By the time House glanced up again, Cameron had silently left his side. How long he had been standing vigil over a ratty,
blood stained carpet, he was not certain. House’s eyes shifted to his left hand, which had now cramped, clutched around
the Playstation handheld game. He turned to move, retreat into his private domain, ease himself into comfortable Eames chair
and simply sit. The muscles in House’s right shoulder, back and right quad screamed in stiffness and pain as he began
to retreat from the threshold. He had been standing there a long time.
House had meant to grab his iPod and headphones
on his way to the chair, and now, looking up, saw it sitting on the ledge of his desk, across the room. House briefly considered
getting up and retrieving his music, thinking better of it as his right leg protested the very idea of moving. The iPod had
been the source of his remaining sanity these past few weeks. The music playing in his ears had kept at bay the images and
thoughts that competed for attention in his head, allowing him to not think too deeply about anything. Anything at all.
was late and House was weary. Bone-tired. But he knew sleep would not come easily. He jumped slightly in his chair, starting
to doze, but startled at the sound of a gunshot coming from deep inside his memory, watching as an anonymous shooter took
aim again. He knew that closing his eyes against it would be fruitless. He bit his lower lip hard, willing himself calm.
House flipped the kid’s gift in his hands. He hadn’t even realized he’d still been holding it. He dropped
it in his lap and scrubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. He was so tired. If he’d any thoughts of actually falling
asleep, he’d need his iPod and a little bit Handel. House had resolved to stand and retrieve it when he heard his office
door open. Cameron. Why hadn’t she left and in so doing left him alone?
No. Not Cameron. The perfume was wrong.
“I saw your light on…I was going to...” He looked up at her and saw what he did not want
to see. Her eyes were compassionate, moist with worry. Great. He did not need this.
“So,” he interrupted,
“I’m still here. You’ve done your energy conservation duty. I haven’t carelessly left my office lights
She gestured towards his darkened outer office. “Old and blood-stained carpet back in place?
Must be, or you’d be camped next door. You know, it’s a few weeks premature for Halloween.”
I’m really, really tired. Long day at the office. Trying to get some sleep. Actually, if you wouldn’t mind going
over to my desk and bringing me my iPod. I would be truly grateful. It’s kind of hard for me to…” She glanced
unconsciously at his leg propped on the ottoman and a frisson of regret fled through her nerve endings.
aware of what House had been through these past three or four months, but she hadn’t really considered the impact. House
the jerk. House the bastard, miserable to all. She looked at him now, dark circles beneath his eyes, rail thin. He resembled,
more than anything a broken marionette. His eyes reflected a weariness that his words and actions tried their best to mask.
She sighed, retrieving the mp3 player. She pulled one of his desk chairs over and sat.
“I thought we’d
decided that I was going to sleep, and you were leaving.”
“Good point. But why are you sleeping here? Having
the carpet changed in your apartment, too? Decided you liked the macabre theme all round?”
“It is my office.
Last time I looked at the door, anyway. Where I sleep is my business. Unless your offer’s still good…you know
about the ovulating thing…we could go to your office. You have the sofa and all…” She wasn’t buying
“How’s the leg.” It was more a statement. An opening salvo, more than a question. She knew the
answer, of course, but wanted it from him.
“Still there. Hard to miss, especially the right one.” He was
too tired, too weary for this. He didn’t feel like arguing.
Cuddy allowed him his dignity. She didn’t
push further on that one. She noticed the game in his lap. “New toy?” A pause. “I heard about the boy. What
you did. Congratulations.” House looked away. This was almost worse than discussing his leg.
know what Wilson told you, but I don’t have Aspergers. And I did not see myself in that kid. Wilson’s an OK oncologist,
but he should stay away from psych.”
“That’s not why I let you have your carpet back.” Now
House was curious. He looked up again, able to look up again. He arched an eyebrow at her, requesting that she go on. “You
don’t know, yourself, do you? Why you wanted it back in the first place. You couldn’t explain it to me, to Wilson,
not even yourself, so you pushed our buttons, pushed me.” It unnerved him that she knew, and still returned it to him.
It disarmed him.
“Then why?” he managed. “Why relent?” Now it was her turn to look away. But
it was only for a moment.
“What you’ve been through these last weeks. No one should have to endure. Not
even you.” He knew she wasn’t referring to the shooting. “I can’t even begin to imagine what it must
be like for you. You clearly needed that carpeting. For you own reasons. I was wrong to remove it without telling you first.
I was wrong to not tell you about your Addison’s diagnosis. Consider it an act of repentance.” She left it at
that, knowing that any more would sound like pity.
He was afraid to say anything, feeling exposed. Feeling that his
voice would betray him.
“Thank you.” He paused, sighing. She had a right to know. “My leg…is back
to where it was just before… It’s as if… Those eight weeks. It’s almost as if they didn’t exist.
Like it was a fucking cruel hallucination…” He hated himself for revealing so much to her. But what the Hell.
“That time…when I could…when the pain…when the ketamine was working…” he composed
himself again. “I felt alive for the first time in years. When a patient looked at me, he didn’t see ‘cripple,’
he saw ‘doctor.’ When a woman looked at me, I didn’t have to wonder if she was looking at my leg or at my
ass…” Cuddy smiled.
“Yeah, well, I never did look at your leg.” She knew what he was revealing
to her, but she also knew he’d regret it five minutes afterwards. She gave him the out.
of an ass-man, myself.”
“So I noticed. I never saw anyone take so long to prep an injection site. And I
am not pregnant. And I was telling the truth to you about the ovulation thing. Although it’s probably too late by now,
House was stunned. What was she asking? Exactly. “You asking me to donate to your cause?”
some sleep. You look like Hell.” She glanced down at the game unit, still perched on his lap. “Some gift you got
from that kid. House… This search for meaning…”
“Wilson’s got a big mouth…”
is why it’s you that I trust…What you’re looking for… You already have it. It’s right there.
I see it every time you watch a patient leave here by the front door. On his own. I see it every time you argue with me over
a patient’s right to live…or to die…” She trailed off, understanding that he wouldn’t see it
that way. He’d see it as simply his “job,” and nothing more than that. “About the donation thing,
we’ll talk about it tomorrow. We need to think through the delivery method…that is, if your willing…”
Grinning coyly down at him, she took her leave.
House sighed, closed his eyes, drifting away to Handel’s Water