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HOUSE M.D. FIC: Regarding House, 6/7

Chapter 6: Filling in the Blanks
"Data! Data! Data!" he cried impatiently. "I can't make bricks without clay."

 

When I first mounted the bike, my hands shaky on the grips, I didn’t have a clear idea of where I should be headed. There was, in fact, a strong, panicky urge simply to ride straight into oncoming traffic, but it was trumped by a more rational insistence on staying alive, at least long enough to uncover the truth about what had happened. But I wasn’t ready to face Cuddy; this was all too new, too bewildering. Instead, I found myself recalling the route taken by Foreman the night my fellows had accompanied me out to the bar.

I pulled alongside the curb in front of Chase’s apartment building, just behind a blue Prius with Massachusetts plates. The ride had cleared my head and cooled my temper; my walk to his front door was almost steady. I rapped sharply with the handle of my cane, not caring whether he was up, or for that matter, alone. The attractive woman with auburn hair who answered the door was clearly much more surprised to see me than I was to see her.

“Make yourself scarce for a few minutes, I need to talk to Chase,” I told her, shifting restlessly at the ache in my leg.

“I’m fine, and how have you been?” she replied, stretching up to kiss me briskly on the cheek. I just stood there, bemused, as she settled back down on her heels and regarded me wryly from beneath her lashes.

Chase appeared behind her shoulder clad only in a pair of sweatpants, toweling his hair. “Allison, who…” He stopped short at the sight of me and flushed crimson in embarrassment. “House. This, uh. This is not what you think.”

“Don’t know, don’t care,” I said.

Chase sighed. “This is my ex-wife. Allison Cameron. Your former fellow?”

“Funny, that seems to be kind of a theme today,” I answered, and fixed him with a steely glare. “Any more ex-wives around here that I ought to know about?”

“You really don’t remember me?” Allison asked, even as Chase blanched, looking guilty as hell.

“Now that you mention it, you do look kind of familiar,” I admitted. “But that’s not why I’m here.”

She didn’t budge. “I heard that you were with Wilson.”

Were being the operative word,” I growled. “The son of a bitch conveniently forgot to mention that I was already married.”

“Funny, I wouldn’t have thought that he’d consider that an obstacle,” Allison quipped.

“Well, he certainly took pains to keep it from me,” I snarled, and turned back to Chase. “And he wasn’t the only one, was he?”

“Allison,” Chase said without taking his eyes off me, “would you give us a minute?”

She folded her arms. “Is it true, Robert? Have you been hiding this from him?”

“You weren’t here,” Chase breathed, his accent noticeably stronger than usual. “You don’t know what he’s been like lately. Or what he was like… after.” He laid a hand on her arm. “Please. Leave us alone for a bit.”

Allison raised an eyebrow, then reached for her coat. “Fine. I’m going out to get some breakfast.” She patted me on the arm as she passed. “For what it’s worth,” she said, “Wilson may not be perfect, but he loves you. He always has.”

“Yeah, ‘cause nothing says love like secretly sedating someone, or seducing them away from their spouse.”

“Well, you should know,” she said tartly, and disappeared down the stairwell.

Chase backed up nimbly as I pushed my way inside and commenced to pace, preferring the sharp, raw pain that accompanied every jar of my thigh to the dull, constant ache that caused my jaw to clench in sympathy when I stood still. “How long have you known?”

“Wilson called me and Foreman the night that he learned about the amnesia,” he confessed. “He was nearly frantic. He blamed himself for the sedative he’d given you on top of all the alcohol in your system. But Foreman thinks that the primary cause was psychological, and so do I. Your brain was trying to protect you from knowledge that you weren’t able to handle.”

“What a load of shit,” I snarled.

“Is it?” Chase draped his damp towel over a chair and placed his hands on his hips. “You’d been going downhill for months, House. We all saw it. You’d leave early, come in late and hungover when you managed to make it in at all. It was all we could do to cover your ass. The only reason you weren’t fired was because Cuddy was so busy avoiding you that she couldn’t keep track of your hours. We tried to get you to go back to your old psychiatrist, we even took turns trailing you for a while to make sure that you made it home in one piece. And Wilson told us-” he stopped short, biting his lip.

“Yeah?” My voice sounded low and dangerous even to my own ears. “What exactly did Wilson tell you?”

“He called us,” Chase said softly, “the morning that we found you on the floor of your office. He said that he’d spent the night on your couch and woke up to find you gone. He wanted us to stop you from doing anything stupid.” He rolled his eyes. “If I had a dollar for every time- Look, the point is, you scared him. And us. There is no doubt in my mind that if he hadn’t drugged you, you would be dead.”

“Thanks to him,” I gritted, “the man you knew as Gregory House is dead. I just happen to be animating his sorry corpse.”

Chase shook his head. “That’s not true. You’re… different, yes. You’re dragging less baggage around with you. But you’re still here. Wilson saved you.”

“He had no right.”

“House…” he took a deep breath. “He really did have good intentions.”

“Right,” I said. “Well, all he’s done is paved the way to hell. I’ve treated my own wife like a stranger for more than a month. Now I’m going to have to tell her everything, so by tomorrow afternoon, I’ll probably be out on my ass. My medical license was in jeopardy anyway because I quit treatment after Wilson kicked me to the curb for Sam. This will be the final fucking straw. Game over.”

“I don’t think it has to be,” Chase said earnestly. I wanted to punch him in the face. I settled instead for turning petulantly towards the wall.

“Oh, for God’s sake,” he said and sank down on the chair. “Did you miss the part about how Cuddy blamed you for Rachel’s death and told you to move out? The part where you were like a whipped cur with your tail between your legs and drinking yourself half to death?” My ears pricked up at the tremor in his voice despite myself; he suddenly sounded as if he were only about sixteen years old.

“Chase,” I said tiredly, turning to face him again. “Are you crying?”

“No,” he snuffled, scrubbing a hand angrily across his eyes.

I sighed. “Fantastic. Gotta go. Glad we had this little chat.”

“Hold on,” Chase said, straightening up. “There’s still something you need to know about Cuddy.”

“She assures me,” I said, “that they’re both real.”

“Seriously. You need to know what your relationship was like.”

“I didn’t think you’d exactly held back on that subject.”

“I don’t just mean after the accident. I’m talking about what she did to you before that.”

“What, now are you going to tell me that I was a battered husband?” I sneered.

“That’s not so far off, actually,” he said, green eyes grave. “Not physical abuse, of course. But it was clear that she had you totally under her thumb. You never really got your relationship sorted when you went from being her employee to her boyfriend. She expected you to woo her at work and obey her at home.”

“Frankly, from what I’ve heard, you had your head too far up your ass – and a lot of other people’s – to know anything about what my relationship was like.”

He smirked. “Oh, I kept my head down, all right. But it was ambivalence, not indifference. I could see the storm coming; just didn’t think you’d thank me for warning you about it.”

“You got one thing right. This is none of your damned business and never was.”

Chase stood deliberately; in another man, it might have looked like insolence. “You’re angry in large part because you feel like you’ve been robbed of your happily ever after,” he said. “But it was a fairytale from the start. It never would have worked out.”

“Takes one to know one, huh?” I jeered.

He remained unruffled. “What you have with Wilson is a second chance. Don’t piss it away just because-“

“Because what? Because my supposed best friend drugged me, tricked me into adultery, and has been lying to me ever since?”

To my astonishment, mild-mannered Chase suddenly strode forward, his hands clenched at his sides as if itching to take a swing at me. “You ungrateful bastard. Do you have any idea what that man has done for you? How much he’s sacrificed for you over the years?”

I took a bewildered step back, momentarily unable to speak, but Chase followed so that our faces ended up even closer together. “Has anyone told you about Vogler? No? Got himself on the Board of Trustees by giving a big donation to the hospital, tried to have you tossed out on your arse?”

“What for?”

“You rubbed him the wrong way. I know, boggles the imagination, right? But he needed a unanimous vote from the Board, and Wilson was the only one willing to stand up for you.”

“So he saved my job?”

“Lost his, actually,” Chase answered, unblinking. “When they voted him off the Board, he resigned. Went so far as to clean out his desk before Cuddy came to her senses and convinced the rest of them that liberty had been sold for too low a price.”

I stared at him. “I was really that unpopular? They must have had their reasons.”

“Yes, you were. And they had their reasons. I even gave them a few extra to try to save myself when I was sure you were going down.” He looked down then, eased off, shifted from one bare foot to the other. “I’m not proud of it. And I certainly paid. For years.”

My hand was cramping around my cane; I switched it to the other side and flexed my fingers, shaking my head. “You mean I made you pay.” He didn’t deny it. “Why didn’t you leave?”

“Because-“ Chase took a deep breath, met my eyes again. “Because I admired you more than anyone. Because I was learning to be a better doctor. Because I thought that one day you might discover that you were proud of how far I’d come.”

It occurred to me that we had wandered somewhat off topic, but this struck me as almost as important. “And did I?”

The corner of his lip twitched. “Yeah. That was the day you fired me.”

I groaned in disbelief. Looking concerned, Chase pulled up a chair for me, but I waved him away. “It’s not the leg, it’s just…” I heaved a sigh of frustration. “I feel like every time I peel off a new layer of my former self, I find…”

“Another reason to cry?” Chase suggested wryly.

“Something like that.” I was quiet for a minute. “Did I really punch you in the face for arguing with a diagnosis?”

“Well, yeah, but it wasn’t quite like that. You were a mess, you were going through withdrawal. I tried to keep you from leaving the hospital, and you… reacted badly.”

“And what, you just turned the other cheek?”

“Not exactly,” Chase said. “As a matter of fact, I was this close to turning you in. I still think that’s why Wilson finally caved.” He caught my puzzled expression and reddened. “Wait… you don’t know about that?”

“Let’s hear it,” I told him, even though I knew that he was only about to give me more reasons to despise myself.

“Um. Remember when we told you that you forged Wilson’s signature and stole a dead patient’s drugs?” I dipped my chin. “Well, you were caught. You’d pissed off a police detective named Tritter when he was a patient in the clinic, and he decided that you were a menace to society and had to be put away. So he started sniffing around, then put pressure on the rest of us to give him the evidence he needed. He was hardest on Wilson – blocked his accounts, confiscated his car, even had his DEA license suspended. But Wilson wouldn’t give you up. Not until he thought that I was about to ruin my own relationship with you.”

“Well, it’s not like he wasn’t making his own life much simpler at the same time,” I sneered.

Chase just looked at me. “That’s what Cameron thought, too. Believe what you want. He didn’t go to Tritter for his own benefit. He brokered a deal to save your arse, and you were too stubborn to take it. Then you almost OD’d on that stolen Oxy. Bloody near broke his heart.”

My thigh was throbbing, an enormous, ugly mass of agony that made my teeth ache, and my thoughts were even more twisted and painful. Abruptly I swung around and headed for the exit. “So, what, now you’re telling me he’s Saint Wilson?” I snarked. “I see what you’ve been trying to do here. It won’t make any difference.”

“I hope you’re wrong about that,” Chase said softly to my back just before I slammed the door in his face.

***

For the first time since my new life had begun, I deeply resented the old injury to my leg. I was almost dizzy with the need to escape from my own skin, and I wanted nothing more than to run as fast and as far as I could, to sweat out the bitterness of betrayal, to lose myself in the uncompromising rhythm of arms swinging, legs scissoring, feet pounding the pavement. But as it was, a moan of pain threatened to burst from my throat with every step, and it was all I could do to lurch the few yards to the curb and haul my right leg back over the bike.

Since I couldn’t tear up the Princeton streets, I tore up my old apartment instead.

I began with the bathroom, mainly because I was quivering and nauseated from the agony in my thigh, and I figured that ibuprofen while sorely inadequate, would be better than nothing. But once I’d gulped down a few pills, I ransacked the room, combing through every crevice, even tearing the toilet tank apart. On a hunch, I yanked the medicine cabinet away from the wall and found a hole in the tile, just the right size for a prescription vial. Its emptiness mocked me.

Next the bedroom, unused since that last night of my old life, the stripped mattress looking abandoned and forlorn, the dresser drawers gaping, bare. Over time, I’d moved most of my clothes to the loft, but I’d left a lot of my books and curios, secure in the knowledge that I could return for them whenever I wanted. Now I opened every volume and flipped through the pages, then flung it to the floor. Spines cracked, leaves folded and tore, as the discarded pile rose round my feet. But there was nothing of value to me here.

I lay down on my belly and fumbled around under the bed, finding an old, oiled wooden box. My gut twisted in hope and fear as I unlatched it, but the contents were a mystery to me, an assortment of unlabeled vials and small tools that smelled faintly of cedar. I shoved that aside and went on, driven by frustration now as much as anything, emptying out the nightstand, desecrating the desk. And I found plenty, my homeowners’ insurance policy, my tax returns – married but filing separately – but not anything I sought.

I worked coldly, silent and methodical, now that my initial flare of rage had been banked to sullen embers. I groped the guts of the baby grand, shook out every shoe, left no couch cushion unturned. I didn’t allow myself to think about the perfidy of my team, the ruins of my marriage, the tragic death of a three-year-old on my own hands. Most of all, I didn’t allow myself to think of Wilson, sweet-faced Wilson with his gentle hands and lying eyes.

When the dust cleared towards the middle of the afternoon, I stood in the center of the main room, my clothes smudged and wrinkled, my fingertips filthy and raw. I had unearthed a few bottles of liquor for my efforts, gleaming amber on the re-righted coffee table, and a roll of breath mints. And that was all.

I knew that I could always expand my search – show up at an ER with a plausible excuse, or even just take advantage of the less-than-stellar security at PPTH. But I felt old, and sore, and soul-weary, and what I had would work for now. I briefly considered getting a glass, but I was alone, and beyond civility, and besides, towards the end of this I would be in no shape to pour the contents of one vessel into another.

I’d found a squat, half-full bottle of Maker’s Mark, but there was no point in wasting the good stuff on this exercise when Dewars would do the job just as well. I raised the bottle in a silent toast to amnesiac adulterers everywhere and took a generous swig, closing my eyes as the Scotch burned its way slowly down my throat.

Getting shit-faced took no time at all on an empty stomach. I tossed the first empty bottle at the television and snorted when it went wildly off course. I snagged its successor, after a couple of attempts, before I stumbled back to the bathroom, trying to take a swig but only succeeding in unbalancing myself. Sprawled on the floor of the hallway, the bottle luckily still intact in my hand, I let my heavy head loll back and laughed drunkenly until the tears ran down my face. Fucking leg, fucking Stacy, fucking Wilson, fucking Gregory House…

***

The sky was already light when I became dimly aware of the phone ringing in the living room. I squinched my eyes shut and counted to five before passing out again.

The banging on the front door was harder to ignore.

“HOUSE!”

“Go ‘way,” I mumbled dry-mouthed into the mattress, trying to twist away from the violence inside my skull. I felt fully as shitty as I had that first morning waking up in my office, although this time I knew exactly who and where I was. At least that was something.

The banging resumed, more loudly than before if such a thing was possible. “I know you’re home, I saw the bike.”

I groaned and pulled my arm over my head, wishing that I could have woken up dead. I’m not sure exactly how much time passed before Foreman’s voice said, “House?” from about six inches away from my ear, and I nearly wet the bed.

“Jesus,” I swore, shifting my elbow just enough to squint up at him. “How the hell did you get in here?”

“You originally hired me for my B&E skills,” he said blandly. “Get up, we have a new patient. And I’ve brought you something.”

“I hope it’s a pistol to put me out of my misery,” I snarled, then felt immediately guilty as Foreman’s eyes narrowed.

“Not funny,” he said shortly. “Although, in fact, that’s exactly why Wilson gave this to me for safe-keeping in the first place. Here.” Without further ceremony, he shoved a box at me of about the right size and shape to contain a dress shirt. I dragged myself up into a sitting position, tears springing to my eyes as my scarred thigh screamed in pain. Foreman noticed at once and put the box down on the bed beside me. “Hang on, I’ll get you some water and ibuprofen,” he said, and disappeared into the bathroom.

Despite the hangover from hell, I couldn’t contain my curiosity. I slit open the taped sides of the box with my thumbnail and lifted the lid. Inside were some official-looking pieces of paper, a few photos, and a simple white gold wedding band. Here was the hard evidence I’d been missing, which proved that I was husband to one Lisa Cuddy and adoptive father to one Rachel Cuddy, now deceased. Looking at the documents and images, the inert circle of metal, I still felt no rush of recognition, no upwelling of love or loss. My only response was a cold rage.

Foreman found me staring at one of the photos, presumably from my wedding day, when he returned with my water and a couple of pills. “I took that one,” he said conversationally as I accepted his offerings and downed them with a grimace. I wiped my lips and looked more closely. Cuddy was in a white dress cut to flatter her décolletage; she was smiling, her head tilted towards me, her hand resting possessively on my arm. On my other side, Wilson all but mirrored her pose, his mouth stretched in a simulated enthusiasm that failed to summon the laugh-lines around his eyes. And I, in the middle, had the oddest expression on my face, a kind of mingled relief and confusion that suggested that I didn’t know quite how I had gotten there but was willing to trust that all of my troubles were over.

I tossed the photo back into the box with the rest of my marital detritus and glared at Foreman. “Why’d Wilson give this stuff to you? Chase and Taub too busy making their own wives disappear?”

“He figured I was the only one you wouldn’t be able to bully into spilling the beans,” Foreman shrugged. “But now that you know, I thought that you might want to have these back.”

“I just can’t imagine how he thought – how any of you thought that he could get away with this.”

“Yeah, well,” Foreman said, giving me a significant look, “when you love someone, you do stupid things.”

“Sorry, Eric, I’m already taken.”

“No, you’re not. At least, not by Lisa Cuddy. That’s what Chase was trying to tell you. But he obviously failed to make himself clear, so here I am.”

“Not for long,” I said. “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.”

“House, you’re making a big mistake here. Look, I’ll admit that when you and Cuddy first got together, I was really relieved. You’d obviously been depressed since Wilson’s ex-wife moved in, and I figured that the happier you were with your love life, the less crap we’d all have to take from you.”

“Careful,” I sneered, “your concern for my well-being might make me cry.”

“But I was wrong.” Foreman shook his head emphatically. “You were the last man I ever thought I’d see pussy-whipped. But once you started dating Cuddy, you twisted yourself into knots to earn her approval, even at the expense of our patients. That never would have happened in the old days. And when you couldn’t accommodate her, you lied to keep the peace. She could never be happy with you the way you were, and yet you were too terrified of losing her to face up to facts.”

“Wilson didn’t mention any of this,” I said stubbornly.

“Why would he? Wilson was always your biggest cheerleader,” Foreman replied, then raised his eyebrows. “Guess we all know why now, huh?”

“You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

I was there. I remember,” he said with deliberate insolence.

“Nice.” I closed my eyes. When I opened them, Foreman was still standing there. “What?”

“I told you, we have a patient. Now get out of bed, drag your ass to the shower, and at least try to attain your usual low level of respectability.” He glanced at his watch. “I’m leaving in fifteen minutes, and you’ll be in my car, whatever your condition.”

“Who the fuck made you the boss of me?” I growled, even as I found myself grudgingly dragging myself upright to swing my legs onto the floor.

“Cuddy did. More than once.” Foreman clapped me on the shoulder. “I’ll be outside.”

 

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
petitecuriosity
Jan. 21st, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC)
I can definitely see House freaking out like this and tearing up his apartment. It was difficult to read, but painfully realistic.

It was really interesting to see both Foreman and Chase talking to him; Chase has a certain, sometimes visible vulnerability. He admires House, cares about his approval, and cares about him. House becoming suicidal would be difficult on him and you really made that come across. I also like how you've kept him completely in character; he would try to stand up to House, tell him the blunt truth, but he would be too soft and hurt by what happened to actually punch him in this case I think. And House, while shaken by what he said, wouldn't want to accept the reality of what he was saying and, as Foreman said, Chase wouldn't have made it come across as well as he could have.

Foreman would have been more casual, more serious about things, but still with glimpses of care underneath.

I could see the wedding photo so clearly in my head; I feel like the description of it and this line:

She could never be happy with you the way you were, and yet you were too terrified of losing her to face up to facts.

sum up House and Cuddy's relationship incredibly well.

I feel like House cares about Cuddy, loves her, but that he looks at their relationship as the answer to all his problems and that ultimately, he will see that it isn't.

I also feel like he is far too terrified to be in a relationship with Wilson, and, like you described in a previous chapter, Wilson seems to be scared as well.

There is one last chapter in this fic and I will be sorry to see it end, but at the same time, am rather curious as to how it does end.
flywoman
Jan. 21st, 2011 10:54 pm (UTC)
House becoming suicidal would be difficult on him and you really made that come across.
I was also trying to hint that watching House drink would have triggered emotional responses to his own mother's alcoholism and death.

There is one last chapter in this fic and I will be sorry to see it end

:) Thank you for this, and for all of your feedback!
sara_tsuzuki
Jan. 22nd, 2011 12:19 am (UTC)
Geeez!!! more angst! I love angsta >D But I need to know more! *runs to read*
flywoman
Jan. 22nd, 2011 12:31 am (UTC)
This chapter is a bit of an angstapalooza. Gotta love the fellows pimping Wilson, though. Wait, that didn't come out quite right.
(Deleted comment)
flywoman
Jan. 22nd, 2011 10:28 pm (UTC)
This is going to sound a bit odd, but what I liked best about this chapter was Cameron's short appearance.

That doesn't sound odd at all. Cameron's character, at least with respect to her dynamic with House, really does evolve over the course of the series, and it's fun to write her once she starts behaving more as House's caring but critical colleague than as his student.

House 'remembers' the odd fact, such as quitting treatment when Wilson and Sam got together, but apparently nothing else.

Mea culpa. He doesn't remember this, actually. There must have been additional conversations with Wilson not shown.

The chapter is slightly too explanatory for my taste.

In the conversations, or the bit about House in his apartment?

My sense of balance says that a passage with Taub belongs somewhere in here.

In theory, I agree. Taub would also have an interesting perspective on the failed marriage (although of course I didn't actually know about that when I wrote this piece). On the other hand, I still feel like Chase and Foreman are closer to House than Taub is or perhaps ever will be. I'm not sure that I see Taub taking House aside to tell him what's what, whereas Foreman has definitely done that. Conversely, I don't see House seeking Taub out to confide in him or get his advice. Anyway, he didn't demand another scene, so I didn't give him one, but I definitely see your point.

Thanks for the feedback!
(Deleted comment)
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