She was in the clinic the next day.
Amber was dead and she was dying but people still needed doctors, still needed her, so the next day she was back in the clinic like nothing had happened. Like her boss wasn't laid up a few floors above her, with the Dean of Medicine holding his hand. Like a good doctor hadn't died, and a better man hadn't had his heart broken.
"Miss Johnson," she said, looking up from her file as she entered the examination room.
"Juliet," the young woman sitting on the bed said.
"And this must be Robert..." Thirteen checked her file again, the woman was pale and blonde, the little boy on her lap had light brown skin and dark curls. Both were incredibly cute, but it didn't brighten her day much, "your...?"
"Nephew, I think he has strep, or something. My sister is in Greece and she'll go crazy if he gets ill." Thirteen smiled.
"Let's have a look at him," she said, nodding her head. The blonde woman jumped down from the bed and lifted the little boy onto it, holding him there with a hand on his back.
"Jess is going to kill me," she muttered as Thirteen started to examine the toddler.
"Your sister can't blame you for him getting strep," she said, "say ah." The little boy didn't respond.
"He's pretty shy, and yes she can," the young woman turned to the little boy, "open your mouth really wide and go AH for the pretty doctor Robbie." Thirteen blushed at the compliment but didn't feel any better for that either. She looked down the little boy's mouth with her light.
"Doesn't look too bad," she said, "I don't think it's strep."
"Oh good, thank God," Thirteen didn't think she'd seen anyone sound so relieved.
"Probably just a head cold." The young woman picked the little boy up and hugged him tight. "I'll write you a prescription for him."
"Thank you," the woman peered at the tag on her white coat, "Dr. Hadley."
"No problem." She smiled back, resisting the urge to ruffle the toddlers curls, knowing it wouldn't make her feel much better. Or the boy, if he had a cold. She left the examination room, put the file back into the tray hanging outside, and collided with Cuddy.
"Dr Hadley! What are you doing here?" she asked, jumping slightly too.
"House is laid up. Amber, Amber died. I gave the four of you a few days off."
"What about you Dr. Cuddy?" the younger doctor asked. "House and Wilson are your friends. As much as House can be friends with anyone." Cuddy looked at her, opening her mouth to speak but changing her mind. "Sorry, none of my business," Thirteen quickly changed her mind.
"I have a hospital to run and House needs," she paused, "he needs something." Thirteen nodded.
"I need to do this," she said, heading over to another examination room.
Cute blondes and their shy nephews aside, clinic patients weren't distracting. Weren't interesting. She'd understood quickly why House tried so hard to get out of treating kids with strep and people in denial about their possible STD's.
At lunch she wandered a couple of floors up to the diagnostics office. It was cold and empty to her, even though it had only been completely empty for a day. She cleaned up a few files in both House's office and the adjoining room, as if the order would help her deal with her life spinning out of control. Grabbing a few things she left, knowing it would probably be a while before she was working in that office again.
In the doorway of House's room, she wasn't surprised to find Cuddy sitting in the chair next to his bed, watching him sleep.
"How is he?"
"Better, physically," she said, not looking at her at first.
"I brought his ipod up from his office. His porn and some other things." She walked into the room, slowly wishing her shoes weren't so noisy. She'd come to see him but suddenly wasn't so sure she waned him to wake up. She felt Cuddy's eyes on her as she placed House's things by his bedside. She checked his chart for a quick moment, he was fine physically, she mused, but Cuddy knew him better than anyone, than her. Emotionally he was probably as lost as she was right now.
"Wilson can't support House, not through this," Cuddy said quietly, "he needs someone, me." Thirteen nodded, understanding, "what about you?"
"What about me?" the young woman replied in confusion.
"What do you need?"
"Yesterday, you took things badly and you're here, today, treating snotty noses and infected...dicks," Cuddy threw her hands up into the air.
"I can't be affected?" she snapped back.
"I'm not saying that," Cuddy's voice remained even, quiet.
"Tell him I dropped by," Thirteen said, giving her boss one last look before walking out.
"I think he has measles." Thirteen looked up from the file to see the blonde woman and the toddler with dark curls sitting in the examination room.
"Miss Johnson," she said.
"Juliet," the young woman reminded her, "I think Robert has the measles," she repeated.
"Let me have a look at him," she moved around Juliet to examine the little boy as he stared wide-eyed at her. "Has he had his vaccinations?"
"I don't know, my sister is in Greece," she was fretting now, fidgeting more than the two year old in her care.
"He'll be okay Juliet," Thirteen tried to smile but it was hard. Everything was hard, "and your sister would be happy that you're being so vigilant with Robert's health while she's away."
"Yeah, you think?" Thirteen nodded.
"And it's not measles," she added, "it's just a rash, probably your detergent."
"It is my fault?!" she cried.
"No, no," Thirteen reassured quickly, "a rash is nothing." She pulled out her prescription pad and scribbled on it. "Some cream, and switch detergents."
"Okay, okay," Juliet breathed, "than you Dr. Hadley, say thank you Robbie." The toddler didn't respond, but looked at Thirteen. "He's really, really shy."
"That's fine." This time she did pat the boy's head, an awkward motion of her hand on his curls but felt nothing. No response from the boy or inside herself.
A knock made the women jump as Cuddy opened the door and put her head around.
"Dr Hadley? My office please?" She nodded and said her goodbyes to Juliet and traipsed after Cuddy, wondering if she was about to see some of the anger she reserved for House directed at her. She'd crossed a line, she suspected, she didn't care but she'd crossed it anyway. Getting too personal with the boss. Or not getting personal enough. It was hard to tell with Cuddy. Most days she had ten feet of personal space around her with a sign saying 'don't fuck with me', but occasionally, very occasionally looked vulnerable enough to cry in public.
"If you want to work, want the distraction, you'd probably be better in the ER," Cuddy said, once Thirteen was settled in the chair opposite her. "Cameron always needs an extra hand, and then when Foreman and the others come back you can rejoin diagnostics."
"If that's that you need," Cuddy said with a pointed look.
"If you need something else, need someone, I'm here for you." Thirteen smiled, amused.
"What about you? What do you need?" she asked the older woman.
"A Margarita," Cuddy said with a wry smile.
"You're running the hospital, supporting House when he lets you, and I bet you've been to see Wilson twice already," Thirteen said.
"And Amber's parents," she said in a low voice.
"Who's supporting you?"
"I can handle this."
"I'm not saying you can't Dr. Cuddy but you don't have to, not alone." Thirteen got up to leave but was stopped at the door by Cuddy's voice.
"What about you Dr. Hadley? Can you handle this?"
"Amber and House?" she asked, "not a problem."
"But you still need distracting?"
"Not from that," she went to leave, when she was so close to her truth, but Cuddy was around her desk, with a hand on her arm before she could get the door open.
"Then what?" she asked. The younger woman took a breath.
"End of Days," she said with a little twist of her lips. Cuddy let go of her arm.
She finally felt something again.
The fear that had gripped her while Amber was dying had taken hold again. Fortunately she had something to concentrate on, like chest compressions on a car crash victim. She had to be pulled away by a nurse when she could bring him back. He'd died long before she'd had the chance to save him but they had to try. Thirteen had to try.
Death was everywhere in the ER. Following her around. Four days had passed and her life hadn't really changed much, same home, same hospital. It was the death that had changed, it had crept closer and she was realising it, noticing it over her shoulder, under her hands.
She couldn't detach as well anymore, and she certainly wasn't feeling very brave.
"Dr. Hadley?" Thirteen looked away from the space where the car crash victim had been, now an empty space, to the nurse. "There's a young woman here who's demanding to see you," the nurse said, "I told her to go to the clinic but she's refusing to leave."
"What's her name?"
"Curly haired toddler with her?" The nurse nodded. "I'll see her." Thirteen sighed, removed her latex gloves and wiped the powder onto her pink scrubs.
"Dr Hadley," the young blonde woman was sitting on the bed, the toddler beside her all dark skin and darker curls, looking completely healthy but as miserable as Thirteen felt.
"Miss Johnson," she greeted her with half a smile and a sigh.
"I told you, it's Juliet," she smiled, Robbie is really sick, I think it's mumps."
"Did you ask you sister about his vaccinations?" thirteen asked, feeling the toddlers glands, pressing her fingers into his neck.
"No, I can't," the blonde woman said.
"No phones in Greece?"
"No, it's just," she rambled the words out, a few tears falling.
"What's going on Juliet? Robert is perfectly healthy but you're near hysterical."
"I can't let him get sick."
"While your sister is in Greece?"
"It'll be my fault and he's too important. I have to look after him."
"There's something called Munchhausen-by-proxy. Have you heard of it?" Juliet shook her head. "It's a psychiatric disorder where someone makes a child in their care sick, so they can get attention or sympathy for themselves." She had her arms crossed, her fear overtaken by anger for the the moment.
"No, no! That's not me, I love Robbie," she cried, "Jess, Jess would never forgive me if he became ill and it's up to me now. He's my responsibility and I don't know what else to do." She was hysterical again, the toddler impassive.
"What's going on Miss Johnson?"
"My sister isn't in Greece," she said, breathing hard, "she's dead."
Death was following her.
"I'm the only family Robbie has now."
"And he's perfectly healthy, you're doing a good job."
"I have to be sure."
"If this is so hard, why not let child services take care of him?"
"For him, for his life. His mom and dad are dead, but he's alive, we're okay, I just need to be sure."
"I am sure," Thirteen said, firm voice, shaking hands, "he can't spend his life in and out of hospitals and doctors offices."
"No, but, he," she rambled.
"He's healthy, no measles, mumps or rubella. He's just quiet," Thirteen said, "that should worry you more. Stop talking to doctors, and start talking to him." Juliet didn't reply, nodding and wiping some more tears away.
"Thank you Dr. Hadley."
Cuddy was doing paperwork in the chair next to House's bed, a sizable pile on the floor by her. It looked more organized than it should've been and Thirteen wondered when she started doing her paperwork by House's bedside.
"He's asleep again?" she asked, Cuddy looked up, then looked at House. She didn't reply and Thirteen wandered over to her boss and checked his chart, and his drips. "He's been upping his morphine."
"I'm not surprised," Cuddy said, "he probably doesn't want to be awake."
"Yeah," she mumbled. She moved some files from the chair next Cuddy and sat down in it.
For five whole minutes they were silent, listening to the regular beeping of House's monitors, the shuffling of Cuddy's paperwork, Thirteen's own breathing as she thought about Amber, her boss, bosses, Juliet Johnson and her nephew.
House was alive, asleep but alive, and she was going to die and Cuddy wanted to support everyone, because that was how she lived. Thirteen didn't know how to live anymore.
"Can he recover from this?" Thirteen asked quietly.
"He hasn't recovered from the infarction," she said, not looking up from her file.
"What about Dr. Wilson?"
"I honestly don't know," she did look up then, at House, then Thirteen. "What about you, will you recover from this? You have took it hard."
"I don't think so."
"What can I do?" she asked.
"As my boss?"
"As a friend?" Cuddy tried.
"We're not friends." It was harsh but the truth and Thirteen couldn't take anything but.
"We could be friends?" Thirteen smiled. They could be, if Cuddy weren't so beautiful or if she weren't dying. Damn, when did she start thinking her boss was beautiful?
"Maybe." She tried to be non-committal but the disappointment on the older woman's face was horrible. But then, worse had happened just recently.
"What can I do as a boss then?"
"Nothing right now," she said, because she didn't know what she would ever need to get her head around all this death. Around her own.
"What about a coffee then?" Cuddy said with a sweet smile.
"Okay, maybe he'll be awake when we get back," Thirteen said smiling back, "I lowered his morphine back down."
She was spending all her time at the hospital. Acclimatising herself to her future she thought sometimes, she was going to end up there eventually, permanently, soon maybe. Now she spent her time between the clinic and the ER, Cuddy's office and House's private room. He was still upping his meds, she was still lowering them back down again, it was a game they were playing between them, because she was sure he knew it was her, just as she was sure he knew Cuddy spent a lot of her day sitting at his bedside. She was sure he could've been discharged by now, released and lying at home doped up on Vicodin and scotch, which was probably why Cuddy hadn't discharged him yet. She didn't say anything about it to the older woman though, just sat with her in his room, lowering his medication, bringing him his national enquirers and newspapers and the odd copy of Cosmo she had lying around at home, because she didn't know what else he would want to read.
She didn't know if he was reading them though, because he was never awake when he visited, either by his choice or hers (through timing). Cuddy said he was, but Cuddy was nice, being nice, and didn't know if that meant the woman embellished things. She didn't know her well enough, but that was changing, slowly.
She spent time with Cuddy in her office, in House's room. No where else in the hospital, she was pretty sure the older doctor didn't want to be seen inside the hospital spending time with a bisexual woman. Not with the way gossip flew around the hospital, and it angered her a little, but she understood and she had other things to care about, to worry about.
She never forgot about it. She found herself shaking from the thought of it sometimes, then panicking because it had started. End Of Days.
So she tried to distract herself with the clinic and the ER and Lisa Cuddy.
The latter was working quite well. Cuddy made her smile in spite of the shadows.
The first kiss came when Foreman and the others came back to work a week later, sitting on the the little sofa in her office talking about House and new patients they could take on without him.
"I'll do House's clinic hours, until he's back."
"As well as yours and whatever patient diagnostics has?" Cuddy asked.
"You're working yourself too hard."
"I'm fine." Thirteen said
"Why are you working yourself so hard?"
"Why are you keeping House here?" Cuddy smiled.
"You don't want to talk about it, that's fine," she said, "I'm keeping House here for his own good."
"Really?" Thirteen raised an eyebrow.
"I know House, you don't."
"You're worried he'll go home, drink, overdose and end up back here."
"Let him get it out of his system," Thirteen said, "might do him some good."
"Or it will kill him."
"Which is probably what he wants."
"You're advocating suicide?"
"No, I'm advocating you letting him look after himself for a few days at least," she said, "letting him get wasted and blow off steam."
"Because you're working yourself to exhaustion to blow of your own steam or whatever this is."
"We can take turns checking on him," Thirteen continued, ignoring Cuddy's attempt to get her to talk.
"Why do you care about him?" the older woman asked.
"Why do you?"
"Argh!" Cuddy cried, standing up, "stop it." The younger woman smiled.
"Sorry," she said, standing up too, "I don't mean to do that."
"You do," Thirteen grinned. Actually felt amused. She was almost amazed, if that were possible from within shadows.
"But I am sorry." Cuddy smiled, back, and went to reach out to her. Thirteen watched her hand carefully, as it hung mid air between them. Cuddy was straight, and this was an awkward moment for her, but Thirteen wasn't always the most tactile of people but she reached out, linking their fingers together.
"I wish you would tell me what was going on, Remy," she smiled at the use of her first name, Cuddy had been calling her Dr. Hadley for days and days now. It was nice.
"I wish you would unload, Lisa" Thirteen said.
"Neither is going to happen," Cuddy said, pulling the woman closer to her, the younger woman didn't think she'd ever seen her uncertain before. She smiled and leaned into her, brushing her lips against hers lightly, disappointed when Cuddy stepped back.
"Not here," she said for her. Cuddy shook her head. Thirteen looked around, out through the glass panes of the office doors, saw no one and gave Cuddy another quick kiss. "Want to make a deal?" she said, with a smile.
"A deal?" Cuddy raised an eyebrow. "I'm listening."
"Send House home, I'll take you on a date." Cuddy went red.
"I half expected you to try and take what you wanted, like House would."
"I did try, you stopped me."
"Try harder." It was a dare but Thirteen had never been very playful.
"I'm not House."
"And for that I'm eternally gratefully," Cuddy sighed
The confession didn't slip out, she let it out, because she wasn't House. She was like him, she could recognise that, hiding and miserable, but she wasn't House. She cared, cared about Lisa. She wanted Lisa but death, death followed her everywhere and she couldn't subject this woman to that, not with so much on her plate already, with the few people she had to talk to unavailable and her inability to unload.
She told Cuddy and the woman was speechless for a whole second.
"You took the test?"
"You know?" Cuddy smiled at that, linking their fingers again.
"House told me about the Huntington's when he first hired you," she said, still smiling, "some sort of power play. I'm not sure how it was supposed to work." Thirteen smiled.
"It was positive," she said, "and I'm dying."
"Not right now," she squeezed the younger woman's fingers.
That didn't matter though.