He had half-heartedly tried willing her away, but House hadn't the strength to just tell her. "Leave. Go. Now. I really don't need you here. Don't want you here. Just fucking 'go,' damn you." And then he seemed to float…was that the sensation? He was back there… that soft, white place where it didn't hurt, or at least he didn't care. A place where Wilson didn't hound him with his sad, accusing eyes; where Cuddy didn't pity him with sad, sweet eyes. And even Amber had disappeared, going off to wherever dead people went. Or didn't.
He was only dreaming now; he knew that. Knew that he was no longer in a coma and was merely asleep, and that the dreams of white buses had nearly fading into that nothingness where dreams belong. Even asleep he could hear Cuddy's breathing; feel her hand now on his hand, then on his forehead. It felt too good, and he didn't deserve it. Then that, too, faded as sleep overtook conscious thought.
John House, US Marines, all decked out in his fighter pilot regalia appeared out of the blue at his bedside scowling; Wilson was beside him, hands on his hips, all anger and indictment. "Well, his recklessness finally killed someone. Only not the right someone. I can only apologize for my son's behavior, sure as hell, he won't," his father bellowed. Wilson nodded in agreement. "Worthless son of a… I can't stay another minute, Wilson. Coffee, son?" John House patted Wilson's back affectionately before they both vanished; mercifully leaving him alone. House felt the tickle of tears on his face and Cuddy's breath at his ear.
"There are 3,174 holes in the acoustic tile square directly above my head." His voice was raspy; barely audible enough to be understood. But it was enough to rouse Cuddy from her light sleep, which he desperately needed to do. Her hair was splayed extravagantly on his pillow, and she was in an amusingly bizarre position, having fallen asleep with one hand on his forehead and one grasping his left hand.
Regaining her momentarily lost composure, she sat back in the lounge chair, drawing it closer to his bed, but removing all physical contact. House immediately missed her touch.
"How are you feeling?" A simple question at first blush, but suffused with a subtext he was unwilling…and unable…to explore.
"Just great. Ready for a run. You?" She didn't deserve sarcasm; but he was an ass, so what could she expect other than sarcasm? "How do you expect me to feel?" Honest, probably too honest, he admitted to himself.
"Why'd you do it?" Which "it" he wondered? Now there was a Pandora's box not to open. He supposed that she was referring to the deep brain stim procedure—something that she had vetoed earlier. He really didn't feel up to talking about it; and what could he say, after all? He'd done it (for all the good it had accomplished) and it was over. Amber was dead; Wilson was gone. Cuddy, the patron saint of Jewish guilt and lost causes (St. Jude has nothing on her) remained; determined to rescue him like some stray and beaten down old dog.
"How long do I have to stay tethered to this bed?" he asked, changing the subject. He would have glanced back at the monitors, but the effort, he knew, would be too costly. House wondered if the dizziness he felt had just come on or if he simply hadn't been paying attention?
"Well, you're awake; your vitals are good. No reason to…" House held up a hand, stopping her as the room swayed and shimmied in front of him. "House…?"
"A little…" He closed his eyes against the dizziness, the intensity of which seemed to be creeping insistently and consistently upwards with alarming speed. House gripped the bed rails on either side, trying to ride the wave of motion even as his eyes were shut tight against it. Flashing lights danced in his field of vision, and he was back on the bus as it bus tossed them like pickup sticks until he could hold on no longer. "The amantadine…I have to remember…" A memory of a memory, fleeting before dissipating into the ether of conscious thought. "I tried to…" he tried to say. Tried to what? But the thought was gone, tossed into the fury of motion and chaos. He had lost sight of her in the dark. He shouldn't…they wouldn't know about… More fleeting and disparate, his thoughts came and went, popping like soap bubbles and impossible to snatch, like it was impossible to keep hold of Amber's hand.
Sensing House's rising panic, Cuddy took House's hand, removing his death grip on the bedrail while releasing the bar. She called his name; she shouted it; she caressed it. But he was gone. She became alarmed when noticing that his heart rate had climbed over the 100 mark. "House!" she demanded, "Tell me what's wrong," Nearly five minutes had passed as she tried to wrest his attention from whatever was freaking him out so badly. About to call for help, he finally seemed to snap out of it.
"Dizzy," he gasped. "Sorry. I couldn't… Just a little dizzy…" Yeah, right, she thought. Cuddy grabbed the emesis bowl from the nightstand…just in case. She checked his blood pressure: elevated but not enough to cause this. House's obvious anxiety was certainly not helping.
"House, I need you to try and relax." Easier said than done, he reckoned through the fog. "Take a deep breath." He was close to hyperventilating. He tried to comply as a wave of nausea hit full force. Cuddy saw it coming, handing him the emesis basin. There was nothing solid in his stomach to give back; she was more concerned about what a round of serious vomiting would do to his already injured brain.
As suddenly as it began, the dizziness vanished and House relaxed back into the bed, breathing hard, bathed in sweat. He still hadn't risked opening his eyes as Cuddy waited, sitting on the edge of his bed. "You OK?" She ventured." House nodded slowly, unsure.
"Yeah. I think so," he gasped, finally opening his eyes. "Dizzy, a little."
"A little. Right. That's all it was? You seemed pretty out of it for a few minutes…"
"Just dizzy. Not enough for you?" Cuddy sighed, removing the emesis basin to the bathroom after replacing the bedrail. He looked much better when she returned. His heart rate was slowed and his breathing more normal.
"What happened?' she asked calmly, nudging his leg, so that he would make room for her to resume her perch on the bed.
"Sudden dizziness, nausea…all the yummy side dishes that come with a fractured skull entrée. All better now," he lied, wanting nothing more than to be left alone. "So, as I was asking before this rude little interruption, when do I….?"
"Yeah. Right. Let's see how you do the rest of the day. I didn't much like that little episode you just had."
"It's dizziness. Boring. I have a concussion. And a fracture that extends to my ear. You don't think dizziness is an expected side effect? Get me some Antivert and I'll be good to go."
"Antivert could increase the dizziness. So let's wait and see if you have a repeat performance. I want to schedule some tests and a workup for vestibular issues. That little bout of dizziness, as you call it and want to dismiss so easily lasted a good 10 minutes, and for about five of those minutes, you were somewhere down the rabbit hole. You were seriously freaked out." Her tone brooked no argument. Besides he hadn't the energy. "You're a mess," she said suddenly. "Be right back."
She returned with a bowl of warm water and some towels. House arched an eyebrow. "Rather take a shower, Cuddy. Besides, when did you exchange your medical degree for a bedpan?"
"Didn't think you needed a bed pan. And you're not quite ready to tackle the shower stall—or the linoleum floor, for that matter. You worked yourself into quite a sweat during that little foray of yours, so I thought…"
"Yeah, you just want to see me naked…any excuse…"
"So I thought, rather than stink up the place with your, albeit manly, musk, I'd do my nurses a favor and clean you up myself."
"Actually, I'd prefer…who was that buxom babe…sorry…nurse Joanie…or Jennifer, or something… out there? You know the one that Wilson's always…" He stopped mid thought. "Fuck." A beat. Two. "How's he doing?" House inquired quietly. "I haven't had a chance to…" To what? To apologize for killing the love of his life? Just how the hell do you do that? "I need to…"
"Hey, over here." She was trying to distract him, noting the sudden mood swings. "I'm sure Wilson will stop by. He needs some time to… I know…"
"Yeah? Time to what? You don't know a fucking thing about it; about this." She knew more than she was saying; much more.
"You gonna pull that gown down yourself, or am I going to have to do it for you?" she asked softly, seductively even. A distraction was what he sorely needed.
"You'd like that, wouldn't you? Something to gossip and brag about!" But he complied, baring his torso to her. "Mind closing the curtain? Don't want the neighbors to talk and all… But if you don't mind…" She threw the wet cloth at him, abruptly rising from her bedside perch.
"Fine! Wash yourself!" She got up, and House knew he had pushed too hard. Taking him by surprise, she closed the door and drew the curtain, returning quickly to House's side.
"Ginger?" He'd gotten a whiff of the warm water. "All your patients get the aromatherapy spa treatment, Nurse Lisa?"
"It might help with the nausea." He grimaced. "Well, at least it smells nice."
"Yeah. If you like Asian food." Now it was her turn to grimace. "Which….I do, turns out."
She was gentle in her ministrations, starting with his head, compressing the cool cloth to the injuries on the right side—the bruises; the stitched area. House relaxed into the feeling, the scent of the ginger and Cuddy's firm but delicate touch. When he sighed, closing his eyes, Cuddy smiled.
Finished with his face, she moved to his neck, noticing the old nearly-faded scar there. She had nearly lost him then, too—two years earlier; and then the promise of the Ketamine treatment. House had possessed real hope then for the first time in years. It had been so long since she had seen him be really happy; really smile and mean it; experience real joy. All because of a shooting. And until it all came apart so suddenly; so tragically. She moved down a bit to his shoulders and upper arms
His arm seemed as powerful as his leg was not; the prominent veins there outlining well-developed muscles. A remnant of another time. His shoulders were tense, and she worked the muscles there with her other hand as she glided the richly scented towel over his upper chest. House had remained still, lost in sensation, relaxed by Cuddy's touch—and aroused by it. "Scoot forward a little bit, so I can get your back." He complied silently. It had been years since anyone…anyone that mattered…had done this for him. And he did not deserve it…all this attention; all her attention. Cuddy felt him tense again. "Lie back."
Cuddy replaced the towel in the bowl of, now-cold, water. "That's it? What about….?"
"Figured you'd want to take care of that part yourself." She waggled her eyes lasciviously.
"You always were a tease."
"Yeah, well…" Cuddy's expression turned grave. "House, I know it's going to be difficult…these next few weeks; months even…you're going to need to talk..."
"Not really big on the talking thing. I thought you knew me better than that… I'm fine."
"You are not 'fine.' You've just suffered major head trauma, not to mention all the crazy stuff you did to yourself in the aftermath. Insane stuff. Your injuries might be worse than…" She sighed, trying to keep her tone gentle; her words measured and non-threatening.
"Nothing I don't deserve," he muttered under his breath. Cuddy ignored it, filing the information, and her alarm at the admission.
"Post traumatic stress is common after what you've been through. I'm just saying…"
"You've said it. Duty done and duly noted." She shouldn't have pushed it, and she stopped, watching the anxiety build in his shoulders. "You know, you could use a bath yourself. Just how long have you been roosting in here?" He suddenly noticed the stacks of file folders and her laptop surrounding the visitor chair. "People will begin to talk."
"As if they haven't for the past however many years you've been here. Fine."
"You really don't have to babysit me."
"I know. And I'm not. I'll be back later." Get some sleep.