House knew he should sit

House knew he should sit. His leg wanted him to sit, his hip -- where he'd spotted a bruise blooming in dark shades of purple already -- wanted him to sit. His arm was tired, his shoulder was sore down to the bone, down to the marrow, and the ache had spread into an arc across his back.

Sitting made sense. But if he sat, he'd have to get up again, to force himself back into motion, when all he wanted was to drop into nothingness. Getting up would hurt more, so instead he moved.

He'd told his team to go home hours ago. Only Kutner had waited behind, asking if needed anything.

"I could give you a ride home, if you want," he'd said.

House had just stared at him, raised his eyebrows, and Kutner backed down, grabbed his bag off the chair.

"If you're sure," he'd said, then was gone.

After they left, House had walked the halls again, on the fourth floor for a while, then down on the second. A change of scenery.

He'd stopped outside the patient's room, watching through half-opened blinds as the man lay there. He was alone and the TV was on, but he wasn't watching it. Instead he was turned half onto his side, his head angled up as he stared at the IV bag hanging above him.

Thirteen said he hadn't asked very many questions when she and Kutner talked to him. She said she thought he understood was had happened, what was going to happen. She was wrong. He just didn't know which question to ask first. No one did.

"Dr. House?" He turned to see a woman looking at him, dyed blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail, a loose shirt and comfortable jeans. It was hard to guess how old she was. Probably no more than thirty, he guessed, but hospitals aged people.

"They said you were Dr. House," she said again, nodding toward the nurses. "I didn't meet you before. I'm Jennifer Osbourne. You treated my husband."

House nodded. He didn't want to have a conversation, but he was too tired to walk away. Instead he turned away from her, leaned on the counter of the nursing station, hoping she'd take the hint.

She didn't.

"The other doctors said that someone else would be talking to us about what we do next," she said. "I didn't know if I'd have the chance to thank you again."

"You're welcome," House said. Maybe now she'd leave.

She didn't.

He turned again, leaned onto his cane.

"It's going to be hard for him," she said.

House took a step away from the nurses' station. He should have left as soon as the wife had shown up.

"He doesn't like taking medicine, even vitamins," she said.

House looked at her one more time. "Then he'll have to learn how to change," he said, and walked away.

He'd found an empty lounge and turned on "Judge Judy," which was followed by "Judge Joe Brown." Once Dr. Phil came on, he flipped off the TV, then forced himself up, nearly stumbling when his hip and thigh both cramped up at the same time. It hurt like hell to get himself back up on both feet, so once he was up, he stayed up.

Now he stood near his desk, at the only spot where he could see the parking lot and a corner of the main entrance. He thought he spied Chase and Cameron leaving, but it could have been anyone really. It was just a guy in a gray wool hat, and a slim woman with a colorful scarf. It was probably them though. Their shifts would have ended at nearly the same time, with Chase off earlier, but he was enough of a fool to stick around for two hours just so that he could say that he waited for her.

He pressed his fingers against the door, felt the cold glass beneath his skin. Chase was an idiot for being in surgery. All he was doing was cutting and sewing. Any monkey could do that. Chase had a brain, and he wasn't using it. He should have left when he had the chance, gone somewhere where he could have done something great. Chase wasn't perfect, but he did have an ability to see when things didn't fit, and he had the charm that was needed to keep both administrators and patients happy. If he'd been at Mercy, he could have talked the dean into risking the procedure that the patient needed.

Foreman never understood that -- never saw that he lacked House's reputation to force a necessary treatment, and that he also lacked the tact that would have made it possible to get it done without force.

So now Foreman was back, where he belonged -- even if he still fighting it. At least now he knew that he had more to learn. That was a start, at least.

He saw Cuddy's reflection in the glass just before she pushed open the door. She came to a stop just in front of his desk.

"You come to yell at me some more?"

"Would it do any good?"

"What do you think?"

She shook her head. "I think I'm too tired to fight just now."

House turned, looked at her. Her blazer was unbuttoned, the fit a bit more shapeless than normal. Her hair wasn't quite as neat as she normally kept it, which meant that she'd been running her hands through it.

Sometimes he still expected to see her now as she was then, when they first met, her face unlined, no trace of the weariness that he saw now, and her hair longer, falling more than halfway down her back.

It had been snowing the first time he saw her, white flakes crowning her black hair. Now he sometimes caught a glimpse of gray in that hair, and it always took him by surprise.

"No more interior decorating," Cuddy said. "You'll have to live with what you've got." She looked over at the conference room, which was nearly back in its original layout.

He nodded. "Fine."

She turned to leave, then stopped with her hand on the door. "I hear your patient's been moved out of ICU," she said.

"We handed him off to rheumatology this afternoon," House said.

"I may not have liked how you picked them, but you've got a good team," she said.


She pushed through the door and out into the hall.

Cuddy was right. It was a good team. They all had their issues, and still had a lot to learn. But they were learning.

He turned back toward the window, watched the snow. It was supposed to ease off tonight, be clear by noon. Maybe he'd double up on the drugs and sleep in.

House saw the light in Wilson's office dim, then go out. He'd be there in a minute. House took his coat from the back of his chair and pulled it on, checked the pockets for his hat and gloves. He hoisted his backpack onto his left shoulder and turned off his desk lamp.

He walked across the room, feeling each step, but trying to straighten up, trying not to let it show. Wilson would still know, but maybe no one else would.

He stopped at the door leading to the conference room. It wasn't quite right yet. The books were still out of place, and the shelves were six inches too far to the left. The table was too close to the far wall.

It wasn't perfect, but it was close enough.

He saw Wilson through the glass. He was checking his watch as he walked. The bitch was probably waiting for him somewhere, and he'd be there for her. For now. Because everything with her was still new. And because he always was there for them when it was new.

Wilson looked up, saw him and nodded as House stepped up to the door.

Give it a few months, and Wilson would suddenly find an interesting case, or a patient who needed him. A few more months, and he'd be lingering in the lounge at the end of the day, asking House if he wanted to go and grab and drink.

It wouldn't last with the bitch. It never did.

House snapped off the light and walked out the door and into the hallway where Wilson was still waiting -- like he always was. Like he always would be.

After all, some things would never change.