Chapter 1: A Really Bad Day
House limped through the foyer and paused in front of the clinic doors; he checked his watch...Not too bad, he was only 15 minutes late...he figured Cuddy couldn't get too pissed over 15 minutes. It was a lousy day, with snow and freezing rain. You could expect people to be late on a day like this. He reached into his pocket and withdrew the ever-present bottle of Vicodin; the damaged nerves and muscles in his right leg were really starting to whine again. The cold and wet outside didn't help them in the least. He popped a couple of the capsules into his mouth and sucked on them for a moment, then leaning on his cane a little more than usual, he pulled open the glass doors and entered the reception area of the clinic, trying and failing to not appear too lame.
There was a young woman behind the desk, a pretty new face that House did not recognize. Must be a new employee. As he approached her, House saw her look up at him then watched her green eyes quickly fall to the cane, coming to a stop to stare at his unwieldy gait as he hobbled in. The look in her eyes changed immediately from one of professional indifference to one of pity; she wore the expression of a woman who had just seen a three-legged kitten in the animal shelter. He swore under his breath and hoped she wouldn't ask the inevitable questions.
"Dr. House checking in", he said in a barely audible voice. Not looking at her as he grabbed the chart on top of the waiting pile, he tried to limp quickly past. She reached out and grabbed the chart before it cleared the desk and House's forward progress was suddenly halted by the unexpected tug of war. He stumbled and almost fell when she tried to pull the chart from his grasp, causing him to twist uncomfortably towards his right side. He let go of the chart, gasping in pain as he tried to regain his balance. "What the hell is wrong with you?" House snarled at the woman.
She looked aghast and ran around the desk, grabbing his elbow and tried to hold him up. "I'm so sorry sir", she blurted "I'm not supposed to let patients see the files...I, I, I didn't mean to hurt you when I pulled the chart out of your hand."
"I'm not a patient", House growled, struggling with her; "Let go of me now... I don't need your help..." backing up he tried to pull away from her grip, not noticing the puddle of icy water and slush into which he placed the rubber end of his cane. He leaned hard on the cane as he continued his attempts to fend off the guilt-ridden receptionist when, finding no purchase in the slush, the end of the cane shot sideways and out from under him. With the all of his weight thrust suddenly on his bad leg, House felt a searing pain shoot from his knee to his hip and he could not help but cry out as his leg collapsed and he fell heavily to the ground, his cane careening across the floor.
"Goddamn it!" he hissed through clenched teeth. He instinctively curled around his throbbing leg, both hands gripping his thigh. "Goddamn it" he repeated again, his eyes jammed shut as he willed the waves of pain to subside. His stomach lurched and he bit back the bile that threatened to rise in his mouth. "Don't throw up, don't throw up, don't throw up" he repeated to himself over and over.
It took several seconds for House to regain control over his stomach and for the pain to recede enough to let him breathe again. He opened his eyes and looked up to see his worst fear had come true; the waiting room was absolutely jammed with patients all of whom were staring at him with varying degrees of shock, sympathy and pity on their faces. A couple of do-gooders jumped up and rushed over to where he lay in the slush, a man forcefully telling him to lie still while the other, a woman, was gently attempting to help him sit up. 'Lie Still' won the contest, holding him down and 'Sit Up' started running her hands over House's body as if she could miraculously find and heal any broken bones by touch alone. House felt humiliated and slapped their hands away. "Get your hands off me", he snarled. "I don't need your help...I don't need anyone's help." He struggled to sit up, finally rolling up and leaning his back against the reception desk. Damn, he realized that was sitting in the middle of the puddle; the slush was seeping through his jeans and the pain in his leg was blazing. He looked around for his cane and cursed when he saw it mocking him from across the room, completely out of reach. Freaking Pathetic…
The receptionist went from feeling guilty to feeling like she had just about killed someone; she pushed her way between the do-gooders and forced her shoulder under House's right arm. He allowed her to help him get up and support him as he staggered against the desk, on which he was able to hold himself upright. The do-gooders were hovering nearby, upset that he had spurned their attempts to help him.
"Why don't you have a seat sir", the receptionist beckoned him towards a chair, "I'll get a doctor to look at you as soon as possible...Dr. House should be here any time now."
House shook his head in frustration and roared "I don't want to take a Goddamn seat! I am not one of your patients…..I am Dr. House!" The receptionist looked confused then skeptical. House rolled his eyes at her, "Don't just stand there woman...get me my cane!" The receptionist regarded him for a bit longer then went over to where his cane lay, picked it up and brought over to where he stood swaying, hanging on to the edge of the desk for all he was worth. House felt like he would fall down again if he let go. His leg was screaming and didn't seem to want to obey any commands. His jeans and blazer were all wet, covered with slushy crap and he was acutely aware of the stares of all the people in the waiting room. He felt like every patient in the clinic was staring at him, trying to decide whether he really was a doctor or if he was just a pitiful cripple trying to pretend he was something else.
"House, are you okay?" House turned his head quickly to see Dr. Cameron standing in the clinic doors, a look of worry on her face. He cursed under his breath and hoped she had not seen the whole thing. She moved over to the receptionist and took the cane out of her hands. "You fell pretty hard…and your leg is trembling." Damn, she had seen it. He looked down in spite of himself and saw that his leg, indeed, was visibly shaking.
"I'm fine" he snarled, not looking at her. "Give me my cane."
He let go of the reception desk with his right hand and reached for the cane in Cameron's hands. As he did so, the muscles in his right leg suddenly lurched as a spasm set in and he gasped involuntarily as he staggered and almost fell down again. Cameron jumped towards him, dropping the cane while grabbing his right arm; she grunted as she braced herself, took his weight and stopped him from falling. He unsuccessfully tried to pull away from her grasp, unable to gain any leverage with just his left leg. God, he felt feeble.
"Don't be an ass", Cameron scolded, holding his arm tight while he struggled against her. "Let me help you".
"I don't need any help." He tried again to pull his arm free but she held on even tighter. "I'm fine" he repeated, "Let me go!"
She held on grimly and motioned for the receptionist to take his other arm. House found himself being propelled towards an open exam room. Every eye in the clinic watched as he was half dragged towards the door by the two small women. This couldn't possibly get any worse, he thought.
"Stop right where you are!" a booming male voice called out. House blinked, that was a voice he recognized. Cameron and the receptionist stopped their forward progress, still holding House up between them. House managed to balance himself on his good leg and finally stood upright, looking around to see who had spoken. He saw a very large man get up from one of the seats in the back of the waiting room and walk towards the fallen cane. It was Edward Vogler….apparently this day could get worse after all. House hadn't seen him since Vogler had been unceremoniously ejected by the Hospital's Board of Governors when he was trying to have House fired.
Vogler had been big news around the water cooler lately. Since his disgrace at PPTH, Vogler's business empire had crumbled. His assets had been frozen and the hospital employees had all heard the media reports that he was on the run from the police, warrants having been issued for a slew of insider trading and influence peddling offences.
Vogler picked up House's cane and swaggered towards where House stood with Cameron and the receptionist, twirling the cane in his fingers as he approached. Four large hulking men moved into formation behind him, looking ominous. Vogler's goons. House felt a knot forming unexpectedly in his stomach…was that fear? He swallowed involuntarily. House knew that Vogler blamed him for the start of all his problems.
Vogler glared at the clinic patients. "Everyone out of here…now…leave now while you can." The patients did not have to be told twice; it was obvious that this huge man was dangerous. They scurried for the exits.
"Dr. House", Vogler smiled. "It's so good to see you again." He continued his approach.
"Hey Edward", House watched him twirl the cane, "What-cha up to these days? I hear you had a starring role on America's Most Wanted the other night." House put his right foot on the floor, and tentatively leaned on it to see if it would allow him any mobility. Not good…his bum leg still didn't want to take any weight.
"Yeah, always in the limelight" Vogler's eyes were unreadable. "Ladies", he said to Cameron and the receptionist, "I must ask you to step away from Dr. House." The receptionist looked terrified; she had heard about Vogler. She let go of House's left arm and slowly backed away, her eyes never leaving the cane in Vogler's hands.
Cameron's grip on House's right arm tightened even more, "He's hurt Vogler", she said coldly, although the fear was evident in her voice; "Leave us alone… you can go before I call the police."
"Don't be foolish, Dr. Cameron", Vogler said. "You are in no position to tell me to leave, nor will I let you call the police. Now, move away from Dr. House before I let my colleagues have some fun with you."
House felt the knot in his stomach twist. "Back off Cameron" he hissed at her, "Get away from me. I don't need your help….you don't need to be involved in this".
She hesitated. "Cameron", House snarled more forcefully, "Listen to me…Leave me alone…go… now!" He tried to push her away. She wasn't moving. "Allison, please." There was a pleading in his voice. Cameron blinked at him, looking into his eyes and seeing the fear there. House was afraid for her. She swallowed again and reluctantly released House's arm. He swayed slightly but managed to stay on his feet. She backed slowly away from him, and joined the receptionist behind the desk. House sighed in relief.
"Let them leave, Vogler", House tried to sound cocky. "Whatever this is, it's between you and me."
"Oh, it's definitely between you and me Greg", Vogler almost purred as he stood several feet from House. "You want your cane back?" He held the cane out towards House, his voice was taunting. House eyed the cane warily; he felt completely vulnerable without it.
"Give me the cane Vogler." House tried to stand without swaying. Thank God the muscle spasms in his leg had stopped.
House rolled his eyes. He gritted his teeth. "Please."
"Are you sure you want it?" Vogler was having way too much fun. His voice sounded maniacal.
"Give me my Goddamn cane…Please" House couldn't keep the contempt in his voice out of the final word.
"Okay, come and get it" Vogler stood rooted to the spot, holding the cane out in front of him.
House rolled his eyes again and took a faltering step towards Vogler. His leg seared in protest but did not collapse. "That's good Greg" Vogler scoffed, "Not bad for a cripple…try another one." House clenched his teeth and did another hop-step. He was so going to beat Vogler with that cane once he got it. He reached out to take the cane. As he did so, Vogler suddenly flipped his grip, now holding the cane like a baseball bat.
House saw what was coming but could not retreat in time. Vogler swung the cane as hard as he could and connected with House's right thigh.
Excruciating pain exploded in his leg. House screamed as his leg collapsed for a second time that day and he fell once again to the floor. There was so much pain…too much pain. He clamped his eyes shut and rolled around in agony, both hands hugging his leg. Tears streamed down his face as he unsuccessfully fought the waves of nausea that threatened to come. He heard Vogler laughing somewhere in the distance and heard Cameron's muffled scream as he vomited.
"Dr. House!" She ran to him grasping his arms just below the shoulders and trying to hold him still. "Try not to move…let me look at your leg!" House continued to writhe on the floor, his eyes shut, his face wet. He was trying not to cry out but was unable to stop a low wail from escaping as he fought to endure the pain in his leg.
Vogler laughed again and motioned for his thugs to pull Cameron away from House. She was yanked away. "You bastard" she yelled, "He didn't deserve that. You may have started the bleeding in his leg again."
"I sure hope so" Vogler laughed again. "It would be entirely pleasant to watch him suffer for a while. Suffer like he's made me suffer."
House opened his eyes and tried to focus on Vogler who looked like a giant standing above him with the cane in his hands. "Whatever you suffered you brought on yourself", House hissed through clenched teeth. "Arrogant idiots and thieves always fall hard. Which one are you, Vogler?"
Vogler glared down at House with a look of utter loathing. "Still the smartass, hey House" he said. "Apparently you haven't figured out that you're in trouble here." He swung the cane again and House flinched and tried to protect his leg. The next blow landed squarely across his back, just below the shoulder blades. House gasped and felt all the air rush out of his lungs and, for a moment, he thought he might pass out. He finally managed to suck in some more oxygen and his head cleared a little. The pain in his thigh was still coming in waves, but the new discomfort in his back actually diverted some of his attention away from the leg. He was almost thankful at the brief respite.
Cameron had moved back behind the reception desk where she noticed that the receptionist was covertly on the phone; she had dialed 911. Cameron nodded in gratitude as she heard sirens approaching.
Vogler laughed again and motioned to his thugs that they were leaving. He looked down at House, raising the cane once again. House cowered and waited for another blow; it never came. He looked up to see Vogler break the cane over his knee as if it were a dry twig, then he threw the two halves at House's head. He was still laughing as the thugs took up formation around him and they headed for the exit. At the door, Vogler stopped and looked around at House.
"Think of this as just a taste of things to come, Dr. House", he drawled. "This is just beginning….I swear you are going to pay for screwing with me! Keep looking over you shoulder, Greg, I'll be there sooner rather than later!"
And with that, Vogler and his goons were gone. Cameron rushed over to where House lay on the floor, "Someone get a gurney!" she yelled as she tried to roll him over.
House was shaking, his hands still hugging his leg. He moaned and he struggled against her. Cameron looked into his eyes, pleading "Let me help you Dr. House, you're hurt." He didn't seem to be able to focus on what she was saying and he continued to try to push her away. "Stop fighting me; let me take care of you. Please…Greg" He blinked as she spoke his name, looked up into her tear-streaked face and saw the compassion in her eyes. House nodded and stopped struggling, closing his eyes. Maybe he needed some help after all.
Hospital security and several police officers poured into the clinic. Once the all-clear was given, Cuddy and Wilson pushed their way in with Foreman and Chase not far behind. They gasped when they saw House trembling on the floor in obvious pain, covered with slush and vomit. Cameron looked up as an orderly rushed in with the gurney. "Help me get him on it", she pleaded. Between his colleagues and the orderly, House was finally lifted off the floor and placed on a gurney. He started to protest, then thought the better of it and just laid his head back and gritted his teeth as the gurney was bumped over the remnants of House's cane.
"It was Vogler", Cameron said grimly as they pushed the gurney towards the ER. "He's back and he has a major hate on for House."
"He said this was just the beginning, he said that he would be back."