Hum-ble; (huhm-buhl). Middle English, from Old French, from Latin humilis, low, lowly, from humus, ground; Not proud or arrogant, modest. Having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience, etc. To lower in condition, importance or dignity; abase.
The differential had ended just after one thirty in the morning. Kutner and Taub had scurried off to prep the patient for surgery and House had limped into his office and sank down in his chair; looking more tired than Foreman could remember seeing him in a long time. If he'd been able to make it home, Foreman knew, he'd have gone back to bed. But he clearly wasn't feeling that ambitious. House draped his jacket over himself before leaning his head back, closing his eyes. Feeling just as tired, Foreman shook himself and turned the lights off in the lounge. It had been one thing to take on two cases at a time, but he hadn't imagined how draining it would be to run differentials with the team and manage his clinical trials. He considered his choices: he could either make his way to one of the on-call rooms, or he could take his chances that the surgery would be brief and mainline some caffeine. Just enough to keep him awake for a little while. Stepping out into the hall, he pulled his wallet out and thumbed through the bills quickly, pleased to find he had a dollar on hand. Making his way down to the dead-end hallway where the vending machines were, he tried to insert the bill into the closest machine. Nothing. No sound from the machine, not even the fan. No lights either, he realized with a sinking heart. Great. Rubbing his forehead, he considered his choices. The third floor lounge had a vending machine, right? Oncology did too, but the couches weren't as comfy in there and he wanted to find something mindless to watch on TV. Third floor lounge it was, then. He elected to take the stairs down one floor, and was actually embarrassed when he had to rely on the wall maps to guide him to the lounge. Standing in the doorway, he was relieved to find the lounge was empty, and he was also grateful that the vending machines were well lit and humming, faintly.
Tucked in around the corner, he'd been contemplating the long terms effects of a Coke versus a Red Bull when someone came in. Unable to see who it was, he chanced a look at the whiteboard on the far wall. Miller and Goldstein had been scheduled into OR4 for an emergency gallbladder surgery. House's patient. About to be in surgery for three hours—yep. Had to be them. One last shot of caffeine before heading over to scrub up.
"…won't take long. It's usually right where he says it is."
"It almost always is. He's a lucky bastard."
Foreman chanced a look around the half-wall and found Goldstein shaking his head.
"I haven't been asked to take one of House's patients in a long time. Now that Chase is with us, he sends most of his patients to him if they need a surgical consult." Goldstein opened the fridge and bent over. Emerging with a can of Coke, he opened it and took a sip before speaking again. "Guess it makes sense. He spent three years training his own pet surgeon. He's got one in the ER, one in the operating room and four upstairs."
"I thought there was one more from his original team?" Miller was pouring himself a cup of coffee.
"Yeah. Foreman, I think. He struck out on his own, came crawling back to House when he bombed at Mercy. That guy's got an ego bigger than House's."
"Yeah, but he hasn't got the brains to back it up. Not yet." Goldstein shook his head. "Came back to work for House last summer. At least House deserves his ego. He keeps cases going on the side, writes, publishes all while does his big team differentials. He gave me my last big article when we did that live autopsy on the little girl with cancer."
"You're kidding. I'm surprised he didn't write that one up himself. But I guess if all your cases are that exotic you can pick and choose." Miller threw back his coffee with a noisy gulp and shuffled over to the pot again. "I remember when he had 40 candidates following him around everywhere. God, that was a mess. Just one differential with that many people would do it for me."
"He's an asshole, but he knows his stuff." Goldstein said quietly. Foreman started; if he hadn't known better, he'd have thought the man sounded like he admired House. He rested his hand on the smooth plastic front of the machine, breathing quietly. To walk out now would reveal he'd been eavesdropping.
"Come on." Goldstein said after another minute or two. "Let's go do this. I'd like to be home all day tomorrow." He finished the dregs of his Coke, and waited for Miller to do the same before making his way to the door.
"Think we'll be done by five?" Miller asked as the door swung shut behind them.
Foreman breathed deeply, bowing his head briefly before looking up once more. He stuffed the dollar into the machine and pressed the button for the Red Bull, anxious to get out of the lounge before anyone else came in.
Multiple cases? House? He knew House was continually writing and publishing; his name was usually on the front page of medical journals and in the forefront of the news. He'd grown accustomed to seeing House's mail filled with requests for consults and lectures; invitations for fellowships around the world that usually ended up in the trash. But multiple cases, seriously? House usually undertook one case at a time, under extreme duress from Cuddy, Wilson, or Cameron, of late. He'd always been irritated by House's lackadaisical work habits; he'd chalked them up to a combination of personality and pain. But what if House really was working the whole time? Forcing his finger beneath the tab of his Red Bull, he levered it up and took a gulp, grimacing at the taste. He forced himself to down the whole can before throwing it in the trash. He stared longingly at the couch, but knew that he was too unsettled to watch TV. Only one way to find his answers.
He'd been grateful to find the nurses' station outside 306B deserted. Either all the nurses were out, or there were no patients on this end of the ward. He sank down at the computer and logged in under House's username and password. Moving through the screens, he minimized their current patient's information and scrolled into his appointment screen. Nothing, nothing, nothing—wait.
Anderson, Emma. Date of Birth: 11/21/1980. Admitted: Nelson, M.D., Douglas from ER. Patient stools confirm shistocytes, low hematocrit. Skin lesions over lower extremities.
Referred patient to Infectious Disease, seen by Meyer, M.D., Robert. See dictated history and physical.
Referred patient to Diagnostics, see phone consult by House, M.D., Gregory.
Recommendations for full course of metronidazole, as needed fluids and support.
Referred patient to Infectious Disease, seen by Meyer, M.D, Robert. See dictated note.
Patient discharged to home in good condition.
Foreman sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. More searches into the appointment book revealed numerous patients that he'd never seen in Diagnostics, nor heard of before. Some were referred specially to House, some he found himself in clinic. Most of the notes included were phone consults, labs, radiology tests and pages of orders specifying a course of treatment. Routine. Boring, even. Especially for House.
Slowly closing all the windows, Foreman logged out of the system. He could feel the buzzing in his veins that let him know the Red Bull had kicked in. Rising to his feet, he retraced his steps to the stairs and took them, two at a time back up to the fourth floor. Moving confidently down the hall, he stole quietly back into the conference room and gathered up his things. Shrugging into his jacket, he peered into House's office cautiously, wary of having his head bitten off. House was asleep, huddled awkwardly under his jacket. Foreman studied him, noting the way House's hand was resting against the pager at his hip; the way the lines around his eyes and mouth had only tightened against pain instead of relaxing in sleep.
He felt ashamed.
He'd felt oddly ashamed three days earlier when House had left after he'd announced he was going to do the clinical trials. House had shouldered the door open and shuffle-stepped down the hall to the elevator leaving Foreman to flounder in his wake. Can't say no if it isn't a question. Pride, disbelief and wonder mingled in there too; a miasma of emotions he couldn't even begin to untangle. House had played him for a fool. He'd known about the case, Foreman was certain of that. He'd probably received a copy of every lab, every test, every blind step that Foreman had taken. It was hard to be angry, he mused. He should have been. That boy could have died and House had sat back and—
Waited. He'd waited. Trusted that Foreman would find the answer on his own.
He'd misjudged House. For years. Believed that his reputation was not truly deserved because he was often juvenile, hostile and pedantic. He was all of that—and still a better doctor than Foreman knew he'd ever be. He smiled to himself as he turned away from House's office, leaving the sleeping man to whatever rest he could find.
He might not ever be House, but he figured he could try. Imitation, he'd heard, was considered the highest form of flattery.