See first post for disclaimer.
House's eyes fluttered open at the sound of the glass door sliding along the track; without uttering a greeting, he followed Cameron's lithe movements toward his bed. He assessed the young doctor who remained silent a foot away, looking as though she was still working out what she was trying to say.
"If you want to stare at the fish, you have to stand outside the bowl." House pointed at the glass.
"How are you feeling?" Cameron held herself tall and confident under the sharp blue scrutiny of her boss.
"Never been better," House answered causing Cameron to frown. "No really, never better – I'm on a morphine drip, I get to watch TV all day and I have a team of nurses to wait on me hand and foot."
"But you were shot," Cameron argued.
House fined surprise, "I was! I just thought Cuddy was rewarding me for all the cases I've solved."
"Can't you be serious for one second? You were shot! You could have died." Cameron tightened her fingers into fists.
"Do you not know me at all?" House rolled his eyes. "Look," he sighed, "if you came here expecting some great cathartic cry at facing death, you're not nearly as intelligent as I give you credit for."
"I don't know why I even bothered." She sighed and headed for the door.
"Cameron," House called, "how's the diagnoses going with your patient?"
"It's not going anywhere and she's deteriorating fast, renal failure's already begun." She crossed her arms over her chest, subtlety tapping the toe of her boot on the floor.
"Bring me the chart," House ordered.
"Don't you think you should be -"
"Did Webster give the word 'chart' a new meaning while I was unconscious?" House narrowed his eyes at her.
"I just wanted to come and see that you were okay." Cameron lowered her voice, adopting a wounded posture. "And Cuddy said that -"
"I know what Cuddy said, but you're in here telling me that the patient isn't getting any better nor are you any closer to a diagnosis than when they came in, which means you're looking for my medical opinion. I'm good but even I doubt I could pull off a diagnosis without the patient's symptoms."
"If you were your own patient you'd call yourself an idiot and then ask if you wanted to get better." Cameron pointed out, one hand on the sliding door's handle.
"If I were my patient I would have handed off the case by now," House snorted.
"You should get some rest." Cameron walked out of the room in a huff, flustered and more than a little frustrated.
"Ah my peeps have arrived." House announced as Chase, Foreman and Cameron filtered into his hospital room. "Don't look so down – I know you're all miserable about needing my expertise but you just weren't ready to fly on your own yet." House mocked them further by pouting.
"We shouldn't be bothering you – you're supposed to be resting." Cameron made no effort to hide her disapproval of the situation.
"So it's alright for him to practice medicine with a bad leg and a drug addiction but get a few stitched in the gut and it's suddenly dangerous." Chase furrowed his brow at Cameron.
"This isn't about our patient, this is about House. He doesn't need to be-"
"How about leaving me to decide what I need. I've actually gotten pretty good at it over the decades." He rolled his eyes. "Bring me up to speed on the patient."
"Patient was diagnoses with Lupus five years ago and more recently has been undergoing treatment for a gastrointestinal carcinoma. She's been responding poorly to both the chemo and radiation and is showing signs of renal failure."
"I didn't ask for a recap of past events – I said 'get me up to speed'." House frowned.
"She coded two hours ago; her heart was tachycardic for two minutes and she's currently experiencing complete kidney shutdown," Cameron said.
"Electro and echocardiography?" House opened the chart and scanned the first page.
"Shows some irregularity in blood flow to the left ventricle and structural damage to the chamber walls. Could be a defective valve but I think it's more likely that the cancer's spread." Foreman's dark eyes remained trained on House.
"Wilson's notes indicate there is no sign of secondary growth sights," he read from the chart.
"It's possible that the ventricular tachycardia was precipitated by the chemo and radiation – it is one of the side effects." Chase crossed his arms over his chest and set his shoulders with confidence.
"Rarely," Foreman responded.
"I like rare," House narrowed his eyes at the file. "It says here that the autoimmune tests for Lupus were inconclusive."
"Seventy to eighty percent of the time those tests are inconclusive, especially in someone so young," Cameron added.
"But what if Lupus couldn't account for all the other symptoms – suddenly you're looking at something much different than strain on the heart." House paused, flipping the page on the chart. "Do a measurement of her Creatine Kinase, CBC and ultrasound her kidneys."
"We already did a blood count." Chase pointed out.
"And I'm telling you to do another one." House moved to shake his head in mock dismay but stopped when his movement pulled at his stitches. He opened his mouth to issue a snarky comment when his brow furrowed and a slow smirk rose upon his lips. Stuck on the bottom of the chart was a post-it addressed to him in a very familiar scrawl.
'House, give the chart back to your team or I'm having the TV removed from your room.' It was signed 'The Boss Lady'.
"What are you smiling about?" Cameron asked where she and her two colleagues had paused at the door.
"Cuddy sent me a get well present." He raised his eyebrows. "Naked pictures of herself – very thoughtful of her." He smirked at Cameron's expression and Chase and Foreman's exasperated reactions. "Those tests aren't going to run themselves," House commented.
They left the room while House puzzled over the chart. His fingers rubbed at his bottom lip thoughtfully as each piece of information was filed away in his brain based on the rarity of symptoms.
Dr. Wilson, do you have a moment?" Cuddy poked her head into Wilson's office.
"If this is House-related then no." Wilson raised an eyebrow at Cuddy as she stood behind the chairs in his office.
"You're not giving him enough credit; he works hard to make everything about him." Cuddy tossed out an ironic smile. "I need you to do me a favour." Wilson put his pen down to devote his attention toward his boss. "House's mother's arriving in Newark at seven – I need you to pick her up. I've got a meeting tonight I can't get out of."
"Does House know his mother's on her way here?"
"I told him." Cuddy nodded.
"I'm sure he wasn't too happy about that." Wilson leaned back in his chair and pursed his lips.
"Yeah, well he can tell her that when she gets here but I'm not telling the woman not to jump the Atlantic to see her son; although in this case I would likely advise it."
"I'll pick her up," Wilson agreed.
Cuddy made for the door until the oncologist's voice stopped her. "Maybe you can help me out with something." He smoothed down his tie and relaxed further into his seat. "I can't for the life of me figure out what it is that you have on House that's been making him so agreeable since he woke up?"
"House is not agreeable," was Cuddy's immediate response.
"More agreeable than usual," Wilson countered.
"House is merely momentarily appeased by the fact that I administrated the Ketamine; that'll last about as long as his morphine drip." Cuddy tossed her hands up into the air.
"You could have just as easily sent a car." Wilson quirked an eyebrow.
"I know but I'd prefer someone she knows picks her up rather than a stranger," she explained.
"That's very thoughtful of you." Wilson eyed her suspiciously. "And there is something going on between you and House and I will figure it out," he smirked.
"When you do, would you mind letting me in on it?" Cuddy remarked over her shoulder before heading through the open office door.
"A woman of your beauty can surely find someone to carry her bags."
Blythe turned on a dime when the familiar voice reached her ears. Her light cotton trousers and silk shirt billowing at the force of her spin while her short locks remained strangely unmoved atop her head.
"James Wilson, I didn't realize it would be you picking me up." Blythe drew the younger man into a hug and quickly assessed him with a motherly affection.
"Dr. Cuddy thought you would be more comfortable being picked up by someone you knew as opposed to an intern." Wilson picked up her larger bag and carry-on, leaving Blythe in charge of her purse.
"Dr. Cuddy's quite thoughtful." Blythe observed, casting a side-long glance at Wilson. "You look tired James." Her words were uttered with care and concern.
"When I became an oncologist I knew there would be loss but sometimes there are just too many defeats and too few victories – this was on of those months," he confided.
"How is Greg doing?" Blythe finally asked the question filling space between them.
"Didn't Dr. Cuddy - "
"She did. But I want to know how he's really doing. I'm aware doctors make a habit of placating family members." Wilson raised his eyebrows at his friend's mother who quickly added, "My son excluded obviously."
"Cuddy's not one to placate either; she's actually a lot like House that way."
"So he really is doing well?" Blythe hedged.
"Possibly better than he has been in a while." Wilson opened the truck of his Volvo and dropped the bags in, then opened the passenger side door for Blythe. "Having the nurses at his beck and call seems to agree with him."
"If Greg is enjoying himself it's a safe bet that the nurses aren't." Blythe smiled teasing her absent son.
"I'm assuming Dr. Cuddy didn't inform you about the experimental treatment she and Hou- Greg decided on." Wilson broached the topic as he pulled onto the freeway.
"Experimental treatment for what? I thought there was minimal damage from the shooting." As a military wife, Blythe was well verse in maintaining a calm and even stoic façade in the face of alarming news but it didn't stop her knuckles from turning white as her fingers clenched nervously.
"There was a study being done in Europe on a drug that alleviated pain for chronic suffers. Cuddy and House had been researching the possibility and attempted the procedure while he was undergoing surgery."
"Attempted?" Blythe questioned.
"He's still on low dose pain medication for the internal wounds so there's no way to determine with absolute certainty whether it's been successful of not. But as it stands so far, he's not feeling any residual pain in his leg."
"And if the procedure doesn't work?" Blythe sighed.
Wilson remained silent, knowing that her comment didn't intent to be answered. She knew what the outcome could be if the procedure failed and for the first time since departing from Dubai she was relieved that John hadn't been able to accompany her.
The door opened to House's room for the umpteenth time that day, causing him to scowl. "Your ineptitude stuns me truly. You've all regressed to the point of needy med students." He commented without looking up.
"I was actually looking for my son." Blythe remained at the open door, her light jacket draped over her arm and a soft smile sweeping her lips.
"Hi Mom." House delighted her with a closed mouth smile.
"How are you doing Sweetheart?" She took the few steps needed to bring her next to his bed.
"Good, all things considered." His smile vacated his face but it didn't deter Blythe from laying her hand on his arm, both to comfort him and herself. "You really didn't need to come all the way here – I'm going to be fine."
"Don't bother trying to dismiss this or me Greg. This is serious – you could have died." The lines on her aging face deepened at the thought.
House rolled his eyes, "I could die every time I step onto the street or put in an electrical device," he countered arrogantly.
"Yes well it's too late to lament coming here, so you may as well drop it." She winked at him, practicality winning out.
"I'm sure that Dad was just thrilled that you left him in Dubai alone," he grunted.
"He was worried about you as well Greg," she assured him.
"I bet he's lost plenty of sleep over it," House deadpanned.
Blythe expertly sidestepped the minefield of her son's temper and changed the subject. "How long do the doctors anticipate keeping you here?" She pulled a chair up to the bed, folding her jacket over the back and sitting down.
"Post-op gun shot wounds have a standard jail time of seven to ten days; I'm hoping to get early parole for good behaviour."
"I never thought you were one to bet on long shots."
House and Blythe turned toward the voice at the door; Cuddy was situated just inside the room with one hand on her hip and the other bracing the door frame.
"And here's the warden now- here for my nightly beating….I hope you remembered to pad the handcuffs this time." House feigned dramatic injury.
"No beatings this time." Cuddy shook her head and strode into the room. "You know what I'm here for." Her eyes narrowed at him.
"Oh Cuddy you tease you. Not in front of my mother." House played up his scandalized expression.
His comment earned a disapproving head shake from his mother which was somewhat tempered by the small smile on her lips.
"The file House." Cuddy was nonplused by his remark.
"File? What file?" He widened his eyes innocently, turning to look on his mother who stifled a laugh.
"The patient file your team's working on that Chase no doubt snuck in to you." She walked around to the far side of the bed, glaring critically at the pillows behind his head. "Up," she ordered.
House obliged, being careful of his abdominal stitches. "It's not under the pillows Sherlock. If I did have the file I would be a little more creative than that." He pointed at Cuddy and made a face at his mother.
"I'm well aware of that." She pursed her lips, reaching her hand into the pillow-case housing his pillow and the patient file. She pulled it out and held it up accusingly.
"Chase has to start keeping better track of his things – he leaves them everywhere."
"Let your team handle the case," Cuddy sighed.
House ignored her and instead turned to his mother, "Mom, have you met the Warden? Lisa Cuddy, Blythe House." He gestured from one to the other.
Cuddy turned a brilliant smile toward Blythe, the one House recognized from meetings with potential donors. She was trying to impress his mother – that was interesting.
"Mrs. House, it's a pleasure to finally meet you." Cuddy reached across the bed to shake her hand.
"It's Blythe remember dear. Thank you for arranging for James to collect me." She leaned forward in order to grasp the outstretched hand, neither paying attention to House who rolled his eyes at the pleasantries.
"It was no problem."
"What can I do for you Cuddy?" House sighed.
"I was actually coming to tell you that provided all your recent tests come back clear, you're being discharged tomorrow evening." She answered, and frowned. "Don't look so satisfied with yourself, you've successfully pissed off, annoyed or exasperated the entire floor's nursing staff in under a week."
"I'm good but I don't know if I'm that good. I've actually been annoying, exasperating and pissing off the nurses for years." He dismissed her with a wave of his hand.
"James was mentioning an experimental treatment," Blythe felt strangely intrusive as she watched the battle of wills between her son and his boss. "He didn't give me too many of the details…" she trailed off, waiting for one of them to further enlighten her. Her eyes tracked the quick look Lisa shared with Greg before he replied to her question.
"There's a drug that's proven to diminish chronic pain in people. It's still technically in the trial phase."
Cuddy finished for him, "But the results are promising."
"So does this mean your leg will no longer hurt?" Blythe shifted in her seat, eyes darting between the two doctors.
"Don't look at her - she lies to her own mother." House gestured to Cuddy.
"Eighty percent of the patients experienced the recurrence of pain but only ten percent reported it being as severe as before the treatment." Cuddy elucidated while glaring at House.
"When will you know if it's been successful?"
House opened his mouth to reply but Cuddy cut him off, "We'll be sending him home with a seven day dose of Toradol and at that point we'll reassess but considering the level of pain he was experiencing prior to the surgery; the low dose pain killer will give us some idea of the drug's effect. We've already been tapering the morphine dose significantly – are you feeling any differently?" Cuddy asked House.
"Yeah, colours aren't as vivid," was his quick response. "But my leg doesn't hurt." He finished seriously, avoiding asking about the obvious decision on Cuddy's part to give him a pain killer that had no narcotic properties.
"Good," Cuddy nodded, "I want you to begin physio right away."
"And I want the L word girls to perform a live show for me," he shot back.
Blythe raised an eyebrow as Greg and Lisa continued their argument silently. "Isn't physio necessary for full recovery of your leg Greg?" She asked offhandedly.
House opened his mouth with a knee jerk remark at the ready and shut it again when he remembered he was talking with his mother. His toned turned sullen as he admitted the truth, "Yes, but I'm not a fan of the people in the rehab clinic here." He scowled.
"Which is exactly why I've scheduled your assessment and sessions with a private clinic ten minutes from here," she answered easily.
House saw his mother smiling. "She may be well prepared and persuasive but she's still under orders from the devil."
"Greg!" His mother admonished.
"It's fine Blythe, I'm used to your son's very unique breed of humourless complaining." Cuddy tucked the folder under her arms as they crossed over her chest.
"It's late and you need to rest if you intend to make bail tomorrow. Again, it was a pleasure to meet you Blythe and feel free to call me if there's anything you need."
"She's not going to donate any money Cuddy. Go use your schmooze tactics on someone else's mother?" House's taunt followed her to the door.
"It's been nice meeting you as well Lisa – ignore Greg."
"I usually do." She winked at Blythe and exited.
"Lisa's an absolute doll Greg." Blythe smiled at House after Cuddy left the room.
"Yeah, Bride of Chucky doll maybe," he snorted.
"You do talk about her a fair bit."
"Complaining is not the same as talking," he argued.
"She's a beautiful girl," Blythe continued.
"I tell her that all the time," Greg announced, "although usually I'm more specific in the beautiful parts of her I compliment." His mother huffed at his snide remark, choosing not to remark on it.
"So are you going to tell me what happened?" She leaned forward in her chair and softened her voice slightly.
"There really isn't much to tell. One second I was working with my team in the office and the next a man walked in and wanted to know who Dr. House was. You'd be better off asking one of my team what happened after that because I don't remember a thing." He paused in thought. "Just don't ask Cameron – she'll try and get you to tell her my deepest childhood secrets."
"So just like that, a man walked into your office in the hospital and shot you? Where is the man now?" Blythe frowned and folded her hands over in her lap to keep her nails from cutting into her palm at the fists she was tempted to make.
"They tell me he was shot by security and apparently Cuddy had him removed to Princeton General for further treatment." He shrugged.
"And what's this case that you're jeopardizing your health for?" Her motherly tone had House rolling his eyes in exasperation.
"I'm not jeopardizing my health – Cuddy's melodramatic."
"I wonder who she learned that from?" Blythe quirked an eyebrow.
He ignored the comment, "None of the symptoms for the patient add up to anything; they're all independent of one another and yet I know everything is connected so it means we just haven't found what's connecting them. And if we don't find it soon the patient will die. Her heart's already failing as are her kidneys; it's only a matter of time before the rest of her internal organs begin to shutdown.
"You're still here?" Wilson moved up to the nursing station of the empty clinic where Cuddy was flipping through charts.
She glanced up to identify the talker then resumed her work immediately. "I'm in meetings most of tomorrow so I wanted to sign off on these chart tonight."
"Working yourself to death isn't going to change what's happened to him." Wilson frowned at his boss. She was great at her job but she didn't have anyone to tell her to slow down. He had House for that or even his wives, when they weren't speaking to him through their lawyers. Having worked with Cuddy for as long as he had, he knew when something was weighing on her and as her friend and someone who admired the way she ran the hospital, he feared the day when her thoughts and worries finally crushed her.
"I'm assuming the 'him' you're referring to is House and I'm well aware that nothing can change what's happened." She slapped her pen down on the open chart and turned irritated eyes on her friend. "And I don't know where everyone got the idea that I'm a masochist."
"You keep House around – for most that's proof enough you're a glutton for punishment," Wilson shrugged.
"It's bad enough I have to justify keeping House employed to the board and University, now I have to defend my motives to his friend." Her fatigue was catching up with her and shortening her temper but she was past the point of caring.
"House is an amazing doctor – I know that's why you keep him here. What I don't understand or perhaps simply can't comprehend is your friendship with him." Cuddy dropped her gaze at Wilson's insight.
"And you'll have me believe that you understand your friendship with him?" Cuddy went on the offensive, leery of the territory he was strolling into.
"Surprisingly yes," he replied, "I can discuss his outlandish ideas I can even go along with them because ultimately I'm not responsible for him – but you… you are."
"I respect House," Cuddy admitted, "hell sometimes I even like him but there's a reason whatever friendship we still have is stale; when push comes to shove I have to be his boss not his friend."
"That may be but there's something else." Wilson puzzled aloud. He chanced a look to his left at Cuddy and happened to catch her eye. For a brief moment she was unguarded, allowing him to see the torrent of conflict awash in blue. He was struck with a sudden insight, "You don't – I mean you couldn't possibly-"
"Don't!" Cuddy stalled the thought but was powerless to rid it from Wilson's mind completely.
"Oh my God. You do." Awe suffused his tone and his jaw unhinged marginally. 'Have you told-" Cuddy narrowed her eyes, "of course you haven't."
"Whatever you think you've stumbled upon knowing, you don't. Drop the line of thought because it can only spell disaster," she ordered.
"Well whatever you do or don't feel for House, don't let it or anything else drive you to work yourself into the ground. You deserve a break as much as the next person." Wilson dropped the issue but his expression radiated sympathy for the truth she intended to keep hidden.
"Speaking of deserving breaks, what are you still doing here?" Cuddy spun back around to finish signing off on the charts.
"I'm waiting for House's Mom. She'll need a ride to his place once she's seen he's doing okay."
"She's not staying at a hotel?" Cuddy was marginally surprised that House would be willing to share his space with his mother.
"She hasn't had time to make reservations at a hotel. I don't know what they're going to do once House is discharged. He needs a bed so he doesn't rip out his stitches but there's no way she can stay on his couch."
Cuddy didn't comment on the flush that crept up Wilson's cheeks. She wondered if it had anything to do with House's quip about Wilson wetting the bed. She had learned early on in her association with House that there was generally a grain of truth in everything he said.
"I'm sure they'll think of something. But in the mean time, why don't you get going; I'll be here for a while anyway so I can drive Blythe home," Cuddy offered.
"Are you sure?"
"It's no problem and anyway, you went to Newark to pick her up tonight already."
"Thanks. Have a good night Dr. Cuddy." Wilson nodded to her, ensuring she received the message that their conversation went no further that the two of them – even it she had admitted to nothing.
"You too Dr. Wilson." She went back to the charts, happy for the distraction from the impromptu conversation with her all too insightful head of oncology.
Please R&R if you get the chance.