A/N: This story was written for the 10/27/07 Saturday Night Writing Challenge at the House Fox Forum. The prompt word is treat. The word is used in all of House's dialogue (in some form or another) except when he says the fic title.
Disclaimer: The only thing about House MD that is mine are the box sets of Seasons 1 through 3.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
"Treat her for the overdose," House said wearily as he scrubbed a tired and annoyed hand over his face. He leaned back in his comfy yellow chair and closed his eyes in anticipation of a much needed and deserved nap.
"That's it?" Cameron asked indignantly as Foreman and Chase filed out of House's office to see to their patient.
"Digitalis overdose is a diagnosis. I diagnose, you treat," House said without opening his eyes.
"House, what about …"
"Treat…her…for…the…overdose," House repeated, enunciating each word distinctly to make his point.
"And then send her home? Why, so next time he could get it right?" Cameron demanded. She was livid, and disgusted that he wasn't.
House sighed and opened his eyes. She was standing just close enough to his chair to border on his personal space. She was clenched tighter than a miser's fist on a wad of bills. Her eyes were blazing with righteous indignation and he couldn't fault her for it.
"What do you want from me? The police were satisfied with their explanation. I did what I was required. The rules about how we treat these cases are clear," House said placatingly.
"Since when have you ever cared about rules?!" Cameron exploded. "She needs help!"
"So do lots of people. Why should I treat her any differently than anyone else?" House asked. He didn't disagree with Cameron. He just didn't want to get involved.
"Because she's your patient. Because it's the right thing to do. Because you could nail the bastard. Because you're the only one who could do it. I don't care what reason you choose, just do something," Cameron insisted.
"Like what? What do you want from me? You want me to limp down there and take a swing at the guy? Would that make you feel better? Think I should barge into her room and force her to tell me that he's been slowly poisoning her for weeks and she knew it and she stayed anyway? You want me to treat her like crap until she breaks down and confesses everything?" House railed at Cameron.
"If that's what it takes," Cameron responded calmly. In truth, she would love to watch House take a whack at that guy with his cane. "She needs help."
"Why don't you do it? Or does your moral outrage not carry you far enough to get involved? I thought that was our pattern; I treat the bodies, you treat the souls," House argued. He hadn't seen Cameron so worked up about a case in a long time, and suddenly old questions about her past were floating around his mind again.
"My hitting the guy isn't going to get me anything except a sprained wrist and a lawsuit. And you know I already tried talking to her. She won't listen to me because she's denying the whole thing. I can't make her see the truth," Cameron said. "You can. Do your House thing and shove it down her throat with that coldly logical charm until she can accept the help she needs."
"Accepting reality isn't all it's cracked up to be," House said quietly. "She knows he's abusing her. And she's going to stay with him anyway. Nothing I can say or do is going to change that." There was a long pause as the two regarded each other. House watched Cameron recognize the truth of his words, painful though it was. "Treat her for the overdose."
Cameron walked out of his office slowly. House watched her go and tapped his fingers on the arm of his chair a few times before closing his eyes and trying to capture that elusive state called sleep.
Much later that evening, after several failed attempts to talk their patient into accepting some information on a battered woman's shelter, Cameron returned to the conference room to gather her things and begin the short but weary journey home. She noticed a faint light escaping the blinds of House's office. She shook her head in annoyance, thinking he had once again forgotten to turn off his desk lamp.
When she pushed his office door open and stepped inside, she was surprised to find him sitting with his back to her, his cane twirling in his nimble fingers and a now three quarters empty liquor bottle on his desk.
"Sorry, I thought you'd left the light on," Cameron said, not exactly sure why she was apologizing. She'd seen him sitting in that chair thousands of times, but this time if felt like she'd intruded on a very private moment.
"Stop apologizing," House said. Cameron turned to leave but his voice stopped her. "Why this case? You've been avoiding a fight with me for weeks. What was it about treating this woman that got to you?"
"Her boyfriend trying to poison her by brewing her foxglove tea isn't enough of a reason?" Cameron asked.
"It's a very good reason," House agreed. "But it's not the reason you wanted me to treat her like she was special."
"'The only thing necessarily for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' You know as well as I do what really happened. The police went in there and asked her what happened, and she told them she was the one who picked the plants; she thought it was Comfrey. You also know as well as I do she was lying," Cameron paused, trying hard to bite back the familiar anger rising up from her gut. "I couldn't just stand by and watch it happen. Not again," she whispered, the words slipping unbidden from her lips.
House was silent for a long time, during which he filed that whispered confession in a mental drawer labeled Allison Cameron and she berated herself for letting even that sparse bit of information reach his ears. Cameron began to think he was done talking to her. She turned to leave a second time and a second time his voice stilled her.
"I watched my father treat my mother like crap for too many years to want to think about. He never laid a hand on her, as far as I saw, but he abused her just the same. And nothing I ever said to her made a difference. Why should that woman be any different?"
"House, why didn't you ever …"
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell isn't just for gay soldiers," House interrupted her quietly.
"You were a child. Maybe someone else could have helped your mother see what you couldn't make her see," Cameron said softly. This was brand new territory for her; to say she treaded lightly was the understatement of all time. "And maybe you could help our patient see something I can't help her see."
House didn't reply verbally, but after a few minutes he did incline his head. In a gesture of agreement or merely of finality, Cameron wasn't sure. She took this to mean the end of their conversation, and sped from the room before the real House could reemerge and flay the skin from her bones for listening to such a confession.
An hour later, unable to leave well enough alone, Cameron returned to the fourth floor to make one final attempt to convince their patient to seek help. She rounded the corner cautiously; the boyfriend already suspected her of trying to interfere and a man who would attempt murder wasn't likely to think twice before striking someone.
A tall male figure lurked outside the patient's room, but it was not the figure Cameron had been afraid she would find. Not even she was naïve enough to believe her words could have had any effect on House. And yet there he stood, tapping his cane on the floor and staring at the tops of his sneakers as though trying to see his toes inside them.
Cameron stopped and watched him trying to talk himself out of what he was about to do. He rolled his head back on his shoulders and stared at the ceiling for a brief instant before thumping his cane resolutely on the floor and stepping into the patient's room. Cameron smiled sadly, knowing that while what their patient was about to go through would be painful, potentially even more painful than what had brought her to them, it was the right thing.