Author's Notes: Well, thank you to everyone for hanging in there throughout this whole story! I really appreciate all of the feedback that I've received, and so a special thank you goes out to every person who reviewed. I'm afraid that I've been busy so my review replies have been... okay, nonexistent, but I apologize. Also, for people who follow these stories, there will a new chapter of Anatomy of a Secret up in a few days, as well as two new chapters for Questions. A final note - for those of you who haven't read my other stories, I have a thing for inconclusive endings. Just as a forewarning. So enjoy!
Get Out Alive
It was dark outside.
Cuddy could have gone home about four hours ago, but she still sat in her office with Cameron, Wilson's parents, and House's mother. Detective Morgan had promised to call her this afternoon, but he had yet to inform her whether the bullets had led to any new leads and it was worrying her. Why would he have forgotten to call her? Part of her wondered if maybe they'd found something and were busy pursuing the lead while it was still hot and hadn't had the time to phone in. But then she reminded herself that this was probably just derived from watching too many seasons of CSI: Vegas and Without A Trace.
She hadn't asked Blythe where her husband was anymore than she'd asked Chayim why he hadn't called his other son, Peter, to let him know that his brother was missing and potentially dead. They all of them looked worried for their children, and Cuddy didn't feel like adding to that stress. She did mention to Cameron that, perhaps, she should go home (privately, Cuddy thought she really wasn't close enough to any of the missing men to be in this office). But she let Cameron's refusal go, both because she felt a little sorry for her and because she didn't feel like getting into a fight over something so trivial.
Out of nervousness, Cuddy was eating. It was a horrible compulsion, especially for someone with a metabolism like hers, but the little bag of chocolate-covered pretzels was too alluring to resist. And besides that, she told herself, how could she even think of her calorie intake when three of her employees could possibly be dead?
The sun had set a while ago, and the only lights that anyone had bothered to keep on were her desk light and the lamp next to Abigail, and the two lone lights created eerie shadows upon everyone's face. Blythe had a bag that contained a few skeins of yarn and a dozen sets of needles that she'd been working with earlier, but now it sat next to her, all but forgotten. Abigail was twisting strands of her hair between her fingers and murmuring prayers while her husband stared at the ground stonily. Cameron had fallen asleep some time ago.
Cuddy didn't know how her mind would ever let her sleep with the knowledge that somewhere out there, House, Wilson and Chase were being held captive by a lunatic with a gun. That was, if they were still—
But no. They couldn't have been killed. You had to feel something when someone died. How could any of them be dead right now without her knowing? There would be something, some sign that it had happened.
She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, reaching into the bag and grabbing a pretzel. She was chewing on it and trying to take some comfort from its chocolaty goodness, when the ringing of the phone made her jump and choke on the food in her mouth.
Everyone in the room sat ramrod straight, even Cameron, who had been woken by the phone's ring, and stared as Cuddy gasped for air and reached for the phone. In the dark, her arm flailed about her desk once or twice, and then she finally found it and grabbed the phone.
"Hello?" she said, trying to give her voice some throat, because her tone was suffering from her choking fit.
Cuddy sagged in her chair as relief overcame her, aware that everyone was watching her intently. "Detective Morgan," she said.
"Dr. Cuddy, I have wonderful news," Detective Morgan said, sounding immensely pleased with himself. "We've found two of them."
Cuddy's hand went to her mouth as she heard his words. Rapidly, tears began filling her eyes, but she blinked them back. "You did?" she whispered, hardly daring to believe it. Around the room, they were looking anxious to hear what was going on, but Cuddy barely registered this. "Are you sure? Are they okay?"
A chorus of gasps went around the room.
"We're routing to Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital right now," Detective Morgan said. "I'll explain more when I get there. My men are continuing to look for the third one as we speak, so don't worry. He'll be nearby."
"I'm sorry?" Cuddy said, her mind going blank as she tried to figure out what Detective Morgan was talking about.
"We only found two of them, Dr. Cuddy," Detective Morgan said slowly, and he sounded almost hesitant to repeat this. "Dr. Wilson is still missing."
It took no more than twenty minutes for House and Chase to arrive at the hospital—Cuddy made a note to speak to her ambulance crew about their speed—and by that time, the entire crew of people from her office had relocated down to the ICU and were waiting anxiously. They watched through a plastic curtain as both of the returned were hooked up to IV lines and blood was taken from preliminary testing. The words 'nutrition' and 'hypothermia' could be heard being thrown back and forth between various nurses and doctors. Even Cuddy did not get in the way.
When the rush had passed, Blythe was allowed in to see her son, but Cuddy and Cameron were not allowed as neither was a relative or a medical proxy. Frustrated, Cuddy hung back with Cameron and Wilson's parents until Detective Morgan arrived.
"Have they found Wilson yet?" was Cuddy's first question, before Detective Morgan could say a word.
"No, not yet," Detective Morgan said with a grim face. "We'll be talking with the other two as soon as they wake up—they should be able to tell us something about James and his condition, if not his whereabouts."
Cuddy nodded, glancing at the curtain-veiled room where Blythe was busy with her son. Even through the translucent plastic, she could see her shoulders shaking with sobs of relief and felt a surge of empathy towards her. "Okay," she said quietly."
"Why aren't they awake?" Chayim asked, his voice edged with impatience and anger. "Can't they wake one up? We need to find out where James is—they can tell us! James could be dying right now!" Abigail shuddered and looked down at the ground. "He needs help! Wake them up!"
"I'm sorry," Detective Morgan said, shaking his head. "Dr. House was discovered extremely sick, and he's delirious beyond giving a coherent answer. Dr. Chase was hit on the head with something has to regain consciousness on his own. There isn't anything more that we can do."
"Where did you find them?" Cuddy asked, taking the information about House's and Chase's conditions in stride. She would process it later, when she had the time and the privacy to think about it.
"A city called Straighton about five hours south of here—it's a farming community, not much more than a grocery store and a bar or two. Just found by a man and his son, laying unconscious; no one saw them dropped off or come in so far. We're still interviewing people, off course, but—"
"We could wake Chase up," Cameron whispered, but everyone heard her.
Cuddy turned around to stare at her, surprised. She'd almost forgotten that Cameron was there because she hadn't said anything throughout the entire conversation. "What?" she asked, wondering if Cameron was about to suggest what she thought she was about to suggest.
"We could wake up Chase," Cameron said a little louder, appearing flustered. She obviously hadn't intended for the entire group to hear her. "Where on his head was he hit?"
"Cameron, if he wakes up and his brain hasn't fully recovered, the damage to his brain could potentially—" Cuddy started, shocked that Cameron of all people would suggest this. It was vaguely Housian. She shocked further when Cameron interrupted her.
"The risk is minimal," Cameron said patiently. "Chances are, he'll just have a huge headache. If it works, we could save Wilson." She folded her arms across her chest, looking determined to get her way on this matter.
Cuddy let out an exasperated sigh. "Who's his medical proxy?" she asked, knowing that Cameron had been around House way too long to be talked out of this.
"House," Cameron said promptly.
Cuddy bit on the inside of her cheek as she stared at Cameron's stubbornly-set face, and then to Chayim and Abigail, who were both watching her with hopeful eyes, and then finally to Detective Morgan, whose expression was as torn as Cuddy's was. Finally, he seemed to resign himself and nodded slightly. Sighing, Cuddy turned to Cameron. "Okay," she said. "Go ahead and do it—and tell him to pick a different medical proxy while he's awake."
Chase was in the same curtained-off area as House (they were still in the ICU), but he was on the opposite end. Both were pale and haggard looking, Chase with dark circles under his eyes and patterns of bruising around the right side of his face, and House with a split right cheek as well as an intubation tube down his throat. Cameron sent a sympathetic glance at House, knowing that he would have made fun of her for it if he were awake, and then turned her attention towards Chase. She felt bad for having to wake him up, but felt worse knowing that somewhere, Wilson was out there in the same condition. Maybe even worse.
Taking a deep breath, Cameron pulled the syringe out of her lab coat pocket and picked up Chase's IV line and poised it between her fingers. The push line was being occupied by a nutrition syringe that was no doubt being left in so that it could be pushed when necessary without bothering to have to remember a new one each time. So instead she injected the shot of epinephrine directly into the line and waited for it to kick in.
Immediately after her plunger hit the bottom, Chase's breathing hitched under his oxygen mask and his chest rose sharply. Cameron slid the needle out of the direct line. The heart monitor spiked slightly, and she watched as his heart rate sped up. His hand began to tremble and the muscles in his face twitched, and then finally, his eyes cracked open. Cameron could hear the deep, shuddering breath that he took even through the mask, and she saw his eyes dart around the room wildly until they finally landed on Cameron.
He turned his head slightly so that he could look at her better, but as soon as he did, his eyes became unfocused and stared off into the distant.
"Chase?" Cameron said quietly, taking his hand. "It's me. Cameron. Do you remember me?"
Chase closed his eyes and his hand tugged back weakly, as if he were trying to free himself from her grasp but didn't have the energy.
"Chase," Cameron pleaded, "I have to talk to you. I know that it hurts. I need… You're in the hospital with House, but they haven't found Wilson. We need your help to find him. Chase, you're the only one who can save him! Please."
When Chase opened his eyes again, they were bloodshot and shone with unshed tears. His eyes met hers as he shook his head a fraction of an inch.
"Chase!" Cameron couldn't believe it—what was wrong with him? "Don't you understand? They have no idea where Wilson is! He could by dying! You've got to help Chase!"
Again, Chase shook his head and then he closed his eyes, clearly wanting her to go away so that he could sleep.
Cameron choked on her breath for a moment as she realized that Chase wasn't going to tell her. She took a staggered step backwards, unable to believe that someone that she'd worked alongside with for nearly three years would be capable of doing this, so unexpectedly and selfishly. All they needed to do to save Wilson was get Chase to talk, but he wouldn't. Why not? Why didn't he want to talk about Wilson?
Detective Morgan had only worked a handful of missing persons cases in which the person had actually been kidnapped, and had not just run away or gotten eloped. The select few that he had taken, he hated. It was a never-ending game of hide a seek, and he was never allowed to hide. He was always the seeker, forced to stand there with his hands over his eyes while counting to one hundred and not allowed to move or sneak a peek. The hiders had no such rules. They ran amuck like heathens, giggling and scurrying as they looked for new and challenging places to hide. Then when the counting was through and the muffled laughter had subsided, he was forced to search every hiding place he knew with no other tactic other than guessing and checking. He was at the disadvantage and knew, with building frustration-induced rage, that everyone else was laughing at him for guessing wrong yet again.
It was sadistic and torturous and never seemed to end.
But there was one part that he enjoyed about being the seeker.
The look of capture when they realized that he'd found them, that they had nowhere to run and had no choice but to admit defeat. The look that, sometimes, made everything worth it.
But they had not found the man yet. They had found the third man at long last with an axe embedded in the back of his skull, laying atop a concrete hatch that was splattered with dried blood. This frustrated the hell out of him, knowing that somewhere out there, a person was walking free after murdering someone. Someone was breathing free air and carrying about their business while this man lay dead. This James Wilson had suffered to the end because he, Detective Jensen Morgan, hadn't been smart enough, hadn't been fast enough, hadn't been clever enough to find his killer in time. But that was not permanent.
If it was the last thing he did, Detective Morgan would find James Wilson's murderer and make him pay for what he'd done.