Wilson was tired. It had been a draining day—emotionally and physically. After all, it wasn't every day you dropped your best friend off at a mental institution. All he really wanted to do was make himself a cup of tea, take a bath, and go to bed.
But he had promised Cuddy he'd call her when he got home.
He looked at his watch. 11 pm. She was probably still up. He took a chance and dialed the number.
She answered after one ring.
"Where are you?" she said. There was an anxious edge to her voice.
"I'm home," Wilson said.
"I admitted him to Mayfield."
"The mental institution? House isn't crazy. What the hell is going on, Wilson?"
Wilson paused, swallowed.
"He was. . .hallucinating."
"He was. . .seeing things that weren't there."
"I don't understand."
"He was seeing people. Talking to them. . . Actually, it was mostly Amber."
"Amber? Your Amber? Like a . . .ghost?" Even as Cuddy said it, the words didn't ring true. House didn't believe in God, let alone an afterlife.
"More like an apparition, I guess," Wilson said. "And in the end, Kutner was there, too. They were talking to him."
"I know it's a lot to digest."
"But what does it all have to do with me?" she said. "He was going on about sealing agents in my lipstick and about me helping him. I couldn't make any sense of it."
"You were. . . part of the hallucination, too," Wilson said cautiously. Then he added with a nervous chuckle: "But I guess you figured that out when he announced from the hospital balcony that you two had slept together."
The fact was, she had just assumed he was finally referencing their Michigan tryst to humiliate her.
"I just thought he was trying to piss me off," Cuddy said, half truthfully.
"He was. On my advice, oddly enough."
"Never mind that. Suffice it to say, he was confused."
"Now I'm confused, Wilson."
"I am too. All I can say is, he's been through a lot lately. I think his own guilt over his role in Amber's death was weighing on him more than we know. Throw in his father dying, then Kutner. Plus his addiction. It was all too much for him. He had a . . . breakdown."
Cuddy closed her eyes, tried to absorb the reality what he was saying.
"I feel like a complete idiot. I didn't see it."
"No one did, Cuddy. We can't blame ourselves. House is a master in the art of hiding his pain."
"I still don't . ..I don't understand what role I played in all this. The other people he hallucinated were both dead."
"It's not my place to explain Cuddy," Wilson said. "I'm sure House will tell you when he gets out."
"And when will that be?"
"I don't know. First he needs to detox. That could take a few days, even a week. After that, talking therapy I guess. Anti-depressants. Or even. . . anti-psychotics."
Cuddy shook her head.
"House won't last a week at Mayfield. He'll just outsmart everybody and bluff his way out of there."
"I don't think so Cuddy. I think he's really scared this time. He knows he needs help."
"Now I'm scared."
"I know. Me too. But House is a strong guy. He'll get through this."
"When can we talk to him? Visit him?"
"I don't know. I'm assuming he'll contact us when he's ready."
Cuddy sighed, deeply.
"You're a good man, Wilson. He's lucky to have you as a friend."
"Today, I felt less like his friend and more like his jailer."
"You did the right thing. You said so yourself. House knew he needed this."
"He did. But it was hard to watch him go through those doors. He seemed so. . .small. Normally, House is larger than life to me."
There was a brief, heavy pause.
Finally, Wilson chuckled a bit and said, "So how was the wedding?"
"The wedding?" Cuddy said. She had almost forgotten about it. "Oh, uh, beautiful, I guess. A bit of a blur to be honest. I was distracted."
"I know. I can't imagine what must've been going through your mind."
"My mind is still racing."
"Just give it some time, Cuddy. All will be explained soon enough." He was trying—and failing—to sound sure of himself.
Then he yawned, involuntarily.
"You must be exhausted," she said, sympathetically. "Thanks for calling. Try to get some sleep."
"Yeah, you too."
After she hung up, Cuddy replayed the events of the day in her head. It was beginning to be more clear, but it still felt like she was missing huge pieces of the puzzle.
He'd had a hallucination of sorts—where she helped him (but with what?) and possibly slept with him?
Her mind flashed to House asking her to move in with him. So he had. . . meant that? He wanted a real relationship with her after all? She shook off the thought. Of course, she couldn't trust anything House had said or done in the past few days. He was, as Wilson said, having a breakdown.
How could she have missed the signs? How could she, one of the two people closest to House in the world, not see that he was falling apart? She felt like a horrible friend, a horrible person.
She closed her eyes and tossed and turned and tried, in vain, to get some sleep.
Predictably, Wilson heard from House two weeks later, some nonsense about running license plate numbers so House could blackmail his psychiatrist. But Wilson had been warned House would try to pull something like that—it was fairly typical behavior for inpatients to try to recruit their friends in escape plots—and Wilson, firmly, said no.
Then three weeks later, House called again. This time, he seemed more resigned to his treatment. They had a lengthy, surprisingly candid and substantial conversation.
The minute he got off the phone, Wilson made his way to Cuddy's office.
"I spoke to House," he said, standing in her doorway.
Cuddy was on hold with an insurance rep. She hung up without even bothering to say goodbye
She gestured for him to close the door behind him.
"How is he? How was the detox? Are the hallucinations gone? Is he going to be okay?" The words came out in a rush.
"Let's take 'em one at a time," Wilson said, smiling a bit. "He sounded good. Strong. Resolved. The detox was hell, he said. They had to chain him to his bed so he wouldn't hurt himself."
"Oh my God."
"I know. But he's clean now. And the pain is manageable. The hallucinations are totally gone. At first, he wanted to leave right away, just like you said. And he did everything in his power to scam his way out of there. But he has a doctor he actually seems to respect."
"Wow. The wonders never cease."
"I know. . . A guy named Nolan. And Nolan reminded House that he checked himself into a mental institution for a reason. Addicts go to rehab. People who had. . . psychotic breaks go to mental health facilities."
"You don't have to quite put it like that," Cuddy said sharply.
"How else should I put it? That's what it was."
Cuddy sighed, pursed her lips.
"So what else did he say?"
"He said that he and Nolan are working on his issues of trust. On gaining some humility. Asking for help. Admitting that he's actually human."
"Now that I'll believe when I see," Cuddy said, with a grim chuckle.
"Yeah, me too."
Cuddy looked down at her hands.
"And did he happen to mention me?" she said, trying to keep her voice casual.
"You didn't come up," Wilson said.
"Oh," she said, hurt.
"I'm just kidding. Of course we talked about you."
"That was mean."
"Sorry. With House out of the picture, someone has to give you grief."
"What did he say?"
"He asked if he was still fired. And I said no."
"And he asked if you were mad at him. And I said you were concerned, not mad."
"And then he asked how much you knew about his hallucination and I said, not much. That it was his place to tell you, not me. And he said he would write you a letter."
"Yeah. He's not allowed visitors. At least not anyone from the hospital. It's part of the therapy."
"We can't visit him?"
"He says no. But he promised he'd be in touch with you soon."
"So now what?"
"Now. . . you wait."
Three weeks later, an envelope came to her home from the Mayfield Psychiatric Institute from G. House. Cuddy ripped into it like she was a child opening a birthday present. She read.
Hey Cuddy –
Sorry about the handwritten letter. We're not allowed to have computers here, for reasons unclear. (We might be tempted to . . . write a manuscript? Play online solitaire?)
Lucky for you, I have halfway decent handwriting, for a doctor at least. Last time Wilson wrote me a scrip for Vicodin, the pharmacist gave me a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk instead. Heh.
So, I'm guessing you have lots of questions, huh? I wish I had all the answers, but I don't. (Some might say that sentence alone implies progress.)
Detoxing sucked. I mean, seriously sucked. Here is a list for you:
1. stabbing myself in with a hot poker in my eye
2. doing unlimited clinic hours
3. listening to Wilson talk about caring all day
These are just a few things I'd rather do than ever detox again. Yeah, it was that bad.
So now that part is over and I find myself, well, in the loony bin. As we like to say here in Mayfield, the accommodations at this hotel aren't that bad, but all the guests are a little crazy.
Do I fit in with the manic depressives, the schizos, the catatonics? No. But I guess I don't really fit in anywhere, do I?
My roommate is this live-wire who refuses to take his meds named Alvie. He literally won't shut up. I spent the first month tuning him out, now he's just part of the wallpaper. When he stops talking, I actually miss it.
I know… I know…You're stalling, House.
You probably want to know where you fit into all of this lunacy. We haven't gotten to that day in therapy yet, I'll get back to you. (Hey, it was worth a shot). Okay, here's what I know.
My subconscious knew I was in deep shit and that I needed help. So I asked for help. But not really. In my hallucination. In reality, I insulted your kid (sorry bout that) and you (justifiably) got pissed and left. In my hallucination, you helped me get off drugs. You were there for me every step of the way. (Yes, there was sex. I wasn't going to waste a good Cuddy hallucination without some sex, right?)
So what does it all mean? Beats the hell out of me. Nolan—that's my shrink—thinks I see you as some sort of Madonna/Whore/Savior figure all rolled into one. But he tends to make shit up. I don't know. I wish I hadn't insulted your kid. I know that. And I wish I really did ask for your help. Because a part of me wants to believe that you actually would've said yes. That's what Nolan says, at least. That all I had to do was ask.
But do me a favor, Cuddy, okay? Don't get weird about this. Don't read too much into it, and don't freak out. Trust me, I'm freaking out plenty for both of us.
And, in the spirit of asking for things, maybe you could write back? Mail day—or as I like to call it, quiet study time—is Fridays.
Anyway, I gotta go. They're having a One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest marathon in the rec room that I don't want to miss. (Not really.)
Still crazy after all these years,
Cuddy read the letter four times. The first time she read it, she actually teared up. A part of you wants to believe that you actually would've said yes. Of course I would've said yes, you idiot. Of course.
She was slightly frustrated by his dismissive account of his sexual fantasy. She had sensed that day that it meant more. But, still.. . this letter was a big step for House. He was opening up, sharing feelings. It was practically unheard of.
She got out a piece of paper and a pen—responding to a handwritten note with a typed one just seemed wrong—and started to write.
She wrote everything that was in her heart and mind—it wasn't fair to accuse House of holding back, if she did the same.
She got stuck on the sign-off. Love? Too personal. Best of luck? Too informal. The little "xo" sign? House would never let her hear the end of it. She finally decided on the perfect way to end it.
She put the letter in an envelope and dropped it in the mail.