Post – ep for Finding Judas
The wail of a car horn, broke House from his thoughts. Not such a good idea, he thought, to be not paying attention riding down even Princeton's quiet streets. He was still playing it all back, over and over. Porphyria. How could he have missed it? Is that what he had come to? He pulled up to his building, gingerly lifting his right leg over the bike's seat. House leaned heavily on the building's exterior, building up the energy to retrieve his cane and mount the two steps to its front door. It was an effort that at that moment seemed insurmountable.
House groped along the brickwork, easing himself down to sit on the stair, exhausted. How had he managed even the short drive home, he wondered. A little girl. Her eyes haunted his vision as he sat there, eyes closed. Her fear matching, and then trumping his own. He looked down at her in his mind's eye. She cried out as her missing limbs seemed still to be painfully there, still burning, still throbbing: an angry phantom. And he realized, too late, that he had been wrong. But for Chase, this would be his reality when morning came. Porphyria. How could he have missed it?
Mechanically, he reached into the jacket of his tattered pea coat, feeling only a few coins and the worn satin of the pocket lining. He had left, House now remembered, without procuring his evening's ration from Cuddy's stingy hand. He had meant to… No, he hadn't. He couldn't face her. Ask her; beg her. Not now. For so many, many reasons. Not the least of which was lying to her so splendidly. She would be a good mother. Too good a mother. But with Cuddy it was always the middle ground. Always a compromise. It's what made her a good administrator and risk manager; not so good when it came to him. Or anytime when a medical condition indicated a more radical, inspired approach. Like… not that it would have mattered for that little girl. You can't cure porphyria of any variety with antibiotics.
House shivered, suddenly chilled. How long had he been sitting there, he wondered. He noted that his breathing was too shallow, that even a slight movement now gnawed at his stomach; sent razor blades radiating through his right leg. He needed to move. How long would it be before some beat cop approached him. He wouldn't have the energy to tell him that he wasn't a vagrant loitering in Princeton's historic district. That he was simply hanging out on his front steps. Right in 26 degree weather; at night. House had caught his reflection earlier in the glass; he looked like a vagrant. Felt like one, whatever that meant.
Chase had called it. Saved the girl's quality of life. "Thing about life. It has qualities." What the Hell does that mean, quality of life? The quality of his own life waxed and waned. Mostly waned, but there were moments. It was a platitude, he knew. But he hadn't the strength or the focus to get into an argument with them. Not again. Sounded good, anyway, whatever it meant. Chase. Probably sitting with Tritter right now. Telling him whatever he wanted to hear. No matter whether it was true or not. Not that House blamed Chase. Not now. Not when… What had he become that he could hit Chase. Of all people.
Snow began falling. Big flakes. House shivered again. He needed to get up. Get moving. He rose slowly, shakily from the step, leaning still upon the brickwork of his building for support. He was dizzy and cold. And nausea trumped the pain in his leg. House reached for his cane, extending it to the correct length. The exertion of that simple task, taking his breath away. He felt old, used up: a broken toy.
House could feel the eyes of passersby on him. They radiated pity, burning through his back, while failing to warm him. He felt like turning around and simply yelling at them to leave him the fuck alone. But he lacked the will.
"You forgot your pills." A voice in his head, he was sure. But it wasn't his. It was Cuddy's. He turned to find Cuddy just behind him; a worried expression etched her face. He wanted to ignore her, and hated himself because he couldn't. She held key to an semblance of comfort he would feel in the coming hours. Instead, he let himself in, leaving the door open. Neither an invitation, nor a slight.
House braced himself on the edge of his desk as a wave of pain tore through his leg. He swallowed bile as he gripped the glass paperweight. He wanted to cry out and wouldn't dare. Not with her three feet away. Instead he took a step, realizing immediately that it was a mistake. The leg failed and House crumpled to the wood floor, catching himself before his head hit the table. "It's not enough, Cuddy. It's not…"
House felt the last shreds of his dignity drain away as Cuddy examined him for obvious signs of injury. She wouldn't find them. "Cuddy, I can't function on what you're giving me. I can't focus. I can't think. I can't…"
"I'm sorry, House. I can't give you more. It's probably too much as it is…"
"How the hell would you know how much is too much; how much is enough?" His voice was weary. There was no fight left. Only pain; only shame. He turned his face from her, trying his best to hide from her glare.
"House. What you said to me yesterday. I…" He couldn't do this. Not now; maybe never. She would just have to know. To understand without him saying the words. He was sorry. For hurting her like that, when she was down. But he was right. She couldn't take a stand. Couldn't be bold. Always the middle ground. Always the compromise. And sometimes the conventional wisdom simply was wrong. He was proof of that . Then – and now.
Cuddy helped him to the sofa. It was the only surface in the entire apartment not a chaos of books, papers and objects d'art. A cyclone had been through here. She shivered. Tritter. Of course. He would be unable to put his place back together. How could he? Not alone. Not by himself.
House had drawn an old blanket around himself. She was surprised he hadn't yet demanded his pills of her. But then, again, he looked half-dead: pale, drawn, eyes sunken deep within their sockets. The irises transparent puffs of white-blue smoke. He was detoxing, she knew, even on two tabs every six hours. She shuddered, surmising how much he had to have been taking before—to suffer like this on eight a day.
"I hit Chase. He didn't even deserve it. This time. I told him he didn't have to cover my ass. He did it anyway. He saved that kid…"
"From both of us."
"I couldn't think of anything else but getting the hell out of there." His words were coming with difficulty. "This is Tritter's fault."
"To a degree. But he's right in a way."
"I need the pills." Cuddy was surprised to be cheered by that little bit of fight she detected in his voice.
"For the pain. Yes. You do. Look, I just came by to give you these." She produced a small bottle containing four Vicodin.
"It's not enough."
"Do you want me to stay with you?" Incongruous, he thought. But then realizing…
"You are not fine." She rose from the sofa, retrieving a glass of water and a damp cloth. She watched him as she came back into the living room. His eyes were closed, nearly giving the impression that he was resting comfortably. The sheen of perspiration and the shivering told her a different truth. She waited until he was asleep before leaving the pills and water on the coffee table and stepping quietly into the night. Their conversation was not over. Not by a long shot.