Her grandmother used to knit and crochet, the yarn and needles dancing between her fingers as she made hats and mittens and scarves. Her mother did needlepoint, the cloth taut in the hoop held over her lap as the thin silver needle slid in and out to create intricate patterns.
Cuddy doesn't knit or crotchet or needlepoint. She never had the patience to learn. But she wishes she did now, wishes for something that would give her fingers and hands something to do, some way to keep them busy as she sits and waits by his side.
If she were at her desk, she'd have a pen in her hand, or her fingers would be flying over the keyboard, keeping herself busy in work. Keeping herself distracted. But she's not there. She's here, in the quiet. She's flipped through the papers showing his test results, she's tweaked the controls on the monitors that show his every heartbeat, his every breath. There's nothing else she can do. Not now.
House's hands lie still on the blankets, and Cuddy tries not to look at them. When she does, she remembers seeing him toying with rubber bands, with paper clips, with the handle of his cane, always in motion -- as if his fingers were trying to keep up with the pace of his brain. Seeing them so still now scares her.
She reaches across the empty space between the chair and the bed, slips her hand into his, feels the warmth of his skin, feels his fingers flex in response to the pressure of her hand in his. She knows it's a good sign, evidence that the coma is lightening, that House may be on his way back to them. To her.
She twines her fingers between his, tightens her grip, and waits.
He remembers cans and shelves. He remembers the sound of his mother's voice, remembers the rough texture of his father's hand as it held his own, remembers feeling his father lift him up onto a stool to sit beside him near the cash register.
He remembers his mother's words to him, as she told him to hide under the desk in the office at the back at the store and not come out until she came for him. He remembers loud sounds, his father shouting, his mother's cry going silent.
He doesn't remember why they named him Larry, or why they cut off ties with their families. When he turned 18, he asked for copies of his records, but they only gave him faint clues about his past, about them -- references to attempts to contact family in two different countries, vague reports of someone who may have been an uncle, but who denied any connection.
He remembers too many years of shuttling between foster homes and packing everything he owned into just two small bags until he found his way to the Kutners. He remembers taking their name, because he wanted something new, because it didn't make sense to hang onto a life he could barely remember and that was gone forever.
He remembers saying goodbye to friends from high school, and meeting roommates in college only knowing he'd leave them behind too, someday.
Everyone leaves. Everyone dies. It's the first lesson he learned in life, and the one he'll never forget.
But he remembers the first time he heard about House, heard about how he did things no one else did, did things that people talked about, wrote about -- the things that people would remember, things that would last, things that would survive long after they were all gone.
Taub drives through the dark of the predawn hours. It's quiet in the car -- the only sound he hears is from the tires on the road, the faint th-thump, th-thump, th-thump as they pass over the seams between the concrete slabs.
The silence feels right, like he's passing through a funeral home, with every sound in low murmurs, whispering about the deceased. He's sitting shiva at 70 miles per hour, silent prayers for Amber, for Wilson, for House, even for himself.
He's never mourned the life he'd had. He's never had time. He'd been too busy looking for some new direction, too busy trying to come up with the right lie for his wife, too busy competing for a spot with House ... against Amber, he thinks, the image of her coming unbidden to his mind, her arms crossed, daring anyone to argue with her.
His exit is just ahead and he slows the car, eases onto the off ramp. The light's turning yellow at the corner and he hits the brakes, rather than try to rush through it. He knows he's being cautious. He knows why.
He'd seen Amber and Wilson in the treatment room before he left, huddled together as if they were alone, talking softly about what they'd had, what they'd lost, and what they would never have.
Taub slows again, turns onto his street. He can see that Naomi has left the light on in the bedroom, like she used to do when he was a resident, working long hours late into the night.
He turns off the car, looks up at the dark building and the one light that's still burning bright.
He has no reason to mourn, he tells himself. He may have lost one job, but he's found something new. And he's not alone.
She says nothing, just pauses for a moment to see if Wilson will shake his head, tell her he wants to be alone. But he doesn't, just looks back down at his coffee once he sees her.
Cameron pulls out a chair and sits next to him, touches his hand softly. She wants to hug him, to give him more comfort than this, but she feels grief and sorrow and desperation radiating off him in waves, and she forces herself to hold back, to wait for him to make the first move.
It's something she's learned from Chase, that silences can carry as much emotion as tears. She's had to learn how to wait Chase out, to give him space. Now she tries to do the same for Wilson.
Foreman told her that he'd wanted to start treatment, but Wilson wouldn't allow it because he was terrified that they'd be wrong. Foreman had shaken his head. He didn't understand.
But Cameron remembers what it was like, waiting for miracles, begging for them, pleading with a God she didn't really believe in for one more chance. Her husband never got his, and a miracle may be all Amber has now -- a miracle and House, battered and bruised as he is, a broken down shadow of himself, bent over on his cane as he struggles down the hallways of the hospital, trying to find an answer.
"What if ..." Wilson starts, and Cameron leans forward, waits for him. "What if I'm wrong?" He looks at her, and she recognizes the pain and anger and frustration in his eyes that she'd seen day after day in her own back then. "What if I make a mistake?"
Cameron tightens her fingers around his hand. "You're giving her a chance," she says. "That's never a mistake."
He's seen House stoned, seen him in pain, seen him detoxing and seen him defying every rule placed before him. Foreman has never seen this.
House is being cautious. He's second guessing himself. He's afraid to take risks. For a while, so was Foreman. He'd been at the front of the bus, had watched as House dropped to the floor, his heart beating itself out of time until it stopped. He'd held his breath as Cuddy forced air into House's lungs, until House took a breath on his own.
House should be tucked into a bed upstairs, with an IV line and a cardiac monitor, but the rules are always different for House. Foreman could do nothing more than follow him, expecting him to collapse, expecting House's body to give out. He never thought it would be his brain and his will that would falter first.
Foreman doesn't always agree with House, but House always has a reason for what he does, something that makes sense in some twisted way.
This ... doesn't.
He's given in to Wilson's demands, broken his own rule that treatment is always faster than tests. He's afraid to push for real answers, and Foreman isn't sure if that's because of Wilson, because House's jumbled brain has reached its limit or because House is afraid of what answer he'll find, of why Amber was with him on that bus.
Maybe Wilson is right, and running the tests will give them the answer, but tests take time, and as Foreman looks down at Amber -- her body wrapped in cooling blankets, slurry filling her lungs -- he knows she doesn't have that kind of time to waste. She needs someone who's not afraid to act. And if House can't be that person now, then he'll have to be the one.
He should have walked away. He should have said no. But he didn't.
Chase stands behind Foreman and Taub and studies the screen as it creates layer after layer from the MRI image to show what's going on in House's brain. He spots the bleed at the same time Foreman does, feels the twist in his stomach as he looks at the damage he's done.
"It's not your fault," Foreman says, as if he could read Chase's mind. "He would have just gotten someone else to do it if you didn't."
But they both know that no one else would have touched the procedure. Not anyone on the surgical staff, anyway.
Taub glances up at him, but doesn't say anything. Maybe House would have forced him to do it, or maybe Kutner would have signed on -- maiming his boss would be just one more stunt to add to his resume.
House didn't ask them to do it, though. He'd come to Chase, stood there quietly for a moment, staring at the ground, then raised his head.
"I need you to do something for me," he'd said.
Chase had known it was stupid idea. He'd known it was risky. But he'd swallowed down his fears, and said he'd do it.
He hadn't done it for Amber, or for Wilson.
He'd told himself that he was doing it because it was the best way to protect House, that if he was in control, he'd know what lines he shouldn't cross. But that had been a lie. He looks at the images on the screen, at the black spot where House's brain is bleeding, at the fracture that's widened because of him.
The truth was, he'd done it because House had asked. And because House needed him. And because he couldn't walk away.
She stares at her hands, and wonders if they'll be the first to give her away. She closes her eyes, remembers how her mother used to fumble with buttons and laces, and finally when she reached the point she could no longer dress herself.
Maybe it'll be her brain that will go first, refusing to make the simple connections needed to make a diagnosis, or even how to cook for herself. But not her memory, of course. That's the sick thing about Huntington's. She'll remember everything she'll lose. Even when she can no longer feed herself, no longer swallow, she'll remember this moment -- sitting here with her death staring her in the face.
Maybe she'll have twenty years before those first signs will show up. Maybe more. Maybe less.
She pushes herself off the stool and tries to ignore the thought building in her mind that Amber was lucky. That Amber wouldn't have to spend years knowing what would happen. She knows that's not fair. That it's not right. That no one should die young. That Amber didn't deserve it.
But she remembers the slight smile on Amber's face as she hugged her, the way she knew she was dying, but faced it with grace.
"I'll never forget you," Thirteen had said.
"You better not," Amber had whispered in her ear, "or I'll haunt you like Stark's dog."
She'd laughed softly, then let her go.
Thirteen stops at the door, checks her watch. Amber's dead by now. She wonders what it was like, lying there, knowing what would happen. She looks at the paper crumpled in her hand, her own death sentence ticking down to zero. Maybe she'll know the answer to that question herself soon.
She tosses the paper in the trash, turns off the lights and walks away.