She needed to disappear. Just for a minute, to allow the helpless anger and sadness out, to let the edges dissipate so it would fit back in when she put herself back together. She checked her watch: not yet nine. Cuddy ducked into a patient room, thankful for the closed blinds. The one room in the hospital where she knew no one would disturb her. House's room.

He was still asleep; he always was when she came this early in the morning. His face was so different when his eyes were closed. When he was still. She gently checked his bandages, even though she knew the nurses had just been by. She made sure his water bottle on the bedside table was full and in easy reach. It wasn't long before she had run out of things to fuss over. She crossed to the windows and looked out over the hospital grounds. Her grounds. Her territory. Her turf.

Someone had crossed those grounds with a gun hanging heavy in his pocket. He had walked into her hospital and shot one of her doctors. Her most difficult doctor. The dry fact of the shooting wasn't exactly surprising; in a twisted way it was almost funny. He had taken to calling his two new bullet holes "Insult" and "Injury."

She squeezed a few tears from her eyelids as she let herself think about her doctor, lying behind her, fighting his injuries and his demons alone. She gripped her elbows, shoulders shaking, as she forced herself to relive the shock of hearing gunshots inside her hospital. She opened her eyes and looked back over the grounds. Her grounds. Her territory. Her turf.

She carefully stoked a primal, maternal rage. The anger had kept her back straight when nothing else would. The hallways of her hospital had echoed for over a week now with her furious heels. Her staff had been comforted by the whirlwind that was Cuddy—she was pissed off, and she would protect them. They didn't know how powerless she really felt.

"Hello," came a raspy, drowsy voice behind her.

She turned quickly and tried to find a smile. "Good morning. I didn't expect you up yet."

House reached awkwardly for his water. Cuddy didn't move from the window. After a long sip, he said, "I wanted to see my morning visitor."

"How did you...?"

"Your perfume. It lingers."

"Well, you saw me; I'd best get back," she announced as she started across the room.

"Why are you here?" his question stopped her. "That overdeveloped sense of guilt? A need to punish yourself, cause yourself more pain?"

"You are not allowed to make snap judgments about someone else's pain." Now Cuddy was angry at him. Her most difficult doctor. She stood at the foot of his bed. She could see the cogs turning behind his eyes, knew he could see behind hers. He blinked, then nodded his head and spoke, his voice as gentle as she'd ever heard.

"Tomorrow morning, then."