Chapter 21

I'm Just Waiting on a Friend

I was in three inch heels and a dress that was designed for drag in the back. I knew if I was going to pull this off, I had to be quick, like the wind. I closed my cell phone and breezed by a stunned, but smiling Wilson. I saw House inside the quarantine room watching me in total disbelief. I knew who Dr. Cameron was. I figured the other doctor must be Foreman and the one screaming at me must be Lisa Cuddy. But I couldn't stop now. I opened the first door to the quarantine room and prayed it would close quick enough that no one would follow me inside. I could hear them screaming at me about protection and no visitors. When I saw the first door finally close and seal and the second one start to open I was so grateful. I looked at House who was also screaming at me, but that didn't bother me a bit. Once the next set of doors opened and I stepped into the room, I would be contaminated and they wouldn't let me leave until House was well and I didn't show any symptoms.

When the door opened, House was trying to push me back into the air lock with his cane. "Riley, no. Don't do this. Go back now."

I grabbed his cane and took one look at him, "House, you know me. This isn't going to stop me. I'm here to save your ass, now back off."

He pinched his lips together and put the cane down. I went in and stopped a few feet in front of him. We stared at each other and then both grinned. I looked out at the crowd that had gathered outside. Cuddy was trying to get to the microphone. I grabbed a pair of gloves and put them on.

I pointed at House and then the bed, "Go lay down, I'll be over in a second."

House smiled at me, "I didn't know this was a formal event. I would have worn my quarantine tux made from recycled paper goods. You look beautiful."

"Well, it's the first and last time I'll get to wear it, so enjoy it."

"I am, I am." he wiggled his eyebrows.

"Now go lay down."

"Bossy." he went over to his bed and laid down.

I went to the window and looked Lisa Cuddy in the eye. I was holding Joe in my hand. I turned on the microphone.

Cuddy immediately said, "I'm reporting you to the AMA. You're a publicity seeking..."

"Shut the Fuck up. I'm here to save House. I could care less if you get the credit or Cameron or Wilson." I turned from her and looked at Cameron, "May I please see the test results for Greg. I want to confirm the type of Ebola before I give him this."

Cuddy and Foreman got excited at the mention of me treating House. Cuddy screamed again at me, "You're not going to give him anything."

"Yeah? And who's going to stop me? Dr. Cuddy, no offense, but bigger, meaner people, have bullied me."

Wilson grabbed the results from Cameron's hands and plastered them against the window so I could read it. Wilson had been right, it was Ebola Wamba. I heard Cuddy telling Foreman to get dressed and get in there and stop me.

I went over to House and looked down at him, "I have 500 cc of Joseph Mimba's plasma. He survived Ebola Wamba. The CDC managed to freeze some of his plasma. I talked Anna into sending this to me in case you got sick. Okay? Do you understand?"

"I'm sick-- not a moron. Give it to me."

"I have to warn you, Joseph was black. Once I give this to you, you'll have rhythm." I was teasing him as I hooked the plasma up to the stand.

"I have rhythm now."

"Sorry, they call that convulsions, not rhythm."

I found a vein in his arm and stuck the needle in, taped it off and started the plasma. Foreman entered in the room wearing the yellow hazmat suit.

"Dr. O'Sullivan, what are you doing? What is that?" he was more curious than angry.

"This is plasma of an Ebola Wamba survivor. It was sent to me by Anna Wofford at the CDC, just in case Greg got Ebola. It has to be administered soon after symptoms start to be effective. Look Dr. Foreman, Greg just consented to it." I looked deep into his eyes to assure him, "I'd never do anything to hurt Greg. We've been through too much together."

House looked up at Foreman, "It gives me a much better chance to survive this."

"Dr. O'Sullivan, you know that you can't leave the quarantine room now." Foreman said softly.

I laughed, "Dr. Foreman, contrary to popular belief, I do know a little about Ebola and personal protection. I plan on being in here with Dr. House while he goes through this. I'm not afraid of catching it. Tell your boss I have no hidden agenda. Greg came and took care of me in Africa, I can do this for him." I pulled out my car and house key from my bra, "Can you ask Dr. Cameron to go to my condo and pick up some clothes for me and my violin."

"Your violin will get contaminated."

"I can gas it when I'm ready to get out of here."

"Okay."

He left us and I saw Cuddy give him a hard time at first and then she calmed down. She called someone, I suspect Anna, because after a minute she came over to the window and turned on the microphone.

"Dr. O'Sullivan?"

"Yes?"

"Dr. Wofford just told me what you did just increased House's chances of survival substantially. Thank you. When I told her of how you did it, she wasn't surprised. She said she thought you'd pull something like this. I guess you knew when you went in there that you were going to have to stay in there, huh?" I nodded. Cuddy continued, "I don't know why anyone would want to spend that much time with House, but we all have our own threshold of pain."

I had to laugh, she had Greg's number. And she was pretty nice to me now, "Dr. Cuddy, Greg House is a jerk but he was good to me when I needed medical attention. I owe him this. I promise, I won't say anything to the press. Could you call my boss and let him know I'll be a few weeks late for work?"

"Call me Lisa. Make yourself at home, you're going to be in there for awhile."

"I need you to do me a favor. I need an inhibitor of the blood coagulation pathway developed by a US company named Corvas. It's called recombinant nematode anticoagulant protein. Get Maggie Malone to have them send it ASAP."

"Why?"

"The virus is thought to cause excessive blood coagulation and thrombosis leading to organ dysfunction. This drug has been shown to stop the blood coagulation. It will give him a better chance at recovering sooner and not having as much organ damage. Maggie Malone can get some of it under the table."

"Under the table?"

"It hasn't been approved by the FDA for use with humans, just primates. But it isn't harmful to humans so I want to use it off-label. There was an article in Lancet about it."

"Okay, I'll call Maggie."

"I need some Heparin Serum too. Treat patient 0 with it as well. But, be prepared, I suspect that, if this is Wamba and your patient was already throwing up, we're too late for him. You better prepare to take him out in a hazmat body bag. I'm not saying this to be cruel, it just statistics. We lost ninety percent of our patients in Wamba."

Cuddy shuddered. She hadn't grasped just how out of her depth she was. She knew it had been Wilson who called Riley. Now that Riley had taken charge and was pulling all these rabbits out of the hat; she was ashamed that she had tried to stop him. "Okay, you've got it."

"And scrubs? Can I get some scrubs?"

"Sure, you know we're going to have to burn that beautiful dress?"

"I can buy another."

I went over to House and made him scoot over so that I could sit down next to him. "You've done it this time. How could you dodge the bullet in Africa and wind up catching it in your own state of the art hospital?"

"It's a ploy to get you away from your practice and focus on me."

"It's quite a desperate ploy."

"Look at you, always the martyr, had to rush in here to take care of me." He smiled at her.

"You owe me. I just gave you a 40 better chance of survival, make sure you're nice to me."

"I can think of ways to thank you later...when I'm well."

"I just bet you can." I looked around. The room was large enough to house two patients. House was the only one in this room. The other room next to us also had two beds, one was occupied by Bin Kurubi. I wanted to be physically close so I could monitor House during the night. I rolled the second bed within four feet up his.

Cameron came in with some of my things. "Thank you Dr. Cameron."

"Call me Allison. Dr. O'Sullivan, I'm so glad you arrived on the scene. Please tell me what are his chances?"

"This strain is pretty virulent. We had a ninety percent death rate in Africa. His chances of survival was increased by about forty percent by giving him this plasma. If I can get the other drug, I think I can increase his chances even more, get him up to a sixty plus percent chance of survival. Unfortunately, it hasn't been tried on humans. But I need the drug right away if it is going to work."

"What can I do to help?"

"I need lots of linens, gowns for House. We need to keep him hydrated and clean to keep him from getting any further infections."

"Sure, I can do that."

I spent the morning helping Chase with a patient by instant messenger and webcam. It was strange. House listened in as Chase described stomach aches, pruritis and lethargy."

"What did he say about the white count?" House asked.

"Off the roof, eosinophiles, but everything else is okay."

"Classic. Check for Trichinosis." House said, unable to open his eyes because of the pain and his fever being so high.

"I was thinking the same thing." I said.

"Great minds think alike..." And that was the last thing he said before drifting into a fevered sleep. I was worried about him being unconscious. It was at this stage patients failed to wake up and bled out.

When I first arrived in the quarantine room I was very conscious of the fact that there were large windows that allowed everyone to see what was going on inside. But it's strange, after a few hours, you forget that people can see inside or, considering the depth of what's going on, you just don't care. I let him sleep for awhile while I worked with Chase via my computer.

About six hours later I saw House finally stir. I was grateful to see him start to wake. I thought this would be a great opportunity to clean him up. Keeping him clean and hydrated was about all I could do at this point, he already had Joe in his veins and we had administered the plasma heparin.

He tried to look at me, but his eyes were burning too much from the raging fever to open for long. I opened them up for him and saw that they were bright red from hemorrhaging of the sclera. I took his temperature, 104.7 F.

I drew some cool water and grabbed a sponge, soap and a towel. I started to clean him as he had cleaned me in Africa. I washed his arms and chest slowly. I cleaned underneath his arms. "Boy there's a forest under there, are you Italian?" I continued as gently as possible, I knew his joints and body ached. He grinned when I cleaned his genitals. I chuckled. Even sick as a dog he thought about sex. I loved that about him.

The disease was running rampant through his body. He had started to develop the characteristic rash and his blood pressure had dropped to 90/60. I worried most about his kidneys, spleen and liver. The damage to the organs could be significant, but with the drug I had requested, it could be minimized.

Around noon I started yelling for Cuddy. They had her paged. Cuddy came up and opened the mic. "Riley? What's up?"

I clenched my teeth and tried not to sound too angry, but I was getting worried, "I need that medicine if I'm going to save his liver and spleen from damage. He has maybe four more hours before it's too late to do any good."

"I called Maggie, but she wasn't in so I left a voice mail." Cuddy said.

"Please call her again."

"Okay, I will." She nodded.

"No, I mean call her now...or give me the number and I'll call. I carry more weight with her than you."

"I resent that."

"Lisa, I'm not here for a pissing contest, I'm just telling you the truth. They don't want to piss me off, the CDC needs me more than they need you. Get me the phone numbers of the lab that makes the drug and Maggie and I'll make my calls. I can be very persistent and the squeaky wheel either gets the grease or a bullet through her head. I've had both."

Lisa laughed, "Okay, I understand. But you know, you keep acting this crazy and people are going to think you're in love with him." She gave me a firm stare as if she already knew it.

I made the calls and was told that I would have it by 4:00 pm, but I didn't. I called and Maggie didn't know where the drug was. I was running out of time if I wanted to give him the best chance to keep his organs in tact. I called Cuddy. "If I don't get it within the hour, it won't matter. Please, track it down."

I went over to House and looked down at him . I knew right then and there that, if I had to leave quarantine to find the damn drug, I would. It would mean my medical license, but I was desperate. When I talked to the drug company they assured me that they had confirmation that it had been delivered to the hospital half an hour ago. I called Wilson.

"I'm leaving this room and going in search of the missing package if they don't get it to me soon."

"Calm down Riley. Calm down."

I hadn't realized it, but I was yelling so loud that I even woke House. House whispered hoarsley, "You aren't going anywhere. I'll make it, I'll make it."

"Yeah but will your liver make it? Your kidney?"

"I can get organ transplants."

"Right, a Vicodin popping jerk would get a new liver– ha!"

"You have a point." He held his head as if he was in great pain.

Wilson yelled, "Riley, I'm hanging up so I can try and find the package."

I went over to the bed ,but House had already gone to sleep again. He was getting weaker and he now had a bloody nose which I cleaned up. There was a knock on the window. I turned and saw Chase with a package. He turned on the mic. Cuddy, Wilson, Cameron, Foreman and the CDC doctors were all gathered around.

"They delivered this package over to our office at Princeton General, I thought you might need it."

"Jesus Christ, yes...oh God. Put it in the air lock."

Chase put it in the air lock and I pulled it through. Then I administered an unapproved drug on House in front of an audience outside watching me. "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm just going to inject it, it's not going to make him miraculously get up and start dancing." They looked disappointed, "But it should help to protect his organs." The crowd nodded in approval.

House opened his eyes a little as I administered it. He said sweetly, "Can I get a drum roll please?"

I whispered softly to him, "I'm worried about you, you're bleeding. There's a little blood in your catheter bag."

"It's bound to happen, you can't stop the disease from being the disease."

"I know," I sighed as I disposed of the needle, "but I feel so helpless, just watching you get worse."

"It has to get worse before it gets better." he paused. I saw him give a sad smile

"I hate to say this, but I think I had an accident."

"Honey, you're going to have a lot of them before this is over, don't worry, I'll take care of you. We'll put you in diapers this time to make it easier to clean up."

"Honey?"

"Just a euphemism, don't worry, we're still rivals. Let's get you cleaned up."

I knew that if I waited for an orderly or nurse to get into a biohazard suit and get through the airlocks, it would be half an hour. Besides at the Ebola camps, cleaning up "accidents" came with the job. I'd done it a million times before. So I went over to the linens, grabbed what I needed along with a clean gown. I then drew the water, found a new sponge and poured in the antibiotic soap. I sat House up and undid his gown. He smelled like blood and feces. I felt so sorry for him. I dropped the gown to his waist and then realized that everyone could see. I got up and pulled the verticals.

I went back to the bed and helped pull his gown off. He lay there nude and exposed to the world. "Greg, turn over, I need to clean your bottom. I changed my gloves four times while I cleaned him to keep both of us from contamination. I was gentle, but I wanted to get him cleaned and dressed quickly otherwise I knew he would start to get the chills. I could see from the soiled sheets that the feces had blood in it. I rolled House to the edge as I began to make the bed on one side, then rolled him onto the clean side, pulling the soiled linens off on the opposite side. Then I made the bed on that side. I dressed him in a clean gown and finally put the blankets back on him.

I changed gloves. He grabbed my hand and held it. I looked down at our hands and felt a lump in my throat. What if I can't save him? I started to tear up. His kidneys and his colon were bleeding. Not much, but enough to make me worry. Sadly, I just stood there. I had now done all that I could do except keep him hydrated, clean and warm.

"Greg."

"Hmmm?" he couldn't open his eyes.

I squeezed his hand and stroked his hair. I leaned down as close as protocol would allow even with my mask on and said, "You're going to have more accidents, so just let me know and I'll change you."

"You bet, I look forward to it, it's the only time I get to feel your touch on my balls."

"Well, survive this and I'll clean them without the gloves and washcloth, just my tongue."

"Whoaa, now that's something worth living for." he said, his voice soft and barely audible.

"I figure I needed to give you a goal."

He was still holding my hand. I wanted to spoon him and hold him like he'd held me in Africa, but the best I could do was touch him with gloves and talk through a mask. His beard was growing in and his face was wrinkled with pain. I couldn't stop him from having pain or having to go through all of this. I could just take care of him.

There were a lot of people who came to the window to see us from time to time over the next ten days, including Chase, who also bumped into Allison Cameron. I watched them both try not to look at each other. Allison brought me more gowns, scrubs and linens.

I wanted to play the violin but Greg was asleep. So I watched television as I watched Cameron and Chase try to talk to each other. They looked more at their shoes than each other, had their hands in their pockets, gently flapping their elbows as the words went back and forth. I watched as Chase reached over and took Cameron's wrist. They both looked at her wrist and then into each other's eyes. Finally, after some words exchanged, Cameron's brows lifted in what looked like pleading on her part. Chase moved forward and hugged her. Cuddy walked up. The mic wasn't on so that House could sleep, so I couldn't hear what they were saying. There was some laughing and they all smiled at each other. Then I saw one of the Quarantine orderlies walk up to Lisa, they spoke and Lisa walked up to the mic. She switched it on.

"Riley?"

I looked to see if she woke House. He was still out of it.

"Yes?"

"The orderly wants reassignment because he says you're doing all the clean up, that you..." She looked around and lowered her voice, "...that you're even changing his bed and cleaning up when he defecates. Why don't you let the orderly do his job?"

"I don't mind the orderly doing the job, but when Greg needs to be changed it takes almost a half hour for someone to get in here and I can't just sit here and wait while he lays in it. Lisa, I've cleaned hundreds of butts in Africa, I can surely clean Greg's, even if he is a big ass."

Lisa was about to say something but realized there was nothing to argue. She later told me that she was touched by the fact that one of the world's leading infectious disease doctors was wiping the butt of the world's leading Diagnostician. That's love. "Okay, I guess it means less people are exposed to the disease."

Wilson told me that the word spread through the hospital that I was not only treating House, but doing all the grunt work. I got a lot of brownie points with the staff for "getting my gloves dirty."

House started to wake up. I went over to him and picked up his hand. "You ready to be changed?"

He looked at Cuddy who was still standing next to the mic. "Cuddy, do you need something or did you want to change my diaper?"

"Riley seems to have that covered."

"Let's take your vitals." I went through my paces,"Your b.p. is 105/60. Temperature is 102F. Now I'll pull some blood and check it."

I asked for some food for Greg, including some Ensure. I received the news that Kurubi had died a few minutes earlier. I was a little distressed over it, but didn't want House to find out. I said nothing, but he knew just by looking at my face.

"Bad news?" he asked. When he realized that I wasn't going to answer he figured it out. "You don't want me to know, so it has have something to do with my illness. Let's see, we're on day ten." He stopped and stared at the floor. "Kurubi died." He looked at me.

"Damn you, do you do this to everyone?"

"You're just very transparent. Your emotions are always just below the surface."

"Let's change your diaper."

"I love it when you tease me."

We changed his diaper and gave him some food. He actually ate a little. "You're eating! That's a good sign."

Chapter 22

Chronic Conditions

Cuddy and Wilson both looked through the window at Riley helping House with his meal and then later with cleaning him up. Cuddy turned to Wilson, "She's doting on him. Cleaning him, feeding him, changing him. Next she'll be burping him."

"If he weren't so sick I'd say he was probably enjoying it."

"She said he's turned the corner, he's getting better. His fever's down and he's eating. He's pretty weak, but he's already trying to figure out his new patient's problem. He's been bouncing his differential off of Riley. Could this be the start of a truce?"

"I don't think Riley's heart has been in this competition from the start. This has all been the creation of our own curmudgeon."

"She has it bad for him."

"Why do women fall for him?" Wilson asked knowing that Cuddy had or may still have a thing for the bearded jerk.

Anna Wofford walked up behind them, "He has it bad for her. Those two need to stop being brilliantly stupid and go screw their brains out." Wilson and Cuddy both turned around with their mouths slightly opened, not quite knowing what to say. "Anna Wofford from the CDC. How's House?"

Cuddy visibly relaxed, "Riley can give you the best rundown."

Anna nodded and walked up to the window and banged on it. Wilson leaned forward and turned on the microphone for Anna. "Hey big boy. You up to flashing me some of that love bug."

House smiled and turned towards her, "I can't, it's so large that if I let it out it knocks out the walls."

"I thought you were getting better but it sounds like you're still hallucinating."

Riley smiled and ran over to the window, "Dudette! How are you?"

"I"m fine, how's that boyfriend of yours?"

"Better, I think he's going to make it."

"Good because I bought my bridesmaid dress." Anna said while staring hard at House; who was rolling his eyes.

Cuddy and Wilson looked at each other and started laughing.

"B.P. 120/75, Temperature 100 F., and his pee is clearing up." Riley noted.

"Sounds good. Hey House." Anna yelled.

"Yes dear?"

"You two remember that Ebola can be passed in the sperm for up to three months, so no unprotected sex you two. No repeats of Africa."

Cuddy asked, "Africa?"

Both House and Riley said nothing. Anna turned around and said, "These two were doing the horizontal mambo in their tent without a raincoat."

Cuddy's mouth dropped and she turned to the window. House gave Cuddy a silly look back.

Anna suited up and made her way into quarantine. She checked House over, looked at some of the blood smears and read the chart. "You are one lucky SOB. If Riley hadn't begged Maggie and me for some Joe, you'd probably be dead. We don't let Joe out of the freezer for anyone."

'Thanks."

"You're welcome handsome." Anna blew House a kiss. Anna turned back to Riley, "What about you?"

She waved Anna over to a corner away from the mics and House, "I'm really tired and I feel like I'm on an emotional roller coaster. Can you prescribe something?"

"I can, but we need to run some blood work on you before I do. We need to see if you're showing any signs of Ebola." They walked over to the bed and Anna put her hand on House's shoulder, "Let's run your blood work too and a urine sample."

Anna took a vial of House and Riley's blood and sent it to the CDC portable lab for testing. The blood tests for House revealed that both the white and red cell counts were returning to normal along with his coagulation factors. Riley's blood counts were normal and there were no signs of Ebola.

"House, I think I can safely say that you're doing well enough to get out of here in a few days. Riley, there's no reason to keep you either. Can I talk to you though?"

They walked over to the corner, Anna in her hazmat suit and Riley in gloves and mask. "What did you find Anna?"

"We found a chronic disease. It's not so bad in this stage, but once you go another 32 weeks, it becomes much more debilitating. You'll lose sleep, be irritated, nervous, anxious and exasperated for the rest of your life. It will cost you a small fortune to treat and you'll never get rid of it."

Riley was frightened and showed it. She swallowed hard, "Anna, what do I have?"

"Riley, you're pregnant." She watched as Riley's eyes grew wide and her eyebrows lifted in surprise. "I want to know, who's the father? I thought that you and House weren't exactly pitching tents together anymore."

"It might be Toby."

"Crap. I was hoping you wouldn't say that."

"Or it might be House."

"You're still having unprotected sex?"

"I used the diaphragm with Toby, but you know birth control sometimes fails."

"With House?"

"It happened once, in a car, no protection."

She started laughing. "In a car? Couldn't you find a bed?"

"It wasn't planned." Riley said, looking down at her shoes. Anna was laughing. "Anna, this isn't funny. You know I'm not mother material with my temper."

"Riley, you're temper is more legendary than real. I've known you a long time and I rarely see you get angry and when you do, it's always understandable. You may go a little overboard when you do lose it, but it's so rare that I wouldn't worry about it. Besides, with your own child they say it's different. You'll make a good Mom. Now, House as a father? That sends shivers down my spine."

Riley looked over to the bed and a sleeping House. "Damn, how do I tell him?"

"You don't know it's his, do you?"

Riley cringed, "No. I had some bleeding last month so I just thought my period was light. I'm not sure who's baby it is." But Riley was willing to bet the father of her child was the guy snoring in the bed across the room. House as a daddy? She was sure that House's yearbook probably named him, "Least likely to be a Father."

"You're an older primigravida. That means you're going to need lots of pre-natal care. I want you out of here tomorrow. House is going to be okay. He'll need some in-home care for a week or so, but he's going to be fine, thanks to you."

"You would have done the same thing if you had been here. I know you have a soft spot for him."

"Yeah, but I'm not willing to bear his children. How's he going to take it if it is his?'

"I'm not sure I'm going to let him know."

Anna's eyes narrowed and she shook a finger at Riley. "If you don't tell him, I will. He deserves to know."

"So he can yell at me? Why get him worked up if it isn't his?"

"Because it just might be. If he needs to yell, let him. But at least he can make a decision on whether he's going to be involved. You need to tell him."

"Ugh. I need some time to absorb this, okay?"

Anna nodded.

Riley went home and thought seriously about telling everyone in Princeton that the child was Toby's and then telling Toby that it was House's. But Riley kept having a dream where the child was born, opened his eyes and everyone laughed when they saw how bright blue they were. As Riley kept insisting the baby was Toby's, everyone kept laughing. The baby turned to Riley and said, "Mom, don't be a moron, everyone knows."

House's temperature the next morning was normal. He was able to get up and use the restroom which pleased him greatly. He asked Riley to help him take a shower. He was still weak and needed some assistance. Riley went into the shower and started it. She let it get warm, but not too hot and then helped House into the bathroom. They took the gown off and he stepped in, sat on the shower chair and she used the shower wand down to get him wet. She washed his hair and then gave him the soap to soap down.

"I wanted you to wash my genitals." he said, trying to look innocent and coy.

"I bet you do." She smiled as she stood off to the side and waited. "Greg, I need to ask a big favor."

"You want me to have sex with you?"

"I want you to stop this stupid contest. If I admit total defeat, that you're the best at everything. Can we stop this? We need to be honest with how we feel about each other. And, since you are who you are, I'll go first." She exhaled loudly.

"Can I finish the shower first?"

"Sure, I guess." She helped him rinse and then dry off. She was down, drying his legs and looked up, his genitals in her view as she looked up at him.

He wiggled his eyebrows, "Great view, huh?"

"Perfect." she said sarcastically.

"I want scrubs. I don't want a gown if I'm well enough to use the bathroom,."

"Okay, I'll go ask for some scrubs." She went out to the window and opened the mic. She didn't see House following her in just a towel. "Can I get some scrubs?"

House came up behind her in the window and reached around her waist, kissed her neck, "You never answered my question, the one I asked on the way from Bumba to Wamba."

Riley knew exactly what he had asked and she had evaded it. "I thought you were joking, teasing me."

"I think I was then, but I'm not now. I want you to move in with me."

"It's not that simple. But I don't want to talk about it with everyone milling about."

"Why?"

"Because you're not going to take it well."

"Turn off the mic and tell me."

Riley turned around and saw the CNA with the scrubs. She passed them through the airlock. Riley pulled them out of the airlock and then turned to House. She pulled the verticals and then helped House slip into the scrubs. They went over to the bed and House laid down. He pulled Riley onto the bed with him.

"Okay, tell me. Why can't you move in with me?"

She tried to get up, "I'm pregnant."

He looked at her sideways. "Toby?"

"Maybe. Probably you. The garage."

House dropped his head back onto the pillow and stared straight up shaking his head ever so slightly. "Christ, you're two months pregnant?"

"Yep."

"And you came in here pregnant?

"I just found out yesterday. You could move in with me. I have more room than you."

"Move in with you and a screaming baby?"

"Your screaming baby." She answered.

"No thanks." as soon as it came out of his mouth he wanted to take it back. He knew he didn't mean it; it was just a reflex.

Riley was crushed, she swallowed and said, "Fine." She rushed into the airlock, took off her paper products and started to walk out when Anna rushed up to her. "Whoa, you need to strip and give us everything you're wearing so we can destroy it before you come out of the airlock. You know better." She looked in Riley's face, "Oh, you told him and he didn't take it well."

"Doesn't want anything to do with a screaming baby."

Anna walked over to the mic to talk to House. Riley undressed and stripped naked in the airlock as House watched. He wanted to hold her, feel those breasts, touch her thighs. She dressed herself in a sterile gown before exiting and running down the hall. He wished he could have nailed her before she had told him the news about the baby. House looked over at Anna, standing by the mic at the floor length window.

"You putz. Before you engage that stupid mouth and blow everything, you ought to think. Whether you like it or not, you donated 24 chromosomes to this kid and you're going to have to get used to it. It doesn't help for you to shoot your mouth off and alienate the mother of your child. I suggest you think long and hard about what you want out of life. If going home every night to an empty apartment means more to you than the family you've created, great. You should try it out before you dismiss it House. You won't get another chance with Riley, once she makes up her mind to do something. If you don't want anything to do with the baby she'll cut you out completely and leave."

House snarled and closed his eyes. What do I want? I want a big steak. I want a glass of single malt whiskey and I want to screw a woman. I want to screw Riley. Several times. Over and over until we're both raw. I'm alive. Do I want a kid? I'm going to be fifty soon. I'll be retirement age when the kid goes to college. Does it matter what I want? The kid is coming, whether I want it or not. I'm going to be a father whether I want to be one or not. Anna's right, I made a family whether I meant to or not.

"Anna, tell Riley to come back."

Anna looked at House suspiciously. "Are you sure? You're not going to do more damage are you?"

"No. Just get her."

Anna went in search of Riley and found her in the doctor's shower room, taking a shower, a hot shower. "Riley, House wants to talk to you."

"Screw him."

"Hey, I wouldn't mind doing that, but I think he wants to apologize. In that case, I think you'll want to screw him yourself."

"Shut up Anna. He probably just wants to let me know that his stupid competition is back on. I don't need him or his stupid contest. I'm done with him."

"Riley, get back in there and listen to him, then you can stay mad if you want to stay mad. Come on. Get dressed and let's go."

"No. I'm done."

"Oh, tell someone who believes you. You just put your life on the line for him, so stop trying to convince yourself that you can walk away from him. Now, he can't go running after you just yet, so you're going to have to eat your pride and go back. Now!"

"I need some scrubs, over there." She pointed to some clean scrubs. Anna threw her a set.

Riley went back, her head wet, feet bare and hands on hips and stood in front of the window. House flipped the mic on. "Okay. I'll come live with you."

"That's it? Aren't you going to apologize?"

"I'm willing to give this a try, isn't that enough?"

"I want an apology for being such a jerk when I needed your reassurance that you would be there for me."

"If you want that man, the touchy feely guy who makes all kinds of promises, then you have the wrong one. And you know that."

"Thanks but no thanks, I need that touchy, feely guy."

Anna grabbed her hand and pulled her away from the mic. "He's right. You remember the story of the turtle and the snake? The snake begs the turtle for a ride on his back across the river. The turtle gives the snake the ride. When the snake bites it and they're both going to die in the river, the turtles asks the snake, "Why did you bite me, now we're both going to die?" All the snake says is, "You knew I was a snake before you gave me a ride." You knew House was House before you spread your legs. Now shut up for the sake of your baby and take the man home. I'm going to release him today."

"Fine." Riley snarled. She went back over to the mic. "I'll be back this afternoon to pick you up."

House grinned and Anna gave him the evil eye, which had the effect of wiping out the grin and causing him to shift uneasily in the bed. Around noon, Riley brought House a change of clothes and he entered the airlock, undressed completely and then took the clothes that had been left in the airlock and put them on. The door opened and he was free. Riley, Anna, Cuddy and Wilson were all waiting for House.

"House, we'll send a nurse during the day. Riley says she will take care of you in the evening. Anna says you'll need a couple of weeks off. So, we'll expect you back in two weeks."

Chapter 23

Playing House

We arrived back at his place around 2:30 pm. House walked through the apartment and threw himself onto his bed, happy to be home. I crawled up on the side next to him. He reached over and pulled me towards him.

"Don't get any ideas, I'm still pissed off. You could have been nicer about the baby." I said.

"You can't even tell me if it's mine."

I started to jump up off the bed, hurt again, "You know, this baby is my baby, whether it's yours or not and I don't need any negative crap from you or anyone about it. You think it's easy for me? You think I had expected to be a mother at this age? I have a very active life. I never saw myself as a mother, I don't even know how to be one. Besides, let's not forget that you are fifty percent at fault for this happening."

"Okay, let's say you're right. I'd just like to know why you think it's me and not Toby?"

"Toby and I used a diaphragm and the timing was wrong."

"Yeah, well diaphragm's fail. I've seen enough Jerry Springer to know that paternity is never certain until that little DNA test comes back."

"Screw you. If that's how you're going to approach this, fine. I don't need you and neither does the baby."

"What do you expect? I just got over Ebola and now I'm facing a life sentence as a parent. Give me some time to absorb it. In the meantime, come over here."

"No. If you're praying that the baby's Toby's instead of yours, you've told me all I need to know."

He closed his eyes and put his hand up to his head. He gave me one of those disgusted looks. His nose flares just a little, his eyes squint, his mouth narrows and he clenches his jaw. "I can't do anything about the baby and obviously you come with the baby. I'm dealing with it the best that I know how right now. If it's mine, I'll take responsibility. If it's Toby's, then I'll still be here, but Toby will have to step up and be a father to his kid. That's all I mean. Can't you just let me have a little time to come to terms with what it will mean to me if I am the father?"

I nodded and then we held each other. House put his head on my chest and went to sleep. I went to sleep. I was dreaming of being on the Jerry Springer show with House and Toby on stage. They were both saying things like, "It's not mine, everyone knows she's a slut." "I only screwed her once...can't be mine." "She can raise that kid alone, because I'm outta here." I was starting to sweat when I felt a hand slipping up my back. House undid my bra and brought his hand around and cupped my breast. He took his index finger and rubbed my nipple slowly in circles. He pulled up my shirt and took his tongue and encircled the nipple around and around, flicking it and then sucking it.

"I missed Louise." He switched to my other breast and licked and sucked it. "I need to make sure Thelma gets some attention too." He stuck his hand down the back of my pants and pulled me into his groin. He rolled half way on top of me still licking and sucking my breasts as he started to kiss me softly down the middle of my stomach and abdomen. Pulling my panties and pants down, he nuzzled my mound. I was looking down at the crown of his head as he nuzzled lower and lower. He took his fingers and spread the folds of my labia and stuck his warm tongue over my clit. He circled it and then sucked it over and over. I tried not to make any sounds but I kept taking in sharp breaths each time I felt a wave of delight from his tongue. He explored and licked from my vaginal opening back up to my clitoris and then he sucked harder in a quick rhythm that had me panting. I bent my legs and tilted my pelvis up to make it easier for him to continue sucking. Using a firm pressure, his tongue drew an eight over and over around my clitoris and my opening without touching either. It was driving me crazy.

"You've got to touch it, please, suck it again, I 'm going crazy."

He chuckled against my clitoris, the warm breath tickling and teasing me. After his tongue touched me again, he started sucking in earnest, I was more than ready, I was insane with desire. I placed my hands on my inner thighs and spread my legs as far as I could to expose as much as I could so it would be even easier for him. He sucked and I screamed. He laughed again which stopped the rhythm. I pushed his head back to my clitoris and he sucked some more. I grabbed onto the duvet and felt the orgasm come straight from my clitoris and through my groin. I couldn't control myself and started to make small thrusting movements. I was panting so hard and fast that I was sure I was going to faint. The contractions came over and over, five or six times. The waves started to leave my body and all I wanted was for him to fill me, to enter me, to screw me hard and fast.

"I want you inside of me, now."

"I need a condom, just a second."

I remembered the Ebola warning and nodded. He reached into his drawer and grabbed one, ripped it open with his teeth and put it on.

I couldn't help it, "For God's sake, now!"

He started chuckling, "You're pretty demanding. There, is that what you want?" He pushed deep inside of me, filling me completely. He started thrusting, raising up on his arms to watch what he was doing, to see him penetrating deep inside me over and over. House picked up speed and then looked into my eyes. He looked like he was in pain, but then he smiled faintly, lifted his head to stare at the headboard and started pounding away harder and harder. I didn't think it could happen so soon, but I was coming again. I looked at him and I must have looked scared because he became distracted.

He was panting, "Are you okay?"

"I'm coming again...oh, Jesus, it's almost too much. Ahhhhhh." My vagina clamped down on him like a vice and I could tell as his paced slowed that each stroke was harder for him. The friction became overwhelming. He collapsed on top of me still thrusting. He reached under my arms and pulled down on my shoulders to give him leverage for deeper penetration. He was coming. His thrusts slowed to deep jabs, each time he reached the top of the thrust he'd give out a sharp grunt. After the fourth one he let out his breath and collapsed, his head resting between my breasts.

We were both panting so hard and sweating so much that we just laid there trying to catch our breath and cool off. He pulled out and rolled over onto his pillow. "Okay, now that makes up for the previous New Year's Eve."

"I didn't think I could come twice like that. Thank you, thank you , thank you." I turned over to him and put my leg up on his thigh.

"Let me up, I want to get rid of this rubber. There's something creepy about having Ebola in your sperm."

I let him up and he hopped into the bathroom. I heard the toilet flush. He washed his hands and his penis, coming back to bed smiling, crawling in next to me. I thought he'd want to sleep, but instead he pulled me towards him. He encircled me with his arms. I loved how he made fun of women being touchy feely, but he was a big cuddler after sex. We talked about his favorite violin piece and then we fell asleep.

I woke him playing "White Bird," one of the first rock pieces I had ever learned on the violin. He sat up and watched me play for him. I went from white bird into Beethoven and then Vaughn Williams. He softly smiled the whole time I played for him. I stopped. Like a child I was on pins and needles, wondering what he thought of my playing. I knew I was good, but for some reason, I wanted his approval too.

He held out his hand and I put mine in it. He kissed it gently. "You're very gifted, I hope the baby has your talent." Then he smiled, "Or mine."

He had this strange romantic side. I had decided that, while he recuperated, we would stay in his apartment, where his things were. When I would go into work I would sometimes find the sweetest, Houseian notes.

"You're hot, you're good to me and you're fantastic in bed...but don't get a big head. I'm still better at diagnosing than you are."

"The neighbors came by today, they thought they heard a woman scream from my apartment...I just smiled. I told them my friend Oscar had been having some fun."

"I thought about you today so I ran and made sure we still had condoms."

"We need milk, bread and KY Jelly."

"You are the filling in my Oreo cookie."

"I love you."

The last note was in my trousers pocket. I was standing, looking down at the chart of our patient when I stuck my hand in my pocket to grab a kleenex. The note fell out and floated like a feather to the floor. I almost didn't pick it up, but Chase pointed to it, "You dropped something."

I bent over and recognized his handwriting. When I quickly read it, my mouth dropped open and I looked up at Chase in shock.

"Riley, are you okay? What does it say?" Chase asked. I handed the note to him and he smiled, "I never thought I'd see House write something like this. You've worked a miracle."

"Robert, you should know, I'm pregnant."

Chase pulled his head back and smiled, "Wow Riley, how is House taking this?"

"The note says it all. He's actually been sweet to me since he's been home."

"I can't imagine House as a father. Are you sure this is what you want?"

"It's not what I want, it's what is. He's the father, I'm the mother. How can I change that? Besides I can't help it, I'm gobsmacked." I had to give Robert a little hug, he looked so brotherly.

"You really love him?'

"No one's more surprised than me. I tend to go for the uptight, anal retentive, guys. House has been crazy and unpredictable. He defies convention...but, I love him."

"Better you than me. How is that going to work with you both being Diagnosticians?"

"I don't know. I'll have to take my lead from House."

House and I finally went over to spend the night at my condo a few days before he was suppose to go back to work. He walked around looking at everything as if he was in a museum.

"The view is awesome." He yelled to me.

I was in the kitchen making dinner. House was looking out on the balcony which was covered with snow. There was a big winter moon shining on the snow and the lake.

"I wonder what it look like during the summer? Where do we sleep?"

"Upstairs."

"Great. That's going to be tricky carrying a baby up and down the stairs."

"I know, we can sell it and buy something on one level." I took our plates and ice tea into the family room so we could watch television.

"Nope. I'll deal with it. I love this place. That view is sweet."

"Then we'll put the piano over there so you can enjoy it."

"I'm going to make love to you right here, right now."

"I just made you a great dinner buddy, you're finishing it."

"It seems we have a standoff. I'll eat it off your nude body...come on."

"You're not going to eat it unless I let you use me as a dinner plate?"

"Yeah, come on, get naked,"

I finished most of my dinner and then I stood up and took off my sweater. I had no bra on. When House saw the girls, he smiled broadly. I slipped my leggings down to the floor along with my panties. He pulled me over to him as he sat on the sofa and kissed my wispy pubic hair. I laid down on the floor, my plate to my side. I propped myself up on my elbows so I could watch television. House took his plate and balanced it on my abdomen. He took a couple of bites while looking at my supine body and found it difficult to eat the shrimp fettucine with peas.

"Where's my duffel bag with the toiletry bag in it?"

"Upstairs. Why?"

"I need a condom."

I started laughing, it hadn't taken him very long to get hot and bothered. I began to fondle my thighs and breasts. "Oh, yeah, that's right, the condoms are upstairs..." I sat up and kissed House who had slid down to the floor with his back against the couch and his legs out straight. I straddled his legs and lifted my body up onto my knees making my breasts just about equal in height with his mouth. He immediately latched on, sucking them, pinching them, and gently playing with each pink nipple. They had gotten bigger since I was pregnant and they had become permanently erect, constantly showing through my sweaters and blouses.

He looked up at me, my breast still in his mouth, "I luh 'helma an 'ouise."

"Don't talk with your mouth full."

He stopped sucking abruptly and said, "I need a condom...we can't go any further without a condom."

"Yeah, you're right. Don't you carry one in your wallet?

"We used it at the restaurant the night before last, remember?"

"Oh yeah, the supply room. Okay, I'll go up and get you a condom. Sure you don't want to do this in bed?"

"Bring down a lot of them. I see a lot of surface area down here that we need to break in over the next few months."

I went up to get his toilet bag. I opened it and inside was a large box of condoms. I also saw a plastic insert for a wallet, the ones that have slots for your photos. In it were several photos of a lovely brunette. One of the photos was of a clean shaven Greg and the same lovely brunette. I grabbed it and went downstairs. He had removed his clothes and was sitting with a slight erection waiting for me.

I threw the condoms at him. "Yeah, that's my girl." I threw the photos at him. He frowned, "Ohhhh, that's not good, is it?"

I don't know. You grab photos of your old girlfriend to bring over to my house?"

"I didn't grab them. They've been in my travel bag forever. I was just too lazy to remove them. You know, you're standing there buck naked. I had a hard on...until you threw this at me...can't we table this discussion until I've sampled your wares?"

"Do I need to worry about her?"

"God no." He slapped his forehead and closed his eyes. "Okay, sit down. Here's the Reader's Digest version. Let's see, Stacey. Loved her. Lived with her for five years. Four were good, last one was hell. She had the doctors cut the muscle from my leg against my wishes...may have saved my life, may not have been necessary. No one will ever know. I couldn't forgive her. We broke up. I mourned several years for her. She got married. I saved her husband's life. We had an affair. She was going to leave her husband. But then I realized that it hadn't always been good with us, even before the surgery we were having trouble. I knew I couldn't make her happy, she left with her husband. End of story."

I looked at him and wanted so much to believe him. "Greg, everybody lies. Isn't that what you say all the time? What aren't you telling me?"

"Riley, I'm not lying. Since she went home two years ago I haven't had any contact with her. Now could you at least let Thelma and Louise come out and play while you pout?"

I sat down next to him and he looked at me. He leaned in and kissed me. "I love you Riley, I love you more than I want to love you. Do you understand? I had a hard time getting past Stacey, but I don't think I could get past you if you left me." Unless your deaf or just had a lobotomy, who could resist him? I straddled his legs again and he reached around my waist and smiled sweetly at me. "Now you say it."

"Say what?"

"Say how you feel."

"I love you Greg House. I love you so much that I hope you're the father of my baby."

He chuckled. 'Not quite the romantic, 'you're the man for me, you're irresistible, you're so hot" that I was hoping for, but it will do.":

"Shut up and start sucking."

"Oh no, I'm going to punish you for your intrusion into my privacy. Bend over this sofa girl."

I bent over the sofa on my knees while he stood up. He grabbed a condom and had it ready. He slipped a pillow from the sofa under me to raise me a little higher.

"Spread those legs"

I spread my legs and he put a couple of fingers in to test the waters. He bent over me and put his hand between my legs and started to rub my clitoris in a constant rhythm and pressure while he fondled my breast with the other hand. He felt me again and said, "Yeah, that's much better. Houston, we have lift off."

He put the condom on and then spread my legs a little further. He entered me and started to screwing. Occasionally he'd slap my butt and then reach around and grab my breasts and squeezed a little rougher than usual. He pulled my pelvis up to him and slapped me again. "Oh man, you look so good from this angle. You should see us, it's so hot. God, I'm coming. Jesus! Oh, damn, ah, ah. Yes, oh, yeah. Whew..." He pulled out and fell back onto the area rug.

He pulled me back onto the rug with him. "Do you have any sex toys?"

"I have a vibrator."

"Go get it, quick."

"Just do it manually."

"Come on." House said.

"Oh God...you know I was all wet...this is kind of a splash of water."

"Don't worry, I'll make it up to you. Go get it."

I ran upstairs, a little embarrassed that I actually had a small vibrator. It wasn't anatomically correct, just a generic phallic shape. But it did the trick.

I brought it down and handed it to him. "That's your vibrator?" He scrunched his face up to let me know it was a pathetic excuse for a sex toy.

"I only use it when I don't have the real thing to ride. Don't make fun of Percy."

"Percy?"

I shrugged.

"Okay, lay back."

I laid down on the rug and he started with little kisses up my thigh along with quick darts of his tongue just where my thigh met my crotch. He did this while he rubbed my clitoris with his thumb. He pulled up and started Percy. He rubbed the vibrator down my abdomen and through my pubic hair. He started sucking on my breasts again while watching the vibrator dance on my mound. Then he slipped the vibrator through the folds and let it rest teasingly on my clitoris. He kissed me al the way down my chest, ribs and abdomen and then poised himself to watch as he inserted the vibrator, just slightly inside of me. He alternated between putting the vibrator on my clitoris and inserting it . Finally he just rubbed it up and down on my clit while he stuck his fingers inside of me. I knew I was wet, I could feel it.

"Riley, I'm getting turned on again. I want to screw. Get one of those rubbers and put it on me."

I pulled one of the rubbers out of the package and slipped it over him while he continued to insert the vibrator inside of me and then rub it against my folds. He teased me over and over until I just wanted him to do one or the other. He could sense my frustration because he smiled and said, "Close your legs a little."

I did as he told and he slipped the vibrator between the folds, keeping a steady pressure on my clit. Then, keeping the same pressure, he rubbed it up and down. With my legs closed around it, the vibrations took over and my clitoris was swelling in response to the stimulation. I started squirming from the occasional wave of pleasure, the precurser to the real one.

I said hoarsely, "If you're going to ride this wave, you better hop on...it's coming."

He let the vibrator go a little longer and then entered me just as the contractions started. I heard some tinkling of a glass and then he put his hand under my butt. I felt something wet and cold in my anus. The cold sensation, the feel of House thrusting inside me, and the novelty of the vibrator drove me over the edge. The contractions were hard and so powerful I bucked hard up into him to meet each of his thrusts screaming louder than I had ever screamed. "Greg! Greg! Jesus, Greg! Ah Jesus, Greg!" I couldn't see, I couldn't feel anything but the orgasm. I didn't know until I came down and the spasms in my groin faded that he had come at the same time.

My chest was heaving up and down and my entire body was flushed. My toes were cramped from curling so tight. He fell off to the side, wilted like the deflated rubber between his legs. I put my hand over the hair on his chest.

"My God, I hope we didn't scare the baby."he finally said. He let out a long hard breath, "I don't think I could take many of those. That was so intense it actually hurt after awhile."

"Did you put ice up my butt?"

"Yeah, hasn't anyone ever done that to you before?"

"No. It was so ...different."

"Depending on who you do it to, it can either make the orgasm stronger or it completely takes them out of the moment. Apparently, you're still very much in the moment because your orgasm just got stronger and stronger. I felt like I was riding one of those high waves in Hawaii."

I was still panting but I couldn't let the moment pass without telling him. "Greg, I've never had sex like this before. I feel like a porno queen. I just hope I'm not letting you down."

He laughed, rolling back and forth on the carpet, "Are you kidding? Your pussy could make a dead man come. You're tight and when you peak, I can't control myself. I've found the Orgasmatron. It's between your legs."

We laid on the carpet, naked for at least an hour talking about our sexual experiences (or in my case, lack thereof.) Besides the occasional set of handcuffs, my sex had been pretty boring. House was a cornucopia of sexual experiences and he vowed to teach me. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed just laying in his arms; him holding me. He smelled so delicious, a mixture of sweat, musk and his Caroline Herrera soap. I kept stroking from his happy trail all the way up his chest. His body was so beautiful. Even his scar added something, like a reminder of the fact that he wasn't quite normal, quite whole, quite well. He was House.

Around 4:30 a.m. I received a telephone call from WHO headquarters in Geneva. It was the assistant to Margaret Chan requesting that I hang on for a phone conference. I waited and then heard a beep. I looked over at House who simply turned over in the bed.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we just want you to know that we have officials from WHO, the CDC and the EDC on the line. We have a crisis in Ghana." I sat up abruptly causing House to turn over and look at me.

"We have kept this quiet, but we have an epidemic of H5N1 influenza in Teema, Ghana and it appears to have jumped. We have 19 live patients, 23 dead so far. We are desperate, this one blind-sided us. It appears to be a polymorphism or the Qinghai strain. We need workers to work Ghana who have experience in Africa. All of the doctors on this call have served WHO or the CDC in Africa before and know what to expect and how to work under difficult circumstances. We're sending each of you an email with details and information on travel arrangements. We desperately want you to help us contain this. If you can make it, we needed you yesterday. So it requires your decision quickly. We aren't taking questions on this call. Please read your email, it has the number to contact if you have questions. If you don't get an email, please call us at .34. Thank you for your time and consideration." There was a click and the phone was dead.

I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs to my computer. I logged into my email. I was excited. I had done a fellowship at Cedars Sinai on nothing but studying Influenza. It sounds crazy, but it was my favorite disease, the one I find the most fascinating. I looked at the travel arrangements, they were set to leave from Atlanta the day after next. I knew that if I was going to go, I was going to have to quit my job. I couldn't ask for another chunk of time off, not after three and a half months in Africa and then the eighteen days with House. It was a real dilemma for me. Should I go work on something I considered to be my life's work and my calling, or stay safe and sound in Princeton at my relatively new job?

I didn't even stop to think about the baby.

I read some of the information they had sent about the outbreak and I was excited. This was it, this was the real thing. The bird flu had jumped, it was spreading from human to human.

Bird flu patients die from sepsis or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) caused by a cytokine storm, and not directly from the virus. Historic survival in ARDS is 60-85; with bird flu-associated ARDS it is 63. Neuraminidase inhibitors (i.e. Tamiflu, Relenza) are not clinically proven effective for bird flu patients and cannot address the lethal cytokine storm associated with the infection. In the absence of prompt medical intervention to stop the "cytokine storm", the lung will suffer permanent damage. Many of these patients will develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), i.e. will present with pulmonary edema. Deaths will usually result from multisystem organ failure, and not from lung failure. Sepsis is a severe systemic inflammatory response and is one example of a pathologic condition associated with "cytokine storm".

"No!." he yelled.

I jumped when I heard the admonishment. I was so interested in the email that I hadn't heard him come down the stairs.

"No? What do you mean? The virus has jumped and is going through patients quickly. They need people with African disease containment experience. You do realize what the Avian flu will do if we don't stop it? It's going to kill millions."

"Exactly why you aren't going. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever. Jesus Christ Riley, you're pregnant. Do you really want to risk the baby? Is this what you're going to do all your life? Chase the next deadly disease until one of them gets you? I just got over Ebola and I can tell you, there were times I wanted to be dead, it hurt so much. Have you ever seen a cytokine storm in a patient?"

"Yes, of course I have."

"It's not pretty. It's a painful death too."

"Greg, I did a two year fellowship studying influenza. I know this disease. I know Africa. I am the perfect candidate for this job."

"You are not the perfect candidate, you're a pregnant woman."

"Look, don't hold that over my head. You know that if I told you that I lost the baby you'd be relieved."

I never anticipated what happened next. House grabbed my wrist and pulled me around, away from the computer. His nostrils were flared, his eyes fierce and his jaw tight. The anger was so heavy, I wanted to back away from him. I was afraid and I don't scare easy. "Tell me you don't mean that. That baby is very real to me now. I may not be the model father-to-be, but I don't want anything to happen to our baby or to you. You're both important to me, even if the baby isn't important to you."

I realized he was right and that I wasn't thinking about the baby. I was thinking about myself and what I wanted to do. I wish I could say that at that moment, I came to my senses and put the safety of my baby first, but I didn't. I rationalized it by saying to myself that, without people like me, influenza could take hold and kill millions of people, including everyone I loved. The fact was that I was hooked. Chasing diseases was my aphrodisiac, what made my life worth living. I had never expected to be a mother, never wanted to be a mother. And now, in less than a week I was suppose to be a couple and then a mother. Before I became a mother, I just wanted one more chance to do what I do best...stop diseases.

"I'm going to Ghana."

"You can't do this."

"It's a two month rotation. I'll be home in my fifth month."

"Listen to yourself, you're like a junky. You're pregnant and you want to rush into an African country where the people are dying of a highly communicable disease."

"It's what I was trained and educated to do. I promise, when I come back, I'll stay put until the baby is born."

"Until? Until the baby is born? And then what...you go running after Marburg? Lassa? Hanta? Ebola? Don't do this ...don't do it to us. We're just getting started, I won't be here if you go. I can't keep watching you go into these situations, I won't keep watching you do this. You either chose me and stay or you go and come back to an empty house."

"Don't make this about us."

He started shaking his shoulders, arms and hands at me, "It is about us. It's about who you put first. Your child, me or this adrenaline rush you get from what you do. Fuck this, I'm going to bed. You make a decision and live with it."

I was livid. I wanted to do something I knew would help all of mankind and he was making me feel guilty about it. I went to bed and crawled in on the opposite side from him, both of us had our backs to the other. I wanted to hit him. I really just wanted to pummel him. How dare he point out to me my weakness. It wasn't fair. I don't gamble, do drugs, drink much, run around. I work hard and I do one thing...I chase down bad diseases and he made me feel crappy about it.

The next morning I started to pack. I called the CDC and talked to the coordinator about my tickets. I called Princeton General and told David I quit, that I was being asked back into Africa by WHO and the CDC for two months. He told me to just take a leave of absence, my job would be waiting for me when I got back.

House got up and took a shower and came out to the bedroom to get dressed. I looked at him and neither of us said a word. I went into the bathroom, took my shower and as I dried off I yelled to him, "I don't ask you to give up Vicodin, gambling, your patients. Why do you want me to give up something most people would call noble?"

I poked my head around the door jamb to hear his answer but he was gone. His bags were gone and he was nowhere in the condo. I ran outside in my bathrobe in time to see the yellow cab already down the block at the stop sign. My heart fell to my feet., it was so heavy.

I got a call from Anna. "Are you an idiot? Africa while you're pregnant?"

"Sandra did it."

"Well, Sandra wasn't treating an outbreak of a deadly, easily transmittable virus. This isn't Ebola, it's a very active virus. What does House say?"

"He left me."

"Because of this?"

"Yeah. He has the same concern as you. He also thinks I'll always be putting the next outbreak in front of our relationship and the baby."

"Sounds like he's right."

"Thanks, and I was feeling so good about myself."

"Okay, I'll see you in twelve hours in Atlanta. Bye sweetie."

I had thought he would at least say goodbye or kiss me goodbye. He didn't care enough to do that. It hurt so much, I ached and cried all day. That night in bed I just lay there with my hand on his side wishing I could feel him again.

Chapter 24

From the Fire into the Frying Pan

Chase called House, "Can't you stop her?"

"No, she made her decision. I am out the picture."

"What do you mean, 'out of the picture?'"

"I told her me or influenza. She chose influenza."

Chase paused, "Well, I guess I can understand that." They were quiet, "House, I'm sorry."

"Gotta go, people to diagnose."

"Yeah, see ya."

Robert called Wilson and they talked for a few minutes.

"Chase, what's up?"

"Have you talked to House?"

"No, why?"

"Riley's going to Ghana. She's leaving House."

"Well, it lasted longer than I expected." They both chuckled.

"Yeah, but I think he gave her an ultimatum, House or the flu." Chase said.

"Hmm. Maybe House has a legitimate beef. Pregnant and flying into another hot zone? I don't think I'd want that either. I'll stop by and see him.

Wilson knocked on the door and heard the voice over the television, "Yeah, come in."

He walked in and said, "Got a beer?"

House nodded at the kitchen and then turned back to the television. Wilson opened the frig, grabbed a Sam Adams and walked out to the living room, sat down and watched a little tv.

"I heard that she's going back to the hot zone.'

"She leaves tomorrow from Atlanta."

"Are you going to see her off?"

"No, when I left, she was taking a shower. I figure she was on her own, she could leave on her own.'

Wilson shook his head, "House, she's pregnant with your baby and you just let her wander off without saying good bye? What if..."

House gave Wilson a dirty look, "...she dies?"

"Yeah."

House said nothing but continued to watch television. Wilson said no more but he could sense that House was getting more and more restless. House reached behind himself and grabbed his laptop. He went online. Wilson looked over and saw that he was on a travel website. House closed the laptop.

Wilson looked at House with one eyebrow raised, questioning him with just a look.

House didn't look at Wilson. "I have a flight to Atlanta tomorrow morning, I'll need a ride to the airport."

House's flight was scheduled to take off at 7:45 am. and arrive at 10:00 am. He knew that the chartered flight to Paris was leaving at 12;30 pm. He figured that two hours to say goodbye was enough. Wilson took House to the airport and left him off at the curb. House waited in the airport as flight after flight on the flight board read "canceled" or "delayed" due to the snow storm that blew in that morning. House was getting antsy. He kept watching his flight on the board, so far it said, "On Time."

He grabbed a coffee and donut and then went to sit down. He looked up again at the board and winced as the flight board flipped and his flight went from "On Time" to "Delayed." House jumped up and went to the check-in desk.

"Flight 698, I need to get to Atlanta, I'm a doctor , it's important."

"Doctor, all of the flights are backed up.'

"What's the next flight going down there?"

"Well, there's a flight on US Airways that was suppose to leave an hour ago. They're first up to go to Atlanta. But they don't have clearance to board yet."

House hobbled over to the motorized passenger cart and snapped at the cart driver, "US Airways." The guy waited, he had a schedule and wasn't suppose to leave that spot for a couple of minutes. "Now! I'm a doctor and I have to get to US Airways now."

The driver took off and drove House to the check-in desk. He went up to the desk, cutting in front of everyone. "I'm a doctor, there's a CDC flight going from Atlanta to Paris and then to Africa to fight an epidemic and I have to get to that flight. You have the first plane to Atlanta.'

"We have closed the flight doctor. Homeland Security won't let us add you now without permission from them."

"Get permission." House was gritting his teeth and snarling.

The clerk didn't argue, she just picked up the phone and called security. There was a wait of about twenty minutes and the clerk motioned for House to come over. He walked up.

"Dr. House, you have a seat on the plane, it's boarding in twenty minutes. The flight will take off in forty-five minutes. Here's your ticket and here's your boarding pass. Good luck in Africa."

House did nothing to dissuade her of her belief that he was going to Africa. He got onto one of the carts and made his way to the gate. He got off and fifteen minutes later boarded the flight. The flight would arrive in Atlanta at about noon. He was hoping that the delays would spread down the coast to Atlanta and that her flight was delayed.

House was drumming his fingers on the arm of his seat, waiting impatiently for the flight to take off. A woman with a baby sat down next to him. Oh great, a screamin' kid. House said nothing, but didn't smile. When the woman sat down House looked over at the baby. He figured the baby was maybe 9 months old. The baby was mouthing his tiny hand as slobber ran down his chin. The baby looked up at House and grinned. House had to smile, the kid was cute. He thought about his own child and wondered what it would look like. As the flight took off the baby screamed. House started to get annoyed, but saw that the mother was desperately trying to keep the baby from crying.

House's voice was elevated, "Give the baby something to suck on, a pacifer, a bottle, your breast." House saw her distress and calmed down, "I'm a doctor. His ears need to pop, the sucking will help."

The woman lifted her blouse and stuck a breast in the baby's mouth, giving House a view he rather enjoyed. The plane landed at noon. House had fifteen minutes to get to Riley before the flight was boarded and ready to taxi.

House went to the flight desk and claimed he was a doctor that needed to get to the CDC plane. They gave him the necessary information and warned him that the flight was already boarding and he probably wouldn't make it. He insisted that he had to try. They arranged for a wheelchair and an assistant to take him over. He was screaming at the poor woman pushing him the whole way, trying to get her to push faster.

He jumped out of the chair and raced up to the door leading to the tarmac and watched as the small chartered aircraft taxied. He kicked the wall and cursed. He watched the plane take off and felt a sinking feeling. He didn't want to think about her not returning. He turned around and started to walk back to US Air to get a return flight. He looked up to see a blonde woman with a duffle bag and large backpack come out of the women's restroom.

House's face briefly contorted into pain, as if he was so relieved he would cry. She smiled at him and started to laugh. She ran over and they held on to each other as tight as they could.

"You didn't go." his voice was muffled as he nuzzled her neck.

"Well, you said I had to pick, you or Africa. In the end it was a no brainer. How can I give up the guy who cuddles me, snores in my ear and threatens me with smack downs every five minutes. Not to mention, there's a ninety percent probability that he's my child's father. Why are you here?"

House chuckled. "I figured I'd have one last look at you before you went off to get yourself killed."

"Kiss me sshole."

He kissed and held her closely as the hurried passengers pushed around them.

THE END

I just read a review by a seventeen year old who claims I didn't do my research. He's wrong. The Ebola Strain, Ebola Wamba is fictional (because they just discover it in this fic.) As is typical for most diseases, I named the strain after the location of its discovery.

However, the vaccines and treatment by using blood from survivors is accurate. Please see,

THE JOURNAL OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES

VOLUME 179 · SUPPLEMENT 1 FEBRUARY 1999

and

JOURNAL OF INFECTION

VOL. 48,NO. 4, MAY;2004

Bull Soc Pathol Exot. 2005 Sep;98(3):210-7.

Dear Readers, Please leave me a note on what you liked and didn't like in this story and what you'd like to see in later stories. THANKS GORBLIMEY2