Author's Note: This is a revamped, restructured and re-edited version of a story that had ground to a shuddering halt. All medical cases are from journals and textbooks onlineand actuallyhappened (including the diagnostic timescale!) butmistakes in detail are mine.
Timing: Between "Clueless" and "Safe".
The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.
Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles
The code had been called four minutes before House got to the room. He watched from the doorway as Chase called instructions to nurses and Cameron kept on at the CPR. There was always a controlled mania to these scenes, each person knowing exactly what they were meant to be doing. House flattened himself against the wall as more nurses hurried in, one relieving Cameron at the bed.
The patient had been intubated for three days, and hadn't opened her eyes for two. She looked so pale compared to when she was brought in, all the tubes and wires making her look tiny and fragile. As the sea of people washed around her, fighting to bring her back to life, she seemed almost serene, totally and mercifully unaware of what was happening.
House hadn't met her before she'd closed her eyes for the last time, but he could imagine her smiling and laughing with her family, who were now clinging to each other in the waiting room. The children had been crying as he came past, responding to the fears of the grown-ups. He could almost see the slim hand now lying on the bedcovers reaching out to comfort them through their tears.
Chase called out the charge. As the others stood back, he pressed the paddles to the woman's chest, making her body arc as the electricity surged through her. There was a momentary lull, all eyes fixed on the heart monitor. It remained flat, so Chase upped the charge and applied them again. Her body jolted as though in some strange dance, her head just falling to one side as she landed back on the bed. Chase called it again, although even House had caught the change in mood from the team. He didn't run many codes nowadays but he could sense it in the room. Sometimes you knew you were going to get a patient through, despite everything. Sometimes, despite everything, you just couldn't.
When there was still nothing, Chase began to charge again, not yet willing to give up.
"Chase." House didn't raise his voice, and he wasn't sure that the younger man had been aware of his presence before that moment. Cameron certainly hadn't, as she jerked her head round in surprise. Her lips were pressed tightly together, and her face was a blank mask. She had enough pride to hold back the tears for now, but House knew they would come later.
Everything had stopped. Only the constant tone of the heart rate monitor filled the room, until a nurse reached up to silence it. After a frozen moment, House took half a step forwards, glancing up at the clock on the wall.
"Time of death, two twenty-four a.m.," he said. Chase was still looking at him, face caught between defiance and acceptance, while Cameron was looking down at the bed, her hand resting on that of the dead woman. The nurses were already moving, clearing the debris from the code and silently moving out of the way, sensing that the three doctors needed a minute. Still holding Chase's eye, House said, "Cameron, go tell the family."
"I'll do it," Chase said, automatically, but Cameron shook her head.
"No, it's alright." She shot a last pained look at House as she left the room. He slid the door shut behind her, still not looking away from Chase. No words passed between them, the younger man dropped his head, leaning over the bed.
"I should have seen it." His voice was muffled, chin pressing against his chest.
"Ah, the arrogance of the young." House shook his head. "You should have. So should I, Cameron, Foreman, her own doctor, her husband, her mother and that idiot quack she went to see. Not to mention that she should have noticed something herself. We all should have seen it. So yes. You should have seen it."
Chase looked up, face flushed. "Are you saying this is my fault?"
"I'm saying it's all of our faults. Don't worry, if you want blame, you'll get your fair share of it. If they decide to sue someone, I'll make sure your name's at the top of the list." House's voice was unsympathetic. "Now go have a shower and get home. I want you back in here on time tomorrow morning. No excuses" He could feel the younger doctor's eyes on his back as he pulled the door open. Ignoring the sensation, he glanced down the corridor towards the waiting room. Cameron was standing in the doorway so that he could only see her in profile. He could also hear the sobs, and the higher cries of children who knew something had happened but were too young to really understand. It was a terrible sound.
Turning his back, House limped towards the elevators at the other end of the corridor, tapping various pockets until he heard the comforting rattle of the Vicodin bottle. After a moment's consideration, he decided that some of the half-empty bottle of scotch in his office would wash them down nicely. It wasn't like there was any point in going home and pretending to sleep. He wondered if Chase would similarly self-medicate tonight, and hoped the boy wouldn't overdo alcohol as a sedative. He'd meant it about being on the time the next morning. After all, House wasn't planning on going home at all.