The heavy 12-bar blues suited House’s
mood perfectly. An intricate improvisation in a minor mode, unresolved into diminished seventh chords and back into the melancholy
rhythm of the main theme. “Stacy’s Blues.” Someday he’d construct lyrics. Someday in the far flung
future when it stopped hurting; when the hemorrhage in his heart and soul had staunched and clotted over. When Stacy was merely
a memory. Never.
A shock of pain shot up his right leg from the knee to the hip. That was new. He stood, grabbing his
cane, nearly collapsing in agony as he put the typical light pressure on the ball of his foot for balance. House fell into
the overstuffed leather chair, breathing rapidly, quickly reviewing the possible causes. It hadn’t been that long since
his last Vicodin. Only an hour. 100 mg. He had increased the dose slightly after he had begun to feel an uptick in his pain
level before leaving for Baltimore with Stacy. But it had been nothing this severe.
House tried to level his
breathing and will his mind to control the pain at least enough that he could stand up. The likely prospect was that it was
a cramp. Right. A cramp. Get some quinine in the morning, it’ll be fine. It always unnerved him slightly when some random
pain hit him in his right leg. He sought the source, applying pressure to relax the spasming muscle.
As his breathing
normalized, House glanced at his wristwatch. Should be over right about now. Stacy’s farewell party. Cuddy, Wilson et
al. In an hour she should be back on her way to Short Hills and Mark, case closed. Mark was now walking on his own and even
his cane would be history in a few short weeks. Done. Finished. Over. The pain was less now. House relaxed his shoulders,
closing his eyes. Baltimore. Yeah. Baltimore. He sent her away, back home to where she could be the center of someone’s
universe. Something she could never be to House. And he knew that.
Her presence in House’s life would do more
for himself than her, he reckoned. He would suck her dry and leave her heart and soul in the same tattered ruin his own were.
Or she would leave him again. Probably the more likely scenario. His mind went back to Baltimore
one more time. The feel of Stacy, her lips, her eyes heavy with desire; his own desperate need for her, to feel alive again—if
only for a night. He still loved her. He would never not love her; want her. But she was no longer his to have. For that,
he blamed Stacy.
“You know one of us has to resign. And I was here first.” It had come out more cruelly
than he had intended. “Go home. Go back to Mark. But be a lawyer somewhere else. Not on my turf.” Stacy had been
puzzled by the coldness in his voice. He knew that. It seemed random, but while she slept, curled against his chest, House
had not. He thought and considered the possibilities. Had she meant it in throes of passion that her marriage was over? That
she was free to be with him? What if she did come back to him? What then? What would be different than it had five years earlier?
Would she be prepared for the depressed wreck he had become? She would try to be the “good woman” and try to change
him. But would he even want to change—that much? He had, these five years, grown accustomed to the isolation; the loneliness.
Being alone. And then there was the resentment, still there somewhere. Never very far from the surface every time he stumbled
or couldn’t keep up, or cursed the slowness of the hospital elevators. No, this would never work out. Never. And he
needed her to know. Stacy would protest his arguments. All of them. That none of it mattered to her. He liked to think that,
anyway—that she’d believe it.
It would have to be clean and decisive. Made with sharp scalpel. So House
told her. At first, Stacy looked hurt and then betrayed. She had reopened herself to the possibility and he had stepped on
it, murdering it in cold blood.
So it was over. Done. She hated him again, but this time on his own terms and House
could live with that. The pain subsided enough to return to the piano. As he stood, House heard a soft knock at the door.
He glanced around quickly for his cane. It was out of reach. He grimaced, limping heavily towards the door. Looking through
the peephole, he frowned. Stacy.
House sighed deeply, opening the door. Expecting the full force of Stacy’s anger
to be unleashed upon him. Baltimore morning redux. He struck
first. “Where’s Mark?”
“We had two cars. He’s on his way home.” The expected edge
to her voice was still there. Good.
“To what do I owe…” He turned up the volume on “full jerk
“We need to talk.”
“I thought we’d said it all, Stacy. In Baltimore.”
“I need to know why.”
It was mistake. A one-night-stand. Whatever you want it to have been. Done. Can I be more clear, or should I put it in a song?”
I know you, Greg. I’ve seen you cruel, hateful, cold, hurtful and angry. But I’ve also seen you loving and gentle…and
in love. Even you’re not that good an actor. I know what I felt from you that night. It had…”
drew the shutters tighter and it cost him. He realized he had been standing too long without the support of his cane and he
wavered. House turned back into the room towards the armchair. His poor gait shocked Stacy, who didn’t remember it having
been this bad, even without support. Her heart fluttered with concern. House reached the chair, stumbling into it awkwardly.
House’s resolve began to crumble with the exertion. He looked down and away from Stacy’s eyes, trying
desperately to recapture it. When he looked up, she had crouched next to him at his eye level. His own eyes refused to harden
against her, betraying the words he intended to say. He simply stared at her. Daring her. Waiting.
“I know what
you’re trying to do, Greg. Your Rick Blaine impression is pretty convincing and would be to anyone else. But not to
me. For what it’s worth, I probably will be happier going back to Mark. He’ll dote on me. You never would. He’ll
buy me flowers and write me stupid poems. I will be his world. But know that I will always love you. And even more for this,
this half-assed bit of self-sacrifice. And know that I will always worry about you.” Stacy leaned in, kissing House
tenderly on his rough cheek. House turned toward her, allowing it. Allowing her to know. She kissed his closed eyes. It was
all he could do to not return her kisses. Still as stone, willing himself to not move, not allow himself to feel and failing
miserably. And then she was gone. For good. Forever.
House located his cane, and pushing himself up from the arm chair,
made his way back to the piano. Monk. He was in the mood for Thelonious Monk: melancholy, insane genius Monk.