Disclaimer: Don't own, don't profit. In addition, I am not an MD, nor a PhD. I'm a high school student. Granted, I know more about biology than the average high school student and I am looking things up on PubMD and Campbell, but frankly there's a giant possibility that the medical "facts" in this story are completely and utterly wrong. Please, please don't take medical advice from this. And please actually ask your doctor if you have any medical concerns.

Warning: Explicit slash, non-traditional sexuality, frank discussion of alcoholism and drug abuse, frank discussion of suicide, and other things that apparently make baby Jesus cry. Rated M for a reason. Oh, and heavily sprinkled with profanity, including the f-word, the other f-word, and several different crude names for parts of anatomy.

Spoilers: Spoilers through 6:19 "The Choice". Pretty much ignores everything after that, with the exception of the previews to 6:20.

AN: Italicized portions are either House's imagination, his memories, or what he imagines he remembers. Frankly, I don't really see the difference between the three.

This was meant to be a one-shot, but apparently I really, really suck at keeping my one-shots short enough to be considered one-shots. However, this story really doesn't divide well, so chapter divisions are more dependent on word length than on actual breaks in the story.

Oh, and if you're not really paying attention, there's only one bartender.

The Meaning of Solitude

by starsteller

I've spent my life looking for you,
only to learn, now I have found you at last,
the meaning of solitude
~Bram Vermeulen

Part 1: Life's Too Short for Pain

I am, a little bit insecure, a little unconfident
Cuz you don't understand I do what I can
Sometimes I don't make sense
I am, what you never wanna say, but I've never had a doubt
It's like no matter what I do I can't convince you for once just to hear me out
So I, let go watching you turn your back like you always do
You face away and pretend that I'm not
But I'll be here cause you're all that I've got
Linkin Park, Faint.

House drains his glass and signals for the bartender to pour him another. Over his head, cheap crackly TV speakers relay the sound of a crowd cheering, a broadcaster nearly shouting, desperately trying to be heard over the rabid fans. The air is hot and somewhat stifling, tinged with the slightest hint of tobacco, and the warmth and the familiarity are somewhat comforting, if disturbing.

Was it wrong to find comfort and familiarity in seedy bars generally patronized by dirt-poor alcoholics, working girls, and the occasional drug dealer?

"Hand over your keys." The bartender, a tall, androgynous individual in a black leather jacket adorned with at least a couple pounds of steel orders as he (she?) slides a new scotch in House's direction. House nods curtly back, but he doesn't hand over his keys. He wouldn't trust himself to drive—after all, he's a doctor and he's seen way too many I'm-not-that-buzzed drivers end up in the ER with broken limbs and punctured organs—but he's not letting some random lowlife bartender get her fingers on his motorcycle keys. He wonders if he can call Wilson to pick him up, but he decides against that. He doesn't want to have another Amber situation.

Not like Wilson would ever let Sam pick him up. Not like Sam would bother to pick him up, either. And not like any other fucking person in the entire world would ever bother to help a former drug addict like himself. He picks up the fresh drink and tips about half of it into his mouth, barely even noticing the sharp taste of the alcohol anymore.

How has life come to this? Dingy-but-familiar bars; everyone gone, orbiting some far-away desire or goal that he'll never even try for, never mind achieve; endless, mind-numbing pain that he'll never get away from and he didn't even have proper, useful pain relief anymore; a beautiful, successful woman who he basically killed but still didn't leave him alone until he fled to fucking Mayfield and ended up with a stint in rehab and a psych center like some C-list celeb who would never achieve anything, no matter how many boob jobs, back scoops, and Botox sessions she underwent...a fucking black spot on his curriculum vitae, next to all the times he's gotten fired and or kicked out of med school, reminding him exactly how much of a failure he had become. How much of a failure he was.

"Keys," the bartender reminds him, crossing her (his?) arms and glaring. "I'll call you a cab when you're done."

This time, House dutifully hands them over. He doesn't need to be bothered. He returns his concentration to his glass, staring at the amber-colored liquid.

Amber. She had annoyed him, certainly. Monopolized way too much of Wilson's time, definitely. And he couldn't deny that she had reminded him way too much of himself. She was kind of like a female version of him, sans Vicodin habit and mangled leg. In many ways, she was like a younger version of himself, just with a pair of tits instead of a dick. Arrogant, intelligent, willing to do almost anything to get ahead, blind to all negative consequences. The same thing that had gotten him kicked out of his first med school and fired from way too many places. At least he tended to be right.

House had predicted that her relationship with Wilson would fail. It was not just because Wilson's relationships always failed; it was also because he sincerely believed that Amber was the wrong woman for Wilson. Sure, she was a nice break from the long line of pitiful, broken women who used their pathetic-ness to leach off of Wilson, but her endless ambition would be her downfall, he believed. He had suspected the amphetamines long before they had found them. A combination of physical symptoms that his subconscious had noticed and her cutthroat personality made him suspect some...less than safe ways of getting ahead.

A gust of cold air shatters his thoughts; he looks up to see the bartender up to his waist in some sort of cooler, the source of the annoyingly cold draft. Now that he's looking up, he realizes that the bar is far more empty than he thought it would be, and he wonders exactly how late it is. He raises his wrist to check his watch, only to find that, for some reason, he's not wearing his watch. He's slightly worried by this—did he lose his watch and simply didn't remember? Maybe he left it at h—Wilson's.

Wilson's. The word seems strange to him. Perhaps he's just so used to Wilson living with him or he himself living with Wilson that the idea that Wilson living without him seems so...odd. And Wilson living with his ex-wife doesn't just seem odd; it seems like a disaster waiting to happen. He closes his eyes, feeling his chest tighten, almost painfully. Wilson's. How did that word just sound so absolutely wrong? Wilson and Sam's. Even wronger.

House takes another gulp of his scotch to force Wilson out of his mind. He looks up instead, willing his booze-clouded mind to focus on something else. The bar's a bit of a dingy place, much like his usual haunts. Everything seems to be at least five years old, a shocking amount of furniture appears to be held together by duck tape and prayers, and a health-code inspector would question the sanitation of...well, practically everything. The top of the bar bears many scars from drunken people dancing and fighting on top of it, and now that the bar's a bit quieter, he can hear the annoying buzz of the neon sign. He tries to remember what the sign declared; he gets a bit worried when he realizes he can't remember what this particular bar is called.

The other patrons seem to be as dingy as the bar. To his left, there's two kids, probably not twenty-one, arguing in quiet voices over a couple of empty beer bottles. House is pretty sure that at least one is a boy of no more than nineteen; the other strikes him as more feminine than masculine, although he can't be quite sure with the grime and baggy clothing. The maybe-girl accepts another beer from the androgynous bartender and slides a couple bills to the guy, who then pulls her into a hug. House notices that the bartender twitches slightly, almost as if she was going to pull the kids apart, but then she shakes her head and sighs, muttering something under her breath. House also knows that the hug had nothing to do with exchanging affection but everything to do with exchanging illicit drugs. It doesn't seem like anyone else noticed the transaction, or maybe it's simply that no one else cared.

Somewhere behind him, a group of rowdy truckers are playing pool and cursing loudly. Another few drinks and a few more unsavory shots just might start a fight. Which reminds House—what time was it, anyway? He fumbles with his phone and notices that it's out of power. Great. Just great. House notices that the boy drug dealer to his left is looking at his iPhone with more than the usual curiosity, so he glares at the kid, who cringes, but only slightly. Not a good sign. Most people show a larger reaction to the House glare.

The TV goes to commercial break; the happy little jingle is always annoying, but the horrible tinny speakers nearly make it unbearable. He barks to the bartender to turn it down a bit. The bartender complies with a scowl, coming out from behind the bar to jab at the TV with the end of a broomstick. As she reaches up to hit the buttons with the broomstick, House notices a revolver tucked into the bartender's belt.

He drains his scotch and decides that it's about time for him to get going. It's probably not a good idea for a guy with an expensive phone, a cane, and a giant crater in his right quadriceps to get into a bar fight. He definitely doesn't want to wake up tomorrow morning in jail, pissing blood. Or, even worse, waking up in PPTH, connected to all sorts of monitors, with a worried Wilson nearby. Or, worst of all, waking up in PPTH to the sound of nothing but beeping monitors and a slight glance of his best-and-only friend walking away. Just like how he had walked away so many times before.

He had always come back, though. Eventually. Against his will, yes, but he eventually came back. And when his relationship with Sam falls through, Wilson will come back. Yes, he will definitely come back.

House shook his head. He can't even convince himself—how the hell is he supposed to convince everyone else? Every single freakin' time Wilson has left, he was left desperately afraid that Wilson will abandon him, just like Stacy did. Just like everyone else in his entire bloody life did.

Forcing Wilson out of his mind again, House raises his hand to flag down the bartender. He means to ask the bartender to call a taxi, but for some reason, he finds himself ordering another double scotch. The bartender impatiently slops some of the amber liquid into another shot glass and shoves it towards House roughly, almost causing the glass to tumble over and spill. Miraculously, only the smallest of drops makes it over the edge.

House glares at the glass. Intellectually, he knows that drinking this one wouldn't be the greatest of ideas, but the logical part of his brain is pretty well muffled by however many double scotches he already drank. He picks up the glass, staring at the golden specks swirling around in the amber liquid, but then he puts the glass down. Losing Wilson shouldn't affect him in this way; Wilson had left him behind again, and thus he should be able to walk away from Wilson too. This is really pathetic of him, actually. He shouldn't be moping like some ridiculous teenage girl who got dumped the day of prom. That teenager probably wouldn't be able to remember anything about prom, twenty years on, and House himself really should know that everyone leaves in the end, so there's really no good to getting attached. To anyone.

Cuddy distanced herself from him by flinging herself towards Lucas. Cameron moved on and married Chase. Stacy left with Mark. Wilson's dating Sam. Even his own mother had abandoned him, in the end. He hadn't expected his so-called-father to be of any help; after all, he didn't share the man's genes, and any idiot could have seen that. But his mother—well, he'd learned the hard way that people are damned good at deluding themselves, and in the end, fear could turn most people into selfish, uncaring bastards.

It's all in the past, it doesn't matter anymore, he thinks. You're stronger than this, he tries to convince himself, but, really, he's not that certain. Until hallucination-Amber, he had thought himself to be stronger than the Vicodin. Sure, it had been his crutch, but it had always been under his control.

It hadn't been. He hadn't controlled it; it had controlled him.

An angry, drunken voice breaks through House's thoughts. "You fucking cheat!"

"Hey, hey!" the bartender shouts, leaping over the bar, broomstick in hand. "Cut it out! No fighting!"

House turns around, wincing as the room spins slowly with him.

Two truckers are circling each other awkwardly, hampered by the tables, chairs, and other patrons, as well as by the alcohol already coursing through their veins. They are each armed with a pool cue, and although the bartender's taller than either of them by a couple of inches, each of them outweighs him by at least fifty pounds. But, still, the bartender did have an undeniable advantage—he was sober, and neither of the other two seemed stable on their feet. And he had a gun.

This may just be interesting. House leans back and wishes for some popcorn.

"No fighting!" the bartender repeats, brandishing the broomstick, and both of the truckers turn towards her, sniggering.

"Whatcha going to do about it, you faggot?" one of them slurs, turning towards the bartender. He's wearing a red shirt and a baseball cap garishly decorated with the American flag.

The other trucker takes advantage of the distraction to attack, swinging his pool cue in a high, completely uncontrolled arch. It connects with Flag Hat Guy's shoulder with a sickening crunch. House winces. Probably a broken bone.

Flag Hat Guy, however, didn't wince. In fact, it was difficult to tell if he even felt the pain. "You fucktard!" he shouts, raising his own pool cue and swinging it at the bartender, who gracefully ducks under it. "That idiot owes me two hundred bucks!"

Straightening up, the bartender mutters something under her breath.

"What did you say?" Idiot Two asks roughly. Despite the fact that he's wearing a gray shirt that declares "Gold's Gym" in bright yellow letters, he doesn't appear to be the type who would frequent a gym. He sports a sizable beer belly and a face redder than a stop sign. In fact, he looks like he wouldn't be able to run a mile, even with a pair of annoyed grizzly bears chasing him.

"Bail's a lot more than two hundred bucks, you idiots," the bartender spits out, raising her broomstick threateningly. "Get out. Now. Before I call the police."

Flag Hat laughs. "I don't think you'd risk getting blood on your two-hundred dollar jeans, faggot."

"Try me," the bartender snaps back, and House can hear a hint of sneer in her voice. She's surprisingly confident and relaxed, although the broomstick is raised and ready.

Another trucker grabs Flag Hat's shoulder. "Let's get out of here, Bill," he warns.

"You're an idiot, Steve. That idiot over there owes me two hundred bucks!" Flag Hat—Bill—slurs.

The bartender lowers his broomstick, acting friendly, but House can see that he's bending his knees slightly, assuming a subtle but stable fighting stance.

"Your friend doesn't think you can afford another arrest, eh?" Gym Shirt Guy taunts. "Well, well." He laughs, "No wonder why you want me to cough up that two hundred bucks, eh, since you don't even have ten bucks to buy a blowjob from a crack whore and it's not like you could get one for free, either."

Flag Hat scowls, raising his pool cue again, but the bartender grabs it and jerks it away. With a drunken lurch, Flag Hat snatches at the pool cue. He misses and nearly falls to the ground.

Gym Shirt laughs again. "Beaten by a faggot, eh, Bill? You're no better than a pussy yourself."

Flag Hat lunges forward, but Steve restrains him. "Come on," Steve mutters. "Let's get out of here." He gestures vaguely towards the bartender's waistband. "Can't you tell? She's armed."

"Dude, how much did you have to drink?" Flag Hat snaps, but he allows himself to be led away. "That's obviously..." The door slams shut, blocking the remainder of his words.

"And you get to leave too," the bartender tells Gym Shirt. "Only fair that way."

Gym Shirt flings his pool cue onto a nearby pool table and plunks his ass down on a nearby chair. "Get me a beer, will ya, pretty lady," he sneers, obviously intending his last two words to be an insult.

"No." The bartender places his hands on his waist. "Get the fuck out of here, you idiot."

Raising his hands in surrender, Gym Shirt stands up, backing away. "Geez. I'm leaving, I'm leaving. No need to get your thong in a twist." He turns to leave, and the bartender sighs in relief as the door slams shut for a second time.

She checks her watch, sighs again, and retreats behind the bar to clean glasses. Some time during the confrontation, the two teens had left. House turns back towards his scotch and decides not to drink it. He doesn't need to prove Wilson right. He's definitely stronger than this.

On impulse, he pushes it towards the bartender. "Drink this."

"No." He continues to clean glasses, carefully checking each one by raising it to the dim, grimy lights, although House's pretty sure that the glasses still aren't exactly clean.

"Come on, it's just one drink."

"I'll call you a cab," the bartender says with finality, setting down a glass with more than the necessary amount of force. She pulls out a cellphone, dials, and pins it between her ear and her shoulder.

The rest of the truckers try to keep their game going for a few more minutes, but they eventually give up and leave.

"Fuck," the bartender swears. He dials another number, waits for a while, and then swears again. "I'll just give you a ride myself," he tells House, slipping the cellphone back into his pocket. "If you don't mind."

He shrugs. "It's not like I have another option," he points out. He stares at the scotch again—what a waste, he thinks. It's not bad stuff, but he knows that it wouldn't be a good idea to drink it. "Drink it," he finds himself saying, again.

The bartender turns around, leaning forward and forcing her way into House's personal space so quickly that he doesn't realize it until her nose is right over his left ear. "I'm a former alcoholic," she whispers, before backing away, just as quickly.

He blinks, trying to understand the turn of events. Somewhere in his mind, he sees Amber, knocking back the one drink he forced on her, then taking those stupid flu pills with the exact same motions—the stupid pills that would cause her organs to fail. The drink is still in front of him, and suddenly he doesn't want the bartender to drink it. He doesn't want another Amber situation.

"That's interesting," he finds himself saying. "A former alcoholic working at a bar?"

The bartender shrugs. "Well, if someone with exercise bulimia can find themselves a job at Gold's Gym, I can find a job here. Oh, by the way, you need to pay your tab."

House considers not paying, but she has his motorcycle keys and he definitely wants those back. He fumbles with his wallet, pulling out a couple of bills and throwing them at the bartender. She gathers up the bills, counts them, and gives him his change, before slamming the cash register shut and locking it. "Come on. Let's go. I have somewhere to be in—" she checks her watch "—seven hours."

The room tilts as House gets to his feet, and he glares at the remaining double scotch on the bar. It's rightfully his, he knows, but he was right not to drink it. He doesn't need it; he doesn't need anything; he is in control.

He finds his hand moving out, picking up the glass, feels his lips part and the sharp liquid on his tongue, sloshing over his epiglottis and through his cardiac sphincter into his stomach, where the alcohol—ethyl alcohol, the only type that wouldn't poison a human until relatively large doses—seeped through the mucous membranes and into his bloodstream, heading towards his brain. He sets the glass down again. "Let's go."

The bartender leads the way to his car, and House stumbles after him, his usually graceful step-limp cadence thrown off by the alcohol. He pauses awkwardly while the bartender locks the door while looking around the parking lot suspiciously. "Don't tell me you drive a Prius."

"Why not? It gets great gas mileage, and OPEC isn't exactly the United States' biggest fan right now. When this house of cards falls down, I'd like a car I can run off of the power grid."

House raises an eyebrow. "Is it possible to find a yuppier car?" he asks. "And...Priuses can't run off the grid."

The bartender shrugs. "This one can." She opens the car door and settles in, looking at him expectantly. "Come on, get in."

House looks over at his motorcycle and back towards the Prius. He opens his mouth, realizes that his tongue probably won't cooperate through a long, reasonable, and reasonably sarcastic argument for cramming his beloved motorcycle into the trunk of a Prius, and finally decides to simply say, "Motorcycle."

"I'm pretty damn sure my Prius has four wheels." The bartender raises an eyebrow. "And thus it doesn't count as a motorcycle. Or at least I hope it doesn't...I don't have a class M license."

House ignores the bartender's rather lame excuse for banter. It's kind of obvious that, even though he'd lost count of how many double scotches he ordered (and drank), his mind is still more than capable of intellectually defeating the bartender's. He roughly gestures towards his motorcycle. "You know, it'd save both of us a lot of trouble if I could take my mode of transportation with me." He glances from the Prius to the motorcycle again, making his motions theatrically dramatic. "Of course, it's probably not going to fit in that miniature trunk of yours." Raising an eyebrow slightly, he continues, "Of course, you could just let me drive myself."

"No chance in hell. You'll crash into some innocent pedestrian who'll haunt me for the rest of my years." The bartender steps out of her car and slams the door shut with more force than what was probably necessary. "It'll fit."

House doesn't help the bartender shove his motorcycle into the back of her car, even though she's treating it with less delicacy than what he would have liked. Still more delicacy than what he would have expected, though, so that was a plus. Somehow, she manages to get it to fit. To be honest, he's somewhat impressed, since the bartender just managed to pick up an entire motorcycle, raise it by three feet, and shove it into the trunk of her car. There's obviously a considerable amount of muscle residing under that leather jacket.

The bartender wipes her hands down the front of her jeans and gets back into her car. "Come on."

With a nod, he complies, folding his tall form into her compact car.

She starts the car with a flourish that falls somewhat flat when juxtaposed with her choice of vehicle and backs out of the parking space with a mild curse at some unfortunate night creature who had gotten in the way. Once she's out of the parking lot, however, she accelerates to nearly twenty miles over the speed limit.

"My name's Sandra," she says simply.

He hesitates before replying, "House."

She raises an eyebrow but doesn't comment. "Where do you want me to drop you off?"

Interesting phrasing, House thinks. Where do you want me to drop you off? verses Where do you live? He gives her an address, but she doesn't recognize it. "I'll just give you directions, then," he says.

Then, he asks, "Why did you quit?"

She glances over at him quickly before responding. "I got sick of waking up in the ER with a tube down my throat," she deadpans, and House can't tell if she's telling the truth or not. "Why the hell were you in a seedy bar over an hour away from where you live?" she asks back.

House fiddles with his cane. He really doesn't want to answer—not only because he doesn't like blurting out his secrets to random strangers, but also because he doesn't think it'll be possible for him to explain. So instead he says, cryptically, "Trouble in paradise."

"A lover's spat?" she asks, all false innocence—she even flutters her eyelashes slightly, which doesn't work particularly well, considering the fact that she's wearing a leather jacket that looks like it came from either an sadist's wet dream or the most over-the-top goth shop ever. It's even complete with an overdose of chains and elongated metal spikes that probably could be used as weapons.

"Kind of." Time to change the subject now, definitely. "So, if you work at a 'seedy bar', how the hell did you manage to make enough money to afford such an yuppie car?"

From the whitening of Sandra's knuckles, House can tell that she's gripping the steering wheel extremely tightly. There's a slight moment of awkward silence, but just when House decides to end the conversation and turn on the radio, Sandra replies, "I'm only working there for the summer." She fixes her gaze onto the road ahead of her. "I generally spend my time shrinking heads and proscribing Prozac at Mass Gen[1]."

He taps his cane against the floor of the car. "So why were you there?"

"A lot of...rehab...involves learning not to trust yourself," Sandra says, her voice barely above a whisper. "That's what the twelve-step is based on, that's what rehab's based on, that's what every damned intervention is based on. Not trusting yourself. Giving up your ability to control your own fucking life, in exchange for getting sober. Letting other people control what you eat, what you drink, what meds you take, even when you sleep." She inhales deeply, holds her breath for a second, and sighs. "It's a great way to get sober, but it's a horrible way to live."

She pauses, staring out at the road with surprising intensity, and it's pretty obvious that she's trying hard to remain emotionless. House looks away in an attempt to give Sandra some privacy—and because he doesn't want her to figure anything out about him. Sandra's smarter than she first appears, obviously, and apparently the woman has more secrets than a Swiss bank.

If he were to be honest with himself, however, he'd admit that he's also avoiding Sandra's gaze because there's part of him who thinks that she's damned right.

It's the same part of him drove him out of his apartment and to a bar so ridiculously far-away...

Even though everything was packed up in boxes, House didn't think that the loft looked too much different, and that only served to remind him exactly how...temporary...his stay with Wilson had been. He took another look at the room, ducking down as far as he could with his ruined thigh (which isn't that far at all), double-checking that he hadn't left anything behind, absolutely refusing to feel anything. Because it wouldn't matter—he was getting kicked out, and there was nothing he could do about it. Logically, he knows that letting himself feel the pain of betrayal won't change a damned thing—and logically he knows that he really shouldn't be feeling betrayed. He should have always known that his stay with Wilson would always be temporary; that, sooner or later, his position in the loft would be usurped by some needy woman.

At first, he hadn't really allowed himself to believe that his stay could be permanent—partially because he didn't think Wilson thought it was permanent, and partially because he didn't know how he could take it if he raised his hopes and then got them crushed.

It didn't help that the loft had remained under-furnished for over a month. House had always associated buying furniture with staying in one place for a decent amount of time. After all, when his family moved, he could gauge how long they would stay by the amount of time they spent purchasing furniture. Pre-furnished house in some military town? Probably less than a year, if even that. If they bought one of those prefabricated rooms in some random furniture, they'd probably stay for a year, maybe three. At most.

But if his mother spent weeks pouring over Better Homes and Garden Magazine, that meant they'd stay for a while. There were only two times in his childhood where he stayed in one place for longer than three years—first grade to fifth grade, because his father felt that a proper (aka American) accent would be a necessity in life and having good role models in the younger years was a Very Good Thing. And then again for the last three years of high school, when House attended a prestigious boarding school that was well known for being an Ivy prep school. His mother had furnished all three places—both houses she and House's father had lived in and House's dorm room as well. And although he protested every single object she dragged in, he had to admit that he'd secretly been pleased. She was investing her time and mental effort in him—that had to mean that she cared, right?

Yeah, it was probably this not-so-subconscious association that kept him wondering, night after night, if everything was for real or if the whole thing was yet another house of cards that would come crashing down. It probably didn't help that at least part of him kept on wondering if he was actually still trapped in Mayfield, still trapped in his own mind in some padded room somewhere. If he could hallucinate Cuddy, it was perfectly damned possible that he could have hallucinated his own recovery. Was currently hallucinating his recovery.


Shocked out of his rather pathetic inner monologue, House spun around, trying to make the movement look purposeful and graceful. "That is indeed my name."

Wilson leaned awkwardly against the doorframe, one hand perched on his hip. "I cleaned out your apartment."

House didn't reply. On one hand, he knew that Wilson cleaning out his apartment meant nothing—Wilson didn't know where all his old stashes are. Hell, House himself probably didn't remember where exactly he's hidden Vicodin over the years. On the other, he supposed that the gesture had to mean something. The fact that Wilson had actually taken time away from the harpy to do something for House, to help House find his independence again...and to get House out of Wilson's way? Put that way, the gesture didn't seem quite so nice.

"Need help?" Wilson offered. "I could help you load your car."

"I think I can manage," House sniped back. "Go screw the harpy or something." He grabbed a box and strode quickly out of the room, trying to ignore Wilson's hurt expression.

By the third box, House was wishing that he had taken Wilson up on his offer. It was difficult to juggle boxes and canes, he wasn't used to this type of manual labor, and his thigh was starting to revolt. This was not a good idea. He shoved the third box into his Corvette and decided that he could hire someone to move the rest. Maybe going by the nearest high school with a couple of Wilson's fifty-dollar bills would work. If everyone thought that an aging man with a cane was a bit too creepy, though, he'd look online and use Wilson's credit card.

As it turned out, there were a pair of football jocks gullible or poor enough to accept fifties and, surprisingly enough, they dutifully shuttled all of House's belongings from the loft to the apartment and left with only the smallest amount of teenage behavior. House suspected that they may have pitied him, which ordinarily would have annoyed him, but today he was in too much pain to care. Moving those three boxes on his own earlier hadn't been the brightest of ideas.

Unlike the loft, the apartment looked miserably empty, which didn't help House's mood at all. Every bit of furniture was covered by tarps and enough spider webs to house a couple hundred spiders. The apartment definitely did not look like home and it would take a fuck load of work to make it look like home again. With a sigh, he wandered into his kitchen, realized that either he'd left a few cans of Spaghetti-Os or Wilson had been kind enough to stock a few days of food for him. Probably the former, since Wilson didn't bother to remove the tarps or the spiderwebs. But that would take too long, especially since it was difficult nowadays to find Wilson not attached to the hip to the harpy, outside of work. Literally and figuratively.

He limped into his bedroom, noticing that Wilson at least had the decency to make the bed, and he paused outside the bathroom. He told himself that he was being stupid; that the hiding place was really obvious and that Wilson probably had already found it, that there were no pills behind the mirror and even if there were pills there, he could be strong enough not to take them. He didn't get sober for Cuddy or for Wilson, House tried to convince himself. He did it for himself, to get rid of Cutthroat Bitch appearing in his head.

Instead, he turned away, retreating, not even bothering to lock the front door in his haste to get away. He got onto the motorcycle and floored the accelerator, fleeing from the demons in his mind.

Posted: 21 July 2010

1: Massachusetts General Hospital. Disclaimer: This is a real place that is not affiliated with this story in any way.

AN: Idiot me didn't look up the weight of a motorcycle before I wrote this. I assumed it was around 200-250 lbs, which would be an okayish amount of weight for Sandra to lift. Then I decided to take a look and found that motorcycles can weigh significantly more than that. Oops. Please...just suspend your disbelief for this. The timeline won't work out if the motorcycle stays behind, so...yeah...sorry about that.