Author's Note: This was originally written for the Livejournal community, musicfest. The prompt was the Imogen Heap song, "Glittering Cloud." Each section title is a lyric from that song. Thanks to Olly for betaing and to Prin for her continuous encouragement/logic.

Disclaimer: I don't own the show, so don't sue me.

The Centre Cannot Hold
By Duckie Nicks

I'm not always like this… it's something I become

The electric guitar sits in his lap, his fingers lazily finding the chords to a tune he's never heard of but seems to instinctively know. The amplifier in the corner of the room remains unplugged; this is not going to be a showy performance.

Notes come and go, flit through his mind, but House has yet to find the answer he needs. It would be much easier, he knows, if the family allowed him to do an autopsy. But they no longer trust his genius, and Cuddy no longer trusts him, putting security guards at the door.

For the better part of an hour, he has relied on his own intelligence, has told himself that the solution will eventually make itself known to him – something he overlooked or a symptom he forgot to take into consideration.

Or if the blame lies not with him, then maybe it was his team's fault; perhaps they forgot to relay vital information to him. A subtle twitch, a dying message from the patient. Something. Anything. He's grasping at straws, yes, but House hopes that this is the way the puzzle plays itself out. Because at least then it means that the answer has been inside of him all along.

But so far, there are no magical ideas popping into his head. Playing the same chord progression once more, House berates himself, his mind telling him that he can't even make inventive music.

He's tried listing the symptoms again and again, tried different markers for his dry erase board, tried different rooms and locations. He's consulted with everyone from Wilson to Cuddy to the janitor down the hall. But they don't have any new ideas. And in some cases, their knowledge is so incomplete that it's nothing more than a case of House bouncing ideas off of them, using them as a tool to refine his own searching.

Again and again and again, he tries, no idea or change too stupid to consider.

But each method leaves him with… nothing.

Despite the search, House comes up empty.

A terrible weakness in my nature, in my blood

He wakes up with a start, his limbs tangled in the sheets that should have been changed a week ago. His skin is covered with a fine layer of sweat, making him feel cold. But the last thing House wants to do is bury himself further into the bed.

The puzzles are becoming exponentially more difficult. Fraught with more problems and odd shapes in the pieces, they make a good night's sleep a thing of the past. Because, though he doesn't like to torment himself, he can't help but think: Esther took over a decade to go that last little bit of distance.

How long will it take to do that now?

Instinctively he, reaches for the Vicodin sitting on the nightstand. He is awake, too aware for sleep, which means his leg will move from uncomfortable ache to something unbearable within minutes. And, though he likens it to stopping a freight train with… with whatever. Fuck the metaphor.

Getting ahead of the pain is impossible, but, as he swallows two pills, he decides to try anyway.

Sleep eludes him now and will continue to do so, just as the last puzzle pieces have done so all day. And House can't really remember, but he is sure that he was dreaming about the case. Which sort of surprises him, because the older he gets, the less he seems to dream. The ones he does have, on occasion, usually involve the long gone Cutthroat Bitch mud wrestling Thirteen.

He lets that thought linger on for a moment. Closing his eyes, he can almost see the fight before them. Both women wet and angry…

Perhaps firing the Bitch was a mistake. In his mind, at least, she clearly outdoes Taub in a bikini.

And the puzzle angrily grabbing his attention back, he thinks maybe she would have known the answer. Maybe this is the piece that's missing.

By now the case file is most likely on Cuddy's desk… or at least House assumes she's raided his office. Probably on the grounds that she wants to be prepared for a lawsuit.

He doesn't exactly blame her for it. And there's no doubt in his mind that once she's done with the file, he'll squirrel it away, put it in the drawer that he hates. Placed chronologically, last, among the other unsolved cases – it's almost odd that the bane of his beliefs can be held in such a tiny place.

Truth be told, it is an… unneeded ritual. House knows every detail of this case – of all those cases. They wear on him at seemingly the same rate as his now throbbing leg.

So far Esther is the only one to be put to rest. The other files still live and breathe where the patients within their contents do not. They are a constant reminder of his failures, his shortcomings, his inabilities.

And he does not need Agnes' file, but House knows he will keep it anyway, and just like the others, she will become an obsession.

She already is.

35-year-old woman dies in his care, and he doesn't know the how, but the why seems obvious to him.

He couldn't figure out the puzzle… so she died. Game over.

But House keeps playing, retrying each piece, each move, changing its angle and direction in his mind.

Sighing he accepts that there will be no more sleep for him tonight, his brain focused solely on the challenge. On his failure. Instinctively he reaches for his Vicodin bottle again, snatching another pill from the plastic container. If he's going to be left alone on this road, House decides he's gonna need reinforcements. He marches the little white pill up to his mouth, imagining some sort of military music playing along the way.

It's ridiculous, even to his own mind. But imagining his Vicodin wearing fatigues is preferable to thinking about the case. Which makes him wonder: when did the thoughts become something he'd prefer to avoid?

He sighs, forcing himself up out of bed. The train of thought is heading into territories he wishes not to go. And if he begins thinking this way all on his own, House wonders what the point is in having Wilson around. Not to mention, if he's going to wax philosophically, then it's time to find something other than Vicodin to take the edge off.

As House gets dressed, his mind returns to the problem at hand. The puzzles pieces are reforming, the list of symptoms lengthens, but already he can tell he's not getting closer to the solution. The digital clock on the nightstand reads 1:45 am. And the need to be distracted is intense, though his head continues to fixate on the problem.

Shutting his apartment door behind him, he wonders if the problem lies solely inside of him, is there any point in trying to run from it?

House shakes his head; the puzzle breaks apart once more into tiny pieces. He starts over; the patient initially presented with…

There's no outrunning this. He's pretty much aware of that fact.

But he's gonna try anyway.

Save me, oh save me, save me from myself, before I hurt someone else again

Pot is goooood.

Whoever said it wasn't is an idiot. Unless they were trying to keep all the weed for themselves and then… then, well played.

He takes a long pull from the last of the joint sandwiched between two fingers. The high can't last forever, and at some point, when he wakes up from this haze, he might feel a little stupid, but for now… House is determined to keep this going for as long as possible.

The blaze too close to his fingertips, he roughly smashes the make shift cigarette against the brick wall. Normally, he thinks that he would try to be smarter than getting high in a semi-deserted alley. But if anything has been established today, it's that he's not always all that intelligent.

He drops what's left of the joint onto the ground, watches as it mixes with the other bits of trash on the dirty concrete. Well, that's that.

Emerging from the alleyway, House decides to continue his day of stupidity by doing something else. What that actually entails, he's not sure. His brain, being stupid and hazy with illegal narcotics, is slow to act. Maybe a hooker…

Pot makes it almost impossible to come to a decision. He thinks then that whoever said weed is bad for you is a genius, because House realizes at that moment he should have stuck with his first choices in the drug department. Acid and cocaine were his go-to's for days like these, because both allowed him to see the world differently. They let him solve the puzzle without being bogged down in reason or regret or whatever.

But after Tritter, or maybe he'd always been this way, House made it a point to get his drugs from different people each time. Relying on one person made him vulnerable, and that's one thing he's never wanted.

Today, his supplier of choice only had the pot. So House took it, on the off chance that it would help.

But all it seems to have done is make him slow. Instead of looking at the puzzle in a better light, he feels like a toddler trying to figure out why the square peg doesn't fit in the triangular hole on his toy. And instead of coming up with answers and being comforted by his intelligence, House can barely remember what the hell the endocrine system is.

Mainly because he can't get past what a funny word it is. Endocrine endocrine. The more quickly he says it – endocrine-endocrine-endocrine – the more amusing it is. Endooocrine. Not quite so hilarious slowed down but close.

Having just enough brainpower left to resign himself to this downward spiral, he decides then what he wants to do last on his day of stupid. Walking in what he assumes is the direction of her place, House has his mind set on visiting Cuddy.

Maybe she can explain what the hell the endocrine system is.

Domino motion jump starts when we touch

The buzz in his head has settled down slightly, allowing rational thought to come to him more easily. His leg pains him, his back aching, both reminders that he should have thought of taking a cab earlier. But soon enough, House has reached his destination: Cuddy's house.

That he hasn't changed plans and gone home is a testament to both his mental state and lack of cash.

She answers the door sooner than he likes, as he's just composed a decent tune, alternating between ringing her doorbell and knocking. But as is her way, Cuddy manages to interrupt his fun.

The old door is pulled open, the hinges rattling and squeaking from the sudden jerk. And between the drugs and the way her white cotton robe teasingly hangs open, House is dumbfounded. Looking closely through the dim porch light, he can just make out the small hint of white lace lining the top of her camisole.

His mouth feels dry, like he's been on a five-day bender. Forming words is difficult, impossible, so he offers no explanations and continues to appraise her.

Her dark hair is messy, the strands curling into and away from one another. She looks not all that surprised, though it's hard to tell in the middle of the night. But House doesn't need any more light to know that she's pissed.

"House," she half-growls. He taps his cane on the ground, something approaching sheepishness playing on his features. "What are you doing here?" It's an attempt to sound angry, but Cuddy sounds more exasperated than anything else.

His mouth opens to respond, but House isn't sure what he should say. Normally the quips come naturally, if not pre-planned. Not to mention, there's usually a reason for showing on her doorstep. But nothing seems to follow his usual patterns today, making this entire situation seem like one cosmic aberration to the puzzle.

And not even pot can ease that realization for him.

The words do not come to him, but it doesn't matter, because Cuddy easily takes control and asks him again, "Why are you here? And before you ask, I am not going to let you do an autopsy without the family's consent."

"Yeah," House says bitingly. "I got that, the armed guards and all."

"I'm surprised. I was sure it would take a bullet wound to make you stop." She folds her arms across her chest, enhancing her braless breasts, much to his delight.

"Been there, done that. Thought I'd change it up a bit," he says sarcastically. As an afterthought, House asks, "Do you have any waffles?" Between the pot he's smoked and the Vicodin coursing through his blood stream, he's gotten the urge for something hot to eat, some sort of breakfast item with lots of sticky syrup. Wilson's macadamia nut pancakes come to mind, seem to float enticingly behind his eyes. But getting those would mean finding a way to the oncologist's hotel room and, more importantly, leaving Cuddy (and her boobies). Which he has no intention of doing.

So House will settle for waffles… or really anything he can get his hands on at this point. Her head snaps back, her brows knitting in confusion. But his stomach doesn't want to wait for her to work it out in her head. He starts to push past her.

"What?" There's just a touch of incredulousness to her voice. But as House brushes up against her arm to get inside, her eyes widen in recognition. "Are you high?"


He stops where he is, in the middle of the doorway.

Turning to face him in the tight spot, Cuddy is so close that he's sure he can feel the warmth radiating off of her skin. It doesn't matter that they aren't touching. She's so near that it feels like they are, and somehow between that and her searching eyes, House wants to move away.

He tries to take another step into the house, but Cuddy stops him. Her hands latch onto his body, one snaking around his forearm, the other clasping his fingers. The touch is firm but warm. And unwanted feelings he can't really name flit through him.

Wilson has said that House wants Cuddy, while the older man has always denied it. That puzzle seemed relatively simple to him; he didn't like her, per se, but her body and mind had always appealed to him. That he should occasionally… okay, regularly vocalize that hardly constituted a crush or whatever lame way Wilson liked to put it.

But in this moment, right now, as she held onto his arm, House can't help but take notice of the mix of feelings coursing through them. The pot and Vicodin have tamped everything down, making him feel like things are happening but not really happening. But nothing – not this anyway – has been completely suppressed.

Later, he'll catalogue everything he feels in this touch. But for now, all he can think about how is how unfamiliar this whole thing is. They have been physically close – they've had sex, even. And House has never been afraid of saying the most wildly inappropriate things to her. Yet this touch, one not born out of manipulation or sex, is something they rarely do.

Given how it makes him feel, how he's sure it makes her feel, House understands why they don't do it more often. That's not a puzzle he needs help solving, thankfully.

But it needs to stop. Now. "Technically," he tells her. "When's the last time I wasn't high?"

House tries to pull his arm away, but she tugs it closer. "That's not what I meant."

Her nose moves in so that the tip is almost touching him. He can feel the soft breath being released on him. Warm, it whispers of moments past, tickles his skin, and makes him want to both push her away and bring her near.

As she inhales, Cuddy's light blue eyes travel upwards to meet his bright ones. "House… have you – were you smoking pot?" Her voice is filled with incredulity, but something in her eyes suggests that maybe it's not all that shocking.

"Yeah," he blurts out before he can lie. Whoops. "I mean no. No. Nope. Nada." But his previous words can't be eaten quickly enough.

"Get inside," Cuddy snaps.

As she shuts the door behind him, he quips, "Time for my spanking already?"

House decides not to wait for her response; his stomach is growling and nothing she can say is going to override his need for food. He heads toward the kitchen.

Between his own uneven steps, he can her hers – bare feet on hardwood flooring. She's following him, which he doesn't really want. Because all he cares about is food, not the lecture she's surely going to give him, at the moment.

The kitchen is, he thinks, the exact opposite of his own. Even in the dark, House can tell that it's light and cozy, not the sort of masculine, messy fortress he lives in. There are no dirty dishes in the sink, probably no mold on the bread, no old newspapers stacked on the kitchen table or medical journals from Turkey… which would be a nice substitute for waffles.

His hand curves around the metal handle of the refrigerator. But as he goes to pull it open, she stops him, blocking the door with her body. "Sit down," she says.

He does not. Will not. Food is calling to him.

When Cuddy doesn't move, House tells her, "Chuckles, this has been fun. But food – need it – now."

Her blue eyes narrow on him. "Sit down."

He briefly contemplates picking her up and forcefully moving her out of the way. But House knows that unless he were to tie her down – which isn't really a bad idea – she would always get back to the kitchen first.

Accepting defeat for the moment, he takes a seat at the kitchen table. He twirls his cane around in his hand and waits for the lecture that will surely come.

But Cuddy quietly watches his him instead. Silence begins to fill the room, and House can only assume that this is the part where he's supposed to apologize for waking her up. Too bad for her that he's a really big – filled with pot – bastard.

And since he's not in the mood to behave like someone you'd find on Oprah, he sits in the chair, waiting to see what she does next.

Cuddy seems to hesitate for a moment. However, she says nothing still and turns away from him, opening the refrigerator door. When she bends over to reach inside, House can't help but be grateful for the shot of her ass. His eyes rove over her form, trying to see through the thin robe. He doesn't even bother pretending to look elsewhere.

A bag of lettuce, a container of sliced tomatoes, jars of mayo and mustard are all lined up onto the countertop. Cuddy reaches back into the fridge once more to grab what he hopes is a bag of sliced turkey.

Tiredly snatching a loaf of bread and a knife, she starts to make a sandwich. If it isn't for him, then, he thinks, he's underestimated her ability to be cruel.

As she slathers mayonnaise on a slice of wheat bread, she says, "You have to stop doing this…. Your patient died. You can't run away every time you feel guilty."

"I don't feel guilty," he counters, sounding peevish.

Cuddy says nothing as she places tomatoes and green leaves of lettuce onto the piece of bread in neat rows. The turkey is in her hands when she speaks up once more. "Right. It's about the puzzle." Her voice sounds not a little disbelieving, and he scoffs at it.

"You think it's about something else? That maybe I care for my patients? Because I thought you'd cornered the market on perverted guilt."

Mustard and the final slice of bread are placed on top of the sandwich. Putting the food on a plate, she moves towards the kitchen table. And his stomach does a happy dance when the sandwich is set in front of him, the plate clanging loudly. House is tempted to offer a sarcastic, "Thanks, Mommy." But then she might take the food back, and he's not willing to risk that.

"Maybe it's not about the patient," she concedes.

His hands pick up the decent-sized sandwich. But before he begins to eat, the possibility of starving be damned. He says to her, "Glad we cleared that up." The sarcasm isn't lost on her, he can tell.

House takes a bite of food quickly, the tomato releasing its juice inside of his mouth. And he's not sure if it's the weed or the Vicodin, but he knows that he's never been happier for a sandwich.

The peevishness all but vanishing, he gives the woman watching him closely a conciliatory look through his lashes.

Not that it gives her much pause. "But," she says, continuing her thought. "You can't tell me that your patient's death doesn't bother you."

He swallows, his slow mind working quickly to figure out what she's said. "People die" is his rebuttal. "All the time. The circle of life," House explains as didactically as possible.

"But they don't all die, because you can't figure out what's killing them."


Looking at her, House can tell that Cuddy isn't being hateful or intentionally cruel. But still he thinks you fucking bitch. Not even the drugs can take away from the anger he feels.

His eyes flash angrily at her. In that moment, he decides the prostitute – even Wilson – would have been a better choice. He pushes the sandwich away, his high (and appetite) ruined.

"It's all right to feel guilty, House… It makes you a human being." Somehow the words are meant to be comforting, but it feels like an insult to him. "You don't have to take pills and get high every time you –"

"I said I don't feel guilty," House argues back. The heat rising within him renews his hunger, and he takes the sandwich back. "Stop watching Dr. Phil – you're wrong – and it's making your ass saggy."

Cuddy stands up, this time extra straight. He's noticed that she likes to do this when she's uncomfortable and especially when her power feels threatened. It's a tick he likes especially, because the effect is he gets a nice glance at her rack.

"My ass is perfect, you ass. And I don't watch Dr –"

"Fine. My bad," he tells her sounding not even remotely apologetic. "You've been talking to Wilson, which is worse!" As an afterthought, House adds, "And I'm still not convinced about your backside."

"I didn't talk to Wilson," she says. He calls her a liar, but she ignores it, continuing, "There's nothing wrong with my butt."

It's almost funny, House thinks, that even now, he wants her. That even though she is irritating him, he can't help but respond with, "Hmm, maybe I should feel just to make sure."

Her answer is nothing more than an eye roll. So he goes back to his sandwich. But only one bite has been taken when Cuddy says, tiredly, "Good night, House." His own "night" is muted by the large bite of food in his mouth.

She heads out of the room but turns around almost immediately. "You should sleep on the couch." Looking up at her, House notices that she's hesitating about something. Finally, she forces out, "I have to meet with the hospital lawyers tomorrow about your case. If you leave now and get arrested for God only knows what crimes you've committed – or plan on committing tonight, that won't help your case." Her blue eyes glare at him. "And I really don't want have that conversation with them. So please. Try not to be a complete moron until after this is settled."

Alone once more, he finishes the last of the sandwich, left chewing his food as well as her words. Cuddy is wrong to think that he feels guilty about losing his patient. House doesn't care about the woman who died; in the end, cruel as it might be, regret wouldn't bring Agnes back. And no emotion has the ability to tell him what was wrong with her to begin with.

He can't solve the puzzle if he's too blind to see where all the pieces are.

Not that that line of thinking has gotten him anywhere, he concedes as he places his dish in the sink. Because seeing the pieces doesn't seem to be a problem. Of course, in this case though, House doesn't really know, does he?

Maybe he is missing something.

He snoops around Cuddy's kitchen, eating a few potato chips and an apple. But nothing satisfies him. After all, what he's craving isn't something tangible. If only the family had let him do an autopsy. If only he'd gotten into the morgue before the guards had been placed at the door.

The thought makes him realize: House doesn't dabble in regrets, but he might just regret that.

He sighs and takes his place on the couch. Night seems to stretch on, the darkness settling in on his already troubled shoulders.

There's no telling how long he lies there. Minutes or hours, they all feel the same. Because House can only think about the case, torment himself with details and wrong diagnoses. Alone in the family room, with only his mind to keep him occupied, he feels unable to breathe. Feels as though he's being suffocated, his own insufficiency holding the throw pillow over his mouth and nose.

It is this – and maybe the notion that she should suffer with him – that sends him to Cuddy's bedroom. He does not want sex, would turn it down even if she offered.

She is awake even before he crawls in under the sheets next to her. That she remains silent is something he is unconsciously grateful for at the moment; House doesn't want to explain this. And he's not sure that he can, anyway.

Of course, that doesn't stop her from training her blue eyes on him. House isn't so grateful for that. It's too dark to see the actual look Cuddy's giving him, but he can feel it. Silently, she demands an answer he doesn't know how to give.

His head comes to rest on her breast. He doesn't want sex. However, if she thinks he's trying to get some, then he doesn't need to offer any other explanation. And she can think that and yell at him all she wants. At least it'll provide a distraction, an outlet for the way he's feeling. Which is really all he wants. Needs.

Still, House carefully traps her arm between her side and his stomach. Being punched is a distraction, absolutely, but he's not interested in having any more physical pain.

He situates his body in a position that will come back to haunt him in the morning. It's almost too much of a weakness for him to bear. And tomorrow, there's a very real possibility that he will add this to his small list of regrets. Cuddy's fun bags come at a price, which he always knew and never minded… that much.

"What are you doing?" It is much to his dismay that she breaks the silence only seconds later. Her words rumble in her chest, and unlike that time on the plane, House enjoys the effect. He's choosing to ignore her shock and irritation. "I told you to sleep on the couch."

"You said, 'I want you to sleep near my crotch,'" he lies.

"My couch, House. My couch, not my crotch."

He cranes his head to look up at her, his chin digging into her chest. "Whoops."

"So you're going to leave then?" She sounds just a tad hopeful.

"Nah," House tells her. "Better safe than sorry."

Cuddy glares at him. "Yeah, some weird man could break into my house and crawl into my bed."

"Well, that would be really weird, cause, you know, I'm here and all!" He lays his head back down.

"House…" Her exasperated voice trails off, and he can feel her deep sigh. Cuddy doesn't say the words, but he can tell that she's resigned herself to her fate. Which is a let down for him, cause he wants to play some more.

"Why are you doing this?" she finally asks.

He searches his mind for an answer. "I'm protesting."

Her "right" comes out in a sarcastic tone that almost makes him proud. "And what exactly are you protesting? Professional boundaries? My personal space? The fact that I won't give you a lap dance?"

"No," House says clearly. "Though we'll talk about that lap dance later." He hesitates to ask for it, knows instinctively what her answer will be. But on the off chance that his presence is that unwanted, he asks anyway. "Let me do the autopsy, and I'll move."

"No." Her voice is firm, unwavering, and he hates it.

"I need to know the answer." That he sounds so… desperate is something else he despises. So he shoves the thought aside.

"You can't have it if it means performing an autopsy."

"Why not?" He's angry, frustrated, and he has to force himself to stop from yelling at her. Trying to aim for a much gentler voice (and failing miserably), House goes for the bribe: "Let me do it, and I'll reconsider the whole personal space thing."

"I said no."

"You'd rather I stay here, laying on top of you, than let me do an autopsy?"

"No, you're right. Go ahead and violate your patient's body. What's a little assault to get you off of me, right?" The sarcasm is back but only for a brief moment. Just when he's about to tell her that Agnes won't mind, Cuddy tells him, "You can't do it, House."

He can almost see the puzzle pieces separating once more.

"I can forgive you for this." She gestures to where he is.

"Aww, you like it," House taunts.

But Cuddy ignores it. "Your patient's family won't. And you will lose your medical license. So…" She throws her one hand up in the air. "At least if you're here, I know you're not doing something idiotic."

Somehow, House is pretty sure this falls under the category of "stupid things to do," but he keeps it to herself.

Of course, he doesn't need to because she's obviously thinking the same thing. Only moments later, Cuddy warns, "We're not having sex."

"Wouldn't dream of it." His response seems to be good enough for her, as they quickly fall into a bizarrely comfortable silence.

This, he thinks, is what he should have done all along. The puzzle still plays on his mind, but the oppressive urgency he so keenly felt before has eased a little.

"You didn't do anything wrong," she tells him quietly. The night seems to ring with her admission, and he's so careful not to look at her now. Because House isn't sure he'll be able to keep the relief he feels to himself. "I went over your file… probably a dozen times. I don't know what was wrong with her either." She falls silent once more.

And even though he still can't see how it will end, with the beating of Cuddy's heart in his ear, House feels slightly bolstered. Because if she really felt that he had screwed up beyond all redemption, he wouldn't be here right now… and she would have fired him.

Her hand slides out from between their bodies, and she easily brings it to his hair. Delicately, she brushes her fingers through the strands – once – before letting her arm drop back onto the pillow. It is meant to soothe, House has that much figured out, but… he much prefers knowledge to touches.

"I wasn't going to tell you this. But the family's taking the body to a separate facility in the morning," Cuddy says slowly, reluctantly. "They're going to have an autopsy done by a different hospital."

So he will have his puzzle complete sometime today… somehow it offers no relief. It should, he knows, but the fact of the matter is it's no fun if someone has to tell him the answer. And House can't help but feel like he's standing in front of a firing squad discussing where exactly they want to shoot him first.

That they will solve this case, that someone else will have the information before he does, is unsettling. He is the one who is supposed to figure the puzzle out.

Her words are supposed to ease his mind, but if anything, it sends his brain into overdrive. Where did he go wrong? What didn't he figure out? WHAT is he missing?

"Night, House," she says, her voice almost slurred from the slumber threatening to overcome her.

His response is whispered against her breast, the small pat on the head the only sign she's heard him at all. But his mind is already elsewhere.

He goes over – once more – Agnes' initial symptoms. Through each stage of her progress, through each second of the ten hours she was in his care. House searches for an answer, looks for something, anything, he might have missed.

Dawn approaches, but the only thing he's achieved is exhaustion. Now his pursuit solely brings him closer to sleep. Yet House will not give up.

He goes over the information again and again, trying to find a new way to look at the case. Trying to find an answer.

But each method leaves him with… nothing.

Despite the search, House comes up empty.

The blackout approaching
Here it comes now, wish me luck…