"I talked to Stacy," Cuddy said from behind her desk, in the pissiest of her arsenal of pissed-off voices. The evil glint in her eye was aimed directly at House. "She thinks the two of you should get married."
House cocked his head and pretended to consider the idea. "Well, I'd be okay with that. Her husband might not be, though --"
"Stacy thinks what?" Wilson spluttered.
"-- but really, it's fine, as long as Mark sleeps in another room. Nothing personal, I'm just not that good at sharing the covers."
By late morning, Cuddy's initial reaction to the news of the stolen pills and the disappearing deal had died to a low, sinister rumble. Having collected his severed testicles, and with a fresh dose of Vicodin in his system, House was nearly back to his normal -- if somewhat subdued -- self.
The new supply of Vicodin was courtesy of Wilson, who couldn't have looked more tragically unwilling to hand over the prescription bottle that morning in his hotel room. After crashing back into consciousness on his floor with his best friend's disappointed face above him -- and after losing the deal -- House could think of nothing else but finding Wilson, a need so desperate and instinctual that it scared him. When Wilson opened his door in the pre-dawn hours of Christmas morning and let House inside, the relief had been almost overwhelming.
Of course, House would never tell Wilson that. He had trouble even admitting it to himself.
There were few things in life that House found difficult. Topping the short list were climbing stairs, giving a rat's ass about people, and apologizing. Last night, Wilson had sat House down in a chair in the hotel room and let him apologize until his throat hurt -- for stealing Wilson's pad in the first place, for not supporting Wilson when Tritter took his car and his money and his whole damn practice, for never listening and for refusing to accept Wilson's first attempt to get them all out of this mess.
House had actually meant it. He was sorry as hell that this was happening to them, in every way that it was possible to be sorry. Yet meaning the apology didn't make it any easier to say. Accepting that he had been wrong -- that he'd screwed up, probably more than he'd ever screwed up before -- was more of a sacrifice than he could have imagined. His pride had always surpassed his capacity for self-preservation.
Wilson had brought him a glass of water and made him take off his coat so he could unwrap the white bandages and examine the dark red gashes on House's arm. He had stared at the cuts and then stared at House's hand -- the same hand House had deliberately broken the last time he had been off Vicodin -- and then Wilson had cursed under his breath, reached into his pocket, and put a pill bottle in House's open palm.
"I'd rather have you go back to these than mutilating yourself," Wilson had explained, his voice rough, his face sick with despair. "Or killing yourself with oxycodone. And I'd rather have you saving people's lives than sitting around the hospital, coming up with even more ways to screw yourself over."
That was the last time Wilson had mentioned the stolen oxy or the overdose, but he still occasionally looked at House with wounded eyes. Not that Wilson didn't have every excuse to be hurt and resentful. He had betrayed House, yes, but not without good reason. House hadn't just stolen Wilson's pad and forged his name to a few scripts -- and really, Wilson could have justifiably been a lot angrier about that stunt -- but he'd also forced Wilson to be the one whose testimony would be the final nail in House's coffin.
"She was kidding," Cuddy assured Wilson, jarring House from his reverie. "Keep your pants on."
"But I'm pretty sure 'pants off' is part of the marriage deal," House said, unable to resist. "Of course, in Wilson's case --"
"She thinks this is funny?" Wilson's face was frozen in shock. "We could lose our licenses over this! We could both end up in jail!"
"But you're not going to, are you?" Cuddy asked, leveling a lethal stare at both of them. She hadn't made it to her position by wearing kid gloves, and when she wanted to pour on the authority, it could be thick as syrup. House had to admit that Cuddy's ball-busting skills were pretty cool to watch when he wasn't on the receiving end. Her eyes bored into both House and Wilson, making it clear that there was absolutely no possibility of any of this going the wrong way for her or for them.
"Although it would be a lot easier if they couldn't force you to testify against him," she said, addressing Wilson. "Unfortunately, the only way around that is a marriage license, and frankly, House, I just don't think you have the figure for a white gown."
"I'd only divorce him and drain him for alimony, anyway. Seriously, everyone's doing it. Ask any of his ex-wives --"
Wilson's glare could have shrunk his patients' tumors at twenty paces. Come to think of it, Wilson was pretty good at ball-busting himself.
"I'm delighted that my marital failures are still able to provide you with plenty of fodder for jokes," he snarled. He stepped between House and Cuddy's desk, taking up her entire line of view. "What do you mean, a marriage license?" He sounded disturbed at the very word, as if Cuddy had suggested that the best way out of their dilemma was covering themselves in leeches. House wondered whether he should be offended.
Cuddy shrugged. "She just said that it was a shame you guys only fight like an old married couple. Legally, married couples can't be forced to testify against one another. In the future, House, when you insist on stealing another doctor's prescription pad, do me a favor: marry her first."
"Next time, I'll make sure to steal from one of the lovely lady doctors in my life," House promised, giving Cuddy a predatory look.
"You do that," Cuddy said in a dismissive tone. "In the meantime, I'm sure there are lawyers right here in town whose marriages you haven't tried to break up who can give you a second opinion. In fact, I'm almost certain that I sent you to just such a lawyer last week. You do remember your lawyer, don't you, House?"
House remembered his lawyer. Not that the lawyer was a bad guy -- by lawyer standards, he was actually okay. Unfortunately, he just hadn't been all that great at giving House good news.
Wilson leaned slightly in House's direction. "That would be the four hundred dollar butt plug, in case you forgot," he supplied.
"Four-fifty, with a five grand retainer," House muttered darkly.
"I don't care what kind of toys you want to spend five grand on, House, but try to set some cash aside for the lawyer, too," Cuddy said. "Go talk to Howard."
"But I --"
"Go talk to Howard!"
They went to talk to Howard.