No Exit

Chapter the last

House watched his own blood pour from his side, creating a small pool. He felt no pain, only confusion. The pain in his leg had vanished; he felt none coming from the wound in his abdomen. He looked up to see the shooter once again taking aim, this time at his head. And then…nothing…

"…Dr House?..." Someone was shaking him. "…Dr. House?" He was bathed in a cold sweat. House opened his eyes, elated, but bewildered to not see the shooter; to not be covered in blood.

House blinked several times clearing his head and focusing in on Catherine's face. "I'm…I must've been dreaming. I…" House had been resting, going in and out of sleep all afternoon. The neurosurgeon had implanted the small infusion pump and catheter under mild sedation after Kwan had ascertained a tolerable level of pain relief from the combination of the gabapentin and morphine. Now they just waited, hoping that the pain levels would settle back permanently and Dr. House could get on with his life.

"That must've been some dream. You're still shaking." House looked down at his hands. They were trembling. He pulled the blanket up and over his arms, hiding them. "Care to share with the class."

"Not really. Although I suppose you're going to hound me until I say something. So, just so you'll waste less of my time…I've had this dream before. Just not for awhile. The ketamine treatment I went through last summer has vivid dreaming as a side effect. Just after the treatment they were bad...frequent The intensity and the frequency of the dreams has decreased over time, but they haven't completely abated."

"So you think this was still residual ketamine effect? Seems pretty distant…"

"Sucks, huh? Pain's back, but the dreams remain the same."

Catherine took a deep breath. "What was the dream?"

"Just some déjà vu of the shooting." Catherine raised an eyebrow. Ketamine or no, it would not be unusual for this visual to recur during sleep. Post traumatic stress. Especially since, as far as she could tell, he hadn't dealt with that day at all.

"Are you feeling up to sitting in my office? No pain from the incision? I don't want to do your session in here."

"Is that what this is? Not just a friendly visit to the patient?" She smiled.

"If you want this to simply be a friendly chat, that's fine. Call it what you want."

"I was being sarcastic."

"So was I. This is what it is, Dr. House. You may not think this is getting anywhere. I don't agree with you. Why don't you get yourself together and stop by my office in 15 minutes." House nodded reluctantly.

The shooting. Could he even say for sure what happened? Guy comes in points a weapon and blam! Shot to the stomach…

House jumped, startled at a sound he heard in the distance, out in the hall. Was that a tray being dropped or the reverberations of his own memory? He couldn't say that for sure either. After the second shot he remembered nothing, not even asking for the Ketamine treatment. Just echoes of things. Moments, dreams, the sounds of voices, nothing solid enough to retain for more than a microsecond or two. Until he woke that day post-op and the pain was gone from his leg. He had not realized until everyone had left his bedside that that morning that tears were streaming down his face. No one had mentioned it, although certainly they would have noticed. He had not cried. Not once since that other night, when the pain was so bad he had asked to be put in a chemically-induced coma. He had cried with Stacy that night, arguing about options and amputations. He had gone to sleep believing he had won that argument only to wake up a day later to find half his thigh muscles excised and his life in ruins.

In front of him lay a dismal future, more dismal than the one Stacy had left him with all those years ago. This time, it was his own stupidity, he reckoned, that placed him in this place. Ahead lay the purgatory of a drug trial; and beyond that the hell of prison. And not far beyond that, he knew, the end of his own life.

House sighed and knocked on Catherine's door. She noted his reflectiveness wondering if this were a good or bad sign. House sat, looking down at his hands, which had, by now, stopped shaking. "Do you want to talk about your dream?"

House surprised even himself, replying, "Yes. I think I need to do that."