Chase was standing outside a building that looked like someone had made out it of cardboard, drowned it in a glass of water, and then left it out in the sun for 20 years. Which was probably how long the thing had been deserted. A sign with a chunk of plastic missing out of its top right corner hung at a crazy angle, with the name Sandy's printed on it in faded pink lettering. Some kid had probably hit it with a baseball. And it was probably 20 years ago.
Chase blew out his breath in a sigh. It had taken long enough to find the stupid place – searching on the internet for hotels in the area with names that started with 'S,' after trying both Samantha's and Sandra's and finding nothing. He'd finally come across something that made sense – an old, privately owned hotel that had folded years ago and nobody had ever bought the property or done anything with it. He wasn't even sure who was supposed to own the place – the deed was probably lost or forgotten or both.
The intensivist was standing at what was supposed to be the front of the building, but was now a back lot with weeds coming up through the cracks of the concrete, courtesy of the new buildings that had sprung up around the hotel. Chase made sure his car was locked and walked cautiously up to the front door. If this was the place he was looking for, he'd better watch his step.
The metal door squeaked loudly as he opened it, its rusting hinges protesting violently against the movement. Chase jumped involuntarily, half expecting the thing to come crashing down on him. He walked into the building, hoping that there wasn't anyone here, because if there was the door had just advertised his presence cheerfully. He was standing in a hall with faded green carpeting with a stairwell on his right, and he was momentarily puzzled by the fact that he wasn't in the lobby. Apparently whoever had owned the hotel had decided to put the sign up for it 15 feet to the right of the main entrance. Chase could see another set of doors further down on his left and the edge of a reception desk. He walked down the hall, reached the lobby, and stopped.
The hotel hadn't been deserted for twenty years.
Crandzkye's fist connected with House's collarbone and House gasped in pain as he was knocked off-balance. Crandzyke grabbed his shirt before he fell, pulling him back upright. House hissed at the sharp jerk and swung the cane in his left hand at his enemy. He was rewarded by Crandzkye cursing, but a moment later Crandzkye's foot connected with his right leg. House fell to the ground in agony, his head swimming and his fingers losing their hold on the gun as his hands went instinctively to the source of his pain. He felt his cane being ripped away as his other hand let go of it and his newly knit ribs protested angrily as a fist slammed into them. He couldn't be sure, he thought, as he doubled over with a new pain spreading from his left side, but one of those ribs was probably rebroken already.
Chase stared at the lobby in front of him. There was a dusty reception desk sitting in front of one of the walls – on which the paint was peeling – but he scarcely noticed such trivial details. His attention was firmly focused on the hotel's faded carpeting, upon which was a new, and hardly faded, mattress complete with sheets and pillows. Near the mattress was a refrigerator. Chase wondered briefly if there was still electrical power to be found in the hotel's decaying circuitry or if a there was a generator someplace. He was considering opening the fridge up when something else caught his eye.
There was a calendar – a new one – tacked up on one of the walls amid long curls of faded pink paint that probably hadn't looked good when it was knew. Chase skirted the mattress and looked at the calendar, noticing a starred date. He recognized the date as the second time House was admitted to the hospital. His eye traced down to a star on the date House was released. Chase flipped back to last month's calendar and found a star on the date that House was admitted to the hospital the first time and one on the date of his first release.
"It's a bloody schedule…"
Chase felt anger well up in him. He ripped the calendar off the wall and tore it half, throwing the two pieces on the floor and kicking them for good measure. But just as suddenly he was scrambling to pick the pieces back up, searching frantically for the right page. He found it and glanced hurriedly through it, his eye lighting upon what he had seen as the pieces fell, the realization having struck his brain a split second after he kicked the pieces of calendar across the floor. There was another date starred on the calendar, and Chase doubted that it had anything to do with anybody's birthday. He pulled out his cell phone and found Wilson's number on speed dial.
"Wilson? Where's House?" Chase could tell that Wilson picked up on the tenseness in his voice right away.
"I just left him."
"You left him? Where?"
"At a monster truck rally. What's wrong?"
"I'm at an old hotel – I'll explain why later. Crandzkye's been staying here and I just found a calendar. Every day that House was admitted to the hospital or released has a star on it. And so does today." Wilson was silent. "I think you'd better go back to House." He heard Wilson swallow.
"I'm on my way."
"All right. I'll call the police."
Wilson was speeding. Fortunately, there weren't too many people on the road. He had to get back to the rally. With any luck, House had gotten inside and would be fine and just surprised when Wilson showed back up. Without any luck... Wilson didn't want to think about it. He just had to get there. He haphazardly drove through a red light, pulling aside to avoid a brown station wagon that was driving legally. He had to get back.
Chase hurriedly punched numbers into his cell phone as he ran back out to his car. As he settled into the driver's seat, Detective Calends answered his summons.
"Hello, Detective Calends? This is Robert Chase again. I'm calling because –"
"Dr. Chase, seriously, we're working on this."
"Shut up!" Chase snapped. "There's a monster truck rally going on today. Dr. House is there, and I have reason to believe Dr. Crandzkye is, too. I need you to send somebody over there. You can find the place, can't you?"
"Yes, that's not a problem. But I'd like to know how you decided that Dr. Crandzkye was there before we just go speeding off. Do you have credible information?"
"Listen to me, you idiot!" Chase shouted, losing control. "My boss is liable to be a bloody mess if you don't hurry up and get there! Just do it!" There was a pause. Then Calends replied.
"Fine. We're going." There was a click as he hung up the phone. Chase sat for a moment, slightly embarrassed about his outburst. Then he started the car and pulled out of the lot.
Wilson pulled sideways into the parking lot only to have his worst fears confirmed. Former doctor of medicine Michael Crandzkye was standing at the edge of the parking lot, some several feet away from the stadium door, with the fingers of his right hand curled into a fist. And on the no doubt receiving end of that fist, standing crookedly and half-curled over his right leg, was House. Wilson slammed on his brakes and threw the car door open.
Crandzkye looked up, pausing momentarily. Wilson leapt toward the two, not bothering to close the car door. "No! You leave him alone, you bastard!"
"Doctor Wilson." Crandzkye calmly acknowledged his presence. "What a pleasant surprise." Rage boiled in every fiber of Wilson's being. How dare he? How dare he!?
"Get away from him!" Wilson swung his fist with all the force of his anger behind it, but Crandzkye ducked to one side and grabbed the oncologist's shirt, shoving him sideways with every bit as much of Wilson's anger-induced strength. Crandzkye turned and let go of House, who fell forward on the grass behind him.
"Do you want to call this 'two for the price of one,' Doctor Wilson?"
Wilson, you idiot. House raised his head from where he lay, looking up and squinting at the two men now a few feet away from him. Through watering eyes and a vicious pain that ripped its way from his leg up through his torso, he saw his friend dancing around like some kind of not-really-would be boxer, trying to land a blow on a guy half a foot taller than him, and failing miserably. Wilson had obviously been watching Cinderella Man all too recently. For the moment, Crandzkye seemed to be content just shoving Wilson off of him in a show of superior strength and laughing about it, but it wouldn't be long before he got bored and Wilson got nailed.
"You idiot." House cursed under his breath. He gripped the dry grass with his right hand, pushing himself halfway up, but a spasm ran through him, jolting his diaphragm, and he fell back sideways, coughing a sticky red mess onto the ground. And then an image flashed in his mind. A glint in the grass a bare two feet away that he'd seen when he'd gotten himself up.
It was still there, where it had fallen from his fingers when they'd answered the call from his tortured flesh. Maybe he couldn't shoot it, but he could still use it. House lifted himself up on his elbows, bracing himself for another spasm, but mercifully it held off this time. The Smith & Wesson glinted calmly at him. House pulled himself toward it with his elbows, gritting his teeth to keep from crying out against the agony that flared up his right side. He reached it, snatched it from its place, and levered himself up again, despite the desperate protests of his nerve endings.
And he swayed.
He didn't have his cane, but there was no time to get it. Crandzkye still had his back to him, and he stumbled forward, struggling to stay upright. Wilson didn't notice him at first, but then his eyes widened, his lips moving soundlessly. Crandzkye was suddenly winding up, and House could tell it wasn't for a mere shove this time.
He managed to get the word out strong. Crandzkye turned, and a look of complete surprise came over him as the compact piece of metal came crashing into his face. He fell to the ground without a sound. House stood for another moment, took a few unsteady steps backwards, and collapsed in like fashion.
Wilson leapt over the fallen enemy and knelt beside his friend - again. House looked up at him, breathing hard. "House, are you... okay?" Wilson finished, realized the pointlessness of it.
House swallowed, then reached a reached a tired hand into his jacket pocket, fishing around. Wilson realized what he was doing.
"Here." Wilson reached for the bottle just as House found it, unscrewing the lid for him and tipping the pills into his friend's hand. House took them all in one gulp, squeezing his eyes shut, gripping his leg and waiting for the pain to subside. He gasped against the pain, and Wilson put a hand on his shoulder, wishing he could do more. After a short span of time, House reopened his eyes and looked at Wilson.
"You idiot." Wilson frowned.
"Why, exactly, am I an idiot? For trying to keep my best friend from being beaten up - again?" House snorted.
"For thinking you know how to fight, at all, whatsoever." Wilson rolled his eyes.
"Well, excuse me for trying." House suddenly realized he'd been hearing sirens. Two police cars pulled into the parking lot and headed up to them. House looked at Wilson.
"A little late, don't you think?" Wilson looked up as the cars stopped and Detective Calends could be seen getting out, looking irritated. Wilson smiled.
"They're compliments of Chase, actually." House looked at him quizzically. "Apparently, he was conducting his own little investigation into this. He found out where Crandzkye was staying and said there was a calendar there with today's date marked off. He figured Crandzkye was looking for you, so he called me. That's why I came back." He paused as House digested this information. "Of course, my patient's probably going to kill me." House blinked in surprise, then remembered that Wilson didn't know.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "Your patient didn't want a meeting. That was Crandzkye who called you." Wilson's eyes widened.
"What? Are you sure?" House nodded.
"Told me himself."
"But how did he do that? How did he get my cell phone number? How did he know my patient was due in for surgery tomorrow?" House didn't answer. He was suddenly staring off sideways, looking pensive. "House? House are you okay?" To his surprise, his concern wasn't met with weakly formed words or pained gasps, but with genuine annoyance and anger. House coughed, spitting a globule of blood out onto the sidewalk, and looked up at Wilson in utter irritation.
"How the hell should I know!?" he demanded. "I don't keep track of the man!"
"Uh, sorry..." House sighed.
"That hurt." Wilson gave a chuckle in spite of himself. "He said he got your cell number off of mine," House suddenly said with more rationality. "He probably got a look at that the first day. I don't how he knew about your patient, but he probably called up and sweet-talked somebody in Oncology." Wilson nodded, then seemed to remember something.
"Hey, what happened to the gun? Why didn't you fire?" House sighed again.
"He sabotaged it." Wilson's forehead wrinkled.
"He sabotaged your gun? How did he do that?" House shook his head.
"I don't know."
"Dr. House. Dr. Wilson." Calends was standing over them. The other police officers he was with were further back, leaning over Crandzkye. "Shall I call an ambulance?"
"Nah," House said sarcastically. "You can just let me stay here and bleed out." Calends' irritated look increased and he turned away.
"I'll be with you shortly," he threw back over his shoulder as he moved off. Behind him, the others were picking up Crandzkye and hauling him back to the police cars. Calends stopped and said something to them, then pulled out a phone. Another car pulled into the parking lot and stopped behind the police cars. It was Chase. He got up and hurried over to Calends. House watched him languidly. A thought came to him.
"Yesterday," he said abruptly.
"Huh?" Wilson looked at him in confusion. House nodded to himself.
"Yesterday, I cleaned it - the gun. I left the pieces on the windowsill to dry off for a few minutes while we watched TV. Remember?" Realization washed over Wilson's face.
"Yeah..." He frowned. "He was outside your apartment."
"Comforting thought, isn't it?" Chase had apparently finished talking with the police. He came up and knelt beside Wilson.
"Hi," he said to House. "How are you?"
"What does it look like?" Chase rolled his eyes.
"Okay, it's a stupid question."
"Yeah." House licked his lips, then looked back up at Chase. "Wilson says you're why I only have two broken ribs instead of six." He paused, then continued grudgingly. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." Chase's features lit in a genuine smile. "Oh, I called Cameron and told her what happened. She'll probably let Cuddy and Foreman know." House's head jerked sharply and he stared up at his employee in disbelief.
"She'll probably let Cuddy and Foreman know?" Chase sighed.
"Okay, she will let them know."
"She'll run around and tell everyone! She'll buy doughnuts and meet us at the ER! She'll drive me nuts!"
"Still gonna drive me nuts!" House said flippantly.
"Whatever." Chase stood back up and walked over to the police again. House watched him go, then turned to Wilson.
"Help me sit up, will you? I'm tired of lying around like a train wreck." Wilson eyed him with concern.
"House are you sure you can..."
"Oh, come on! The ambulance'll be here in a few minutes. It's not that bad. What could it possibly do to me that they couldn't fix up with a couple more stitches?"
"Fine, fine. You win." Wilson reached down and helped his friend sit up, gently leaning him on back against the oncologist's parked car.
House sat for a few moments, taking deep breaths and watching Chase and the police arguing over something stupid. Then his face screwed up and he coughed hard a couple of times, sending another small quantity of blood onto the pavement. House looked sharply at Wilson. Wilson rolled his eyes. "Relax. I'm not gonna make you lay back down - it'd just give the ribs more movement, anyway." House sighed.
"I'm really looking forward to that stopping." Wilson sighed, too.
"So am I." From the distance, a siren came into earshot. "Well, here comes the ambulance. Your third one."
"Third time's the charm, Wilson." A smile broke out on Wilson's face. There was House - sprawled against the car, blood soaking through his shirt, and yet with a quirky smile on his face. Making flippant remarks and probably analyzing Wilson's reactions to them. It wasn't so bad this time. House would recover - and soon. And finally things would be back to semi-normal for a change.
House watched his friend's face change and rolled his eyes. Wilson was having one of his little warm and fuzzy moments. "Done yet?" Wilson broke from his reverie and looked back at his friend.
"I said, 'done yet?'" Wilson shook his head.
"Only you, House. Only you."
I have no real excuse as to why this has taken so long - for a while it was because I wanted to tweak the chapter, and then when that didn't happen it became laziness, and then it became forgetfulness, and then finally it became embarrassment and feeling like an idiot for not updating for forever and feeling more and more embarrassed and more and more like an idiot the more time passed. Which was a lot. But I had to update once and for all. I know the amount of time that has passed is frankly ridiculous, but I refused to leave it unfinished. I apologize to my original readers, and thank you all for your reviews back when this story was going strong. And thanks to my beta for helping me out so long ago. I hope people were able to enjoy this final chapter.