AN: This fic is created from the LJ community HouseficMeta's "Household Archeology" to create ficlets prompted by items found under the cushions of House's couch.

Two earring backs

Stacy doesn't realize she's lost the earring until that night, sitting alone in her mother's empty house, the tea that she'd thought would somehow be a comfort instead going cold.

She'd put on earrings out of habit. They were ones he'd given her years ago and her hands shook as she'd put them on, trying not to think about what was happening, relying instead on routine. Then she sat on the couch and waited for Greg, rehearsed what she'd say to him, to convince herself that leaving was best for both of them.

She wonders now if she lost the earring as she sat and waited for the moment everything would change again, if it had become another part of her that would never leave him. Maybe it fell unseen into a box, and it was just waiting for her to discover again, once she was ready to move on, or if it dropped to the pavement of the parking lot where she'd pulled off of the road when she couldn't stop herself from crying for Greg, for herself, for everything she's ever lost.


Cuddy senses that something's not quite right and reaches up to discover an empty spot on her earlobe. She stands up, searching for the pearl earring that once belonged to her mother. House glances away from the TV, his eyes narrowing as she shoves aside pillows.

Wilson walks out from the back of the kitchen, stands at the doorway watching her. He raises his hands in a silent question and House just rolls his eyes.

She finally spots it on the leather cushion between them before he says anything.

"Found it."

House shakes his head and turns back to the game. "Thank God," he says, "I was so worried."

2.85 in change

Lady finds four quarters and a dime one day buried deep down below the center cushion. can picture Dr. House sitting back on the couch, the coins falling without notice from his pocket.

There's another quarter at the edge of a cushion, shining brightly against the dark leather. The rest of the change is scattered beneath it. She knows the coins haven't been there long, and thinks they must have fallen out of Dr. Wilson's pocket as he lay there, slouched back against the arm, trying to make himself at home in someone else's house.

Lady wonders why Dr. Wilson stays here, sleeping on a couch, rather than going someplace nice, someplace comfortable, someplace with a soft bed.

She places the change on the table, finishes folding the blankets, stacks them neatly on top of the pillow at the end of the couch.

Lady moves on to the kitchen next, smiles when she finds unwashed dishes inside the cabinet with her cleaning supplies, realizes she's just found Dr. House's latest hiding spot. She takes them out, washes them, then stacks them in the dish drainer. There are two plates, two sets of silverware, two glasses -- two of everything. She turns, catches sight of the blankets on the end of the couch, and realizes that the comfort that Dr. Wilson is looking for by staying with Dr. House has nothing to do with where he sleeps.

One balled up tennis sock, unwashed

"I'm going to the laundromat," Blythe announces. Her voice is quiet, but John recognizes the tone, knows that it means that she's already decided what she's going to do, no matter what he says.

He can't stop himself from arguing, though. "You can do the wash here," he points out.

Blythe rests the laundry basket on the back of the couch behind John. It's filled to the brim, and a few things spill out. John twists around, picks up a sock, t-shirt, underwear. "Greg's sleeping," Blythe says, and takes the soiled laundry from John's hands. "I don't want to wake him up."

Greg's been home for two days, fresh scars on his belly and neck. His walk is still unsteady, but he's told Blythe that he'll be fine on his own, that they should go home. John knows that Blythe doesn't want to leave, that she wants to stay here where she thinks she can take care of him, protect him. But Greg doesn't want her there -- doesn't want him there, John thinks.

Blythe ignored Greg the first two times he told her to go home. She finally agreed last night, though, that they should leave soon. John thinks it'll do them both good. Blythe needs rest, needs to get back to normal life. And Greg ... John shakes his head, watches as Blythe fills the basket again, then puts it on the floor next to the door ... maybe Greg just needs to find out what normal means now.

Blythe picks up her purse, opens the door. She's spent the day cleaning Greg's apartment, filling his cupboards with food. Now it's laundry. Tomorrow she'll cook their own farewell dinner, making certain to leave behind enough leftovers to feed Greg for a week.

"I won't be long," Blythe says, and picks up her purse. She opens the door, walks out with the basket.

Greg has told her she doesn't have to do his cleaning, or his cooking, that he can pay someone to do laundry and takeout is just a phone call away. But he's wrong, John thinks. Blythe needs to do this -- not just for Greg, but for herself.

A stretched out hospital ID bracelet

House had placed Esther's bracelet inside her file -- the bracelet that he shouldn't have taken, and the file that privacy rules claimed should never have left the hospital.

He didn't care about either rule. He'd stood over Esther's body in the morgue, after the family had denied permission for an autopsy. He'd stared down at her naked body, trying to memorize every inch of her, trying to see something he'd missed, something that would finally tell him what happened.

He'd held her cold hand in his, rigor not yet beginning to set in, traced his fingers over her palms and the back of her hands, wondering if the toughness of her skin was just from years of work, or some symptom he hadn't noticed.

He'd worked his way down onto her arm, feeling the narrow bones of her wrist, of her forearm, wondering if he'd missed a rash, a lesion, some bruise that would finally speak the truth. The bracelet had been in the way, and he'd pulled it off, tucked it into his pocket without even thinking about it.

Every few months he takes her file home, spreads the papers out across the coffee table and holds the bracelet in his left hand, his fingers working themselves over its surface, over the faint lines that list her name, her age, her blood type -- everything he already knows -- as he tries to discover what he doesn't.

One chopstick

"We need a table." Stacy shoves one of House's journals to the side of the coffee table to make room for the plates.

House nods at the coffee table. "We have a table," he says.

"A real table, with real chairs."

House sits on the couch, reaches inside the takeout bag from Panda House. "This isn't real?"

"You know what I mean," Stacy says, "a place where grownups can eat."

"We aren't grown ups?" House hands her napkins and chopsticks.

Stacy puts the chopsticks down on the couch, turns to face him. "We should buy a house," she says. "We can afford it."

"I like it here."

"I like it too, honey, but it's not very practical for both of us."

"It's got a bed, bathroom, kitchen," House nods at the TV, "free cable ..."

"We could also afford to pay for cable, rather than stealing it with that wire you hooked up outside the building. They're going to find it someday, you know."

She spoons some rice onto her plate, then chicken and pea pods. "It'd be nice to have someplace with a dining room table, and a guest room."

"Why would we want that?"

"So we can have guests."

House stares at her. "And why would we want that?"

Stacy sighs, and reaches for another set of chopsticks.

Three condom wrappers

House is no romantic. He's never confused sex with love. One is nothing more than physical reactions, the movement of blood and tissue. The other is nothing more than betrayal.

He sits on the couch, his fingers finding the loose edge of the wrapper, sliding it open though he knows what's inside: ribbed for her pleasure, latex for his protection.

He found the remains of a box in the bottom drawer of the night stand on his side of the bed. It's been years since he's used them, years when there was only the two of them, years since he thought he'd needed them. Years when he fooled himself into thinking she was enough. Years when he fooled himself into thinking that she thought the same.

He tells himself that he doesn't need her anymore. He just needs release -- to find some kind of pleasure in what little he has left to him now. What he needs ... all he needs ... is something physical, because sex is predictable. Love isn't.

He makes the call. Tells them what he wants.

Then he waits.