Chapter 1: Day One
Day 1 - Friday - 7th October 2011
He's dragged down a corridor, hands holding him tight, cuffs cutting into his wrists. He's been here eight months and this is the first time he's really felt the brute force of the prison officers. They're used to dealing with dangerous, drugged up offenders, men who have killed. Now, he's in their sights, he's defied their authority and he knows that he's going to be chucked into the hole for a long time. There's no appeal, no recourse, no Cuddy to give him some additional clinic hours and roll her eyes at him. The price for being wrong here is a high one.
He's still numb from his failure, he's risked everything, thrown away his freedom and he was wrong. His first patient in over a year and he's blown it, he's failed. He was so sure he was right, that being right would be enough.
They take him to a small room, uncuff him and order him to strip down. There's three of them in the room with him, they're taking no chances. He wants to resist, to protest, to try and regain some human dignity but he knows if he does he'll be face down on the floor and they'll strip him anyway.
He slowly takes off his shirt and jeans, kicking them away when he's told to. He pushes down his boxers and steps out of them, leaving him standing naked before them, as always he feels the hideous scar on his leg most keenly. He's never liked having it exposed to scrutiny but it's something he's had to do regularly here. The prisoners he'd shared the shower with had been given full knowledge of where he was most vulnerable.
When he stands naked before them he's told to turn around and clasp his hands behind his head and he's cuffed again, their hands coolly efficient on his wrists. He's told to leave his hands there and while he stands like that he's searched. It's swift and business like. Fingers run through his hair and probe into his mouth when he opens it on command. Gloved hands examine his genitals, picking up his balls and holding them to checking underneath. A hand presses on his back and he's bent over, his cheeks spread apart and a lubed finger inserted inside. Just like a medical exam, he tells himself, he's done this to many patients. It's not an assault, it's an exam. At least they're quick about it.
He's given his white prison issue shorts back, a clean white t-shirt is provided to go with them, then an orange coverall, much like he's seen on any prison show ever. He's uncuffed again and told to dress. He dresses much more quickly than he disrobed and zips up the coverall thankfully. The hands-behind-your-head cuffing maneuver is repeated and then an officer bends down with a leg chain in his hands.
House find his voice for the first time and protests. "Hey, I'm a cripple, I'm not going to run anywhere."
The officer pauses in his work, looking up at his boss who just signals to 'go ahead'. House tenses up and the officer seems to sense this and hurriedly finishes putting the shackles on his ankles. House wonders if they're going to fix the chain to a belly chain, and whether he will be able to walk if they do so but thankfully they seems satisfied with what they've done. He can walk like this, just barely, a lame shuffle at best.
He's taken out of the room, down a corridor and past a row of steel doors, close together, a single number printed on the outside of each. As they pass the doors there's noise, men calling from inside those tiny cells, heckling the guards, heckling House, or maybe just making noise because that's all they can do. The guards on either side of him seem unmoved by the noise, they're used to it, when House's step falters they tighten their grip on his arms and move him forward.
They stop in front of the last cell on this corridor and he looks at the door. D21, his new home. In a minute he'll be going in there, alone, with no idea when he'll be coming out again. He swallows heavily, he's scared, his heart is pounding and the reality of what's about to happen is hitting him. He'd been scared when he'd been taken to his cell in the general population part of the prison, but he knew he'd be able to leave it for at least some portion of each day. He knows from talking to his fellow prisoners that he'll be in this cell for 23 hours every day.
The door is a heavy steel one, sliding open at a command from the control unit, he sees the small cell beyond and tenses up, he's never liked being shut in small places, the cell back in gen pop was bad enough, this is so much worse. It's narrow and cramped and he doesn't know how he's going to survive in here.
The officers tighten their grip on his arms, as if expecting him to make a break for it, and despite his apprehension he feels a sliver of amusement. Where's he going to go exactly? Limp down the corridor at a speed a turtle would be able to beat? He's told to enter the cell and he does so, still cuffed. The door slams shut and he's ordered to the cuff port, a small slot in the cell door. He puts his hands through the port and the cuffs are undone and removed. The cuff port slams shut and he's alone.
They haven't talked to him, beyond barked commands. No-one's told him how long this will be for, he wonders if they even know.
He looks around the cell. There's not much to see, a bed made of poured concrete along one wall, barely long enough for him, a thin mattress, a single blanket, a well worn pillow. The usual steel toilet in a corner, a tiny sink, a single roll of toilet paper, a rough towel. At the bottom of the bunk there's a pile of shorts and t-shirts, and when he counts them he finds there's seven of each.
He glances at the small window set high in one wall, it's been painted over, he can't even catch a glimpse of the outside world.
He lies down on the hard bed and stares at the ceiling, listening to the faint hiss of the ventilation system. He's sore all over, from the fight and the handling of the prison officers when they were subduing him in the clinic. There's dried blood on his face and chest, and over everything there's the screaming of his leg. The Vicodin he'd had this morning is a distant memory and he doesn't know if there'll be any more while he's down here. He dreads having to go withdrawal locked in this tiny cage.
He rubs his thigh and tries not to think about the pain. To distract himself he runs over Nick's symptoms again, if it isn't mastocytosis what the hell is it? He'd been so sure, he'd risked everything to prove himself right. And he'd been wrong.
He hears footsteps outside and looks up hopefully at the door, maybe they've changed their mind, realised he was only trying to save a guy's life and wasn't a danger to anyone. He doesn't need to be punished.
There's the sound of a metal door being unlocked and then the food slot at the bottom of the door opens and a tray is slid in; the door shuts again.
He stares at the tray, it's the usual prison tray with the usual prison slop on it. He doesn't want it.
He looks back at the ceiling. If it isn't mastocytsos, what the hell is it?
Adams packs her personal things under the watchful eye of one of the prison officers. She's never been fired before, let alone escorted off the premises like a... well, like a criminal. She feels a flare of anger. She'd saved Nick's life by following House's suggestions. Now she was being fired, and House had been hauled away in handcuffs by the guards. She swallows hard as she remembers seeing him, face down on the next bed, arms twisted behind him, pinned by several prison officers. He'd sacrificed everything for his patient, without hesitation. She feels a streak of deep admiration for him, despite the circumstance of their meeting, and his crimes. He is a great doctor, and she is convinced that he is a good man too. Now he'll be sitting in solitary, thinking that he was wrong, that he failed. She has to get a message to him somehow.
She eyes the prison officer standing over her, she doesn't know him, and he looks pretty pissed off. The officers don't like people making fools of them like House had, and in their eyes she'd helped him. Sykes had been scathing and the warden had appeared in person to fire her. He'd warned her that they might file charges against her for aiding and abetting a prisoner in a criminal act. She is scared of that, she doesn't want to experience prison from the other side, not after what she's seen here. She hopes the fact that Nick had been cured will count in her favour when tempers have died down a bit.
She decides to keep quiet and get out of here with as much dignity as she can. She'll phone the prison when she gets home and ask to speak to Alvarez, he seems a friendly sort, and he might be willing to help get a message to House. She has to at least try, he deserves to know the truth.
Chapter 2: Day Two
Day 2 - Saturday 8th October 2011
He's barely slept all night, the pain and the beginning of withdrawal keeping him awake and on edge. His hands are trembling, his mouth is dry and his palms are sweaty. When he looks in the small square of aluminium tacked to the wall that serves as a mirror he can see his eyes are red and his expression is drawn. He looks like shit.
He's been living on two Vicodin a day since entering prison and that's only been enough to stave off withdrawal. He's had none since binging on four in his cell yesterday morning. If he doesn’t get some soon he knows it will only be a matter of time before he's curled up in a ball screaming in pain.
He sits on the bunk, shaking hands clasped between his knees, shivering, waiting for something to change, for something to happen. They can't just leave him here like this, he needs his medication. He's entitled to it.
He hears heavy booted footsteps approaching his door and he looks up, his heart rate quickening. The footsteps stop outside the door and his name is called. He goes to the cuff port, awkwardly turning his back and placing his hands there when ordered. Cuffs go around his wrists, biting at the flesh. When his hands are safely secured behind his back the door is opened and an officer stands there with a pill cup; another officer waits out of range.
"Medication," the officer says, his eyes sweeping over House and the cell, as if he's checking for danger, or contraband.
House eyes the pills in the cup hungrily, but he can't take them with his hands behind his back, he waits for the next move.
The paper cup is held to his lips and the pills are tipped into his mouth. A paper cup of water is held up and he drinks from it, washing the Vicodin down. He feels instant relief as they hit his system, purely psychological, he knows. He hopes the dose will remain at what it was in gen pop, at least in here he'll get all his pills, with no-one to strongarm him into turning some over. He opens his mouth wide so they can check that he’s swallowed the pills, as if he wouldn’t, at this moment.
"How long am I going to be here?" he asks but is unsurprised when he's ignored and they leave, with the door clanging shut behind them. He fears for one moment that they won't release him from the handcuffs but they do without incident and then the cuff port is shut and he's alone. He shakes out his hands and arms, glad to be free again.
The pills help him sleep and he sleeps most of the day away. It isn't until evening that he returns to the problem of Nick's illness. He runs the symptoms again in his head, wishing for a whiteboard, or even some paper and pen. He likes to write things down and look at them, look for the patterns, look for the meaning in seemingly random symptoms. He works best when he can bounce ideas off other people, off his team. He thinks for a moment about his team, and his office, and the conference room, places he'll never be again, people he'll probably never see again. He thought he'd made his peace with his old life during those couple of months hiding out in Fiji. He had thought that he could leave all that behind and start fresh once he'd done his time. He'd obviously thought wrong.
He sits on the bed and rubs at his thigh, the Vicodin has worn off and the leg has started complaining again. The surgery to remove the tumours from his leg has left it even worse than it was to start with, and the pain has a sharper quality to it than it has had since before his time in Mayfield. Being without his cane for the last couple of days hasn't helped. The doses he's been able to get, and keep, in here have only been enough to take the edge of, and to stave off the worst symptoms of withdrawal but his body has been constantly craving more.
He remembers those few months after Mayfield, when he was doing okay, when the pain was under control and he was trying to change. Futile of course, he was losing that even before getting together with Cuddy and Cuddy had been his last chance.
He shies away from his thoughts of Cuddy and returns to the problem at hand. If it isn't mastocytosis, what the hell is it? He'd been sure, so sure, that he was right. Oh, he knows that he often throws out a diagnosis and tells people it is right, but it's different when he finally gets the answer. He just knows. If he's lost that, then he's lost his 'gift'. It doesn't matter anyway, he tells himself, because he's not going back to being a doctor, he's going to Fiji to study dark matter. He runs the symptoms again and comes up with the same answer. It has to be mastocytosis. Nothing else fits.
When a dinner tray is pushed through the slot in the base of the door he sees the piece of paper sitting on top of the unappetising looking food and slowly limps over to it, grabbing the piece of paper and unfolding it.
"You were right!" He balls the piece of paper up in his hand and sits back on his concrete slab of a bed, a slight smile crossing his face as he feels a wave of relief. He was right.
For now that's all that matters.
Wilson has a new routine for Saturdays. He sits in a waiting room, on a comfortable chair, with a few other people, all trying hard not to look at each other. When his name is called he goes with a heavy tread into the inner office of his psychiatrist. The man is friendly, and does his best to put Wilson at ease but it still takes Wilson a while to relax enough to talk.
They talk about many things, his childhood, his parents, Danny, his three wives, his patients, all his failures. The conversation always comes back to House, his best friend who ran a car at him, and left him standing, injured, on the sidewalk and then walked off without a backwards glance. His best friend who disappeared for three months without a single word. His best friend who has been in New Jersey State Prison for the last eight months.
The man who used to be his best friend. The man he couldn't help.
Wilson’s doctor has prescribed medication, a healthier lifestyle and new friends. The medication is easy; Wilson is used to anti-depressants by now. He’s given up red meat, and taken up jogging. He’s started trying to spend more time with his colleagues in the hopes that one day; maybe, some of them might turn into friends.
And every Saturday he goes to his psychiatrist’s office and talks about House.
Chapter 3: Day Three
Day 3 Sunday 9th October 2011
Now that the initial fear has subsided, and the case is solved, boredom sets in. His morning medication is welcome, not just for the sweet relief it brings, but for the door opening and the prison officers standing there. The brief human interaction. The guy with the pills doesn't talk much and House doesn't recognise him, but he's a human being, a face, someone to affirm that House hasn't just been chucked in here to rot, forgotten about, forever. He glances at the name on the officer's uniform - Garcia.
"How long am I going to be here?" he asks again, not expecting an answer but just wanting to prolong this period of contact.
Garcia shrugs, his eyes never leaving House. "Until we let you out."
"I have rights you know. I haven't had exercise, or a shower, since you put me in here."
"Showers are every three days. You're on lockdown for the first forty-eight hours so you'll go to exercise tomorrow. After that you'll go to exercise once a day for one hour.”
House is relieved to hear about both; he is already looking for any excuse to get out of tiny cell.
"My books are back at my previous hotel room – if some low life hasn't pinched them. I need them, I'm studying. And I'll need some paper and a pen, pretty sure those are guaranteed under the Bill of Rights. If it's too much trouble I can go fetch them myself."
Garcia looks at him like he's something that's been scraped off the bottom of his shoe.
"You get 'em when you earn them, if you got any complaints you can fill in a form. Now shut the hell up and move away from the door."
House stands there stubbornly for a moment and Garcia tenses and glances towards his silent partner who is standing just out of range. His hand goes to his hip, where there is a mace sprayer. House rolls his eyes and takes a step back, he doesn't want to risk the smooth delivery of his Vicodin; he needs it now, more than ever.
The door slides back into place with a clang, there's the awkwardness with getting the cuffs off and then he hears the officers' footsteps fade as they move back along the tier. There's silence again in House's small cell. He thinks it's rather like being trapped in your bathroom, that's about the size of the place. He looks at the window again, and wonders why it's been painted over. What was harmful about inmates getting a small glimpse of the sky? He paces in the small space between the bunk and the wall, waiting for the Vicodin to kick in. If he stretches his hands out to either side he can reach the walls and he does that for a while, weight on one leg, head down. After he's had his fill of that he paces some more and then lies back down on the bed, hoping to sleep again, at least it will pass some time.
When they take him for his shower it's lukewarm water at best, a hard piece of prison soap, five minutes max in the shower with two officers watching him from the doorway. Still it feels good to wash away the stink of the past three days. He'd cleaned off the dried blood from the fight as best he could in the sink in his cell but this is much better. He doesn't even mind the glances the officers give his maimed leg. Let them stare, maybe they'll be better with the pain meds, or with marching him here and there if they know about the crater in his thigh. Maybe they might even stop putting the leg chains on him.
When the water stops he gets out, drying himself on the rough, prison issue, towel. He puts the clean shorts and singlet he's bought along on and feels less like a bum on the street. He's escorted back to his cell in silence and as he waits for the door to open he spends the last few seconds of relative freedom trying to take in everything of the outside world that he can, even if that world consists of only a grim concrete floor, and painted white walls.
Back in his cell he lies on the bunk, stares at the walls and waits until dinner.
Robert Chase spends his days surfing now. While the other fellows had scrambled for new positions after the 'incident' with Cuddy's house, he'd decided to go on a surfing holiday. It has been the longest stretch of time he's had away from work or study since he was in high school. House still has four months to go on his prison sentence, unless he gets released early for good behaviour. Chase smiles to himself at the thought of House and 'good behaviour' belonging in the same sentence. He thinks that House will be doing the full four months.
He has no doubt that Foreman will find a way to have House return to the hospital when he's finally released. Foreman will have figured out by then that he needs House, Cuddy was no fool – she didn't keep him around just because she was hot for him, he was a drawcard for the hospital. Foreman will bring him back, if only so that he can finally exercise some power over House. Chase knows that Foreman is no match for House, but it will be fun to watch him try to do it.
He picks up his surfboard and throws a towel around his shoulders. As he walks along the sand he feels a sense of certainty about the future. House will return, and he'll go back to working for him, he can wait.
He has faith.
Chapter 4: Day Four
Day 4 Monday 10th October 2011
He eats breakfast alone, of course. It's one thing he doesn't mind about being locked up here. Mealtimes in the general prison were always tense affairs. Hundreds of bored and miserable men eating bad food in close proximity was a riot only waiting for a spark. Meals were eaten quickly, with one eye on the activity around you. Here he could at least eat his bad food in peace.
His thoughts briefly go to life on the outside, to his fellows, his former fellows now he guesses, and what they're doing. Whether they're still at the hospital, still solving cases, or trying to solve cases at least. Without him he knows that the success rate of diagnostics will go down, he's been accused of being a narcissist, but he knows his own skill, he's not falsely modest. With an effort he wrenches his thoughts away, he cut ties to Princeton when he fled the country, he won't ever be going back, and he’ll probably never see his fellows again. As he told Nick those people have moved on with their lives, he's surely dead to them now.
He gets up and paces the confines of his cell, it's not more than 4 or 5 paces from one end to the other, even with the lurching, unbalanced strides he has without his cane. He runs his hands along the walls just for something different to do; peers at the sink and toilet for about the twentieth time. In Prison Break Schofield had dismantled the toilet to do...something... to help him escape but House is pretty sure he can't replicate whatever the thing was, and it's not like he can throw himself over any prison walls. The last thing he wants is to be stuck here without a working toilet so he leaves it alone.
After he gets tired of pacing he sits back on the bed. Then he lies down and clutches his thigh. Wonders how long it is until lunch. Looks at the painted over window, at the wall, at the door.
Just as he thinks he'll get up and pace for a bit more there are heavy footsteps and his name is called, along with the usual order to 'cuff up'. He's getting better at the procedure by now, though he still hates having his hands confined, and he is soon being moved along the corridor with the usual leg chains on. The officers, Martinez and Anderson this time, have informed him that he is going to exercise and he feels a brief ray of hope. It's now been four days since he's seen even a glimpse of sky, let alone sun, and he's eager to feel the fresh air in his lungs and to see the outside world.
'Exercise' turns out to be a fenced in run, a bit like a dog run, about fifty feet long, there's a covering over the top of the run and heavy wire mesh on either side, so his view is fairly limited but at least it's outside. There's no equipment of any sort, so 'exercise' consists of pacing up and down the ground instead of back and forth in his cell but hey, it's a change. He wishes he had his cane though, walking without it is fun for only a small amount of time, after that it's a lurching struggle.
There's a run either side of his, a couple of feet away from his with a prisoner in each one. He doesn't recognise the men, and they're both black so prison culture means he's expected to have little, or nothing, to do with them. It's not like they can have a conversation anyway so he leaves it alone. They look at him, but then turn away, being no more excited to see him than he is to see them.
And that's about as exciting as it gets. By the end of the hour he's bored of his little pen and can't walk any further but he still doesn't want to go back inside when they come back for him. The guards aren't interested in his suggestion that they install a heated pool and a Jacuzzi and instead load him back up with the cuffs and leg chains and march him back to his cell.
Once he's alone again he realises there's a small pile of stuff on his bed. Further investigation reveals a pad of writing paper, a pen, and two cheap paperback books - both thrillers with a dashing hero holding a gun on the front cover. Cool, not the books he had in his cell but still, books. He's so happy to see them that he's annoyed at himself for that happiness, has he really fallen so low that a couple of books are all that is needed to make him happy? He thinks of those rats in their cages, excited when they uncover a stray pellet hiding in their bedding. He wonders if he should ring Nolan up when he gets out and tell him he's discovered the real secret to being happy, take everything away from someone and then give them back one little thing. He figures that Nolan wouldn't be impressed by that insight, or by him. He can see the man's disappointed face now, when he hears House has been in prison. Well, fuck Nolan, House tried it his way, and look where it got him.
There's some shouting outside in the corridor and he limps over to the door, peering out of a small crack where the cuff port doesn't quite shut properly. He can't see much, but he gets an impression of officers in heavy gear, dragging someone between them. There's cursing and screaming and all the other inmates of the tier start yelling until there's a wordless, angry, cacophony of sound. House thinks it sounds much like feeding time at the zoo.
Retreating from the door he picks up one of the books and lies back on the bunk with it, trying to ignore the sounds all around him. It's got nothing to do with him.
Eric Foreman had never realised just how much PPTH needed Greg House. House was the star performer, the headliner who could draw in the crowds, and the money, despite his temperament and total disdain for playing any sort of role in fund raising. Foreman had known how good he was of course, hell, he wouldn't have applied for a fellowship here if he hadn't realised that, but he'd had no idea of the extent of the interest in him. He had been lulled by Cuddy's attitude – that she was doing House a favour by hiring him, that House couldn't hold down a job anywhere else, that she got him dirt cheap. Now he realises that this was Cuddy at her finest, downplaying the value of the hospital's asset, getting into House's head and persuading him that he had no chance of employment anywhere else. Undoubtedly some of it was true, as Foreman found out himself, it could be difficult to find a hospital willing to take a chance on a maverick, but House had, in the time he had been in charge of diagnostics at PPTH, surpassed his own reputation as a total ass to become a huge drawcard.
In his first mistake as Dean Foreman had let Diagnostics be disbanded easily. Chase, never fond of responsibility, had slipped away, and the others had followed. Foreman had thought it wouldn't matter. As the donors faded into the woodwork, and the hospital started falling off everyone's radar Foreman had come to realise that Diagnostics had been PPTH's 'thing'. The mentions in the press, and even the national news, had come from Diagnostics. As their profile declined so did the quality of job applicants to the rest of the hospital, and some of the people they already had were beginning to look elsewhere. He needed House back.
It won't be easy; he knows that, there will be resistance from some of the staff, and the Board. Foreman also knows that House will not accept having Foreman as a boss without a struggle, he will be fighting the man every step of the way. Despite the difficulties he knows he needs to do it, or at least try; he starts making plans to make it happen.
Chapter 5: Day Five
Day 5 Tuesday 11th October 2011
When they come for him he thinks it must be for a shower, or exercise, although it's not time for either of those. He's learnt that in prison there is routine, but the routine is often disrupted when staffing schedules or other concerns interrupt. If there will be insufficient officers to take him for a shower tomorrow he will go today, at their convenience. If they don't have time to take him for exercise then they won't. The 'rights' of a prisoner are very tenuous indeed.
He only suspects that this is for a different reason when they enter an elevator. The guards tell him to face the wall and he does so, they leave their hands on his cuffed arms the whole time. As the elevator descends his heart rate quickens, he's helpless; they could do anything they want with him. There's silence in the elevator and he knows their entire focus is on him. He's relieved when the elevator stops and he's led along another blank, white walled corridor.
He is taken to a small room, and then cuffed to a chair in the empty room, the leg shackles are left on. A plastic barrier separates one half of the table from the other. The guards check his bonds and then retreat, ignoring his question as to why he is here. He relaxes slightly once the guards leave. Obviously he is here for a visit of some sort. He dares to hope, just for one moment, that it might be Wilson. Even a finger waggling lecture from Wilson would be welcome now.
When the door opens and a stranger enters he sighs silently, this guy is a lawyer; he might as well have it stamped on his forehead for how obvious it is. The guy is young, and a little nervous, his eyes flick to the cuffs on House's wrist.
Once reassured that House can't so much as scratch his nose if he wants to, let along jump over the table and assault him the lawyer sits down and launches straight into business.
There's a litany of charges they want to press against him, not limited to possession of drugs (with intent to distribute given the quantity he had), assault, unlawful detention of prison staff and incitement to riot.
The lawyer tells him he can go to court and fight the charges, possibly ending up with another three years jail time, if not more, or plead out and get eight months. He's here to get his 'clients' consent to the plea. He presents it as if it's an easy decision, what's another eight months in prison after all?
House sits across from him, slumped in his chair, wearing his bright orange jumpsuit, designed to mark him out as one of the 'worst of the worst', deserving of being locked away from most forms of human contact for some unspecified period of time. For a moment he stares at the lawyer, after five days in almost total isolation this sudden burst of activity and conversation is almost surreal.
"I saved that guy's life. It was a perfectly valid medical procedure; I would have done the same thing in my hospital."
"Look, Greg... "
"Call me House."
The lawyer sighs and glances at his watch but complies. "Look, House, this isn't your hospital. You're an inmate here, not a doctor. These people don't care that you saved his life, all they care about is that you disrupted the prison - they're pinning the riot on you as well - and defied direct orders, corrupted one of their doctors, causing her to be fired, and embarrassed both the medical staff and the guards. Sure, you could go to court and fight the charges, point out to a jury that you saved a life. Except the jury doesn't care about you, you're in prison already, you must be scum. Do you have any idea how jury trials work in the case of someone charged with additional crimes while in prison? The acquittal rate is extremely low."
"But not zero."
"No, it's not zero, but it’s damn close to it. Do you want to take the chance of serving another three years or more when you could get by with eight months?" The lawyer shuffles some papers," there's also one other thing you should know, they have a case against Doctor Adams. They strongly implied that if you take the deal they won't proceed any further with it. From what I've seen she could be charged with aiding a prisoner in unlawful actions, and if they can prove she supplied the Vicodin you threw around she could lose her license, or even go to jail herself. "
"She didn't supply it," House says firmly. Everybody lies after all.
The young lawyer shrugs, glancing at his watch again, House figures he has somewhere else to go, too bad, House doesn't.
"So I take this deal, they lay off Adams and I get another eight months in Chez New Jersey State Prison. Great.” He thinks it over and shrugs. “Okay, I'll sell my soul – why not." He came back to the US fully prepared to serve whatever jail time they decided he should have, no reason to let go of that agenda now. He might not feel guilty of these additional charges but nothing can change what he did to Cuddy. Nothing. Eight more months will mean nothing in the long run.
The lawyer smiles, relieved that his client isn't proving difficult and he can get on with his life. "Okay, you'll go before a judge, probably in a couple of weeks, make your plea and that's that."
It isn't until his lawyer is pushing away from the table that House remembers the really important issue.
"When do I get out of solitary?" he asks. "Not that I'm not enjoying getting away from psychotic roommates and Nazi gangs wanting to kill me," he says, trying not to sound pathetically desperate. Five days, that's all he's done and he's begging to be sent back to gen pop, as if it were some sort of nirvana.
The lawyer shrugs, he doesn't even pause in the act of gathering all his important papers together. "That's an administrative matter, not a legal one. Solely up to the warden. You get out when they say you get out. A month at least usually."
He buzzes to be let out and he's gone, another case neatly disposed of, another eight months of House's life wiped away.
House is taken back to his cell and when the door slams shut and the cuffs are removed he slumps down on the floor, back against the door, staring at walls he's already memorised
Lisa Cuddy puts Rachel to bed, running a hand over her sleeping daughter's hair, Rachel smiles in her sleep at the touch. Cuddy quietly, very quietly, backs out of the room and closes the door. She breathes a sigh as she looked around the apartment, there is evidence of Rachel's busy day everywhere, toys on the floor, books piled on the coffee table, and her drawings pinned up on the cork board. Deciding to take some time for herself before tackling the debris she pours herself a glass of wine and sits down on the couch, opening her laptop to check her email.
There is an email from Wilson and she reads it quickly. She is glad that Wilson is still keeping in touch. She knows he felt abandoned by her moving so quickly, leaving him alone to deal with the 'House incident' fall out. He had thought she was making an impulsive decision that she would regret, but she'd been considering offers from other hospitals ever since her breakup with House. She'd known that it would be difficult to keep working with him, both for him and for her. It wasn't that she had wanted to move, it was just a better option than staying. When he'd crashed his car into her house she'd wanted nothing more than to make a clean break from the whole situation. She doesn't regret moving at all, and her new hospital is a challenge for her. She is bringing it out of its former state of chaos. It isn't a well know hospital yet, but it will be, she is going to see to that.
Wilson writes that he is doing well, the hospital is doing well, and how are Rachel and Cuddy? Just normal, safe stuff. He never mentions House and she doesn't know if he is in contact with him or not, whether he's visited him in prison. She doesn't want to know. That is for Wilson to decide for himself, whether he wants to still be friends with House. She knows the role she now represents in Wilson's life – she is another Stacy. If he keeps up a friendship with House he'll keep House and her in different boxes in his life, Wilson is good at doing that. He's had plenty of practice.
Chapter 6: Day Six
Day 6 Wednesday 12th October 2011
He’s taken to the showers again today, the usual laborious procedure of being chained up so he can barely move and hustled along the grim corridors of solitary to the even grimmer shower block. He finds that he doesn’t mind the cuffs and chain so much when he knows he’ll be getting a chance to clean up properly for the first time in three days. Cleaning himself in the tiny sink in his cell isn’t a substitute for a shower, even if it is with lukewarm water and a scant five minutes. When he’s finished he gets dressed in his clean short and t-shirt and then is handed a razor and told he’s got ten minutes to shave.
They watch of course, but he scarcely even notices. His beard has been getting out of hand during his stay in solitary and it’s a relief to shave. Of course there’s no way to leave his customary stubble without an electric shaver so he’s left clean shaven. He examines himself in the mirror and has to admit it’s an improvement on the wild man look he’d been sporting. His hair is getting a little overgrown and he turns to one of the waiting officers.
“Do I get a haircut now?”
The officer, Collins according to his name badge, looks at him humourlessly. One thing House has learnt quickly is that the officers in solitary are different to the ones he’s used to. There’s no banter between inmates and guards, no idle chatter. They’ve obviously been instructed to have a minimum of interaction with the prisoners, whether as part of the punishment or as some sort of safety precaution House isn’t sure.
“No haircut.” Collins says and that’s that.
Cuffs and leg chains go back on and he’s taken back to his hole in the wall. Someone has been in there while he’s been gone he notices straight away, the few possessions he has are tossed around, the mattress and bedding are off the concrete slab that serves as a bed. Searches are routine in prison and he has nothing to hide, not yet anyway, but he’s annoyed at the invasion nonetheless.
He tidies up his cell and picks up one of his old paperback novels. The time drags heavily in here, even more so than in the main jail. There at least he had his janitorial job, as boring as it was, and people to distract him. It could be terrifying in gen pop, but he’d take that any time over the blandness of the days in solitary. This is his second time reading this book since he’s been given it and he gets half way through and then tosses it aside. He already knows ‘whodunit’, and it hadn’t been that interesting the first time through.
He could do some physical therapy, he thinks. Nolan had encouraged him to look into it, and had even arranged for a therapist to visit Mayfield while he was there and show him some exercises, the end result of which was supposed to be to strengthen the leg and maybe lessen the pain. He'd tried for a while but the effort it took, and the pain while he was doing it, seemed to outweigh any benefit and after a while he'd stopped. Like all his efforts to change his life it had been doomed to failure from the start.
Sometimes he wonders how his life would have gone if Cuddy hadn't come to his apartment the night of the crane collapse. Cuddy’s life would have probably been better; she'd be married to Lucas, maybe trying hopelessly to have another brat. They would never have gotten together without that night. He would have taken the Vicodin if she hadn't come, he knows that. He had it in his hand; it had only been a matter of time. Maybe he would have stopped at a couple, gotten up, had a drink or three and gone to bed. Sometimes he thinks he wouldn't have stopped before the whole bottle was gone. Other times he wonders what might have happened if he'd let Foreman stop him from leaving the hospital, or if Wilson had come instead of Cuddy.
He rubs his thigh as he forces his mind away from those thoughts, it's stupid, moronic, to spend time speculating about all that. Hannah died, he did what he did, she did what she did, nothing was going to change that. Nothing was going to make it come out okay.
He raises his right leg off the bed a couple of times in a half-hearted attempt at doing the leg exercises, the thing immediately starts screaming like a son-of-a-bitch and he remembers there's no therapist here to step in if the leg starts spasming, or to give him medicine for break-through pain. If he aggravates his leg to the point where the pain becomes excruciating there's not a damn thing anyone will do for him before his next lot of meds, this evening. He carefully eases the leg back down to the bed surface and closes his eyes. He can't risk it, the last thing he needs is to be in intolerable pain for the next few hours. He might as well give it up and get some sleep, it's not like he has anything else to do, and there’s hours yet to dinner.
He dreams of a dark space, with a ceiling that's far too close, and of sawing a leg off with a rusty hacksaw. Just as he finishes and holds the leg up in triumph the ceiling collapses, burying him.
He wakes up, sweating, heart pounding, and shaking, and stares at the walls that are far too close. He decides that's enough sleep for the moment and snatches up the book. Maybe it will be better the second time through.
Remy Hadley looks at the prison as she gets out of her car. It has taken a while for her to decide to come. After her own stint in prison, she never wanted to go near one again. The trouble is that she also knows how lonely it can be, she'd had no visitors, no-one knew she was there, and it was as if the world had moved on without her, and she'd been stuck in place. When she walked out the prison and saw House waiting for her she'd wanted to run to him and hug him. She'd held back, coolly taken the drink he'd offered her but she's never forgotten that he'd been there, even if was to satisfy his own curiosity.
She's been busy with her own life since he blew all his bridges behind him. She’s moved on, found a new love, one that is going to last this time. In a couple of months they are heading for Greece, for either an extended holiday or a better place for her to die. She has no wish to ever be a doctor again, or to practise medicine, she is done with the puzzles, with the crazy guy who'd been her boss, and almost a friend.
She's come to say goodbye, she will be gone by the time he gets out, unless he wrangles parole, which seems unlikely given he is House. She doesn't want to be someone who just disappears from his life. So she gathers her courage and goes to the desk, and asks to see him. She's on his list of approved visitors, as she found out earlier when she rang before coming. She’d been a little surprised by that, but maybe House is as lonely as all the other prison inmates. The officer takes her name and punches a couple of buttons and frowns. House is on restrictions, no visitors allowed.
She supposes she shouldn't be surprised that House is in trouble in prison, it would be more surprising if he wasn't. The officer tells her it will be at least a month before he can have visitors, possibly longer. She wants to complain that she should have been told this earlier when she phoned to save her a wasted trip but she holds her tongue, her own stint in prison isn’t so far in the past that she feels comfortable making a scene here, at the front gate. She walks back to her car.
She looks back at the prison, silently wishes him well, and drives off.
Chapter 7: Day Seven
Day 7 Thursday 13th October 2011
Breakfast is delivered, or rather, shoved, through a slot in the bottom of his cell door. The tray clangs as it scrapes along the ground and the food slops in its little compartments. There is something particularly demeaning about having his food like this, the resemblance to feeding time at the zoo can't be denied.
He stares at it listlessly for a while but then gets up, picks it up of the floor and takes it back to his bunk. There's a mound of something that might be scrambled egg, a piece of cold toast, a spoonful of baked beans, and a hash brown. All soft foods, able to be eaten with the plastic spoon provided, or his fingers, which is all he's allowed. The whole lot looks congealed, unappetising. It's all there's going to be until lunchtime though so he eats it slowly, keeping a wary eye out for any foreign objects that might have made their way into his food - he's met some of the men who work in the kitchens.
He tries not to think about breakfast with Wilson, or the macadamia nut pancakes he made during that time he crashed on House's couch, or the times they'd grabbed some food together in the morning, before work. When he was in the hospital after the infarction, and after he was shot, Wilson would sometimes appear with an alternative to the standard hospital breakfast.
He tries not to think about eating with Wilson, or about stealing food off his plate, or about beer and pizza on a Saturday night.
He tries not to think about Wilson at all.
He'd put Wilson on his approved visitors list as soon as he was sent to prison. After a month or so and no Wilson, and after Wilson wouldn't accept the calls he made, he put everyone else on there. He thought maybe Thirteen would pay him a pity visit, or maybe Foreman might come to gloat over how much better he was than House. He wasn't expecting Taub to show up.
After a couple more months and no visits he stopped expecting anyone. He wasn't surprised really. It had been months and everyone on the outside had moved on, he was where he belonged, why should they be even thinking about him? Probably they were happy that he was out of their lives for good.
When he closes his eyes he can see himself driving towards the house, he can see Wilson jumping out of the way, he can see the shock on Cuddy's face as he hands her the brush, he can see Wilson standing on the sidewalk cradling his wrist, he figures that it must have been broken, the way he was holding it – he didn't care at the time but now he can't stop seeing it.
He can see himself walking away.
He leaves his breakfast half eaten, stashes the hash brown away until later, and then puts the tray back through the slot in the bottom of the door. He's been informed that he's allowed twenty minutes for each meal, then the tray must be returned, spoon intact and on the tray. Nothing else is allowed out the slot, and not returning the tray in a timely manner is apparently a disciplinary offence. He's not sure what they would do to him for breaking the rules while he's in here, but he's decided it's not worth finding out.
They come back a little while later and collect the tray and that's the brief excitement of breakfast over with. Now there are a few hours before the procedure is repeated for lunch. His life now is measured by the delivery of meals.
Wilson's day starts well. There's a warm weight on his chest and he looks down to see Sarah curled up there, gently purring. He reaches down to stroke her soft fur. She's been a godsend to him, these last few months. He knows it would probably seem a bit pathetic to most people but she's undemanding company, and unconditional love and that's what he needs right now. He feeds her, and gives her daily injections and in return she's always there for him.
He picks up his phone and checks his email, pleased to receive an answering one from Cuddy, including another few photos of Rachel to add to the several hundred already in his collection. They're both doing well, Cuddy's job is good, Rachel's preschool is good, everything's good. He studies one of the photos, Rachel does indeed look well, there's a lively light of mischief in her eyes. He wonders if she remembers him, decides she wouldn't, which saddens him for a moment but then he shakes it off. It's not like he paid that much attention to her while she lived in Princeton.
His mind flits to the time he spent babysitting Rachel with House, the night of the Great Dime Crisis. His hand stills on Sarah's fur as he thinks about House again. It's been a whole five minutes this morning that must be a new record. He wonders how long it will take before he's not thinking about House several times a day. Probably never, as long as he is still working at PPTH. He's thought about leaving, following Cuddy's example and making a fresh start, but he can't quite bring himself to do it. There are bad memories at PPTH but there are also good ones, and he has friends there, and colleagues and a good position.
He gets up and goes about his morning routine. He tries not to think about House at all, he's in Wilson's past now. Wilson's done with him; he does nothing but spread misery wherever he goes. Wilson had tried to help him, had begged him to get help, had tried to distract him away on that terrible day, but House hadn't cared, hadn't even made an effort to get off the path of self-destruction he'd planted himself on. House had driven a car straight at Wilson, and then walked off and left him standing there, holding his broken wrist.
He and House are history. Now Wilson just has to discover his future.
Chapter 8: Day Eight
Day 8 Friday 14th October 2011
There's a cell extraction on his row today. House is dozing on his bed mid-afternoon, after exercise, when he hears the heavy footsteps of a group of guards and then their voices as they stop a few cells away from him. They bark out instructions to the inmate, telling him to cuff up and then lie on his bunk, hands behind his back. House can’t hear what the inmate says back, but the guards repeat the instructions a couple of times and then he hears a spraying sound, and one of the guards calls out ‘mace’.
There’s another spray, and then he hears someone coughing and the door of a cell opening. There's more shouting and House limps to the door of his cell, trying to see out the very small gaps around the cuff port and the food port. He can't see anything much but he hears the group walk along the row, away from him, there’s more coughing and a voice rising in protest, and the guards telling someone to shut up.
There's noise coming from the other cells around him now, men yelling, men banging on their doors and walls. House finds himself pounding on his door, making a noise, yelling something, adding to the chaos. When he realises what he's doing he stops, shocked, when did he become like these men? He goes back to his bunk, sits up against the cold wall at the end of the bed and stares at the door hoping the guards don’t come back. After a while the noise of the other inmates fades away and it’s quiet on the row again.
It's the second Friday of his stay in solitary, and the start of his second week here. Friday nights used to mean the weekend. When he was younger it meant two days and nights of partying, of drinking and drugs, and some casual sex. Crowds of people around him, voices raised in fun, not in anger or fear. The last few years Friday night have mostly meant a weekend by himself, alone in his apartment, catching up on his soaps, occasionally having Wilson around for video games and beer. While he was with Cuddy sometimes he’d spent the weekend with her, and Rachel. Mostly though it had just been one day of the weekend, or none – depending on where they were in their rocky relationship. After Cuddy, well there had been the hookers, meaningless sex, designed to be a distraction for him nothing more.
Now he's more alone than he's ever been before. There are thousands of men around him but his world is this cell, no bigger than a bathroom. There are no other people in his life now; there is nobody to talk to. He sees people only during his one hour of exercise, his every-three-days shower and the brief moments when he is given his painkillers, and the people he sees keep their interactions as impersonal as possible. He’s almost given up trying to engage them.
In the rest of the prison some of the guards are friendly with the inmates, they are happy to engage in conversation, to talk about sports, and women, or just to pass a few comments. There’s a sense that the guards don’t want to be here, any more than the inmates do. In solitary it's different, even the guards who were friendly to him in gen pop look through him now, their faces blank. He exists only as a source of trouble to them, someone they have to control, someone who can turn on them, and injure them. They watch him the way a snake handler watches a dangerous snake. To get too close is to be bitten. He’s sure that it’s something they’ve learned from experience, given the nature of some of the men they’ve had to deal with in here, but he never thought he’d miss passing a couple of words with Alvarez or some of the other friendlier guards. The last week before he ended up here he’d even been able to engage with Adams on a professional level, bouncing ideas off her as if she were one of his fellows. Now this sudden silence is very hard to take.
He gets off the bunk restlessly and limps down the narrow space between bunk and wall, turns around when he gets to the far wall and limps back. Turns around at the door and limps back along the space. He decides to count how many laps he can do before he either gets bored of doing it or his leg gives out. He needs a distraction.
When the count is over one hundred he loses track and decides that next time he will use pen and paper to keep count. He sits back on the bunk and rubs at his leg, feeling the deep scar tissue there. The thigh muscle is complaining about the extra exercise. Too bad that the experimental drug had such bad side effects, for a brief few days he'd felt improvement, some hope for a future not ruled by his disability, and by pain and drugs. He remembers the fear he’d felt when he’d seen the dead rats, and the images of the tumours in his right leg. The pain he’d experienced during his bath tub operation and the hopelessness as he called number after number and no-one answered. Cuddy had been the last person he’d wanted to turn to, but sheer desperation had made him call that number.
He closes his eyes against the insistent thrumming of his thigh, his evening meds won’t come until after dinner, all he can do is lie here and wait for the pain to lessen.
Chi Park goes over the file again, frustrated. She loves her work here at PPTH, but this particular case is nagging at her, there's something wrong, something over and above what the file says. She takes it to her boss, Doctor Andrews who looks it over briefly and shrugs, saying it looks fine to him. Park continues to insist and eventually he suggests she take it to Foreman. When she expresses surprise that he would think the Dean of the hospital would be interested in a puzzling little case from neurology he explains to her that not only does Foreman have a background in Neurology but that he also did a fellowship in diagnostics before moving into administration. He used to work for House, Andrews says, as if it should be significant in some way.
She does finally take the case to Foreman, who seems surprisingly eager to help as he looks over the scans and her notes. He suggests a couple of avenues of investigation, some tests she could run. When he glances at his watch she takes that as a cue to pick up her file and her notes and start making her way towards the door of his large and impressive office. He tells her to keep on the case and to keep him in the loop as far as a diagnosis goes.
When she looks back he's sitting in his office chair staring at the wall opposite, he's clearly not really seeing the wall – she wonders what he is actually seeing.
Chapter 9: Day Nine
Day 9 Saturday 15th October 2011
He gets to hand in his two battered books today and get another two – which will have to last him another week. For a man whose apartment was crammed with books even when he didn’t have all day to lie around and read, having two books for a week is nowhere near enough, still it’s better than the nothing he’d had for the first couple of days.
When he comes back from his shower the books are on his bunk. He feels a brief moment of annoyance at the idea of someone coming into his cell when he's not there but he still picks the books up eagerly; keen to see what he’s got this week.
One of them is a John Grisham thriller, the other is an old science fiction novel, with the pages yellowing and the book looking in danger of coming apart at any moment. He flicks through it but puts it aside. He'll save that one for later, when he’s really bored.
He picks up the Grisham book and lies back on his bunk, studying the back cover carefully. It's about a man falsely accused of a crime. He almost laughs; it seems a strange choice for a prison full of jailhouse lawyers. House is yet to meet anyone in here who admits that they should be in here. Either they didn't do it, or it was someone else's fault, or they're just poor misunderstood crims with a lousy childhood.
Well, House knows what he did, and although he could blame his addiction, or his pain, or his miserable life, or his fucked up childhood he knows that the only one responsible for what he did is him. He made that choice, to go to Cuddy’s when Wilson urged him to forget it and go out drinking with him. He made the choice to order Wilson out of the car, and to drive to the end of the street and then turn back. He made the decision to drive through Cuddy’s front window, regardless of any consequences. Yeah, he was on a nice dose of Vicodin at the time, and he was angry at Cuddy, but none of that excused what he did.
It had felt great at first. Crashing through the house had given him a nice gut wrenching jolt of pain, for a moment he’d hoped that the damned house would collapse on the car and that would be it. When it hadn’t he'd had the satisfaction of handing her the stupid hairbrush, the hairbrush he’d been keeping at his place, hoping that she’d come back for it one day. Then he’d walked off, leaving her open-mouthed behind him, her new boyfriend forgotten.
He'd even brushed past Wilson, telling him that he felt much better, now that he’d let them all know how he was feeling . Wilson had been on his case since the breakup, harping on at him to talk about it, to talk about he felt about the breakup, about Cuddy dumping his ass. Well he'd shown Wilson just how he felt when he'd driven the car straight through Cuddy's house. Stupid sap hadn't the sense to get out of the way and had gotten hurt. Wilson had said many times that House hurt everyone around him. Well he was right. He’d broken Wilson’s wrist and he didn’t even notice that either.
It had been a catharsis of sorts. He'd been in a state of blissed out peace when he'd gone to Fiji and for the first few days there. It was as if he'd cut all his ties to his old life, to all the old baggage, all the mistakes and all the regrets. He had been intending to stay where he was for a long time; he’d had no plans to go back to the States, ever.
He’d been happy, for a while, but the only constant of the human condition is that something always changes, and he'd woken up one morning and the full impact of what he’d done had hit him. He starting seeing her ; the way she'd looked when he gave her that hairbrush. Her hand had been shaking. He was sure of that. He'd thought that he'd rendered her speechless, but now he realised she was in shock. He’d started seeing Wilson , his loyal friend for over twenty years, cradling his wrist, stunned and shocked. He'd walked off and left him like that, he'd hurt him physically and walked away – and he hadn’t cared.
He'd hurt two people he cared about deeply and he needed to pay for that. For every action there is a consequence, John House had pounded that into him. He'd tried to dodge consequences most of his life but he couldn't dodge this one, he didn’t want to. He had to pay for this. For what he'd done to the people he loved.
When he'd walked off the plane in New York the police had been there to take him away in handcuffs. That had been his last day as a free man. He’d been taken to Mercer County Jail, and held without bail. He’d taken the first deal that was offered to him and accepted serving twelve months in jail to pay for his crimes. He’d intended to do his time, and then leave the country again, for good this time. He had never intended to practise medicine again.
Diagnosing Nick and working with Adams had woken up the old excitement in him, the thrill of chasing down a puzzle and finally being right. Just like after Mayfield he doesn’t know now whether he’ll be able to stay away; he needs the puzzles, as much as he needs Vicodin. Going back to his old environment was out; there was nothing there for him anymore, even if the hospital would take him back – which seemed unlikely with Cuddy in charge. The trouble is that he is no longer sure that studying dark matter will be enough.
He starts reading the book, hoping that the mindless thriller will take his mind from the endless cycle of thinking about the past, which he can’t change, and the future which is uncertain, all he can do for now is live in the present, and try and get through this one day at a time.
Foreman receives an application for a position at the hospital from a Doctor Jessica Adams. A quick perusal of it reveals that she's not quite suitable for the position she's applying for. He's about to put it aside when he glances at the employment history again. New Jersey State Prison is listed as her last place of employment. No reference listed so her leaving there was not mutually decided, no matter what her resume declares. He picks up the phone and calls for her to come in and interview on Monday. When he hangs up he feels a brief twinge of remorse, now she will be hopeful of gaining employment here when Foreman has no intention of offering her a job. But he needs to see if she has any knowledge of House. It's a long shot, the prison houses hundreds, if not thousands, of men. But House is capable of creating chaos wherever he goes. Foreman has a hunch that it's not just coincidence that drove young Doctor Adams to apply for this particular hospital.
When he goes online and finds a photograph of her he raises his eyebrow at the screen. House once referred to Cameron as 'lobby art', and the young woman looking back at him from the screen fits that description exactly.
Chapter 10: Day Ten
Day 10 Sunday 16th October 2011
He decides that he can't just keep lying around all day doing not much of anything; he’s going to go insane doing that. So he takes up the pen and pad of paper and makes a start on that textbook of Diagnostics that Cuddy had always been on his case about. Share the knowledge she would say, and he'd asked her what she thought he was doing with those three idiot fellows she'd foisted on him. He'd suggested that less clinic hours would lead to more textbook writing but she had never been persuaded to that line of thought. She seemed to think that less clinic hours would lead to more video games and sleeping on work time, he had to concede she was probably right.
He's tried over the years to educate his fellows as best he can, to pass on techniques they can use, approaches they can take, to give them the courage to go out on a limb and do what needs to be done, but that spark, that moment of inspiration, that epiphany, that can't be taught. Chase has shown moments of brilliance, but only moments. The rest are workmanlike, above average doctors but they still have a long way to go before they can independently operate a department such as his. There are no other departments like his that he knows of, Foreman had tried to run one, but he had been lacking a boss who was inclined to tolerate a certain amount of risk taking and rule bending. House knows that he has been fortunate to have Cuddy on his side what it came to the exercise of his particular ‘gift’.
So he’s never been convinced that writing a diagnostics textbook would be a worthwhile endeavour but it's not like he has anything else pressing to do. His physics books haven't turned up yet, despite his complaints every other day to the prison guards (or maybe because of them, he's not sure, maybe he should shut up about it for a while).
He heads up the first page, 'Everybody Lies'. The first principle of diagnostics, he thinks, never trust, and never believe anything but cold hard lab results. And don't believe old labs, get new ones, get new scans, do it yourself. Other people make mistakes, they miss things, and they’re blinded by their specialties. He's never been able to get his fellows, or Wilson, to fully accept the 'everybody lies' philosophy of life that is so essential to his work. They think he’s got some warped view of human nature, he knows that he sees the truth.
He starts sketching out a basic outline, with snappy chapter titles. Don't leave all the fun to the coroner , Treat, and then test, Sometimes people die, Do the math . He doodles a bit on the page, drawing some random porn in each corner. This would be so much easier to do on a computer, with a nice internet connection. The trouble with prison is that there are so few distractions. It had been bad enough in gen pop; in solitary it is much worse. Apart from three meals a day, meds, exercise once a day and, on the really exciting days, a shower, there is nothing to interrupt the steady monotony of the days. There is nothing to get between him and his thoughts.
He stares at the paper again, decides it's a good start and puts it to one side. He doesn't know why he should write a book on diagnostics anyway, he's finished with that, he's going to study dark matter, and remove himself from humanity. He doesn't want to be a doctor any more. A couple of weeks ago he was sure of that. Has saving one guy's life changed his mind? Diagnosing Nick has brought him nothing but being locked in a room barely bigger than his bathroom and another eight months of purgatory. His gift has never brought him more than transitory happiness.
He wonders if anyone on the outside will notice when he doesn't come out of the prison door in two months time, on his original release date. Was anyone planning to be there for him? He's had no contact with any of them since it happened, maybe they don't even know he's here, let alone when he’s due out. He hopes his Mom doesn't know anyway, it would be just one more disappointment in her life full of them. At least his Dad isn't around to see all his prophecies for House's life come true. He wonders what his biological dad, a devout minister, would make of this, what he would make of a son being in jail for a violent act committed against a woman. He knows what John House would have made of it, he'd always stressed to Greg that violence against women was not okay; violence against small children in the name of discipline was apparently fine in his eyes.
He picks up the paper again, seeking to distract himself from his memories of the past, but the words are blurred and he finds it hard to focus on them. He puts it down again and stares at the ceiling. He wants to not think, he wants to just turn off. He wants the day to finish so it can be another day gone.
He wants someone to talk to.
Blythe wakes up early, as she often does. Thomas is a later riser so she leaves him to it and goes down into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. As the coffee brews she draws her gown around her tightly against the cool morning air. She glances around the kitchen, at the small table and for one moment she imagines a young Greg sitting there, his face screwed up in concentration as he reads a book and eats his breakfast. She shakes her head, banishing the image. She knows why she's thinking about him. Last night there had been one of those silly reality shows on the television, it had been about a prison, and the lives of the prisoners. She'd seen only five minutes before she'd turned it off, horrified at the idea of her beautiful son in a place like that.
She has thought about visiting him, many times. Once she'd gotten as far as looking up the prison regulations for visitors. Then she remembered that Greg had never liked her hovering over him, or her seeing him when he was in trouble. He'd always run and hidden after John had disciplined him, never seeking his mother's comfort. He hadn't called her during the infarction, or after he'd been shot, and she hadn't known about Mayfield until months later.
No, she won't embarrass him by going to see him in prison, he wouldn't want that. She pours out her cup of coffee and takes it back to the bedroom to drink while she reads; a nice romance book to take her mind off things until Thomas wakes up.
Chapter 11: Day Eleven
Day 11 Monday 17th October 2011
It's raining today; he can hear it splashing against the window of his cell although he can't see it. He wonders if he will still be taken to exercise, he hopes so, exercise isn't much really, but in here it's everything.
His leg is aching badly today; the rain always makes it worse. The morning dose of Vicodin did nothing but take the very edge off and that was a while ago, and there's a long wait until the next one. He hates not having his pills available to pop one whenever he feels like it. Even when he was off the Vicodin he'd still carried a vial of his ibuprofen around and taken one just whenever instead of on a schedule. When he'd tried the schedule thing, back when he was newly crippled, he'd found himself watching the clock endlessly and just hanging around waiting until he could take another pill, to gain some small degree of relief. His life had been measured out in pain medication doses. Now he lets his body tell him when it needs dosing.
Except in here. Now his body is telling him how desperately it wants another pill, and he can't do anything about it, there’s absolutely no way of obtaining anything. Back in the main prison he’d developed a couple of contacts, guys who could get him something if he really needed it, and sometimes he really had – with Mendelsohn and his thugs taking half his pills every day.
He thinks about the feel of those Vicodin when Doctor Adams poured them all into his hand, their texture, their bitterness, the relief they could bring. He hadn’t even needed to count them, he could tell from the feel of them in his hand just how many there were. He wishes he had just one of those little beauties now.
He props himself up on a pillow and peers down at his leg, at the scar that has so dominated his life for the last thirteen years. What remains of the muscle twitches under the skin and he puts his hand there in a futile attempt to still it. He rubs at the thigh again, and again, but nothing helps.
The rain is still falling as he struggles to his feet and begins to pace. Five paces, that's all he can do. Five paces to the door, and five paces back, over and over, wearing a track. One, two, three, four, five. Turn. One, two, three, four, five. Turn.
He thinks of the morphine he used to keep, high on the bookshelf, ready for just these occasions – when the pain bites at him and won’t let go, no matter what he does.
He keeps pacing, trying to out run the pain.
It's not helping, there just isn't room, there isn't, he can't. One, two, three, four, five. He reaches the cell door, and without thinking slams his hand against the solid weight of it, then again, and again. It hurts, so he does it again, over and over. The door shivers under his hand. It feels so good. His palm stings, and turns red. He flexes the fingers, feels delicious pain in each one. Curls his right hand into a fist and throws his head back. Yes. His fucking leg is drained out for now by the pain in his palm. He's won.
When they come to take him to exercise he's sitting on his bed, flexing his fingers to keep the pain going.
Doctor Foreman turns out to be a somewhat humourless type, African-American, not overly tall. He appears young for the job he is doing but has a firm grasp of what he wants, and doesn't want. She quickly realises that he's not really interviewing her for a position at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. That's fine, because she's not really applying for one. She's not sure what drove her to send her resume to PPTH in the first place, other than the fact that it was Doctor House's last listed place of employment. She wants to see where he had worked, to find out more about him. He is the most intriguing person she's ever met.
The 'interview' soon comes around to her work at New Jersey State Prison, and the reason she is no longer employed there. She decides to come clean with Doctor Foreman and tell him everything, she feels that she owes House that. This is his boss, and the man who will have to decide whether he wants to re-employ House when he finishes his sentence. When she tells Foreman that she last saw House being dragged off to solitary confinement his composure is shaken for a moment, he actually looks disturbed.
“So, he was due for early release that day?” Foreman asks, making a note on a piece of paper in front of him.
“Yes. He would be out now if he hadn't gotten involved with the patient’s case. They revoked his parole of course when they took him to solitary. The last I heard they were going to bring extra charges against him. If he's found guilty of those he'll probably serve more prison time.”
“Damn.” Foreman swore, “He can't stay out of trouble for more than five minutes.”
“He was saving a prisoner's life,” she points out defensively. “Neither of us knew what was wrong with Nick. He came up with the diagnosis out of nowhere, and he took an enormous risk to back that diagnosis up.”
“Yeah, that's usually the way it goes.” Foreman makes a couple more notes and then looks up at her, “How did he seem? Is he doing okay in there?”
She thinks back to House's demeanour. “He seemed to be doing well, other than the problems with the Vicodin – another prisoner was pressuring him for extra pills before he was released. They call it an 'exit tax' - he had trouble getting the pills, but apart from that, he seemed okay.” At least he hadn't been brought into the clinic while she'd been there, other than after the riot which he had apparently started.
Foreman quickly concludes the interview, apparently having obtained what he wanted and ushers her out of his office; she's not expecting a call back. She thinks about hanging around the hospital, trying to find people who had worked with House to talk to, but shakes her head. She's done what she can; she can't spend her life obsessing over Greg House.
Chapter 12: Day Twelve
Day 12 Tuesday 18th October 2011
Having a shower has become a highlight of his day, not as good as exercise, because then he gets to see outside, but it happens less so in some incredibly pathetic way it is more exciting. It would be better if he could walk there on his own, if he didn't have cuffs biting into his wrists. If his arms weren't held by prison officers on either side so that his limping gait will get him there. It would be better if he could have the water as hot as he likes it, and take as long as he wants, it would be better if there was music, or if he was permitted to sing. It would be better if he wasn't being watched.
But, it's still good. It's away from his tiny cell, with the four walls, and the bed and the sink and the nothing else. It's a glimpse of a world away, it's a minimum of human contact even if they only bark orders at him. The first few times he tried to talk to them. His witty sallies were met with stone faces and even though he tried to needle them and insult them there was never any response. After the first few times he didn't bother any more. He tells himself it's because it's pointless, and that it's not because he's scared of losing the few privileges he does have.
So they march him to the shower, take his cuffs and leg chain off, and he strips out of his shorts and t-shirt (the orange jumpsuit has long since been abandoned back in his cell). He thinks they give him about five minutes, so he's quick about soaping himself up and rinsing it off. As the luke warm water rushes down the drain he watches it escape. He doesn't look towards the door where the guard is standing, for a brief moment in time he pretends that he's back in his apartment, washing away the strains of the day in a hot shower. A bath would be better of course, it's a long time since he'd had one but the shower helps him feel more human.
The water switches off far too early and he's tossed a scratchy towel to dry himself with. He does that quickly too, no need to give the guard a show and then it's back on with a clean set of white shorts and t-shirt. They offer him the razor today and he thinks about refusing, the deranged prisoner look suiting his mood, but it’s another ten minutes out of his cell so he takes it and scrapes the scruff off.
The handcuffs and leg chains are replaced and they hustle him out again, moving the human charge around as efficiently as possible.
He takes the trip back to his cell as slowly as he can, dragging his right foot to emphasize just how crippled he is. He's in no hurry to be stuffed back into his cell, and as uninteresting as the sterile blank walls are out here, they're a lot more exciting than the ones he stares at all day.
There's the usual noise from the other inmates as he limps past their cages, he's on the end of the row (what better place to put a cripple?) so it's always mildly entertaining to hear them start up. And, truthfully, it's comforting to hear other voices, even if they are shouting obscenities or just weird wordless screams. Today a hand comes through one of the food ports, reaching out and the guards pause and shout an order for the prisoner to put his hand back inside. House and his guards wait a few tense seconds and then the hand retreats. House wonders if anything will come of it once he’s put back in his cell.
The door is unlocked and after his usual moment's pause he goes inside, still handcuffed. The door slams shut and he backs up to the cuff port to have them removed. As usual he feels a slight fear that they're not going to take them off, that they're going to leave him in the cuffs but the routine is followed and they always come off.
The cuff port rattles shut and he's alone again, in his cell. Next will be lunch, and then exercise, and then dinner – each activity hours away from the previous one. Still, he feels refreshed, more human from the shower and he sits down on the bed and takes up his pad of paper, determined to make inroads into his Diagnostics textbook. He needs to keep his mind active while he’s in here, he needs to do something to pass the time.
He makes a few notes, adds a few lines to his previous efforts and then starts doodling pornographic figures on the paper. His hand is still sore from the previous day’s activities, and now it’s a painful, nagging soreness that makes it hard to write rather than a blessed distraction from the screaming pain in his leg. Next time he’ll have to try something that hurts only for a short time.
After a while he puts the paper down, tosses the pen away and lies down on his bunk. There’s time for a little sleep before lunch.
Wilson is in the cafeteria eating his lunch alone when he's joined by Foreman. He looks up, with surprise, Foreman usually has lunch at his desk if he's in the hospital. And he's never been one for casual conversation with his colleagues, let alone his employees. Wilson suspects that Foreman's new position is still sitting uncomfortably on him, even after a few months. He's much younger than most of the senior staff, and with very little experience in administration, he was a bold choice by the Board.
“House was supposed to get parole last week but he got into some trouble so now he has to serve the rest of the sentence,” Foreman gets straight to the point. Much like House Foreman has little use for small talk.
Wilson isn't sure what he's supposed to say to that. He's made it clear before that he's had no contact with House while he's been in prison, hasn't even heard from him since the day when House walked off and left him alone to deal with the chaos he’d just created. Several of the hospital staff have tried to mine him for gossip and information and Wilson has refused to be drawn into it. He knows there's a pool for when House manages to regain employment at PPTH but he's never contributed to it. Probably never would be his guess, House made it pretty clear he was done with the lot of them.
“House didn't get early parole? I’m shocked.” Wilson says dryly. He’s always found the fellow’s continuing ability to be surprised by House’s activities amusing.
“He was trying to save some guy's life apparently, disobeyed direct orders from the prison officers because he wanted to test his diagnosis. Now they're talking about extra charges, he may serve even longer than a year.”
Wilson's stomach twists a little at that. He's not House's friend any more, but he doesn't wish him ill. House is undoubtedly sick, he needs help, but Wilson can’t be the one to give it to him, he’s tried that so many times and failed. He rubs his wrist and waits for Foreman to tell him what this is all about.
“I'm going to try and get him paroled to my custody, on condition that he's employed here, working for me.”
Yes, Wilson thinks, that's going to end really well.
Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen
Day 13 Wednesday 19th October 2011
He wakes up, as he does every morning, to silence. That’s another thing about solitary. The walls are thick, and well insulated, very little sound escapes from the other cells, except for when the prisoners are deliberately being noisy. They each exist in their own little hole in the wall, one man among many but completely isolated. Usually the only sound comes from the hum of the air conditioners and other machinery that keeps this place running.
It’s still ‘night’ according to the prison system; his cell lights are dimmed in the evening, and then raised at whatever time the prison has officially designated as morning. House has no control over the light, and it never goes completely off. So he knows it is not yet morning, but has no way of telling whether it’s midnight, or two, or whether there’s only five minutes until ‘morning’.
When he was a child his life was ruled by the clock. When his father was at home he insisted on strict punctuality. Two minutes late to dinner and you didn’t eat, if you got home a minute after curfew you didn’t go out for two weeks. His father had brought him a watch when he was very young, and taught him how to tell the time; then insisted he live by it. Punctuality is courtesy, he would say. Life in the House family was a series of timed manoeuvres, as precise as the workings of any military establishment.
There's no clock in here. It's impossible to tell the time, except by the regular delivery of meal trays. House knows how the prison system works by now and he bets himself that those trays are delivered at the same time every day. So there's breakfast time, lunch time and dinner time, and lights-out time. The hours between and before are an unknown.
His watch is locked up in this prison somewhere. It had been taken from him when he was brought here, along with his clothes, his cane, his wallet and his ever present vial of Vicodin. They'll be given back when ( if , he thinks) he checks out of this fine establishment. He'll be able to put on his watch (the watch that Kutner gave him, and there's a good luck charm if he ever saw one) and he'll know the time again. He wonders if it will matter to him by then.
He doesn't know if being able to tell the time would make it pass faster or slower in this place. Without a watch he can't see how slowly the hours are passing, but without it the day becomes one endless parade of monotony, with nothing to distinguish one minute from the next. He doesn’t know if he should be going back to sleep now, or whether breakfast will soon appear. He doesn’t know what time it is.
It’s quiet, and the lights are still dim. He’s not particularly sleepy so he decides to try and measure the time. He takes a deep breath and starts counting, out loud so he can hear the numbers echo off the wall – he’s tired of the silence.
One, and two, and three, and four. He's always been able to keep seconds accurately in his head. One of his father's ‘disciplines’ had involved sitting completely still on a chair for a requisite number of minutes and he'd often counted off the seconds to pass the time. Fifteen, and sixteen, and seventeen, and eighteen.
He counts for a long time and his voice becoming hoarse; still the lights don’t come on. He begins to lose concentration in the endless parade of numbers and the time slips away from him. He doesn’t know how long it’s been now. He stops counting and the silence envelops him again. The lights are still dim. He wonders if something has happened and the cycle has been interrupted. Maybe it’s the middle of the day and the system has broken down. Maybe they don’t have enough staff for the day and they’re going to keep solitary in darkness for twenty four hours. He tells himself he’s being ridiculous but finds himself listening for sounds of protest from the other cells. Surely other prisoners will have noticed that the lights haven’t come up yet? There’s still silence.
A while later, he doesn’t know when exactly, the lights brighten.
Cuddy is at work when she receives the call. House isn't getting out of prison on parole after all.
As his 'victim' she'd received notice that he was to be released some twelve days ago. Only now has the bureaucracy found time to inform her that he was denied parole after all, there is not further explanation. She wonders what he did to screw up his life this time. She's not sure whether she feels relieved or sad for him. She isn’t afraid of him, and she doesn't think he's going to turn up at her new apartment one day with a gun, or a car, but she does think he isn't done with her. House is nothing if not obsessive, and once he's out of prison, or off parole, he'll come looking for her, she doesn’t think she’ll ever be completely free of him. There’s a restraining order, but legalities have never stopped House.
Then there’s a part of her that still worries about him, about what he's going through in prison. Prison and House – she'd once perjured herself to keep him out of jail, thinking that being locked up would destroy him, then she’d given the police a statement that sent him to one. He will be vulnerable there, with his big mouth, his antisocial personality, his cane and his need for drugs. She loved him for too long not to care what happens to him, even though he blatantly didn’t care what happened to her when he rammed his car into her dining room. She wanted him in prison, but she also wants him safe.
She wonders again how it all went wrong, and wishes for the thousandth time that she'd never gone to his apartment that night. It had ended in disaster, just as they had both thought it would.
She wishes she had never loved him.
Chapter 14: Day Fourteen
Day 14 Thursday 20th October 2011
He's having a lazy day, well, every day is lazy, it's not like there’s anything he’s supposed to be doing, but this day he's decided he's not even getting out of bed except to pick his food up off the floor and go for exercise. So he's lying in bed with just his shorts on, drifting in and out of sleep, thinking about random things, trying his best not to think about anything at all.
He decides he might as well have some fun while he's here, in bed, not doing anything, and his hand drifts down to his cock. It's totally limp of course, there's not much in here that would make little Greg stand up and take notice, so he spits on his hand a bit and gets to work.
It's not the first time he's done it in prison of course, but he's bothered less than you would think. This prison doesn't have a rule against it, he's been told by other prisoners than in some states prisoners are forbidden from masturbating, not that the rule stops anyone of course. In this prison there's no rule except you can't do it in public. Or in a fashion that is designed to 'intimidate a prison officer or inmate' whatever the hell that means.
Well, he's not in public here and there's no prison officer in sight so there's nothing stopping him. Little Greg is having some trouble getting interested in proceedings though. Some visual stimuli is called for but the random book deliveries have yet to include copies of Playboy. He closes his eyes and does a mental shuffle through the ladies of his acquaintance. Cuddy, well no, maybe not. He immediately moves on to the next one, Stacy, no, not her either. There's Cameron of course, but she's staring at him all uptight and judgey so he dismisses that image. Thirteen's not bad, in a skinny sort of way, but she doesn't do anything to help the situation. Amber briefly floats before his eyes, but besides the fact that she's Wilson's and therefore completely off limits, she's also dead and buried, and he wants her to stay that way this time, thanks very much. He briefly imagines Wilson, that's done the trick a couple of times in the past, but this time it's a complete turnoff, he doesn't know where he stands with the man but using him in this way seems no more appropriate than Cuddy would be, and he really doesn’t want to think about that whole mess while he’s trying to beat one out.
In the end he pictures one of the hookers he'd had during his post-Cuddy binge. Nice and safe image there, with no emotional baggage attached to it. It takes some doing but finally there's movement and he works hard at it and is eventually rewarded with a climax that leaves him physically drained but is more empty and hollow than satisfying.
His shorts take care of the cleanup and then he strips them off and throws them into a corner of the cell, laundry pickup is tomorrow if last week is any guide so they won't be there long.
He decides he can't be bothered getting up and putting on a clean pair of shorts so he lies under the covers naked and tries to keep a glow going. It doesn't last long and then he's just lying on a bed in solitary feeling faintly pathetic and a lot depressed. It's not his own hand that he wants. He tries to bring back the feeling of Cuddy lying with him after they'd done the deed, that feeling of being with someone who wants you. Except, he'd never really been secure with Cuddy, he'd always had the feeling that he was one wrong move away from breaking them up, he'd been desperate to preserve what they had to the extent that when he thought she might be dying, that he was going to lose her forever, he'd been unable to face that. He'd lost her anyway, they had failed as he had always known they would.
He doesn't want to think about Cuddy now, not on this, his 'day off'. He laughs at the concept, every day in here is his day off. Never, in all his life, had he had such an extended stint of time where he had absolutely no responsibilities. Childhood had been driven by study, and chores, and various extra curricular activities as prescribed by his father. Then there had been college, and med school, then the treadmill of internship, residency and then getting Board certified in two specialties.
The extended hospital and rehab stay after the infarction had been full of activity - tests, rehab, medication, various specialists coming to see him. Even in Mayfield his time had been closely scheduled, with counselling, group, and various other activities.
His father had a saying, which he had trotted out to young Greg whenever he saw him unoccupied, the devil finds work for idle hands . This was usually quickly followed by his father finding him some work to do. Greg had once, and only once, pointed out that logically this meant that his father was the devil.
Now he lies idly upon a bed in a solitary cell in New Jersey State Prison, free to do absolutely nothing for as long as he wants. He wonders what Dad would have thought of this.
"You know what your problem is? You don't know how lucky you are."
"Yeah Dad," he says out loud, rolling over to face the wall, "I'm real lucky."
Vanessa sits with her sister, Theresa, in Doctor Wilson's office, listening to him tell them the latest bad news. It's a familiar setting for them. Doctor Wilson has been Vanessa's doctor since the day she got diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. She thanks her lucky stars every day for finding a doctor like Wilson. He's been attentive, empathetic, everything that so many doctors aren't. She feels that he's been in her corner since the beginning, fighting the cancer with her. He was there for her struggle with alcoholism, her ups and downs with the now-absent Bobby, he's been there for everything. Through the operations, the treatments that made her sick, the nights when she didn't think she'd make it through. Now she's here again, the cancer is back with a vengeance, and she needs a lung transplant. A double lung transplant.
She should be terrified but she's not. Doctor Wilson is smiling at her with that gorgeous smile of his, exuding confidence and optimism. She looks at Theresa who is staring at Doctor Wilson with a slightly dreamy smile on her face. She knows Theresa fancies him, although they've both heard the nurses talk about how he's a bit of a ladies man, a 'love them and leave them' type of guy. It's hard to believe, the way he's been with her, she can’t see him as someone who would routinely break someone’s heart.
At least he has the cast off now. She's not sure what happened there, she'd had a routine appointment with him a year ago and he'd been distracted, pale, his wrist broken. A car accident he'd explained, but there had been something else there. Something that was making him sad, she'd thought. She hadn't enquired further, after all it was no concern of hers, and she had enough problems of her own.
She focuses again on his words, a double lung transplant, long waiting list, has to be ready at any minute to proceed. More treatments in the meantime, more procedures, and more pain. She feels a hand grasping hers, her sister, here to support her. She squeezes back, it will be okay, Doctor Wilson says there's a good chance of her getting the lungs and he’s going to do everything he can for her.
Yes, she is very lucky indeed that she has Doctor Wilson.
Day 15 Friday 21st October 2011
It's the fifteenth day he has been in solitary. This is his third Friday here.
If they're keeping him in solitary for thirty days (and Adams shouted out something about a month in solitary so, maybe) then he's halfway through. He doesn't want to spend another fifteen days in this cell.
He knows that many people do years in solitary, if not their whole sentence. When he was in gen pop he heard other prisoners talk about it, about their cell mates who were taken away and have never come back. He’s seen it himself, the prison administration has the power to segregate anyone they want, for any reason they want. Mostly they say it’s to break up the gangs, but nobody ever did anything about Mendelson and his cronies.
The other use of solitary was for punishment, for breaking the rules. Rollo and Stomper must be locked up in these cells somewhere. He’d manipulated them into fighting each other and gotten them hauled off to solitary. He guesses, now that he knows what it’s like in here, he should be sorry about that. He’s not.
The standard sentence is thirty, that’s what he’s heard people say, ‘you’ll do thirty’, that’s what Adams had said. He’s just doing the thirty; they won’t keep him here for the rest of his sentence. He’s not part of a gang, although he was under the ‘protection’ of the New Confederates, for as long as he coughed up the Vicodin every day.
He's smart, and he's used to being alone, this shouldn't be so hard. He should be able to do this easily. He should like this better than being out there in gen pop, sharing a cell for fourteen hours a day with a psychotic roomie. Except that psychotic roomie had smashed a trash can over the head of the guy who was going to kill him, and had then gone after Mendelson, one of the most powerful guys in the jail.
He wonders what happened to Asofa, and whether he was still in this prison. Depending on how badly Mendelson was hurt he was probably facing additional charges, and if House got eight months for disobeying 'direct orders' and possessing Vicodin Asofa would surely get a lot more for nearly killing a guy. Asofa was on long time anyway, life, maybe. House hadn't asked and Asofa had barely said more than two words to him the whole time they shared a cell. He’d saved House’s life, House still didn’t know why.
He misses playing chess with Frankie, the man wasn't that much of a challenge but it had been something to do, something to keep his mind active, and Frankie had steered him through his first rocky days in prison, while he got used to the system.
Frankie would be disappointed in him; that he'd ended up here instead of following his advice and getting out on Friday. House had wanted to do that, to keep his head down and keep out of trouble, but the damn medical puzzle had cropped up and like the addict he was he couldn't avoid it. He'd risked everything, even his miserable life to solve that puzzle. He’d told himself that he wasn't ever going to do any medicine again, that he was done with the puzzles, but he hadn’t been able to resist.
He wonders what will happen when he gets out of solitary, if he gets out of solitary. Some low life, will have stolen all his stuff, and House will have to start all over again. He’ll have a new cell, a new roomie, and whatever is left of the New Confederates will be out for his ass. He might even have to go into protective custody if things are too hot for him out there. That won’t be much better than solitary.
Yeah, he should be glad of his cushy little stay here. No-one can get to him, he is safe from all that. He gets his pills delivered, all his pills, and his food chucked through his door three times a day, and all he has to do is sit in this little cell and stare at the walls.
He spends all day half hoping, against all odds, that maybe his solitary stay will only be fifteen days. Maybe he’ll get out early. It’s the longest day he’s had in here so far and when the lights go down in the evening he rolls over and puts a pencil mark on the piece of wall that is serving as his calendar.
Fifteen days done.
Foreman knows he has to tread carefully in trying to get House out of jail, and released into his custody. First there's the legal side of it, he's not even totally sure that such a thing is possible. If House had managed to get his parole it would have been easy, Foreman would have contacted his parole officer and promised House a job. House would have had to behave himself to keep the job, because not having a job while you were on parole was a ticket straight back to jail.
Now House is facing a minimum of the four months he has left on his original sentence, plus any additional sentence applied by the court if he is convicted of further charges. Getting him out early isn’t going to be easy.
An equally large problem is the Board. House hadn't exactly made many friends on the Board, and although some of the members realise that he was a drawcard for the hospital an equal number despise him for his lack of professionalism and his less than endearing personal traits. Then there was the whole domestic violence thing to contend with, and the fact that it was aimed at Cuddy – who hadn't been universally admired but had been generally respected. Bringing House back to the hospital would be a huge risk for Foreman – if it failed, or backfired in any way, Foreman would be in the firing line. But if he didn't bring him back, and the hospital slipped further down the rankings, he'd also be on shaky ground. His time with House had taught him one thing at least, sometimes you just have to roll the dice and gamble. He’d rather gamble on House.
Another problem niggling at him is Wilson. Wilson should be his biggest ally in this, he's always had House's back, he’s always been the one smoothing things over for him. But Wilson seems to have decided that enough is enough, and any attempt to talk to him about House leads to a polite brick wall. Foreman can't really blame him, it can't have been easy to be House's whipping boy for twenty years, but now isn't when he needs Wilson to grow a backbone. He needs Wilson supporting him in this; Wilson is well liked around the hospital, and is the only person who can influence House. He's been called House's conscience, (amongst other, less flattering things) and Foreman knows he will need him. House without Wilson is like a rudderless ship, a disaster waiting to happen.
He picks up the fairly large 'House' file and dials a number on his phone. One problem at a time, talk to the lawyer first and see if it's possible.
Chapter 16: Day Sixteen
Day 16 Saturday 22nd October 2011
Today, he decides, he will make some progress on his diagnostics text book. Even if he's not doing the medicine any more royalties from a textbook would come in handy and it will help keep his mind sharp.
He gets up out of bed as soon as the lights come up, doing some exercises for his leg to ease the morning stiffness. Breakfast hasn't arrived yet, and nor have his meds.
He strips off his t-shirt and shorts and limps, naked, to the toilet and stands in front of it to pee. One good thing about being in solitary is that he gets a toilet to himself again; waking up to Asofa shitting at the end of his bunk was an experience he never quite got used to.
His business done he turns to the sink in the corner and turns on the water. There's only cold water, and no plug for the sink so it's difficult to wash well but he grabs the cheap bar of soap and lathers it up as best he can, soaping around his genitals and ass. With the thin washcloth provided he rinses off quickly, the cold water making him shiver. He repeats the process on his chest and arms and then finishes by splashing water on his face.
There's a piece of shiny aluminium stuck to the wall in lieu of a mirror and he glances at it, looking at the tired eyes reflected there. His stubble is back and his hair is longer than he's ever worn it. He looks worn out, every one of his years of pain showing on his face. He turns away from his reflection.
Feeling a little fresher he puts on a clean tee and shorts. For good measure he tidies his cramped quarters up, not that there is much to tidy. As a final touch he makes the bed, pulling up the sheet and blanket over the hard mattress. He surveys his work after this effort and smiles sardonically.
John House had always conducted morning inspection on Greg's bedroom when he was at home. If he found anything wrong Greg would get a lecture and extra chores when he came home from school. House had taken great joy for the first few years after leaving home in making sure his rooms were as messy as possible. It was only after the infarction that he began to keep things tidy, stuff on the floor made a great tripping hazard, and if he knew where everything was he expended less energy in searching for it.
He wonders if there is a 'correct' way to smarten up a cell in solitary, and if so whether his Dad would think this one passed inspection.
Breakfast and meds arrived shortly thereafter. Breakfast is the usual dubious looking scrambled eggs, burnt cold toast, and a couple of rashers of some stringy bacon. House isn't generally a 'healthy food' type of guy but even he is beginning to wish for some fresh fruit. He eats the food anyway, with the usual plastic spork, because sending it back to the kitchen isn't really an option, and there's nothing else to eat. When he gets out of solitary he'll be able to start buying some food from the canteen again, he isn't allowed to in here.
Breakfast done, and Vicodin holding back the worst of the pain, he settles down to write in his notepad.
He expands on his 'everybody lies' philosophy, stressing the importance of thorough patient histories, of not depending on the testimony of the patient and his family, of investigating the patient's residence without their knowledge. He smiles to himself as he thinks of future students reading about break and enter being a diagnostic tool. He remembered how horrified Foreman had been when he'd first asked him to do it, so shocked that his appointment as House's fellow might have had more to do with his juvenile record than the thousands of hours of effort he'd put into graduating top of his class, and completing his internship with sterling recommendations.
Had Foreman taken over diagnostics? The man had never been slow putting himself forward before. House can just imagine Foreman's reaction at the news of what House did. The slow, incredulous, shake of his head at House living down to his expectations. He was probably in Cuddy's office ten minutes later, offering sympathy and angling for House's job.
Or maybe they've dismantled diagnostics; Cuddy did that while House was in Mayfield. It would be a shame if she had, Chase and Foreman were both capable of leading the team, and getting some solid results. Both men tended to rely on House as a crutch when things got tough diagnostically, it would be good for both of them to try and do it without him, and the Foreman v. Chase battles would be awesome. Add Thirteen and Taub into the mix and it could be some fun times. The solve rate would drop of course, but they’d get a few.
He looks down at his paper again. How to explain the team dynamic that he tried to develop? He knows everybody thought he just liked to pit his team members against each other because it was fun, well, true it was fun but it was a necessary part of the process. He needed them on edge, combative, ready to defend their ideas. The job had to mean everything to them, or it wasn't worth doing.
He starts a new chapter, and heads it up 'The Team'. He grins to himself and adds a sub-heading - 'Divide and Diagnose'. He takes up his pen, silently toasts his absent team, and begins to write.
Park is happy that she has finally solved her mystery case, a rare neurological disorder that had been missed on the first assessment of the patient. She feels a sense of accomplishment as she thinks about the patient, now in treatment. He might have died if she hadn’t pursued the puzzle.
Her interest had been piqued by Andrews comment about 'working with House' and she'd done some asking around. Most people were eager to fill her in on the gossip; apparently House was legendary in the hospital, both for being a brilliant doctor and for being a complete train wreck of a human being. There were stories of drug addiction, assault on patients and staff, an affair with the previous dean of medicine which culminated in some sort of scandalous incident which involved him driving his car into her house, threatening her with a knife and then fleeing the country. He was currently incarcerated in prison somewhere, opinions varied on how long a sentence he 'd received, some said twenty years, some said a couple of months.
Park went online herself and discovered the truth, twelve months in New Jersey State Prison, due for release in four months time. And there didn't seem to be any truth in the knife story, although, incredibly enough, the driving a car into his ex-girlfriend's house story was actually correct. There were pictures in an old news article. There was also mention of another doctor, a Doctor Wilson being injured. She's heard of him, he's the Department Head of Oncology. She's seen him around the hospital, he's pleasant looking, with a boyish face; she wonders why he was at Doctor Cuddy's house that day.
She shuts down the computer and packs her things ready to go home; her parents are expecting her for dinner.
Chapter 17: Chapter 17
Day 17 Sunday 23rd October 2011
Sunday morning used to be church morning. The Lord's Day, his father would inform him, as he inspected young Gregory before church. When they were living on a military base which was most of the time, his father would be in his dress uniform, his mother would put on her 'Sunday best' complete with hat, and Greg would be stuffed into an uncomfortable suit for the service. They would go the base chapel which combined a church service with all the usual pomp of the military. His father's eagle eye would be on him the whole time lest Greg do something to disgrace his father's rank.
When they were living off base, the routine was much the same, but without the military trappings. There was an extended period of times, when Greg was in his mid-teens, that he was recruited to play the church organ for services. His mother had volunteered him, proud of his abilities and John had agreed, not seeming to care much one way or the other. Nobody had asked Greg if he wanted to play the organ of course, or even if he wanted to go to the stupid church in the first place.
Greg had decided, after his twelfth summer, that he was an atheist, that not only didn't he believe in God, he didn't want to believe in God. He told himself that it wasn't because if there was a God the guy obviously didn't love him, but just that the whole idea was stupid. God didn't make the world in seven days, man didn't come from Adam and Eve and there sure as hell was no such thing as eternal life, he hoped.
There was no chance of escaping going to church though, his father would never have allowed it, and his mother would have given him her ‘I am so disappointed in you’ look if he tried, so he went and sulked and fumed silently in the pews. Playing the organ at least gave him a distraction, something else to focus on besides how uncomfortable his clothes were and how much he hated the whole thing. Maybe that's why his mother had volunteered him.
The organ was great, a real old relic, with a fantastic sound that had filled the church hall. He even secretly liked a lot of the hymns, if you ignored the words, the music had a grandeur that appealed to him and he gave it everything he had. He noticed that some of the old people looked at him with surprise as he belted the tunes out, and there were the usual frowns of course, he was used to that, but he also noticed that the singing picked up when he really put all his effort into it. Sometimes playing music gave him this feeling of power, of taking the audience to places they hadn't thought of before. He liked that.
When he was too big for Dad to do much to him physically he stopped going to church, grew his hair to a respectably long level, threw away the old suits and swapped out the church organ for a guitar and a pick-up band in a friend's garage. They never had much commercial success, and what money they did make they drank away, but sometimes he was able to recapture that feeling of power, of leading people and taking them somewhere else with music.
Now it is 'the Lord's Day' and he is in a prison cell, a very small prison cell. There's no organ, no guitar, no music at all. He misses music; it’s always been his one safe haven – the thing he can retreat to when nothing else works. He’d had a small radio and tape player back in the main prison, here he has nothing.
The prison did supply religious services on tape if anyone in solitary cared enough to have them piped into their cell. They would also supply a real live minister of the cloth if the prisoner made enough fuss. Of course the man of God would have to do his snake oil show from the other side of the cell door. It might be worth trying to do it for the sheer entertainment value but House decides he can't be bothered. Pissing people off for the sake of it is beginning to lose its appeal to him, and he doesn't want to do anything that would jeopardise him getting out of solitary some time before the next presidential election.
He lies on his bunk and finds the old remembered hymns running through his head. His hands are lying on the mattress and he starts to find the notes on an imaginary organ, hearing the familiar tunes in his head. He closes his eyes and lets the music swell over him, taking him away from here.
It's Sunday but, like most Sundays, Foreman is working. He may be at home and in casual clothes but the phone is virtually glued to his ear, his laptop is up and running and displaying spreadsheets rather than dolphin porn. He checks his emails and discovers one from the legal department.
The hospital lawyer has been investigating what was happening with House and has discovered he is due in court tomorrow for a hearing on the further charges against him. The lawyer has somehow acquired the information that House is going to plead guilty and receive a further eight months in jail, on top of the four he still has to serve. Foreman winces at that, another year in jail, and there will be no offer of parole this time. He is becoming interested in getting House out of jail, not just for the hospital's sake but also for House's sake. Jail cannot be a good place for him; he wasn't in good shape the last time Foreman saw him, and he doubts jail has improved things much.
Foreman thinks of all the times House had made off-hand references to Foreman's criminal past (a slight brush with the law which led to a short stint in juvie). He had been very interested in Foreman's brother, Marcus, when he'd been released from jail. He's still not sure exactly what game House had been playing with Marcus but Foreman has to grudgingly admit that House had brought them together in the end. It's a leap of faith to think that House meant for any positive effects to come from his interfering but there had been some.
Foreman checks his schedule and moves some things around. He can't do anything to help House with his legal problems, not at this late stage, but he will go to the court tomorrow and see for himself what happens.
Chapter 18: Day Eighteen
Day 18 Monday 24th October 2011
He's startled by a bang on the door and the command to get his coveralls on and come to the cuff port. He stares at the door in confusion for a moment, this isn't the usual procedure, are they taking him out of here? He dares to hope and after another impatient shouted command he gets himself into the orange coverall and goes over to the cuff port, turns around and puts his hands back through it. He feels the usual bite of the metal on his wrists and then goes and stands towards the back of his cell as ordered while they open the door. They come in and chain his ankles like normal.
They're not in full riot gear so he figures it's not a cell extraction but he's still not sure what this is. His stodgy breakfast sits uneasily on his stomach as they escort him out of the cell. He's taken down the corridor to an elevator, where he's told to turn and face the wall. He does that, standing with his nose pressed against the corner like a naughty child while the guards keep a hold on his arms. Once, he thinks, he would have asked a lot of questions, demanded answers, now it seems more natural to hold his tongue and keep quiet.
They go out a door and he finds himself being put in the back of a van. He's the first one in the van, bet he’s soon joined by three other prisoners. They're wearing the usual prison garb of jeans and denim shirt, he's the only solitary inmate there, and he’s marked out by his bright orange coverall.
The drive is short, and the windows in the back of a the van are blacked out, and there’s a solid partition to the front so he can’t see anything but at least it’s a trip away from solitary. He suspects he knows what this is all about and when he gets out of the van and sees that they are at the back entrance of a courthouse his suspicions are confirmed. He's going to court so that they can add more months to his sentence. Great.
They're taken out of the van and herded down to some cells in the basement. His ankles are still chained together and walking is difficult, he hopes that some officer with more brains than the others will realise he's a cripple and take the chain off but instead they just walk slowly. The handcuffs and ankle chains are removed only once he's put into a cell.
He's in a cell by himself again, though he notes that the three men who'd come with him are in a cell together, he guesses that's because he's considered dangerous to other prisoners now. He almost smiles at the thought.
At least this cell is the old fashioned type, with bars. The walls on each side are solid but he can see out of his cage and into the one across the way, and a little down the corridor. He doesn't know the other prisoners, and when they see him staring at them they react with angry gestures so he looks away. He's still not sure where he'll stand in the jail when, or if, he gets out of solitary. He might have to ask to go into protective custody after all this. That would mean he'd end up being in what amounted to solitary for the rest of his prison stay, although he'd have slightly more 'privileges' than he does now.
It isn't long before they come for him, chain him up again, and take him up a set of stairs straight into the dock in a courtroom. The stairs are a struggle with both his hands and ankles chained and he can tell the guards are getting impatient with his slow progress. Well, too bad for them.
He enters the dock still wearing the orange jumpsuit, so there'll be no doubt amongst the spectators in the court where he's come from. He's given a chair and he sits down thankfully, hands still cuffed together and legs chained. A prison guard stands behind him in case he tries to make a run for it.
The charges are read and he stands to make his sole contribution to the proceedings, pleading 'guilty' to all charges as arranged. He sees a small smile on the face of his 'lawyer' seated at a table a little distance from him. No doubt he’s pleased that his client hasn't created trouble. The judge imposes an additional eight months sentence and he's quickly taken back to the cells.
He feels numb as he leans back against the cold wall of his cell. Another eight months, it's not like it's news to him, but it's still a blow.
"You're that gimp doctor aren't you?"
He looks up and sees that the cell opposite now only has two occupants and one of them is talking to him, leaning up against the bars, arms hanging out.
He rubs his bad leg, as always it's letting him know how much it objects to being unsupported while he walks around. He doesn't answer the other prisoner.
"Yeah, I heard about you. You cut a hole in some guy's throat, used a pen to get him to breathe. Then your roomie beat up that Nazi, Mendelson, put him in the hospital real good. They say he’s a goner. How long you in the hole for?"
It's strange, to hear someone talking to him again, and he feels off balance, unsure of himself. He stares at the guy for a moment.
“Don’t know, they haven’t told me.”
“Bastards. You should complain, you got rights man.”
Their conversation, such as it is, is interrupted by the guards returning to escort the guy up the stairs to whatever awaits him and House settles back in his cell, back against a wall, to wait.
Once all the prisoners have made the climb up the stairs and come back they're taken back to the van and they make the trip back to the prison. House is tired and in pain, and feeling numb about the additional eight months he’s just received. Nearly another year of prison when he could have been out eighteen days ago. He could be in some bar somewhere right now, kicking back and watching the game and having a drink or five.
When they arrive back and are unloaded from the van he hopes for one moment that they will take him with the other guys, back to the general population section of the prison, Maybe they were just keeping him in solitary until the ‘trial’. His hopes are dashed when he’s separated from the others and taken down the familiar corridor.
To his dismay they conduct another strip search, shredding any dignity he had left after this day, and then chain him up again and take him back to his cell.
As he takes the last few steps towards his cell he stumbles, his bad leg collapsing underneath him. Agony shoots through him and he gasps. He notices the guards escorting him are immediately on high alert, their hands tightening on his arms. He struggles back to his feet, with the officers practically pulling him up, his breath comes in panting gasps.
He wants to rage at them, to tell them that he's no threat, and of course he has trouble walking, he's a fucking cripple after all but the words catch in his throat. Instead he allows them to support him to his cell door and then goes placidly inside on command, just as he has every time before. Once he's uncuffed he staggers to the bed and sinks down onto it, grabbing his thigh which is sending pain shooting through his body.
Eight months, another eight months, he keeps repeating to himself. He still has three left of his original sentence, so that's another eleven months in prison. Another eleven months of totally inadequate pain management, of lousy food and grinding boredom, another eleven months of the world outside continuing on without him.
He sees his diagnostic textbook notes lying beside the bed. He picks up the notepad, reads what is written there and then suddenly tears the page off the pad. Scrunching it into a ball he bounces it off the nearest wall. The other pages quickly follow until his bed is surrounded by little balls of paper.
It's a typical courtroom, grim and bland, a place without hope. Foreman sits in the back and waits for House to appear. There's a succession of prisoners, led up from the cells below straight into the dock. Both the judge and the lawyers appear bored, and the prisoners don't seem to care too much either. They stare around the courtroom, as if taking in any environment that's different from the tedium of their jail
When House is brought up Foreman tenses. He has no great love for House, although he did come to have a grudging respect before House destroyed that last year, but seeing him in leg chains and handcuffs and a bright orange jumpsuit hurts. Foreman scrunches down in his seat and hides behind the man in front of him. He doesn't want House to see him; he wants to grant House at least a little dignity, although House has never been shy about poking his nose into Foreman's business.
House's 'case' barely takes five minutes, obviously all pre-arranged. House pleads guilty on cue, and then sits back down, his face creased and worn. He doesn't look good, his hair is much longer than normal, and his stubble is ragged, Foreman thinks his hair has greyed just in the last year. He looks pale and old.
Once House is taken back down the stairs, to be locked up again, Foreman quickly leaves the courtroom. He wonders if he should arrange to visit House in prison once he gets out of solitary, tell him that he’s planning to try and get him out of there. He quickly discards the thought, he needs to try and appear as impersonal as possible about this; he doesn't want the Board to think that he's doing this out of some sense of friendship with House. And if he can't do this then he doesn't want to give House false hope. No, he doesn't need to discuss this with House, even House wouldn’t’ be so much of an ass as to refuse to cooperate if it meant getting out of jail early.
Chapter 19: Day Nineteen
Day 19 Tuesday 25th October 2011
When he left Mayfield Nolan was very insistent that he not live alone. Isolation fosters depression he had said. House has to laugh at that now. Not that he's alone exactly, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of men living in this prison, but he's alone here. In this cell. Alone with just his thoughts, and his memories and too much damn time to think.
It had been good, living with Wilson. He'd known from the start that it wouldn't last, he'd do something to piss Wilson off before long and get himself thrown out. The neighbour had been the first time that Wilson told him to pack his bags and get out; the second time was during that mess with that jerk Tucker, when Wilson was intent on making himself a martyr to the cause of ‘friendship’.
When Wilson had purchased the condo it had seemed to be his intention to have House live there too, for it to be their home. House had been cautiously happy, that what had seemed so temporary, camping on the couch in Amber’s old place, was beginning something that seemed more permanent.
After a few weeks of condo living House had begun to move his stuff out of his old apartment and into the condo and when Wilson had bought the organ, he thought he was safe there, that Wilson was happy to have him there. Then Sam had happened and that had been that.
It wasn't that he blamed Wilson for kicking him out; no man wants another guy hanging around when his girlfriend is moving in. Sure, he thought Wilson might have given him a bit more time, but House had already been trying to break Sam and Wilson up so he couldn't say Wilson's action was unjustified. Wilson was just looking out for himself for once, which is something that House always encouraged.
It wasn't Wilson kicking him out that had started House back down the path of depression and addiction - he'd been drinking too much while he was still living with Wilson (although Sam had been on the scene). It hadn't helped stop the slow slide though. House had been afraid to go back to his apartment, after all that time. His apartment was where he saw Amber, his apartment was where he hallucinated having sex with Cuddy, and his apartment had two bottles of Vicodin stashed behind a mirror on the wall.
Truthfully, he meant to get that Vicodin the first day he went back there. He knew it would only be a matter of time before he took it, so he might as well get it over with. Then Alvie had been there, the pest, and well, there'd been someone there and it hadn't been too bad. Then Alvie left him, and he'd had that disastrous last session with Nolan. He'd almost taken it that day, when he got back from Mayfield, he only didn't because he didn't want it to be like, he wasn't seeing Nolan anymore and then he couldn't cope without the Vicodin. Nolan hadn't done him a damn bit of good; he wasn't going to give the guy the satisfaction of knowing House had to turn to Vicodin on the day he quit therapy.
Then there was Hannah. He closes his eyes as he thinks of her. He'd spent so long down there, next to her, in that rubble, in that small enclosed space; it still gave him nightmares. She'd screamed, she'd screamed in sheer pain as he'd cut her leg off. He'd cut through flesh and bone while she screamed in agony. He's relived that day a hundred times since, wondering if he should have done something differently, if somehow he could have saved her, or at least spared her the futile agony of the amputation. He'd cut bits of her away and she'd still died. She'd had faith in him, she’d trusted him, and he'd let her down.
He'd been on the verge of taking the Vicodin when Cuddy had found him, and he realises now, maybe he'd even realised then, he's not sure, that he’d clutched at her in desperation, as a drowning man grabs a life raft. He'd needed her, as desperately as he'd once craved the Vicodin. As long as she was in his life he wouldn't drown, she was holding him above the water, just, both of them frantically paddling hard to keep him afloat. He'd been terrified of losing her, of making the wrong step that would cause her to leave him, he'd needed her.
As soon as her support was gone he'd sunk.
Wilson had tried to rescue him, had offered a hand up on many occasions but House had turned away, had refused to take it, and now he'd lost Wilson as well - because if Wilson still cared (and why would he after what House had done to him), if Wilson still gave a damn about him he would have heard from him.
When he gets out of prison he's going back to Fiji, maybe he will study dark matter, maybe he won't, maybe he'll set up a small practice by the beach, or maybe he'll just do nothing. There's nothing left for him here now. He can't go back to PPTH, and he doubts any other hospital in the States will want an ex-felon, drug addicted, trouble maker doctor, whatever his medical reputation.
He paces in his cell, his thoughts going around in circles, just like his feet. It's pointless to keep mulling over the past but he does it anyway. He needs, he needs a distraction. His gaze roams around the room, there's nothing there, nothing to take him away from himself. He sits on the bunk and stares at the opposite wall.
There's a rattle of metal and a meal tray slides through the slot. Dinner. He quickly gets to his feet and limps over to it, grabbing the tray and taking it back to the bed.
He eats the meal slowly, taking his time over every bite. It's not much of a distraction, but it will do. For now.
Adams has secured some volunteer work in a free clinic in a bad part of town. She reasons that it isn't much worse than working in the prison, except for there are no bars and no handy guards to pass troublesome patients to. The work isn't very taxing but at least no-one here cares that she was fired from her previous job. She hasn't heard anything further from the prison administration, or the police, so she is hoping that means that they have decided not to try and prosecute her for her 'crimes'. She is relieved of course, but also sad that Doctor House has received such a heavy penalty. Alvarez from the prison has kept in contact with her, and he has relayed the information that House is currently in solitary confinement, and will be for at least thirty days. He is also facing further charges and almost certainly more jail time. Her heart aches for him, so close to release only to have it taken away.
She's never met anyone as intriguing as Doctor House. He'd done a terrible thing, and had fled the country, but then had meekly accepted a jail sentence where he could possibly have pled out, or tried for a rehab/community service option. It had been as if he had wanted to be punished for what he had done. What sort of man voluntarily chose prison? Then there had been his extraordinary dedication to his patient, a man who wasn't even really his patient. He'd risked everything for Nick.
She remembers his piercing blue eyes, the sadness in his face, the stoic way he endured his jail life. She'd researched his life and his career ever since, building an impressive portfolio on the life of Gregory House. A tragedy in many ways, a man totally screwed up by life.
She hopes that some day he can work as a doctor again, maybe even take fellowship students like he had before. If he ever does, well she'll be ready.
Chapter 20: Day Twenty
Day 20 Wednesday 26th October 2011
Exercise isn’t much, but it’s a chance to get out of his cell, and into the fresh air. That one precious hour has become the highlight of each twenty four hours for him, it’s worth tolerating the handcuffs and the chains and the eternal presence of the guards, who are always too close to him.
When he shuffles into the run and they uncuff him he looks around, it’s a nice day, the sun is out and the air temperature is pleasant. He’s in a wire and steel enclosure, and the comparison to a dog run is unavoidable, but it still seems incredibly open compared to his tiny cell.
He walks along the exercise enclosure, one hand on the chain link fence for support. It's a bad day for his leg, and it's good to be able to pace properly (his cell is too small really) but the lack of support for his leg since he’s been in solitary is beginning to take its toll.
He wouldn't use the cane in his cell, even if had one. The cell was too narrow for that but when he was being moved between his cell and exercise, or the showers; it would help a lot to have it. He's entitled to it, he was noted as disabled when he first arrived at the jail and issued a cane. He had been warned when he first saw the medical staff in the prison that if he 'lost' the cane he'd be lucky to get another. It had been taken by Mendelson after his threats to House and it hadn't been returned to him after he was moved here. He suspects that short of being unable to walk at all (in which case a wheelchair would be issued) he wouldn't have been allowed to use it in solitary anyway. Maybe when he gets back to gen pop he can agitate for a new one, although he suspects that Doctor Sykes won't be very cooperative after what happened with Adams and Nick.
He reaches the end of the run and stops there, hanging onto the fence, keeping his right leg off the ground. There's a prisoner in the run next to his, a black guy, walking laps much like he is. The guy's paying no attention to him and House watches him idly as he walks back towards the end of the run. There's something in the way the guy walks, a hesitation. It might be an injury, to his knee perhaps, or maybe the beginnings of something degenerative. He watches him more closely, while he leans against the fence, trying to detect any more symptoms.
"House!" One of the prison officers is yelling at him, walking up alongside the fence on the outside, hand on his baton. House straightens up and looks away from the other prisoner.
"Get the fuck off the fence. What are you staring at him for?"
House remembers that the officers don't like the prisoners interacting much out here, although they'll allow a few shouted words. His staring at the guy could be interpreted as aggression, as a threat. He's not supposed to be touching the fence either, but the officers usually let that slide, probably because they can see that he sometimes need the support. He doesn't want a face full of mace so he moves away from the fence and looks down at the ground. He knows the guard doesn't really want an answer; he had just wanted House to stop doing whatever he was doing wrong. So he doesn't bother answering, he just starts walking down the middle of the run, each step slow; he clutches his leg to try and give it the support it's missing.
When he gets to the end he looks back, he can't do any more walking, not now. Not with his leg like this. Instead he sits down on the ground and stares at the patches of sky he can see through the mesh and the wire that surrounds him, breathes in the fresh air and waits for the exercise time to finish.
He doesn't think about the prisoner with the strange hesitation in his movements. That's not his job now, and he isn't risking any more jail time by trying to make it his job.
Wilson lets himself into his condo after returning from the airport. The place is empty and quiet, and a slightly stale smell hangs in the air. Sarah, his cat, is with Nora, his upstairs neighbour; he'll pick her up tomorrow.
He hauls his suitcase into the bedroom and begins to unpack. The conference had been a three day one, crammed with presentations and seminars. He'd given a paper himself, and attended the presentation of many others. He'd met up with colleagues from all around America and some overseas ones as well. It had been exhausting but professionally satisfying.
In recent years he had curtailed much of his conference going, he didn't like to be away from House for too long, in case some disaster or catastrophe struck while he was away. He shudders as he thinks of the infarction, when he'd been overseas on those fateful few days when House had first been admitted to hospital. By the time he'd gotten back Stacy had made her decision and House had already been operated on. Walking back into that situation had not been pleasant, to say the least.
Now he's free to go to any conference he wants, talk to anyone he wants without House lurking in corners stalking him and spying on him. Of course many of the doctors at the conference had heard about what House did, and where he was currently residing, and many of them had wanted to talk to him about it, Wilson being acknowledged in the medical world as the foremost authority on House. He'd deflected their questions, informed them that he wasn't in touch with House any longer. They'd all reassured him he was doing the right thing by keeping his distance. It had been a good conference, a nice change away from the daily routine at PPTH.
He finishes putting away his clothes and stowing his suitcase away; the condo is quiet and empty after the noise and activity of the conference. In different times, he would have come home from a rare conference to find House had used his key to make himself at home. He'd be camped out on his furniture, eating his food, and drinking his alcohol. Wilson would have yelled at him some, and House would have grumbled, and then they would have ordered pizza or Chinese and settled in for a night of movie watching.
Wilson decides to go and get Sarah tonight instead of waiting until tomorrow.
Chapter 21: Day Twenty One
Day 21 Thursday 27th October 2011
There's a spider in his cell today and he watches it for a long time. It starts in one corner and gradually makes its way over to the opposite corner, pausing for many minutes at a time, as if frozen in place. Maybe it's seen House watching it, and thinks if it stays still House won't be able to see it. Or maybe it's just taking its time, sensing that there is no hurry in this place, that the strange man lying on a narrow bed isn't going anywhere.
House has always been fascinated with living creatures, as a child he used to try and capture as many as he could. He was never allowed to have a dog or a cat, his father always insisted his family must be able to pick up their lives at a moment's notice to go with him wherever he was posted, as the dutiful attendants to the great military man. So Greg made the best of spiders, tadpoles, frogs, lizards and pretty much anything else he could get his hands on. He had to be careful where he put them, his Mom screamed if she saw one of them and immediately threw it out, his Dad didn't scream but he did make his displeasure known at Greg bringing anything like that into the house and scaring his mother. Any of Greg's 'pets' that were discovered by his parents didn't last long.
In the end he kept most of them outside, hidden around the garden, where he could sneak out and watch them. Sometimes, on those cold dark nights when he was banished from the house, they kept him company. Eventually he grew out of it, when girls and music took over his life, and this small bit of rebellion against his father's rule wasn't worth it.
Steve had been his first 'pet' for a long time, and he'd only taken him in the first place to see if he could diagnose and cure him. He'd kept him afterwards because, well, he wasn't sure why really, he'd never been sure. Wilson had said he'd kept him because he reminded House of his time with Stacy, and House had mocked him for that, Stacy would not have been impressed to think that she was in any way associated with a rat that House took out of her home. But sometimes, after she'd gone, he'd look at Steve and remember those few weeks when she'd been back in his life.
Of course, it turned out rats didn't live very long and Steve hadn't been an exception (the cigarette butts he'd consumed probably hadn't helped). When Steve died House threw away his cage and what remained of his food and stopped thinking about Stacy.
He looks back at the spider, sees that it is nearly at the corner, showing a sudden burst of speed. Once it achieves its goal the spider makes its way over to the window, the small grimy, painted over window set high in the wall. House watches it probe around the window, feeling out the extent of it, and then it finds a crack and makes its way through, disappearing from sight - escaped.
House looks at the window for a few minutes more, wondering if the spider will come back in, but it's gone, back to the world outside where there's light and fresh air, and freedom. He lies back on his bunk and closes his eyes, he can’t physically leave, but sleep is the next best thing.
Chris Taub says goodbye to his last patient for the day with a sigh of relief and starts packing up to go home. The work he is doing now is nothing like the diagnostics work he did at PPTH. There's really nothing to compare to that, the intensity of it, the lunacy, the excitement. Plastic surgery once used to make his heart sing; now it barely makes it hum. But the hours are better, and the money is better, and now he has two small children to provide for.
He smiles automatically as he thinks about the girls. Sophie and Sophia. Okay, the name thing isn't good admittedly; House would have had a field day with that it if he'd known.
His smile fades as his thoughts touch on House. He wonders how he is faring, in New Jersey State Prison; it seems in one way bizarre that the foremost diagnostician in the United States would be languishing in prison, and in another way almost natural. Taub remembers his mother once, talking of a boy he used to know, 'that child will either end up in jail, or become President'. House is that sort of guy. He's also a survivor, he bounces back. Taub remembers the time when he disappeared into a mental hospital for months, the exact circumstances a mystery to everyone but Wilson and Cuddy. He'd come back from that, buzz cut and all, apparently off Vicodin and looking healthier than he had in a long time. Then he'd come after Taub with a single minded, and somewhat flattering, determination to have him back on his team.
He can't help thinking that House will come back this time as well. After all he hasn't even had his license suspended, and Cuddy isn't at the hospital anymore. With Foreman in charge, it won't be so difficult for House to come back, if he wants to, after he finishes his stint in jail – if he's still in one piece. It seems almost ironic that his license was suspended while he was in Mayfield and he had to prove himself on his return, but apparently domestic violence and a year in jail was not considered an obstacle to being a doctor.
Sometime, maybe a year or so down the track from now, he thinks House will come looking for him again, wanting him back on the team. Taub doesn't know what he will do when, or if, that day comes, although he knows what he will want to do. He has two small children to consider now, and he doesn’t want to miss more of their childhood than he has to.
Chapter 22: Day Twenty Two
Day 22 Friday 28th October 2011
He wakes up in the morning sick, running a fever, his throat is sore, and his nose is running. Even without being a diagnostic genius he’d know what this is - a rhinovirus in full flight. Wonderful. He’s had virtually no human contact for three weeks now but somehow he's still managed to contract a cold – one of the stone faced guards must have been nicely incubating it.
He knows there'll be no array of OTC medication for him, no whiskey or brandy to burn it away, no Wilson to stick his head in the office and offer very little sympathy but some laughs. He's stuck here, in this cell, with absolutely no distractions, nothing to focus on but how lousy he feels.
He lies down again, when his morning Vicodin comes he'll request something for the cold, the most he can hope for is some Tylenol, and he’ll probably be lucky to get that. He doesn’t hold out any hope that they will take him to the clinic unless he gets a lot worse, and he’s not keen to go there anyway, not after the debacle with Nick. Sykes was no doubt pleased when House was hauled away in handcuffs, although House would have liked to have seen the expression on his face when his diagnosis was eventually proved right.
He wraps his blanket tighter around himself and closes his eyes. The best way to get through this is to sleep as much as possible, at least there is no pressure to work through it, now that he has nothing but ‘time off’.
He's on the bus. Again. Amber is sitting next to him, her hand on his knee, that stupid, knowing smile on her face. He wishes the woman would just stay dead. Amber holds out a hairbrush to him.
He's driving the bus. Amber is sitting next to him, urging him on. Wilson is in front of them, standing in the street, his hands on his hips. House goes to brake and the bus starts to slow down, he's going to miss Wilson. He turns to Amber and she grins and the bus speeds up. Wilson screams. There’s blood, there’s so much blood.
He's in a house, watching out the window. Cuddy is sitting next to him, Rachel in her arms. House sees the bus speeding towards them. It's coming straight at them, he reaches out towards Cuddy, to push her and Rachel out of the way but he can't quite get there, it's like he's moving through quicksand, he stretches out his hands and he just grazes her fingertips with his, and then the bus comes through the glass.
He's on the bus, again. Amber is sitting next to him, a metal pole through her thigh. If she lives she'll be damaged just like he is, he laughs at the irony. Will Wilson prescribe for her too?
There are bars on the bus windows, and a lock on the door. He's trapped here. He turns to Amber and she's wearing a prison officer's uniform. She takes a key out of her pocket and laughs as she tosses it out the bus window. Then she kisses him lightly on the cheek and whispers in his ear.
"Welcome to hell, House, you kinda deserve it."
His eyes snap open and the sight of his dreary prison cell greets him, he never thought he would be grateful to stare at the same four walls again, but it's better than being on the damn bus, and much better than having Amber with him. He looks around cautiously, she's not here. She's never reappeared since that endless detox at Mayfield. He has never stopped expecting her to reappear though, especially now that he’s taking Vicodin again. He checks for her presence constantly. Once, on the beach at Fiji, he thought he saw her in the distance staring at him, but it couldn't have been her, one thing Amber has never been is silent.
He wonders, just for a second, if a hallucination of Amber would be better than being in this cell by himself but he knows it wouldn’t be. Amber is his failure, the terrible thing he’s done that has overshadowed all the time since, he's never going to forget her, but he doesn't want to see her.
He rolls over on the bed, his throat dry and painful, and his mouth hanging open as he gulps in air, his nose having been rendered useless by his cold. He feels miserable, and there's no relief in sight.
Foreman meets with Matt Johnson, the hospital lawyer. Matt isn't very optimistic on the chances of Foreman getting House out on conditional parole.
“He's a doctor, but America has a slew of them, it's going to be hard to convince a judge that he's some sort of irreplaceable asset and that legions of people are going to die without him – I mean he's been away for a year or so at this point, the hospital seems to have got along quite well without him.”
“He's unique – he saves lives that other doctors can't.”
Matt shrugs. “Maybe so, but you're going to need some sort of compelling set of circumstances before they'll release him, and then it will probably only be for the one patient, and then he'll go back in. If they let everyone out of jail who has some useful skills then there'd be a lot less people in jail.”
“Jails are overcrowded, is there any point in keeping him in there, when he could be so much more useful out here?”
“Well I don't think so, but it's not me you have to convince. What he did, well it was pretty bad.”
“He's served nine months for that already, out of a twelve month sentence. These other charges, they're all related to him saving the life of an inmate. He shouldn't have to serve another day because he obeyed his medical duty of care over the orders of some prison guards."
“Maybe not, but again, that's not our decision. A judge thought that he should. ” Matt starts gathering his papers together. “Look, don't even try for a few weeks – they'll want him to serve his solitary time, and at least some more time off the original sentence, get a bit closer to the year. Then, if you can come up with some case, some unique case, where his special skills are needed, and make it as urgent as possible, then you can approach a judge. We'll emphasise that he was about to get out on parole anyway, and that he's facing additional time because he saved someone's life, and we'll make a point about his disability. Hopefully the judge will go for it.”
Foreman nods and stands up, going towards the door with the lawyer. “I'll keep an eye out for a case.”
Matt shakes his hand. “Okay, but, Foreman just think about what you're inviting back into the hospital. Look what happened to Cuddy. Do you think you can manage him? If you can't it's going to backfire on you, and may end up causing him grief too.”
“I'm looking to hire him, not date him. I can control him, just like Cuddy used to, he'll have no choice but to co-operate if I can get him out of there. I’m sure I can make him understand that simple fact.”
Matt looks at him sceptically but doesn’t say anything further. Foreman sits back down, satisfied. Now he has a plan of action, something to work towards. He’s sure that he can find a case for House.
Chapter 23: Twenty Three
Day 23 Saturday 29th October 2011
He gets a visit from Sykes today. Yesterday he'd been sick and shivering when they took him out for his daily exercise and they'd asked if he needed to see the doctor. He'd said yes, because any relief would be good, and if it got him out of his cell and to somewhere else, even if in shackles, it would be great. The officers had looked less than interested and he'd sat out his 'exercise' hour shivering on the ground watching the inmates in the adjoining runs pace up and down. Afterwards they'd taken him back to his cell and that had seemed to be that. This morning, though, he'd been ordered to come to the cuff port and be cuffed up and then told to sit on his bunk, his hands cuffed behind him.
They'd entered his cell cautiously, as he if was a wild animal, likely to bite at any second. A prison officer had come in first, ordered him to stand, and then he frisked him, while another officer stood ready a distance away. The doctor was then allowed to enter, and one of the officers remained, standing by the door. So it won’t be a private consult, but House doesn't mind that - it's just a cold, even a prison doctor as thick, and hidebound by rules and regulations, as Sykes could diagnose that. He has nothing much to say to Sykes, whose refusal to allow a simple diagnostic test landed House with another eight months in prison, and three weeks, so far, in solitary confinement.
It seems for a while that Sykes doesn't have much to say to him either, just the usual requests for coughing, and details of the colour of his sputum. Then he has House open his mouth wide and peers down his throat. With a glance at the watching prison officer he launches into his opening salvo.
"Adams was dismissed. In case you care that is."
House glares at him, unable to talk with his mouth open. When Sykes withdraws the tongue depressor he closes his mouth and coughs a couple of times. "If you'd done what I said it would have been fine. Patient cured, and you would have been the hero instead of being the chump doctor who nearly killed a patient because he had to follow the rules."
"The rules are there for a reason."
"Yeah, let's follow protocol, too bad if the patient dies, at least we won't get sued." House glances over at the officer in the corner and shuts up. There is no point getting into this, it isn't like Sykes has the key to solitary, and he’s never going to convince him that he was right.
Sykes looks at the guard again, who is standing alertly, watching them and also seems to decide that shutting up is for the best, much to House's relief. Having the two of them in here is making him uneasy. The cell is small, and crowded with three people. He'd thought he was desperate for human contact but now he just wants them out of his space.
"You'll live, it's just a cold," Sykes tells him, a trace of amusement on his face. "I'll have some Tylenol sent down. Make sure you drink plenty of water." He nods at the sink in the corner, and the plastic tumbler besides it, and House feels a surge of anger at this man's apparent amusement at House's primitive living conditions.
Sykes strips off his gloves and then takes his time washing his hands in House's sink while House watches him from the bed, hands still manacled behind him. Then he nods at the prison officer. "Okay, done here. Let me know if he's not better in three days."
Once they have left House is summoned to the cuffport and the cuffs are taken off, and then the port rattles shut.
He sits on the bed, rubbing at his wrists where the cuffs have bitten into them. His cold is still making him miserable but he feels a sense of relief at having the cell to himself again.
Wilson is behind in his work after attending the conference so he decides to skip his usual appointment with his psychiatrist and go into the hospital on Saturday. There are no patient appointments scheduled so he can concentrate on the paperwork that accompanies running one of the hospital’s largest departments.
He is surprised when Foreman knocks on his office door around lunch time. He politely gestures for his boss to come in and watches while he settles himself on the other side of the desk.
"I've talked to a lawyer, and a few other people. They say to leave it a few weeks, and then, if a crisis comes up that we need House for, I can try to get him released into my custody. He’ll probably have to wear an ankle monitor, and he’d be restricted to his apartment or the hospital, but at least he’d be out of there and able to see patients."
Wilson tries to ignore the quickening of his heartbeat at this news. He’d refrained from asking Foreman about his plan since their lunch a week or so ago but it looks like Foreman is determined to go through with this. He puts on his best polite poker face.
"And you're telling me this, because..."
"You're his best friend? Come on, Wilson. He's served his time, he’s paid for what he did, he doesn't need to be in there any longer. Don't you want him to come back here?"
"I don't think I do."
Foreman looks shocked and Wilson is surprised how angry he feels at that reaction. Has no-one at the hospital ever considered how Wilson felt about what had happened? Or did everyone just expect good old Wilson to suffer as normal? That it didn’t matter what House did to Wilson, Wilson would always forgive him?
"He could have killed me, or Cuddy, or any of the people in that house. What sort of friend is that? I'm done being Gregory House's keeper. Do what you want, Foreman, bring him back, don't bring him back, I really don't care. I'm making a fresh start, and if he has any sense so will he."
When Foreman leaves his office Wilson turns back to his paperwork but ten minutes later he is still sitting there staring at it but not seeing it. He decides to give it away and head for home, he needs to get out of this hospital.
Chapter 24: Day Twenty Four
Day 24 Sunday 30th October 2011
Ironically enough, by the time the Tylenol makes its way through the bureaucratic channels of the prison and arrives at his cell he's feeling a little more human. He takes it anyway, because it would be silly to ever miss an opportunity to take some kind of painkiller. As it is, the amount he has to survive on is only barely enough, certainly not nearly enough to dull his pain to the point where he can't feel anything other than the pleasant buzz of a narcotic. When he gets out of prison, wherever he ends up after here, he will have to make it a priority to stock up on the little pills of salvation. With Wilson out of the picture he'll have to find another friendly doctor to prescribe for him, or go freelance like he has before. There are always ways to get pills for resourceful people.
Sometimes he feels a pang of regret for the couple of years he spent off the pills. He'd felt healthier in that time than he had since the infarction, just knowing he wasn't tied to his addiction had been liberating, for a while.
The pills had dictated his life for a long time. In the first months after the infarction he had resisted taking painkillers all the time, but as the years wore on, and the pain stayed at a constant grinding level that made it hard to do anything, or even to think at times, he had taken more and more, with little regard for schedule or consequence. Although he didn’t like to admit it, even to himself, he had also developed a tendency to take them for emotional pain as well as physical, relying on them as a crutch to deaden his emotions when they threatened to overwhelm him.
He’d been a little shocked himself, with quite how many pills Tritter had found in his apartment, he’d never bothered to count them, he had just squirrelled them away whenever he could. He’d always feared that there would be a day when his own legitimate supply would dry up, when Wilson would say enough was enough and try and force him into detoxing.
After Mayfield and the new drug regime, the pain had been, well, not good, but under control, it had been no worse than when he'd been on Vicodin. He hadn't been as numb, as blocked off from everything that was happening around him as he had been when he was still on narcotics.
It had been difficult, at times, to learn to live without the numbness Vicodin provided. When Wilson had started dating Sam, and his own efforts at finding happiness were coming to nothing, House had struggled to cope with the emotions that had free reign now they weren't blocked by the pills. He'd turned to alcohol, searching for a return to that nice dead feeling, hoping that he could silence the cravings with that, but he'd been well on his way to a relapse before the crane incident, before he'd cut off a woman's leg, only to have her die on the way to the hospital.
Cuddy had saved him from a return to his addiction, and all he had seen was a way out, a way up from the depression that was threatening to drown him again. He would have agreed to anything that night, just to have her with him. To have someone love him and hold him at that moment in time when he needed it so desperately.
He wonders sometimes what would have happened if he'd just gone to Cuddy when she’d had the cancer scare, if he'd been able to be the boyfriend she needed him to be, to be a decent human being without resorting to the Vicodin (and really, had he just been looking for an excuse to turn back to that?). Maybe things would have been different. Probably not. He would have screwed it up in some other way, he'd always felt that he had the sword of Damocles hanging over him, all the time he'd been with Cuddy. That one wrong step would be enough to bring it crashing down on him.
He wonders how she is doing now. Whether she'd just resumed her life as normal, tidied up, fixed the front of her house and reassured the neighbours that her crazy ex-boyfriend was gone for good. He's sure she's erased any trace of his presence from her life, from her home. At the hospital she will have had him removed from his position for cause. His name on the office door would have been scraped off, every trace of his former presence erased. He wonders if she's with that guy he saw through the window on the day that he drove his car through her window and everything changed.
From the quick glimpse House had of him he seemed like the type she'd always gone for, before Lucas, before House. The Nice Guy, with the perfect manners, and the stable life, the safe and boring choice. He knew Cuddy would never settle for that, not for long, she needed more from her mate than a clean shirt and an expensive suit. Cuddy liked a touch of adventure, of danger, as long as she could control it.
Cuddy puts down the phone and stares at the opposite wall. The last thing she'd been expecting on a quiet Sunday with her daughter was a call from Foreman, regarding House (and yet what else would it be about, Foreman hasn't exactly fallen over himself to seek Cuddy's advice when he’d taken over).
Foreman is trying to bring House back to the hospital, he's got some crazy plan (because he's one of House's disciples and there's always a crazy plan). He's worried that whoever is in charge of letting House out of jail will seek Cuddy's opinion and she'll scotch the whole plan.
She almost told him to let the bastard rot in jail, just to thwart his scheming. She shouldn’t be surprised that Foreman is planning on bringing House back to the hospital. Although you would think that he would allow House to serve out his whole sentence, considering what he did to her.
She hadn’t expected a whole lot of sympathy from the PPTH crowd after House drove his car through her house, and she didn't get it. The general sentiment had seemed to be that what else should she have expected if she dated a lunatic like House, and oh, what happened to that nice guy Lucas? Wasn’t it a shame that she’d broken up with him; they could have had a nice future .together.
Instead of sticking to her guns and telling Foreman she would do nothing to aid in getting House out of jail, she heard herself telling him that she wouldn't stand in the way or make any objection, as long as the lunatic was kept well away from her, and her daughter. Foreman readily agreed (as if he had any control over the matter) and that was that.
She smiles to herself at the idea of House working for Foreman. Foreman hadn’t come close to restraining any of House’s madness when he’d had the opportunity, and she wouldn’t expect this time to be any different. Even if House does get early release, and it looks doubtful from where she’s standing, he’ll do something to screw it up and Foreman will have to decide whether to play his trump card (sending House back to prison) or lose any hope of ever controlling the man. Foreman is setting himself up for a whole lot of trouble, in exchange for the undoubted genius of Gregory House. She knows just how tricky that balancing act is.
Chapter 25: Twenty Five
Day 25 Monday 31st October 2011
It takes House until halfway through the day before he realises that it's Halloween, out there in the real world. The world with people in it, where things like Halloween still matter. He's lying on his bunk, staring at the grimy, blocked over, window in the wall when the date suddenly registers with him.
Halloween had been a holiday that had meant little to him as a child, and an excuse for partying hard as young adult. In recent years he'd enjoyed scaring off any children that dared to come to his apartment door. Wilson, of course, would frown at him and instead hand the children some candy from the packets he had brought around and tell them to ignore the grumpy old man with the cane. Good times. He smiles at the memory. He wonders if he'll ever spend another Halloween with Wilson. House is still tossing up whether to go back to Fiji after his stint in purgatory is done – if it ever is - but even if he does decide to stay in the States it seems likely that Wilson won't want anything to do with him. Not after what House did to him. House wonders if Wilson is angrier about Cuddy's house or his own wrist. Knowing Wilson it's Cuddy's house.
If Wilson had forgiven him, or at least come to terms with what happened, he would have visited, House is sure of that. He'd never leave him to rot in here alone for so long. He'd always bailed him out of jail in the past, even if it was with sighs, and hands on hips, and long suffering lectures.
No, Wilson was still angry, still pissed at House, maybe because of what House did, or maybe because House didn't accept the help he'd offered. Wilson had offered him a clear alternative, go to a bar and get drunk. House could have taken that lifeline, but he'd had to go to Cuddy's house to return the stupid hairbrush he'd been hanging onto, so he could call it finished in his mind - obtain closure, no doubt Nolan would have said.
Once he'd seen Cuddy's date, and realised that she'd lied to him, that she couldn't be honest even about that, he'd lost any sense that Wilson was there, except for telling him to get out of the car. At least he'd done that, he'd enough sense to try and protect Wilson from what he was going to do. And then the klutz had gotten in the way.
House closes his eyes and shudders at the memory. He can remember every second of what happened. He can remember driving to the end of the road and then deciding. He can remember turning and driving back, his foot going down hard on the accelerator. He’d been so angry, so full of jealousy and grief and rage that nothing had mattered except smashing into that house. He'd known that the room was empty; at least he'd thought that far ahead. He remembers Wilson jumping out of the way of the car. As that had happened he'd had a brief moment of doubt as to what he was about to do, but it had been too late and then the car had smashed through. He'd felt... a sense of calm, of relief even when the car had shuddered to a halt. He'd known that he'd burned all his bridges, swept all the pieces off the table. He'd felt almost euphoric. It had meant nothing to him, when he'd seen Cuddy's trembling hand, the shocked faces of her guests, when he'd walked past Wilson on the sidewalk. Wilson's pain had meant nothing to him. He hadn’t cared – he’d felt euphoric, cleansed, and at peace with himself for the first time in a long time, he’d been happy. He’d hurt both his friends, his only friends, deeply and he’d been happy. What sort of friend did that make him?
He opens his eyes and slams his hand down straight onto the scar on his thigh, fingers digging in. The shock of pain sends his head rocking back, and tears come to his eyes. The memories are gone, destroyed by the pain and he's thankful. He doesn't want to think about it, he doesn't want to think about any of it.
The hospital is having a Halloween fundraising party in the lobby. It's Foreman's first major event since becoming Dean and he's put a lot of time and effort into making sure it's perfect. The hospital staff are all there, dressed in a wide variety of costumes, they all appear to be having a great time. Food and drink are both flowing, and it's a good chance to forget the stress of work and celebrate.
Wilson is at the party, mingling with his colleagues. He always makes a point of attending these functions as it’s good hospital politics. He's approached by many of the hospital's female staff and he politely entertains them all. He flirts with a few but his heart isn't in it – after Sam left he's found it hard to look for yet another partner. Three wives, Amber, and then Sam again, it’s like he is incapable of forming a long term, successful, relationship with a woman. He’s not sure he wants to try again and face yet another failure. Maybe he's just reconciled himself to being alone.
He goes to the temporary bar to refresh his drink and catches a glimpse of one of the radiology techs in their costume. He is leaning on a wooden cane, sporting stubble, and is wearing a garish orange prison type coverall. Around one of his wrists he has a set of plastic handcuffs dangling. There's no mistaking who he is dressed as and Wilson feels a cold anger. What House did was wrong, and Wilson is through being his friend, but seeing the man laughing as some of the other staff admire his 'costume' is too much for him. The man and his friends turn around to see Wilson staring at them and their laughter fades off, the technician stares at the ground and the others look away.
Wilson puts down his drink and walks out of the party.
Chapter 26: Twenty Six
Day 26 Tuesday 1st November 2011
He’s not doing well today. The walls seem too close, and the cell too small. He’s longing for some freedom, some room to move, something different to see, and someone to talk to. He wants something to happen, something different, anything other than the dreary monotony of being buried alive in this hole in the wall.
He tries to read, but the books are boring, and he’s already read them twice. He’s never gotten back to his diagnostics textbook work, the pages he ripped off the pad are screwed up in one corner of the cell. He’s counted the bricks in the wall and done what little exercise he can. He’s washed himself thoroughly and tidied up and done everything he can think of to try and make time pass.
It’s the feeling of being trapped that he hates, as well as the feeling of being completely at someone else’s mercy. There is almost nothing he can do for himself in here, where his very existence depends on someone else. He has no control over his own life at all. It is similar to the times he has been hospitalised, and there’s been far too many of those.
He’s never liked being confined.
It brings back memories of his childhood.
His Dad freezes in place as the words leave Greg's mouth.
"You're not my real father anyway. I don't have to do what you say."
He's scared. There's a look on Dad's face he's never seen before, not even when he’d been caught shoplifting. That time Mom had been at home so Dad hadn't even given him a dunking in the bath, it had just been a whipping with the belt, Mom didn't much mind about those. This time Mom's away for a couple of days. Dad can do anything he wants to him.
He's surprised when Dad just grabs hold of his arm and marches him up the stairs to his bedroom. He's practically thrown into the room and then the door slams shut. Dad hasn't said anything and Greg doesn't know what's going to happen now. He figures that he’s not supposed to leave his bedroom without permission, but what does Dad intend? He goes to the window and stares out at the fields across the road. It's summer and he wants to be out there not stuck in his boring bedroom.
Some hours later he's busting to take a leak, and he really wants to leave this small bedroom; the walls are close, and he's beginning to feel confined in here. He hasn’t heard Dad come back up the stairs (the third one from the top always creaks) and he doesn't even know if he's still in the house. Maybe he’s gone out and left Greg to piss his pants because he’s too scared to leave his bedroom.
He wants to open that door and run down the stairs, and escape. He wants to keep running and never come back. He wouldn't care if he never saw Dad again. Maybe he could find his real father and stay with him. Maybe his real Dad would like him. He puts his hand on the doorknob, and starts to turn it and then stops, his heart pounding. He can't do it, he can't leave. Dad will kill him.
When the door opens an endless time later he's relieved, although he figures that now the real punishment will be coming, anything would be better than being shut up in here for much longer. Instead his Dad grabs him by the arm again and takes him to the bathroom, standing over him while Greg relieves himself. When he's finished he's taken back to the bedroom. Dad tells him he's confined to this room, except when he's taken to the bathroom, which will be four times a day. Dad will bring him two meals every day, leaving them outside the door for him and Greg is to finish every bit of food on the plate and then put it outside the door for collection.
He spends four days confined to the bedroom. Dad doesn't speak to him at all, even though Greg breaks down and apologises on the third day. By that stage he'll do anything just to get out of his bedroom, he doesn’t even care if Dad lays into him with the belt, or makes him sleep outside again, he just wants out. Dad just looks at him coldly while Greg babbles his apology in the bathroom and then stands there silently until Greg goes back into his bedroom and closes the door.
When Mom comes home he's allowed out of the bedroom, although he can't leave the house, and Dad gives him lists of chores to do that will keep him busy every day. He still doesn’t speak to him, just slips typewritten notes under his bedroom door every morning with his orders.
Dad never tells Mom what Greg said, and Greg doesn’t want to hurt her by telling her himself so he keeps his mouth shut, and eventually she stops asking what happened and just watches while he does his chores.
Dad doesn't speak to him all summer.
House sits next to the cell door, drumming his fingers against, beating out a rhythm that rings in his head and distracts him. The same rhythm over and over. The sound isn’t enough to bring the guards but the pattern of it is oddly calming. When the guards come to take him to exercise he gets to his feet with a struggle and eagerly backs up to the cuff port to allow them to shackle him. Today he doesn’t even mind the chains; he just needs to be outside, even if it’s only for an hour.
Park likes her job at the hospital, she really does. The work is interesting, and varied, and although it's been difficult to gain her colleagues respect she thinks she's managing it. The only thing that spoils her pleasure in her job is her boss. It's not even that Doctor Andrews has done anything. He's been polite and helpful, but it's the way that he's been helpful that worries her. He's just a little too attentive, and he stands a little too close at times. His hands, when he guides her through a procedure, linger just a little too long. She tells herself that she’s being silly and imagining things, but she knows she isn’t.
Reporting him isn’t an option. There isn’t enough there and she knows that very little good for her, or her career, will come of her complaining that her boss stands too close to her. So she keeps her head down, and does her job well. She likes the rest of her job, she can cope with Andrews.
Chapter 27: Twenty Seven
Day 27 Wednesday 2nd November 2011
Twenty seven days in this cell and he knows every nuance of it. He knows how many bricks are in each wall and how many cracks are in the ceiling. There are lines of dirt that he could reproduce from memory, and he knows exactly how many paces it takes from one end to the other. He knows every piece of scribbled graffiti and every rust mark on the pipe that runs down from the sink.
He knows that the cuff port is a little dented in one side, and the door sticks at that point, and that the dinner tray makes a certain rattle as it falls to the floor when it's shoved through its little hatch. He knows just how much he can see through that hatch, and how much of his hand he can allow in the outside world when he returns the tray without bringing down the ire of the guards.
He knows that, if he breaks the rules - if he fails to hand back his tray, if he disobeys any barked order, that he'll be dragged out of his cell and taken away.
He's not sure where they take the prisoners who break the rules, but he's heard the guards take them. He’s heard the guards yelling an inmate to step back, to lie on his bunk. Sometimes he hears the spray of the mace and the coughing of the person with a face full of poison. The officers shout clear warnings at every step but House suspects many of his fellow inmates have been driven crazy by their stay here, or reckless enough that they no longer care.
He hears them leaving, the booted feet of the officers sounding loud on the tiers. Every time it happens the other prisoners make a noise, some scream, some bang on their doors, some yell abuse at the guards. After the first couple of times House joined them, it's good to let out his frustration and anger, knowing that there's safety in numbers, they can't take down everyone who makes some noise. The uproar never changes anything, the prisoners are still taken, and nothing ever changes. He usually hears them returning hours later when the inmate is put back in his cell.
Every day he lies on his bunk and waits for the rattle of the food slot, where his food will be delivered as if he were an animal in a cage. This is one of the highlights of his day now, the delivery of his breakfast, his lunch and his dinner. He knows it won't be good food, but it's something, it's a break, it's something to do. It’s a way to mark the passage of time.
When his breakfast comes on the twenty seventh day he’s been incarcerated here he goes over and picks up the tray, limping back with it to his bunk. He examines the meal; it's the normal prison slop. There is some sort of egg dish, he thinks the eggs are supposed to be scrambled, but really they resemble nothing more than a gluey pile of yellowness on the tray. Next to them is a spoonful of baked beans, next to that are two anaemic looking hash browns that even the greasy spoon diner near his old apartment would have thrown out. A piece of cold toast completes the feast. He has a plastic spork to eat with, and that has to be returned on the food tray when he shoves it back through the slot. He looks at the pitiful plastic implement and wonders what they think he's going to do with it. Then he remembers the sharpened pieces of plastic he's seen flashed in gen pop (and on one case he saw one being used to stab another inmate) and acknowledges that perhaps the paranoia is justified.
He starts to eat his meal, it's not good but it's all he's going to get, and the next meal is hours away and won't be any better. He eats his plastic food with his plastic spork and thinks of the breakfasts Wilson used to cook for him on the weekends, when House was still living with him, after Mayfield, and before Sam came along, before Hannah, before Cuddy, and before House wrecked his life again. His mouth waters as he thinks of the macadamia nut pancakes that Wilson used to make.
When he's finished breakfast he carefully places the utensil back on his tray and then shoves the whole thing through the food slot, watching the metal drop back into place behind his tray. He returns to his bunk, picks up his paper and pen and thinks that he should really do something constructive with his time. After a few minutes of idle doodling he lets the pen and paper drop and lies back, staring at the far wall, the one without the window in it. He starts to count the bricks again because he suddenly can't remember if there are 112 or 114.
Darryl Nolan is surprised when an Eric Foreman calls him. Foreman introduces himself as the Dean at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. He explains that he used to work for Greg House in diagnostics. Nolan is impressed that Foreman could make such a large jump up in responsibility – although he wonders what is happening with the diagnostics programme at PPTH. It would be a shame if it was abandoned due to Greg's legal difficulties.
He had heard the news about Greg driving his car into Cuddy's house a year ago. It had been the talk of medical circles for a while, but had also made some newspapers. Nolan had read the stories with interest; he'd had no contact with Greg since he'd stormed out of what became his last therapy session. Nolan hadn't wanted to let him go – Greg still had a lot of things to work out – but he couldn't hold him against his will. Nolan had replayed the tape of that fateful session a couple of times but despite the poor outcome he couldn't see what else he could have done. Sometimes, like any doctor, he lost a patient.
Foreman had wanted information from Nolan regarding Greg's mental state and his assessment of Greg's future working ability. He seemed to be under the impression that Nolan was still Greg's doctor. Nolan didn't disabuse him, his professional relationship with Greg was for he and Greg to know about, no-one else. Nor could he give Foreman a reassurance that he would see Greg after his release from prison. The decision to enter therapy again must be Greg's.
Nolan would, of course, welcome his difficult patient again, either for another in-patient stay, or for ongoing counselling. He hopes to have the opportunity.
Chapter 28: Twenty Eight
Day 28 Thursday 3rd November 2011
He tosses the book he's reading aside with a grunt. It's his second time through the pulp thriller and along with every cliché in literary history the author had decided to add in some heavy sex scenes in between improbable action sequences.
The book doesn't interest him much but the porn is somewhat hot. His hand strays down under the waist band of his shorts and he cradles himself. There's not much response from little Greg yet, but he has all day - one advantage of being in this place is that there's not much else to do and very few demands on his time. It's not a shower day and he's already gone for his daily exercise, so short of the place burning down (he can only hope) or some other catastrophe there is nothing he needs to do, and no interruption until well into tomorrow. He has privacy to do whatever he likes, as long as it doesn’t involve harm to anyone else. Getting off sounds more entertaining than continuing to read at the moment. He already knows that the good guys are going to win.
He replays the scene in the book he's just read in his head. It's pretty generic, guy on girl action, and he doesn't even try and think up any specific girl for the starring role. His hand works away but there's still not much of a reaction, it's just not happening. He thinks about giving it away, he is only doing it because he is bored out of his skull anyway, and his interest is mild at best, but he decides to persevere.
The generic girl isn’t working for him so again he rifles through mental images of the hookers he's been with since the breakup with Cuddy, thinks about Dominika, (and briefly wonders what she thinks of her disappearing ‘husband’). In the end he settles on Emily, one of his regulars, and a lady he’d been ‘seeing’ when he thought he’d solved his leg problem by regenerating his thigh muscle with the experimental medicine. He shudders as he thinks of the outcome to that little venture, he’s not going to forget trying to operate on his own leg any time soon.
Thinking about that isn’t going to help today’s project so he forgets about the medicine, and the tumours, and the goddamn pain and concentrates on remembering Emily. She'd been good, and she’s never failed him, she’ll be able to help him along.
A few minutes later he takes his hand away. Nothing is happening for him and there’s only so long he can lie around with his hand on his dick if it doesn’t want to take part. Not being able to do it isn’t new to him, the Vicodin has often dulled his sex drive, and sometimes he’s had to resort to the little blue pills for a bit of help. He’s pretty sure that Sykes isn’t going to be handing those out to him so it looks like that bit of entertainment is off the table for today.
He gets up and goes to the sink in the corner and washes his hands with the thin sliver of soap he has left until his supplies are replenished. He looks up at himself in the square of aluminium on the wall and thinks again that he's looking old and worn out, as if this place has sucked the last remaining vestiges of life out of him. His hair is long, his scruff more like a beard now, he hadn’t bothered to shave the last time the razor was offered, maybe he will next time.
He wonders what Cuddy would think if she saw him like this. She’d probably think that he deserves every damn thing that has happened to him. Sometimes he dreams about her and about what he would say to her if they were to meet again. Sometimes he dreams that she comes and visits him here in prison, if only to spit in his face.
He turns away from his reflection, and his thoughts about Cuddy – neither of them are going to do him much good. He goes back to his bunk, dropping himself on it with a sigh and picking up the dog-eared book again. He skips the sex scene this time, and reads the next chapter instead.
Wilson is working in his office with the door open when he hears a noise from the conference room next door. It’s an annoying whine, just loud enough to be a distraction. He gets up and goes out into the corridor to have a look.
The conference room had been used by a variety of groups to have meetings in, ever since diagnostics had been disbanded. Now it seems that orthopaedics has set up shop there. It seems a strange place to have a procedures room but Wilson knows that, with one of the wings of the hospital undergoing major renovation, space is at a premium.
There is a doctor, his mind searches for the name and eventually supplies one, Morgan – a Doctor Morgan using a plaster saw to get a cast off a patient’s leg. That is the source of the annoying whine. Wilson sighs, it’s not great, the noise really is very annoying, but he supposes they need this room.
He looks at the office next door, House’s old office, and smiles when he thinks of how House would have reacted to having this sort of noise in the office next to him. He certainly wouldn’t have shrugged his shoulders and let it be. There would have been all out war, with Wilson playing peacemaker.
House’s old office has also fallen prey to Orthopaedics encroachment. House’s name had long ago been scraped off the door but now Orthopaedics had their name on it, and it was filled with office equipment. Clearly Foreman didn’t intend for House to have his office and conference room back, if Foreman did manage to get him released. Wilson wondered where he intends to put him, knowing Foreman it will be a tiny office in the backwaters of the hospital, to put House in his place. If he does that then Wilson predicts it won’t be long before House is trying to reclaim his old territory.
He realises he’s beginning to think of House’s return as inevitable, as something that’s going to happen. Foreman is stubborn, and determined, and due to House’s influence he’s used to finding unorthodox ways to do things. When House comes back he’ll come looking for Wilson, Wilson is sure of that. Well, he has made some changes in his life, and House doesn’t fit into it any more. This time he’s not going back to House, whatever he does.
He goes back to his own office and shuts the door, cutting the whining noise down to a tolerable level, and goes back to work.
Chapter 29: Twenty Nine
Day 29 Friday 4th November 2011
His book turns up today. He'd asked, back on the third (or fourth? he can't remember) day of solitary to have the book on dark matter he'd been studying sent to him. Prison was supposed to be about education and rehabilitation after all and prisoners were not usually denied access to their study materials. Of course nothing had happened and House had all but forgotten that he'd even made the request. Now, here it is, some three weeks later, sitting on his bunk looking battered but still in one piece.
He picks up the book and leafs through it, he smiles in amusement as a picture of a naked woman falls out of one page, he hadn't put that in there, and he wonders which of his fellow inmates had taken this for 'safekeeping' when he'd been tossed into solitary. Or maybe someone knew it was being sent to him and decided to include it for 'morale' purposes. Yeah, that didn't seem very likely; he wasn't any more popular in prison than he had been at PPTH.
Maybe it had been Frankie. He'd been in prison a long time, and had helped House adjust to prison routine when he'd first arrived. House is pretty sure he'd have been in a lot more trouble without Frankie's help. He's also sure that Frankie would have shaken his head in disapproval and disbelief when word had gotten around about what had happened in the prison clinic. 'Do your time and get out alive' he'd told House, over and over again, 'keep your head down and your mouth shut'. House should have listened to him, he’s pretty sure that Frankie has never spent any time in solitary.
Frankie had played chess with him, had helped him when things were looking bad a few times, and had given him a weapon when House had asked him for it. Maybe Frankie had kept his book safe and added the bonus picture for him. Too bad House hadn't had the picture yesterday when he'd been trying to jerk off.
House holds the book close, he'd let himself get distracted by medicine again, thinking he could go back to that field. But going back into medicine, if he even had that option, would just be getting back on the same old miserable treadmill he'd been on for years. If going to prison has shown him anything it's that he needs to start fresh, to break old habits.
This book is his future, this is what he's decided to do with his life, get a PhD in physics, study dark matter and go into research. No more diagnosing, no more hospital, no more patients, and no more team. He’ll go into a profession where he doesn’t have to interact with people at all.
At least, he thinks grimly, he's had practice this last month at that. He picks up his pad of paper, contemplating the blank page. He can see the imprint of his diagnostics text book work on the page, but the pages he’d written are screwed up where he left them. Good riddance.
He sits back against the wall and picks up his dark matter book, pen in hand, to resume his studies.
He reads the dog-eared page he'd been on, during his last day in the main prison. He reads it again, and then once more. Taps the pen on his paper, and then reads the page again. The equations swim before his eyes, not helped by his lack of glasses. He holds the page up a bit closer to his eyes and tries to concentrate. His mind wanders and he finds that he’s not taking in the words that are written there. They seem meaningless now. Where before he'd scribbled in the book, and filled his prison cell with physics graffiti now he finds that he can't focus on the concepts the book is illuminating. What had seemed so enticing, and such a promising avenue for him to pursue now seems lost to him.
He throws the book against a wall and stares at his empty page of paper. It's the lack of mental stimulation, from being stuck in this cell. His brain has become rusty from disuse. He'll be able to read and understand the book again; he just needs to get back into the groove. Maybe he should start back at the beginning.
He glances down at the book on the floor. Start at the beginning, he tells himself, he can do this.
He drops his pen on the floor and closes his eyes. Maybe he'll have a nap first. There’ll be plenty of time for physics later.
Wilson grabs his lunch and sits at his desk to eat it and surf the internet. It's nice not having to use extreme measures to protect his browsing history from prying eyes and to not have to lock up his email with multiple passwords. He can turn on his computer without fear that House will have rigged it to burst into an explosion of porn and music as soon as he opens the lid.
He doesn't quite know how he winds up at the New Jersey Department of Correction website but there he is. He pokes around for a bit and then finds an area where an inmate's record can be pulled up. He goes through the official page of disclaimers and such, and promises not to use this information to harass or intimidate anyone, and then he's faced with a search engine. He puts in House's name and there he is. A simple mug shot of House on the right side of the screen and his vital statistics on the left. House hasn't managed to slip in any false information here; it's all there, including his birthdate, which he usually keeps a closely guarded secret.
He studies the photo, knowing by this stage it's nearly nine months old. House is looking serious, not pulling one of his stupid faces. He looks his age, his eyes are tired, there are pain lines creasing his face. Wilson wonders how he is set up for pain medication in the prison; surely they would allow him something? For all his addiction and his abuse of his Vicodin he knows that House does feel physical pain, at sometimes crippling levels, every day. And if they denied him the Vicodin he would have gone through an agonising withdrawal. Wilson has witnessed that twice, and he knows he didn’t see the worst of it. He can’t imagine how much worse it would have been, going through it in jail.
His attention goes back to the screen; House’s crimes are detailed below his vital statistics, including the additional crimes of which he's been convicted. His release date is listed as being eleven months from now.
Wilson idly pulls up a few other random records of inmates, seeing many of them serving life sentences, reading their lengthy list of convictions. They look like, well, criminals – it’s hard to picture House in that company.
After a while he turns the laptop off and looks out at the empty balcony, the balcony he shared with House and now no longer uses. He remembers the good times.
He realises just how much he has missed House.
Chapter 30: Day Thirty
Day 30 Saturday 5th November 2011
His first thought on waking up is that it's day thirty today. Thirty days of solitary. Adams’ prediction rings in his head. Of course there is nothing to suggest that Adams knew what the hell she was talking about, it could be sixty days of solitary, or ninety, or even to the end of his sentence (and his mind refuses to let him consider that.)
Still, it is day thirty today. He might be let out today. Not out of prison, of course, but just back to gen pop – and he never would have thought that he would be looking forward to that.
When his breakfast arrives he takes his time eating it, he's alert and on edge. He’s waiting for something to happen. It's not like going back to gen pop is going to be a bowl of roses, he's still uncertain about the reception he will face, and whether he will have to struggle to keep his Vicodin for himself again. He’s worried about whether he's going to be shanked in the showers the first time someone has an opportunity. But he is thoroughly sick of this tiny coffin of a cell, and being locked in here twenty three hours a day. He's sick of there being no people around, even if they're stupid moronic people. He wants out, and he wants out now.
Breakfast over, he places the tray carefully through the slot, making sure that the plastic utensil is on it. The last thing he needs is any hassle today. He lingers by the door as he hears their booted footsteps making their way along the tier, picking up the trays. He's not summoned though so eventually he goes and lies back down on his bunk. He gets up only a minute or two later and strips off, heading over to the small sink. It's not a shower day but he wants to wash up as best he can.
Once he's as clean as cold water and a sickly bar of soap can make him he picks up a clean tee and pair of shorts. These are essentially undergarments, meant to be worn under the orange coveralls he was issued with, but they're all most of the prisoners wear in here, even when they go for exercise. Solitary consists of dozens of men locked up in little cages, wearing their underwear.
There's still no sign of being called for anything so he takes up his book and tries to read, and then spends the next few hours going from one 'exciting' activity to another, unable to focus or concentrate. At one stage he thinks he must be mistaken about this being day thirty so he sifts through his memories and tries to recall the events of each day, checking them off to see if they add to thirty. He quickly realises that there's so little to distinguish one day from another that there's no way to be sure that way. He's kept track of the days in his head and on a makeshift calendar, drawn on his cell wall; it's not that difficult, he's sure that he's right.
He paces for a while, the same steps that he's taken thousands of times by now, wearing a track in the floor. There's barely room for it, and his leg as usual starts complaining after a few minutes. He hopes that when he gets out of here they'll let him have a cane again. If they don't he's going to make a fuss about it, he's entitled to that cane.
He's lying on his bunk staring at the ceiling and watching a spider crawl across its surface when he hears the footsteps. He looks up, hopeful. They stop outside his cell.
“House! Cuff up!” A baton is bashed against the door in case he misses the call and he hurriedly complies, backing up the cuff port. It's too early for exercise, he thinks; please let it be too early for exercise.
The cuffs are snapped around his wrists as usual and he moves away, facing the far wall of the cell and waiting for them to enter. He hears the cell door open and he's told to turn around. There are two officers and they pat him down quickly. Then they move him out of the cell, the door slamming shut behind them.
They don’t put the leg chain on for once, for which he is grateful, although he is apprehensive about the reason for the change. They move off along the tier, the officers haven't said a word but at the end of the tier they turn left instead of right, this isn't the way to exercise. House looks up at them.
“Where are we going?”
“You're being released back to gen pop. Now shut up,” the officer growls at him and for once in his life House shuts up.
Foreman is working in his office, his only concession to it being Saturday is his more casual dress. He's working on budgets, and he's immersed in several tabs worth of spreadsheets when a shadow falls across his screen. He looks up to see Wilson standing there.
“You saw him didn’t you?” Wilson says, without further explanation.
Foreman nods. “Yes, I went to the hearing for the further charges. He didn’t see me.”
Wilson looks away and then back, rubbing the back of his neck.
“How did he look?” he asks, almost hesitantly. Foreman can tell he’s trying to stay casual, disinterested.
“Not good. They had him handcuffs and I think there were leg chains as well. He looked tired, and in pain.” Foreman lays it on a bit thick, Wilson’s support will be vital if he gets House back – a House without a Wilson is something that Foreman doesn’t want loose in the hospital. Wilson gives him a hard look, reminding Foreman that Wilson is no fool, and knows when he’s being played.
There’s a long silence and then Wilson sighs and rubs the back of his neck again. "I won't stand in your way, if you want to bring him back," he says. “I don’t want anything to do with him anymore, but if you can get him out of there…“
Foreman almost smiles, he knows that Wilson won’t be able to resist House for long once he’s back at the hospital; he never has before. He’ll try and make sure that whatever case he finds for House will involve one of Wilson’s patients, so that he’s forced to interact with House.
"Thank you," he says simply, this time knowing better than to push his luck.
Wilson nods and looks around the office. Foreman wonders if he's remembering the times he and Cuddy had spent here, trying to work out a strategy for dealing with Gregory House.
"He won't appreciate it you know, and he won't like answering to you. You'll have a fight on your hands all the way."
Foreman knows that. Somehow it will work, he’ll make it work. He has to.
Chapter 31: Epilogue
Epilogue - Some Time Later
He lost his janitorial job when he got thrown into solitary so now he sits in a craft class, with nineteen other hardened criminals and a couple of well meaning, if somewhat nervous looking social workers. It's not that he wants to do craft really, but it's something to do to pass the time. Attending classes, and participating in activities, can earn him 'good' time and maybe there'll be a few days knocked off his sentence. Maybe.
He sits as far away from the other men as he can, and still be part of the class.
He works on his project; it's a bracelet, made up of small beads. It's a stupid thing, nothing important but he concentrates on it fully, glad that he has something to do. He wishes he had his glasses, that would make things easier, but he perseveres and finally he has the thing done. He holds it in his hand, not sure what to do with it next. He's not exactly the bracelet wearing type.
"That's very nice," one of the social workers comes over and admires it, much as she probably admires her preschool kid's finger paintings. He slips the bracelet over his right wrist and stares at her, not acknowledging her comment. She looks uneasy and quickly leaves and he relaxes again. He goes to take it off again and then looks down at it.
Thirty little beads around a plain string. A reminder of what he's done and where he's been. He rubs his hand over it, turning it around on his wrist. It's stupid, a Wilson type of thing to do, keeping it, like it’s some sort of souvenir from a dying patient. He doesn't take it off.
He stands up and leaves the class, walks back through the rec room and limps up the stairs to his assigned tier, makes his way along it, ignoring the open doors to the other cells, the chatter and posturing of the inmates. He enters his cell and lies down on the bunk.
Just another day in prison.
"Simpson was wrong again. The lungs are still dying and my patient is running out of time," Wilson reports, standing in Foreman's office. "Vanessa needs those lungs, and they only have another 16 hours of life left. We're at a dead end." He takes a deep breath and looks Foreman straight in the eye. “We need him.”
Foreman nods, this is what he’s been looking for, and the situation couldn’t be more urgent – or more tailor made for House.
He picks up his phone and arranges to get a judge out of bed. When he hangs up he starts putting on his jacket. He's got some miles to travel tonight, and some fast talking to do.
"I'll go and get him," he tells Wilson. "House will be able to figure it out."
"He has to, for everyone's sake," Wilson says.
After Foreman leaves Wilson returns to his patient and waits for House to come home.