Too many times. Far too many, considered Lisa Cuddy as sat at House's bedside watching; worrying. Again. Two years past; and nine years past—and maybe a couple in between—though not as dire—she had been here, in this place watching; worrying. Except that nine years ago, it was Stacy's burden—although Cuddy was the one to feel guilty about it. Should she have ignored Stacy and allowed him to go peacefully into the night (or, to hear House tell it, recover fully)?

"Don't you think you deserve to live? Don't you think you deserve to be happy?" Cuddy had heard Stacy's teary argument for House's life as she stood at the door to his room back then. Wilson had said that too, to her, offhandedly referring to House's lack of self-esteem amidst the bluster of his smug arrogance. The fact was that she'd already known; known for years. She'd see him in a crowd of doctors laughing, slapping his back for some crude comment; some off-color remark—or some brilliant observation about an obscure tropical disease, and then the crowd would dissipate, making its way towards the bar, and House would be standing alone, looking down at his hands awkwardly. Unable to participate. A new conversation would start as House looked in on the robust camaraderie from outside the crowd until he simply leave. Alone. Always alone.

It had broken her heart the first time she'd witnessed it at a New Jersey Medical Association conference. House had been the keynote speaker: hotshot young doctor at 34 speaking about the differential diagnosis of infectious diseases, the topic of his best selling (in the medical world, anyway) text book. The anecdotal case histories read like a Michael Crichton novel, but the science was impeccable as was the reasoning. House was a star ascendant. But that was before.

"Greg!" She had called out to House as he approached the elevator, startling him. It had been years since they'd seen each other. House had stayed another 18 months at Michigan to obtain a Masters Degree in Chemistry before starting Hopkins for medical school. He had TA'd her Organic Lab, charming her and half the other pre-med undergraduate females with his sly humor, slight geekiness, and intense blue eyes. "Hey."

"New Jersey is a long way from Ann Arbor." It was all he could think to say.

"OK. So now say something that isn't trite." A delighted smile cracked his face, lighting his eyes.

"Can't. I'm too stunned by the sheer magnificence of your…"

"I said…something not trite…"

"Oh, Cuddy, my dear, there is nothing trite about your…"

"I read it," she interrupted. "Your book."

"Thinking of going into ID? Don't waste your time. All the big bucks are in bioweapons. So unless you're willing to sell your soul…"

"That why you wrote the book?" House had been with US AMARID at Fort Dietrich; rumor had it that he was heading for a big time position. Maybe director. But he had quit suddenly and without notice, disappearing for months before re-emerging in New Jersey.

"Why I wrote a book; not the book." Cuddy had not quite understood the difference until he had explained it. "No. I write the book, I end up in a federal prison or swimming with the fishes. Took the easy way out by being a good little citizen of the military-industrial complex. Blow no whistles, and you get to grow up to be a big time ID doc with a shiny new textbook."

Medical hypocrisy was something that House could never countenance, most especially in himself. And he was still trying to atone, even now, so many years later. She smiled at House's peculiar nobility, recalling now his speech about Viopril; skewering Vogler and his company for valuing medical lifestyles over patients' well-being: sacrificing himself and everyone in his orbit for a great common good. That, or he simply wouldn't allow himself to be bullied. She sighed. It hadn't been so easy to smile back then.

Cuddy began to doze off at his bedside, keeping a gentle grip on his hand, unconsciously stroking it with her thumb: a comfort to her--perhaps to him as well. She felt him stir, making her immediately alert. No longer in a coma, House had been asleep for nearly 24 hours. His vitals were more or less stable, with all the She had only left his side to use the facilities and to shower. If the hospital needed her, everyone seemed to know where she could be found. Half her inbox files had been moved to House's bedside tray along with her laptop. She could work as well from here as from her office. And she would not let House awaken alone. Something told her; implored her from within that she should stay.

Wilson had been by twice; once just after House had woken from the coma (or so she had been told, as she had been asleep); and again in the morning.

"Plan on moving in?" he'd asked curtly.


"Well, his self-destructiveness finally killed someone else. I'd say he missed his target." Cuddy had gasped slightly at the viciousness of Wilson's tone.

"Wilson…James…you can't…" Wilson had stood there, hands his hips, defiantly telling her by his silence that "yes he can;" and does. Everybody lies.

House stirred again, slowly blinking as his gaze flitted to Cuddy's hand on his. His eyes closed again, but he didn't remove his hand from beneath her grasp. "House?" He nodded vaguely, acknowledging his presence, his eyes still shut. He wasn't ready, not by a long shot, to open them--not to her knowing and worried gaze. She would see; and she would worry. But she was already worried—and she already knew.

"It wasn't your fault." Cuddy knew it was too soon to provoke an argument, but she feared the alternative more. "You didn't prescribe the amantadine; you didn't cause the bus crash; you…"

House didn't want to hear this; he was too tired to argue, too sick to explain. He wasn't even sure if words would emerge at all. "I've…" His tongue felt heavy and thick in his mouth; the words: an effort to form—nearly impossible to vocalize.

"Shhh. You don't have to talk." Cuddy saw his increased agitation and moved her left hand to his forehead, hoping to still him. She had spoken with Chase about the procedure—the deep brain stimulation.

"I explained the risks in no uncertain terms," Chase had told her defensively as they watched from the gallery as a brain surgeon tried to stop the new bleed that had developed in House's brain. "House never said a word; didn't call me an idiot. Didn't wave me off the informed consent spiel. He was just silent. Signed the form… It was just weird. Kept looking at Wilson."

Chase had told her about House's memory of the night; the clarity with which it came back to him—and how hard it seemed to hit him emotionally. "He was sobbing that he was sorry…so, so sorry over and over…about the amantadine, I think. That she had taken it. Then he started to convulse. You know the rest."

They had done the procedure without her knowledge; she never would have approved it. Not in a million years. House's brain—his entire body had been subjected to far too much trauma for it to be, even remotely, safe. But what was done was done; Amber was dead—there was nothing anyone could have done. Not even House.

House's eyes were open, staring at the ceiling as Cuddy lightly brushed her hand against his forehead. She loved his eyes, the way they spoke to her when he could not express what he felt in words. "Trust me," they would implore, when no else would. And she did. "Understand me," they would ask when he couldn't afford to let anyone else understand his motives. "Be here for me," they would plead when he was alone in the darkness and hated himself for being afraid of the loneliness and the dark.

But now, in this instant, as he stared blankly at the textured tiles above their head, she saw nothing but hoplessness; nothing but sadness. Tears began to streak his face, freely falling into the hollow beneath his high cheekbone. Not daring to follow her intense urge to wipe them away with her thum, she allowed herself to cry with him and for him.