Greg is on his back, watching dust fall through the sun beams. He tries to follow just one speck as it falls, then rises on the breeze blowing through the window, then falls again, but his eyes feel scratchy and has to close them.
He can hear Mom in the kitchen. She's humming something, but he can't make out all of the notes. He hears her turn on the water, hears the sound of the water running.
He opens his eyes again and feels the springs in the couch under his back give way as he rolls onto his side. The couch is dark brown and feels rough against his cheek. It smells like cigarette smoke and wet dog. He wonders who had it before they moved here, what family was assigned to the base housing before them.
He looks over at the blond TV set where Elmer Fudd is walking through a black and white forest with his gun in his hand.
"Be vewy quiet," Elmer says.
"I'm hunting wabbits," Greg whispers along with him.
Mom walks into the room, stands over him and places her hand on his forehead.
"I'm making some tea," she says. "I want you to try and drink some." Her palm feels cool against his skin and her fingers push his hair back.
He nods slightly, sits up when she brings him a cup. He likes Mom's tea. It's sweet and warm and feels good against his sore throat when he swallows.
Greg lies down again. He doesn't like this couch as much as the one they had in California. That one was blue. When Dad was gone, he'd jump on it and could nearly reach the ceiling. This one is old, and he can't jump as high.
Greg turns toward the TV again. Elmer finds the trail that Bugs Bunny has left for him, and he follows it. He doesn't know that it's a trap but Greg does. He's seen this cartoon before. He knows how it ends. He closes his eyes and hopes the next cartoon will be one he hasn't seen.
When he opens his eyes again the TV isn't on. He feels the weight of one of Grandma's afghans covering him. He rubs his eyes and sees Mom sitting in the rocking chair, reading a book. She smiles when she sees that he's awake, gets up and sits next to him.
She puts her hand on his forehead again. "You feel a little cooler," she says. "Do you feel any better?"
He shrugs and turns to look at the door. He wonders what time it is, wonders if Dad will be home soon, if he'll tell him he has to go back to school tomorrow.
"I'll make you some soup," Mom says. She gets up and walks toward the kitchen, stops to turn on the TV on her way. "You can stay there a little longer, if you want."
Greg nods again, lies back, feels the springs and the rough fabric under his body and stares across the room at the TV.
Crandall found the apartment. House found the mattress that's now on the floor of his bedroom.
Crandall had paid the security deposit and two months rent, telling House he could pay him back whenever he was able. House wonders if he really expects to get that money.
There's an old couch in the living room, a broken down recliner and a table and two chairs in the kitchen, all old bits of furniture Crandall picked up from his family.
Crandall's room has a queen sized bed that used to belong to an aunt, a dresser that came from his father's summer place, a bookshelf that his grandmother gave him.
House keeps his clothes in an old suitcase and the foot locker he's hauled from place to place ever since he was 12.
He found the mattress on the curb in the spring. There was a stain on one side, but the other side was clean when he flipped it over. A couple of milk crates hold his books. The lamp he picked up for a buck at a garage sale gives off plenty of light for reading, whenever he's home -- his notes and books spread out over the mattress and the floor nearby, within easy reach.
"I know a guy who's moving," Crandall says from the doorway. "He says he'll sell you his bed for twenty bucks."
House doesn't look up from his anatomy notes. "Great," he says. "Hey, want to loan me twenty bucks?"
The phone rings before Crandall can answer and he steps out into the kitchen. House hears him slip into the easy tone he uses whenever he's on the phone with his father. It's the usual Sunday discussion about the football game, about the band, about getting the family together during spring break.
He tries to concentrate on his drawings, the sketches labeling each bone of the foot and ankle and lower leg, but can't. Crandall's too damn loud, laughing at the same damn joke he and his old man repeat during every call.
House gets up, closes the door, then drops down onto the mattress again, pulls his notes close around him and reads.
House wakes with a start, not sure where he is until his eyes focus on the bland gray paint color on the wall, the same color used by the gallon in hospitals everywhere. He's seen it in Baltimore, in Ann Arbor and now here in Cleveland.
He rubs his eyes as he hears the tones of his beeper, feels it vibrating against his hip. He turns on the light next to the couch, focuses on the black lines of text on the beeper's screen: 911, it reads, then the extension to a room on the fifth floor.
House pushes himself up, slides his feet into his sneakers. He steals a look at his watch as he ties his shoes: 3:18.
The vinyl cushions squeak as he shifts his weight forward, then stands. The lounge is empty, but there's a light on by the coffee maker, and a half filled pot on the burner. Someone must have started a new pot brewing sometime in the last ninety minutes, but he slept through it. He's been at the hospital since 6 o'clock on Tuesday night. It's Thursday morning now, and he's got another eight hours to go before he can go home. He wishes he could grab a cup of coffee, clear his head a little before he heads upstairs, but there's no time.
The hall is dim outside the doctors' lounge, the lights turned down in a lie that tries to mimic the real world beyond these walls.
House turns left, pushes open the door to the stairway rather than waiting for the elevator. The light is bright there, and he takes the steps two at a time, his heart rate adjusting from the low pace of sleep to catch up his with body. He checks his watch again as he hits the fifth floor -- less than a minute since he first checked.
He doesn't need to double check the room number. He can see one of the nurses pushing the crash cart into 518. The Wegner's patient there has been on a steady downhill slide for the past two days. Figures that he'd crash on House's shift, rather than holding out until they could turn him over to pulmonology. It's the lung damage that's killing him, not the kidneys, but the idiots over in pulmonology didn't want to hurt their stats by having a guy die on them right away.
House sees the numbers on the monitors as soon as he hits the door, and knows it'll be a lost cause before he even tells the nurse to push the epinephrine and takes the waiting defibrillator paddles in his hands.
His heart rate is still pinging somewhere above a hundred beats a minute by the time House makes it back to the lounge forty minutes later. He'd stood close to the door as the wife -- now the widow -- sank down to her knees in the waiting room when he broke the news. Her brother had been there to lead her to a chair and the hospital chaplain handed her tissues, telling her lies about how the guy was in a better place now.
The chaplain had turned to him, as if he'd expected House to say something comforting. House knows what the family wants to hear -- what they all want to hear -- that the guy died at peace. He didn't. He died gasping for air, his body shutting down one organ at a time, his brain sending screwed up signals to his heart, his body seizing and arcing in air as it was jolted with electricity, again and again. House had just turned and walked away.
There's still coffee in the pot, but House ignores it, heads back to the couch instead. He kicks off his shoes and lies down. The couch is cheap and ugly, but he's used to it. Some weeks he spends more time camped out here than in the tiny apartment halfway across town.
He lies down on his side. The couch is short and he has to curl his knees up toward his chest to find enough space on it. It's a lousy couch, but it's the better than the chairs, and it's usually quiet here early in the morning. If he's lucky, he'll get another hour or so of sleep before rounds.
He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, trying to calm his heart rate, trying to shut off the images that play through his mind, of the man's chest beneath his hands as he did chest compressions, of the widow's sobs, of the time on the clock as he pronounced the time of death.
He lets himself relax back into the cushions, lets go of the tension in his shoulders and tries to think of someplace quiet, someplace calm, someplace that's not here.
House doesn't look at the price tag before he hands over his credit card. All he sees is the way Stacy's body drapes over the soft curves of the couch, the way the texture of her hair contrasts with the buttery soft leather, the way she leans against him as he sits there, fitting as easily against him as she's fit into his life.
"It's nice," she says.
"Now will you stop bitching about my furniture?" he asks.
"Our furniture." She turns and looks at him, and he sees her smile. "And I reserve the right to bring up the lack of a dining table on a quarterly basis."
He' never invited her to move in. He didn't have to. Stacy had stepped through the door, and the rooms took on a new look, becoming something bright, something warm, something he'd never known was missing until she was there.
She'd shown up on a Friday, and simply never left -- her clothes and makeup and shoes and books gradually filling the empty spaces in the apartment until everything they owned were joined together.
She'd asked for only one thing: that he replace the broken down couch he'd been hauling from town to town ever since Michigan.
"We can afford something better," she'd said, and he knew it was true.
They spotted the leather couch in the second store they went to, and Stacy sat down first, then called him over.
"Do you like it?" she asks now, sitting up straight, but still keeping her hand on his knee. "I don't want to get it just for me."
House puts his hand on hers. "It's perfect."
House tells Wilson he got the chair because it was a piece of classic mid-American design, and that's true.
He sits in it, feels the fabric under the palm of his hand, feels the way it gently glides with his movement and he reaches down and lifts his right leg up onto the footstool. He leans back, feels the muscles in his lower back and hip and thigh relax slightly, the pain ease off just slightly.
He likes the chair. It's a good fit.
But he didn't tell Wilson everything.
He doesn't tell him that he likes the chair, but wanted a couch.
He doesn't tell him how good it would feel to lie down, to take one extra Vicodin and sink down into soft cushions and float along on the narcotic buzz.
He doesn't tell him that he knows that his pain level will creep up before lunch, and burn itself deep into his bones before midafternoon.
He doesn't tell him that one of the first thoughts to cross his mind when Cuddy showed him the new office was that the glass walls would mean he couldn't hide, couldn't just lock the door and lie down until the pain was back under control with no one to see him.
He doesn't tell him that he's afraid the couch would be too easy, too much of a temptation to use when his shoulder gets sore or he's just tired from the pain and the meds and the caseload.
He doesn't tell him that he thinks his fellows, whenever he actually hires them, will find it too easy to take pity on the cripple boss who has to take a nap every afternoon.
And he doesn't tell him that if he just uses the couch in Wilson's office, no one will know.
He's gone when it happens. House pushes open the door to Wilson's office to find it empty. No couch. No desk. No bookcase.
There's nothing but the faint outlines of what had once been, impressions in the carpet in the rectangular shape of the desk, the four circles of the sofa's legs.
House wonders if they'd been waiting for him to leave, if Cuddy somehow thought it would be better this way, that she thought she was protecting him by hiding the truth. He shakes his head. She should know better.
He can't bring himself to walk into the office, to see the familiar angles of the room that have been changed forever, that are vacant, blank. It's as if no one was ever there.
His leg aches, and his arm trembles on the cane, but he doesn't leave, doesn't go back to the comfort of his own office, his own chair. Instead he lowers himself down against the wall, sits on the carpet with his legs out in front of him.
The office seems bigger without furniture, a chasm of emptiness stretching to the window and to the door leading out to the balcony. House wonders who will be staring out from that glass once Cuddy assigns the office to someone else, once she finds a replacement for Wilson.
No. House leans his head back against the wall. She'll hire a new oncologist. That's all. Even Cuddy doesn't think she can actually replace Wilson.
He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath. The office still holds onto its familiar smells -- the wood and leather and the odor of the printer's ink cartridge. Wilson is there too, somewhere underneath the surface smells.
House opens his eyes, looks at the pattern of the light on the empty walls, the way it comes through the door and spreads itself out on the carpet where the couch used to be.
The floor is hard beneath him, and he feels cold seeping into his leg from the concrete beneath the thin layer of carpet, but House doesn't get up, doesn't move.
Leaving won't change anything. It won't bring back the couch and the desk. It won't bring back Wilson.
He stares across the empty room and looks at nothing, at tries not to think about everything he's lost.