Counterpoint by Aenisses Thai

Disclaimer: All rights to House MD belong to David Shore, Heel and Toe Films, and Bad Hat Harry Productions in association with NBC Universal Television Studio. I do not make any monetary profit from this fanfiction.

This story is rated T for language.

Warning: Spoilers for Season Three, including a major plot spoiler for Half-Wit (Season 3, Episode 15) and references to events in Finding Judas (Season 3, Episode 9).

Note: Patrick is House's patient in the episode "Half Wit." He is a musical savant, a piano genius with the mind of a four-year-old.

Your fingers stroke the keys, coaxing the plaintive melody from the old wooden heart of the hospital upright. The music catches you up in its spell as always, but Wilson's entrance into your office darkens your mood. Then again, maybe your mood was already dark, judging from your immediate complaint to him about your current patient's mental disability/ musical virtuosity. The counterpoint melody Patrick composed wraps effortlessly around your own creation, lifting its minor-key darkness into something brighter and yet, at the same time, more poignant. It's perfect, you grumble to Wilson, caught between resentment and admiration of your patient's skill.

Wilson's retort is sarcasm laced with betrayal. I could set up a tower on the roof during a lightning storm, help you switch brains with your patient. Then you would be the brilliant pianist, and he would be the doctor hiding brain cancer from his friend.

Damn it all! I don't deserve this, goes through your mind as your carefully wrought plan begins to disintegrate. Why can't he just stay out of my business? And yeah, even as you parry his angry questions with sharp, sarcastic denials, your mind goes on to see the entire picture as it always does. Your own forays into the personal affairs of everyone around you. The irony of having the tables turned on you for once. The scramble behind the line of scrimmage, as you calculate the chances of fooling Wilson long enough to accomplish your goal. The fascinating, unfolding puzzle of Patrick's seizures.

It's all there in your multitasking brain, keeping you as entertained as your soaps and Gameboy combined, like a juggling routine in which you have to keep all of the balls in the air without touching a single one. You know the truth will come out; it's inevitable now that Wilson has gotten involved, but the challenge is to see how far you can get before Game Over flashes on your personal screen.

But now the door opens, and Chase walks in with the results from Patrick's exploratory surgery. There's important information in what he's saying—bleed into the retroperitoneal space, grand mal seizure—but something else is distracting you (Anomaly!) and you're only half-listening as you draw close to stare into his face. His eyes are wider than usual and he blinks rapidly, and you take it all in: the red-rimmed eyes, the pinched whiteness at the corners of his mouth, the way he glances at you and rapidly looks away again, the faint indentations on his index finger—and, like one of your blinding diagnostic insights, your brain puts it all together in one vivid scene.

The dingy, seldom-used men's room at the far end of the corridor. Teeth biting down on a fist in a desperate attempt to muffle his sobs. Water splashing into his face as he strives to get himself back under control.

But it doesn't make sense, because as far as you know, no babies have died in NICU today, and both his parents are already dead, so who could've—?

The truth hits, and now you're beyond pissed, because (he doesn't deserve this!) it was never part of your plan.

"You told him!" you snarl at Wilson, and your best friend looks startled, recognizing your unfeigned anger.

"No, I didn't!" A guilty pause. "I…only told Cameron."

You roll your eyes–Idiot, telling one of them is telling them all!—and storm out of your office to the inevitable confrontation in the Diagnostics Conference Room. It's all noise after that: your team clamoring for your scans, your blood, anything that can help them cure you, fix you, make you as good as new! You fight them off, telling them that you're not dying, and they refuse to believe you, thinking that you're in denial when you're telling them the actual truth.

God laughs.

Their crusade to save you soon takes precedence over their duty to save Patrick, and you end up having to do almost all of the grunt work yourself to diagnose and cure the real patient. I don't deserve this, you grumble, and imagine that you can hear a low chuckle from somewhere above your head.

In between the scans and seizures, as Patrick suffers and you brainstorm, you find a few moments to mull over that strange moment in your office.

Why was Chase so upset? It's not as if you've given him anything to mourn. The last up-close and personal connection between you was your fist with his jaw.

You close your eyes and push the memory away, but the thing is, this damned brain can easily ponder twenty things at once. So even as you try to fill your consciousness with details and clues—why are the seizures worsening? What's causing the bleeding?—another part of your mind drags you back to those dark days of just a few months ago.

Everyone kept saying that Vicodin was your master, but you knew better. You're Pain's bitch, her dancing monkey on a leash, and the white oblong pills are the only way to loosen her noose around your neck. Without them, you lose the only thing that makes you special: your intellect.

It's true that you've never been known to be modest, and as far as you're concerned, it's a stupid waste of time. If your talent is intelligence, you ought to be smart enough to recognize it. Oxymoron if you don't, emphasis on the moron.

Not that your confidence in your mental acuity sat well with people. Your old man, for one.

Think you're so smart, think you know everything, you smartassed punk? Have a taste of this!

Luckily, intellect wasn't something that could be beaten out of you. But when the Powers That Be decided to strip you of your pills, they succeeded where your old man failed, forcing you to dance your frantic monkeydance through a fog that rendered you stupid with pain. You felt barely capable of diagnosing your way to the bathroom, but you'd be damned before you gave up the only thing that had meaning in your life.

All you remember of Chase that critical day was a golden blur, a voice arguing that he had the answer, the right diagnosis that would save that little girl from your surgical guillotine. All you knew was that he was defying you, and how dared he be right when you were wrong, how dared he take the only thing you had left!

The next thing you knew, he was on the floor, and you were standing there in horror, realizing that Pain had turned you into the person you loathed and feared most.

Chase could've finished you for that; they would've fired you for attacking a subordinate, but for some reason, he kept silent. You didn't deserve that silence, but you took it anyway. Took it like you took everything at that time, without acknowledgment or thanks.

So what you saw in his face today doesn't make sense; it doesn't fit the picture, and as always, anomalies get under your skin. But you run out of time before you can think it through, distracted by a parade of People Who Care About You suddenly demanding your attention.

It's almost a game, and if the stakes weren't so high, you might even be having fun. Cameron impresses you with her newfound sneakiness (Good student!), and that kiss was more erotic than a simple quest for blood required. Now I know what Mina Harker felt like, you snerk to yourself, but there was something honestly scary in the intensity of her eyes. You could be a drug for her…but it's never been your ambition to end up as human Vicodin for anyone.

Foreman is boringly predictable, the only spot of fun in seeing how long you can frustrate him in his quest to be the Good Guy Who Makes Right With The Dying Jerk. Yet you have to award him points for forcing you to listen to him by withholding Patrick's test results. He loses those points, though, when he completely misses your Stan Laurel imitation as you wait for his Kind Words. Probably doesn't even know who Stan Laurel was. Kids these days.

It's getting late, and you're staring out your window at the darkness. Your treatments have cured Patrick's primary medical problem, but a different, radical approach promises permanent results. For a price, of course. You're mulling over the choice between genius and normality, a music journal held loosely in your hand. Chase's reflection appears clearly in the window, and you sigh, arming yourself for what is hopefully the last personal onslaught of the night.

He's different from the others, however, jittery and confrontational. You fire up your defenses, pointing out the self-interested calculations behind people's kindness to dying acquaintances. He ignores your implied accusation.

"I'm sorry you're dying. I'm going to hug you. Anything to say?"

You're surprised by his determined, almost grim tone, but you recover quickly, snarking about him wanting to grab your ass.

He suddenly closes the distance, his arms go around you, and your words die off, forgotten. The two of you stand there as if frozen in place (is this some kind of Duty Hug?), and you ask if he would mind working while hugging.

But then you feel it. His fingers are clutching convulsively at your shoulders as his newly shorn hair rests feather soft against your cheek; he's breathing quietly but deeply…and you realize what he's doing.

He's holding onto you as if he could hold you in this world by the strength of his arms alone. He's preparing for the time when he thinks you'll be gone from his life, (memorizing you, mourning you) imprinting you in his mind for the days ahead.

Now his breath hitches—once, twice—and he's clinging to you like you're his last, best hope. Shocked, you blurt out, "Are you crying?"

"No." He pulls away, hiding his expression in the patient file, and you allow him to regain his dignity as he reports on Patrick's improvement.

But you can't stop staring at him even as you cryptically hint at your radical plans for your patient. While one part of your mind races ahead with the possible implications of a hemispherectomy, the other part is spinning as all of the pieces from earlier finally fall into place. The picture makes sense, all anomalies explained. You (suppress your emotion) mentally curse Chase's parents; have you ever despised two corpses more? It's obvious that they orphaned him long before their actual deaths, because how else could an embittered, middle-aged cripple (become the most important person in his life) matter to him?

Despite your best efforts, the sense of wonder keeps pushing aside your dark thoughts, and you cut the conversation short, afraid of what might show on your face. While he has gifted you with his truth, you're lying to him with every second that passes. He'll find out eventually—when you fail to succumb to brain cancer, if no sooner—and suddenly, it's vitally important that he never thinks you've been laughing at him.

However, tenderness is something you've long forgotten, if you ever had it at all. You settle for a simple, uninflected statement, free of sarcasm or mockery.

"Thanks for the hug."

You leave him behind, but not really, because his honest love wraps around your life like a counterpoint melody, lifting the dark, brooding theme into something brighter, poignant and yearning.

You don't deserve this, but you'll take it, because right now, it's the sweetest thing in your life.

The End

Thank you for reading.

Aenisses Thai (12-March-2007)

Addendum: I would like to warmly thank all of my reviewers; you have really made my day, week, and month! This is my first attempt at a House fic and my first attempt at second-person narrative, and to tell the truth, I was terrified of what sort of reception I would get in this fandom. You've been generous, warm, and open-hearted, and I'm so glad that I summoned up the courage to post here.

My one drawback is that online access is nonexistent for me at work and very limited at home, so I tend to be tardy in replying to reviews. I will, however, reply to each and every one of you; just give me a little time.

Thank you once again.