"We're idiots. Damn it." He was shouting in frustration. "How could I have missed this?" House was pointing to a paragraph in a monograph circled in red.
"House, calm down a second. What am I looking at?" It was written in German.
"It's right her. We've lost over 24 hours. I don't know if… Patient X. The one who bumped her leg on the airplane?"
"Following you so far."
"They did a follow up with sub-anesthetic dosages. It was enough to decrease the pain significantly almost immediately. Over the course of a week of daily treatments, the pain was back to base level." He looked up at Cuddy, who was now trying to read the German over his shoulder. "Here." He handed her the monograph.
"Were there any side effects?"
"Fewer than the original treatment." The earnestness in House's voice; the renewed energy almost propelled her into his arms. She hesitated. He did not. A moment's joy, a quick shower and off to the hospital.
House regarded Cuddy as she drove the eight miles to PPTH. It had been so long since he had even considered another relationship, the very idea seemed laughable. He knew himself well. Every involvement, be it a project, an idea, a patient…a woman was undertaken with an acute intensity. He knew how hard it was for him to let go.
It had been more than 10 years since he had first laid eyes on Stacy. Part of him could not even quite let go of her, and that had cost him earlier in the year. His first course of action was resistance in the extreme. It wasn't intentional. It was survival. Instinct at its most instinctual. Yet, here he was. With Cuddy. How had that happened?
Wilson had called him on it once. Describing to him the thin line between love and hate. House decried it as ridiculous. Even Chase and Foreman had seen it coming. House loved the exhilaration of arguing with her. She was a quick as he was, and as smart, if not smarter. Of course it really wasn't a game, most of the time. They argued matters of life and death; patient care and ethics; quality of life and right and wrong. Practical philosophy is NOT an oxymoron.
But fundamentally, he knew, when it came to patient care, she trusted him. Most of the time. She had hired him to make those decisions. By the time patients ended up on House's service, they had gone as far as conventional wisdom and accepted medical practice had taken them. By nature, his work was always experimental. They were dealing with the unknown and unknowable all the time. Last chance medicine. And it had worked for them.
But could he love her? That was the question. He had loved. Loved until it nearly killed him. Was there room in his life for another great love or was he just too beaten down and exhausted to really make the effort? His heart was willing; his brain was not so sure.
"What?" Cuddy noticed that he had been staring at her in silence. The attention unnerved her.
"Just watching. Can't I do that? Just watch you?" Cuddy blushed. This could work, he thought as he felt himself near the edge of a dangerous, enticing cliff. The image of Cuddy's cold glare that night when she'd cruelly given him the placebo conflicted with the Cuddy who had sat vigil in his office as his spirit shattered in the next room and then picked up his tattered remains and tried to glue them back together. He was drawn to her and afraid the attraction. Knowing it would lead him off the edge either into the safety of her arms or into a suicidal free-fall. Then again, he was never one to play it too safely.
Late Saturday afternoons were a busy time at PPTH everywhere except anesthesiology. They didn't stop at either of their offices, opting to head straight for a treatment room. "House, if this works, we do have some dosage options."
"I know. I don't want an infusion pump. There's a gel mentioned in one of the monographs. It's topical. No side effects." He was not welcoming a return of hallucinations, nor the sense of being in the altered state of his ketamine-induced vivid dreams. "It'll have to be custom formulated by our friend Rodirigo in the pharmacy, but I think I'd like to try that first. If this works."
"Don't." His eyes begged her keep him grounded with this, to not play with his hopes.
"Ready?" He nodded his head. He was more than ready, as the morphine that had begun to wear off slowly had picked up speed in its retreat.
The effect was immediate. And profound. House looked at Cuddy, his eyes revealing the result. It had worked. For the time, anyway. "We'll have to do this every day for the next week. Once a day. If you're still pain free in a week, I'll have the pharmacy prepare the topical formulation."
For House, it was as if the clock had been set back 48 hours. He could do this. It was all about faith. What was it they said about leaps of faith? You just close your eyes and do it.
"How're you feeling?"
"Dizzy, but otherwise OK."
"An expected side effect." She handed him his cane.
"Here, I don't want you to fall on your ass. You owe me dinner. And my second injection of the day."
"Cool. You give me shots; I give you shots. Just like rock stars."
"Yeah. Just like."
The two month mark had passed since the original Ketamine treatment. House was experiencing no residual effects and was without significant pain from the original site. He ran. He loved. He smiled and was kind. Every day was lived on the edge of a cliff. For every day might be the last of its kind, before he was propelled back into the private Hell to which he had for so long been accustomed.
That's all folks. This story now deposits you at the threshold of Season three, in which the now hypo-manic House worries everyone around him, despite being pain free and happy. Thanks for reading!