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Carrot or Stick
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by TelegramSam

Dr. Cuddy shook her head for the millionth time as she walked by the Diagnostic Medicine lounge next to Dr. House’s office. For a year, she could count on seeing first one, then two young doctors sitting in there, typing at a computer or doing crossword puzzles at any given point in time--now there were three. She’d hoped that goading House into taking on a staff would inspire him to actually do something. For the second day in a row, though, the third was doing the exact same thing as the first two: sitting on his ass, and from the looks of it, becoming quite annoyed at the lack of activity. The blinds around Dr. House’s office were closed, as usual.

 

She pulled herself away from the window and continued her journey back to her office. Dropping the files she was carrying onto her desk, she sat and turned her chair toward the window and peered out at the grey clouds covering the sky down to the horizon. She remembers what he used to be like. He’d never been particularly cuddly at any point in his life, but he was never like he is now. He used to laugh often. He’d always had a sarcastic sense of humor and joked around with patients and other doctors, but it wasn’t in the scathing and condescending manner he was currently so fond of. He’d once been athletic and active, one of those men who never stood still and fidgeted constantly. Dr. Wilson told her that he used to play lacrosse in college and afterward on weekends with some buddies, before the infarction. He still had a frantic energy about him, but now it was more like a bee buzzing around futilely inside a jar.

 

The guilt still niggled at her occasionally. They should have seen it before the damage was permanent. She’d had her best doctors on him the second the pain finally brought him down to his knees in the hallway that morning. If only he’d said something sooner! It was too late now to second guess though. Nothing would change what happened.

 

It had been painful watching him during recovery, struggling to do something as simple as walk across the room. He’d done far better than anybody had expected him too. She counted the fact that he wasn’t confined to a wheelchair half the day as blessing. His attitude, however, had not fared nearly so well as his leg, bad as that was. At first he had been optimistic, flirting with the nurses, joking around with the physical therapist...

 

When it became obvious that he’d never run down a field again, obvious that people would be looking at him with pity or scorn (he preferred the latter, cultivated it even) for the rest of his life, he began withdrawing, pushing away everyone who had ever cared. The woman he’d been living with moved out, the lacrosse buddies quit calling or visiting, even his mother only called him now and then to make sure he was still alive. Only Wilson stayed by his side, despite all of House’s efforts to shoo him away as well.

 

She hadn’t said anything or done anything, despite the worry. She thought that he would improve after returning to work. Give him a few weeks, she told herself. He started refusing to do clinic duty after about three days. He didn’t like the simpering pity-stares he got from patients. She understood the feeling and acquiesced, seeing no harm in giving him a few weeks off to learn how to deal with it. That was okay for a while, if he needed space. He’d come around eventually, she thought. The depression would lift, he would start cracking real jokes again instead of just using sarcasm to knock people off at the knees.

 

Weeks turned into months. Months turned into six years, and he’d only gotten worse with the passage of time. He didn’t take on even interesting cases related to his field anymore unless someone twisted his arm, never mind the clinic. She wished she knew how to lure him out of the dark hole he’d dug himself into, but she was wise enough to know that any direct attempt on her part would only make him wedge himself in further. He didn’t trust her, not anymore. She wondered if he trusted anyone these days, even Wilson.

 

Perhaps a more forceful approach would work. Besides, there was no reason to let three perfectly good young doctors go to waste. She knew now that if she was going to get him to rejoin the human race, she’d have to drag him kicking and screaming. Wilson had recently gotten him to take on a case, a cousin of his. That was a start. Perhaps it was time to take the next step, and push him back into his obligation to the clinic. She'd tried the carrot route far too long. Now it was time to try the stick. She only prayed that it wouldn’t push him right out the door, or she knew he’d be lost to them forever.

Feed the auhtor!

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