At The Violet Hour
by Topaz Eyes
Notes: Missing scenes for 5 x 24, "Both Sides Now." Lines quoted from T.S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men," copyright 1925. Title from "Wasteland," copyright 1922.
In all the years of his friendship with House, nothing could ever have prepared Wilson for the moment when Cuddy draws House into his office.
House comes in behind her, but stands just in the threshold, looking for a minute like he wants to bolt, but can't. Wilson furrows his brows at first. It's clear that Cuddy's been crying. He isn't surprised; the hospital grapevine is efficient at relaying the news. He'd expected House, or Cuddy, or both, to burst into his office at some point, to gloat or fume respectively.
But it's House's red-rimmed eyes--the total devastation on his pale face--that cause him to jump to his feet.
"Cuddy? House? What's going on--?"
"We need to talk," Cuddy says.
Wilson nods and gestures to the couch by the windows. Wilson's neck begins to twinge when he watches House move without any protest when Cuddy takes his hand, lets her settle him down before she takes her seat beside him. Docile, he thinks. Resigned. Defeated.
"Tell me what happened," he says.
He listens to Cuddy's soft-spoken explanation of the events of the last 24 hours. She has to stop once or twice to control her shaky voice, but she soldiers on. Beside her, House sinks further down into the couch with each word. As she speaks he compares it to what House had told him on the day after, and feels horror crash over him when he realizes his own role in the train wreck.
"I'm sorry," he says at the end, aghast. "Oh, God, Lisa--I--I encouraged his delusion. I goaded him into confronting you about it. I didn't know. If I'd known--"
Cuddy shakes her head ruefully. "It's not your fault. What matters now is how we fix it."
Wilson nods in agreement. "Let me make some calls."
He sits at his desk, pulls his phone and PDA in front of him and starts dialing. Three calls later he's talking to officials at the Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital. They agree to admit House for a thirty-day detox and pysch evaluation when a standard bed comes available, likely by the weekend. When Wilson impresses on them the depth of House's symptoms, they upgrade his status to urgent and agree to admit him as soon as they can get him there.
In the meantime House sits beside Cuddy on the couch, cowed with shame, an expression that Wilson had never, ever dreamed would land on his face. House winces and tries to slide away from her as Wilson relays the delusions and hallucinations to the Mayfield team, but Cuddy's hand never moves from his knee.
Wilson hangs up the phone. "It's all set," he announces. Cuddy nods and pats House's knee.
"It'll be OK, House," she says, her smile watery. She then looks up. "Wilson, can you handle him by yourself--?"
"I won't let him out of my sight," he promises. Though he doesn't think House will do anything in this current state of psychomotor retardation, it's always best to be wary. "We'll leave now."
"I'll tell Brown to cover for you."
Cuddy rises from the couch and pulls House to his feet. He refuses to look at either of them. "Psychotic major depression," he mumbles to his shoes. "Everything fits. Delusions, hallucinations, insomnia--"
"It's treatable," Cuddy replies, "and you're going to get the help you need."
House nods as Wilson runs through his admittedly rusty list, adding chronic anhedonia, depressed mood and lack of cognitive dysfunction. It all fit. And he didn't see it coming. Or he did, but like House, he wanted to believe it was anything but a mental illness. None of which mattered right now.
"Cuddy's right," Wilson says. House looks at him bleakly. "Listen to her; it's going to be all right. So come on, let's go."
He places his hand on House's elbow, propelling him forward, out of the office and down the hall. Cuddy flanks the other side. Wilson allows himself a moment of wry musing when he compares himself and Cuddy to being like House's personal bodyguards, poised to deflect any attack. Never has any description been more apt.
Taub approaches them in the hall outside the Diagnostics office. He's holding out a yellow file to House, oblivious to the spectacle at first.
"You were right about Mr. Schwartz, it was advanced pancreatic cancer..."
He trails off and blinks at them, confusion settling over his features when he takes in the sight of House's red-rimmed eyes, Wilson's grim face. House shies away, clenching his jaw. Wilson bites back a sudden urge to punch the man for intruding on House's private space.
"Pass the case on to Brown," Wilson says quietly instead.
Wilson feels rather than sees the almost imperceptible nod of confirmation. "Do it."
"I want Dr. Foreman in my office in thirty minutes," Cuddy says. Wilson recognizes the tightness in her voice, the tone she uses when she's struggling to keep it together.
"Of course." Taub turns and strides away. Wilson wonders how fast the gossip will spread.
They take the back entrance out of the hospital, by Shipping and Receiving. The dock is one of House's usual hangouts; also, the dock hands are always the last to learn the juicy details. They help House maneuver the stairs, then House and Cuddy wait under the dock awning so Wilson can jog between the raindrops which spit from the clouds, to fetch his car from the doctors' lot. He's glad for the distance; he doesn't want to intrude on what will be their last private moments together for a long while.
Their positions haven't changed when Wilson returns with the Volvo, though Cuddy's face is now swollen and tear-streaked even through the damp. Still, she draws House around to the passenger side, opens the door and settles him in. After giving House a gentle squeeze on his shoulder, she looks at Wilson, quietly pleading.
"Drive safely," she says, her voice steady for the moment.
They stop by House's apartment first; House trails him inside. Wilson prays, to whichever deity might deign to listen, that it won't take long to collect House's things and go. Mayfield is a couple hours' drive. He has to stay strong and solid until after he's delivered House into their care.
Except at some point House must have unpacked in his delusion; the suitcase he'd packed, when he thought House was going to rehab, is not in the hall where Wilson had left it. Wilson swears under his breath, a ball of frustration in his throat. Wilson's done some hard things in his life. This counts among the hardest. For his own sake he does not want it to last any longer than it has to.
House stands beside him, his head bowed. House had retreated into himself during the drive from the hospital, so Wilson must prod him, cajole him into the bedroom where he can keep an eye on him while he packs House's bag again. He leads House to the bed, pushing on House's shoulders to make him sit down on the edge.
It's when he turns towards the closet that Wilson sees the bag sitting by the chest of drawers, half-unzipped and empty. He hauls the suitcase up beside House and begins to rifle through the drawers. Socks, underwear, T-shirts, jeans, all wrinkled but clean; he grabs a few unironed button-downs from the closet. Wilson dumps clothes and toiletries into it instead of folding and arranging them neatly; House's face is blank as he watches Wilson move between chest and bed.
The packing is almost done when Wilson feels, rather than hears, House's sharp hiss of breath beside him. House's face twists in an ugly grimace as he grabs his jumping leg in both hands to shove it down. Wilson drops to his knees in front of him to massage the knotted muscle. It's pathetic how glad he feels, that this gives him a valid excuse to comfort his friend without any embarrassment or sentimentality on either part.
House's hands drop back to his sides as he lets Wilson knead the tension away. Once the spasms stop, Wilson reaches into House's coat pocket to retrieve the Vicodin vial. He grabs House's hand and shakes two pills onto his open palm.
"No," House protests. He does not meet Wilson's gaze. "I don't want them."
"You have to. You're in pain." He closes House's hand into a fist around the white caplets. House's hand is cold as he squeezes.
Now House does look up to meet his gaze and Wilson has to force himself not to look away at how desolate it is. He spies a full water bottle on the night table. He grabs it and hands it to House. He then watches as House obediently opens it, tosses the pills into his mouth and washes them down.
Wilson does have to look away when House nods his thanks. It's too fucking hard to see House this crushed, his brilliant mind in pieces. He rises, turns and pinches the bridge of his nose to stave off the shaking in his shoulders that threatens to set in. He does not have this luxury, not now, he scolds himself, but that mantra still does not quell the sting in his eyes. He squeezes them shut against the blur.
"I'm sorry," House says behind him.
Wilson startles at the sudden, yet sincere apology. House's apologizing for being broken should break him wide open too but it braces him instead, keeps him together, allows himself to focus. He puts his hands on his hips, draws a cleansing breath. He turns towards his friend, his voice clear.
"It's a two-hour drive. They're expecting you tonight so we need to get going, but we can stop at a burger joint on the way--"
"I'm not hungry," House says.
Wilson hears the distinct undertone of Let's get this over with. "OK," he says, and zips the suitcase closed. "OK." Anything he's forgotten to pack, he'll bring on the next visit.
In the car, though Wilson fiddles with the satellite radio to find something House would like, the trip itself is silent. After years of friendship spent side-by-side and perfectly attuned to each other, Wilson is unsettled not to hear House's mocking commentary on everything from the bedraggled scenery outside the windows, to Wilson's questionable choice of car freshener.
This isn't the peaceable silence that comes from the ease of long intimacy, either. It's the type of lonely quiet that demands to be filled, but there's nothing to fill it that wouldn't drive anyone to despair. Wilson forces himself to concentrate, on the road in front of him, on the music from the speakers, on anything that isn't about his broken friend slumped beside him. There will be plenty of time for that later when he's alone.
They go on like this until they're about ten miles away from the gates of the psychiatric hospital. "'This is the way the world ends,'" House says.
House's murmur is as loud as a shout. Wilson blinks at the breach of the now-leaden quiet; the hairs at the back of his neck stand on end.
"'This is the way the world ends/not with a bang but a whimper.'" House turns away and looks out the window.
Wilson winces at the irony. He recalls the empty platitudes he's heard and used over the years. About God closing doors but opening windows, about tying knots at the ends of ropes. All of them are true, none of them apply, not with House. But he has to respond because he cannot let the House he knows exit with a whimper. He won't let him.
"New worlds rise from the ashes," he says at last.
House startles and peers at him. Wilson stares at the slick road in front of them.
"I'm not a phoenix," House says, but in his peripheral vision Wilson sees the corner of House's mouth twitch.
The silence falls again, but the heavy curtain lifts with that little half-smile of gratitude, which keeps Wilson going from there on. It's what allows him to drive through the front gate, towards the front entrance of Mayfield; that allows him to stop fifty yards from the imposing wood doors where the intake nurses and doctor are waiting. It's House's minute acknowledgment that lets him accept the belongings that House drops into his hands for safekeeping, his cell phone, pager, wallet, watch; that allows him to endure House's silent goodbye; that keeps him standing guard over House's retreating back. It's that small yet profound expression of hope that House leaves him with, that steels him to watch House hobble up the steps to the front door; to allow him to meet House's final glance back before the doors shut; and to keep watch in the steady rain until he is convinced that House is safe inside, and it's time to head back.
Please post a comment on this story.
Legal Disclaimer: The authors published here make no claims on the ownership of Dr. Gregory House and the other fictional residents of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. Like the television show House (and quite possibly Dr. Wilson's pocket protector), they are the property of NBC/Universal, David Shore and undoubtedly other individuals of whom I am only peripherally aware. The fan fiction authors published here receive no monetary benefit from their work and intend no copyright infringement nor slight to the actual owners. We love the characters and we love the show, otherwise we wouldn't be here.