He recalls laying in the hospital bed--the Stupid Era he dubs it--soaked in every natural fluid his body could secrete. He remembers the ball of regret pressing against his impulse control, begging him to retract his decision, screaming at him to admit he made a mistake and to amputate the leg . Years later, of course, he realizes that he should have listened. His leg, any limb for that matter, was not worth the aftermath that followed.
Yet...if he could find a silver lining in that decision, it had to be that it showed him pain better than anything else he ever had or would come to learn in experience. It wasn’t that it was just physical pain, because Wilson was right; his leg reacted to emotional stimuli everytime he was hurt. The stint with his parents visiting (and John being disappointed-- again ), Stacy and Mark, and now...Cuddy, was murdering the functionality of his leg. She finished coming over with glassy eyes and frizzy curls, speaking in a broken tone that had cracks talking louder than her words; she finished tearing into his skin, burrowing her poison into his heart. House could not say that he was left broken--because he was always broken--but he was left rusted and crooked, raw . It felt as if his muscles and veins were open on an operating table, feeling the draft of the room.
It really happened, she left me . The mantra repeated hundreds, thousands of times despite the high of the Vicodin coursing through him. For every time the mantra sounded clear, he took another pill accompanied with salty tears. Ah, there it is , the signs of him ODing. Aside from the tears falling carelessly, his body temperature skyrocketed, nausea pinned him down, slivers shook him, his vision blinded him; he figured he was dying. Strangely, the only thought that crossed his mind wasn’t Cuddy and her tearful face, it wasn’t Cameron and her privileged pity, or Stacy and her nostalgic calm--it was Wilson. House remembers when Wilson found him OD’d on his living room floor during Christmas.
It wasn’t what broke the camel’s back, but it was one of the many stints that’s held Wilson back from forgiving him or trusting him the same way ever again. House knows, Wilson will always love him, as it is in reverse, but their friendship isn’t built on health and strength. It’s like a combination of every viral, bacterial, and fungal infection known in medicine. In the sense that it’s fascinating, cool, beautiful even (in the right light), but ultimately deadly if left untreated. It’s better if House dies tonight and finally leave Wilson, just as Wilson tried to do with him after Amber’s death. The umbilical cord can finally be cut and Wilson can live; happily and healthily. The Vicodon gripped his chest with Hulkian strength and finally, House felt himself let go.
The sound of running water brought him to consciousness. After a number of beats--House counted 30--he heard footsteps approaching him. Part of his “geniusness” was observing and learning a lot of things, including the sound of everyone’s footsteps. It wasn’t Wilson’s or any woman he’s known in his life, but there was serious familiarity to it. Even, uniformed, heavy--with a gasp, House sat up and whipped his head around to find the source of the encroaching beast. The name couldn’t even pass his lips because of how oxygen-deprived he was.
“It’s time for a bath, Greg.” The voice was exactly as he remembered in his youth. As even as his gait, deep and sterile, but full of unholy anger.
House looked at his hands, wondering if he time traveled to the past, except his skin was still as aged as he last remembered. The icy blue eyes called his attention and silently repeated the earlier order. The child inside of House whimpered and begged his older body to just listen for once . And surprisingly, he did. He rose from the floor and dragged his broken frame to the bathroom where a full tub of ice water awaited him. Tears that he assumed were long dried and gone from his childhood returned with a vengeance.
“Stop crying, Boy, and get in.”
Inner Greg begged him again to listen, to get in the tub even though the trauma of past resurfaced to remind him just how much this scared him. It’s just like jumping into the ocean . He’d tell himself that everytime he was forced to do this, that mere cold water was not going to break him. Constricting fear speared him as he undressed himself; for each article of clothing removed, there was a draft caressing his skin. Hot bile bubbled at the base of his stomach, whispering in a tone of its own for freedom. When he removed his pants, he felt the dent on this thigh and was reminded that it should be throbbing, yet he could not feel a thing. He prodded at it again, picking at the edges, yet still feeling nothing.
Before he could wonder how it was possible, he was grabbed by the arm and dragged to the edge of the tub. Somehow, he could feel the cold before he was in and that provoked the bile to dangerous levels.
“Please,” he silently begged.
His skin screamed in agony when he dipped his foot into the water; the ice sloshed aside the deeper he inserted himself. He was desperate to jump right out but Inner Greg told him ‘no’. Listen to him . By the miracle of some deity, House was fully seated, covered to the waist in ice water, which was better than when he was a child, small, and covered all the way up to his neck. Still, he shivered with fresh tears brimming; he looked up at the icy blues that somehow were not his origin.
“How did we get here, Greg?”
House could not respond but he wasn’t sure if it were due to the cold water or fear.
“You should be dead.”
“Is...Is that what...you’re trying to do?”
“What, kill you? Why do that, you’re doing such a great job of it yourself. Bout the only thing you can do right.”
He was right, of course. Because for all of House’s intelligence, he was still sitting in a tub (he must have made) while talking to his hallucinatory father. Memories reminded him of how he could not keep a relationship, make friends, or be normal ! Sure, he was a good doctor, and he could cook and play the guitar, but him and life were like two separate (polar) entities. He knew not how to live with life.
Another 30 beats and the chill began to turn numb. “Why are you here?”
“C’mon, Greg, you think solving the puzzle is going to be that easy?”
“No, if I needed to figure something out, CB or Kutner would be here.”
“But you’re broken brain chose me.”
“To remind me what kind of shitty person I am.”
“You need me to remind you of that?”
House shook his head. No, he didn’t because he knows he’s a shitty person. He doesn’t need hints or brail or hieroglyphics because he knows it as if it were the most logical fact known. His leg pulsed, vibrating the ice from within.
“Why are you here?” He asked again, albeit quieter.
The icy blues darkened. “Why are you here?”
You are a dancing queen
Young and sweet
Were the situation any different, House would be smiling, maybe even humming the lyrics before answering to Wilson. “I need to get that.”
There was a questioning eyebrow raised that joined a deep frown on the old face. “And say what?”
“Cuddy’s probably told him--”
“And say what?”
A million things , House thought. He wanted--no, needed--to say sorry. Sorry that he failed, sorry that he lied, sorry that he’s not really sorry…
He wanted Wilson to come and be a pest, like he usually was, and drag him out of this tub. To throw a towel at him and tell him to get dressed--by himself--even though his leg is blasting with pain. To yell at him about how stupid and pathetic he is and analyze why he did what he did. How inevitable it was for Cuddy’s maturity to outsmart House’s vulnerabilities.
His leg seized, forcing him to clutch it. Despite the obvious struggle he was in, the icy blues remained frozen. They spoke to him in a way no other hallucination had been able to do, then again, the real man was much of the same way. He never said much, particularly during punishments; he tended to act like a silent hunter, a prowler.
“Why are you here, Greg?”
“ You told me to.”
“I’m you and you know that, so stop bullshitting. Why are you here?”
“You think I want to be here? To remember you of all people?!”
“Man, this world has it ass-backwards with you, don’t they, Boy? How are considered a genius when you can’t even figure yourself out?”
“Cause everyone’s an idiot.”
House couldn’t be sure but if he read his hallucination correctly, his eyes were mirroring the icy blues. Narrowed and sharp, angry. “Wilson is not an idiot.”
“That’s not true, is it, Boy?”
A new sense of pain blossomed in his jaw from the stress he was applying. He pressed his teeth together, sure that he was eroding his enamel. It was beginning to match the enormity of his thigh. House recognized a shift and watched as his father sat at the edge of the tub.
“If not an idiot, then he’s got to be something else. Otherwise, what kind of man willingly befriends such a broken fool?”
“Wilson’s my best friend!”
“Why are you here , Greg?”
You are a dancing queen
Young and sweet
House remembers the car ride to his father’s funeral; his mother called Wilson, who called Cuddy, who drugged him via a fake butt shot. Wilson was mad at him, after the events of Amber’s death, but the idiot still found enough Jewish guilt to listen to his mother and deal with him even though they were no longer on speaking terms. Minutes after coming to, his phone rang, indicating it was his team of ducklings calling about a case, but stubborn Wilson did not want to give him his phone.
“‘My ringtone for you is Dancing Queen by ABBA.’”
Quipping with Wilson about ringtones and where to urinate spurred a wave of endorphins that diminished whenever the conversation of the funeral returned. It wasn’t the concept of the funeral that bothered House but it was all else associated with it. Memories of his father. Black tar coated his insides at the reminder of the years of abuse he endured, all for it to be negated at a funeral. The entire car ride, the pain in his leg pulsated.
The lightbulb buzzed brightly in his thoughts. “I’m here,” he started slowly. “Because I’m lucky.”
The old face didn’t change expression with the exception of his eyes. They mellowed a smidge, telling House that he was on the right track. “Why are you lucky?”
In a split second, the past twenty years zipped by in his head. This “luckiness” started the moment he was told he was a genius at the age of 7. The signs were clear way before that, but with the House family moving every other year, no one could definitively tell. Life changed for him after that; every peer, teacher, relative, stranger tested him in some way, wanting to push the boundaries of just how much he knew. However, House thrived on it. Every answer he didn’t know, he’d research for days, ready to write an article about it just to show off. The years that followed, House was met with challenge after challenge, using his smarts in every way imaginable to gain a victory. Couldn’t get a girl? No problem, because he’d woo her by sneaking her into the chemistry lab and making her hair dye of her favorite color--House learned how to French kiss after that. Even his father’s abuse was secondary to the luck his geniusness brought him.
Then there’s the many countries his family moved to and the experiences he’s had in each of them. The people he’s met (and loved), the Japanse janitor that changed his life, his love for science and physics. It all amounted to his attachment to medicine. Still, mastering medicine and specializing in nephrology and infectious diseases became the greatest fun for him. Especially when most of his medical peers needed his help to solve the puzzles. It wasn’t long after that that he met Wilson. In the simple version, House was bored and found intrigue in this crazy, young man who chucked a bottle at a stained glass in the bar.
In the long version, House felt electrified by the “mysterious” James Wilson. Everything dark and annoying instantly felt mollified by Wilson’s presence and due to his inability to explain why , House would never open his mouth to admit so. Yes, he was bored that night, but that couldn’t explain why he needed to befriend the young divorcee. Just something in House’s brain told him to ask questions later and act now. So without question, he bailed the oncologist out of jail and through sarcasm and charm, wooed him into beginning the friendship that they have today. It was that friendship that kept House from taking his life right after the infarction; he planned it out down to the second, but Wilson intervened and glued himself to his hip to keep watch, to stop him from trying again.
Now years later, again, House feels at the cross road. There’s a part of him that wants to continue to take his life (he’s surprised the Vicodin didn’t work) and the other part sees a whole new vision. The John-Hallucination-- House will call him Jyllenhall for short --wasn’t there to traumatize him, but to get him to figure the puzzle out. The puzzle about his “luck” and leg. That was the real reason they stopped speaking after the infarction.
“I wouldn’t have gotten addicted,” Jyllenhall grumbled.
“You would have been more of an asshole.”
The blue eyes narrowed in what looked like amusement. “How so?”
“Scream at Mom, hit me, blow through 7 cigars a day. No, you wouldn’t have numbed the pain; you would have made it a point to suffer through it to prove you’re a man.”
“Then why did you keep your leg?” Jyllenhall knew the answer of course--he was a part of House’s brain--but clearly House needed to hear himself say it out loud.
“To prove to you how much of a man I was. That was a stupid mistake, you didn’t even care when I was in the hospital.”
“You wanted me there?”
Honestly, no. Jyllenhall’s presence would have forced House to demand DNR. He held a lot of respect for his “father” and writhing in pain would have shamed him. There was respect but he couldn’t find an ounce of love for the man. Jyllenhall must have suspected that the child he assumed was his, didn’t love him, because where House could emotionally feel warmth and pull with Wilson, the complete opposite was felt with his father. Every room they existed in together was but a sample size of the Third Circle of Hell. It would have been painfully worse if Jyllenhall were there. Yet he wonders...
“If you were there, would you have told me to keep the leg?” It was a question he went back and forth with for years. Although he knew where his mother stood, Jyllenhall was hard to predict, because House’s pain was only valuable if he was inflicting it. With outside pain, however, his father tended to be indifferent.
Jyllenhall’s response could only be due to a long and distant memory that House had forgotten about. Honest to any deity, House had never seen his father smile or laugh, with the exception of photographs around the house that Blythe had of their wedding. But there had to have been at least one time for how else could he explain his hallucination currently smiling--with pearly whites shining.
“I would have told you to put a fucking bandaid on it and walk it off. That’s how a Marine would have done it.”
“I’m not a marine, Dad.”
“Then why do you have that leg?”
House didn’t answer but Inner Greg, internally, responded with a wave of desperation. Because I didn’t want to disappoint you . Not that it was needed to be said, if Jyllenhall’s expression was any indication.
Instead, the man changed his tone and softly said, “Time to get out of the tub, Greg.”
If this was told to him--actually he had no idea how long he was sitting in the tub--since the beginning of this, he would have jumped at the chance no problem! Except now the idea sounded terrifying. Getting out of the tub felt exactly like his time with CB on the bus. The risk of getting out (or getting off) meant subjecting himself to more pain and rejection.
“Only if you’re a Marine,” Jyllenhall reminded him. House forgot, he can “read” his thoughts. “Now get out of the tub.”
Disobeying the order, even from his own brain, didn’t spell well for House. With reluctance, he grabbed for the bar and hauled himself up. The water and ice no longer had the same effect as when he started, in fact, his body and leg felt a sense of freshness. Despite the shivers, House managed to step out of the tub feeling different than when he had gone in.
You are a dancing queen
Young and sweet
Right, he needed to answer Wilson otherwise the man will die of an aneurysm. He found himself baffled when he located his phone in the living room, on the floor, not ringing but it made sense a moment later when his regular hallucination slithered her way next to him.
“Your dad couldn’t remind you to put some clothes on?” Amber--CB--was as tall and beautiful as he remembered.
“He figured you needed to know what a real one looks like.”
She smiled. “I’ve slept with Wilson. I’m familiar with real, although, you’re not too bad yourself.”
“Am I hitting on myself?”
“Not like you’re being entirely serious,” a third voice called, another familiar. Kutner came sauntering out from the direction of his bedroom with a smug smirk rivalring CB’s.
“Why were you in my bedroom?”
Kutner gave him a deadpan look, as if to silently call House an idiot. “You know wyt or at least you’ll figure it out later. You should listen to Amber and get some clothes on.”
The only reason he didn’t ask any more questions was because he figured Kutner was right and he’d discover the answers later. He limped his way to the bedroom to find clothes already laid out on the bed. Another time jump and House was wearing them, with no memory of when and how he was doing all of this. In a weird way, it was pretty cool that his body was sleepwalking around, completing tasks, only for his brain to catch up at a later point as if the task was completed by someone else. Once he was dressed, House found a small suitcase next to the bed. The anxiousness from before, while sitting in the tub, returned and settled in the pit of his stomach. Taking the suitcase meant reality and reality was frightening.
“Hurry up, Boy!”
His cane hand grabbed the handle of the suitcase and clutched it for dear life. With a shaky breath, he turned back and made his way to the three musketeers waiting for him. All three were smirking, looking at him with an energized excitement that was beginning to rub off on him. It really should have been alarming that he was making this step forward during a mental breakdown, yet nothing before had ever felt safer. Just as he was ready to head out the door, his heart jolted; there was one last thing he needed to do.
“Don’t worry,” CB assured him. “I--well you--already wrote it out. We knew exactly what words to use. Wilson will be mad, probably sad, but he’ll know exactly what we meant. He’ll understand.”
Sure enough, taped to the piano was a sheet of paper with elegant cursive that was House’s handwriting. Surprisingly as a doctor, House always had neat handwriting. Then with a final sigh, House closed his door and made his way to his new goal.