The thirteenth one ... House pauses with his hand in the air. Thirteen, he thinks. He reminds himself that he's not superstitious, but he still doesn't take the cane, and Cuddy lowers it to the floor.
"Maybe you should wait a little longer," she says. "Get more rest."
"I've been resting," House says and takes the cane. He's not sure what he expects when he pushes down on it and stands. It's just another cane. He'd even used it briefly in the hours after the bus crash. When Cuddy showed up to drive him home, she had it with her. He wonders now when she had the time to pick it up.
That was a week ago. The blond cane has leaned against beds and dressers and tables ever since -- from the ICU to the step-down unit and finally to this private room on the third floor. It was there every time he opened his eyes, a reminder of what he'd lost. Of things that changed, and things that would never change. It was there. Wilson wasn't.
"He stopped by when you were asleep," Cuddy told him one day. "He didn't want to wake you up." She'd looked away from him as she spoke, and he hadn't been able to tell if it was a lie. He's pretty sure it was.
Kutner had offered to look through the wreckage for the old cane. House had told him not to bother, but didn't tell him why. He didn't know if he could explain it anyway. It was just a sense that it was broken into pieces, broken beyond repair. Somehow it seemed appropriate that he should lose that, along with everything else.
Cuddy's cane is just a substitute, but it's steady under his hand. He feels a slight tremor in his arm, but knows that has nothing to do with the cane.
Cuddy hovers as he makes his way across the room and into the wheelchair that'll take him out of here. Finally. The halls are nearly empty, just one nurse at the station who glances up as they pass. Cuddy's true to her word, letting him leave before anyone comes by with another empty sentiment.
There's no one he wants to see anyway.
No, he corrects himself. That's not true.
The funeral was three days ago. Cuddy says Wilson has taken time off to go through Amber's things, to handle all the paperwork that death brings in its wake.
Cuddy's car is parked just outside the main entrance, and she opens the passenger door, waits as House puts his feet on the ground, places the new cane on the concrete.
The cane angles in against him like it belongs there, but House knows it's only instinct that guides it, muscle memory, a movement that's ingrained in every step he takes -- every step he's taken ever since that first cane.
He tells himself that this is just another cane. Numbers don't mean anything. He braces himself against it and takes another step.