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Houses Who Live in Glass Hospitals Shouldn't Throw Stones

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by TelegramSam


He didn't think anything of it at first. It was just a tingling numbness in his leg and a slight ache. He'd slept on it wrong, that was all. He shook the offending leg a few times and slowly rolled out of bed. Stretching his back and neck and long well-muscled limbs, he crossed the room in two steps and shoved through the door to the bathroom to empty his over-full bladder. As he peed, he glanced at the small clock on the shelf over the toilet. It was already 6:30. He forgot to set the alarm again, apparently. He often did on Sunday night and subsequently was often late on Monday morning. He could still make it on time today, he thought. No breakfast this morning though. He was feeling adventurous this morning however, so perhaps he'd risk his G-I tract and grab something from the hospital's cafeteria. He barely washed, only standing under the shower spray long enough for the tepid water to make him shiver slightly. He stepped out and pressed his face into a soft towel, thinking how much he'd love to climb back into his warm bed. He'd played a rather rough game of lacrosse in the park down the street with some pals on Saturday, and his muscles still ached a bit in a few places. He peeked over the edge of the towel at his reflection in the mirror over the sink. Eh, maybe he'd skip shaving as well. It annoyed the dean of medicine, one Dr. Lisa Cuddy, when he did so, and that in itself made it worthwhile. He'd only been working for the Princeton-Plainsborough Teaching Hospital for three months, but the two of them already had a roaring rivalry going. It was friendly and playful, but he took his job as Dr. Cuddy's Personal Devil very seriously. That woman needed somebody to goose her now and then. She was always so serious, and a smile now and then certainly wouldn't crack her face.

He knew that Dr. Wilson (a talented oncologist and one of his closest friends) always rolled his eyes and shook his head at his childish antics, but even he found them amusing, even if he didn't admit it and chastised the older man for acting like a "hyperactive five year old".

It was funny where life took you. Wilson had been a bright med student when the two of them met, but he had caught House's eye almost immediately, even though House wasn't supervising him, and though neither could explain why even to this day. House found most med students to be absolutely irritating. They were either clumsy and careless or else they carried the weight of the universe on their shoulders. Both types grated on his nerves. Wilson had leaned toward the latter type, but had kept his sense of humor about life. Perhaps that was why House liked him. He'd never expected to be working in the same hospital with the man at any rate. He'd thought that once he'd taken the job in Cleveland, he'd only see the gentle yet oddly fascinating doctor when he was in the area to visit his mother on holidays. But here he was, working one floor below him after accepting a position with better pay and closer to his aging mother. And more's the wonder, the man had finally gotten rid of that flapping hen he'd married that House had always warned would drive him to the brink of insanity. But he only had to shake his head in wonder at what Jennifer the Hen had been replaced with. The new Mrs. Wilson, a skinny black-haired thing named Jessica, was less controlling, but no less demanding. High-maintenance indeed. He didn't see this relationship lasting long either though, and that was some comfort to him. He'd noticed Wilson spending an awful lot of time around a quiet nurse named Julie. He seemed to have a thing for women with 'J' names anyhow. He didn't know this Julie well, but anything but an axe-murderer had to be an improvement.

He gave his teeth a half-assed brushing and then pulled something from the closet, flinging on clothes without really looking at them. He had clinic duty today. Clinic duty always had the potential to be either mildly interesting or very very annoying. It was usually the latter. It's not that he really minded giving a few kids some tylenol, but the parents. Now there's a prime example of stupidity. Is it really necessary to drag your poor kid away from his nintendo every time he sniffles?

He grabbed wallet and car keys and headed out the door. The traffic was hell as usual, but he dashed up the steps and flew through the door only two minutes behind schedule. Cuddy gave him "the look" when he nearly whacked an orderly with the door, but he just grinned and waved at her. He could tell she was trying very hard not to smile. He slowed his sprint to a quick walk and was happy to drop into his office chair at exactly 8:00 AM. He'd have to be in the clinic in a couple hours, but that didn't mean he couldn't enjoy his morning.

---

He rubbed at his right thigh for the umpteenth time today, trying to listen to what Mr. Rash-On-My-Ass was saying at the same time. The soreness in the rest of his body from the game had faded to nothing, except for his right leg, which had gotten progressively worse. There was a bruise where he'd taken some guy's heel to his leg that he expected to hurt, but the ache was deep in his thigh. He must have pulled a muscle or something. He'd take some ibuprofen once Mr. I'm-Allergic-to-My-Hemorrhoid-Cream was done yakking. He handed a box of free antihistamine samples to the idiot with the rash on his backside and told him to switch brands for his hemorrhoids before shoving him out the door and grabbing the ibuprofen.

The rest of his clinic duty was spent looking up the damp noses of children, listening to their hysterical mothers go on about sinus infections or meningitis. It was ridiculous how many times you could tell one of these creatures that there was nothing wrong with their offspring beyond seasonal allergies and they could still be convinced their kid had the plague. At noon, he was finally released from the hell of the clinic and headed to the cafeteria for lunch. His thigh protested again when he stood up, but a bit of rubbing and stretching got it to shut up and let him move. Maybe if he was lucky, Wilson would already be in the cafeteria eating a sandwich of questionable quality.

---

"If I have to put up with one more mother hen clucking for antibiotics for her kid's runny nose, I'm going to snap."

House chewed at his soggy fries and dry rueben, watching the streams of people coming and going out of the cafeteria while sitting across from Wilson.

"Well, at least you know they care about their children. That's more than you can say for some people these days."

House just glared at him. Why did Wilson always insist on trying to find the positive in everything and everybody, thus ruining his fun? He wished he could have just one good whine-fest without him poo-pooing it. Well, at least Wilson always gave his honest opinion, though it rarely matched his own, at least in regard to how annoying patients were. House rubbed at his thigh again. The ache in his muscle had not gone away and the ibuprofen did little to help it, which was unusual. Wilson glanced down at the movement and then back up at House's face in question, raising an eyebrow. House half-smiled and shook his head.

"Pulled a muscle on Saturday, I think. Good game."

Wilson just smiled back and drank more soda.

---

"Are you sure it's just a pulled muscle? Is it no better than yesterday?"

Actually, it was rather a bit worse.

"It's fine. Will you stop worrying? You sound like my mother."

He wasn't a child though, and he didn't need to be fussed over like one. He hated it when Wilson turned that worried gaze in his direction. It always guaranteed pushy questions about his health and lingering staring and other such annoying behavior. If it were coming from anyone else, he'd probably just deck them. As it was, he was simply forced to try to avoid Wilson and not look like he was avoiding him, which would make the situation even worse.

---

He had contemplated calling in sick that morning, but that would lead to questions from Cuddy and more fussing from Wilson. He just hoped he could stay out of Wilson's path. His leg was no better today either. The ache had spread throughout his thigh and deepened in the center of it. He couldn't walk without a slight limp now even after downing more ibuprofen than was entirely healthy. He just prayed no-one would notice.

 

 No such luck today though. He caught Cuddy watching him every time they passed each other. By mid-morning, she finally grabbed his arm and stopped him.

"So out with it already--What's wrong with your leg?"

He pulled his arm free.

"Pulled a muscle or something. Rough game last weekend."

She looked at him skeptically, but went on. She turned around very quickly indeed, though, when she heard him fall to the floor a few steps later. She was immediately rushing to his side and yelling at a nurse walking by for assistance.

---

Wilson wasn't as easy to head off, certainly not after Cuddy had enlisted him to make House "see reason" after he refused to let her specialists get their claws into him.

"Greg- You really ought to let someone look at that. I'll do it myself this afternoon if you want, I have nothing scheduled after three-"

House looked at him crossly. He never should have admitted that it was worse. He should have just told Cuddy he tripped. There was nothing for it now, though. Wilson would worry over a tiny splinter if he thought it was causing someone pain, especially someone he cared about.

"No! I'm fine, really."

"If it were just a pulled muscle, it would have gotten better or at least not worse, and you wouldn't be swallowing ibuprofen like candy. Please."

He hated it when Wilson stared at him like that, like a puppy begging for scraps. He never could deny Wilson anything, when it came down to it.

---

"No swelling, no fever or chills... You say it's been three days since this started?"

House was pissed off. When he agreed to have Wilson look at him, he agreed to have Wilson look at him, not this pin-headed specialist who droned in an uncanny imitation of Ben Stein.

"For the fourth time, yes. Monday morning. It started Monday morning."

"And you played lacrosse on Saturday... that's some kind of sport right?"

House stared at the wall behind the man's head. Wilson was so going to pay for this.

"Yes."

"Did you get that bruise during the game?"

"Yes. Some guy's heel. Didn't I tell you this once already?"

He couldn't even piss the man off, and that pissed him off. It was like talking to a brick wall. A brick wall, with a stethoscope. A brick wall with rough hands that prodded at his sore thigh, making the pain flare up like a roman candle until he threatened to black out.

"The plain films show no soft-tissue edema, no gas, no bony changes. The ultrasound shows no evidence of DVT. Are you sure this started three days ago? Well, I'll schedule some more tests for tomorrow. You'll have to stay here overnight for observation."

If looks could kill, House would have burned a hole through the man's head as he left the room.

He fought off the embarrassment as a couple of nurses dragged him into a room, forced him to switch his clothing for a gown and ushered him onto a hospital bed, leg aching like hellfire throughout all of it. He wanted to fall through the floor when Wilson showed up a while later with chinese take-out. He really wished the floor would swallow him whole after he upchucked that take-out into a basin a couple hours afterward and Wilson stubbornly refused to go home.

"Won't Jessica be missing you?"

House was sweating bullets. Maybe somebody came in and shot him in the leg when he wasn't looking.

"Not really."

Wilson mopped the cold sweat off his face and neck with a handkerchief while House tried to dodge the cloth and push his arm away.

---

Sleep was out of the question. In the past hour or so, the pain had quadrupled. Pain. That was all that was left for him. Fire burning through his body, centered in his leg. The painkillers dripping into his arm, morphine probably, had helped little. It made him drowsy and fluffed out the edges of reality, but the pain prevented him from sleeping. Wilson was passed out in a chair next to the bed, his head pillowed on crossed arms, warm tousled hair brushing against House's arm. House was still pissed off at him, but he couldn't bring himself to ask him to leave. He curled up as best he could with the I.V. line in the way, clenching his teeth and eyes shut against the stabbing in his thigh and wished he could get the blood rushing loudly in his ears to shut the hell up. He was glad Wilson was unconscious. He'd have to kill the man if he ever saw him cry. Maybe he was dying. Eventually, though, the morphine finally won out, and he slipped into fitful nightmares.

---

He awoke slowly. His brain felt like it was wrapped in a fog, and he wasn't sure where he was or even what day it was. He rubbed at his eyes and glanced around. A hospital room, and he was in the bed? The events of the past few days swamped back into his brain and he bit back a groan of frustration. He looked over and saw Wilson was still sleeping in a chair, though he was now leaned back against a wall instead of next to the bed and looking quite ruffled. He had at least a two-day stubble. How long had he been out? He noticed that his leg didn't hurt quite as much as before, though that was probably due to the morphine. He pulled back the sheet to take a look at it and nearly yelled when found it wrapped in bandages. He looked over at Wilson and debated whether or not to wake the man up. It wasn't long at all before curiosity ran over compassion like a raccoon on the highway and he repeatedly poked the young oncologist sharply on the arm. Wilson flinched and then blinked owlishly at House before stifling a grin.

"You're awake."

"Don't look so damn cheerful, what the hell happened to my leg!?"

Well that killed Wilson's smile, at least.

"Infarction... in your thigh... Quadriceps... Um."

House glared at him. He wanted answers, not dodges.

"I've obviously been in surgery, what did they do to me?"

"They had to debride the muscle, they didn't catch it in time. Um, they said something about nerve damage as well."

Wilson looked like slightly ill. House wanted to hit him. He didn't want pity, especially not from Wilson. He flopped back on the bed and pulled a pillow over his eyes.

"They called your mother. One of her neighbors is bringing her by this afternoon-"

"Please go away."

Wilson didn't say anything, but when House didn't hear any doors, he pulled the pillow off and glared at Wilson. Wilson glared right back.

"Please just leave me alone."

Wilson hesitated, then stood up.

"I'm going to go home and get a change of clothes and a shower. I will be back in a few hours."

"Pest"

Wilson had the gall to smile at him.

"So nice to know there's somebody who loves me in this world."

---

Stacie showed up before his mother did, and before Wilson returned. She'd been in DC working on some case for a couple weeks, but had flown back to Jersey after receiving a call from House's mother.

She'd kissed him lightly and looked at him like he would break if she breathed too hard.

"I can't believe this happened to you."

"Well believe it."

"How on Earth did you end up working in a hospital with such incompetent doctors? Why didn't they catch it a few hours earlier, they could have saved your leg! Oh, and you've always been so athletic!"

To say House was annoyed with her was an understatement. He'd never dreamed she'd be like this. She was acting like he'd died! If the pity was grating in Wilson, it was worse in her.

"My leg is still there, in case you hadn't noticed."

"They said you'll be in a wheelchair, Greg! I should sue those stupid specialists!"

He was just cross now. He wanted her to leave.

"They said I might be in a wheelchair! I also might not be. And suing Cuddy's pets isn't going to fix my damn leg!"

She looked at him like a mother with a misbehaving child. He wanted to punch her in the nose.

"Well fine. I'm just trying to help, but if you're going to act like a child, I'll come back later."

House stuck his tongue out at her back as she walked out the door.

---

When Wilson returned, he knew immediately that something had pissed off House royally.

"So... who said what?"

"Stacie stopped by. She's being an ass about the whole thing."

Wilson just nodded, having enough wisdom to know that any further questioning would only end badly. He handed House a tray with some of the less inedible offerings of the cafeteria and pulled out a turkey sandwich for himself.

They both looked up as the door slid open, and a 64-year-old woman walked in, while a slightly younger woman stayed behind. House swallowed what he was chewing before speaking.

"Hey mom."

She shuffled over to his bedside and brushed back his hair with a worried expression on her face. He bit back the impulse to push her hand away. He didn't know if he could take much more pity from anyone, but he didn't want to upset his mother either.

"How are you doing, Greg? I'm not sure what happened, they said something about an "infarction." You haven't had a heart attack, dear, have you?"

"No mom, the problem was in my leg, not my heart."

"Oh, thank God for that!"

She finally glanced over and noticed Wilson in the corner. He smiled at her around his lunch.

"Oh James, there you are. I knew you'd show up, you've always been a good friend to my son. Is he behaving himself?"

Wilson smirked. House glared at him, daring him to cause any trouble. Wilson relented.

"Yes, Mrs. House, for the most part."

---

House was miserable. Oh, his leg hurt, but that wasn't the problem. He couldn't get half a second's peace. If it wasn't his mother fussing over him, it was Stacie and if it wasn't Stacie, it was Wilson (though at least Wilson didn't treat him like glass anymore). Between the three of them, he wished the problem had been in his heart. Maybe he'd be blissfully dead by now.

Of the three of them, Stacie was the worst. She kept going on about incompetent doctors and what-on-earth-are-we-going-to-do-now? She even called him a cripple. It was couched in a sentence accusing "those stupid specialists" of making him one, but she called him one nonetheless. He'd never yelled at a woman quite like that in his life. He thought now that maybe he'd managed to really scare her; she'd obeyed his hollered request and left the room, and hadn't come back.

On one hand, he was glad his mother hadn't been around to hear it, but on the other he wished she had. If she were mad at him for being intolerably rude to a lady, at least she would be less inclined to fuss over him constantly.

---

His mother had gone back to a nearby hotel to rest, but Wilson was still in the chair.

"I haven't seen Stacie in a week, did she go back to DC?"

"Hell if I know. I told her off."

"You... told her off."

"She called me a cripple."

Wilson simply sighed in reply and looked at the ceiling for several long silent minutes.

"They want you to start physical therapy next week. They don't know how much use you'll have of that leg."

"Hm."

Wilson stared at House as though searching for something. House felt slightly naked under his friend's scrutiny for the first time in his life. Well, at least it wasn't pity.

----

Therapy was hell. They stretched his protesting muscles until they screamed and until he screamed. The therapist himself was a friendly sort of guy, but joking around only went so far. By the end of each session he was as limp as wet dishrag and too tired to even flirt with the little blonde-haired nurse who wheeled him back to his room in the afternoon. This had been going on for two months now. At first they came to his room and just moved his leg for him, trying to work some flexibility back into his knee and some strength into the remaining muscles. He hated looking at his right leg. It was withered and scarred next to the left leg, which had also lost some definition from laying in bed so long. Even if he ever got well enough to play lacrosse again (unlikely), he'd be so far behind his pals they'd laugh in his face.

Now he could stand under his own power for a few minutes before his half-dead leg muscles gave up, but walking still seemed a far-off impossibility. Pain flamed up whenever he tried to move and his knee was stiff and unyielding. Before all this happened, he thought he knew what frustration was. Annoying patients, annoying patients' mothers, bad drivers on the road gumming up the traffic, the neighbor's yappy chihuahua... All just passing bother compared to this. He'd trade this all for the clinic in a heartbeat.

At least his mother was only visiting on Sunday now, not hovering over him like he was about to die anymore, though part of him wished she was. He'd tried his hardest not to give into the impulse to tell her off as well, but one afternoon it just slipped out and he told her that if all she had was pity, she could take it and leave. The second it was out of his mouth, he'd wished he could take it back, even though it was true. She'd huffed at him and called him a stubborn brat and left to get a cup of coffee from the cafeteria, but there was no denying the hurt behind her eyes. There were very very few things that Gregory House ever felt guilt over doing, but that was one of them.

Dr. Cuddy stopped in occasionally too. She didn't fuss over him like the others, but the worry and guilt behind her eyes was obvious. She'd come in, look him up and down and ask if there was anything he wanted or needed and be gone just as quickly. Her brief appearances always put him slightly off; he never quite knew what to make of them.

He threw his venom at Wilson sometimes too, but more often than not, Wilson just shook his head and smiled at him. Sometimes that man was an enigma. Nothing he said, no snide comment about his wife (now separated, and apparently Wilson spending so much time at the hospital with some co-worker was one of the battlegrounds-a fact that House secretly took an odd pleasure in) or cracks about Jews could get the man to bat an eye. He'd twist up a lip and cock an eyebrow at him like he was a puppy that just peed the carpet sometimes, but he couldn't get him mad. That also frustrated him.

On a deep level he'd never admit to, even to himself, he also found Wilson's steady presence a comfort. In the evenings, Wilson would show up with something, usually non-cafeteria food, sometimes soap magazines (House's odd fascination with General Hospital was no secret) or simply the latest gossip from the nurses. If House wasn't too worn out from therapy, they'd talk. If his pain was too bad, they'd just sit and watch television.

---

It was a rainy Thursday afternoon when one of his lacrosse buddies, a black-haired man in his mid-thirties, showed up unexpectedly. House had just been brought back from one of his therapy sessions and settled in when the door swung open and the man stomped in and greeted him in his usual gregarious fashion.

"Hey there, Greg."

"Hey, Howard."

"How ya doing?"

House looked over at him, then down at his leg, then back at him with a very "well duh" look on his face.

"Uh, yea, dumb question. Sorry 'bout that."

Howard scratched the back of his calf with the toe of the opposite foot.

"Um, the guys were wantin' to know if you were comin' back. You know, b'fore they found a permanent replacement for ya on the team."

Howard really did have all the tact of a slightly retarded golden retriever. Annoyed and in pain, House turned away from him to the rain beating heavily on the glass outside the window. Was he coming back?

"I really don't know, Howard."

---

House really started digging into Wilson when he started following him to therapy. It was too painful and too embarrassing for him to want an audience. After a few sessions and a few well-aimed barbs, Wilson relented and only came by afterward. Still, he would always be waiting outside the door to take House from the blonde nurse.

"Why do you do this? Don't you have little bald-headed dying kids to take care of?"

Wilson laughed lightly.

"They'll be okay for a while."

"Well?"

"Well what?"

"Why? This can't be fun. I'm grumpy, I'm sweaty, I'm smelly, I'm mean to you, and I find it hard to believe that there's nothing better for you to do with your free time. What happened to that nurse you liked, what's-her-name? Jules or something?"

"Julie. I talk to her often enough. We get lunch sometimes."

"You're still dodging the question."

"Must I have a reason for everything I do?"

"Most people do, albeit irrational ones."

"If it's irrational, why does it matter?"

Because I want to know why you're the only one I can't make leave.

He wouldn't say it, though. He didn't want anyone to put words to the answer he already knew in that deep recess of his mind he never ventured too near.

---

When he could get around on arm-crutches relatively well (or at least well enough that he wasn't falling on his face more often than not), they decided they could send him home. They'd given him a scrip for vicodin after weaning him off the stronger narcotics to control the pain in his leg a few weeks after the initial surgery, and though it dulled it nicely, it never left completely. He'd still have to come in every weekday morning for therapy for a while yet, but at least he could sleep in his own bed. Wilson had volunteered to drive him back and forth, regardless of House's protestations otherwise. He almost started to feel slightly guilty about taking up so much of his friend's time and energy, but then decided that it was the man's own damn fault, and he volunteered it anyway. He'd tried his hardest to chase him off, after all. Wasn't his fault if a guy couldn't take a hint. At least with Jessica out of the picture (the divorce had been final a month ago, and a clean amputation to boot. She'd gotten a lot of his money and furniture, and his dog, but the home was still Wilson's), Wilson had nothing to be guilty about himself any longer. House had been rather tired of hearing Wilson's grousing about his failing marriage anyway. These days, they sat and played cards, watched porn and B-list action films and drank beer with a free conscience. He could sit at the low bench and play piano now too and they sang bawdy songs to irritate the neighbors. In his evenings spent with Wilson, he could almost pretend he was normal again.

---

House found himself feeling irrationally jealous when Wilson started dating again. He still came over on weekdays, but Friday evening and the weekends, he was off with Julie the Nurse. Wilson shook his head at his friend's childish sniping and decided that he needed to get out more.

"Julie's sister is in town this weekend. Come out with us, it'll be like old times with... Well it'll be like old times."

At least he was smart enough not to mention Stacie and Jessica. Stacie had come by a few times later, then announced that it was probably better for the both of them if she moved out for a while and they both saw other people. He hadn't heard from her in a month, and knew she wasn't coming back. He'd lived with her for a year and a half.

"Fine, but she'd better be hot."

"Trust me, she's hot, she looks just like Julie. If Melissa wasn't six years older, you'd swear they were twins."

The actual date was an unmitigated disaster. They were to meet at a little Italian restaurant after Julie and her sister were done shopping. Even though Wilson made sure House was already seated before their dates showed up at the restaurant, Melissa had apparently been given the heads-up on his handicap by Julie already, and was disgustingly motherly with him the whole time. It was about a half an hour before House just shut down and refused to join the conversation at all. He was merciful enough not to storm out and leave Wilson to clean up the mess with his girlfriend, but he made it clear that he wasn't going to play cripple with Melissa.

Things went from bad to worse when they left. Melissa had gotten the hint by then and was leaving House alone, but nature herself conspired against him. It had started raining sometime during dinner, and the streets and sidewalk were slick. Julie and her sister had already parted and were on their way to their own car, but were not out of earshot yet when House slipped on the sidewalk, crutches flying out to the sides and landing flat on his back, his head striking the pavement audibly. Wilson was crouched over him and was lifting him up by the shoulders when Julie came trotting back. Melissa continued on to her sister's car. Wilson waved Julie off with a pleading look, and she gave him back a pitying one (for him, not House. She didn't like House much at all) before following Melissa. Wilson was left to pull a despondent House back to his car, half-dragging the larger man and dropping him into the car seat before checking him for a concussion. House didn't speak a word on the way home and when they got back, he dragged himself and his thrice-cursed crutches straight towards the scotch.

---

House's grumblings became common background noise for Wilson. He sat calmly while the man complained about everything--about pain, about bad drivers, stupid patients, stupid doctors, cruel women, pitying women, hypochondriacs, the government, yappy dogs, old ladies who cut in line in the supermarket, obnoxious television commercials, reality TV and every other subject that came to mind. He also sat calmly while House insulted him, deriding everything from his clothing to his taste in women to his ancestry. He sat and absorbed all the piss and venom that House spit in his face with a calm befitting a buddhist monk. House even threw up on him once after drinking too much, obviously not making much of an effort to do otherwise. Still, House could not get him to leave. Oh sure, he stopped practically living in House's apartment after he got off the crutches and stopped tripping so much and was able to use a cane. But he still showed up at lunch with takeout, called in the evenings to make sure nothing had happened during the day and brought over movies and beer on Friday evening.

"Cuddy asked about you today. Wanted to know if you were ready to come back to work."

House smirked at that. Something exploded on the television screen.

"What, she hasn't replaced me yet? I guess she just couldn't bear to see a face other than my own handsome visage in that office."

"Or maybe she has faith that you can still do your job."

House swallowed more beer and shoved a handful of popcorn in his mouth and chewed slowly. He watched the car chase in the movie. The special effects in this film sucked. He wasn't even sure what it was called.

"Well, can you?"

House simply nodded, not taking his eyes off the screen.

---

The first day back had not gone smoothly. Cuddy had started him off on clinic duty, of all things. Why that blasted woman thought that clinic duty would be a good way to ease him back into life at PPTH, he'd never know. She must have been out of her mind. It wasn't the endless parade of runny noses and paranoid mothers that bothered him so much, really. He was used to that. It was the way those mothers gave him the same look they gave their sniffling children when he limped across the room. It was the way the children stared unashamedly at his bad leg, some even brave enough to ask what happened, though the honest ones bothered him far less than the ones who just stared.

Cuddy looked up in surprise when he slammed open the door to her office and stomped in as well as he was still capable. He waited until he had her full attention before speaking.

"I'm not doing the clinic anymore."

"Greg, it's part of your obligation to this hospital-"

"I don't care! I'm not going in there again!!"

She stood up and walked around the desk to face him head on.

"Listen, I know the past few months have been a trial-"

"Forget the past few months! It has nothing to do with that-well, not directly! I'm sick of them staring, the pity, those clucking hens looking at me like I'm one of their brood with a nasty head cold-"

Cuddy held up a hand to stop his tirade when he started yelling. She took a deep breath and stared at him keenly in the way that he knew meant that she felt she was cutting off her own foot for his benefit.

"Two months. I'll give you the next two months off to deal with your... issues. I'm sorry, but you're going to have to learn to live with this, Greg. You can't hide from the world for the rest of your life."

That's what she thought. Six months later, he still hadn't walked back into that clinic. She glared at him when he passed, but after a few tries, stopped bringing up the issue. He wasn't quite sure what to make of Dr. Lisa Cuddy giving up an argument, but he wasn't about to look the gift horse in the mouth.

---

"She's worried about you."

House threw his coat over the back of the sofa and laughed at Wilson.

"Cuddy, worried about me? There's a good joke."

"I'm worried about you too, actually."

House's eyebrows arched downward in annoyance bordering on real anger. Why was everyone always worrying about him? He wasn't an infant; he could take care of himself, dammit. He turned around to face his friend.

"Oh come off it already! I'm not about to go shoot myself, if that's what you're worried about."

Now it was Wilson's turn to get angry, apparently.

"There's more to life than simply being alive! You don't do anything anymore!"

"That's because I can't do anything anymore! You don't get it, do you? No more sports, my leg won't let me. No more women, they only look at me with pity-"

"So you're just going to shove everyone away then, is that it? Is that your grand solution? Just go hide yourself away in a dark hole somewhere until you die?"

"YES goddammit! That's exactly what I plan on doing! So go back to Julie and leave me the hell alone! If I want to hide myself away in a dark hole somewhere, then dammit, that's my right! It's my life!"

House turned his back on Wilson, waiting for him to leave. Seconds ticked, oppressive silence filled minutes. When he spoke again, it was softly, and Wilson had to strain to hear his words.

"What do you want from me?"

Silence continued as Wilson seemed to be weighing his response.

"I want you to stop throwing yourself away."

"Why do you care if I do?"

"Why does it matter? Do I need a reason?"

"Most people do, albeit irrational ones."

"If they're irrational, then why does it matter?"

"Because now I want to know. I want an answer."

"Will the answer really change anything?"

"Why are you the only one I can't make leave?"

House turned around before Wilson could formulate an answer.

"I take up all your free time, I bother your new wife, I yell at you, I make fun of you, I throw things at you. You waste gallons of gas driving me back and forth to that bloody hospital and you get nothing in return. JUST LEAVE ALREADY!"

House cursed himself as his frustration and anger took over the rational part of his mind. He hated feeling raw like this. His eyes watered up, but he absolutely refused to cry and again turned his back on Wilson. He just wanted to be left alone.

Wilson reached out and grabbed House's shoulder, turning him around and drawing the older man's blue eyes to his own.

"Listen to me. I don't care what you say to me. I don't care what you do to me. I don't care how much you scream, cry, beg, growl, bark or throw things. You're not going to get rid of me. I'm not going anywhere. Do you want to know why? Because you are my friend whether you like it or not. You're like a brother to me, do you know that? Do you know why I don't leave? Because you can't just throw away people you love and I'm not going to abandon you just because you're a pain in the ass sometimes!"

House turned away from Wilson, unable to withstand the man's soft brown gaze any longer. When he finally looked up again, his friend was still there and had not disappeared once the mystery was broken after all.

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