Dr-House.com Fanfiction

The Contract
Home
Updates
Quick Reference
FAQ
2cutekids2
Abbie G
Ambra
Armchair Elvis
Auditrix
Benj
Betz88
CaitDC
Cakemixo
Carebear
CathyNH
Catlady
DIY Sheep
Dru
Dr. Xreader
jennamajig1
KidsNurse
Kit Kat
Laura
Lunagrrl74
Marisol
Namaste
Narsil
Nomad1328
Pillpopdoc
PipTook
Pradon
rtlemurs
Sanlin
sasmom
SSMoony
sy dedalus
Taruia
TelegramSam
Tpel1

by DIY Sheep

Agony and wood were all he was aware of. He imagined the pain throbbing through his body was making the wooden floorboards vibrate. He laughed silently and hysterically: He was a human piano of pain. House the human piano of pain. It had a nice ring to it… which reminded him: pianos don’t sound like bells.

Pianos sound woody, not bingy. Where were the bells coming from? The bells of St Clemens. Saint Wilson probably. Wondering why he wasn’t there to make with the oranges and lemons. He gingerly opened an eye, found himself eyeballing a dusty floor board and make a random mental note to bark at the cleaning lady. He watched disinterestedly as his breath moved the dust back and forth. It was daylight. He realised he was probably late for work, the bell was Wilson ringing him on the phone, and that he had better cover himself before anybody found out what sort of tune this human piano was playing.

He had always hated the funeral march.

…………

It was Wilson; predictably, who first noticed something was wrong. Everyone else was used to House being a cranky, irritable, eccentric bastard and just put it down to the phases of the moon or the time of year.

But Wilson had walked into his office, stopped dead in front of the desk, put his hands on his hips and frowned. He examined the back of House as he sat staring out of the window. Something was wrong. Well this was House. Wrong was practically the definition of right, but today something different was wrong.

‘Are you ok? Cuddy said you called in sick yesterday.’

House didn’t turn around. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘I’m fine.’ But didn’t elaborate. They stayed that way for a minute, until Wilson sighed softly in defeat and left the room. It was probably just the leg. It was winter. The leg always hurt more in winter. If he gave it some time he would get his friend back.

House didn’t even hear him leave. He absentmindedly began to twirl his cane in his hands. He could see the hateful words when he shut his eyes – written in a dull red glow of pain against a black background: ‘You never know when we will come. It could be in a month. It could be the next day. But there will always be a next time.’

………….

‘What happened to your face?’ she asked.

‘Bar fight last night. Made a hooker mad,’ he tried to smirk, but inwardly he just didn’t feel up to it. Still he had to keep up appearances. Had to keep going.

Cuddy saw red. ‘You went to a bar last night? After you called in sick yesterday with a case of the flu?’

If she had looked closely she would have seen a flash of panic cross House’s face. His mouth opened but no sound came out. He had totally forgotten his latest recovery ‘excuse’ but she was too incensed to notice and merely took his silence as an admission of guilt.

She rounded on him, finger waving wildly in his face.

‘That sort of behaviour is unacceptable. You go to that clinic right now and you will do yesterday’s clinic hours, today’s clinic hours and an extra two more clinic hours for lying to me.’

She fully expected him to start screaming the hospital down, arguing that hookers were an acceptable medical prescription for the flu or something ludicrous, but instead he just looked at her for a moment with almost an expression of relief before nodding quickly and limping off toward the clinic without a word.

Cuddy was dumbfounded. She watched the retreating figure. House not arguing with her? Perhaps he really was sick. She tapped her teeth thoughtfully with her pen. She would definitely have to talk to Wilson about this. His limp had been getting more pronounced lately. She wondered why.

……

It took minutes for the screaming to die down into a whimpering. Eventually his sobbing shuddering breaths subsided enough for him to open his eyes.

But there appeared to be no hurry. They had all night. He lay on the concrete, beyond pain. His eyes open, but staring at nothing, the occasional tremor twitching through his body.

Eventually, after an aching eternity, the question was asked and he flinched as the silence was broken.

‘Are you ready to continue?’ said the soft hateful voice.

He didn’t look at his tormentor. There was no point. No mercy. Only the contract. That was all he lived for now. He merely nodded slowly, wrapped his arms around his head so tightly he felt his skull would crack and waited for the next blow to fall on his poor tortured leg.

……..

The Ducklings were in the lounge, bored. House was late. Foreman was beside furious when House eventually limped in around lunchtime sporting a splint on one of his fingers.

‘Jesus, not again,’ exclaimed Chase as he saw the cast. House ignored him and went straight for the coffee.

Cameron hit Chase angrily on the shoulder. ‘Another accident?’ she asked tentatively.

House sighed into the coffee machine. ‘Yeah. I’m not as steady on my pins as I used to be,’ he said impatiently. ‘Fell over and landed on it wrong.’

Foreman snorted. ‘Are you sure it isn’t some pissed off bookie you owe money to?’

Rounding on Forman, House extravagantly waved his coffee stirrer in the air, but they could tell he was irritated and angry. ‘Actually, and I think you should know. Bookies traditionally break legs.’ He smirked nastily and made for his office. ‘Now if you will excuse me I will be in my office. Please give me at least ten minutes of peace before someone tells Wilson and he does his mother hen act.’

…….

He downed a couple of Vicodin, feeling them suggestively working their magic even before the drug burst into his system. The trick was to be numb. If you were numb you didn’t remember what they did to you. You didn’t relive them… again and again… You didn’t have to think about… the feel of them… the touch… the blows… the hands pushing you down… the helplessness… your fists clenching in futility. If you were numb there was no pain. Vicodin took away his pain. If there was no pain you could continue on.

“House, are you okay?”

He looked up startled. Wilson had joined him on the balcony and was sliding over the dividing wall. “Just a little tired today, too many hookers last night... hey are those chips?” he said reaching out.

Wilson slapped his hand away. “Yes, and they are mine,” he said as he slipped into the chair next to House.

House smirked. “You will have to let your guard down eventually. I can wait.”

“Oh for lord’s sake – have some,” said Wilson, as he bashed the packet against House’s chest, not noticing his wince. House took a handful and looked at them thoughtfully. “… takes away my pain, and he brings food – a win win situation,” he said to the chips before stuffing them in his mouth.

“What did you say?” asked Wilson, looking over.

“fuffinck” he said to Wilson with a chippie smile as he chewed the chips. For a while there was no pain and he continued on.

………..

“Where’s House?”

“Sick,” said Cuddy.

Chase and Cameron exchanged meaningful looks. Foreman thumped his coffee cup down on the table.

The word everyone was thinking, but no one would say was: again.

……

House had always thought he was an expert on pain. He thought with the leg that he knew it all. But he realized the leg had only been the tip of the iceberg. There were so many variations of pain it was like a symphony. The short sharp searing pain that left you gasping. The long slow pain that gradually grew and grew until your whole body shook.

How much of one sort of pain you would suffer because it was better than the alternative. What had Cuddy said that day… ‘the lesser of two evils.’

And he had never known there were so many ways to inflict pain. He marveled at how much human ingenuity and art had gone into the consideration of exactly how to inflict pain on another human being.

The lawyer was an expert. You could tell he loved his job: mixing the physical with the psychological. Sometimes brutal and harsh. Other times gentle but menacing, letting him do all the work, but all the time watching and drinking in his pain and fear.

…….

Wilson stood in Cuddy’s doorway with his hands on his hips. “There is something wrong,” he said dramatically. “House isn’t complaining about the pain.”

Cuddy looked confused. “Isn’t that a good thing?”

‘Come on! This is Gregory – I define myself by my pain – House,’ he exclaimed. ‘And you can clearly see the limp is getting worse. He isn’t yelling. He isn’t moaning. He isn’t even getting angry, which is just downright peculiar. He is just claming up.’

‘So,’ she mused. ‘Maybe he is just dealing with it better. Wilson just looked at her. ‘OK, that was a dumb thing to say.’

‘He’s miserable,’ said Wilson.

Cuddy frowned. ‘He is always miserable.’

Wilson ran his hands through his hair in frustration. ‘But this is not the normal good miserable. This is bad miserable.’

‘How can you tell?’

‘I’m his friend.’

…..

‘So, do you wanna get some Chinese tonight.’

House didn’t even look up. ‘No.’

Wilson tried again. ‘Are you sure? I haven’t been over to your place for ages.’ He pulled out the big guns. ‘ I am pining for some good porn and I’ll bring the beer.’

‘I am busy.’

‘You are always busy nowadays. What are you doing anyway?’ tried Wilson

House kept his eyes on his work. ‘Being busy, quite obviously.’ Eventually Wilson left, not seeing the nervous glance House threw at his back as he went out the door.

……

House kept one eye on the computer screen and one eye on Jimmy. Good old predictable Jimmy. Even though it was near midnight Jimmy was still in his office. Probably rolling joints for dying mums and spiking the red cordial with morphine for the balding kiddies - when he should be home tending to wifie and his own putative kiddies. If that man could only stop believing in romance and become bitter and disillusioned like him he’d be happy, he thought.

Although Wilson wasn’t currently speaking to him, it made him feel a little safer knowing he was around. Stupid sodding wanker you are House, he thought. Wanting to be protected by the big bad oncologist. Wilson was about as bad and as big as a fluffy bunny rabbit. He couldn’t even hold his own in a bar fight – as House well knew. A bar fight took a diagnostician who fought dirty and knew how to use a cane to inflict the maximum amount of damage.

But still the light coming from Wilson’s balcony door reassured him. And, he mused, there must be something to a man who wasn’t afraid to wield a pocket protector and still got the chicks.

House looked nervously through the glass of his office out into the hallway. The hospital was quiet – and dark. He gave an involuntary shiver. The dark used to be a comforting place. Now it was something to be feared. Feared, but never avoided.

Even as he worked frantically for an ‘out’, he began to run through the clauses in his mind as he worked. It was late, dark, and you never knew. It was always better to be prepared than face the consequences. Don’t wanna forget Clause Five, Subsection Two again. He swallowed and shook his head. Not again… never again. He pulled up his shirtsleeve and looked at the numbers branded onto his forearm. Never would now would he, he thought. Clauses and subsections automatically began to run through his mind and he unconsciously began to mutter them under his breath as he turned his attention back to the screen.

Sometime later House reached out an arm to grab something from the printer. Halfway there he stopped. Something was wrong. He looked around in alarm. Wilson’s light was off. Had he gone while House was working or was he asleep on the couch? Damnit – what exactly was the state of the marriage at this moment again? He knew he should have listened more closely. A knot began to twist in House’s stomach. He looked at the corridor, but there was no one there.

He automatically reached into his pocket and grabbed a couple of pills. He noticed he was sweating and ran a shaky hand over his rough beard. They won’t come tonight, he thought to himself desperately. It will be ok tonight. They won’t come tonight. But he didn’t believe himself. I’ll check if Wilson is asleep on the couch, he thought. He didn’t move. I’ll check now. He tried to reach for his cane, but found he couldn’t move.

Breathe you wanker. He realized he had used the word ‘wanker’ twice in one night. Christ I am picking up swear words from the wombat. Just go check, he told himself. Trying not to hyperventilate he fumbled around, found his cane and shoved it underneath himself. Eventually he managed to hoist himself to his feet. Pushing blindly through his glass door, he crashed out on to the balcony, rolled clumsily over the dividing wall and staggered to Wilson’s door.

He pressed his nose to the glass, his hands grasping at the slick surface, but he couldn’t see Wilson on the couch. Wilson was gone. He knew he shouldn’t, but he felt sick, betrayed. It was his fault for snapping at Wilson earlier. And now he was alone – at night – in the dark. He slid down the glass, the sweat from his fingers leaving streaky marks on the glass. He stared around. Perhaps if he made himself small and hid here they wouldn’t come for him tonight. Perhaps tonight would be ok. For one night he just wanted to be a little boy again and hide under the covers, safe from the monsters.

He shifted into the corner. He stayed there. He took another couple of pills. He eventually closed his eyes.

House woke sometime later, cold, stiff and a little damp from dew. He had no idea how long he had been asleep. He rubbed his hand over his face and looked around. He nearly sobbed in relief. It was dawn. Daylight, people and safety. Cause for celebration indeed he thought as he took another two Vicodin, stretched out his leg and rubbing it contentedly, he leaned back to enjoy the rising sun.

He didn’t realize he had fallen back to sleep until he felt a foot nudge him. He started, then noticed that the foot was dressed in a very shiny shoe at the bottom of some well-tailored trousers. He was getting to the lab coat when a hand reached out, grabbed his hair, yanked his head back and a light was shone in his eyes.

‘Argh Wilson, get that thing out of my eyes,’ he said as he tried to bat the light away. His eyesight cleared and he found an angry looking Wilson staring down at him.

Wilson stood up and put his hands on his hips. ‘Well, I find you sleeping on my balcony like some homeless person and I’m wondering if you had overdosed or were just drunk.’

‘No, it wasn’t anything like that. I just…’ he trailed off, feeling a little guilty. If Wilson had mentioned homeless people, considering his brother, it meant he was mad.

‘Just what?’ prompted Wilson sternly, like a disapproving parent.

House’s mind grasped around for something to say. ‘Just such a nice night,’ he said lamely as he struggled to get up.

‘Riight,’ said Wilson dubiously. But House knew he was forgiven when Wilson grabbed the back of House’s jacket collar and hoisted him to his feet, giving him a rough shake for good measure. You have to love Jewish mommas, thought House.

‘Get into my office you limping twerp,’ he ordered. ‘Jesus you’re freezing cold … and wet.’ He kept his grip on the jacket and continued to scold House as he dragged him inside and dumped him on the couch, but House didn’t hear. He just let Wilson’s Jewish mother act wash over him. Bring on the chicken soup.

……

‘Where did you find him again?’ asked Cuddy incredulously.

‘On my balcony, asleep.’

Cuddy sighed. ‘I swear that man is getting stranger by the day. Should I put psychiatrics on standby?’

Wilson snorted and looked at the ceiling. ‘House in a straight jacket. Now why does that have a certain allure?’

‘What did you do?’ asked Cuddy, bringing him out of his fantasy.

‘Gave him a cup of coffee and sent him home,’ said Wilson simply. He shrugged. ‘What else is there to do?’

…..

House limped happily to the car, full of Vicodin, coffee and Wilson’s chicken soup of the soul.

As he approached the car he saw there was a note taped to the windscreen. The constant knot in his stomach twisted and the coffee threatened to rise in his gorge. He didn’t want to look at it. Every fiber of his being wanted to run away as fast as he could.

Run! What an amusing notion, he thought absentmindedly. Human instinct was a powerful thing. Even the man who could barely walk wanted to run. Run away and hide in the deepest darkest corner of the world where no one would ever find him.

With trembling hands he reached out for the note like a man condemned. He was in trouble. He wasn’t allowed to hide, to run, but instinct had overtaken him last night. Had he upset his new masters?

He unfolded the paper and read it.

Park in your own damn spot House or I’ll call Cuddy and make sure she gives you so many clinic hours you will die there.

Dr McKinsky

House laughed silently in relief. He imagined McKinsky turning puce with rage. The most terrible thing in his life was having to park three spots down and heave his fat ass another ten steps. All those people out there worrying about the little things. Giving themselves heart attacks over bills and taxes and wardrobe malfunctions. If only they knew he thought as he hysterically wheezed.

Eventually his fit ended. He leaned over the front of the car, taking in deep shuddering breaths, calming himself, when he noticed a PS on the bottom of the note. Puzzled he turned it over. There were only two words written, in different handwriting, on the back: ‘Uh Oh’. He heard a noise behind him and froze. He starred glassily at his own distorted reflection in the cherry red bonnet as it was joined by another.

‘Like I said Greg. Anywhere, anytime.’

House closed his eyes. He descended into the darkness. He felt his cane taken from him and strong hands grip his arms, pulling them behind him as they pushed him down onto the cool metal of the bonnet. They didn’t need too. He went with them when they asked.

Sometimes they took him violently, sometimes gently, but the first time had been the worst. After he had signed the lawyer had gestured to the door. He had walked with them to the car: numb. It was too surreal. It couldn’t really be happening.

“In the back,” said the lawyer.

House made for the back door of the sedan, but the man stopped him. “No Greg, like I said. You ride in the back.”

He looked over and saw another man opening the trunk. He felt ill. It was then it had hit home that this was real. He nodded and moved to the back of the car.

He did everything they wanted. But sometimes they liked a physical reminder that he was helpless, powerless. He couldn’t run. A man with a cane can’t run.

He didn’t resist as they took him away. Very rarely does the condemned man struggle on the way to the gallows.

……

Two months later

House was rifling through a stack of papers. Gotta find out who, he thought. It’s been months, but if you keep looking there might be a way out. A loophole so to speak. Or simply he could find out who this bastard was and strangle him with his own intestines. That would stop him. He was the best diagnostician in the world, he thought with a snort. He could solve this miserable little puzzle.

He looked at his watch. 3AM. He was tired and his leg hurt. He popped another couple of Vicodin and a caffeine tablet.

It was dark in House’s apartment. The only light came from the computer screen. He typed in another name to the search engine and began to read, when a notice popped up on his computer.

You’ve got mail.

Considering he didn’t have a ‘you’ve got mail’ notification thingamie on his computer this was odd. His heart sunk. He checked his email and there was one new message. ‘To Gregory’ was all it said in the title.

All the bravado leaked out of him. He closed his eyes for a second then hit it.

You can search all you like, but unless I deign to tell, you will never know.

I think I may have to invoke Clause 12, Subsection 8 for this.

What do you think Greg?

House stared wide-eyed at the words on the screen. He read them again and again and again. For over an hour he sat there, his eyes wandering over the keyboard, his hands held crossed in front of him, his teeth chattering gently together even though it wasn’t cold. He was in trouble. Not allowed to ask questions: subsection 3. Not allowed to try to find out who: subsection 4. But he thought he could get away with it. He hadn’t. And now he was going to be punished. Special pain was a coming down the track.

Eventually he picked up his right hand. It felt like it weighed a tonne. It was like pushing through sand. He slumped it over the mouse and hit the reply button.

What do you think Greg?

Only Stacey had ever called him Greg. Only Greg had loved Stacey.

But - Clause Two: he owned nothing now. His home had been his sanctuary, but even that was about to be violated. He had nothing left. He knew that. He had sold his soul when he had signed.

He knew he had no choice. He typed YES and hit the send button.

A second later the doorbell rang. He stood up slowly and limped over to answer it with his head down.

“Evening Greg,” said the man cheerfully as he came in. “Nice night for it.”

“Yes sir,” he mumbled, shifting slightly. He had never quite worked out what the etiquette was in this sort of situation, but he knew the bastard had a quick temper – and he was quick to boot. One second you’re on your feet. The next you are rolling on the floor in agony never knowing what hit you, while he stood over you gently saying he didn’t care much for your tone of voice and would you please not do it again.

“The cane?” the man prompted.

House looked around. There it was. His cane. His little wooden friend. Leaning up against the bookcase, ready to step in uncomplaining and be the leg he didn’t have any more. He quickly twisted round and tentatively handed it to the other man then backed off a few steps.

The man tested the weight of the cane in his hands. “Are you going to be good or…?” he said not taking his eyes off the cane, but the implications were clear.

House frantically shook his head. “No,” he stammered. At the man’s sharp look he amended his words. “No sir, I’ll be good. I don’t need to be… I won’t…” He trailed off. He didn’t want to say the word ‘scream’.

The man pushed the handle of the cane under his chin. “That’s the spirit Greg.” He looked around, all suddenly full of bonhomie. “Dear me Greg. It is a lovely flat, but there isn’t room to swing a cat…” he smiled evilly and House flinched at the menace in his eyes. “… let alone a cane.”

He sighed. “Never mind. We can always push the couch over to the wall.” He looked up at House’s stricken face. “Don’t look so glum Greg. All it takes is a bit of ingenuity.”

……

The next day

Brenda burst into Cuddy’s office. Cuddy took one look at her expression and said ‘House.’

Brenda nodded, but Cuddy noticed there was a look of panic in the nurse’s normally unflappable demeanor.

When she got out there she realized why. The head of diagnostic medicine was having a nervous breakdown in the middle of the clinic.

House was slumped against a wall; his cane lying abandoned a few feet away. He had drawn up his knees and was shaking, his face pressed into the wall, a low keening wail coming from him.

Everyone in the clinic was staring at him in shock. There was a fat young man standing over him, apologizing profusely. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to knock you over,’ he kept repeating stupidly.

Cuddy took charge. She turned to Brenda. ‘Get Wilson,’ she instructed urgently. I don’t care where he is or what he is doing – or even what he says. Find him and get him here, ’ she hissed to the nurse.

‘What the hell happened?’ she asked the man.

He looked at her bewildered. ‘I didn’t push him hard. I just bumped into him and he stumbled against the wall.’

She dismissed the man and crouched down next to House. He looked terrible. He was sweaty and white as a sheet.

‘House,’ she said loudly, putting her hand on his shoulder. ‘Is it the leg?’

He flinched, but didn’t answer. He just groaned, squeezed his eyes shut tighter and tried to push himself further into the wall.

Cuddy looked at him in disbelief. What in God’s name was going on? Everyone knew he had been steadily getting worse – crankier, viciously lashing out at people, driving everyone away, more pills, the balcony incident… He looked terrible - haggard and drawn, but what the hell was this.

At that moment Wilson arrived. He took one look at the scene and was at his friend’s side in an instant.

‘Oh House, what have you done to yourself this time?’ he said sadly as he tried to gently to get the older Doctor to uncurl so he could look at him.

At Wilson’s touch House looked at him with red-rimmed eyes.

‘Why do you always assume it is my fault?’ he said softly. Then almost to himself he said ‘It usually is isn’t it?’ But he allowed the oncologist to stretch out his leg.

Wilson began to run his big gentle hands over House’s leg, but he didn’t think the problem lay there.

‘Jesus House. When was the last time you slept – or ate? You look like a corpse.’

‘We should get him to an exam room and take a look at him,’ said Cuddy.

At this House jumped. ‘No!’ he spat out hurriedly. He took a deep breath and looked up at them. “I’ll be fine,” he continued. “Just help me get to my office.”

Wilson reached out to hand him the cane.

“No,” House rasped. “Not the cane. Not today – you.”

“Well since you ask so nicely,” replied Wilson, but he helped House up and together they limped their way to House’s office. Wilson took the opportunity to surreptitiously examine his friend. He was in pain and it wasn’t just the leg. He was breathing shallowly and erratically and he couldn’t hide the wincing he made with every step.

After getting House settled with a cup of hot sweet tea and strict – upon pain of death instructions - to drink it Wilson looked up and saw Cuddy standing outside House’s office, looking in thoughtfully. Wilson joined her.

“Take him home and look after him,” she said softly. “See if you can actually get him to tell you what the hell is going on.”

……

“For God’s sake,” Wilson exclaimed. “I know you are hurt. Did you get into another bar fight?” The emphasis was on the ‘another’. “You could have internal injuries. You need to let me have a look at you,” he said in exasperation.

“And what the hell is it with all this?” he said gesturing to the mounds of files and papers piled everywhere in the flat. House hadn’t allowed Wilson in his flat for months and now he saw why. The place was drowning in paper work. Wilson was aghast. House, the man who hated paperwork only as much as he hated American Idol was wallowing in it – at home.

House just stood in the centre of his living room swaying slightly, but saying nothing. He had refused to even take off his jacket. He just buttoned it up and wrapped his arms around himself. Now the two men were at a stalemate. Standing six feet apart from each other, eying the other. It wasn’t much of a Mexican standoff. A contest between a normal healthy six-foot American male and a pale sweaty shaking cripple who could barely stand should be inevitable.

But, as usual, it was Wilson who lost. “All right then, at least sit down before you fall down.” For some reason the couch was shoved up against the fireplace, not caring he violently shoved it round until it faced the kitchen, pushed the papers off it and sent them to fluttering to join the others on the floor. Then he stepped back and looked expectantly at House.

House eyed him warily as if he suspected Wilson might try something, but holstered his metaphorical gun, crossed to the couch and sat down.

At this Wilson relented. “I’ll make you something to eat.” He looked at the mound of papers that used to be the coffee table. “Where’s the TV remote?”

“Dunno,” murmured House to the floor.

Wilson sighed inwardly. He didn’t think it could be possible for House to get even more miserable, but if the man wasn’t watching TV, dear God what did that say. He manually turned on the TV and went into the kitchen to see what he could find in House’s kitchen.

Just judging by House’s state, he couldn’t weigh more than 130 pounds, so predictably there was nothing edible except some feral smelling milk. The kitchen was filthy. It was filed with plates that looked like they had been abandoned months ago, empty cereal boxes and more piles of papers. What had happened to House’s cleaning lady? The bombshell that was House’s living room said she had probably given up in despair.

He picked up a random piece of paper an examined it with puzzlement. On it was names. It was a list of people’s names and next to some were diseases. He riffled through a couple of other stacks. There was a mix of strange documents – photocopied patient files, medical records, but some were just lists and lists of names.

He saw one name he recognized. Terry McCross: Wilson remembered this case because he had been brought in to consult. It was one of House’s old cases from a few years ago. He rifled through the folder. Surprised to find it not only contained McCross’ medical records, but follow up information and even a news story from last year about McCross winning a local marathon. Why was House making an archive of all his old patients? Why was he collecting personal information about them? It didn’t make sense – House hated patients.

Wilson ended up calling out for some Chinese – soup for House and a couple of dishes for himself, although he didn’t feel much like eating. They sat side by side on House’s watching a Frasier marathon. House ate, but remained mute and tense, staring intently at the television as if his life depended on it. Wilson didn’t push it. He knew how much Vicodin House had taken. Exhaustion would kick in eventually.

Wilson smiled softly to himself as the final credits rolled. As Frasier sung about tossed salads and scrambled eggs he looked down and watched House as he slept. Somewhere during Daphne and Nile’s marriage House had toppled over sideways. His head was buried into Wilson’s side and he was now growling softly into Wilson’s liver, in what Wilson presumed was the Houseian version of a snore. Sometime earlier in his sleep he had reached up and grabbed the front of Wilson’s shirt and even now he still gripped it tightly as if it was a lifeline.

Apart from the hand you could almost believe House looked content. As Frasier left the building Wilson reflected this was something he hadn’t seen in his friend for a long time.

Wilson turned of the TV, reached out to turn off the light, and leant back into the deep couch. With one hand on his friend’s shoulders and the other behind his own head he let House’s sleepy growling soothe him to sleep. For a while Wilson was content too.

……..

Wilson woke with a start. He was pinned down by something large and heavy. And it was rumbling.

House.

He eyed House, who was now half sprawled across him and currently drooling gently onto his leg. Checking to see if House was still out of it Wilson reached out and gently began to try to lift up House’s jacket.

Suddenly he felt a strong hand around his wrist.

He looked down and saw House staring back up at him intently.

“Don’t Jimmy. Just don’t,” was all he said.

…….

It was a lovely hot day. They were ambling along with their coffees searching for a table at the outdoor café. House sped up. ‘Their’ table was free. Go cripple go, he thought as he made a beeline for their favourite table, ready to beat all challengers into submission with his cane. Then suddenly something stopped him.

House turned round to see Wilson had stopped a few steps back and was staring at him frozen.

“Greg,” he said slowly.

“Oh, the use of my first name. It must be serious,” he said semi-smiling.

But Wilson didn’t smile back.

“There is blood on the back of your shirt,” he said simply.

House changed in an instant and looked at him with a blank ‘don’t go there’ stare that had become all too familiar of late. The only time Wilson thought he’d gotten a semi straight answer out of House was the other day. They had both been on the balcony.

“So what’s really with all those pieces of paper and records at your house… House?” he said awkwardly.

House must have been feeling philosophical because he sighed quietly. He looked tired and defeated. “A failed attempt at hope Jimmy.”

But this time he wasn’t budging.

“Yeah, cut myself,” he said. His eyes telling Wilson in no uncertain terms to stop.

Wilson was silent for a minute. He contemplated taking up the challenge. Eventually he backed down, but he was still seething with anger. “You better go change your shirt then,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Yeah,” agreed House and started to go.

“House…”

“Fuck off Jimmy,” said House, not looking back as he dumped his coffee on the table and walked off.

Wilson stared at House’s back. Something was finally beginning to give. “Fuck off yourself,” replied Wilson softly to House’s back.

……

Pain is my constant companion, he thought dreamily as he stood in the shower washing off the blood. Vicodin is my bestest bestest friend. Scotch is church on Sunday. Cocaine is a presidential visit.

……

“He is getting too close. He is gonna find out. And then what will happen eh Greg? You will have broken the contract. Know what happens then eh Greg? Clause Eight, Paragraph Two.”

House could only gasp in pain, as his arm was twisted higher and higher up his back. He shook his head desperately and tried to speak, but he could feel the tendons wrenching and ripping and all that emerged was a whimper.

The pain lessened a bit as the arm was lowered and the voice went on.

“I don’t think we are up to Clause Eight, Paragraph Two just yet. How about a compromise? Would you agree for a compromise with Clause Five, Subsection seven? I think my client would agree to that.”

The arm was jolted up a fraction and House gasped. He nodded miserably. He knew every clause in the contract off by heart and knew what that one meant. But there was no alternative.

“Rightioh then – one, two three:” Then all House knew was his scream exploding in his ears as his arm was broken.

The bastards were good. They had made sure it was the left one.

…….

“What the hell is wrong with you?” exclaimed Wilson angrily, pacing up and down the room as House sat, head down, behind his desk. “Are you getting into masochism now? Isn’t the leg enough? Are you getting off on being tied up and beaten up?”

“Go away,” growled House dangerously to the tabletop. His eyes tight shut with pain at what he had to do.

“No, I am not going to let you do this to yourself.”

“Yes you bloody well are,” House yelled out. He continued in a quieter tone. “If you know what’s good for you?”

“What’s good for me,” cried Wilson in disbelief. “You stupid son of a bitch. When did you ever give a flying damn for me? Every time things go wrong – I am the one picking up the pieces,” he snarled.

House sucked in air viciously. “And did it ever occur to you that I didn’t want you there ‘picking up the pieces’ as you call it. I never wanted or needed…” he sneered. “…you, at all.”

At this Wilson opened his mouth to speak, but stopped, dead. Just standing there, his mouth hanging open, years of friendship leaking out of him like water from a punctured bag.

He looked so hurt that House nearly broke. A little bit of him died that day.

“What?” Wilson trailed off stupidly. Staring at his friend in disbelief.

House heaved himself to his feet. “Fuck you Saint Jimmy. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. I am sick of listening to your marital problems, sick of you making sure I am ok and that I eat my fucking greens.”

His voice rose in volume. “I am sick and tired of you. No, I don’t give a damn about you. I don’t want to see you or have to listen to you whine about me to me. Leave me alone,” he yelled, as he threw his cane his best and only friend.

It hit Wilson across his chest and fell to the floor with a clatter.

The scene was a perfect painful tableau for a second.

The three ducklings half out of their seats in the next room, frozen with shock at the sight before them: Wilson and House staring at each other over the abandoned cane. The first Mexican standoff House actually wanted to lose.

Wilson was the one to break the impasse. He shook his head to one side and took a deep breath. He reached down slowly, picked up the cane and looked down at it thoughtfully for a minute. He looked up at House and held it our in front of him, one hand at each end. Then, not taking his eyes off House, in an act of savagery he brought his foot up, kicked it viciously in the middle and snapped it in two.

The cane made a sickening cracking sound as it splintered, the dry wood sending little sharp shards flying around the room.

House flinched at the sound, but didn’t move as Wilson gently put the two halves of the cane on his desk and walked out of the office for the last time.

……

Cameron was blunt as she handed House the metal cane, borrowed from orthopedics.

“Dr Cuddy says she has a meeting for about the next fifteen minutes, but that if you are not standing in front of her desk when she gets back to her office you are fired.”

When Cuddy came in he was standing where he was meant to be, stomping the borrowed cane against the floor gently. Watching it intently as it bounced against the springy floorboards.

She didn’t say a word or even look at him, until she sat down. He didn’t look up at her. He just continued to study the cane as it bounced.

“Normally when you do something stupid I suspend you and you get a week off sitting around in your underwear watching daytime TV.” She paused. “Not a big change from the usual I know.”

House said nothing. The gentle stomping continued.

“But this House,” Cuddy looked at the wall. “This has to be – and I am saying this as your boss and as your friend, has to be one of the worst things in a long line of terrible things, that you have ever done.”

Thump thump thump.

Irritated at his lack of attention she thumped her hand down on the table. “House, Am I boring you?”

He looked at her blankly. He wasn’t all there. It took a second for him to realize he was meant to respond. In that second she was sure she saw a flash of absolute agony on his face. But then he blinked and it was gone.

“No Dr Cuddy. Please continue.” And he lowered his head and went back to thumping the cane.

“On a personal level: if you want to fight with Doctor Wilson, I can’t do anything. You two are supposedly grown ups. Technically I cannot do anything, but this hospital has standards and a code of conduct and I can punish you under that.”

If he wanted misery she would give him misery. “I am suspending you as the head of diagnostics for the next week. You are confined to full time clinic duty.”

Normally this would have provoked an outcry, but House only stopped his tapping, nodded and turned to go. Her voice stopped him.

“House.”

He turned to look at her.

“And this is my personal punishment,” she paused. “I will put a chair outside my office. Every time you are not with a patient you will be sitting in that chair. If I find one instance or report of you doing anything untoward you will get another week of clinic duty – and so on and so on until you get the message. Do you understand me?”

House nodded, but said nothing.

“Do you understand me?” she repeated more forcefully.

“Yes Ma’am,” he whispered. “May I go now?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you.”

……..

She didn’t acknowledge him the first morning when she came in to find him sitting hunched over in the chair by her door.

All week she ignored him, as he just sat there, waiting for the next patient chart to be handed to him, silent, solitary and sent to Coventry. Word of the incident had got around the hospital. Not even Nurse Brenda would talk to him. She would just throw the charts into his lap. Every time he wasn’t needed he returned quietly to the chair and sat down. On odd occasions when a clinic patient had taken his seat she would see him standing next to it, slumped over his cane, still the borrowed one from orthopedics. This puzzled her. Guilt usually never even crossed House’s radar. But this time it seemed that he almost wanted to be punished. Wasn’t Chase the Catholic?

She only said two words to him that week: when she found him sitting in his chair at six thirty on Friday evening, still sitting there. They were ‘go home.’

He said two words back: ‘Yes Ma’am.’

The next Monday things returned to a certain normalcy. House was in charge of his department again. Wilson was the head of Oncology. Their offices were next door. House could still see Wilson’s light when he worked late. The only difference was they didn’t speak any more.

……

“House, go home.”

He looked over to Wilson’s office. “I don’t want to,” he said stubbornly.

“Cameron tells me you haven’t been out of your office for days.”

“Doesn’t matter where I am,” he said still looking at the balcony.

“House, go home.”

…….

Three months later

He hated them, but they kept coming. Just hiccups, he thought. Big boys don’t cry. He was on punishment detail again. Cuddy had found her ultimate weapon. Perpetual clinic or as he liked to call it – perpetual Hell. He was sitting in ‘his chair’, outside Cuddy’s office. Trying desperately to not be there, to be blank, to be nothing – a big ball of six foot two nothing.

Fueled by Vicodin and a dash of cocaine he had managed to get into work on time this morning. To walk to his chair. To sit down without screaming about the fucking injustice of it all. He clenched his fists. He hugged himself tightly. Not my fault, he thought petulantly.

But Cuddy hadn’t seen it that way. She had tipped a saucepan of water over him, shaken him to consciousness, sat him up on the couch, made him coffee, which she practically poured down his throat and then, when she judged he had been cognizant enough, she had slapped him – hard. He still had the red mark on his cheek.

She told him that she was never going to do this again for him, as she emptied the bottles into the sink. Told him that he better be sitting in ‘his chair’ at eight thirty the next morning or not to bother ever coming in again, as she made him a piece of toast and slapped the plate down hard on the coffee table making him wince.

Then she took out the key she had let her self in with. He noticed it was Wilson’s key – the one with the W scratched into it. Wilson had kept it. House’s heart leapt. He’d kept it. He watched mesmerized as Cuddy dropped it into his lap.

After she left time slowed. It must have been late. He sat dripping on the couch as night fell and stared at the key. Eventually he reached down and picked it up, turning it round in his hand, looking at it, letting it fill his mind. He’d kept it – until now. On your own now bucko, he thought.

In the clinic House sat so still he looked like a statue: ‘Thinking Man with Cane’. But every so often a memory would pop up and a hiccuppy sob would force its way to the surface. He would beat it back with all his strength.

But they wouldn’t go away. The fingers digging into him in a grotesque parody of a caress; the hot breath whispering in his ear that the first time was always the worst. His soft whimper as he’d realized the implications of that statement. A whole new world of pain. The shudder he’d tried to suppress as he heard the soft clinking of the belt buckle. And he could still taste and feel the burning of the scotch he’d used to forget.

He wiped his eyes with his sleeve with a trembling hand and stared hard at the floor, but the hiccups still came. He suddenly panicked. His palms were sweaty and his mouth was dry. He felt nauseous. He realized he was going to lose it. He wanted to run, run away and never come back, but he knew if he did that he would be punished and get another day in purgatory. He snorted. Days in purgatory and nights in Hell.

He shakily got to his feet and put on his blandest face. He knocked softly on Cuddy’s door. She looked up at him suspiciously.

“Do you mind if I take an early lunch?” he asked. She frowned. “A short one,” he offered, his hand closing on the door handle in a death grip, his knuckles turning white.

Although his heart was twisting and churning he attempted to smile or at least leer in a charming manner. “Please.”

At this Cuddy relented. “You have fifteen minutes,” she said looking at her watch. “11. 49 exactly.”

He gave a curt nod of thanks and made it to the men’s room before he gave in. For ten minutes he silently screamed and raged and wept as he hugged a toilet bowl like a teddy bear, snot and tears dripping down his face. All through it all he could think of was the gaping hole in his chest. He wanted Wilson. He was a much better teddy bear.

At 11.48 he walked back into the clinic, downed four Vicodin and blandly smiled at his next patient: an expectant mother. A little bit more of him had died.

……..

Chapter 2

There was blood. Blood everywhere. He could taste it, smell it, feel it sliming under him in some places and drying sticky and hard to his skin in others.

He couldn’t open his eyes. He didn’t want to know who it was. Whose blood he was drowning in. He scrunched his eyes tight.

“It’s not fair,” he whimpered pathetically. “I did what you wanted. I did everything you wanted. I kept my side of the bargain.” Tears began to fall as he shook his head softly from side to side, a low keening wail escaping from his lips.

……

Cuddy was in her office when the phone rang. “It’s House,” he stated dully.

She pursed her lips. “And let me guess… you are sick today. You have had more supposed sick days in the last year than all the other eight years combined. This can’t go on House.”

“I know,” he said interrupting her. “It’s not going to. Cameron is dead and I will go to jail for her murder, so I guess I better resign now.” With that he put the phone down leaving Cuddy staring in horror and disbelief at the dead receiver.

On the other end of the phone House punched in 911 with sticky red fingers that left smears on the telephone receiver. He ignored the operator on the other end and simply told her there had been a murder. He gave his name and address. He was about to hang up when he paused. “So I guess you are going to send some guys around. I’ll leave the door open for you.”

With that he put the phone down and wearily began to pull himself off the bed, looking for his cane. He found it a few feet away from the bed. Judging by the gore on the handle it had clearly been the murder weapon. Nice touch, he thought to himself as he limped slowly to the front door.

……..

Wilson was sitting at their table. It was just habit, automatically following patterns long established. There was nothing sentimental about this table he thought to himself. It’s just a damn table. It doesn’t mean anything to you. Not anymore.

Two interns were sitting nearby. He picked up snatches of their conversation.

“…it was gruesome, blood everywhere.”

“He got life. Only escaped the death penalty because he was a cripple.”

Wilson realized who they were talking about. He looked down at his sandwich, suddenly feeling sick at the sight of it.

They hadn’t spoken for six months before Cameron’s death. Occasionally Wilson would see Greg hobbling around the hospital, but for the most part he stayed holed up in his office.

Feeling guilty, Wilson had tried to talk to Greg, make friends again, but Greg refused to even look at him. In that typical Housian way of his he would just pretend Wilson wasn’t even in the room and then find the first excuse to bolt. Eventually he had just given up. The gossip filled the halls of the Princeton Plains-borough Teaching Hospital. The strangest and strongest friendship in its history had broken. Finally, Gregory House had finally driven James Wilson away. An era was over.

Cuddy had taken over his prescription, but Wilson was sure House was doing something else. He was jumpy and jittery. On the rare occasions he left his office Wilson could see House looked terrible. In the spate of only one year House had gone from moderately miserable to walking dead. Even his walk had changed into a grotesque lopsided mechanical gait. He looked like he ran on clockwork. His body still carrying out the motions on automatic as he shambled down the corridors.

He’d stopped bothering to even call in sick. He had accrued so many clinic hours as punishment for his unexplained absences that Cuddy had given up counting. He didn’t do them anyway.

Cuddy watched him wind down sadly; knowing that sooner or later the rubber band would break and it would all come to a shuddering halt. She knew she couldn’t protect him forever. People were starting to talk. House looked and acted like a zombie. He rarely talked and his once expressive blue eyes were dead and empty.

There was no one to talk to anyway. No one to tell. Even he couldn’t believe it. That fucking lawyer had outdone himself one night. Not a blow had been struck, but it had taken every little last piece of feeling in control he had. Tied down, stretched out… Gone from a human being into something to be used and abused at will - just a party piece. Listening as they laughed and drank and snorted cocaine.

Normally he tried to wash away the pain with long hot showers that scalded his body or drown himself in scotch, but this time he had simply thought ‘fuck it’. He was too exhausted to care. He had simply crawled from where they’d dumped him to the couch, curled up and shut down a part of him.

She had known something was wrong when he hadn’t bothered to get a new cane. She kept telling him to do his job, but he didn’t seem to care. He just wasn’t really there. He had just watched dispassionately as all his toys, even the big squishy ball, had been gathered up and taken away – not to be returned until he went back to clinic duty. But even this had no effect on his behaviour.

For a time he continued working and his team covered well for him, but by the end, just before her death, all he did was sit in his office, his cases ignored, just staring at nothing, as if waiting for something.

They all knew it would end, but no one expected it would end like it did.

…….

“He was doing drugs they reckon. Drove him over the edge. He flipped out and killed her. Claimed he didn’t remember anything, but he still pleaded guilty.”

The casually brutal summation of the murder brought up fresh memories of that terrible time. All thoughts of their fight were wiped from Wilson’s mind as he rushed to House’s, not knowing from Lisa’s garbled message what to expect.

“Let me help you,” he had pleaded on that horrible day in Greg’s apartment. Police in big boots trampled through the living room in a frenzy of activity. In the middle of it all Greg sat stiffly on the couch with his hands cuffed behind his back, an officer on each side, not knowing they were guarding a man who could barely walk, let alone run.

Then House had done something strange. He had smiled bitterly and replied: “I’m sorry Jimmy, but I can’t.” Wilson didn’t know it, didn’t realize it then because he was in shock, but later he would remember House had called him ‘Jimmy’ again and would spend sleepless nights pondering why.

The detective in charge came over eyeing House with disgust. “Get him out of here,” he said to the two officers. As they hoisted House to his feet he hissed with pain and tried to double over. Wilson wondered when was the last time House had taken a Vicodin.

“He has a bad leg. He needs his cane and his painkillers,” pleaded Wilson.

The detective looked at Wilson in surprise. “A bad leg?” he said incredulously. “He has a bad leg does he? Listen mister, that lady in there has a bad everything, so quite frankly one bad leg isn’t all that impressive. Who the hell is guy anyway?” he asked, rounding on one of the police officers.

“Said he was a doctor sir,” said one nervously.

“Look,” said Wilson. “He can’t stand without his cane and he is chronic pain. Please take his cane.”

The detective moved in on Wilson. “I’d love to oblige Doctor,” he said. The scorn evident in his voice. “But that was what he bashed her head in with.”

Wilson took a step back in shock and looked at House. But the other doctor kept his head down and his eyes firmly planted on the floor.

The detective smirked at House. “Got a bad leg do we.” House glanced up at him fearfully and saw what was coming. The detective tapped the left one with his clipboard. “This one?” he asked. “Or this one,” he said as he viciously hit the right, managing to hit the exact spot of the infarction. Eyes tight shut and his back hunched, House bit back a spasm of pain and tried to curl over his leg, but was dragged back up by his collar.

The detective smiled up at the officers. “Yep – that’s the one boys. Make sure you are careful with it.” The smile left his face and he looked at Wilson. “Drag him if you have to.”

Wilson watched helplessly as the two officers ignored House’s cries of pain and pulled him away.

“Scum,” said the detective viciously under his breath, but loudly enough so Wilson would hear it. He turned back. “What is your exact relationship with him sir?”

Wilson thought for a moment. All the myriad possibilities going round his mind. Finally he picked one.

“I’m his friend.”

…….

The voices of the interns brought him back to the present.

“How long do you think it took before he ended up in solitary?”

“Knowing him… about a week.”

The two interns laughed.

……..

Chapter 3

“Hello Gregory.”

House looked up from where he was lying awkwardly on the cell cot. He was exhausted. He had spent hours, chained to an uncomfortable interview chair, unable to move or stretch, repeating his story for a succession of angry detectives and police officers, who thought nothing of giving him a good whack around the head if he was too slow in answering their questions.

Quietly, again and again he had asked them to just lock him away. He was guilty. He was sorry. Lock him up and throw away the key. He didn’t care. He would admit to anything they wanted to be able to lie down with a couple of Vicodin.

But when he had mentioned his drugs they had laughed. His heart sunk. He wasn’t going to get any Vicodin. This was the start of a new level of suffering. How clever, he thought. How very very clever. And then of course: there was Cameron. An innocent victim in this horrible game.

He stared at the man on the other side of the bars for a few seconds. His leg throbbed and he was suffering through Vicodin withdrawal. It had been 15 hours without even an aspirin. He couldn’t even see straight.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said dully. “I thought you would turn up at some point.”

“Do you know what happens now?”

He laughed drunkenly. “I can take a guess. I go to jail and you find a nice bunch of homies who will fuck me up the ass once a week for the rest of my life.”

The other man smiled indulgently. “Something like that.”

“Well at least that makes a change from you,” he said.

House rolled himself over until he fell off the cot onto the filthy floor of the cell. He pulled himself painfully to his knees.

“Can you tell me why? Why wasn’t I enough? I did what you wanted.”

He used the cell bars to pull himself to his feet and stood swaying in front of the other man. “Why did you take Cameron?” He looked around hopelessly. “I’m a mean nasty bastard, but she… she was so nauseatingly good and innocent.”

All he got was an apologetic smile. “You were getting too complacent Greg – and doing too many drugs.”

So that was it: a whole new world of pain.

The man continued. “As to Ms Cameron…Unfortunately at this time my client is not ready to divulge that information.” He paused and tapped his chin thoughtfully. “But, if I had to give a hint… I would have to say I think you may have answered your own question.”

And he left leaving House bewildered, but at least with a new piece of the puzzle to take his mind off his constant companion.

……..

The next time House was angry:

“Give me one good reason for not telling,” he said. “You killed Cameron. What is to stop you from killing someone else.”

The man smiled indulgently. “Gregers… Do you mind if I call you Gregers. We have shared so much together.”

“Yes I do mind if you call me Gregers,” he said recklessly.

The smile fell from the man’s face. “Yes, but Gregers even

though there are bars between us, as usual I am in control and you just have to ‘take it’, but you are good at that aren’t you Greg? I could always arrange a lesson if you have forgotten.”

The man paused. House said nothing, remembering how many times this man had hurt him.

“A lesson in taking it – that is,” continued the man menacingly. “Even here, so, want me to arrange something special?”

House saw the threat and knew his torturer could make good on his promises. “No sir, sorry sir” he mumbled begrudgingly. Lessons, all too painfully learnt. Any flash of anger, perceived disobedience, and he would be brutally punished - more. He didn’t think things could get any worse, but he hadn’t counted on the lawyer’s inventiveness.

The man smiled. “Good boy Greggers. The contract still stands – the main clause stays the same, but now there is an added clause: Cuddy, Foreman, Chase – and what do you say we throw in mom and dad for good measure.” It was not a question.

House ground his teeth so hard he could hear them squeak.

“What do I have to do?”

“Nothing,” he said. “Just take it like a man.”

House narrowed his eyes as he stared at the man. “It is going to get worse isn’t it? It is only partially about Cameron isn’t it?”

But the lawyer ignored the question. “Don’t worry Greggers, I’ll be keeping in touch,” said the man as he passed the contract and a knife through the bars. “Just a thumb print will do.”

Typical fucking lawyer.

…….

Wilson watched Steve as he ran. Steve really loved that little wheel. He never grew tired of it.

And it was ironic that House had really loved Steve. Only House would have a rat for a pet, thought Wilson. There had to be some important message in that somewhere?

House hadn’t let anyone help him. The trial had been brutal and swift. He had offered, but the only thing House had asked him to do was look after Steve.

House had let himself go more and more he’d lavished more and more on Steve. Steve now resided in the biggest cage he had ever seen. He had special food and so many toys it wasn’t funny. There were toys to push, toys to chew and even a rat-sized burrow to sleep in. He laughed as he imagined House in the pet store buying them and terrorizing the poor sales assistant.

“No, they are not for a cat, they are for my rat… yes I have a disease ridden rodent I picked up in my ex’s attic… who I had to cure of the black plague before I could keep him – do you have a problem with that?”

Wilson waggled his finger in between the bars and Steve ran up and nibbled a bit on the end of it as a sort of hello before deciding to go back to his wheel.

The rat of a rat. But Steve was loved and cared for – in fact, it looked like he was getting a bit fat. Stick with the wheel Steven or you’ll die young like your namesake.

Wilson sat back and watched Steve as he ran furiously, but went nowhere. How like life?

……..

House’s chains rattled in time with the rhythm of the bus. He was still wearing the suit he had been wearing on the last day of court – his sentencing. That was the same day he had been struck off the medical register.

“You’ve got mail,” said the officer as he handed the letter through the bars. “Read it quick and give it back.”

When he had put his suit on that morning he knew it would be the last time he would ever wear a suit again. When he had read the letter he knew that day would also be the last time anyone would call him ‘Doctor’. He looked out the grimy windows at the fields. I hope I look good in stripes, he thought absently – otherwise I’m screwed.

……..

Chapter 4

House looked up. What the? He had been so busy taking his frustration out on some poor little innocent rock that he had lost track of his surroundings. It was ironic. The guards thought it was hilarious. He couldn’t work on the chain gang so they made him sit and break rocks between his legs, just like the convicts of old. But secretly he loved it. Everyday he got to smash and destroy. A tiny bit of power in a powerless existence.

But where was every one else? The rest of the gang had gone. They must have moved on up the road and forgotten him. Well that was the easiest prison break in history, he thought. Although he had a suspicion it had been done deliberately. You just don’t forget someone like Gregory House.

He grabbed his cane, almost automatically locking the handcuff around his wrist before he stopped himself. He didn’t have to this time. No nasty prison guards to beat him if he didn’t do what he was told. He didn’t like being told what to do. Unfortunately in prison that sort of attitude got you hit - a lot.

He looked at the sorry excuse that was his mobility. It was nothing like the sleek wooden cane from before. He never would have thought he would miss that, but now he longed for the surety it had provided.

His tormentor was rich he had decided... really rich. The whole ‘torment Greg House’ set up must have cost a fortune as it was, but it also seemed he had bribed half the prison to make his life hell, well more hellish. There were the regular ‘visits’ from the boys that made his nights an endless waiting game of fear, the torments from the guards who found every excuse to punish him – and even more ingenious torments. The prison doctor had ignored his protests, diagnosed muscle strain and given him Tylenol. He had looked at the man in disbelief.

“How much did you get paid,” he asked quietly. He was furious. Idiots hurting him he could understand and cope with, but doctors…

The doctor looked up from his chart.

“What?”

“How much did you get paid to ignore all your medical training, your Hippocratic oath and prostitute yourself?” he repeated.

There was a tense silence between the two men. House nearly had him. But eventually the money won out and the man looked away. It must have been a bucket load, he thought.

But no matter how they tried to pretend, a man missing half his thigh muscle and in constant pain simply can’t walk unassisted. But giving a prisoner a big stick was just unacceptable. So they had come up with the ‘bit of pipe chained to the wrist’ solution as House like to think of it.

It was a couple of bits of PVC piping stuck together with a handcuff on the end of a chain that was attached to the cross section. This, he assumed, was so the other inmates wouldn’t steal it from him and try to stick it up his arse or beat someone to death with it.

It was flimsy and he had to live with the constant fear that it might not hold his weight. But then again constant fear was a constant in prison. That was why they called it constant. And at least the pipe allowed him some dignity.

He climbed painfully up his cane and looked around. He was in the middle of nowhere. A cripple, with leg irons, a PVC pipe doubling as a cane and wearing a black and white cartoon prison shirt complete with a little stripey hat.

So I’m sure to make it Mexico, he thought dryly.

But it was a lovely day. The sun was warm and comfortable in that delightful lazy way that made him think of fishing and Huckleberry Fin. That had to be on the plus side. No bars or screaming. And he was free – relatively – with the chains and all. But he decided he wasn’t going to let that stop him. This was a window of opportunity. In the distance he could see a house. They would have water and hopefully a phone so he could call up his jail and get them to come pick him up.

“Hello, this is Gregory House. I am a prisoner at your institution and a convicted murderer. You left me behind today. I was just wondering - before you call out the sniffer dogs, start the manhunt and all, could you come and pick me up from number 76 Orange Road? I’ll wait by the mail box.”

Oh yeah.

He was gonna get it big time. Of all the prisons to be sent to, he had to get this one. This was the toughest prison in the country. Thanks to that idiot Baby Bush, new criminal law reforms were being trialed.

‘America is being overrun. Bring back the cane, the lash, and the chain gang,’ cried the right-wingers. The electric chair skeleton said ‘hey what’s cookin.’ Thank you Allen Ginsberg. Gotta love those beatnik poets, he thought. There had been many who had called for his own death. What they didn’t know was that he was not meant to die, but suffer. But for what - he didn’t know yet. It was the ultimate tortuous puzzle for a man like House. So here he was – suffering in every which way, but loose.

His prison was the flagship for the changes. The prison was run military style. You stood to attention, marched in time, made sure your uniform was perfect and called everyone sir or you got walloped. You worked every day for twelve hours for nothing. In the olden days this used to be called slavery. Now it was called being tough on crime. And of course most of the prison population was black, there on drug charges because Bush Daddy’s ‘war on drugs’ had failed. It was the modern version of American slavery. They hadn’t changed the concept, just the name. Now that was clever.

And speaking of every which way, but loose…or in this case ‘including loose’: the escaping thing was not going to go down well.

Solitary again.

He thought about the future. On the down side when he got back he probably wasn’t going to see daylight for months, they would beat him and generally make him want to die. But on the plus side – it was a lovely day and he could smell jasmine: the perfect day for a walk. He set off for the farmhouse, his chains making a merry tinkling sound as he limped along, marching in time to the buzzing of the bees.

…..

“I’m Greg.”

“I’m Tim.”

“Nice to meet you Tim. Do you think you could put the shot gun down?”

“You are a criminal.”

There was a pause. “No, I’m a convict.”

“There is a difference?”

“A convict is someone who lives in prison, as you can see – that’s me, and I even have the stripey shirt to prove it. A criminal is someone who does bad things.”

“But don’t you have to be a criminal to go to prison.”

House sighed. “Not 100 percent of the time – no – and most of them hang out at the White House.” He frowned, ever the analyst. “But it helps.” He looked at the boy. “Look, you need to rest and I need to lower my arms.” He tried his most charming smile, which looked like a lopsided leer. “They hurt.”

“Good.”

“What do you mean good? I could have murdered a guy who did ‘naughty things’ to my sister.”

“Did you?”

House screwed up his face and looked thoughtful. “No.”

“Then keep them up.”

He screwed up his face. “Oh come on,” said House in annoyance, but he kept his hands up. He didn’t want to get shot by a frightened boy. He had to live. There were people to live for. And he had an idea.

……..

Sometime later

“Do you have any money?”

“Of course I don’t have any god damn money.”

“But you were the one who called them!”

“I’m desperate prison escapee. Look at me! I’ll do anything. This is Thelma and Louise territory.”

Tim looked from side to side, ten to one he had no idea who Thelma and Louise were, thought HouseHousHH. “What will I do?”

House sighed. The youth of today, he thought. Far too moralistic. “Okay – here is the plan. I am the convict and I look all desperate and crazy right?”

“Right,” said Tim.

“So when the guy comes I make with the menace and bingo – we get the pizza.”

“But what will they do to you?”

House rubbed his chin. He looked conspiratorial. “No one has ever got the death penalty for nicking pizza.” He crossed his fingers. “So far. So I take the rap,” said House

Tim smiled. “And then we eat the pizza.”

House smiled too. “Pizza.”

……..

“Tim, thanks.”

“What for?”

“A decent conversation. Do you know how long it has been since I had a conversation that didn’t consist of bend over and spread ‘em?”

“Did you really escape?”

“I didn’t actually escape. Technically they left me behind.” He sighed and tried not to let his mind wander to the future. “But they won’t see it that way. And the whole pizza thing won’t go down to well either.”

“It was your idea.”

House leaned back. “And so worth it. Did you see the look on that delivery guy’s face.”

They laughed.

Some time later they were sitting on the front steps of the little House, finishing off the last of the pizza.

“So why are you in prison if you aren’t a criminal?”

“Ever had someone, someone who meant so much to you that you would do anything for them?”

Tim looked down at the dirt. “Yeah, my mum. She works so hard and she never gets mad – even when I do dumb stuff.”

“Well there is this guy…”

“A guy,” said Tim spluttering on his pizza.

House rolled his eyes. “No – it is not like that. For God’s sake.”

Tim sighed. “I like guys,” he said quietly.

“Well, good for you. I like tits and arse, but I don’t go on about it. Actually I do – so good for you,” said House offhandedly. “But this is my story, not yours. So I get to do all the angsting.”

He eyed his slice of pizza thoughtfully before continuing. “There is this guy, and some other people, and I do what I have to do to make sure they are safe.”

“So you are in jail because you want these people to be safe?” confirmed Tim.

“Yeah.”

“It sounds weird.”

House took a bite of his pizza. “Weird doesn’t even begin to describe it, but that is life Tim my boy.”

They looked up as they heard the distant wail of sirens in the background. House smiled grimly. “That’s my ride.”

……………

Wilson watched sadly as House was practically carried into the courtroom by two troopers. He felt sick as he looked at the irons on his friend. How could we do this to people, he thought. There were heavy chains around his ankles and waist, and his hands were cuffed behind him. He was left that way throughout the entire trial – chained and defeated. He looked pale and thin in his striped uniform. His clothes hung on him like a coat on a hanger. He sat in the dock staring down at the table, dwarfed by the troopers on either side of him. Throughout the trial he never moved. Never even gave any signal he knew what was happening to him. He never looked around. Never knew Wilson was sitting there, watching him, his heart aching at seeing House like this.

What Wilson couldn’t see were the bruises underneath the uniform that ran down the length of his body.

He had told the boy to go inside. He didn’t want him to see this, but Tim had watched from the window as the man who he had come to think of as OK was hurt.

When the squad cars had arrived House had been standing in the yard, arms out as if crucified. It did no good. The next few minutes had passed in a blur of screaming men and pain as he was violently forced to the ground and cuffed.

His head was wrenched back and someone sprayed mace into his face. He tried to writhe, but the knee in the centre of his back held him down. A boot thudded into his side, knocking the breath from him.

He faintly heard laughter, then the voice of his section officer. “Leave him boys. We’ll take care of him when we get him back to the prison.” Then he was picked up like a sack of flour and thrown in the back of the van for the ride back to Hell. He lay on the floor of the van, feeling the deputies’ feet resting on his back, and wondered if it was worth praying to God at this point.

Nightsticks hurt he thought absently. He lay splayed out on the floor where they had dumped him, too exhausted to even move his head, gently drooling blood and mucus onto the concrete. He did a quick inventory. He was still blind from the mace, but that didn’t matter, as one of his eyes was closed shut and the punishment cell was pitch black anyway. So, in an absurd way, that was a plus. But the rest of him had been pummeled something but good. He’d be peeing blood for a month. He struggled to find something to count as a plus. Eventually he decided it was good because at least it took the pain away from the leg. But he knew he didn’t believe his lie.

A little bit more of him had died that day. He could tell. He could feel his tears dripping down his face. But on the plus side, they would wash the mace out of his eyes. See – there is always a bright side young Gregory. You just have to find it.

Eventually he drifted off into an exhausted sleep, waking up only once with a vague dream memory of being slapped by a woman with exceptional breasts. Strangely enough that had hurt more than anything.

“There are some people who should never be allowed to darken society’s doorstep ever again. I am just glad there is never any chance you will ever be released,” said the judge pompously. “Do you have anything to say before I pass sentence?”

House just continued to stare down at the table. His lawyer quickly stood up and mumbled a sentence or two about how his client was sorry.

“Ridiculous as it is, I have to sentence you. Five years for the escape attempt and two years for aggravated assault and a further five for resisting arrest.”

House mentally snorted as he hung between the troopers for sentencing. Did the judge really believe he sounded credible? Oooo – the officers had done a good job of saying how scared they were of the cripple with the plastic pipe. So now he was not only a murderer, but also a vicious violent dangerous escapee robber. All he’d wanted to be was a doctor. Maybe I should look at it like a second career? he thought stupidly. I could get business cards made up: Gregory House, V.V.D.E.R. BA - Murd.

House was brought back to the present as the judge continued. His next words chilled him to the bone. “I can only hope your governor takes the appropriate steps to ensure you are securely confined and imposes suitable punitive measures.”

……

Chapter 5

It was so simple it was elegant. They made him walk. All day, every day. He had to walk. It was delightfully ironic that something so basic could be such an effective form of torture.

The days became a never ending cycle of pain. He followed the lines… 27 painful steps, made all the more difficult by the heavy leg irons he now constantly wore – now there was no escape from the chains - turn left, another 27 steps, turn left, another 27 steps, turn left, another 27 steps: again and again and again until his leg would go and he would collapse face down in the dirt, gasping for the air he needed as he desperately tried to pick himself up again before they noticed and came for him.

But they always came. At first he would thrash pitifully, plead with them that if they gave him a little time he could still walk and not to put him in the box, but then after a while he didn’t care.

He would just lie on the ground and wait for them to carry him away and stuff him into the little tin box head first like a piece of meat, leaving him to lie there, his leg curled awkwardly, with the heat infusing his lungs. His thigh throbbing in time with his head as his tears made tracks through the dust on his face.

If there was one thing he could do, only one thing. It would be to die. He wanted it, ached for it, dreamed about it. ‘The rest is silence’ kept ringing in his ears. Hamlet had it right. Not screaming, not pain… silence. But he never considered it. There was Horatio to think of.

That lawyer was clever. Every time he didn’t think it couldn’t get worse the little bastard would top himself. Now his only sanctuary was the too few blessed hours in his dark little cell. His home. After all the shouting and screaming had died down it was as close to silent as it got. He would lie on his bunk and unbeknownst to him dream of happier times filled with Vicodin, scotch and Jewish mammas who wore lab coasts: until the giant steaming angry beast would wake up again and it was time for the nightmare of pain to begin again.

…….

Later

“No visitors today thanks,” mouthed House silently into the corner as the little observation port opened, casting a dim light into the cell and signaling a new day. Just one day with no one hitting him, screaming at him or spitting on him would be nice. Today he was just plain tired. Too tired to even be afraid. What could they do to him that hadn’t been done before? He couldn’t think of much.

He couldn’t stop them. He couldn’t fight back. The man with the cane couldn’t run, couldn’t escape. If he was going to get hurt he was going to get hurt. You took it up the ass: it was just a part of the wonderful life of Greg House.

But all his resolve left him as the cell door opened. He didn’t like that door. When it opened it meant pain. And it had been opened too many times. He automatically cringed in anticipation and began to move – one arm covering his eyes and the other groping blindly for the chain to pull himself up. Too long in the dark and his retinas couldn’t take the change in light. Down here in the bowels of the prison, reserved for those special people who weren’t even good enough to live amongst felons, murderers and crack addicts, all you got was the observation window in the door during the day. During the night you had to imagine flowing meadows and green fields because you couldn’t see jack shit.

How long had he been here? Oh God, he suddenly realized he didn’t remember. He didn’t know which day or even which month it was. All he knew was he wasn’t getting out of this cell. He was here for life – that’s what they’d said. Sitting rotting in a dark corner, chains on his legs, chains on his wrists, even chained to the fucking wall.

One cell was supposedly as good as another. Prison life was a never-ending cycle of chains, bars, hard eyed men with big boots and clanging doors. A very angular life he decided. But he really didn’t like this cell. It was dark and it was cold. At least before there had been things to see. He never would have thought he would miss the sight of Fat Boy. He wondered if he’d had that heart attack yet.

He remembered a quote about something being long periods of monotony followed by sheer bursts of terror. Was that about war or life?

Stand up House; stand up now, thought desperately. Now is not the time to be philosophical you idiot. He tried to rise, but a feeling of light-headedness came over him and he fell back down into the corner, despair threatening to choke him as he curled up instinctively, waiting for the inevitable blow.

But nothing happened. After a moment he squinted into the light in confusion, then stopped in amazement. It wasn’t Boot Boy or any of the other guards. The man standing in his cell had a suit on – with a dog collar.

He laughed silently. A bloody priest. He slumped down into the corner in relief. Go away Padre, he thought to himself. He didn’t need saving. He was already in Hell. And hoping God botherers weren’t as ready with their fists as guards he turned his face back to the corner of the cell.

But the priest came over to his corner. Eventually House turned to look at the intruder into his space. He saw the man eyeing him warily.

Eventually the man spoke. “Hello, Gregory,” he said.

It was something about the way he said it that made House start. He thought he was gutted inside, but fear began to pound through his veins and he shrank back into the corner. He knew who this man was. This was his nemesis. This was ‘the client’: the man responsible for the pitiful state of his life.

Then suddenly all the fear and pain were wiped away as he clicked into diagnostic mode as his curiosity took over.

He wanted to know why.

He had to swallow a few times before he could speak. He was unused to speaking. Not allowed to talk down here.

“It’s you,” he said quietly. “You are not a priest. You are the one who did this to me.”

He narrowed his eyes, his brain working at full speed. “You had to come and see me, didn’t you? You had to make a personal appearance. You wanted to see my pain first hand. The video recordings weren’t enough.”

He took a deep breath in as he remembered all those nights in the factory. “What, am I - next to Lost season two in your video library? Do you sit there and ask yourself – mmm – do I feel like MASH today or shall I watch Greg House being tortured?”

“So now you have come for the live show.” House continued viciously, his voice harsh. He didn’t realise tears had begun streaming down his face. He didn’t realise that maybe he hadn’t given up on himself after all. Anger was bubbling to the surface.

“Do you have favourite episodes? Remember the one where they strung me up and put the high-pressure hose on me all night in the middle of winter. That one must have been a highlight. Or what about the one where they flogged me? Or the first time they…” he trailed off. Unable to say it.

“Do you have House marathons? Back to back House episodes,” he said sarcastically. “Do you eat popcorn while you watch?” he spat viciously.

The priest said nothing. He merely slid down the wall and sat next to House. Even though there was nothing threatening in this gesture House felt suddenly very afraid. Actually talking about all those times had brought back bad memories he had tried to suppress. Finally he was meeting his tormenter face to face and, considering what he had endured before he wondered what would happen now. Was he about to die? Was that the final episode? No spin offs for House.

“So what do you want to know,” he said desperately, suddenly gasping for breath. “You took everything from me. You destroyed everything: my work, my support, my life. You hurt me, again and again and again – until I wanted to die. But you wouldn’t let me do that. You blackmailed me with the one person you knew I would do anything for to keep safe. Then you made me drive him away - the only person who has ever truly cared a damn about me. Then you killed an innocent woman and sent me here to rot; and presumably die in pain, misery and loneliness,” he said as he jangled his chains and gestured around the little cell.

“Do you feel better now?” asked House.

The man thought for a moment.

“Yes.”

“Well at least one of us is happy.”

The priest closed his eyes as he rested his head against the cell wall. He seemed creepily content, a beatific smile on his face. He seemed content not to say anything more. Eventually House had to break his reverie. He had to know why.

“Would you mind answering one question?” he asked conversationally, knowing this might be his only chance.

“And what’s that?” said the priest with his eyes still closed.

“Any particular reason why or were you just bored. Are you sure you have the right guy?” He snorted with bitter laughter. “I really think I would have remembered pissing you off so badly you would do all this and I’d really hate for this all to have been some giant misunderstanding.”

This provoked a reaction. The man turned his head to House and bored into him with his gaze. “My name is Robert Thompson and you killed my only daughter. I am exacting God’s revenge. An eye for an eye.”

He leaned in close to House. “That is why I make you suffer. That is why Ms Cameron had to die.”

“Oh crap, not this again,” said House almost to himself. “When will people realise death is a natural part of life.” House was starting to get angry. “The Bible was wrong. An eye for an eye doesn’t make things better. It just means you keep poking until both of you are blind. Then you stumble around a bit and fall into the nearest well.”

But Thompson laughed softly. “You think you are a god. Do you feel like a god now Gregory. You are not God. Only God has the power to take life,” he hissed. “Your job was to save it. Your job was to save my daughter.”

House sighed. He tried to run his hands through his hair before realizing with his prison haircut this was impossible.

“Look you moron. Let me put it in a way you might understand. God created all life on Earth right. They say if you do what God does enough times you become God. Doctors are gods. We play with life and death every day. But we are fallible gods,” he said.

“We haven’t had as much practice as the big guy up there,” he said pointing a thumb to the roof. “We can get it wrong and people die. And remember that God created death too.” He looked at the priest, willing him to understand. House couldn’t say sorry because he wasn’t sorry. He did his best for patients in the only way he knew how. “Sometimes people just die,” he said softly.

But Thompson didn’t seem to hear him. He just leaned in closer. “You know something Greg; you are right. It should be up to God. He should make you should burn in hell for all eternity.” The priest shook his head and House realized this guy was mad as a meat axe.

“But I just couldn’t be sure,” Thompson continued. “I am weak. There was a tiny part of me that wasn’t sure of my faith. So I decided to create your own personal hell while you were still alive. Did I do a good job?”

House gave up and smiled sadly at him. “A very good job.”

Thompson leaned back against the cell wall. “Maybe that makes me God.”

…….

Chapter 6

Later

“Oh my God.” Cuddy her eyes wide, had her hand over her mouth. Wilson was just staring into space. Both were in complete shock.

Millionaire business man Robert Thompson was dead. Shot dead in a car park. No one mourned his death. He was found over twenty four hours later, face down in the dusty ash felt. The police suspected organized crime. They had been monitoring his activities for some time. They obtained a warrant and sent in a team to search his house to confirm their suspicions.

It had been a junior agent who had stumbled across them. She had been assigned the dreary job of checking through his movie room, while all the more senior agents were rifling through Thompson’s office. She was listlessly going through the DVDs when she noticed an entire shelf of movies entitles Greg House. Puzzled, she stopped. She vaguely remembered a case a few years back about a Doctor sentenced for murder called House. Why would Thompson have DVDs labeled House? Intrigued she selected one at random and put it into the player. They found her hours later, still staring at the television, tears running down her face; in her hands was the contract.

The enormity of what House had done begun to sink in. Wilson looked at the contract in disbelief. It was signed in blood. He could smell it. His eye was caught by his own name: James Wilson, then he saw Lisa’s name and the word ‘terminate’.

That was what he had been hiding, protecting, all this time: their lives.

“D… does he know,” stammered Wilson. Then realizing how stupid he sounded he tried to clarify. “I mean about Thompson’s death?”

The detective nodded slowly. We brought him up here yesterday. We thought he wouldn’t be safe in the jail.

“Why not?” asked Wilson.

….

“Have we been through all the records of the people Thompson paid off?” Jones asked as she walked into her boss’s office.

“Jesus no – have you seen how many there are?”

“Then we need to go through them right now. I think we have a bigger problem. He just asked me the date,” she said.

“So?” replied the older man impatiently.

“He asked me what year it was.”

She continued. “He didn’t even know who the President is.”

Caffrey’s eyes widened in realization. “Do you mean that if Thompson set up all that other bullshit and the murder…” he trailed off in shock. “What did he arrange for him in prison?”

……..

“Do you mean he’s here… now? Can I see him?” asked Wilson.

“Tomorrow. He’s up in the hospital now, but I think you should. He doesn’t seem to believe it is true that Thompson’s dead and he doesn’t trust us much,” said the detective.

……..

Wilson sat nervously at the table, staring at the empty bolted down chair on the other side of the cold filthy depressing interview room. God this place was horrid. Was this what Greg had endured the last few years.

The first thing he noticed was the limp. House could barely walk. He nearly twisted sideways with each step as he leaned on his cane… cane? It looked like a couple of bits of plastic PVC piping stuck together. And to his dismay he saw it was attached to House’s wrist with a handcuff and a chain.

House looked up when he entered the room and faltered. Wilson noticed a fading black eye before he quickly lowered his gaze, keeping his head down as the officers helped him to his seat and bolted his leg irons to the floor. It sickened James to see House like this. But of course he was Gregory House: for the moment - the cripple convicted of a murder so savage that he had to be caged and chained like an animal.

They sat there. Not looking at each other. Not saying anything. Wilson didn’t even begin to know how to talk about this. Eventually he decided to stick to the tied and true. He broke the silence in the usual way.

“I like the new cane. Very stylish.”

House eyed the pathetic plastic pipe chained to his wrist. “Yeah,” he said softly. Both men remembering that day in the office when Wilson had broken House’s cane and wishing they hadn’t.

James motioned to the bruise. “Who’d you piss off?”

House looked startled for a moment as if unsure what Wilson was referring to, until realization dawned. “Oh this… This is a must have prison accessory,” he said slowly, as if unused to forming sentences. His voice was raspy and dry.

He gave a small smile that did not reach his eyes. “The doors I have to walk into to stay fashionable,” he trailed off, aware at the feebleness of the attempted joke. Wilson watched House shift uncomfortably and noticed the pain behind his words.

Wilson had seen the hospital report of the scan they had just done on him. He had seen some of the videos too, but he would never tell Greg that. He knew House and he had seen the things he had gone through. He would never want anyone to see him like that.

So many broken bones. So many bruises on him even now – old and new. Some of his fingers had been broken three times each. The burns… and there were even scars from a whip across his back. All those so-called ‘falls’ were now explained. All those sick days. He felt sick himself. What had House been going through – alone, unable to ask anyone to help him?

It explained so much. When House had gone to prison Wilson had received a letter saying everything in House’s apartment was his – including Steve. Although not wanting to he had gone over to the apartment. It was still a shambles, abandoned. He had walked through the dark cool rooms, trying to imagine House’s life. Everything – the TV, kitchen, and the bed – was a forgotten mess.

Only the piano was clear. And slap bang in the middle of the shiny black surface of the piano was Wilson’s key. He knew it was his because Greg had scratched a W into it with Julie’s best kitchen knife and broken the tip off it. Fueled by beer they’d laughed at the time, but he’d got yelled at by Julie. Greg House was a bad influence, she’d said. He was a troublemaker and uncaring selfish bastard. How wrong had she been, he thought now?

He had picked up the key and looked at it thoughtfully, turning it round in his hands.

In the bathroom he had found enough medical supplies for a MASH unit. He had been bewildered then, but now he understood.

The silence fell again, broken only by the soft tinkling of House’s leg irons as he shifted his bad leg. It stretched on. Wilson stared at his hands. He noticed they were shaking slightly.

He was surprised when House was the first to speak.

“Jimmy,” he said softly.

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry.”

At this Wilson looked up sharply and was about to reply. This was the last thing he had expected. And there was that ‘Jimmy’ again. But then he noticed House’s hands were shaking too and he stopped. Little Jimmy Wilson, the boy wonder oncologist, had always noticed things about House.

House could tell everything about everyone just by looking at them, but Wilson was the only one who could do it back to House. To him House was a walking talking open book. House had only to limp into his office and Wilson could tell everything from how much pain he was in and how bad a case was going to what new mischief House had inflicted on Cuddy.

Wilson was also the only one who could give it back to House in other ways. Everyone always looked at him as the gormlessly cute and caring cancer doctor, but House was the only person Wilson trusted enough to let know that underneath he was a cynical son of a bitch. Wilson was the only one who could make Greg laugh.

But now Wilson just looked at him, his mouth agape in disbelief. After everything House had suffered, he didn’t give a damn about himself and the first thing that came out of his mouth was an apology for him.

Wilson knew exactly why House was sorry. He was sorry for having to push Wilson away, he was sorry for not telling him, he was sorry he had caused all this, he was sorry Wilson had suffered for being a friend of Greg House.

The rest of the world might know of Doctor Gregory House as a nasty vicious selfish son a bitch. But in a tit for tat arrangement only little Jimmy Wilson, boy wonder oncologist, had been trusted to know the truth about House.

Which is why he always forgave his strange grumpy scratchy friend.

Wilson smiled. “You’re an ass.”

At this House looked up at him quizzically for a few moments, his rumpled face creasing with confusion then relief. “Yeah,” he said tiredly, but he smiled thinly back.

But inwardly House was barely holding on. Daring to breathe again after so long holding his breath. Wilson was killing him. Looking at him with his clichéd big puppy dog eyes. House could have just fallen into them and drowned. But time and time again it had been beaten into him that there was no hope. No happy ending in this situation. You just had to keep coping with the pain and the loneliness, not to struggle when they held you down, to thank them after they hurt you even though you wanted to kill them. You just coped… just. And it was hard to think differently.

Even dead Thompson probably held every card in the pack and he didn’t even know which game they were playing. Was this just another move in Thompson’s game? From the first minute this game had begun he had been a pawn. Helpless and unable to do anything else but be pushed around by the chess master. He was sure there was a hat trick or a full house just out there waiting for him.

Oh fuck. He was mixing his metaphors. He was just so afraid. So afraid for Wilson. He couldn’t stand another Cameron. And not Wilson… he do anything. Visit Thompson in Hell and dance the Charleston, but not Wilson. Pushing Wilson away - that had been the worst pain of all.

It had been manageable before. At first he’d used anger and stubbornness, but after a while he just shut down and went numb.

But now Wilson was sitting in front of him: big and comforting and safe. A reminder of all the things he hadn’t allowed himself to miss in prison. House wanted to reach out and touch him, to reassure himself that he hadn’t descended into madness. That he wasn’t still back in his cell dreaming in the dark. That everything had been, and would be – worth it.

Wilson saw House begin to shake. He saw everything. He saw Greg about to snap. He came around the table and giving the officers his ‘its ok, I’m a doctor’ look, knelt down and took Greg by the arms.

“It’s ok Greg,” he said earnestly as he looked into the older man’s eyes. “You did good. Everyone is safe now.”

He could see that Greg desperately wanted to believe him. House looked at him with big trusting little boy eyes that said ‘please mommy, tell me the monsters aren’t real.’

Wilson smiled reassuringly. “They caught everyone House. There is no one left to hurt anyone.”

At this House slowly lowered his head to Wilson’s chest and Wilson reached round and hugged House close to him. My God, thought Wilson, there is nothing to him but skin and bone. He could feel House’s backbone and ribs through the thin materiel of his uniform. Imagined him shivering, alone through long winter nights, with no hope that it would ever get better.

But at this, the first tender human touch in so long, House melted against Wilson and let Wilson’s warm strong presence comfort him. Wilson heard Greg’s handcuffs rattle as he reached out as far as the chains would let him and grabbed a handful of Wilson’s shirt near his belly, pulling it out of his waistband.

“You did good,” Wilson repeated. “But you are still an ass.”

“Yeah,” agreed House. He twisted the fabric between his fingers. No one could see it, which was the way he liked it, but this time there was a real smile on his lips. Wilson was real.

Many people forgot that Gregory House could actually smile. But not his friend James Wilson - because he was the only one who made it happen.

…...

Wilson sighed and looked at his watch. Cuddy was due in a few minutes and they were running late. He caught House as he aimlessly wandered past, shoved him onto the bed and began to vigorously towel House’s wet hair.

The doorbell rang. “Get dressed properly,” he said sternly as he gave a final flourish.

Cuddy smiled when James answered the door.

James smiled back. “Hi Lisa. We are running a little behind. You know what House is like. Never on time.”

Lisa smiled thinly. Wilson was always so polite. Pretending everything was OK. But everyone had seen – graphically – what had happened that day.

She never wanted to see something like that happen to someone she cared about again. The day of his official pardon, finally free of its burden, the mind of Gregory House had broken.

……….

Chapter 7

Wilson brought Cuddy a drink and they sat on the sofa. The three of them were going out tonight – and it was going to be strained. But they had to do it because Wilson wanted as much normalcy as possible.

House wandered out, making a beeline for the kitchen. Cuddy could think the only word that described him since the second trial was ‘deranged’. Actually that was a pretty good word to describe him before. But now he really looked deranged. His clothing was hanging off him in what House would have called ‘concentration camp chic’ and his hair was sticking up left right and centre. His walk was off, not so much for the limp, but because he didn’t realise there were no leg irons any more and still compensated after wearing them for so long. That made her furious. How could a supposedly humane society possibly justify putting a cripple in leg irons?

And of course, he wasn’t all there.

But Wilson didn’t see a strange limping scarecrow, he only saw his friend.

“Hey,” he said softly. Greg got jumpy if you got too loud around him. Silence meant safety. Noise meant pain. And now, finally, after taking everything so bravely the fear was bubbling to the surface.

A couple of times Wilson had got frustrated; lost his temper and Greg had bolted. The first time was okay, as he couldn’t get away in the apartment because Wilson kept the door locked. But the second time had been in a shopping centre.

It always amazed Wilson, but House was remarkably fast when he wanted to be. Trying to explain you are trying to track down a big limping scared crippled guy who wasn’t firing on all cylinders to some security rent-a-cop at the mall was not an easy task.

They’d finally found him five hours later, hiding behind a dumpster on the fifth floor of the parking lot. The look on House’s face when he had seen Wilson was one of sheer relief. House had practically crash tackled him in an attempt to get hold of him – touching him and pulling at his clothing in an attempt to reassure himself that Wilson was real.

It hurt Wilson to think the atmosphere of safety he had tried to create was so fleeting that Greg could have thought it was an illusion. It was hard, but then being friends with Greg House had never been easy. He just wasn’t a trusting bastard.

“Where are you going mister?” he said as he intercepted House with a gentle hand on his chest.

House stopped and they waited. Eventually he looked up and frowned, but allowed himself to be guided to the couch.

“I’ll get you a beer later. Sit down and talk to Cuddy,” he said as he knelt down and began to carefully do up House’s half done, half forgotten shirt buttons as he prattled on about the various merits of restaurants and House’s lack of ability to do up buttons properly.

“Don’t make any rude remarks,” he admonished into House’s ear as he stood up and made for the bedroom.

But House didn’t speak. House never spoke. Not since the day he had been officially been declared innocent. He functioned – to a point and did what he was told, but he just wasn’t there.

The psych doctors had said it was a rare form of semi-catatonia. They had wanted to institutionalize him, but Wilson had said no. He’d come in to visit and found House tied to the bed. He’d sat there, watching for an hour as House gently tugged at the restraint on his left arm, then started on the right. How many hours had he spent tugging on chains with no hope they would ever release their grip? The scars on his wrists said hundreds… maybe thousands.

Eventually House had given up, defeated, and sank back into the bed with a whimper of acceptance. How many times had he done that – just accepted what was happening to him?

….

“Inmate 501437, Life Without Parole sir,” he said as he impassively faced the so-called ‘independent tribunal’, all of whom had been bribed by his mystery nemesis. Another ‘infringement’ had put him on report and brought House in front of the discipline board again.

He’d been sitting quietly in the mess hall; trying his best to left handedly eat the rancid concoction he’d dubbed rat stew (he hoped he wasn’t eating Steve’s relatives), when he’d felt a nightstick on his shoulder. He turned around. Just his luck. It was one of the particularly sadistic guards: Fat Boy as House called him.

“What did you say convict?” asked the guard.

Ah – this old game. He sighed tiredly to himself. He had played this one before. He wondered which strategy he should use this time. No that it really mattered. Either way he was going to lose. If he answered he’d be breaking the ‘no talking in the mess hall’ rule – and he lose his dinner and get half an hour of ‘nose and toes’ outside the guards station. ‘Nose and toes’ they called it: the CIA Kubark torture manual called it a ‘stress position’. He didn’t think his leg could take it. It was bad enough on two legs. Try doing it on one.

But if stayed silent he’d be breaking the ‘all inmates must stand to attention and answer promptly and respectfully any direct questions asked by any correctional staff’ rule and he’d go on report.

Bugger it. He would go down fighting. He slowly lifted his legs over the bench and putting the weight on ‘Pipey’, stood up and looked at Fat Boy. All eyes were on the two of them. Everyone in the prison knew about the crippled doctor. House slowly pointed to his eyes, the ‘no talking’ sign on the wall and then mimed zipping his mouth shut. Then gave the guard his most ‘you are an idiot’ stare.

It took a few seconds for Fat Boy to work it out. He began to turn puce with rage that House had dared to make fun of him. House sensed two more guards coming up behind him.

“You insolent bastard,” spat Fat Boy. He put his nightstick under House’s chin. “I am gonna ask you one more time. What did you say ‘Inmate 501437, Life Without Parole’,” giving House his new official name as the property of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

He took a deep breath. “I me… Greg House… said, and let me put this in a way an overweight hick like yourself can understand… nothing.” He practically shouted the last word. “Because there is a sign on the wall that says ‘no talking’ and unlike you… Fat Boy… I can read.” He smiled nastily. He felt good. He felt alive.

But he nearly tripped over his irons as he was immediately hauled backwards by the guards behind him and half frog marched, half carried to the guards’ station. They smashed him face first into the wall. Pulling out a pair of handcuffs they lifted his right arm up and chained it to a bolt high up in the wall. He was left, helpless. One arm above his head and his cane dangling uselessly from his wrist.

Fat Boy came waddling up behind him. He turned to the astonished mess hall and waved his nightstick. “Listen you scum,” he said spit flying. “If any one of you ever even thinks of trying something like that, I’ll...” He viciously brought the nightstick across House’s buttocks, again and again, as he took out his rage on the defenseless prisoner. House’s knees buckled and he cried out as his right arm took his full weight. Eventually Fat Boy stopped leaving the two men both gasping. Fat Boy looked around the room, then shouted in House’s ear.

“‘Nose and toes’ convict – Now!”

House knew now was the time to retreat. Ignoring the pain he shakily got his feet under him, feeling sheer relief as the pressure on his wrist was released. He straightened up and lined himself up so only his feet and nose were touching the wall. Fat boy knocked House’s feet together with his nightstick. He knew how hard it was for House to maintain this position. “And clever boy,” he continued. “You are also on report.”

Well, he thought. That wasn’t the smartest idea you’ve ever had Greg. He already had been put on report so many times he had no privileges left, so he guessed a spell of solitary again. He didn’t realise what they had cooked up for him.

But he had shown no reaction as he had been told by the tribunal he was the worst of the worst, incorrigible, unfit to even be allowed to live amongst his fellow criminals and was sentenced to indefinite isolation.

He’d just accepted it.

But he’d died a little bit more that day.

……

Watching House that day Wilson had made his decision. House would live with him. He was alone after divorce number three and Wilson knew he could make him better. He had to make him better. He wanted his friend back.

Cuddy sat silently for a minute watching House stare at the floor, until Wilson returned with a hairbrush.

With an ease obviously born of practice Wilson completely ignored the uncomfortable silence, grabbed a handful of House’s hair and yanked his head back.

“So where are we going tonight,” he asked absently as he roughly brushed the short brown hair into a slightly more manageable tangle. After a few strokes he threw the brush on the table, grabbed House’s jacket from the stand and began putting him in it. Pushing and pulling arms and adjusting collars until House was suitably dressed for a night out.

But not hearing a reply he turned to find Cuddy with her hands in her face. Trying not to cry. This sickened her. More than the infarction, more than anything. This was wrong.

House looked like a real boy. He was dressed exactly as he had been. Wilson had even gone out and bought every band T-shirt he could find. House’s scruffy un-ironed shirts were Armani, his jeans were JAG and his shoes were Nike. But Wilson was the one who tied his shoelaces.

The fire in the eyes was gone. Everything inside him that made House House, was gone. She cursed the day she had dropped the key in his lap. She was sorry. She hadn’t known, she thought desperately.

It was only Wilson who treated House exactly the same. All the time while he was taking care of House: making sure House ate, dressing him in the clothes he knew House would like, making sure his hair was brushed… he bitched at House, snarked about House to his face, and bought porn videos and popcorn for Friday nights.

Because little Jimmy Wilson, boy wonder oncologist, believed in hope. He was waiting for the day when House would just turn to him and insult him right back. He didn’t know if it was possible, but Wilson wanted Greg back. He fell back on his old tried and trusted principle. Maybe if he gave it some time he would get his friend back.

……..

Chapter 8

Wilson had taken a few weeks off to get House settled, but then he realized he had the problem of work. House needed an eye kept on him at all times and Wilson couldn’t keep him in his office – he’d frighten the cancer patients (not like he hadn’t before).

So he had gone to Cuddy and explained he needed to put House somewhere nearby while he worked. She had agreed and Wilson had arranged for a private nurse to look after Greg. But the only place they could stick him was in the hospital’s childcare centre.

It was funny to come in after work and see House sitting on the floor of what Cuddy termed his designated ‘House area’ – a spare room off from the main playroom – staring intently at a kid’s picture book, with Clarence dozing on a nearby couch – keeping an eye on him.

Clarence was a godsend. House had taken to him from the get go.

“House, this is Clarence. He is going to be looking after you,” said Wilson as he brought the two men together. “Like a body guard,” he added hopefully.

House had just poked him in the stomach and wandered off.

“What does that mean?” asked a bewildered Clarence.

Wilson took a breath. “I think… that means he likes you.”

Clarence was a big gentle man who was more than capable of squishing House in an instant if he wanted to. He was nearly seven feet tall and had a remarkable resemble to Mike Tyson. But if Greg got upset or anxious Clarence could calm him down without even touching him and then keep him calm until Wilson got there to take charge.

House hated to be held or grabbed. Wilson was the only one he was happy to let push and pull him around.

He had obviously been held down too many times by too many people. Wilson realized that being held down, unable to move, to House, meant pain. Wilson knew that House remembered pain.

House had never been the type of guy to talk about his emotions, and now even more so. But night after night Greg’s soft cautious cries would wake him.

He became so attuned to House’s soft muffled whimpers that even the slightest hiccupy sob would wake him. He would follow the source of the noise and slip carefully into House’s bed, careful not to wake him from his nightmare.

Then, just had he had done all those years ago during the Frasier marathon, House would instinctively reach out to Wilson, one hand finding a convenient bit of shirt to twist in its grasp. Eventually the sobs would die down, to be replaced with the gentle rumbling as House slept, holding onto Wilson like a giant human teddy bear.

But it was Clarence who had discovered the secret to keeping House happy – distractions. They bought him copies of every trashy celebrity magazine they could find and Clarence would stick them under his nose. They didn’t know how much was going in, but the bright pictures of Tom Cruise doing the shopping or Angelina Jolie on the set of her latest film seemed to intrigue House.

One day Wilson found House with a lollipop. As he entered the room he stopped short and unconsciously held his breath as he took in the scene before him. He was taken back in time. House was lounging on a chair, a forgotten People on his lap, gazing out the window and sucking contentedly on a bright red lollipop. For a second Wilson almost believed House would turn to him and say something cutting or rude. But House just continued to stare intently out the window.

“Where did he get that Clarence,” he asked.

He must have said it a bit too forcefully because Clarence looked a little nervous. “I bought it for him Doctor Wilson,” he said. “That is OK right. The red food dye isn’t going to make him hyper or something?”

“No, that’s fine Clarence. He used to love those… before,” said Wilson sadly as he stared at his friend. He was so involved he nearly missed Clarence’s next words.

“…just staring at it like he really really wanted it.”

Wilson turned abruptly. “I’m sorry, what did you say?” he asked.

“I was just saying it was funny. He saw this kid with one of those free lollipops they give out in the clinic and he just couldn’t take his eyes off it. I thought he was going to try to swipe it,” said Clarence.

Wilson looked thoughtfully at House. “Anything wrong Doctor Wilson?” asked Clarence. Wilson realized he had been staring into space. He shook his head. The idea that even while completely insane his friend would still want to steal lollipops from small children made Wilson suspect he was still in there somewhere, hiding and wondering when it would be safe to come out.

……….

Doctor Simpson tried not to snigger as he watched his patient. The doctor and Wilson were on the couch. House was sitting on the floor of the psychiatrist’s office, happy and safe in between Wilson’s legs.

Simpson could tell House felt happy because he was completely ignoring the array of distracting goodies Clarence had laid out in front of him and was valiantly attempting to undo Wilson’s right shoe lace.

Oblivious, Wilson sat back into the couch’s deep cushions. Simpson sighed. Wilson was taking this hard, and considering the man was an oncologist, that said something. Love makes people crazy.

Wilson ran a tired hand over his face. “I don’t know what it means Doctor Simpson. He’s become very clingy since it happened. But maybe it is a good thing. He seems more there. Maybe it means…” he trailed off. “But he was pretty traumatized at the time.”

Simpson watched as Wilson sat up and unconsciously fumbled with House’s collar, tidying it up. Simpson had noticed that sometime in the last month Doctor Wilson had finally snapped and that House’s shirts were now beautifully ironed. House paid no attention to this fussing and reached out to grab the lollipop Clarence was waving in front of him. “Tell me what happened?” he asked.

……..

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” he said. Greg was scared. It wasn’t surprising. He didn’t like this building. He didn’t like people in uniform. And he’d known something was up. He’d been a pest all morning. Fidgeting when Wilson was putting on his tie and continually tugging on it until the knot nearly strangled him and Wilson had to pull the car over and loosen it.

Now he was hiding behind Wilson, his head resting on Wilson’s back while he nervously fingered the back of Wilson’s jacket.

“It will only be for a few minutes Doctor Wilson,” replied the prosecutor. “We need to show him to make the case.”

‘Show him’. Bad choice of words. Wilson sighed. But he knew it was necessary. For the lawyer and his thugs it had been easy. They had the tapes, but for the prison guards they only had Thompson’s records and House.

“Okay,” he relented. “Come on House,” he said as he put his hand behind him and lead House into the courtroom.

They were sitting in the front row, waiting for the session to begin, when he felt a tap on his shoulder. A guard was standing there. “Excuse me… Doctor Wilson. There is an urgent call for you at the front desk. About a patient.”

Damn, that meant Terry was dying. Wilson looked around. He tapped one of the prosecutor’s assistants on the shoulder. “Can you sit with him,” he said shrugging at House. “I have to take a call.”

A few minutes later he was on the phone to his assistant when a voice startled him.

“Doctor Wilson.” He looked up from his phone into the scared face of the guard. “There is a problem with your friend.”

“Oh God.”

He dropped the phone and bolted into the courtroom. It was in chaos. Guns were drawn and people were screaming. Half the courtroom was running for the exits, while the other half were gathered behind the judge’s bench.

He pushed his way through the crowd to the source of the disturbance, until he was grabbed by a guard. He angrily shrugged out of the guard’s grip with a hissed “I’m his doctor” and turned to mob.

“He’s scared. He’s terrified,” he growled. He tried to gather some semblance of control. “Please just back off and be quiet. He can’t hurt you. He can’t hurt anyone.”

No one moved until the judge waved the security guards away. “I’m fine.” They reluctantly stepped back and holstered their guns. “And get that bastard out of here,” he said as he motioned to the defendant.

The two men slowly approached House. He had burrowed himself in a corner, curled up, wedged in behind his cane, using it like a barricade. He was shaking violently and sweat was pouring down his face. He was not looking at any of them, but staring into the middle distance, panting as he relived past terrors.

“What happened?” he asked the judge.

“He was fine until the defendant came out, then he freaked out. Bolted every which way, but Sunday. For a man with a cane, he sure lead everyone a merry dance,” said the judge. “Then he just seemed to trip over his own feet and curled up.”

“Well, we got our show all right,” said the prosecutor from behind him.

At this Wilson rounded on him. He was furious, blood boiling in his veins. Greg was not a fucking wind up toy or a fucking exhibit. He was a human being who had gone through nearly fours years of physical and psychological hell. Wilson realized what House had done. He’d tried to run and tripped over his own imaginary chains. How many times had that guard pushed him around until he tripped on the real ones and fell, unable to get up, unable to do anything but curl up and wait for the kicking to begin.

“Show? I’ll give you a show,” he yelled angrily as he punched him on the jaw. The man dropped like a stone. The boy wonder oncologist had no idea he was such a good boxer. Then the guards were on him and he struggled until the voice of the judge stopped him, cutting through his rage.

“Doctor Wilson, don’t you think you should attend to your friend.”

He calmed down and they let him go. He wiped the back of his hand across his face. He nodded. “I am sorry. You are right.”

He crossed to House and slid down the wall beside him, sweaty and shaking. “Hey,” he said softly and prepared to wait till Greg started to reach out. He’d discovered, through many years, that was the best approach.

……

“What was the aftermath?” asked Simpson.

Wilson smiled ruefully. “It took half an hour for House to calm down and the prosecutor and I both agreed not to sue.”

“And the prison guard?”

“He was convicted on all counts,” he said as he leaned forward and rested his forearms on House’s shoulders. “House sure did a number on the jury.”

He continued on. “I don’t know exactly what the bastard did to him and House can’t tell us, but judging by his reaction it was bad.” He gently tugged on one of House’s ears. “He was so afraid,” he said softly.

But Simpson noticed that House, after successfully managing to pull out Wilson’s entire right lace, was now randomly pushing buttons on the computer game between his legs, his eyes lighting up each time the little machine made a garish noise.

Although Wilson was worried, House was nothing like the wide-eyed shaking skeleton he had been six months ago. If House was all there Simpson was sure he would have said Wilson was just being a worrywart Jewish momma.

They stood to leave and Simpson stifled a laugh as Wilson noticed his shoe. The shoelace was neatly tied around his ankle.

“House,” came the anguished cry. “Oh for Lord’s sake. Come on – up you.”

He lifted House up by the collar and dumped him on the couch before joining him, pulling off his shoe and rethreading his lace.

He looked up at the doctor. “Ever wondered what it would be like looking after a 45 year old toddler?” he said in exasperation, waggling the shoe under House’s nose: “woooo, ” he growled. “Bad. Don’t play with my shoes.”

He stopped. “Not that he was particularly grown up before,” he said with a slight laugh as he remembered. “Just more talkative.”

Simpson slapped him on the back and looked at House who had paid no attention to Wilson’s scolding and was now concentrating solely on his latest lollipop, but managing to look a bit smug at the same time. “I think,” he said thoughtfully. “You are doing a good job Doctor Wilson. Although you might want to take him to a dentist sometime soon if you keep feeding him so many lollipops.”

………..

After Wilson had relaced and retied his shoe he took House by the hand and with Clarence in tow they walked into the elevator.

He was pressing the button for the second floor when he heard the man behind him mutter: “Bloody homos.”

He didn’t turn around.

“I said, bloody homos.” Wilson felt a slight push on his back and felt Greg’s hand tighten its grip in a silent plea. House was doing nothing, just looking down at the floor, but his body suddenly became a mass of tension, his shoulders rounding as if in expectation of a blow. House recognized that tone. It was the same tone that the people who hit him used. The same anger. To House that tone meant pain. Wilson could practically see him physically and mentally curling up. Fuck this, thought Wilson as he turned to the man.

But another voice suddenly cut in. “You gotta problem with that?” Clarence was looming over the man, suddenly looking not very nursey, but slightly psychotic. Clarence was normally so gentle and protective around House that Wilson forgot he was also ‘a serious homie’.

Clarence took a step closer to the man who backed up against the wall. “Cos I’m gay and I don’t have a problem with that?”

“No… no problem,” squeaked the man.

“Good,” he menaced. “So you just leave my Doctor friends alone – got it.”

The man gulped. “Got it.”

Clarence smiled evilly. “Good.”

Wilson looked over at Greg who was now watching the scene intently, almost looking impressed. “See, I told you he was your body guard,” he whispered.

They walked out of the elevator and into the corridor. Cuddy was there. “Morning Doctor Wilson.” She smiled at him and motioned to House. “He hasn’t changed has he?”

Wilson turned pink. He gave an embarrassed smile. He put out his hand out without looking and pushed House’s chin up. “Bad House,” he said. “Don’t stare at the nice boss lady’s cleavage.”

It was only then that she turned to Greg. “Doctor House,” she said as she put her hand gently to the pendant that hung on his chest and kept it there for a moment, looking intently into his face. Then she abruptly pulled away, nodded at Wilson and continued on her way.

House was a doctor again now for all the good that did him. The medical board had reinstated his license. Cuddy had organized it. They had also awarded him a commendation for dedication to medicine. He had showed the plaque to Greg on his birthday. Written on it were the words ‘first do no harm’. House had paid no attention to it.

Typical, thought Wilson.

“Okay, here is your final present.” He held out a small package and when House failed to take it, unwrapped it for him and stuck it under his nose.

“For you bucko. It’s yours anyway. Well, maybe not. Maybe it belongs to all of us? Remember when you broke Julie’s best knife?”

House looked at it intrigued. He reached out and plucked it slowly from Wilson’s fingers.

He looked between it and Wilson for a few seconds. A strange look crossed his face. Maybe, thought Wilson, this might do the trick.

Then House stuck it in his mouth.

“House no – for God’s sake,” Wilson said urgently as he pulled it out by the chain and wiped it off.

“Don’t… eat… it,” he had ordered sternly, emphasizing every word as he fastened it around House’s neck.

So far House hadn’t tried to swallow it again so it appeared to be relatively safe. But every so often he saw House fingering it, turning it round and round, looking at: either contemplating what it was or thinking about eating it. Wilson just hoped it wasn’t the later. With House you never knew.

After Cuddy had gone Wilson turned to House, handing Clarence his backpack. “Make sure you are good,” he admonished as he gave House a quick hug. It was a good thing House wasn’t all there or he would have whapped Wilson one for doing that just on general principle. ‘Bro’s don’t hug’ House would have said.

Wilson put House’s hand in Clarence’s. “Don’t let him eat too much junk food.”

“Will do Doctor Wilson,” said Clarence as he lead House away.

“And make sure he goes for a limp in the park?” he yelled as they moved off.

He watched as Clarence gave a shake of his hand in acknowledgement. Turning he noticed the guy from the elevator was sitting in a nearby chair, watching with his mouth open, an unspoken question on his lips.

Wilson opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. He stared at the man for a few moments, and then walked away. He shook his head. It was amazing what you could live with.

…………………

Clarence also sometimes babysat House at home if Wilson had to go out. But Clarence had gone away for the week to visit his parents in Alabama and Wilson had to go out shopping. This meant taking Greg out on the House leash.

The psych Doctors had suggested it after House had bolted in the shopping centre. Christ he was glad he had gone into oncology. The idea of sticking someone on the end of a piece of string like a dog seemed abhorrent. But on the odd occasion when circumstances meant he had to take House to a ‘potential bolt-able’ situation he knew he had no other choice.

Hence the House leash. He hated it with a passion. The idea stemmed from the toddler leash. Which he also hated with a passion. But sometimes it was handy to be able to juggle the shopping, content in the knowledge that your deranged ex-convicted murderer insane best friend won’t wander off.

They wandered into the fast food restaurant. Wilson in the lead with House bobbing along behind tentatively on the end of his piece of string. Wilson knew the risks, but House had always loved the shakes here and even he was feeling reckless with his health.

A few people gave them funny looks, but he just ignored them. And Greg didn’t seem to mind it the string. Most of the time he stuck close to Wilson in public anyway. But then again it was tricky to tell what Greg minded. A couple of months back Wilson had noticed House was limping a bit more than usual. He checked him out and discovered House had broken one of the metacarpals in his foot. After so many years of pain and conditioning and fear House hadn’t even dared to wince.

He ordered two thick shakes. Vanilla for him and chocolate for Greg. He tried to remember. He was pretty sure House liked chocolate.

As he waited for the drinks he slumped against the counter and rubbed his eyes. He didn’t realise how tired he was. He felt hot, grimy and sweaty. As he fumbled for his wallet he didn’t notice House was looking at him intently, like he was a lollipop ready for the swiping.

The extension of the McCorporate cash register pushed his shakes over the counter and told him to ‘have a nice day’, but he wasn’t paying attention. He was mulling over the injustices of life. Ironic he thought, of all the places to get deep and philosophical… McHappy’s

It was the bastardization of his friend’s character that made Wilson the maddest. Everything about House – his fire, his arrogance and intellect, his sheer enjoyment of talking dirty – had been slowly and tortuously beaten out of him, he reflected sadly, not looking as he passed House his thick shake.

“Fuck it Jimmy, you know I hate chocolate.”

Wilson turned around in astonishment and stared hard at his friend for a few moments. House was ‘there’ there. Looking at him with irritation. Oh my God, House is back, he thought stupidly. Only he would do it in the middle of fucking Mchappy’s.

“How many years have you known me - I like strawberry…” House was about to continue, but he never got to finish his sentence. Wilson grabbed him and pulled him into a giant hug. Customers watched in amazement as the thick shake was crushed between the two men.

Eventually Wilson pulled away. House looked down at the crushed container, tilted his head and said: “not so good now huh.”

Wilson grabbed the shake and upended the remaining dregs onto Greg’s head.

“You big limping twerp,” he said happily as he watched the chocolately sludge dribble down House’s face.

But then Wilson paused for a second and looked thoughtful. “You came back… Hang on,” he said pointing a finger at House, with House there was always a reason. “Why did you decide to come back?”

House looked down at his shoes. “Well,” he trailed off as if searching for an answer. “You… were looking a bit down,” he said hopefully, totally evading the question.

Wilson put his hands on his hips, shook his head and sighed:

Typical fucking House.

………..

“And why am I tied to you by a piece of string?”

…………

EPILOGUE

Sometime before

They were at the park. He smiled at the mental image of House being pushed on the swings.

He put on the video. He had to know what he was up against:

Wilson had never seen such despair and misery. It was captured in Greg’s eyes as he gazed into the lens. For a moment, a second, he appeared to be begging, pleading to who ever was on the other side of the camera – for mercy, for something, for anything other than this… but then it was cut off as another blow fell and he fell into the abyss of pain again. There was no mercy.

…………..

Sometime later

When he came home House was sitting in Wilson’s bedroom, sitting on the bed next to the box. Wilson stopped dead. The box. The box with the tapes.

He just looked up at Wilson, not saying anything. He didn’t seem to be angry. If anything his expression was blank. Wilson took in the scene and stared back, not knowing what to do or how Greg would respond to the knowledge that he still had them.

“Clarence went to the shops,” said House at last. “He’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Wilson nodded.

“We were out of milk and he said you would yell at him if I didn’t have my daily glass of milk.”

Wilson nodded slowly again.

“Gotta grow up big and strong with healthy bones,” he said. “Not broken bones… bones break so easily, you’d be surprised. I should have drunk more milk,” he said matter-of-factly, but Wilson winced as he took in the implications of that statement.

“Clarence always says I am too thin,” continued House as he addressed the box. “But Clarence is big – and a serious big black dude.” Wilson smiled. Sometimes House was unpredictable, sometimes he was just House.

House appeared to be lost in thought. “I got used to that feeling. I didn’t call it anything; just ‘that feeling’… and it became part of life. But I’d sit there, listening, as everyone else got theirs… the squeak of the cart, the little doors opening. I used to watch at first, but that became too painful.” He’d hated the smug look and the cruel smile Boot Boy the guard would give him as they passed by his door. That bastard really enjoyed his misery.

Wilson knew that during his time in isolation House had been slowly and deliberately starved, getting about one meal in three.

House looked up. “So I’d just listen. You can hear every little thing – noises bouncing off doors and walls and all that shit. That cart used to sound so loud.” He continued, almost apologetically. “I’d wonder if this time it would be my turn, but more often than not the cart just squeaked past. So eventually I came to accept I was never going to get any,” he said finally. It made it easier.

“I knew, that because of what I had done I wasn’t going to get any. And that was that,” he finished quickly. “Not much you can do when you are chained to the god dammed wall.”

“But maybe I did deserve it. I told him people die, but maybe it was my fault? Christ, I had a year to do nothing but sit there and rack my brains, but I couldn’t even remember her.”

House fingered the edge of the box and smiled thinly. Wilson tensed. This was more information about how he felt than House had given in months. He didn’t know if he should speak or shut up. Either way he could ruin it.

“There was nothing you could have done. She was always going to die. Thompson was insane. He just wanted to hurt someone – and that person was you,” Wilson said slowly. “But what about before you knew. When they came to you and you signed without hesitation. What you did for me… for all of us?” asked Wilson.

“Don’t Jimmy.” And for the first time in his life House said ‘please’. “Please don’t Jimmy. What I did is mine alone. My choice, my burden.” House looked down. “I’d do it all again. That’s all you need to know,” he said softly and Wilson knew this was as close to the truth as he was ever going to get.

House snorted. “It’s a good thing he didn’t pick Chase… otherwise we would have all been toast.”

At this Wilson laughed with fond remembrance. “Yes, he truly was a little weasel.”

They didn’t speak for a few minutes. Then House suddenly stopped his intensive inspection of the box and looked at Wilson.

“You saw?” he asked. But it was a statement not a question.

Wilson nodded slowly, knowing House knew anyway.

“It becomes a part of life,” said House and Wilson suddenly realized what they were talking about.

“Like picking up the dry cleaning…” he continued absently.

“Oh God Greg,” muttered Wilson softly under his breath.

He wanted to go over and hug the other man, but House seemed frozen, fragile and he was afraid that if he even touched him he would break. There was a slight frown on his face as House stared at the box. Eventually Wilson slowly and carefully sat down on the other side of the bed.

He leaned over and picked up the box, putting it on the floor. Greg was watching him with wide eyes. So open. So vulnerable. He looked like he would crumble at any moment. Wilson carefully picked up one of House’s hands, and ignoring the sarcastic Housian look he got, stared into his eyes.

“House. I promise, as long as I live - you will never have to pick up the dry cleaning ever again.”

House looked at him, first with amazement, then he began to snigger. Suddenly Wilson found himself thrown backwards onto the bed as House grabbed him in a bear hug. House was squeezing the life out of him, but laughing into him at the same time. He felt it vibrate through him. It was a good sound. It had been too long since House had laughed – and Wilson was the only one who could make House laugh.

“Arghh, House – oxygen,” he managed to splutter. House released his death grip and put his hands on Wilson’s chest, like a puppy dog, as he lay on top of him. Wilson could feel his warmth, his angular bones as they dug into his soft fleshy spots, the key that hung from the chain around his neck as it danced over his chest, and then there was always the peculiar Housian rumbling he seemed to continuously make whether asleep or awake.

House put his chin on Wilson’s breastbone and his big blue eyes looked thoughtfully at him. They stayed that way for what seemed like an eternity, locked in their strange relationship: protector, protectee… protectee, protector.

Eventually House spoke. “You know I always thought you would have made a good teddy bear.”

“What?”

“House?”

“Come back here...”

“You bastard.”

……………

Wilson walked into the space and set down the box and the can of gasoline. He was alone. It was dark. It was quiet. But the place screamed at him. It filled his ears. It stank of fear and pain. It reminded him of the time he had gone to Auschwitz. Even forty years after the horror had ended and the people had gone, you could still feel the atmosphere oozing thickly through the walls.

He looked down at his feet. There was a brown stain on the concrete floor. He blinked slowly. He knew whose blood had made that stain.

It was still here. Left over and forgotten, but intact. A shrine to vengeance. The place where the battle for his life had been fought. Not much of a battlefield. But then they aren’t all that impressive. Fields, meadows, streets filled with bloodstains that would be washed away by the next rain shower. He wandered around the empty space, his feet crackling on the grimy floor.

He gazed at the table, absentmindedly fingering one of the ringbolts that were drilled into each corner. It was a big old sturdy worktable. It reminded him of Greg’s old kitchen table. He remembered House’s eyes lighting up with glee at Wilson look after he had announced it was an antique autopsy table.

“But I just made this sandwich on there…” he stammered as he dropped the sandwich back onto his plate.

“Oh, don’t be such a baby,” said House as he swiped the remains of the sandwich and threw himself down on the couch next to him. He looked at Wilson in mock indignation. “I cleaned it – with water and everything,” he said stuffing the sandwich into his mouth.

Wilson reached into his jacket and pulled out a piece of paper. Greg had never known he’d kept that too. He put it gently down on the table, smoothing it lovingly out on the bumpy wood before turning away.

A flash of sky blue caught his eye. He walked over to the wall and picked up the crumpled up shirt. It had been one of Greg’s (and Cuddy’s) favourites, but now it lay forgotten, stiff with muck and grime, like a relic of war.

He stood there for a long time, clutching the shirt in his hands, just looking around. It was a shrine to vengeance.

He watched it burn. As a testament of love, he thought, as he mentally whacked himself in the shin with a cane for such a sappy sentiment.

When he returned next morning it was so normal the events from the night before felt surreal.

He could hear the radio playing an eighties rock song in the kitchen. Clarence was badly singing along while he made breakfast, pausing only to stick his head round the corner and smile hello when Wilson walked in before happily going back to his singing. He waved a hand. Still, even now, Clarence was ‘the bodyguard’. The security that had been denied Greg all those years.

He found House sprawled on the couch, Steve snoozing his shoulder. Keeping each other company. Steve was getting on and between House and Clarence he got spoiled. He really was getting fat now. A little furry butterball House said. But that didn’t stop him from feeding Steve Wilson’s best Camembert.

Steve had given up his wheel (House had diagnosed arthritis) and now lived a life of decadence, snoozing and sunning himself in all manner of dangerous place. Wilson had nearly sat on him twice in the last month, but House seemed to have an inbuilt Steve McQueen radar. House would be just about to unceremoniously fall onto a couch, when he would suddenly reach behind him and a small furry ball would appear, saved from being squished in the nick of time.

They were both sunning themselves in the window. House was like a cat, enjoying lazing in the warmth. A pleasure too long denied.

One of the prison guards had turned informer in exchange for clemency. During the investigation into the corruption in the prison he had described the conditions Greg had been kept in.

The new tough on crime prison kept its ‘isolation’ cells in the basement. For most of the time the convicts down there saw no human contact but the hand that pushed their food through the door. There was a policy of absolute silence – no talking, no singing, no screaming – absolute isolation. Half the time in darkness, the other in gloom. Daylight became a distant memory.

Inmates were not meant to be kept in isolation for more than three weeks. Greg had spent over a year down there in the dark.

And for Greg it was worse. Although completely illegal, the warden had ordered House be put in handcuffs as well as leg irons and the cuffs to be secured to the wall with a chain. There was no point to this except to make his life sheer misery.

The guard said that at first he would sometimes hear House’s chains rattle as he slowly paced his cell, four shuffling steps one way, and four steps back; but at the end he had given up and would just tug constantly at the chain that held him to the wall or just sit huddled on his thin mattress with his face to the corner. He didn’t even walk in the exercise cage. After they had dragged him there he would just stagger a few feet and crumple into a ball of misery, refusing to move no matter how much they kicked and punched him.

Wilson had looked in horror when the psychiatrists had said it was probably only the regular torments Thompson had organized that had broken the sheer monotony and stopped House from going mad from the sensory deprivation and the restraints. Inmates only got one hour’s exercise in the cage a week; House got regular ‘special workouts’, ranging from being used as a guinea pig for ‘inmate extraction’ exercises to simple sport for bored corrections officers.

In other words he had become nothing… and had come to believe it… the only thing keeping him going was the contract.

Maybe why that was why he had gone away for so long. He had to find himself again.

Even now he didn’t like the dark. One day House had announced he wanted to go shopping. They had gone to Baby World and Greg had taken great pleasure in selecting the most hideous night-light he could find. It was nauseatingly cute, adorned with unicorns and some sort of disturbing looking elf like things.

“Can I have it mom?” he had asked loudly, startling a prospective mother of what looked like twins.

Wilson rolled his eyes and played along. He knew this was House’s way of not saying ‘I’m afraid of the dark’.

“Yes junior, you can,” he replied.

“Can I have a lollipop too?”

Wilson eyed the woman who was now openly staring at them. “Don’t push it or I’ll put you back on the string,” he said as he hustled House away.

As Wilson entered he looked over drowsily, but then his eyes narrowed. “What did you burn down?” he asked.

“What?”

“You were out all night, you smell of gasoline and you are sooty. So I presume you torched something last night.”

Wilson sighed and kicking House’s feet off the couch, sat down beside him. “Do you really want to know?”

House sat up and eyed him warily. The fear was always just under the surface. He was silent for a minute. “Yes,” he said slowly. Wilson watched as he unconsciously massaged the bracelet scars that circled his wrists. Even Steve looked at him expectantly, the light reflecting off his little beady eyes.

“The factory.”

House stiffened and stared at the floor. Steve sensed the change and ran down House’s body and onto Wilson. House let him go.

“You were there?” he said.

“Yes,” replied Wilson. “It wasn’t just your burden you know.”

“And?”

“And I burned it down. Happy now.”

House looked at his friend and then a slow smile spread across his face and he laughed softly to himself.

“Yeah… Thanks,” he said as he plucked Steve off Wilson’s jacket.

“Your welcome…what are friends for?”

……………………………………………………

Feed the author!

DIY Sheep's Author Page

Schoolboys In Da House

You must be a member to post in the House Fans forum. It's completely painless and we'd love to have you. But if you don't want to join, please stop by DIY Sheep's Author Page, using the link above, and post a comment in the Guestbook. Thank you and enjoy!

As always, if you have any suggestions, questions or concerns please feel free to email either pillpopdoc or rtlemurs