Summary: Because the world needed another post-Role Model fic: "There should be a vaccine for this. A salve. A pill."
He glanced at the clinic waiting room as he strode past the glass doors, noting with disgust the mother allowing her four-year-old son to cough all over a little girl with one arm in a sling. In a week the boy would be all better and the girl would have bronchitis as well as a sprained wrist and her family would profess to have no idea where she could have picked it up.
Concentrate all the sick, broken people in one place, wall them up and watch them pass their illnesses one to the other, a game of germ-telephone.
Chase had clinic duty this week. House watched as he gently separated the boy from his sputum-target, and leaned down into his face to ask him questions. The boy's face lit up, he started to laugh, and his mother smiled.
House kept walking.
Love is an illness of attrition. It wears away at immune defenses and prolonged exposure to the source strips the insulation from the nerves until you're nothing but mangled synapses, live wires crackling and sparking, the scent of carbon scorching your sinuses.
He picked his doctors thinking they'd keep the patients away from him. It worked for a while. Then they started keeping him away from himself.
He should have tested them for this. Too late now. They'd contaminated everything. There wasn't enough disinfectant in the hospital to eradicate all the microbes.
He had the antibodies to Wilson's secretary's offer of coffee one night. He'd built up resistance to the passing urge to hit on Cuddy. Wilson's friendship, admittedly a weakness, House classified as an exception, a vice like the Vicodin and the sarcasm. Nothing else got through, not for years.
And now, felled by the common cold.
Foreman looked with admiration at an overtanned weasel from LA and something twisted in his gut. Two hours later he was shouting philosophy at him, shouting about medicine and meaning, wanting Foreman to understand.
Cameron handed him a Christmas gift and he lost the power of speech. He wishes she'd stop intruding, with her watchful gaze and her silent warm presence at his back. He hates how much he wants to be what she sees when she looks at him.
Then, Chase. Who went to Vogler, and the moment he stops kidding himself he realizes about a third of what he hates about that is losing the younger man's trust.
There should be a vaccine for this. A salve. A pill. Liquor assuages the symptoms and cruelty puts the disease in remission but last week Foreman went to get a sandwich and brought him back a Ruben without his even asking, and it flared up again.
"Which one of them are you avoiding?"
Damn Wilson and his godamned perception.
"I'm not avoiding anyone."
Wilson, he notes with some amusement, has begun to pick and choose. He no longer challenges every lie House tells. Not even when House shows up in his office at two in the afternoon and sits on the edge of the desk playing Tetris for forty-five minutes.
He enters his score and turns, and there again, it's the gaze of an endlessly patient schnauzer.
"You don't want to fire either of them." Wilson's tone is level, it's not a revelation. "You don't."
"Should I be here for this conversation or do the two of you want to be alone?"
"Quit snapping at me when you really want to yell at Vogler."
House knocked the cane over. The clatter of it against Wilson's slate floor makes them both jump.
"No, I don't want to fire them." He picks the cane up and hauls himself toward the door. "Happy now, Mom?"
How on earth, he thinks as he slams it behind him, did I allow this to happen?
There is always the solace of blaming Cuddy, of course.
When Cuddy handed him this job and told him about the team he'd be able to hire, she didn't mention it would lead to this. There's a beautiful girl in his living room. That certainly wasn't in the brochure.
If it was just her outstretched hand. If it was just her brave and broken smile. If it was just that, it would be one thing.
But it's not.
It's that two weeks ago during a midnight shift over a particularly troublesome and, as it turned out, asthmatic patient, he and Chase had fallen into a conversation about bad dates and he found himself laughing. He and Foreman don't argue as much anymore, and he actually feels good about that.
He thinks he hurt Cuddy earlier, with his insinuations she was somehow enjoying Vogler's pointless torture. He feels like a heel, like he should apologize to her.
And the only time he really felt tempted to deck Vogler was when the man threatened Wilson's job.
This has to stop.
When she closes the door behind her, he wonders why he doesn't feel relieved.