Well, it's been a long time coming but here it is...the last chapter. I hope you like it and I apologize for taking so long to get it to you. It's funny, I knew exactly how it was going to end and yet I just couldn't seem to put it on paper. I guess that's called writer's block..Anyway...for some reason this week I sat down and the words just rolled off my keyboard. Weird...A great big thanks to all of you have have hung in there for this one. Please let me know what you think. I appreciate all your reviews! I am thinking of writing another story and could certainly use any advice you may wish to offer.
Vogler watched with rapt attention as Baronov finished swabbing House's damaged right thigh with the antiseptic, the strong smell of iodine filling the room. He was fascinated with the ugly, thick scar that ran almost the entire length of the upper leg and the deep and uneven hollow where muscle was supposed to be. Part of Vogler's brain understood the pain and anger behind that mangled leg, but at no time did any sentiments like compassion, pity or even mercy enter his mind. On the contrary, he was excited and happy, almost to the point of being manic. The hated Dr. House was finally getting his due ... this was fun.
The smaller man in the white coat eyed his employer nervously as he adjusted the surgical mask covering his face. Baronov was finding Vogler's eager behavior disconcerting. He might be rich and powerful, Baronov thought disgustedly, but he was definitely no scientist. Vogler was not at all interested in the enormous medical achievement that Baronov was about to accomplish. This was not going to be an ugly assault on a hated nemesis for revenge's sake...it was going to be beautiful...all his years of research leading to this moment. Baronov hesitated for the briefest of moments, then reached over and selected a scalpel from the tray of gleaming instruments. He leaned forward and, using his left hand, held taut the skin of House's thigh, taking care to avoid the rutted, scarred area. He wanted the cut to be clean...
Cameron was wishing that she had chosen a more comfortable pair of shoes as she and Wilson sprinted through the entrance lobby of the hospital and towards the main doors. Something without heels would have been a better idea.
"WILSON, CAMERON! STOP RIGHT THERE!
Cameron stifled a yelp as she ran smack into Wilson's back as he came to a sudden halt, stopped cold in his tracks by the booming, angry voice of Sergeant Thompson. They stumbled for a moment, she managing to hold him up as he staggered. Wilson turned around to face the imposing figure of the large policeman as he strode forcefully toward them, a look of clear annoyance...no, make that fury...on his face. Cameron swallowed nervously as she watched the large man approach.
"What in God's name do you two think you're doing!" Thompson came to a halt beside them and grabbed Wilson by the lapel of his lab coat. "You promised that you wouldn't do anything stupid, remember?" He started to drag the protesting Wilson towards the center of the main lobby and away from the exit. Cameron followed meekly, an unexpected memory of getting caught smoking in the girls' washroom in her junior year of high school coming suddenly to mind. She had never been good at getting away with anything...
Wilson was sputtering, trying to knock the officer's hand off his collar. "Ow...hey...let go of me!" He finally managed to halt Thompson's forward impulsion and the large policeman turned to face him, raising an accusing finger. Wilson spoke quickly, not allowing the big man to get a word in. "We think we know where they are, Sergeant. We were just going to see if it looked like it was possible before we told you..."
Thompson raised a suspicious eyebrow. "You think you know where he's at, and you two morons decide to go off and check it out without telling me?" He briefly closed his eyes and rolled his head side to side in an attempt to calm down the spasms in the muscles of his neck. Opening his eyes again, Cameron noticed that the muscle in the Thompson's cheek vibrated as he clenched and unclenched his jaw. "I ought to throw you both in a cell for being idiots! What did you think you were going to do by yourselves if you found them? Strangle them with a blood pressure cuff? ...no wait...maybe you took a minor in hypnosis and could convince the bad guys, who are armed and dangerous by the way, to just give up…God… you've been watching way too many Chuck Norris movies…"
Wilson clamped his mouth shut and looked suitably contrite. Cameron decided she should say something...she was a co-conspirator, after all. "Sorry….we're sorry, Sergeant...okay? Dr. Wilson and I were just worried that if we were wrong, your search would be delayed..."
Thompson held up his hand impatiently. "Enough, enough...we're wasting time...so where in the hell have your psychic powers told you he's at?"
"It's not psychic...it's deductive...don't you go being an idiot yourself, Sergeant," Cameron retorted angrily. Thompson looked as surprised as she felt at her sudden outburst. She kept speaking before she lost her nerve. "Come on, we know they're still in the building right? The only place where no one would have found them already is in H Wing...the old psych ward." Thompson looked thoughtful as she continued. "It's been closed for over a year...locked up tight pending renovations, which were postponed after Vogler left and took his money with him." Thompson didn't say anything but Cameron could almost see the gears turning in his head. "...so Vogler would know that it's not in use..." she added helpfully.
Wilson kept his mouth shut but he nodded vigorously. Thompson eyed them for a couple more seconds, the sudden expression of interest on his face betraying his attempt to stay angry at the two doctors before him. "It's completely empty?" He asked finally, his voice sounded hopeful. "Are you sure?"
Wilson found his own voice again. "It was closed over a year ago…no one ever goes in there." He watched the policeman anxiously. "Come on Thompson, where else could they be?"
Thompson hesitated only a moment longer. "Okay, okay. But we're going in my way." He keyed his radio microphone and started issuing instructions.
Cameron didn't know if she felt more relieved or disappointed when they found the outer doors of H Wing chained shut just as tight as the inner doors had been. There was no way that anyone had used either entrance in a very long time. She sighed and put her hand on Wilson's shoulder, the dejected look on his face making her heart break. Thompson, however, didn't look disappointed at all; instead, he had a strange, angry, excited, and thoughtful look on his face…Cameron looked at him curiously; she had never thought it possible for that combination of expressions to inhabit one face at the same time. The large policeman was eying the building, his gaze traveling upwards as he scanned the dirty windows, finally coming to rest on the edge of the roof of the oldest part of the hospital. His expression became even more complex, if that is possible, and Cameron felt her hopes rise as the policeman's eyes widened in what looked to be the sudden and unmistakable dawning of understanding…Thompson was sure he had found what he was looking for.
Wilson had also noticed the sudden changed in the policeman's demeanor… he couldn't help but follow the large man's gaze towards the roof of the old psych ward…then he, too, saw what Thompson was looking at. All of the windows on the upper floor were opaque and filthy…all except one…it was still dirty, sure but, he could just make out the glow of a light shining inside the room…someone was up there. Cameron had seen it too… Thompson's face became set in an angry, determined expression. "That son of a bitch…" The young man's voice was cold. He keyed the microphone on his radio. "Ames, Johnston…Thompson here. Assemble SWAT 1 and SWAT 2 in the lobby…now. I'll meet you there in two minutes." Thompson turned to face Wilson. "That stairwell where you last saw Dr. House…it leads to the roof doesn't it?" Wilson's eyes widened. Of course…he nodded grimly.
Cuddy felt as if she was about to faint as she accompanied Wilson and House's three employees through the double doors into "H" Wing, the chain that had been securing the door now hanging severed from one of the crash bars. Thompson had split his two SWAT teams into three offensive units, units 1 and 2 gaining access through the chained entrances to the old psych ward while the third would enter via the trap door they had found on the roof as soon as the others were ready to storm the top floor. The doctors had been told to stay in the lobby and wait for the all clear, but Wilson had refused to wait after the police moved out. "What if he gets shot when the police storm the room?" he had asked. "What if he's already hurt and is dying? Someone has to be there to take care of him when they find him…" Cuddy had demanded that they stay put, but Wilson, Cameron, Chase and Foreman would not be dissuaded. "We'll give the police a three minute head start, and then we follow." Wilson looked both terrified and determined at the same time. Foreman hesitated momentarily then nodded his agreement, mirrored by Chase and Cameron.
Finally, despite the overwhelming feeling that this was a disaster in the making, Cuddy nodded as well. "Okay, but for God's sake, let's stick together…"
Baronov almost smiled as he inspected his handiwork. The incision was beautiful, straight and clean with minimal bleeding. He continued his work until the damaged muscles that remained in House's right thigh were visible. Carefully, he opened the skin even more, until he could see where the muscle attached to the ligaments above and below. He grimaced at the sight of the ugly scar on the surface of the muscle itself and the deep furrow where a muscle should have been. It was amazing that House had been able to use this leg at all.
Vogler peered over the small surgeon's shoulder in fascination as Baronov continued his dissection of House's damaged thigh. The large man's stomach flip-flopped unexpectedly and he looked away, angry at himself for this sudden weakness. He reached up and pulled the surgical mask off his face momentarily, taking a couple of large gulps of air as he willed his nausea to subside.
One of the goons suddenly rushed into the room, a pistol in his hand. "MASK!" Baronov roared… "You are not sterile!" He turned away from his patient, the scalpel still in his hand. The goon shuddered slightly at the sight of blood on the blade but held his ground.
"The police are here", he shouted. Vogler's jaw dropped in shock. "They're coming in the doors downstairs and are working their way up the stairwells."
Vogler closed his mouth quickly, his mind refusing to accept that they had figured out where he was hiding. The second goon ran into the room; he too had seen the police. Vogler stood to his full height, ripping the surgical mask completely off his face and screamed at his employees. "What the hell are you doing just standing here?" Vogler shoved the goon. "Go, take care of the police…that's what I pay you for!"
The two thugs looked at Vogler in disbelief then at one another. "There's gotta be a whole fucking SWAT team coming up the stairs!" the first goon yelled. "If you think you're paying us enough to take on a SWAT team, you're crazy!" Vogler started to curse at the two men but they took off running, ignoring his commands. "We're outta here", one yelled as they headed for the ladder to the roof.
Baronov looked down at House with a look of fury and panic on his face. No…this can't be happening now…he was finally going to show everyone… He hesitated, unsure of what to do, then dropped the scalpel and started pulling his own mask off. "What are you doing?" Vogler roared and Baronov felt the cold steel of a gun barrel press into his neck. "Finish the fucking job Baronov!" Vogler's voice sounded maniacal.
Baronov stood rooted to the spot and reached up to push Vogler's pistol away from his head. "Do not be a fool, Mr. Vogler", the surgeon eyed the larger man reproachfully. "Is no vay I could complete surgery now…if police are coming, ve must leave…"
Vogler slapped Baronov's hand down and raised his gun again, this time pointing it at the smaller man's face. "I said, finish the job…" Baronov gulped as he looked into Vogler's cold eyes. The look on his face was terrifying…pure evil. Baronov had no doubt that Vogler would kill him if he tried to leave. The smaller man turned back around to where House lay unconscious on the operating table, his right leg grotesquely opened, the muscle now completely exposed. Not bothering to replace his surgical mask, Baronov reached over with trembling fingers and picked up a clean scalpel from the tray. This was madness! He had to get out! The small man hesitated a moment, trying to think of some way to distract Vogler…one stab, maybe two… if he could force Vogler to drop the gun maybe he could make his escape before the police arrived.
There was a loud crash from somewhere out in the hallway, then suddenly the air was filed with the shouts of men and the crack of gunshots. The goons had evidently run into the SWAT team coming in from the roof. Vogler glanced quickly at the door and Baronov spun around, slashing desperately at Vogler's gun hand with the scalpel. Vogler roared, shoving the smaller man away from him and leveling his pistol at Baronov as the surgeon fell on top of the prone House. Vogler paused a moment, enjoying the look of terror in the small doctor's eyes. The big man smiled. "It would have been fun, you know…" Vogler gazed at the unconcious form of House, a look of regret now in his eyes. "I would have loved to see him reduced to a cripple…destroyed like I was destroyed. Now I'll just have to be satisfied with killing him outright." He steadied the pistol, still aimed directly at Baronov's head. "But you first, I think…" Baronov raised his hands, cringing, knowing full well what was about to happen.
Vogler began to close his finger around the trigger when the command was screamed from the door. "POLICE, POLICE…DROP YOUR WEAPON!" Vogler hesitated, a glance revealing that two police officers had entered the room and were leveling their automatic machine guns at him. Vogler roared in fury and threw himself to the ground, blindly squeezing the trigger of the pistol as he tried to roll behind the operating table. An explosion of gunshots filled the room and Vogler screamed as he felt a high powered bullet rip into his leg. He screamed again as one of the SWAT officers suddenly, somehow appeared above him and kicked the pistol out of his hand. Vogler thrashed wildly as the policeman held him forcefully on the ground, the second officer assisting his colleague as several more SWAT members rushed into the room. Vogler moaned in agony, his bleeding leg twisting as the officers wrestled him onto his stomach, fear now churning in his gut as he felt the cold steel of the handcuffs crushing into his wrists.
Wilson, Cuddy, Cameron, Foreman and Chase stopped abruptly on the stairwell when they heard the cacophony of shouts and gunshots fill the hallway above them. "Oh, God…no…" Wilson's head spun….they were too late…. He started to run.
Cuddy grabbed his arm. Her eyes were wide with fear. "James…I can't let you go up there…" there was a momentary pause in the shooting, then another explosion of gunfire filled the air. Wilson tried to wrestle out of Cuddy's grasp but found that Foreman and Chase were also restricting his forward progress, Chase hanging on to his collar and Foreman holding his other arm. He fought against them…
Foreman was speaking forcefully, each word hitting Wilson like a slap in the face. "Don't be an idiot…DR. WILSON… if we go up there, we'll all get shot!" Real fear was evident on his face too and he grimly hung onto the oncologist, refusing to let go.
Cameron stood rooted to the spot, paralyzed in fear as she listened to the yelling and gunfire taking place above them. No…please, no….
Suddenly, an eerie silence was all that remained of the bedlam… no more shooting… no more yelling. The five doctors in the stairwell stopped all movement and listened… listened… listened… no more shots. Wilson could hear his heart pounding in his ears. He wrenched out of the grip holding him and sprinted up the remaining steps. Cameron blinked as if coming out of a trance, and raced up after him, her momentary paralysis completely disappearing. Cuddy, Foreman and Chase looked at each other, and then they too followed, cautiously.
There were police everywhere and Wilson was halted in his tracks by a large officer pointing a machine gun as he raced into the hallway. Wilson raised his hands and was almost knocked over by Cameron running into him as she too sprinted out of the stairwell. By the time the others had joined them, they were surrounded by three officers all eyeing them suspiciously as Wilson demanded to see Sergeant Thompson. They could plainly see the shape of two bodies lying in the dust at the far end of the hallway…Cuddy found herself praying that House wasn't one of them.
Suddenly, the booming voice of Sergeant Thompson filled the hallway. "…LET THEM THROUGH! … I SAID LET THEM THROUGH! WE NEED A DOCTOR NOW!" Wilson felt his heart lurch at the sound of Thompson's voice. It was the first time the young man had sounded really upset throughout this whole thing. He gulped and sprinted towards where Thompson stood midway down the hallway. The large policeman's face was white and he looked like he had seen a ghost.
Wilson looked at Thompson with dread. "Is he….?" He just couldn't get the word out.
Thompson said nothing, grabbing Wilson by the lapel of his lab coat and dragging him through a doorway. Cameron and the others followed close behind. They blinked as they entered the hospital room, its crisp white walls almost blinding in their contrast to the dim, dusty corridor. Wilson gasped when he saw House lying on an operating table, a respirator hissing in the background as his friend lay, completely immobile. The bruises around the restraints on his wrists made it clear that he had fought hard and another damned breathing tube had been forced down his throat. He was partially covered by a white sheet, but the police officer standing beside held the sheet awkwardly in her hands, as if she was afraid to let it touch him. Thompson nodded as they approached and the policewoman pulled the sheet off, exposing House's legs. "Oh…fuck…oh my fucking God", Wilson cursed when he saw the open wound on House's right thigh. The skin had been peeled back and the muscles were completely visible… a dissection. "That fucking Bastard…" Cuddy, Foreman Chase and Cameron entered the room, stopping in shock at the scene before them. Another officer held a dressing over a wound on House's left leg, Wilson couldn't be sure, but it looked like he'd been shot. Goddamn it!
Thompson looked at Wilson grimly, "I'm really glad you're here, Doc… We didn't know what to do next…We can't move him…I think he's under anesthetic and the right leg is …open." He grimaced, as if he was about to be sick. "…You…you can help him right?"
Wilson forced himself to look away from the legs and check his friend's vitals…the breathing was rapid and shallow and his heart was beating way too fast… He looked at the monitors…oxygen sats were not good and his blood pressure was in the tank. Damn. He looked up quickly. "Need some help here…" Foreman was already there, checking the instruments and looking for some suture material. Cameron searched for a surgical mask and Wilson shook his head. "Don't bother Allison, no time. Keep an eye on his vitals, Foreman and I will have to close this leg with whatever we have on hand. The other wound appears to be superficial, so it can wait. If he starts to wake up, there's no way we can give him any more anesthetic with his BP that low. We've got to do this now."
Cuddy felt a hand on her shoulder as she watched the action before her. She turned to see Constable Ames. "We do have someone else here who needs a doctor", the policewoman said. She steered Chase and Cuddy into another room where they found a handcuffed Vogler on a gurney; he was unconscious, another officer was holding a bandage over a wound on his right leg. It was obvious from the blood on the sheet that the wound had been bleeding badly. "He was shot", Ames said simply. She noticed the look of loathing on both doctor's faces. "I know you would probably rather let him bleed to death" she said quietly. "…but you are doctors…and don't you think it would be fitting for him to spend the rest of his life in a jail cell?" Cuddy and Chase nodded tiredly and Chase began examining Vogler's leg.
The sounds of a hospital room came slowly into focus as House lurched suddenly awake, an overwhelming sense of fear and panic causing him to cry out as he tried to force himself towards consciousness. He felt hands on his shoulders, pressing him back down onto the bed and he thrashed against them. Somewhere through the haze, he heard a familiar voice trying to calm him, a soothing voice…telling him everything was okay…he was safe… He kept fighting. A second voice, the voice of a friend…saying everything was okay…stop fighting…you moron… Moron?
…Wilson. Feeling a surge of relief, House stopped fighting and allowed himself to slowly wake up and focus his eyes on his surroundings. Yep…the inevitable hospital room…monitors beeping, as always. No respirator, thank God. He turned his head and saw the smiling, exhausted face of James Wilson, beaming down from above. Cameron was there too, not bothering to disguise the fact that there were tears in her eyes.
"I'm glad you're back", Wilson said gently. "How do you feel?"
"Lousy." House grimaced as he stretched. Pain flooded down his right leg and he moaned, reaching down to rub the offending muscles. He was brought up short by a bandage, covering his leg from the hip all the way down to his knee. House winced, his eyes opening suddenly in panic, remembering the terror-filled moments with Vogler and the creepy Dr. Baronov. He forced himself to a sitting position, despite Wilson's attempts to keep him lying still, and threw off the blankets, examining the large pressure bandage now covering his right leg. A terrified look came on his face as he noticed, for the first time, that a bandage that was also wrapped around his left thigh.
"What….what…?" he could barely speak, his voice shook. "What did they do to me?"
Wilson tried to smile, not too successfully. "We stopped them before they got too far…" he started.
House's voice sounded like he was choking…his mind was filled with the voice of Baronov, the utter helplessness he felt as Baronov explained his plans...plans that would destroy his left leg… "James…dammit…tell me. How far did they get?"
"Calm down Greg", Wilson listened to his friend's heartbeat skyrocket audibly as the monitors beeped incessantly beside him. "Baronov opened the leg but didn't do any new damage to the muscles…"
"You've got an infection", Cameron interjected, "But it's under control now with the antibiotics you're receiving."
"But the good one…" House ran a hand over the bandage covering his left leg and cringed when it caused a surge of pain. "Ow…fuck…how bad is my left leg?"
Wilson patted his shoulder. "You got shot in that one Greg…" House looked at him with a confused expression on his face. "Vogler started shooting as the cops came in…he managed to kill that Baronov fellow then hit you in the leg as the police shot him." House glared at Wilson, a pleading look on his face. Wilson continued, "It's okay, it's okay, Greg...honest. Look at me…superficial damage only. Your left leg will be as good as new very soon." Cameron nodded at him reassuringly and House felt his panic begin to subside, just a little bit.
"We'll have you up and gimping around as usual in no time." Wilson grinned.
"You'd better get back on your feet soon Doc." House looked up to see Thompson enter the room carrying a bouquet of flowers. "You've got a witness statement to give, not to mention several appearances as the star witness in the case of the People versus Edward Vogler." He grinned, his relief evident in seeing House awake.
"What happened to him, anyway?" House asked. His voice sounded raspy and weak but it was there.
Thompson smiled. "He got shot in the leg...in the right leg." His head tilted to one side. "Your colleagues Cuddy and Chase stabilized him upstairs but the docs in the trauma bay couldn't re-establish the blood flow to his foot." House's eyes opened wide in disbelief.
Wilson added, "High powered rounds do nasty things to blood vessels."
House looked incredulous as Thompson nodded. "Yup, he lost his leg, they had no choice but to amputate. Weird huh...I know, it sounds spooky, but I guess what goes around really does come around." The large policeman shrugged. "Anyway, Vogler's gonna go to prison for a very long time, so it's not like he'll be running any marathons anytime soon."
House smiled for the first time in spite of the macabre circumstances. Vogler lost his leg...it was...perfect. He looked up at the grinning form of Thompson who still held the flowers under one arm. "Well, Sergeant...I'm grateful for everything...but it does seem a bit odd that you chose to bring me flowers..."
Thompson blushed, his eyes dropping to his feet. "Well, you know, Dr. House...they aren't...um...they aren't for you."
Wilson smiled as House looked confused. Thompson turned to Cameron who had taken off her lab coat to reveal that she was dressed in a stunning black cocktail dress. Thomspon held out the bouquet. "These are for you... Allison." He said her name shyly, like he couldn't quite believe she had said yes when he had finally gotten up the nerve to ask her out.
Cameron smiled coyly and kissed the blushing policeman's cheek. "Thank you so much...they're beautiful." She tilted her head to one side with a mischievious look in her eyes. "So"..she smiled as the word rolled off her tongue. "Where are you taking me for dinner?"
Thompson grinned and offered her his arm. "I know this great place for sushi..."
House looked on wide-eyed as the drama unfolded in front of him and the grinning Wilson. "Hey", he growled, as Cameron and Thompson walked arm in arm out of his room. "Hey, I'm sick here...in need of a little TLC. You can't just go on a date when I need nurturing..."
Wilson's smile widened. "Oh, stop whining...they make a cute couple, don't you thnk?" House grimaced.
"Is that jealousy?" The shocked looked on Wilson's face was almost worthy of an Academy Award. "You, my friend, are jealous."
"Am not. Am not."
"Are too, are too, are too..." Wilson laughed as Cuddy walked into the room; she rolled her eyes.
"Will you guys ever grow up? You sound like a couple of kids talking about a girl after class..." She smiled as she jotted some notes into House's chart and Wilson started singing a song about 'Allison and Gregory, up in a tree..' House responded with a series of insults and growls. Cuddy sighed and rolled her eyes again, just for show, as she left the room.Thank God, her world was pretty much back to normal...