not.