Dr-House.com Fanfiction

Tuition 1-10

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By rtlemurs

Tuition- Chapters 1-10
By: rtlemurs
 

Disclaimer:

 

First and foremost I am not the creator of the characters portrayed in this writing they belong to somebody at FOX I’d guess. That having been said I am writing this purely for my enjoyment and thought others might enjoy it as well. I hope this covers it! Please don’t sue me I have nothing to give!

           

Next I want to say that I am in no way a medical anything so don’t complain about the accuracy of the medical information contained in this FanFic. I will try to be as accurate as possible but I can only spend so many hours in the library researching.

           

I am very open to constructive criticism but please don’t nitpick. I am not a professional writer; I do this for fun and to get the voices out of my head. Of course I will try to keep things rolling but I do have a life outside the Internet and sometimes the voices give me the silent treatment (commonly know as writers block).

           

Just as a little background; I started writing this after episode 6, having not seen the pilot, most parts of episode 2 and completely missing “Maternity”. The part about Cameron was written before I knew that she had been exposed but I liked the way I wrote it so now I am quickly covering my butt in Chapter 2. I have since picked up the DVD of the first episode and caught the repeats of episode 2 and “Maternity”. As this progresses remember that I do have a plot in mind and that things on the show in the future may contradict with what I’ve written. Please don’t write and tell me that this or that couldn’t have happened because in episode 12 so and so did such and such (I know, I watch the show remember?!) Just relax and read it and enjoy it for what it is.

           

Finally, thank you in advance for even bothering to read my scratching and as always your constructive criticism in welcomed.

 

 

Tuition

Chapter 1: The Gathering Storm

 

          It was early morning and the room was dark. He knew this before he even opened his eyes. The scotch had worn off and he hadn’t had any Vicodin since 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon. His leg was throbbing but not enough to wake him; his back had already done that. He couldn’t recall the last time he had experience a full night’s sleep that wasn’t alcohol induced. The anger started to heat up inside him but his bladder was insisting on his attention. He lay there a moment longer before building up the courage to let his body know he was awake. He gritted his teeth and sat up. His back tightened immediately and every nerve in his body woke in a most unpleasant way. His stomach lurched. He took a deep breath as he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and exhaled slowly.

           

          “After all this time you’d think you’d get used to it.” He reminded his body as he reached for the cane at his bedside. He limped into the adjacent bathroom and took a long satisfying leak. As he stood at the sink washing his hands the muscles in his back started to loosen a little but the pain persisted. He grabbed the cane with his right hand and limped off to get the bottle of Vicodin he had left on the piano.

 

          More than once he had been told he used his cane wrong and that it contributed to his pain but from his perspective it was better this way. If he used it properly his back wouldn’t tighten up, his shoulder wouldn’t hurt but the pain in his legs would be unbearable by noon even with the drugs. He needed to work; he couldn’t imagine not having somewhere to go each day. If this was how he did it so be it, anyway it was a perfect compliment to his attitude and unorthodox style. He loved messing with people, throwing them off balance. If they were off balance they wouldn’t ask questions and they certainly wouldn’t feel sorry for him.

 

 

As he entered the living room he glanced at the clock, 3:27 am. He groaned, he was still exhausted and it would be 4 hours before it would be time to leave. He opened the small bottle of pills and popped one in his mouth. He had become so accustom to the drug that once he took one his body knew it was time to get to busy. He would be wide-awake with no chance of getting back to sleep.

With the coffee brewing in the kitchen he took a shower and began to get ready for the day. After slipping on a pair of jeans he stood and hobbled over to the sink. He looked at himself in the mirror as he rubbed a towel through his hair. He noticed the gray at his temples was getting more pronounced. Actually he was surprised it hadn’t gotten worse earlier. He wasn’t a vain man and it didn’t bother him but he knew that other people noticed and made assumptions on appearance just like with his cane. A small part of his mind started to work on how he could use this to his advantage.

 

 

“To shave, or not to shave: That is the question” he said aloud as he ran his hand over the stubble on his chin. “Whether ‘tis more annoying to Cuddy to see the scruff and stubble or to take up razor against a sea of stubble and be rid of the itch?” He had always hated to shave but had made the effort at least once a week because he didn’t like that scruffy look. But now he was beginning to like it, mostly because it annoyed Dr. Lisa Cuddy. He smiled. He’d shave it off in a minute if he felt it would annoy her more. She just didn’t get it, not everything in medicine was clear-cut and clean. Sometimes you had to get dirty to get the job done. When nothing else worked you had to take chances. But sometimes no matter what you did the patient died.

 

 

The hot shower had relaxed his muscles and the Vicodin had dulled the pain. He pulled a white tee shirt on and grabbed a button-down off the back of the door on his way to the kitchen. Tossing the shirt over the back of a chair he took a coffee mug out of the dish rack and filled it. Steaming mug in hand he headed towards the desk. He paused at the window. The clouds drifted across the moon. It was full and lit up the playground in the park across the street. He took a sip of coffee and continued to the desk. It was time to log on and see what he could get into. He checked his email first and then began to surf. Occasionally he would head back to the kitchen for coffee, each time stopping in front of the window to check the sky. The clouds were getting heavier.

 

“I knew it.” He grimaced and glanced at the clock again. It was 5:30 and he debated whether he should call Wilson. He hated the bus in the rain but to ask for help was worse. Of course Wilson wouldn’t mind, it would give him the chance to pitch some new case or present a complaint from this doctor or that technician or whoever had been recently offended. He dropped his chin to his chest and squeezed his eyes shut.

 

“Not today.” He thought. “Maybe it would hold off and I’ll only need a ride home.” He opened his eyes and turned to go back to the computer.

 

“Mmmm positive thinking that’s new” he said with raised eyebrows and a slight smirk. He was feeling mischievous. He sat down at the computer and began to type.

 

“To Dr. Gregory House M.D.” he said as he typed “Dear Dr. House; you are my last hope. For two years now I have been from hospital to hospital. Seen doctor after doctor …” He typed for several minutes, pausing occasionally to read what he had written. There was a sparkle in his eye and a grin on his face. He had known for months that Dr. Cameron had been going through his mail. What was her game?

 

Normally people would write several times before they gave up on getting a consultation with him. Shortly after Cameron arrived he noticed a decline in the number of repeat requests. One busy afternoon he opened one of the repeats and it all fell into place. She was replying to these consultation requests. She told people that he was extremely busy and as much as he wanted to help them he just did not have the time. At first he was angry, these were complete lies and he had time to take any case he wanted. He didn’t need to apologize to any of these people! They should be apologizing to him for wasting his time on petty complaints and simple diseases that even their incompetent doctors should be able to diagnose with a few simple tests. It was a waste of his time, talent and intelligence to take any of these cases. If their disease were really such a mystery it would be coming to him through other channels. They just wanted him to hold their hand and tell them everything would be all right, tell them what they wanted to hear. Tell them that they didn’t have cancer and weren’t going to die in horrible pain in less than 6 months. He’d do no such thing and as far as he was concerned Cameron’s interference only encouraged these people to delude themselves. And she had the gall to make apologies for him! She was so wrapped up in giving people false hope that she didn’t see the damage she was doing. It was clouding her judgment and hurting any chance she had at becoming a great doctor. He decided to teach her a lesson and have some fun in the process.

 

He had started writing letters to himself under false names, reusing the envelopes from other letters with various postmarks. How far would he have to go to get her to come to him with a case and admit she had been in his mail? It was a great exercise in finding simple diseases that had very common symptoms, symptoms that could also be a rare and deadly disease. He mixed and matched and told gruesome stories of suffering and rejection. As yet she had not come forward with any of them. It was getting to be quite a challenge. He had tried every pitiful story he could think of yet she still hadn’t come to him and asked that he take the case. For a while he thought maybe she would go to Wilson with it because of the means in which she had gained the information and because most everyone knew that Wilson had a way of getting him to take cases. He just hoped that Cuddy never found that out. Each case Wilson had talked him into had been legitimate or at least a real patient. So she hadn’t gone to Wilson.

 

He finished the letter just as the clock chimed 6:00 and the urge to pee got stronger. He hit print and made his way to the bathroom. Since it hadn’t started to rain yet he decided to take the bus and grab some breakfast at the diner between the bus stop and the hospital. He returned with his shoes on and a sport jacket in hand. Taking the shirt off the back of the chair he slipped it on and did up the last four buttons. He’d have to be at the bus stop by 6:30 and it was at least a 15-minute walk. He gathered the files and papers he’d been working on last night and shoved them into his bag along with the letter he’d just printed. He checked the side pocket of the bag for his other pills and emergency supply of painkillers. Slipping the almost full bottle of Vicodin from the top of the piano into his jacket pocket he placed the bag’s strap over his shoulder. Grabbing his cane from beside the desk and headed for the door. He dropped the apartment key into his pants pocket as the door clicked shut.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Chapter 2: Poster Child

 

            It was still a little early when he arrived at the hospital. The pretty young receptionist looked up as he walked in. She knew Dr. House had a reputation for being tough to work with but she had never had a problem with him. She smiled.

           

           “Good morning Dr. House.” she said playfully.

           

           “Is Dr. Cuddy here?” he asked.

           

           “No she hasn’t arrived. Do you want me to let her know you’re looking for her?” she replied with a smile, knowing he was asking so he could avoid her.

           

           He leaned on the desk with his left elbow, a concerned look on his face. “If you could tell her that I have a patient with a really bad case of athlete’s foot and I need her extensive medical wisdom if there’s going to be any chance of saving the leg. Tell her I’ll be scrubbed and ready in Exam 1.”

           

           She laughed then asked, “Why do you do that? You know it aggravates her. She’s only doing her job.”

           

           “Exactly” he smiled and limped off towards the elevators.

           

           As he waited for the elevator a middle-aged couple walked up and waited with him. The man glanced over, immediately looking at the cane. He knew the man was looking at him. They continued to wait in silence and the man continued to size him up. House chanced a glance of his own. The man was looking at his cane again. House continued to look at the man. Out of habit he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the bottle of Vicodin. The movement distracted the man and he glanced up to find House looking at him. The man didn’t know what to do. A quick nervous smile played across his lips then he looked down at his shoes. House popped the Vicodin and returned the bottle to his pocket as he swallowed.

 

The man reached forward and punched the elevator button several times, clearly uncomfortable at being caught gawking. He looked up to see what floor the elevator was on. House watched them out of the corner of his eye. He wanted to turn and stare at them, give them a taste of their own medicine but he knew it didn’t accomplish anything. The most it ever did was make them so uncomfortable they would leave or make them so uncomfortable they would want to talk. Right now he didn’t want to talk so he continued to look up at the numbers above the elevator door. Finally the doors opened and the couple stood aside to allow him to enter first. He stepped onto the elevator and punched the 3. The couple entered and the woman reached across in front of him to push the 5. ‘Pediatrics’ he thought. ‘They’re here early, it must be bad.’

 

“Excuse me” the woman said “I know this may seem rude …”

 

‘Here it comes.’ he thought.

 

“I couldn’t help but notice your cane…”

 

He looked down at his cane. He gave a startled shrug and opened his mouth in shock as if he were surprised to see it. He looked at her with his best apologetic look “I guess I should have worn the black pants today, make it a little less uncomfortable for you.”

 

The woman stopped. She didn’t know what to say or do next. Fortunately the elevator had stopped on the third floor and the door opened. He limped off the elevator and the doors start to shut behind him. He had almost reached the corner when he heard the man’s voice “Amy. No, what are you doing?”

 

He rounded the corner and quickly went into his office hoping that she wouldn’t have the nerve to follow him in there. As he set his bag down on the desk the woman entered his office. He ignored her and opened his bag. “Please, I’m sorry I, I didn’t mean to offend you I just thought… My son just lost his leg.”

 

“I haven’t seen it. You may want to check at the front desk.” He said not looking at her. He began pulling folders out of his bag and dropping them on his desk. He knew what was coming and tried to get a handle on the anger boiling inside him.

 

She wasn’t sure how to take this so she gave a nervous little laugh and continued, “What I mean is he had to have it amputated and he’s having a tough time co…”

 

“And you thought maybe I could just pop in and give him a little pep talk. One cripple to another.” He interrupted her. He turned and looked at her with fire in his eyes. He made sure he had her attention and continued. “You want me to tell him it won’t change his life. How he can still have a happy normal life. That’s bullshit!” Her jaw dropped. The man had come back down in the elevator and was now entering the office. “It’s never the same and the best thing you can do for him is prepare him for that. Kids will make fun of him, call him names, or ignore him. They’ll push him down and steal his crutches or cane or whatever he ends up with They’ll trip him and watch him struggle to get up and laugh the whole time.”

 

“Amy come on, what are you doing?” The man said as he took her arm and tried to pull her away. He looked up at House. “I’m really sorry about this. Things are a little crazy right now. It’s been very emotional. I’m sorry if we bothered you.” He again tried to lead her out of the office but she resisted.

 

“What?” She said in angry disbelief. She yanked her arm out of her husband’s hand and turned her head to read the writing on the door then turned back to House. “You are a doctor aren’t you? You’re a doctor. You’re supposed to help people.”

 

“I am. That’s the reality of things, nothing will ever be the same for him and telling him it will isn’t helping him.” He said as he looked from the wife to the husband. He could tell the husband was thinking this over. He was considering what his reaction had been when he first saw House. House could only hope they got the message and didn’t mess up the kid’s life by lying to him. The silence stretched on. They both stood there looking at House. The anger started to drain away and his expression softened slightly.

 

“Of course I could go up there and lie to him if that’s what you really want but then I’d have to charge you for my time. Hospital policy. We’re not even allowed to give away a cold without billing.” He said leaning towards them as if letting them in on some great secret. The man put his arm around his wife and led her out.

 

That wasn’t the first time he’d been approached about situations like this. They all wanted comfort. They saw him and figured he was a doctor and he had a handicap. He’d be the perfect guy to show to their loved one. Show them that everything would be all right. They never considered his feelings in all this. The looks and the whispers upset him but presuming that he was a ‘well adjusted cripple’ that would be happy to be the poster child for their loved ones hopes and dreams made him angry. They wanted him to smile and tell them nothing will change and that life was just great. Well it wasn’t! It sucked to have to use a cane. His life was not the same as before and it never would be.

 

All the hope they had given him in the name of compassion had just made things worse. He was a doctor then too and should have known better but when they told him all the usual lies he believed them. He wanted to believe them, had to believe them because the alternative just couldn’t be happening to him. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew they were lies but he just slammed the door on those thoughts and concentrated on getting things back to ‘normal’. He smiled as they wheeled him down to therapy, joked with the nurses, flirted with the therapist but nothing changed. He began to think it was his fault that things weren’t getting better. He started to bust his ass. No more jokes and flirting. He went to therapy and worked himself to the point of exhaustion and nothing changed. They kept telling him he was doing great, a few more weeks and he’d be as good as new. A few more weeks came and went and nothing changed. Eventually he became so depressed that he considered suicide, seriously considered suicide. Only two things stopped him, one was the fact that he was a doctor. He knew there was no sure way to do it and if he messed up things could be a whole lot worse. As strange as that sounded now, it was a very comforting thought back then. The thought that things could actually be worse meant that they weren’t too bad right now.

 

The second thing had been Dr. James Wilson. This also seemed strange now because anyone who knew Wilson wouldn’t think he was capable of the kind of tough talk he had used then.

 

To this day he could remember the words “Life sucks for a lot of people. I get to watch them every single day come in here hoping that the test will come back negative. Hoping it’s not there, hoping it’s gone. Then today or tomorrow or next month they die and you’re whining because you’ve got a limp! Big deal! I’ve never seen such a big baby in all my life. You’re the smartest most intuitive doctor I’ve ever known and you can’t even figure this out. I guess I overestimated you. Maybe it is best if you don’t come back to work.” Wilson had played that so perfectly. He knew how proud House was of his mind and diagnostic abilities. To insult that would just fire him up; push him to prove everyone else wrong. He had been so pissed! He had called Wilson names that would make a trucker blush but it had worked. House smiled at the memory.

 

His thoughts where interrupted when the lounge door opened and Dr. Foreman shuffled in. Foreman set his bag down on the table and hung his coat up on the way to the coffeemaker. He pulled the pot out and swirled around the dregs of yesterday’s coffee. He slumped then turned towards House.

 

“Man, couldn’t you at least make the coffee when you get in?” He said holding the pot up. House got up from the desk and went to the door between his office and the lounge. He saw Dr. Cameron in the hall on the verge of opening the other door.

 

He waited until just the right moment then said, “That’s why I hired a woman. They’re great at making coffee!” He grinned. She scowled and walked past him. Foreman shook his head and began to make the coffee.

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 3: A New Beginning

 

            Dr. Chase came in 15 minutes later looking like he had a hangover. He went directly to the coffee pot and poured himself the biggest mug he could find, no cream, and no sugar. He took several sips before turning back to the table and moving away from the counter. Cameron and Foreman both sat at the table watching him. They continue to stare at him as he sat down at the table.

           

           He took another sip of coffee before he noticed they were looking at him. “What?”

 

Cameron smiled and looked back down at the papers she had been working on, but Foreman continued to look at Chase with a smirk on his face.

 

“What?” Chase asked again.

           

           “So who is she?” Foreman asked as he took a sip of his coffee.

           

           “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Chase replied, “You’ve only been here two months and you’re already beginning to sound like him.” He said with a nod towards House.

           

           Foreman frowned “No need to get nasty. You’re the one who’s always talking about having time to go out with the ladies. Besides you still have lipstick on your collar.” Chase looked down and tried to see his collar.

 

Foreman broke out laughing. “I was just yanking your chain.” He said between laughs. “Tell me you changed your shirt, or at least put on some deodorant.”

           

            Chase gave Foreman a wide sarcastic smile and went back to drinking his coffee. They sat there in silence enjoying the calm, preparing for what the day might hold.

 

Dr. House was sitting at his desk putting the finishing touches on some notes. He looked up when he heard Dr. Foreman laughing in the lounge. He had just looked back down at his notes when Cameron chanced a glance towards his office. This job had not been anything like she had expected. She clearly recalled that evening 10 months ago when this strange journey had begun.

 

It had been the anniversary of Jamie’s death and she had borrowed a friend’s car to drive out to the cemetery. Four years had passed since Jamie died but it seemed like yesterday. There were still many nights when she would cry herself to sleep. She missed him so much. They had only met that first year but she knew he was the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. He had told her about the cancer but it was in remission and they had high hopes that it would remain that way for a long time.

 

It was quick but they both felt it was the right thing to do so they got married over Christmas break. They had planned to take their honeymoon over the summer but it never happened. The cancer returned with a vengeance. He was in so much pain and there was nothing she could do but watch. She stopped going to classes so she could be with him. Every waking moment was spent at his side. He made her promise him that she would not give up, that she would become a doctor and make sure this never happened to anyone else. In the end he didn’t even know who she was.

 

“You okay?” Foreman asked her.

 

“Hmmmm?” she replied as she was pulled back to the present.

 

“I asked if you were okay. You look like you’re …”

 

“I’m fine.” she interrupted. Foreman put up his hands defensively. When she had gone back to working on her papers he shook his head and got up to get another cup of coffee. Cameron on the other hand went back to her thoughts. She didn’t notice House watching her.

 

She stayed at the cemetery all day and into the evening. Between her tears she had told Jamie everything that had happened since her last visit. On the way back from the cemetery she stopped to get a cup of coffee and warm up. Not wanting to be alone in an empty apartment just yet, she sat down in a dark corner. Watching people come and go didn’t help to lift her blue mood. Most of them were young couples talking and laughing. She started to cry again. At least at the apartment she wouldn’t have to worry about upsetting anyone else.

 

A long hot shower always helped. When she emerged from the bathroom there was a message on her answering machine. “Hey Ally it’s me. Call me when you get home I have some great news.”

 

It was Dr. Jeffery Kamen, a close friend and mentor. When Jamie had died he had taken her under his wing and helped her cope. She wouldn’t have gotten through that semester if it hadn’t been for him. He knew it was a bad day for her and had probably arranged something fun to distract her. She really didn’t feel like doing anything but she didn’t want to disappoint him after all he had done for her.

 

“Hey Dr. Kamen, I just got your message what’s up?” she said as cheerily as she could manage.

 

“Oh Ally, I’ve got great news for you! I can’t give you all the details yet but trust me it’s the perfect opportunity for you. Can you be at my office tomorrow at 9am?” He asked excitedly.

 

“Yeah, sure but what’s this about?” This was a new tactic.

 

“I can’t give you the details but I’ve been contacted by a colleague at the Princeton-Plainsboro hospital. They have asked me to recommend some of my best students to be considered for an elite position. Ally, you’ll be working under one of the top medical minds in the country, possibly the world!” He blurted out.

 

“Who?” she asked cautiously.

 

“I can’t… oh, you have to promise me you won’t say anything.” He was absolutely wired. His excitement was contagious.

 

“I don’t want to get you in trouble. Don’t tell me if it will get you in trouble. You’ve already done so much for me, I don’t want you to get in trouble” she cautioned but she was now dying to know who it was.

 

“Promise me you won’t tell anyone.” He said in a serious tone.

 

As intrigued as she was she could not bring herself to do anything that would endanger his position or reputation. “No. I don’t know if I can keep it a secret and I don’t want to hurt you. I’ll find out soon enough. I’ll be at your office at 9 o’clock although I don’t think I’ll sleep a wink.” She told him firmly. Anxiety and curiosity waltzed through her mind until she finally dropped off to sleep at 3.

 

She showed up at Dr. Kamen’s office at 8:45, she just couldn’t wait any longer. There were three other students sitting in the waiting room. She didn’t know any of them. In that short 15 minutes her jubilation turned to doubt. What if these other students were better than her? They all looked confident and relaxed but she was a bundle of nerves. What was she thinking? She knew she wasn’t the best or the brightest, she worked hard for every grade she got. Who was she kidding? A top position wouldn’t go to her, even though she knew she could do any job they asked. They always looked at the numbers. Why? If they’d just give her a chance she’d prove herself. When Dr. Kamen entered at 9 o’clock sharp she was chewing on her lip. He gave her a reassuring smile and began to explain what was going on.

 

“As I have told you all I have been asked to present my best students for consideration for an elite position at the Princeton-Plainsboro hospital. I have been asked to give you a list of symptoms. You are to write down your diagnosis and treatment plan for the patient. You will have two hours and access to the medical books in my office and the Internet. At the end of that time I will gather your diagnosis. You will be notified of the results in two weeks. Are there any questions?”

 

Cameron raised her hand “What is the position? Who will we be working for?”

 

Dr. Kamen’s smile widened and his eyes sparkled. “If hired you will be working under Dr. Gregory House. He is establishing a special team of doctors to assist him in diagnosing and treating special cases that come to his attention.”

 

Cameron had heard of Dr. House but did not know that he was still practicing medicine. She was shocked and flattered all at once. Dr. Kamen had recommended that she read some of Dr. Houses work and it had fascinated her. The way he put things together, looked under the surface and yet not past the surface. He had unbelievable instincts and insights. But he had stopped writing for the medical journals almost ten years ago. She had presumed that he was either retired or dead and now she was being asked to apply for a position under him. This really was an unbelievable opportunity!

 

Dr. Kamen handed out the sheet of symptoms and took a seat at his desk. She glanced down the list and it seemed too easy. The others had already started to write. She looked it over again. It seemed easy enough, but something bothered her about that particular set of symptoms, she couldn’t shake it so she pulled down a book and began to look up each symptom. Before she knew it she had written 16 pages of notes with five widely varied diagnoses. But which one was it? She needed more information. She asked Dr. Kamen if there was anything else, a family history, patient records, anything that she could use to narrow it down. He told he no, just the list of symptoms. Two of the others had already finished and left. The other was just proofreading his final results. 20 minutes left. She kept turning it over in her mind. Then it hit her, there was only one possible combination of causes that explained all the symptoms. She quickly looked up the treatment and scrawled it at the bottom of her notes just as time expired.

 

Breathing a sigh of relief she handed in the paper. Dr. Kamen smiled and winked at her. “I’m sure you did a fine job.”

 

Two weeks passed and she hadn’t heard anything. She grabbed the phone almost before it rang. “Hello.”

 

“Ally?” It was Dr. Kamen he didn’t sound excited.

 

“Yes.” She replied, her heart sinking.

 

“I have news of the test results” he said. She knew it wasn’t good.

 

“Yes” she sat down hard at the kitchen table.

 

“You were the only one to get the answer right!” he exclaimed.

 

“What?” she squealed. “What? You mean I got the job?”

 

“Yep, I knew you could do it!” he sounded like a proud father.

 

“What, when…”She stammered, “When do I start? When do I get to meet Dr. House?”

 

Her pager went off and startled her back to reality. She looked at the number then glanced over at Dr. House’s office. He was gone. She got up and headed for the reception area.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Chapter 4: Fire

 

            He glanced into the lounge when he heard Dr. Foreman laugh. It was good that they were comfortable with each other. He had worried when he hired him that it might get tense. Foreman was by far the smartest but had a chip on his shoulder the size of New York. If he even thought someone was questioning his intelligence or ability his defenses went into high gear. How well would he fit into a team environment? He wasn’t so worried that he and Foreman would butt heads, he was actually looking forward to it, but that Foreman would clash with the others. How would they react? Would they come to him with complaints or work it out amongst themselves? Would it affect their judgment or decision-making? How would it affect the patients under their care? It was an interesting experiment and so far it had gone well. Things were going smoothly.

 

The biggest problem Foreman had was that he had no instincts. Actually it wasn’t fair to say that he had no instincts, they tend to beat that out of you in medical school, but he didn’t use them. Dr. Foreman was strictly by the book, all numbers and percentages. That wouldn’t cut it in the real world of diagnostic medicine. He would have thought that with a degree in neurology Foreman would be more apt to look at all possibilities. This lack of originality had come as a bit of a surprise. Whatever the percentages favored was the diagnosis immediately put forth and unless he pushed him Foreman would not look further. He was always pushing Foreman’s buttons, challenging him, and questioning his abilities. Foreman had the brains and that chip on his shoulder should have led him to prove himself. Why wasn’t he fighting? What was it going to take to get him to use what he had? Granted Foreman had only been there two months but should have picked up on things by now. It’s not like they all didn’t have plenty of time for research. They had only worked one case since Foreman arrived. It was about time for Cuddy to jump his ass and Wilson to start inventing relatives again. Maybe he’d wander the hospital today and see what he could find.

           

            House started to wonder if tipping his hand on the Felker’s Home information had been a mistake. Everyone had a breaking point but could Foreman’s be that easy? Had he read him wrong? Maybe the whole ‘Street Smarts’ thing was a bit much. The guilt card had finally worked in the Adler case but had he pushed too soon? Had that shut the door in Foreman’s mind? There was nothing that could be done about it now; it was water under the bridge. He just couldn’t believe that it would be that close to the surface. He had figured Foreman’s pride would jump at any chance to prove he was more than some ‘ghetto kid’ that got all the breaks. After all that ‘ghetto kid’ had worked hard to get where he was. Why would he give up that easily? The only thing he could do was continue to push; it would either make him or break him and the sooner the better.

           

             He heard Foreman saying something and looked up again. Cameron snapped a response and Foreman put his hands up defensively. She went back to staring at the papers in front of her. She was still a big mystery to him. Chases’ personal history was almost public knowledge in the medical community in Princeton. Foreman’s had taken some research and little leg work but he felt he had a pretty good picture of him. But the only thing he knew about Cameron was what he had gathered from her school records. Age, Date of Birth, Place of Birth, Parent name, etc., etc. He had hoped her sponsor Dr. Kamen would help in the information department. Dr. Kamen wouldn’t disclose anything personal about her. In fact Kamen wouldn’t give him a single drop of information; he was like a father protecting his only daughter. He knew if he pushed for information Kamen would certainly tip off Cameron and that would ruin everything. He had resorted to trying to track down anyone that had known her and see if they would be willing to talk. So far he had come up empty.

 

He continued to watch her. She looked to be on the verge of tears and he guessed that Foreman had asked her if she was okay. She had a stubborn streak as bad as his. When she first arrived he was concerned that he had made the wrong decision. When they first met he had been sitting at his desk. She was almost star struck. She gushed about what a wonderful opportunity it was. She kept thanking him for hiring her. Telling him that he wouldn’t regret it. It made him sick. He was just about to tell her to shut up when she said she had read his work and thought he was brilliant. That caught him off guard. He didn’t want to discuss his past with anyone let alone this, this groupie. He quickly stood up and headed for the coffee. As he moved towards the door silence dropped like a rock. He turned and looked at her. She was staring at his cane. Her eyes slowly made their way to his. They dared her to ask; he could see she was wrestling with her curiosity.

 

“Obviously you didn’t read enough. Your research skills are lacking. Did you cheat on the test?” He asked as he turned and continued to the lounge. She just stood in his office as he poured a cup of coffee and returned.

 

“You’re still here,” He said as he sat down and turned to look out the window.

 

“Why would I be anywhere else?” She asked challengingly.

 

“Because you cheated on the test and have no right to be here” his back still towards her.

 

“I have never cheated. I analyzed your silly little test and came up with the right answer. If that’s the best you’ve got than maybe I misjudged you.” She said, putting emphasis on the ‘you’.

 

He slowly turned and glared at her. Just who the hell did she think she was coming in here and… He leaned forward in his chair, preparing to let her in on a little secret about her propensity for misjudging …and what?  He paused. It hit him, she had balls. He liked that, no one had stood up to him in years and here was this rookie right out of med school going toe to toe like she was an equal. She was badly mistaken but at least she had the guts to act. Make a decision and stand by it even if it was unpopular and would cost her. That’s what he was looking for. He shut his mouth and leaned back in his chair, continuing to glare at her until she looked down. She picked up her purse from beside the chair and when she looked back at him he could tell she was struggling to hold back tears.

 

“It was nice to have met you. It’s a long drive back to the city I need to be leaving now.” She said with a slight quaver in her voice.

 

“Quitting already?” he looked down at his watch. “Hmm 7 minutes and 43 seconds, I think that’s a record even for me.”

 

She stopped. Confusion flashed across her face before she could stop it. “When do I start? I’ll need sometime to find an apartment.”

 

“Tomorrow 8am, I’ll introduce you to the rest of the team then. You can apartment shop on your own time.”

 

Where had that fire gone? He looked down at the empty coffee cup on his desk and decided it was time for another cup. Leaning forward in the chair he started to get up and the calf in his right leg tightened up. Gritting his teeth and taking deep breaths he placed his right foot flat on the floor and leaned back. He focused his mind on the tightness and willed it to relax. At first it had no effect. Beads of sweat started to form on his forehead. Focus damn it! He closed his eyes and regulated his breathing. Slowly the muscles relaxed. He decided he didn’t need any more coffee but he did need to get up and move around. He looked at the clock even though he knew it was too soon. He built up the courage to get up and headed for the door. He shot a quick look into the lounge to make sure no one had seen him and noticed Chase.    

 

Chase looked like he had a hangover but House knew better. His mother had been and alcoholic and his father would not tolerate that kind of behavior in his son. Chase’s father, Dr. D.W. Chase renowned heart surgeon and top-notch bastard. He had driven his wife to the bottle, his oldest son to suicide, his youngest son to run away and Robert to the monastery. There were rumors of abuse but nothing had ever been proven. It certainly wouldn’t have surprised him if the rumors were true. He had met D.W. shortly after coming to Princeton and had an immediate hatred for the man. Darren Winston Chase was a complete hack! Chase money was old money and that’s the only reason D.W. was where he was. Oh he was a competent surgeon as long as everything was mapped out for him. Make straight-line incision between A and B. Open chest and saw sternum. It’s the big bone in the middle stupid! It was surprising more people hadn’t died under his care. 

 

After Robert’s mother died D.W. pulled him out of the monastery and forced him into medical school. When the time had come D.W. put in a call and this little experiment had begun.

 

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Chapter 5: A World of Hurt

 

            He took a left out of his office to avoid going in front of the lounge. They would notice he was gone soon enough and he didn’t want to be bothered with questions just yet. He wasn’t sure where he was going he just needed to walk, loosen things up, stretch.

 

After his first physical therapy session they returned him to his room in so much pain he could barely see. He just wanted a shot of morphine, a warm bed and sleep but they wanted him to sit up for a while.

 

“You’ve been lying in that bed for six weeks. It’s time to start getting back to normal.” They told him. “You need to start sitting up for more than a few hours each day especially after therapy.” They babbled on about blood flow and the possibility of clots reforming.

 

“The D R in front of my name doesn’t stand for Disabled Retard. I know all of this. I’m in pain because somebody fucked up. Get me a shot of morphine the go spread your bullshit elsewhere.”

 

They placed him in a chair by the window and left. Twenty minute later they still hadn’t come back with the shot. He pushed the call button and asked the nurse for some painkillers. She had told him that he’d have to wait until they brought his dinner.

 

“You don’t understand” he explained jaw clenched against the pain. “I am a doctor and I know the consequence of my actions. I also know I’m in extreme pain and if you don’t get me something quick I’ll make sure you’re emptying bedpans for the rest of your career.” She just smiled and left. It had seemed like hours before anyone else came in but in hindsight it may have been only minutes. He wasn’t sure now and he didn’t know then. When another nurse came in to check his vitals he asked her for something for the pain. She reassured him that it was on the way.

 

“Could you at least help me over to the bed?” he had asked, “If I could just lie down it won’t hurt as much.” Again she reassured him that they’d do that when they brought the pain medication.

 

Three hours later they brought in his dinner tray. He was still in the chair and still had nothing to kill the pain. He begged the young girl for something, anything to kill the pain. She reassured him that she’d send the nurse right in. He didn’t even have the energy to point out that he’d been hearing that all day and wanted something NOW! Time passed, no one came. He reached for the call button but the girl had moved it from the table to the bed to make room for his dinner tray. The pain was sapping his strength and just the thought of moving brought tears to his eyes. Where the hell were they?  Why were they just leaving him here? Didn’t they understand how much this fucking hurt? He hadn’t had anything since sometime that morning or was it yesterday morning or just a couple of hours ago? He didn’t know anymore. What time was it? God if he could just pass out but he knew when the pain was this bad the bliss of unconsciousness never came. He tried to call out and attract some attention but his voice came out as something between a hoarse whisper and a moan. Nowhere near loud enough to be heard in the hall.

 

The temperature had dropped and he was shivering now. He just wanted to lie down somewhere warm and pass out. If he could only make it to the bed, it was right there, just a few feet away. He pushed himself up from the chair, his whole body shaking, Sweat breaking out all over his body. His vision flashed red then faded to black. He was sure he was going to pass out but then the light over the bed started to seep back in. He put all his weight on his left leg, steadied himself and reached for the table with his right hand. Got it. He took as deep a breath as he could manage and let go of the chair with his left hand. It closed on the edge of the table. He was shaking hard enough now that the water in the glass was splashing over the sides and onto the tray. His vision faded to black again. The silverware on the tray was rattling. He waited for his sight to clear but it didn’t and he couldn’t stand there much longer. He let go of the table with his right hand and reached for the railing on the wall behind him. He couldn’t find it. Was it behind him? He didn’t know. He couldn’t see and now he couldn’t remember which way the bed was. Where was the chair? Had he turned when he got up? He couldn’t remember. God he couldn’t remember. He felt the hot tears rolling down his cheeks. Finally his left leg gave out and he crashed to the floor pulling the tray and table with him.

 

He didn’t remember passing out in fact he wasn’t sure he had passed out or whether it was just that blank moment of impact. A minute ago he wouldn’t have believe that the pain could get any worse. He was wrong. He couldn’t move. He just lay there on the floor shaking and sobbing. He didn’t hear the footsteps, didn’t feel them lifting him up into the bed, didn’t hear their questions and the shouting, didn’t feel the poking and probing. His whole world was just blinding pain.

 

Whether by natural or drug induced means he fell asleep. When he final woke Wilson was at his bedside. He had pulled the chair right up next to the bed and was sleeping in a very uncomfortable looking position. He wonder why Wilson was there sleeping. He ached all over and didn’t know why. What day was it? He knew where he was but how long he had been there he just couldn’t recall. He turned and looked out the window. It was a bright sunny day. Clear blue sky with high fluffy white clouds. Wilson’s foot slipped off the bedside table and woke him. James grimaced as he pushed himself up into a sitting position and rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

 

“Morning” he said surprised at how slurred his speech was.

 

“Shit. You gave us quite a scare. How are you feeling?” James asked as he got up and stretched.

 

“I ache all over. What happened?” he said slowly. His mind was fully up and running but he couldn’t seem to get it to manage the rest of his body. James stopped mid stretch and looked at him with concern in his eyes. He walked quickly over to the door and called out to someone. Hurrying back to the bed Wilson pulled his penlight out and started looking into his eyes. He wanted to pull away but just couldn’t seem to coordinate. Oh shit no! No. It ..no…this was not happening. He looked up at Wilson saw the fear in his eyes. A sudden jolt of adrenaline shot through his system.

 

“Squeeze my hands” Wilson commanded. He squeezed for all he was worth. James nodded. “Look at me. What day is it?”

 

“I don’t know” He thought his voice sound a little better or was that just wishful thinking. The fear was growing inside of him. A nurse bustled in with his chart. Wilson grabbed it and quietly gave her some instructions. She hurried out.

 

“Do you know where you are?”

 

“Cut the crap. You think I had a stroke.”

 

“I don’t know yet. We don’t know what happened. We thought you just fell but you may have had a stroke, which caused the fall. No one was here when it happened. The CT scan didn’t show anything at the time but… What do you remember?”

 

He couldn’t think. “I don’t remember.” He heard them wheel in the gurney.

 

“I want a CAT scan right now. We need to know what’s going on. I don’t think it’s a stroke but until I rule it out …”

 
               He didn’t hear the rest. He was so relieved to hear that Wilson didn’t think it was a stroke. Wilson was one of a handful of doctors he would trust with his care. If he didn’t think it was a stroke he had strong reason. Also Wilson knew better than to hand him a line of crap, he’d see right through it and ream him a new one. He relaxed a little and let them do their job. As they wheeled him out of his room Wilson flipped open his chart and started to read.
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Chapter 6: Reconstruction

 

            After looking over the activities since morning, Wilson left the room to follow Greg downstairs.  He continued to scan the chart, looking for any clue to what was going on. He wanted to make absolutely sure they hadn’t missed anything in the last CT scan. He knew it was unlikely they had missed any signs of a stroke prior to the fall, but there was a slim chance that they had overlooked signs of an impending stroke. After all, they had missed a big friggin’ clot in his leg!

 

Maybe it was just a tiny bleed they had mistaken for something else. Not likely with the blood thinners he was on. Even a tiny bleed would have produced enough blood to have been recognizable on a scan. But again, he couldn’t really be sure. They still hadn’t figured out what had caused the first clot so it wasn’t impossible that even with the blood thinners one could form. Damn unlikely, but not impossible.

 

 He was pretty confident it wasn’t a stroke; in the brief exam he had given Greg in the room he had pretty much ruled that out. There was no sign of weakness or drooping. His pupils had responded evenly. The memory loss could be explained by the heavy dose of painkillers they had given him. The lack of coordination could be the painkillers as well. The combination of these symptoms was what bothered him.

 

They had brought him down off the heavyweight drugs slowly. They moved him to oral painkillers last week to get him ready for therapy and there had been no problems, none. None, that is, until this afternoon. He had checked and double-checked the charts, notes, drug records. He caught up with Greg and the aide just as they were getting onto the elevator. He looked down at his friend as the doors shut. Greg had his eyes closed and was shivering.

 

“You feeling okay?” he asked.

 

 Greg opened his eyes and looked up at him. “Depends on what you mean by okay?” It was good that he was joking and his speech seemed to be clearing up a little. He also didn’t seem to be as confused. What the hell was going on?

 

“You’re shivering, are you cold?”

 

“Don’t know, I don’t think so.”

 

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

 

“I don’t know anything anymore.” He said softly, and closed his eyes.

 

“We’re going to figure this out, I’m not quitting until we do.” He placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder.

 

Back in the room Greg had visibly relaxed when he had told him he didn’t believe it was a stroke. That had put the pressure on. Greg trusted him. He couldn’t let him down. In the past six months it seemed like everyone Greg trusted had let him down. He was determined not to join that list.

 

His hand was still resting on Greg’s shoulder; he could feel that the shivering had almost stopped. Then it dawned on him. He looked at his watch, then grabbed the chart and flipped it open. He scanned through the notes and drug list for the day. The sudden movement drew House’s attention.

 

“What’s up?” he asked. His speech was almost back to normal.

 

“Do you remember anything at all from this morning?” It was worth a shot. The elevator had stopped and the doors opened.

 

“Just you sleeping in the chair then all this” He responded with a puzzled look on his face.

 

“No, before that, do you remember therapy? Getting back to your room?” Wilson pushed.

 

“That was yesterday morning” House replied. Wilson patted him on the shoulder.

 

 “Never mind we can talk about that later. Just behave yourself and I’ll see you back up in the room,” Wilson said with a smile. He turned to the aide.

 

“Wait for Dr. Rainer. Tell him we may not need a scan. Have him page me when he gets here. In the meantime, get him some warm blankets.” he told her with a nod towards House.

 

He went back to the elevator. It all seemed too simple. How could they have missed it? It might not even be the problem, but it fit. It had been five hours since they had brought Greg back from therapy.

 

They had tried to time everything so that no extra medication was needed. He had been due for his next dose just after lunch, only a short period of time after he was scheduled to return. According to the report everything had gone well. Greg had returned from therapy none the worse for wear. But that had quickly changed. When he complained of pain he had been given his normal dose of Percocet. It didn’t seem to have any effect and by the time it became clear there was a problem it was too late.

 

Sometimes with painkillers it took several doses before any reaction became noticeable. If he was having a mild reaction from the morning dose, that afternoon dose would have pushed him over the edge.

 

He got off at the third floor and headed for the Physical Therapy department. He was looking for Ben. Big Ben, you couldn’t miss him; he was 6’5’’ and built like a linebacker. Wilson caught sight of him over in the corner and started in that direction.

 

“Hey Ben, did you work with Dr. House this morning?” He asked as he got close. Ben turned around.

 

“Hey, Jim” He smiled, giving a small wave. “Yeah, Barb worked him over good. I think she was trying to get him to stop flirting! He did really well though. They hardly needed me at all. You know he’s one tough son of a gun. Didn’t complain once.” That was good to hear. If Wilson’s theory was right, Greg wouldn’t have to miss any therapy.

 

Just then Wilson’s pager went off. He pulled it out and looked at the number. It was Dr. Rainer. Wilson motioned for Ben to follow him. After explaining his theory to Dr. Rainer he hung up and turned back to Ben.

 

“Do you have a moment?” he asked

 

 Ben looked at his watch. “Sure.”

 

“When Dr. House was here this morning did you notice any unusual behavior?” Wilson asked.

 

“Dr. House! Unusual behavior?” Ben said with a spreading smile. “You’re gonna have to clarify that.” Wilson started smiling himself.

 

“Okay, I guess I need to rephrase that. Did he seem to be confused or uncoordinated? Was he shivering or complaining that it was cold or hot?”

 

Ben thought for a moment. “He wasn’t confused; he seemed like his usual self. He did say we really should pay our heating bill but I didn’t think anything of it. He was sweating but like I said, Barb really gave him a workout.”

 

“So he seemed fine when you left him?” Wilson asked.

 

“He was starting to hurt because he asked for some pain meds after he’d already gotten them; was pretty upset when I wouldn’t give him any. I told the nurse about it when she came back.” Ben replied.

 

“Thanks.” Wilson said as he got up to leave.

 

“Hey, tell Dr. House he’s not gonna get out of therapy that easy. I better see his butt down here before weeks end or I’m gonna go up there and give him a good reason to stay in that bed!” Ben called to him as he opened the door to leave.

 

“I’ll be sure to pass that along!” Wilson began to chuckle.

 

When Wilson reached the fourth floor he started to look for the charge nurse. He knew she was still there.  He found her helping another nurse get a young man into a chair.

 

“When you’re done can I have a minute?” he asked. She nodded and he went to wait at the nurses’ station.

 

Looking at his watch he decided he’d better call his wife. She hated all the time he spent away in his normal duties, but these last three months she had been absolutely livid. She never liked Greg, and Greg knew it, which of course only made it worse.

 

“Hello. Don’t start! I told you he’s a friend and … Just because you don’t care for him doesn’t mean… see, this is why I don’t call when I’m going to be late. …Oh so I’m supposed to just let him sit here day after day with no visitors? ... It is my responsibility, that’s what friends do. I’m sorry if that’s inconvenient for you but I’m sure this isn’t exactly a picnic for Greg! …Why do I bother to call? You don’t even try to understand. Do you even care why I’m still here?” He saw the charge nurse come out of the room. Her eyes were rimmed with red. He pointed to the lounge. She nodded, pointed at her watch, then went over and sat down. “I don’t need this right now … I know I’ve got to go. … No I’ve got to go. I don’t know but I’m sure you won’t wait up. I’ll get dinner here.”

 

He hung up and walked over to the lounge. “I’m sorry to keep you. I know it’s been a long day and you probably want to finish up and go home.”

 

“I haven’t had a day like this for a long time,” She confided. Her eyes started to tear up. He was a little surprised to see a charge nurse crying. Was there something between her and Greg? He gently put one hand on her arm and the other one around her shoulder and steered her over to a group of chairs in the corner. She sat down; he took the seat next to her and put his arm around her. She turned and buried her face in his shoulder. Initially he was shocked and almost pulled away but his instinct to comfort quickly overcame that urge and he held her. He could smell the light floral scent of her shampoo. He let her cry for a while. It was comforting to him to have someone else nearby who was as concerned about Greg’s welfare as he was.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said, pulling back and wiping the tears from her eyes. “It’s been one of those days when you wonder if anything you do makes a difference.” He knew that meant someone died. Being in oncology he had those days quite often. No matter how much you tried to harden yourself to it, it never got any easier. Every once in a while you’d let your guard slip just a fraction and that’s all it took. You carried that with you for years.

 

“I’m really sorry,” he said softly as he squeezed her shoulder in reassurance. “I know how it can be.”

 

She sniffed and wiped her eyes again. “How can I help you? I guess you’re here about Dr. House and you’ve read the report. I don’t know as I can add anything.” 

 

“I did read the report but he’s having some memory issues so I want to get as many details as I can. Every detail will help me tell if he’s recalling things accurately,” he explained. “Could you just take it from when Ben brought him back from therapy?”

 

“When they showed up, Ben was telling Dr. House that after a few more therapy sessions he would be able to spend more time up and out of bed, start getting things back to normal. Dr. House seemed okay. He was sweating a little; I just assumed it was from therapy. They keep it warm down there sometime.”

 

“In hindsight, did he seem agitated or disoriented?” Wilson asked. He noticed her eyes were hazel.

 

“No,” she replied. “It was almost time for his pain meds. Normally we’d get him into bed and give him it to him, but he seemed uncomfortable, so I gave him the Percocet before we took him to the room. The aide had started to make the bed but hadn’t finished. I asked Ben to sit with him while I went and got some fresh linen. Ben wheeled him over by the window and helped him into the chair. When I got back Ben told me that Dr. House was still in pain and it seemed to be getting worse. I didn’t want to wait until it was unbearable so I asked Ben to stay while I went and paged Dr. Rainer. He said he needed to get back, they were really busy. I told him to get someone at the desk to page Dr. Rainer and tell him what was going on. I could always get someone else to help me get him into bed.”

 

“I left him over by the window. It was easier to get the bed done quickly and it was so nice out… It also kept him in my line of sight. When I came around to the other side of the bed he asked me for some pain meds again. I told him he’d just had his Percocet and they should be kicking in any moment. I had already had Dr. Rainer paged and didn’t want to alarm Dr. House. I jokingly told him he’d have to wait until dinnertime for more. He got a little upset then and told me he’d have me busted down to emptying bedpans. Well, you know how he gets. I didn’t think anything of it.” Wilson smiled at this. Yep that was Greg!

 

“When I finished the bed I went to the door to check if Dr. Rainer had called back. He hadn’t, so grabbed a thermometer. When I walked over to check his vitals he asked me again for some pain meds. I told him they were on the way. He asked me to help him over to the bed. I told him that we were going to get him some more meds and as soon as I finished his vitals we’d get him back into bed. I finished his vitals and set the thermometer on the table. I put up the rails on the far side of the bed when they brought his lunch in. He asked her for some painkillers too. I knew things were going downhill too quickly for it to just be a need for stronger pain meds; I told her to stay there while I went and got help. I told her to yell if anything happened. I went to the desk right away to page Dr. Rainer again. As I came around the counter the phone rang. It was Dr. Rainer. I told him what was going on…” she trailed off.

 

“I should never have left her in there. I should have had her help me get him in bed before I left. I was so caught up in everything else I just wasn’t thinking ….” she trailed off again. Wilson waited patiently for her to continue. “I didn’t see her come out of the room. She waited until I was off the phone. I was so surprised to see her when I turned around. I didn’t even get a chance to ask her why she wasn’t in the room. I heard the crash.” Tears started to well up in her eyes again. Wilson put his arm around her again. In the back of his mind it occurred to him that it felt nice to hold her.

 

When her crying slowed he asked her, “How long would you say it was from the time you gave him the Percocet to when you realized something was wrong?” She sniffed and thought about it.

 

“I’d say about 15 minutes at most.” It fit. In fact, it sounded like he had been having a reaction before he ever got that dose. That’s why it had been so severe. That’s why it hadn’t occurred to him at first. They were all looking at the big mystery. They still weren’t sure what had caused the infarction in Greg’s thigh so anytime something happened they were immediately looking for the big answer instead of the simple one right in front of them. At least that’s what he was guilty of. He was relieved and angry with himself all at once.

 

“Thanks, you’ve been a big help. I know how days like this can be. You didn’t have to stay and go over all of this again but you did and I’m grateful. Dr. House is a good friend and…” Wilson looked down at his hands. He suddenly realized how hungry he was. He hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. “Would you like to get some dinner?” He couldn’t believe he just asked her that. What was he thinking?

 

“That would be nice but I have to finish my shift and I’m sure you’re ready to go home.” She smiled. God she had beautiful eyes. They had got up and walked toward the elevators.

 

“Maybe tomorrow then?” he said hopefully. After all he had already made the offer. It was just dinner. “It’s just that you’ve been a big help and I thought …”

 

“That would be good. I’m off at 7, is that too late?”

 

“No, that would be fine. There’s a little Italian place, Mario’s, over on the corner of Maple and High. I’ll meet you there around 7:30?”

 

“I know the place; 7:30 would be great.”

 
            “Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow, Julie” He said as he got on the elevator
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Chapter 7: Grape Lollipops

 

Wilson stepped off the elevator and turned towards the Department of Diagnostic Medicine. As soon as he came around the corner he knew House wasn’t there. Damn it! Where was he off to this early? Chase and Foreman were still sitting in the lounge. They looked up when he entered and as he opened his mouth to speak they said in unison “No.”

           

             He shut his mouth out of surprise and looked at them.

           

            “Dr. Cuddy was here twice looking for him.” Foreman explained.

 

“How long has he been gone?” Wilson asked

 

“Was it your turn to watch him?” Chase said looking over at Foreman.

 

“No. I thought it was yours” Foreman said pointing at Chase. Wilson hung his head in frustration.

           

            “Alright, I get it. You’re not here to baby-sit but I’ve been paging him for the last hour and he hasn’t called back.” Wilson didn’t need to deal with House’s antics today. He needed to talk to him and he didn’t have all day to run around the hospital looking for him. “Where’s Cameron? Is she with him?”

           

            “I don’t think so. He was already gone when she left.” Chase recalled.

           

            “Yeah, her pager went off and she left, didn’t say anything to either of us.” Foreman confirmed.

           

            “Well if he shows up in the next hour page me, it’s important. Did you happen to see which way he went?”

           

            “We didn’t see him leave but I’d say he went that way” Chase pointed down the hall to the left. “He didn’t go by here.”

           

             Wilson turned and walked back out into the hall. He paused for a moment, looked right then left then hurried off to the left.

           

            “I wonder what that’s all about.” Chase frowned. Foreman shrugged and went back to reading his email.

           

            So far Wilson had checked all of House’s regular haunts and had found no sign of him. How could he just disappear in a hospital full of people? Maybe he had found a new lounge to hang around in. Wilson remembered hearing that the OBGYN lounge had just gotten a big screen plasma TV. He’d bet his next paycheck that House had heard too.

           

            He turned and hurried back to the elevators, got off at the second floor and set off towards the lounge. Wilson opened the door and there was House, stretched out in a very comfortable looking chair, long legs propped up on the coffee table, lollipop in his mouth, eyes fixed on the 72” Plasma screen TV.

           

            “I’ve wasted an hour trying to track you down. Have you been here the whole time?” he asked. House didn’t even turn his head. He removed the lollipop from his mouth slowly.

           

             “Yep.” And put the lollipop back in. He preferred a tangy cherry or a smooth pina colada but grape was all they had left in the gift shop. Seems no one else liked the grape either. He had made a mental note to pick some up on the way home.

           

             “As hard as this may be for you to understand, I have patients that need care. I don’t have time for this today.” Wilson said as he approached the little cluster of chairs and tables. House removed the lollipop a second time.

            

             “Yet here you are, bothering me.” Again his eyes didn’t move from the TV screen. He put the lollipop back in his mouth. It didn’t even taste like grape. In fact he had found, over the last several years that most artificial flavors weren’t even close to the actual flavors they were masquerading as. He played the tip of his tongue around the lollipop, feeling the surface, trying to determine if it was still perfectly round. He found a small bulge down by the stick and began to work on smoothing it out. Wilson grabbed the remote off the table and turned the TV off. House’s eyes flicked over to the clock on the wall.

 

“Fourteen more minutes” he was determined to make it. Since his last checkup he had been trying to stretch things out. Go the full four hours between every dose. At first he had just tried to go as long as he could but that hadn’t worked well at all. He waited until he was in so much pain the Vicodin hadn’t even touched it. It was always best to take pain meds at the first sign of pain, if you waited until it was bad it took several doses to bring it under control and make it bearable. He had been out of shape for three days on that little experiment. He lashed out at anyone and everyone in his path. Wilson took the brunt of the abuse because he happened to be the only person left that actually bothered with him on a regular basis. Everyone else left him alone when he was like that but Wilson kept coming back and here he was again; bothering him when he didn’t want to be bothered.

 

“I’m sorry to inconvenience you in person but if you had returned any one of my eight pages you would have been able to pass the rest of the day without having to lay eyes on me” Wilson was truly angry now. He just wanted an answer, why did it always have to be a fight, a struggle, a confrontation with him? Jesus it’s not like he hadn’t been there for him every step of the way. Why was he always trying to push him away?

 

He tilted his head back, removed the lollipop again and looked up at Wilson. “Ooo goody, go away and we’ll try this again”

 

“If it’s so unpleasant to have me around just answer my question and I’ll leave you alone the rest of the day.”

 

“Huh” House grunted, “Somehow I doubt that.” He put the lollipop back in his mouth, man this grape was awful. House removed his legs from the coffee table with only a small wince. Every muscle in his legs threatened to tighten into a knot as he took his cane from beside the chair and slowly stood up. He turned away from Wilson and took a cautious half step. His right leg almost gave out and he pulled up short. He gingerly took several more half steps until the muscles quieted to a fiery pain. Wilson watched as he hobbled around the end of the little furniture arrangement.

 

As he limped towards Wilson their eyes met. House could see that Wilson was angry. Good, one more push and he could get him to go away. He could ride out the next, he caught the clock out of the corner of his eye, twelve minutes in peace. Later this would bother the hell out of him. He cherished their friendship more than Wilson would ever know but right now he needed to be alone.

 

“See, that’s your problem, you ignore the obvious.” He pointed the lollipop at Wilson’s chest. “If I wanted to talk to you I would have called back. That hasn’t changed. I don’t know how I could have made it any clearer for you.”

 

 Wilson’s hands were clenched at his sides; his dark eyes staring challengingly back at House’s piercing blue ones. “Oh no you don’t” he thought, “You’re not getting out of it that easily.”

 

“If you don’t want me bothering you then you should keep your appointments.” Wilson pointed out.

 

So that’s what this was about. He really didn’t want to discuss that now. He needed to keep moving. He turned and limped over to the refrigerator, shifted his weight and his cane to the left side and opened the door. As he bent over to inspect the contents he placed his right hand on the most painful spot on his right thigh and squeezed hard. His breath caught in his throat and he shut his eyes.

 

“You know how important this is,” Wilson continued as he approached the counter. “Did you think I wouldn’t find out?”

 

I must be losing my touch; I can’t get him to go away. Why couldn’t Wilson just go away? He didn’t want to discuss that now. It was taking every ounce of concentration to hold the pain at bay; he didn’t have any left over to argue with him.

 

“Go away!” he mentally shouted at Wilson and the pain. When he opened his eyes he looked at his watch, ten minutes.

 

“Why do you do this? You know we need to keep an eye on things. Even the smallest change could indicate a problem. We need to catch things early if we’re going stay ahead of it. Do you want to die?” as soon as he said it he wished he hadn’t. He saw House’s shoulders tense up. House straightened up and looked over his shoulder at Wilson. His eyes were unreadable. Why had he said that? Shit!

 

“Would it surprise you if I said yes?” He threw the lollipop in the trash. 

 

“Look I’m sorry I … it’s just that sometimes it seems like you don’t care. I know you don’t mean that.” Wilson tried to smooth it over. “Look, you know I’m just trying to watch out for you. And don’t start twisting that around! So much has changed since your last check up.”

 

House peeked at the clock, still ten minutes. He took the cane in his right hand again and started to pace.

 

“Cuddy’s got you doing clinic hours, you’ve got two more doctors on your team that you’re responsible for. You’ve had more cases in the last six months than you’ve had in the last three years. As hard as you try you’re not going to push me away, I know who you are. I know it’s not you talking but all the pain and drugs and uncertainty…” That’s the only thing that kept Wilson going. House really knew how to hurt him but he knew that somewhere in there was at least a fragment of the old Greg. He knew that the old Greg would never come back but since Cuddy had forced him to take on Chase and forced him to take cases he was changing. There were more good days; more days when he could actually get Greg to smile or talk. Yeah, they were still the minority but it was a step forward and Wilson didn’t want any setbacks.

           

              “Oh spare me the bullshit!” he turned on Wilson “I was an ass before and I’m still an ass, it’s just that now I’m a bigger ass because I’ve got a lifetime’s worth of idiots to put on notice and only a short period of time to do it in. You keep hanging around because somehow you think you can make it all better. Well here’s a news flash, nothing will make it better. It wasn’t your mistake, you don’t have to keep trying to fix me.” He had advanced on Wilson and was right in his face. Wilson didn’t even flinch, he stared back evenly.

           

             “No, I don’t. I don’t have to keep trying. I don’t have to take your crap either” he punctuated that by poking House in the chest. “But I do and that should tell you something.”

            

             “Yeah it tells me that you have no grasp of reality. I give you crap because I want you to LEAVE… ME… ALONE…” He switched his cane to his left hand then turned and limped away. “Why can’t you understand that?” His right hand was in his pocket fingering the lid to the bottle. He looked at the clock, nine minutes.

           

              Come on, come on, he thought. I can do this; I just need to concentrate on something. Damn it just nine more minutes. Why couldn’t he have walked a little slower, paged one more time, anything to have gotten him here fourteen minutes later. He looked around then realized the solution was in his pocket; the ridges on the cap to his pill bottle. What a wonderful sensation. Why hadn’t he ever noticed them before? He ran his thumb over them again, dragging the nail, which created a nice little vibration that tingled all the way to the joint. He did it again. The room and Wilson faded into the background. He felt the smoothness of the bottle with his other fingers. Ran them along the bottom edge, his fingertips skipped over the little nipple on the bottom where it had been attached to a plastic tree when it was made, a small sharp tag on the seam near the top that hadn’t worn off yet.

           

              Wilson watched House closely. He wasn’t worried, House did this regularly. You’d be in a conversation with him when all of a sudden he’d just stop. It was like a background program in his brain had finished up and was making the results known or he was starting a new one up. Wilson just wondered what was going on in his head.

           

            “What’s up?” Wilson asked as he approached the stationary figure. House had his eyes closed and just shook his head slowly. Wilson waited and watched. After a few minutes House opened his eyes and looked at the clock. He looked down and closed his eyes again and Wilson could see the tension draining out of him. He was very still, only his chest rising and falling and the hand in his right pocket moved.

            

           Of course! Wilson looked at the clock. If House was still on the same schedule it was past time for another pill; in fact an hour past due. He was doing it! They had talked about this, well argued about this, several times. The Vicodin would eventually kill his liver. He needed to cut back as much as possible to put off the day when he’d need a transplant. Maybe if he put it off long enough they would find something to eliminate the pain; something that wouldn’t cause other problems.

           

              A smile spread across Wilson’s face, this was great! It was worth all the flak he had just taken. He put his hand on House’s shoulder. House looked up at the clock.  He pulled the bottle out and shook a pill into his hand and quickly swallowed it. He stood there with his eyes closed for a moment longer.

           

            “What the hell are you so happy about?” he growled at Wilson as he deposited the bottle back into his pocket.

           

            “Nothing, nothing at all” Wilson laughed.

           

            “Mmm” He moved his cane back to his right hand and started for the door.

           

            “So when are you going to get in for your check up?” Wilson persisted.

            

             House just limped out of the room. Wilson would try again later.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 8: Risky Business

 

Cameron hurried down to the reception area to meet the Randall family. How was House going to take this? Would he welcome her initiative or would he fire her? She had crossed the line five months ago when she had gotten into his mail in the first place. Either he didn’t know or didn’t care she wasn’t sure, either way it was a dangerous game, now that she had actually committed him to seeing a patient.

 

This case struck a cord with her. She figured House would take an interest as well. The boy was young and athletic and she thought that maybe House would want to keep it that way. She still didn’t know much about him but she hoped that with his disability he would have a soft spot for young, active, athletic boys. Hoped he would feel a need to keep them that way since he could no longer play. If she was wrong she had just sealed her fate.

           

            About a month after being hired she was at lunch with Chase. She had been complaining that there was nothing to do. He told her that he had only worked one case in the six months he had been there.

 

“Find yourself a nice game of online poker or something to keep yourself busy” he had recommended. She couldn’t understand how Chase could be so laidback about that. She was dying to prove herself, what was he waiting for?

 

“If he doesn’t have cases why did he hire us?” She asked. “It doesn’t make sense. If he does have cases but doesn’t trust us to work them it’s the same thing. Why did he hire us, is this some kind of test or initiation?” Chase laughed at that.

 

“What’s so funny?” she said indignantly.

 

“It’s always some kind of test with him” he replied. “He’s probably grading you on your coffee making skills.”

 

She began to get nervous again. If he was watching her constantly what was he thinking about her? What should she be doing? She decided she would stick to research and reading the medical journals from there on out. Even though she was bored out her mind she knew this was an unbelievable opportunity. She was determined to stick it out; things would start to happen eventually. Chase had also recommended that she stay under the radar and try not to piss him off.

 

“So you’ve been here six months huh?” he had just taken a huge bit out of a greasy hamburger so he nodded. “Who was here before you? Why did he hire you?” He swallowed enough of the burger to talk.

 

“No one was here before me. My father made a call to Dr. Cuddy. Next thing I know I’m sitting in her office getting a primer on how to handle him when he’s grumpy. Dr. Cuddy told me that House didn’t want a staff but she felt it was necessary so she was hiring me to assist him. She warned me that he wasn’t happy about it but if he got too bad I was to come to her and she’d take care of it.”

 

“You mean he didn’t hire you?” Chase swallowed and took another large bite. She picked at her wilted salad and waited for him to answer.

 

“Nope.” Then why had he hired her?

 

“So Cuddy hired you because he needed help. Was it because of his leg?”

 

“That’s what she said.” He mumbled between mouthfuls.

 

“So what happened with his leg?” Chase stopped chewing and looked over his shoulder. He gave her a little smile when her turned back and started to explain.

 

“Let me give you the “House rules” as it were. First and I’m sure you could figure this out by yourself but… Don’t ever ask him what happened, you won’t get an answer and you won’t like the response. Dr. Cuddy warned me about that. So I never asked, don’t really want to know either.”

 

“How could you not want to know?” she was shocked at his lack of interest.

 

“My Dad worked with him back in the day and told me he was an arrogant ass back then too so I figure whatever happened to his leg isn’t the problem. There’s no point in trying to find out especially if it means taking unnecessary crap for it” he explained.

 

“Next, never stare” she knew that one already. “That really pisses him off. I guess you could stare if you wanted to as long as he doesn’t catch you but...”

 

“I learned that one the hard way” she interrupted “I didn’t know anything about his leg. I came for the interview and when he stood up to get coffee I was just so shocked. I couldn’t help but stare. It almost cost me the job.”

 

“Might have been better if it had.” Chase smiled.

 

“What do you mean, this is an incredible opportunity. He’s brilliant…”

 

“Was brilliant. All he does now is sit around in his office doing God knows what, popping pain pills and staring off into space. Occasionally he’ll disappear for a couple of hours.” He set the burger down and looked around again. Then he leaned closer “I was bored stiff one afternoon. It was raining and I was going to fall asleep if something didn’t happen. When he got up and left I followed him.  He went off to one of the other lounges and watched soap opera’s and sucked on peppermints for two hours.” Cameron stared at Chase. She couldn’t believe he didn’t care more.

 

“How can you not care? Doesn’t it bother you that he’s like that? If your father worked with him you should know what a brilliant man he is, was, whatever. Don’t you want to know why he’s changed? Don’t you want to fix that?”

 

“This brings us to rule number three; Never ever try to ‘Fix him’. Don’t hover or go to his assistance. If he’s struggling with something look the other way and act as if you don’t even notice. In fact we could probably just shorten the list to one rule. Ignore him and he’ll leave you alone. That works best for everyone.”

 

This just made her more determined to find out everything she could about what had happened and find a way to fix it. As they were returning to the office she saw House leaving. He was usually gone for hours once he left. She immediately went into his office.

 

“What are you doing?” Chase had asked almost in a panic.

 

“Well if you’re not going to do anything about it you can’t expect me to just sit by and watch. Someone has to do something” she replied and began looking through the papers on his desk. Chase kept looking around as if he expected House to walk back in at any moment.

 

“Stop being so twitchy, if you’re that nervous leave” she told him. “You said yourself that when he leaves he’s gone for hours”

 

“You’re crazy if he catches you…” he ran his hand through his hair. Chase finally gave up and left. She continued to browse around. All the stuff on the desk looked like medical research. He had written for many of the journals but she had not seen any recent articles so what was all this. Most of it had to do with tribal/herbal remedies and cures. She wouldn’t have thought he was the type to go for all that nonsense. Maybe he was looking at it because many people did believe in that stuff and it could cause very violent reactions with modern medications and treatments.

 

When she finished on the desk she turned to the computer. What were the chances that he hadn’t locked it? She wiggled the mouse and the screen faded in. She couldn’t believe her luck. Nothing was open so she cruised over to the recent documents folder and opened one called “Ribbit”

 

She skimmed through it. It was just notes on the medicinal properties of the chemicals excreted by the Poison-dart frogs and the things that some aboriginal tribes used it for. She closed that and opened several others. There were detailed ‘potion’ instructions and lots of side notes. She quickly glanced through and it seemed like he was taking a serious interest in these potions.

 

As she continued to browse she noticed a pattern emerging. Most all of these were pain relievers. Was he in that much pain that he was willing to resort to these snake oil cures for relief? She heard the door open and turned quickly to see who it was; in the process she knocked a small stack of papers into the trash can.

 

“I, uh, I…”she stammered as she looked up. It was only Chase. “Dammit, why didn’t you knock, you scared the shit out of me.”

 

“I just wanted to warn you that it’s been an hour, you better pack up and get out of here.”

 

She retrieved the papers from the trash and noticed about fifteen unopened envelopes partially covered by a napkin. She pulled them out and looked. All of them were plain white envelopes with return addresses from all over the country.

 

“Come on” Chase prodded.

 

She opened one and began to read. It was a request for a consultation from a single mother. Her only daughter had slowly been going numb. She had been to specialist all around the country and no one knew what it was. They had all made guesses and given her treatments but nothing was working. Her condition was deteriorating.

 

When Cameron had finished reading the letter she was angry. What the hell was he doing? Here were fifteen cases they could be working on, bringing comfort and relief to a family and he was just tossing them in the trash without even opening them. He was wasting their time and these people were suffering. Maybe Chase’s father was right. She took the letters and walked towards the lounge.

 

“What’s that?” Chase asked alarmed.

 

“These are requests for consults” she replied angrily. “Here we sit bored out of our minds and these people need our help and he’s just tossing them in the trash!” Chase looked at her with his head cocked to one side and gave a little shrug.

 

“So what are you going to do with them” he asked.

 

“I don’t know yet but I can’t just leave them there in the trash. They at least deserve a response.”

 

“You’re nuts” he said “If he catches you …”

 

“I don’t care, I think these people deserve a response and if he’s not going to do it I will.” Chase shook his head and walked away, she stuffed the letters into her case just as House returned to his office. He stalked in but paused at the side of his desk. He looked at the papers on the corner then continued around and sat down. He swiveled around to the computer and started working.

 

From that day forward she had been retrieving the mail from his trash and sending responses in his name. Up until two weeks ago she had never even thought of agreeing to a consult. She arrived in the reception area still thinking about whether this was going to help her or hurt her.

 

“You paged me?” she asked the receptionist.

 

“The Randall’s are here to see you” she said as she handed Cameron a clipboard and pointed her to a family by the television. Cameron smiled as she introduced herself. She led them to a small side room and began to take a family history.

 

Chapter 9: Frozen River, Thin Ice.

 

            The cool morning air blew in the open car window and ruffled Chase’s hair. He could comb it later; he was late for work and needed the cold air to stay awake. He hoped someone had made coffee because he was going to need it. Normally he’d stop at Starbucks and get the high octane stuff but that was out of the question this morning.

Glancing at his watch he turned into the parking lot and slipped into the first available parking space. By the time he got to the office he’d be about 15 minutes late. Not bad, he had made good time on the backstreets. He removed his bag from the passenger seat and stepped out into the lot. Any other job, or more accurately any other boss, and he would have been sprinting across the parking lot trying to shave a few minutes off his lateness. House didn’t care. He’d give you a hard time about it because he could but he really didn’t care. Or did he? Chase had been working with House for a little over a year now and he still didn’t know.

In the early days of his time at PPTH he was sure House didn’t care. It had been almost three weeks before House had even acknowledged his existence; and that had been a grunted order to make coffee. He had been an hour late and all House did was tell him to make coffee. As time went on he had attempted to bridge the gap, to at least be able to have a small conversation. Even a simple good morning was met with a glare.

One particular morning in early October he completely forgot himself. It was a beautiful sunny morning and things had been going well in his life. Indian summer was in full swing and he planned on taking advantage of it that weekend. Andy had found a new job and a small apartment so he was going to go down to the city. See the new digs and help him get settled. Just spend some time with his brother, maybe take him out bar hopping Saturday night, meet some girls and celebrate. For the last week or so House had at least been making eye contact and giving him a nod on his way back from coffee. Maybe he was thawing out a bit. So when House entered the lounge to get his coffee that morning Chase didn’t even think about it. He just tried to make small talk like any other normal human being would have.

“Bit of a spring in your step this morning. Did you get a little action last night?” He grinned as House turned to go back to his office. House stopped mid-sip and focused that intense blue gaze on him. The grin dropped from his face as the reality of who he was dealing with removed all other thoughts from his head.

“Last time I got screwed was when Cuddy saddled me with you” House quipped then continued to his office. Looking back that was just House; a little sharper but unmistakably House. Emotionally though it had been a dagger. He didn’t deserve that, it hadn’t been his idea to be there. Cuddy and his father had cooked it up. If the decision had been left to him he would have been back in Australia. It seemed like no matter where he was or what he was doing people always wanted to take their anger out on him. Maybe he deserved it.

All his life he had had that feeling. He thought that seminary would help to alleviate it but it just reinforced his feelings of unworthiness. The only reprieve had been in medical school. He learned that having an opinion and expressing it was encouraged. He found that there were others who recognized his intelligence. He didn’t grow an ego, just confidence. And even when he graduated in the top of his class his father had found fault. After all, he hadn’t been the top in his class. D.W. told him that if it hadn’t been for his reputation and the family name he would not have been able to secure the job at PPTH. If it hadn’t been for his connections and a phone call to Dr. Lisa Cuddy he’d have ended up working at free clinic somewhere.

So it was that when Cuddy had sat him down in her office and explained that he would be working with Dr. House he had been shocked and confused. D.W. hated House and made no secret of it and from what he had heard the feeling was mutual. Why would Cuddy put him with House? He was sure she knew of his father’s hatred. Or had this been his father’s idea? It was probably just another way to torture him and make him miserable. But if his father hated House maybe he would like him. After all he didn’t like many of the people his father liked; it would stand to reason that he’d like those his father didn’t.

Dr. Cuddy explained that Dr. House would soon be taking on a larger workload and she had deemed it necessary that he take on a staff to help. She told him that Dr. House had been recovering from a leg injury that hampered his ability to get around so he would be doing a lot of the ‘legwork’. She also warned him that Dr. House was not happy with the idea of having a staff and that he could be abrasive at best.

“He’s recovered as far as he ever will physically but emotionally he’s still very touchy about things” she stated. He nodded.

‘Great!’ he thought ‘twelve years of hard work and I’m going to be a gopher for a handicapped grouch!’ Cuddy must have read the look in his eyes because she continued quickly in an attempt to keep him interested.

            “He really is a brilliant doctor. These past few years have just been hard. I can’t even begin to imagine what he’s gone through; is going through. The problem is that he’s hit a plateau. In the past he’d work through it on his own and move forward eventually so I’ve been letting things slide a little. Letting him rest there, hoping he was just catching his breathe, gathering his strength for the next big push. Unfortunately he hasn’t made any effort to move on” she had a sad look in her eyes as she paused and looked down at her desk. “I’m hoping you’ll be the spark that lights the fire again.”

            He relaxed a little. In fact he was a little flattered that someone thought he could be the catalyst for change. That he could make a difference in someone’s life. This may not be so bad after all.

            “He hates it if he thinks someone feels sorry for him. As hard as it may be you need to just let him struggle through the day to day things. Not that he’d ever ask for help. Believe me, just try it once and you’ll never be tempted again” she explained with a dry smile “You’re here to help him deal with cases not to be his personal valet. If he gets too abusive just let me know and I’ll deal with him.”

            “So what happened with his leg?” He finally asked. She began shuffling papers on her desk. After a long pause she started talking again.

            “I’m only telling you this because if you’re asking me know you’ll be tempted to ask him at some point. You don’t want to do that. He suffered an infarction in his right thigh, lost about half of the muscles in the quadracep before they caught it. He was very lucky not to lose the whole leg. The lack of blood caused nerve damage as well. He’s taking Vicodin right now for the pain so if you notice him popping a pill now and then it’s okay. That’s another reason I want him working with someone” she looked up and made sure she had his attention. “He hasn’t been the attending on any cases since his return, only consults on other cases. He seems to be making sound decisions and giving accurate advice. But it’s all in such a minor capacity that I really can’t say if the drugs are a factor. Once he’s the primary I need to know that he’s handling things properly. I need to know that the Vicodin isn’t affecting his judgment. I need someone there to keep an eye on things, make sure nothing happens.” He didn’t like the sound of this.

            “So basically you want me to spy on him and baby-sit?” He was frustrated again. What the hell, if they couldn’t trust House why did they let him come back? He should have been off the strong painkillers before they even considered bringing him back. He didn’t need to deal with another addict. He was finally at a point in his life where he could start living for himself and they wanted to chain him down again. Oh yeah, his dad was having a good laugh this time. She hesitated, trying to come up with an answer to refute this.

            “Yes” she finally answered.

            “And what if I say no?” His anger overcame the fear of his father’s reaction if he blew this job. Cuddy thought for a moment.

            “First of all it’s only a two year commitment. In two years I think we’ll know if things are going to work out. You could still say no but I think you’ll find the benefits quite appealing. I thought your father would have given you a little more information on Dr. House” she began

            “Other than he hates Dr. House more than I’ve known him to hate anything else, he hasn’t said a thing” he responded.

            “Dr. House has quite a reputation even now. He’s one of the great medical minds of our time. When your two year contract is done and you’re looking for another position, I can guarantee that by putting Dr. House’s name on your resume you’ll have more offers than you’ll know what to do with. You’ll be able to name your price” her siren’s song wooed him. He thought on that for a moment. Two more years didn’t seem so bad; two more years and then freedom. He had no emotional investment in House like he had with his mother. Maybe the addiction wouldn’t bother him at all. Plus accepting the job would keep his father off his back for two years, which would be one less problem he’d have to deal with.

            “Alright, you’ve got a deal” he stood and shook her hand.

            He found things to be very different than he had expected. After covertly watching House for several weeks he found himself being drawn in. Even with that first insult he couldn’t help but feel there was something more to this guy. Something he just couldn’t place, a mystery that lie just under the surface like a deep swift river under the ice of winter.

He didn’t feel sorry for him anymore. He’d found that House was more than capable of taking care of himself. The two years he had spent at seminary had helped sharpen his ability to sense others needs. Every time he was around House he could sense a deep emotional hurt that went far beyond his physical pain. He knew the only way to get to the bottom of this mystery was to be patient and take what opportunities presented themselves.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 10: Lost

 

 

It was about a month after that first episode when another opportunity to bridge the gap presented itself. It was a Friday morning in late November, the kind of day that started gray and cold and went downhill from there. He had gotten in at his usual time but House’s office was still dark. He made the coffee and was on his second cup when House had limped in. He was leaning heavily on his cane and was in obvious pain. Normally House would put his bag next to his desk, toss his coat over anything handy then get a cup of coffee before settling behind his desk for the morning. That morning he had let his bag slide off his shoulder and drop to the floor next to his desk. Without removing his coat he gently lowered himself into the chair and sat there, head back, eyes closed.

He waited patiently, flipping through one of the many journals that were lying around the office. After a half an hour he stole a glance at House. His face was calm; almost as if he were sleeping but the small creases in his forehead and the white knuckled grip he had on the arms of his chair betrayed that serenity. He couldn’t help himself, he felt sorry for House. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like to hurt all the time. He waited another five minutes or so but when House still didn’t move he decided this was one of those opportunities. He got up and went over to the sink, picked up House’s red coffee mug and filled it. As he opened the door between the lounge and the office House’s head snapped up and he looked over. Chase pretended he was concentrating on not spilling the coffee.

“I was going to clean up, thought you might want a cup before I throw it out” he lied. House watched him approach the desk and set the cup down. His eye shifted to the steaming cup and then back up to Chase. Keeping his eyes on Chase House pulled open the top right hand drawer of his desk and pulled out a pill bottle. Opening the bottle he dumped a pill into his hand, popped it into his mouth and swallowed.

“No. You felt sorry for the cripple and thought you’d score some points by bringing me coffee” he dropped the bottle back into the drawer and slid it shut. He had Chase caught like a deer in the headlights. “I can get my own coffee; I don’t need your help.”

“I know” he replied with a dry mouth. “I thought you’d like some coffee, you’re leg had nothing to do with it. In fact you seem to be the only one around here that has a problem with it” House narrowed his eyes and considered Chase.

“You know the only reason you’re here is because your father needed a good laugh? He thinks this is all a big joke; thinks it’s funny that the great Dr. House is so incapacitated that he has to rely on his bumbling idiot of a son to get any work done.” He leaned forward, lifted up half a stack of paper, pulled out an envelope and tossed it in Chase’s direction. House leaned back and shut his eyes again.

He picked it up and turned it over in his hands. The front was addressed to Dr. Gregory House in care of the hospital. The return address in the corner was all too familiar and the post mark was from a month previous.

“Go ahead, read it” House said without opening his eyes. He pulled the letter out and began reading.

“Dear Gregory; It was so nice to hear that you’ve returned to work. Finally crawled (an appropriate word don’t you think?) out of that pit of depression you’ve been hiding in. It’s just a shame that after all you’ve been through and the effort I’m sure it took for you to come and join the real world again only to find that your luck has indeed run out. To discover that you’re ‘reputation’ isn’t what it once was must be just crippling! Lisa tells me that no one else would have you so you ended up crawling (there’s that word again) back to her to beg for your job. She always did have a soft spot for you and for the life of me I don’t know why. She tells me that you’re just not your old self. I guess a bum leg would affect the strut and swagger you were always so fond of.”

“As a friend I feel I must betray a little confidence of hers in an effort to stop you from stumbling (Ah another fitting word) into trouble. She’s concerned that you might have a little problem with the painkillers. She thinks they’ll affect your judgment. She does tend to worry needlessly so I want to give you some advanced warning on her plans for you. Lisa thought a keeper might be in order. Someone to watch after you, get your coffee, polish your cane, watch your drug intake and general make sure you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else.”

“I’ve graciously volunteered my son Robert. You two have a lot in common; he’s a complete idiot and a waste of the effort it took to raise him but he does have years of experience taking care of an addict.” He stopped reading for a moment to let the anger pass. In the silence he heard House inhale sharply and looked up. House had a tight grip on his thigh just above the knee. His brow was furrowed and his jaw muscles bunched but there was no other movement. If he’d have been in the other room he wouldn’t have known anything was wrong. House’s eye remained shut. Chase went back to reading.

 “His mother was a weak, miserable drunk and yet he clung to her like driftwood in the ocean. She made him as soft and weak as herself. He is obedient though. He’ll make a nice lap dog for Lisa. She can teach him how to fetch so you don’t have to put any undue strain on that leg of yours.”

“Lisa also mentioned that she doesn’t have you back on clinic duty yet. I must protest, I feel it’s a big mistake. It’s the perfect place for you. Not only do they have those wonderful stools with wheels down there but the cases are so simple even you shouldn’t have any problems with the diagnosis. It won’t tax your leg or your brain. I’m sorry Greg but sometimes tough love is for the best, I’ll call Lisa this afternoon and make sure she gets you back on that clinic schedule. Don’t be angry, it’s for your own good; just a small payback for all that you’ve done for me. Sincerely, D.W. Chase MD.” Chase folded the letter and stuffed it back into the envelope. He gently laid it on the corner of the desk, his mind too stunned to think clearly. So this was all a set up. How could he have been so na´ve? No wonder House hated him. He really was an idiot and deserved all the abuse he was getting.

“It’s not true…” he started. House waved his hand dismissively then dropped it back down to his thigh. His eyes were still closed. Chase didn’t know what to do so he stood there, the words from the letter burning into his mind.

The silence stretched on. He knew his father had contacted Dr. Cuddy to get him this job and he knew Dr. Cuddy was using him to keep an eye on House. He had never suspected the two were connected. He thought this had all been Cuddy’s idea. Why would his father want him here spying on House? Or was it as House had said and he suspected, his father was just laughing at them. He couldn’t figure out why House had shown him the letter. Before he could go any further along that trail House spoke.

 “You’re wondering why I showed you that letter” A simple statement. How did House know what he had just been thinking? It was a coincidence, it had to be.

“Yeah” he replied. “Yeah I was.” House remained still. “So why did you?”

House opened his eyes and the beginnings of a smile showed on his face. He reached over and picked up the coffee mug. He lifted it in a mock toast then lowered it and took a sip.

“Well” Chase waited. He suddenly had the uncomfortable feeling that House knew everything about him. All his deepest fears and secrets exposed. House took another sip then leaned back with a satisfied look. Mischief glinted in his eyes.

“Your father was always such a bad judge of character” he remarked with a serious look on his face as he took another sip of coffee. “Could he really be right about you? You didn’t seem like an idiot when you started.” House cocked his head to one side, raised his eyebrows and frowned. He felt like House was looking right through him and into that dark room in his mind where he kept his most hidden thoughts. House set the mug down and levered himself upright. He removed his coat, tossed it over the back of the chair, grabbed his cane and started for the lounge.

“Grab a marker” House commanded as he opened the door to the lounge. He obeyed. House had made his way over to the glass at the front of the lounge and held out his hand in anticipation of the marker. Chase placed the marker in his hand, curious as to what was happening. House uncapped the marker and started to write on the glass.

‘This guy really is nuts’ he thought. The adrenaline started flowing. The thought of getting caught destroying hospital property didn’t seem to bother House. This was amusingly fun. Like the thrill of smoking in the bathrooms at school. He couldn’t help but smile.

“The letter” House said as he wrote it across the top of the first glass panel and underlined it.

“Dr. Chase Sr.” he wrote on the next panel, again underlining it.

“Dr. Cuddy” a third panel. Several workers looked inquisitively at the glass wall as they passed.

“Dr. House” a fourth panel. A doctor stopped and shook his head, giving House a look of disapproval. House made a face at him and the doctor scurried away. It was all Chase could do to keep from laughing.

“Dr. Chase Jr.” on the fourth panel as well. House capped the marker and turned back to him. House glanced at the clock then tossed the marker to Chase as he headed back to his office.

“You’ve got five hours to figure it out. Four if you take lunch. I expect your analysis and a full report at the end of the day.” House said as he let the door glide shut. The smile disappeared from his face and he continued to stand there, looking at House’s back, stunned. House had tossed his coat into the other chair across from his desk and was now pulling folders out of his bag. He glanced into the lounge before sitting down and saw that Chase hadn’t moved. He shooed his free hand at Chase as if to say get busy, then sat and began working on his computer. He looked down at the marker, this wasn’t funny anymore.

He felt the hairs on the back of his neck standing up like he was being watched. He looked up and realized he had made his way to the office, and was now sitting at the table in the lounge with Cameron and Foreman staring at him.

“What?” he asked looking at both of them.

Cameron smiled and looked back down her papers, but Foreman continued to stare.

“What?” Chase asked him directly.

            “So who is she?” Foreman asked smugly as he took a sip of his coffee.

            “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve only been here two months and you’re already beginning to sound like him.” Chase covered. No one needed to know where he had been or what he had been doing.

            “No need to get nasty. You’re the one who’s always talking about having time to go out with the ladies. Besides you still have lipstick on your collar.” Foreman grinned knowingly. Chase looked down quickly to see what was on his collar and Foreman broke out laughing.

“I was just yanking your chain.” Foreman said between laughs. “Tell me you changed your shirt, or at least put on some deodorant.”

            He gave Foreman a sarcastic smile and went back to his coffee and his thoughts. Thinking about the past wasn’t helping him figure out where Andy was. He had spent the whole weekend down in New York looking for him.

Andy had a tendency to disappear at times but this time just felt wrong. Things had been going well, he had a job he liked and had kept for over a year now. He had a place of his own and money in the bank. He had even found a girlfriend. So when Andy didn’t return any of his calls that past week he became concerned.

  By Friday he was downright worried. He called Andy’s workplace and found that he hadn’t been in all week. The girl on the phone said that he had taken the week off. When he pressed her for the reason she put the boss on the phone. After twenty minutes trying to convince the guy he was Andy’s brother he found out why the boss was so reluctant. Andy had told him that he needed some time off because his brother in New Jersey had been in a terrible car accident and they weren’t sure he was going to make it.

Chase left early that Friday and drove straight down to the city. He had spent the weekend tracking down anyone who might know where he was; his co-workers, the landlord, his girlfriend. Some had no idea that he was missing, others had been given the same excuse he used at work. The super at Andy’s building wouldn’t let him into the apartment so he pulled a little trick he had learned while working with House. He told the super that the man who occupied that apartment was in the hospital with Anthrax.

“Now we don’t think it’s airborne because we haven’t had any other cases come in but I will need to get in there. We need to determine where the source is so no one else comes in contact with it” he explained as he pulled a surgical mask from his lab coat pocket, feeling incredibly lucky that he hadn’t changed and had forgotten to throw the mask out earlier. Of course the super was more than happy to let him in and leave him alone to do his work. This lie was probably going to cost Andy the apartment but they could always find a new one for him once he figured out what was going on.

He listened to the answering machine; nothing but his messages and two from his girlfriend. He looked through the opened mail on the kitchen counter, just bills and some advertisements. He hunted through his closet and dresser drawers for any hidden clue that might lead him to Andy, nothing. The only thing he found was the corner of an envelope just under the edge of the bed. It contained the corner of a stamp and a partial postmark. There wasn’t enough information to place where it was from but it struck him as vaguely familiar. His instincts told him that this tiny piece of paper was the key to it all so he took out his wallet and put it in with the picture of his mother.

He knew Andy didn’t have a car and really didn’t venture out further than a good walking distance. Only occasionally would he take the bus or the subway and that was usually for something special like a date or a ballgame. He checked the local hospitals for any John Does but he knew he couldn’t cover them all. So as the weekend drew to a close he decided to file a missing persons report. Of course he got the usual flak about Andy’s reputation as a runaway. He had intentionally deceived friends and coworkers so he probably just left town. Chase decided the only way he could get them to take him seriously was to lie to them. He told them that his brother had a mental condition and that as long as he was on his meds he was okay but after inspecting his apartment he found there were too many pills and that Andy had probably been off of them for a week or so.

He was probably wandering the city with no idea of where he was or where he should be. They bought it. He left every possible means of contact with them and by early Monday morning he was on his way back home. He showed up Monday wearing the same clothes he had worn to work Friday. The only saving grace was that he had bought a toothbrush, toothpaste and some deodorant and washed up at a truck stop on the way back.

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