Thanks to everyone who has left reviews on this story; they are hugely appreciated! sorry for the delay, but my muse died. Completely. I've been at a bit of a creative dead end for weeks, so I scribbled this out last night to try and move things forward a bit. Let me know what you think, as ever --


Damn.

His dramatic entrance - bursting into his office at full pelt - was somewhat marred, House reflected, by the fact that there was no one there to witness it. He needed minions, now.

Standing still for the first moment since tearing out of his apartment, House realised that his heart was beating faster than usual; he felt almost giddy, riding the aftermath of some adrenaline high. Like he used to feel after running hard, or laughing too long. He felt good.

It's called relief, a cold voice in his head pointed out. You got away with it.

House found himself sitting down in one of the conference room chairs, suddenly unsteady. His light-headedness shifted, like the aftermath of a sugar rush or roller-coaster ride, and took that familiar dip into nausea.

What had he said? He couldn't remember. How the hell had he gotten himself out of this? One minute he'd been braced for anything Wilson could hurl at him, and then . . . Wilson had been eating his peanut butter and raising his eyebrows as if nothing had ever -

No: not as if nothing had ever happened. Even Wilson wasn't that stupid. And he hadn't even deserved it, but somehow House had successfully conjured a ceasefire. Apparently, he was a diplomatic genius. The thought was almost enough to quell the bubble of guilt in his stomach, and he leaned back against the chair. Wait until Cuddy finds out that I'm actually a master of conflict negotiation.

Wilson always had been a sucker for apologies. A smug feeling rose up and immediately started to fade as House realised that, for the first time in a long time, the apology had been painfully sincere. Which only made it worse. As soon as an apology needed sincerity, you could be sure that the apology wouldn't be enough. He frowned down at his reflection in the tabletop. Had Wilson been going easy on him? Of course, he'd always known that Wilson was a sneaky bastard, but it was only just dawning on House that oneof them must have engineered some sort of resolution here, and with a twinge of annoyance he realised he wasn't entirely sure that it had been him.

Lucky for you. Much as House prided himself on his role as master-manipulator, he'd known from the start that he wasn't in control of this one; whatever he said and however he said it wouldn't have been enough, coming just from him. A bridge needed to be built from both sides.

"What are you doing in here?"

"It's my office," House pointed out.

"And it's before noon. And from what I heard, you already solved the case." Cuddy circled the table and leaned against a chair-back. He could tell by the way she stood in the corner of his vision that she was aiming for eye contact, so he shifted and scanned the corridor beyond the glass walls instead.

"Where the hell are my staff?"

"Chase is in the clinic. No idea about the other two." House exhaled in an irritated huff.

"I should get them tagged," he muttered.

"Not exactly looking hard, are you?"

"Cripple." House waved dismissively. "They can come to the mountain." Cuddy gave him an exasperated look.

"So this is how you're spending the entire morning? You don't think there are more productive ways of spending your time?"

"Isn't there something more productive that you could be doing instead of standing there lecturing someone you know isn't going to pay you the slightest bit of attention?" suggested House. He reached for his Vicodin, keeping his eyes fixed on the corridor. He saw her shift in annoyance in the corner of his eye.

"How's Wilson doing?"

"Wilson?" House swivelled in the chair and fixed her with a hurt look. "I thought we were talking about me?"

"It got boring," she said flatly. "I'm serious. Have you talked to him?"

"Wilson's fine," he said, turning back towards the corridor, and catching sight of one of them at last. "Hey! Get in here!"

"House -"

"What, exactly, do you think I've done to him?" exclaimed House. "Tied him to the bed? Peddled his organs on the black market?" Foreman paused in the doorway, looking between them warily. "He's fine, like I said. And yes, we talked. Although apparently, not before you two had a nice little chat."

To House's grudging admiration, Cuddy didn't even flinch. She folded her arms, utterly unfazed. "Good."

He glared. "You had no business -"

"Defending you?" She shook her head, and strolled up to him with an almost amused expression on her face. "Trust me, it's not a position I'm going to be taking very often." She looked down at him; a small, resigned smile on her lips. "Just when you're apparently too much of an ass to do it yourself."

She brushed past Foreman and sauntered away down the corridor, leaving House frowning after her. Foreman slowly lowered his eyebrows and stepped in the room.

"I take it you called me in here for a reason?" House blinked at him for a few seconds before his brain snapped back into action.

"Yeah. Which one's Harvey's room?" Foreman narrowed his eyes in suspicion.

"Why?"

"Because I'm his damn doctor," said House, glowering.

"You solved the case. You were right: Mastocytosis. There's nothing left to -" He stopped at House's expression and sighed. "403. What are you -"

"Where are his clothes?"

"What?"

"His clothes, the stuff he was brought in with?"

"Why do you -"

"Because I heard axe-murderer chic is coming back in this season," he snapped impatiently. "Just answer the damn question!"

"I don't know, upstairs! In storage." Foreman stepped forwards and blocked House's dart for the doorway. "What are you planning to do?"

House raised his eyebrows at Foreman's concerned expression. "What do you think I'm going to do? Kill him?"

"Of course not. Just -"

"Good. I'm going to see the patient - you, stay away. Private consult. And for God's sake, stop looking so worried." He grinned, and pushed past his fellow into the corridor. "I'm a doctor. I'm here to help."


Storage was as much of a mess as ever, items carelessly tagged and thrown into steel drawers and cabinets. House poked at some of the plastic wrapping with his cane as he scanned through the debris. Harvey, Harvey, 403 -- Ah. He grabbed the bag and started rooting through the contents feverishly, the adrenaline rushing back through him again. Come on, come on --

Jeans, a watch, a wallet - not Wilson's; one of the other gorillas must have made off with that. Shoes. Keys. A t-shirt, white and red -- No. He hooked it with the crook of his cane and eyed it critically. It had been white, originally.

He stared at the rusty little specks and stains and felt a bolt of shock. Blood loss. He tilted it in the light and saw a scrunched up face smooth out. Bruce Lee: fists raised, ready to fight. House dropped it to the floor in disgust, and kept searching.

It had to be here. He was right, he knew it -- But what if it wasn't? Lost in the lot, thrown in the trash, hastily grabbed by one of the other guys? He rummaged harder through the clump of clothes; could the police have it? Wilson, even, keeping quiet as ever? One of them must have--

He stopped at a glint of silver, and for second his stomach turned over before he realised that it was just a button gleaming at the bottom of the bag. Idiot. Of course the police have that.

And then, -- Bingo. House smiled down into the contents of the bag. He was right.

Religion isn't actually toxic, House.

And Wilson was wrong.


You wouldn't think it would be so goddamn hard to get some rest in a hospital. Every thirty seconds it seemed, there was someone, a nurse or a doctor or the fucking janitor, barging in and disturbing him. And now there was this guy, some old guy he hadn't seen before. Harvey glared from his position in the bed as the stranger walked in and swiped the chart off the foot of the bed.

"What do you want?"

"Harvey?" The man scanned the page and raised an eyebrow. "James Harvey?"

"Yeah, what?" he snapped. His stomach still hurt like a bitch, and the rest of him wasn't far behind.

"I've been in charge of your case. My name's Doctor -"

"You doing more tests?" he asked belligerently. He scowled at the answering nod. "I told that other doctor, I don't want any more tests. They figured it out already. Mas . . . Mas-something, -"

"Adult onset Mastocytosis."

"Yeah, that," he said sullenly. "I'm not having another biopsy." The man nodded insincerely.

"Of course. It is a large needle. Being stabbed like that does tend to hurt."

Harvey glared at him.

"Let me guess. You've come in here to tell me what a son of a bitch I am?" he jeered. Every damn doctor and nurse in the place: of course the guy had to work here. The man just stared at him, until Harvey started feeling uncomfortable. "You know him? That - " what the hell was his name? " -- that Wilson guy? You know him too?"

"Wilson?" The doctor tilted his head thoughtfully.

"Listen, I don't need to hear any shit from you about any of that, understood? If you came in here to talk about that then you can just shut the fuck up."

"I work here. He works here," he continued, as if Harvey hadn't spoken (and God, that made him pissed), "of course I know him." He paused, as if in reflection. "He's an idiot."

" . . . So you ain't here to go on about him?" Even the hot doctor hadn't been able to shut her fucking mouth about what a bastard Harvey was. Wasn't exactly professional, was it?

The guy hooked his cane over the rail and started fiddling with the little plastic wires sprouting around the bed. "Oh, I'm not a big talker."

Harvey relaxed back in the bed. "Makes a change. You're not so bad," he declared, grinning with practised insolence.

But the guy just looked up and gave him a brief, bright-eyed smile. For some reason, it was the least reassuring thing that he could have done. . . . Guy's got a shit bedside manner, Harvey mused. Same as everyone else in this place.

"Do you already understand the details of your condition as explained by Dr. Cameron?"

"Yeah, whatever. If you're my doctor, how come I've never met you before?"

"I don't like patients," he said tonelessly. Harvey snorted.

"Real nice guy, aren't ya?" The man's gaze flickered over his face again, and Harvey squared his jaw.

"As are you. Apparently, you haven't had a visitor the whole time you've been in this place. Apart from the cops, of course."

"What you trying to say?!" Most doctors, white collar guys, they flinched as soon as you looked at them funny. Strange, but this guy didn't seem to get intimidated easily; even though he obviously had the whole lifestyle; crippled as well.

"Not even your partners in crime. You must be pissed at them. Leave you to die, did they?" Harvey narrowed his eyes.

"You're a fucking cop now? They're smart. I'm not gonna -- "

"Smarter than you," the guy grinned, with a kind of reckless amusement. Harvey lunged into a sitting position, fists clenched. "That's got to hurt," he observed impassively. "Lie down." Harvey didn't move. "Lie down. You're tied to the bed. What do you think is going to happen?"

Harvey was pretty sure the guy wouldn't look so fucking pleased with himself if he wasn't stuck in the bed. It made him edgy. "You don't know anything about me," he spat. "I'm not informing on anyone - just like I told the cops." He looked straight at the guy. Really blue eyes he had, now Harvey noticed; a hard, shuttered stare. "I look after my own," he added coolly; and was gratified to see something, something other than smartass humour, flare suddenly in the doctor's expression as he reached for the monitors and finally stopped fucking grinning at him.

"How sweet. You guys have a moral code. Rob from the rich, then beat the crap out of them."

"Hey, I thought you didn't fucking like the guy?"

"No; apparently, that's you. I said he was an idiot; you're the one that stabbed him." His voice was very casual.

" . . . Why d'you unplug that?"

"Disconnects the monitors."

"That part of the test?"

The guy straightened up, and creased his forehead. "Sure. Let's go with that." Then he reached towards him and Harvey jerked away. "Wrist. The monitor's off. I need your resting pulse rate," the doctor said, as if Harvey was some kind of moron. His hands were cold. Harvey felt a sudden, fierce urge to exert himself.

"What happened to your leg?" No response, and he felt that familiar, angry tightening in his chest. "You not talking now?" Nothing. Harvey cocked his head, and then it came to him:

"So, why's this guy an idiot?"

"Why did you try to kill him?" the doc countered immediately, not taking his eyes off his watch. Harvey smirked; too fucking easy.

"Yeah, right. Think I don't know what you guys want me to say?" They'd spoken to him about this; all this race shit. Waiting for him to screw up.

"Wow, you are clever! You got me." Asshole.

He hated the smug ones; self-satisfied and superior and always (when it came down to it, when you pushed) cowards. He watched the doctor (or maybe he was a cop?) let go of his wrist and write a note on the chart. Guy couldn't even walk on his own - just one kick; take away that fucking stick; he wouldn't even last a day, - and even so, you could tell, he thought he was so much better.

He was so sick of it, the way these people looked at him. He suddenly wanted to say something, to stop it; shake the doctor up; pull the strings; anything.

"He deserved it."

The guy turned around slowly, and stared at him.

"You think I'm some fucking idiot? Think you came in here to talk about someone you don't give a crap about? You don't have any test," he spat contemptuously. "You just came to see for yourself. I am sick - " (and he'd just wanted to poke, but he found the words flooding out of him like a dam had burst, relishing their force) " - of you people waiting for me to fucking apologise. I'm not gonna. Far as I'm concerned, the guy deserved worse. And whatever you think about that --" he kept his eyes fixed on the guy's face, drawing out every word for emphasis, " -- you can keep to yourself, because I - don't - fucking - care."

For a second, Harvey thought . . . the man didn't change position - it didn't even looked like he'd blinked - but his entire frame seemed to tauten and darken. His hand was a livid white on the cane, and for the briefest second, Harvey wondered if he'd been wrong; if he'd pushed too far. He tended to do that. Maybe it was personal.

The man turned around, and started walking. Harvey relaxed; but then he drew the blinds, and turned back again.

The doctor reached into his pocket, and when he spoke again, he sounded different. Sharper, steady, and perfectly in control. The voice of someone who knows exactly where the conversation is going, and that they're ready to enjoy it.

"Do you recognise this?"

" . . . What?" Harvey asked, as aggressively as possible. He felt suddenly uneasy.

"It's a medical question," the man said, holding the clear plastic bag aloft, a dark smudge sealed up inside it. Harvey squinted.

"What is that?"

"Of course. It must be difficult. Maybe it would help your memory if you kicked me a few times first, just took it off me?" The doctor took a step closer.

"The hell, man?" Harvey snapped. "If this ain't a medical thing, then you can -"

"I'm guessing that you took it out of his pocket. Skin contact, most likely. It's not the sort of trigger we'd think to look for in underground Jersey, you know, instead of dust, concrete, oil, the obvious - it's hardly toxic. "

"You gonna tell me what the fuck you're talking about?" asked Harvey, but the man just smiled again, and ripped the plastic open.

"Catch."

And to Harvey's annoyance and perplexity, the crumpled little thing landed gently on his chest, and he grabbed at it. His fingers closed tightly around the soft cloth disc, squeezing in anger, and he surged up to hurl it back at the man's face, except --

Except that something had just appeared in his throat. He couldn't breathe.

"Interesting." Harvey sucked in a gasp of air, and fell back in the bed. No air. A hand reached down and held the dark disc up to the light for inspection. "You know what this is?" asked the doc conversationally. "It's a kippah. Or a yarmulke. Or just a stupid hat, take your pick. I'd forgotten Wilson even had one.

They make these out of all sorts of things, but my guess for this one is fur. Not the kind of thing you'd think of straight away for anaphylaxis in a parking lot; especially when no one will tell you what the hell really happened." He frowned, and turned back to look at Harvey.

"I -- I can't, -- "

"And now, it looks like my theory was right. Of course, as your attending physician, it would be irresponsible of me to discharge you into custody until we can be 100 per cent certain; so we should probably wait a while to be sure." The man stared down into Harvey's wide, frantic eyes, and his face seemed, upright and backlit as it was above him, to hold some dark, grim glow to it. He leaned comfortably on the bed rails, and let out a sudden snort of laughter, as if sharing some private joke with him. "I mean, you've not even turned blue yet!"

"I can't --" Panic was drowning out everything; his lungs were hardening into stone tablets and his throat was swelling and nothing was happening when he clicked the button and every monitor was silent. And the guy was just watching him.

"You're fuc -- fuckin' crazy," he managed. He made a frantic swipe to grab at the man but couldn't seem to reach. Suffocation: and he couldn't think, or speak, but he couldn't not listen; in spite of the gasps thundering in his ears.

"Me? I'm your doctor; I'm helping you. I'm not just some aimless, vicious psychopath," the man said, with a cold, terrifying lightness. Harvey twisted desperately in the bed, looking at the darkened window, waiting for someone to come, and --

"See, when I plug this in, all the alarms will go off and a load of nurses are going to run in, and you're going to be able to breathe again." A silver point hovered in front of Harvey's blurring vision -- but it was just the lead to the monitor; nothing else, not that. The doctor twisted it idly in his fingers. "So right now, the question I'm asking myself is, -- " He leaned down, his face inches from Harvey's own, and hissed; " - what I'm asking myself is, do you deserve it?"

Wasn't he meant to be under guard? Where the hell was his guard? Blue blazed at him, and black dots erupted like bubbles across it all. Concrete had been poured and was setting in his chest.

"You know where Wilson is right now? He's at my house. Because he's an idiot. He deserves better. But you, . . ."

" -- Please -"

"Do you know what you deserve?"

He was going to die, oh fuck; the guy was going to kill him. All this from some fucking religious piece of crap, and now -- red flares fired across his retina; his heart shuddered and swelled and --

A hand gripped the front of his gown, and dragged him up into the blinding hospital light; into a furious, implacable glare.

"Count yourself lucky. Wilson's going to make sure you never get out of prison, because I'm going to make him. You deserve so much worse."

And a screaming was filling his ears; a high, terrible wailing as the man dropped him and turned away. Light flooded the room, and with the slam of the door and a distant rush of voices, his lungs burned; tore a hole through his chest, and Harvey fell away as the world bled into blackness.