She knew he knew she was there because his breathing hitched when she leaned against the door frame. He didn't acknowledge her in any other way, and she respected him enough not to interrupt him.
He stood at the side of James' bed, massaging his leg. His touch was gentle, she could see that where she stood. Maternal, despite the ghost of pain that shadowed his every move.
Her eyes closed, and memory took her back in time, approximately six years. Same floor, different room, and the roles were reversed. Greg lay flat on his back in the bed with James keeping vigil over him, holding a cool cloth to his head despite Greg's feeble attempts to push him away.
Exhaustion had finally won out, and Greg's arms fell awkwardly to his sides. She'd watched as James repositioned his arms, and tucked the blankets around him. "Believe it or not," he said without even looking at Stacy, "he's doing really well."
She forced a brave smile and stepped in to the room, safe now that Greg was sleeping and wouldn't accuse her of interrupting a private moment, or look at her with anger and pain and betrayal in his pain-dark eyes. "Go home, James. Go home to your wife."
"My wife," James repeated, as if he were mulling over the secrets to the universe. He dropped with a weary sigh into the chair next to Greg's bed. "My wife has asked me not to come home."
Stacy knelt in front of him, her hands on his knees. "Oh, James. I'm so sorry."
James shook his head. "It's been building for a while. This," he gestured broadly at Greg, "is just the excuse she's been looking for."
Her eyes flashed to Greg. She remembered how he'd screamed at her, once he'd realised what she'd done. How he'd used all his strength to scream and push her away. "It still hurts," she murmured. She'd known it was coming, had expected it, and still it had burned her deeply.
He pulled a deep breath and covered her hand with his. Dark eyes sought confirmation in dark eyes. A nod. Silent comfort and understanding. A promise to hold each other up.
His tongue slipped past his lips.
Beside them, Greg stirred. Groaned. Stacy got to her feet, moved instinctively toward the door. "They selling tickets at the nurse's station?" he slurred, voice think with sleep and pain and drugs.
Her back stiffened, and she combed a hand through her hair. She blinked, careening back to the present. To Greg looking over his shoulder at her, his hands braced on the rails of James' bed.
She stepped back, then forward, and set the clothes she'd brought for him on the wardrobe. His eyes flashed, and it occurred to her he might need help changing. His leg was hurting more than he wanted anyone to know. But she knew him well enough to know he wouldn't appreciate the offer. Or the observation.
"I, uh, I brought your Game Boy." It sat on top of the clothes.
He pried his left hand off the bed rail to rub his face. "You call Julie?"
"Left her two voice mails so far. I've taken care of the credit cards and notified the bank."
He nodded, and held her gaze for a long, tense moment, before easing into the chair behind him. He hissed and grunted and swiftly avoided looking her in the eye again until he was settled.
"How bad is it?" She knelt in front of him, just as she had knelt in front of James so long ago. Hand on his knee, she could feel the heat radiating off his thigh.
"It's bad," he admitted, eyes closed, mouth drawn.
She nodded, a parade of images overwhelming her for a moment. She wanted to cry, but bit back the flow of emotions. She took a deep, calming breath. "Do you need-"
"No.:" he interrupted, before she could finish the thought. "I'm fine."
i "The pain alone is going to kill you." /i She heard herself say. i "I know, I know," /i came his answer, and still he held strong. Refused to give in. Refused to admit defeat.
"You're not fine, Greg."
He put a hand to her cheek. "Do you know," he smiled sadly, "you're the only one who calls me Greg? No one else. Not even him."
"You don't call him James."
"True." He slouched a bit, trying to rest his head at the back of the chair. Five seconds, maybe ten, and he heaved himself back up. He couldn't suppress a wince or a small whimper, but once he settled, he set his gaze, almost daring her to say something.
She wouldn't of course. She thought about it, and he no doubt saw the shadow of that thought in her eyes. But they both knew this wasn't the time, or the place. James was unconscious, and a high powered combination of drugs assured he would stay that way for a while, but he was right there. And Stacy wasn't foolish enough to upset Greg when his emotions were already teetering close to madness.
She rocked back on her heels, and inched her hands up his thigh to gently massage the damaged muscle. He sucked in a breath, as if he meant to let her do it, but pushed her hands away as he exhaled. "Don't…" he warned.
"You're in pain, Greg. I jus-"
"Manhandling me isn't going to help."
Blue eyes flashed. "More Vicodin. Whiskey. Don't know. Morphine. Him awake. Last night never happened."
She stood and glanced at James. She gently touched his shoulder, lay her palm against his cheek. "He's a fighter." She could have been talking to James, or referring to him. Maybe both.
"I know," House closed his eyes, both hands set against his thigh. "I know."
Stacy turned back to Greg and kissed his cheek. "I should get back to work. I'll come by later. Do you want me to bring you anything?"
He inclined his head toward the wardrobe, and caught her hand as she stepped back. "Thank you, Stace."
"And Greg? Don't hesitate to call me. If you need anything."
He attempted to lift his legs up to rest on Wilson's bed as soon as Stacy was gone. Pain jolted his right leg and into his back, convincing him that wasn't such a good idea. He slouched a little, more carefully than he'd done before, and spread his legs wide on the floor in front of him.
He turned the television on, but couldn't focus enough to watch. He stared at the clothes Stacy brought and the game console on top. He wasn't about to try t get up and get it, and figured it wouldn't hold his attention anyway.
Eventually his eyes drifted shut, though disjointed dreams kept him from sleeping too deeply. He was running through a field of roses, thorns tearing at his legs, trying to get to James, when he surged up, gasping for breath. He grunted as he fell back into the chair, pain taking his breath.
"Oh Dr House, I'm sorry. I saw you were sleeping and I tried not to disturb you." She was changing the IV drip attached to Wilson's arm.
He drew his hand across his face. "It's fine, Melanie. I wasn't sleeping."
"It's Maggie, Dr House," she corrected him cheerfully.
"Maggie, right." He flashed a half-hearted smile. She worked in silence then, changing the bag, adjusting he monitors. He attempted t get to his feet, but didn't quite make it and ended up sitting on the edge of the chair, torn between wanting to laugh and scream and cry.
"Dr House?" He blinked Maggie in t focus, on the other side of the bed. "What is this?" She held the AMA disc he'd put in Wilson's hand.
He cleared his throat. "The cop brought it over. They found it in the restroom at the bar. I…gave it to him, when he passed his boards."
She smiled and nodded and slipped it back into Wilson's hand. "It's very sweet, Dr House."
He opened his mouth to say something, but the door slid open and his attention shifted. Foreman ambled his way into the room, with House's bag on his shoulder and a stack of books in hand. Allison Cameron followed with a bouquet of flowers.
"Get that out of here," he demanded, bypassing Foreman to glare at Cameron.
"I don't care who they're from, Dr Cameron. He's not dead. Get them out of here."
Maggie stepped forward. "I'll take care of it, Dr House. Do you mind if-"
"I don't care what you do with them."
Maggie took the basked from Cameron and headed out. Cameron moved to help Foreman set the books down without dropping them.
"Where's Dr Chase?" House asked with a roll of his eyes. "I would have thought the three of you would be presenting a united front."
"He's working your clinic hours," Cameron offered. She looked like she wanted to approach him, but was afraid to.
"Well, good." House sighed. Any other time he would have made a joke. "You two can go now, too."
Cameron's posture stiffened, and she seemed to consider saying something, but Foreman shook his head and ushered her toward the door. House caught his eye and nodded. Once they were gone, House took a deep breath and braced his hands on the arms of the chair. His knee locked as he pushed himself up, and refused to yield either way. He couldn't push up, he couldn't fall back. He was effectively suspended there and could only try to breathe through the waves of pain.
"House," James' voice filled his head. He was downstairs in the therapy gym, hands gripping the parallel bars so tightly that his whole body shook with the strain. "House," James said again. "Focus. Remember your breathing. You can do this."
He grunted and sneered and forced his right leg to move. The walls of resistance crumbled and rebuilt within seconds. Pain so intense he couldn't breathe caused his vision to go dark. He felt himself falling, landing on his ass in the chair beside James' bed.
A series of focused breathing calmed him down enough to try again. This time he envisioned it first. Literally saw himself rising from the chair. He moved to the edge of the seat and gripped the bedrail to use as leverage.
Once on his feet, he stood, stunned and again unable to move. "Maggie!"
She burst into the room. "What is it, Dr House?"
He stared at her, his gaze bright and intense. Full of pain and humiliation and defeat. Exhausted and weary. And yet unwavering. "I need crutches."
"Of course, Dr House." Maggie held steady under the scrutiny of his stare. "Can I help you before I go?"
His eyes flickered to the bathroom. "No. I'll manage."
"I'll only be a few minutes, Dr House." She nodded and slipped out of the room.
His head dropped forward and he blinked back the hot sting of tears.