She watched him sleep. It was a peaceful, sleep. Of that, she was certain. More or less so. She hoped with all her being that
it would not be a permanent sleep.
It was the fifth day. He had gone to her with the idea two weeks earlier. As usual,
she dismissed the the very notion as insane. And it was. And untested in the US. And fraught with danger. But then he played
his trump card. "It's not working anymore, Cuddy. I'm on as much Vicodin as I can be without compromising my medical judgment,
not to mention several of my internal organs. I didn't know what else to do." Morphine. Taken it just once or twice, he said
anyway. When the pain, he said, had hit a ten on the scale. He was at a loss as to what else he could do.
He was trying
to sound responsible when he described his personal crash kit, kept sequestered out of easy reach in the far corner of his
apartment. She hadn't bothered to ask when he had assembled it, his special first aid kit, fully equipped, syringes included.
He had been about to inject himself "with my secret stash" when she had phoned with the the Crandall case. It had been his
day off. And the morphine would have allowed him to sleep it off, with the fervent hope that the pain level would have, by
the next day, subsided to a five or six. Manageable with enough Vicodin.
House had not wanted to take that step. He
had resisted it, delayed it as long as he could. Tried to ignore the decreasing time between Vicodin doses; tried to ignore
the terrible and ever-present knife edge of pain. Tried to convince himself that it was "all in his screwed up head." "You
told me that, Cuddy. But you were wrong. Sort of."
"It's in my head, but not how you think," he had declared flipping
the journal onto her desk that day two weeks earlier.
"I'm supposed to read this? How?"
"Doesn't everyone read
German? Tsk, tsk, Cuddy. Want me to translate?"
"How many languages do you speak, anyway?"
Hmm... Never could count. I have no idea. Ketamine, Cuddy. Stay on topic."
"Veterinary tranquilzer. With ya so far."
undergoing clinical trials in Germany on alleviating localized chronic pain. Good success. Great success, actually for the
"What about here?"
"Not yet. Trials are being set for next year, but not currently."
yourself for one of the upcoming trials. Or do you want a leave of absence to travel to the Continent?
lost all mirth, all mischief, all sense of the game. When Cuddy looked at his face, she saw eyes full of suffering, pleading
for understanding. Begging for it. It unnerved her to see the level of raw vulnerability in his expression. "I need you to
do this." It was a whispered plea. She barely heard it. He found his voice again. "I'll walk you through the entire procedure.
Translate the paper and all of the supporting documents for you. You'll know everything you need to know to do the procedure
safely. My life depends on it." A wan smile appeared.
"I can't live like this anymore, Cuddy. The Vicodin barely works.
I'm taking too much. My liver will need to be on the replacement plan within a year. Morphine works, but I can't think clearly
when I take enough to block the pain. But the pain makes it impossible for me to do my job. To do anything." The admission
had cost House. His dignity. His pride. His expression brough tears to Cuddy's eyes.
"How long? How long has the pain
been this bad. Since Stacy left? It's.."
"No. Before that. Stacy was a nice distraction from it, but, no. It's been
several months. That little placebo thing you did? It was a cute move. But it was simple placebo effect. Mitigated the pain,
but not for long. It's not a conversion disorder, despite what you and Jimmy think.
"I bought it for a while. The idea
that it could be psych pain. It's not."
By the next morning, House had translated the article and three months' correspondence
between House and the primary researcher in Germany, as well as 100 pages of notes. By late afternoon, House presented Cuddy
with a monograph, including a step-by-step procedure; potential side effects and fixes for them during the procedure.
impressed. So when do you want to do it? As I understand it, you'll be out of it for five days, then we bring you back, and
voila! No pain."
"I realize it won't bring back muscle that isn't there. There will still be a limp, and I'll probably
still need a cane. Which is a good thing. That cane is used for all sorts of things. I'd sort of miss it. But even if I don't
I might just carry it around with me. It's a real chick magnet."
"Yeah, right." Cuddy was delighted to see House's
eyes light again.
"How about one week from today. Read the notes, the correspondence. Hot reading. Spicy, even."
"Wilson knows. He doesn't approve, but he knows. Don't say anything to the Scooby-gang. It might not
work. I might not survive it."
"Don't be such a drama queen."
"Ketamine has some interesting side-effects. Some
of them are permanent." Now his eyes grew serious. "I need to ask you this, Cuddy. Say no or say yes. It's up to you." Cuddy
tilted her head, ready.
"If my brain function is significantly impaired....If...Cuddy...don't let me live like that.
Inject the line with enough morphine to make the sleep...permanent. I won't be able to..."
"You know I can't agree
to euthenasia. You'll have to live with the outcome, whatever it is. I'm sorry." He was standing in her personal space. Cuddy
reached up and touched his cheek to keep his eyes focused on what she was about to say. "This procedure isn't even legal here.
What I am doing, I'm doing out of respect for you and the hope that this might make a little of what happened to you right
again. Don't ask me to further violate my license..."
House's expression hardened. "I won't live mentally impaired.
Just so you understand that." Cuddy looked away, understanding that he spoke the truth to her. "Have dinner with me. On me."
Another mercurial mood swing. It was exhausting her.
Cuddy had never been to House's apartment. She was in awe of his
library. She guessed that he had at least 2000 volumes lining the walls. She wandered the living room as he got wine glasses
and plates for the Thai feast they had carried from a local eatery. She picked up a leather-bound volume. Cuddy's eye was
drawn to it because of the florid Hebrew script on the spine. She had no idea what it said and had no desire to be quizzed
on her lacking Hebrew skills should House emerge suddenly from the kitchen. She quickly replaced the volume and moved on.
continued her exploration and found herself sitting at a beautiful baby grand piano. She smiled at seeing an electric guitar
sitting haphazardly on it, cord trailing from the guitar to an ancient Fender amplifier sitting against the wall. An accident
waiting to happen. "Hey, House!" she called into the kitchen. "You got a band?"
"Had. Just me now." He emerged from
the kitchen fulled loaded with everything they needed for dinner. "I assume you know how to use chopsticks?"
transpired with no discussion of the procedure. "So, Cuddy. No more injections? Given up on finding that perfect sperm donor?"
No more injections," she responded sadly.
"Change your mind? The pitter-patter of tiny feet no longer appealing?"
were right, House. I was going about it in the wrong way. Right reasons: I still want a baby; wrong way. Play something."
A deflection, to be sure. But she had never heard him play.
"Cold Pad Thai is an abomination. Eat first, concert after."
wondered why House kept this charming alter-ego boxed up and shelved. He was solicitous and gracious. Cuddy kept the conversation
alive and lighthearted as he asked about his book collection and the eclectic array of knick-knacks scattered about the apartment.
Her pleasure at his company was occasionally broken as she caught a slight gasp or wince with each change of his position.
These became more frequent as dinner progressed. House's conversation grew more and more sparse. Cuddy realized that he hadn't
taken a pill in the entire time they had been together, hours ago. Back at the office.
"House? Are you OK?"
think it's about time for that concert. What's your pleasure? Bach? Handel? No Rachmaninov today. How about Scott Joplin,
that more your style? I don't do Barry Manilow or Elton John. Now Dr. John...that's another story. Thelonious Monk?"
walked with difficulty to the piano bench. He left his cane near the coffee table, where they had been eating. As he sat,
he was unconsciously rubbing his right thigh. Without waiting for her response, he began a Joplin rag, it's intricacy mesmerizing
Cuddy made her way over to the piano, leaning against it in a bad impression of a a sultry ballad singer. House
occasionally looked up at her, a gleam in his eye. Suddenly, House hit a wrong note. He slammed his closed fist on the keys,
causing Cuddy to jump backwards, startled.
House was clutching his right thigh with his right hand, furiously massaging
the area just above the knee. "House what is it? What can I do?" His respiration rate was rapid and a sheen of perspiration
appeared on his forehead, glinting in the dim light of the living room. His eyes were shut tight at the pain. "Give me a number."
Box...top shelf of...there..." He motioned with his head towards the bookshelf Cuddy had been eyeing earlier. Cuddy asked
no questions, seeing the small step ladder. She was back in a few seconds, opening it as she ran towards him.
long has it been since you've taken it?"
"12...no...15 hours. 10cc. IV."
"House are you sure....?"
me the goddamned box. His speech was difficult, spat out between gasps. Cuddy was sure he was going to hyperventilate." He
reached out towards her hand to grab the box. Cuddy noted that his hand was trembling.
"I'll do it House. I just wanted
to make certain that.." She wasn't exactly sure of what. Cuddy applied the tourniquet and administered the dose. Placing the
box and spent syringe on the piano, she extended her hand to him, not expecting him to accept her help. He looked at her finally
as the drug began to slowly erase the severity of the pain.
"Thank you. For this." He looked away from her. He rose
with difficulty and returned to the sofa. Cuddy followed closely behind, sitting near him as he lowered his body slowly into
the leather. House's breathing slowed as the memory of the pain receded.
"Six. Tolerable." To whom,
she wondered? He looked spent. Exhausted.
"Do you want me to go? Tuck you in and say goodbye?"
"That's not how
it works. You tuck me in, you gotta stay." He smiled halfheartedly. "Don't go...you didn't finish your wine. Hand me my glass."
way. Morphine and red wine are not a pretty cocktail."
"Everyone's a bartender." Cuddy breathed a little easier at
the smile in House's eyes.
"I'm sorry, House. I didn't understand. I didn't believe...You never let anyone see..."
Explanations fell flat. "Does Wilson know how bad it's gotten?"
"He thinks it's in my head."
stick to oncology. He's better at it."
"Make me better, Cuddy." His eyes pleaded.
"We don't know that it will
work. You need to understand that."
"Hey you're talking to the biggest skeptic in the AMA, remember? And don't forget,
I don't believe in hope."
"Oh yeah. Forgot that one. Number?"
"Still six. Looks like that's where it will stay."
I have given you more? You're a pretty big guy."
House leered. "You have no idea. Wanna find out?" She punched him
in the arm.
"Any more morphine and my thinking will be completely compromised."
"I know. Here.
Prop your leg up on my lap."
"Why...Dr. Cuddy!" Another leer. House pulled his right leg up to rest on Cuddy's lap
as she moved closer to him. He rested his back against the arm of the sofa.
"Close your eyes." He obeyed. As Cuddy
rubbed the area she had seen House clutching earlier, she felt the muscles relax. House remained still. For a moment she thought
he was asleep. She watched him in repose. His handsome face, so often creased with pain and hard living, seemed devoid of
lines as he relaxed into her touch. She stopped after awhile, thinking him asleep. His eyes popped open.
hands and shoulders needed a break." House sat up, manoevering his leg back onto the ground.
"Sorry. I always repay
my debts. Face away from me." Gregory House had enormous hands. As they worked the muscles in Cuddy's back and shoulders,
she thought that she had died and gone to heaven. He massaged her shoulders for a long time. She pulled away, deeply relaxed.
"Pleasure's all mine," he leered noting the flush about her face and chest. Cuddy glanced at her wrist. God.
It's 2 a.m. I've got to get home."
"To what? Got a hot chat room date?"
"Gotta feed the fish sometime."
now it was the fifth and final day of the ketamine-induced dissociative state. Tomorrow they would bring him out of it, and,
if all went well, he would lie to his team about a great vacation in the Catskills. If not...
His hand had slipped
off the matress. She took it, and pulling her chair closer, entwined her fingers in his and prayed for the first time since
she was a teenager.