Final chapter! w00t! I'd like to take the time to thank everyone who reviewed or favourited. Also, a big thanks to CrystalDragon, my beta and the Wilson to my House.
There is a sequel in the works, so you can let me know what you think about that. It should be up in maybe a month, hopefully. *crosses fingers*
I own nothing, except Audrey, for she is my own creation. That makes me a tiny bit happy I suppose.
Chapter 4: Acceptance
House felt a sharp jab in his shoulder and the voice got more persistent.
He rubbed his face, ignoring the small twinge in his head and opened his eyes. The image of Wilson appeared before his eyes.
"I hope you're a hallucination."
Satisfied House was awake, Wilson backed off and folded his arms across his chest, glancing down at the beer bottles littering the coffee table.
"How many did you have last night?"
House thought for a minute, blinking. The twinge in his head was growing more and more evident as the minutes ticked away.
"I think three. Then about a half a bottle of bourbon."
"There are five bottles here."
"Well," House spoke as if he stated the obvious, and moved forward to make his point, but a now evident weight on his shoulder stopped him. Audrey was resting her head on his shoulder, breathing steadily, asleep. House looked intently at her, before reacting.
"Explains why my arm is asleep. Anyway, she drank the rest." He suddenly looked at Wilson like he was seeing his friend for the first time.
"How did you get in here?"
"I walked through the door."
"The door was locked, and unless you're David Copperfield, you should be outside, knocking incessantly."
"I have a copy of your key."
"Yeah, I made it the last time I stayed over."
House moved Audrey off his shoulder and stood up, fighting a wave of dizziness that overcame him. At least, Wilson finally got the concept of doing things behind his back. Amused by his friend's actions and motivated by the call of nature, House made his way to the back of the apartment, loudly talking to Wilson over his shoulder.
"You still haven't said what you're doing here."
"Cuddy called, and…"
"And you decided to be the good son, and make sure I actually get to work today," interrupted House.
"She asked me to ensure that you actually got to the clinic today."
House came back to the living room to give Wilson a condescending look.
"You are so whipped."
"Whi-what? I am not whipped."
House grabbed a shirt from the closet and disappeared with a childish, "Are too."
From the couch, Audrey yawned and sat up, noticing Wilson.
"Oh hey, Wilson. What's up?"
Wilson shrugged out a response.
"House is acting like a child."
"So what else," Audrey stopped and pressed a palm to her forehead with a quiet moan before going on, "is new?"
"You know I may be crippled, but I'm not deaf."
"House are you ready yet?"
A short pause was followed by a petulant, "No."
No response followed Wilson's latest command, but he was sure House had made some snarky remark. He rolled his eyes and continued to wait. By this time, Audrey had gotten up and found the aspirin. She swallowed two of the white pills and rubbed her temples tiredly. Noticing Wilson's stare, she addressed him.
"Coffee? He is gonna take a long time."
Wilson conceded with a nod of his head, making Audrey grin and pull out two mugs.
Three cups of coffee later, House emerged, buttoning up a blue shirt. Wilson set down his cup and looked at his watch.
"Finally. Looks like you beat your old time."
House took Audrey's cup and drained the liquid with a quick swallow. Giving the mug back to her, he gave her a sly look and seemed to ignore Wilson's exasperated comment.
"Did we ever finish that game last night?"
Audrey opened her mouth to answer, but Wilson caught on to their scheme and thrust House's cane into his hand.
"We are going now before Cuddy gets even more livid."
Throwing an apologetic look at House, Audrey shrugged.
House stared at her for a moment before recognizing the reference.
"Better luck next time, Addie."
With that, Wilson basically pushed House out of the apartment to his Volvo.
"Hey, watch it! I am still a cripple you know."
Wilson muttered something that sounded like "unbelievable" while House tossed back a couple Vicodin and rested his head against the seat back, trying not to think about his throbbing head.
Cuddy was waiting in front of the clinic, tapping her toe impatiently against the cold linoleum tiles. When House walked in, under duress, and closely followed by Wilson, she walked up so he couldn't escape. House rolled his eyes and steeled himself behind his façade of uncaring for whatever Cuddy had to throw his way.
"Nice of you to join us today, Dr. House, and you're only," she checked her watch exaggeratedly, "forty-five minutes late. Thank you, Dr. Wilson."
Satisfied his job was done, Wilson headed off for the elevators, leaving House to the mercy of Cuddy, of which there was little.
"So, you have skipped clinic duty for the past two days."
"Yeah, that sounds about right."
"Therefore, you will be in the clinic all day today and all day tomorrow, unless a case comes up." She gestured to the clinic. "Get to it."
An hour and a half later, House reclined on the examination table, the tinny music of his game echoing through the empty room. Electronic fanfare congratulated him on the completion of a level. He began the next level, skillfully guiding his character through various obstacles. Suddenly, the door swung open, and Cuddy, wearing her usual annoyed expression and low-cut top, burst into the exam room.
"What are you doing in here?"
"I'm trying to get Samus to the next level. Wait, was that a rhetorical question?"
Cuddy marched over and snatched the game from his hands.
"When I told you that you had to work in the clinic today, this was not what I meant. There is a whole waiting room full of patients out there. You'll get this back only after you complete your clinic hours this week. Is that understood?"
"She treated me like a child."
"Well, were you acting like a child?" House shot Wilson a meaningful look. "Oh, of course, it was you, and you never act like a child. I'm sure you were very mature."
"Don't make me stick my tongue out at you."
"So, you're actually going to do clinic duty?"
"Yep. I gotta get my game back. I'm about to beat your high score."
House entered the clinic, grabbed a folder, and faced the patients.
"Okay, who's my first victim?"
"Don't you mean patient?" spoke up a balding man sitting in front of him.
"Nope. I'm pretty sure I mean victim. If I'd meant patient, I would have said 'patient'."
From her office doorway, Cuddy rolled her eyes as a middle-aged woman with a tow-headed toddler apprehensively stood up.
House showed them into exam room one and proceeded to examine the boy as the mother talked on worriedly.
"Jeremy's been breathing strangely for the last few hours. It sounds like he's whistling…"
"Yeah, I can hear that."
The woman went on as if she hadn't heard him.
"…but he can't be whistling. He doesn't know how. He's never had any history of breathing problems. No asthma or anything like that…"
"Tell me," interrupted House loudly. "Does your son make it a habit to stick his breakfast up his nose?"
House limped over to the cabinet and grabbed a tissue; then, returned to the boy's side and held the tissue in front of the boy's nose.
"Blow," he commanded. "Your son stuffed a Cheerio up his nose."
He took the tissue away to reveal a ring of cereal mixed with snot. Jeremy giggled, delighted with the disgusting sight he'd created.
"And you call yourself a mother." He threw away the offending Cheerio, ignoring the affronted glare the woman threw his way. Ruffling the little scamp's hair, he made his way out of the exam room and back to the nurse's station. Out of the blue, Audrey appeared at his elbow.
"Hey, Cuddy said it was cool if I cut in line, so to speak. So, can we…" she nodded to the exam room.
House closed the door behind them and leaned against the wall while Audrey hopped up on the exam table, not bothering to pull down the butcher paper.
"So is there something…medically wrong with you?"
"Would it really matter? Can you close the blinds? It's kinda embarrassing."
House complied, puzzling over why she would choose to open up to him now; then, looked at her expectantly.
"So what is it? A weird smell? I can prescribe some wicked antiperspirants."
"No, nothing like that. It's just," she rooted around in her bag before tossing him a compact sliver object, "I can't get past Level 28."
House grinned as he caught the device effortlessly.
"You little sneak. How'd you get this?"
"Well, I found myself in Cuddy's office yesterday, and as she went on about the new shrink and how he could really help me out after my great loss, I noticed this sitting on top of her desk. Turns out she doesn't have eyes in the back of her head."
"Good to know."
He powered up the GameBoy and proceeded to make his way through Level 28.
"House, you haven't seen anyone in over an hour. What is so important…?"
She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw what was going on.
"Level 33 completed," beeped the game.
"Your turn," Audrey casually handed House the console as if Cuddy hadn't come in.
"I thought I took that stupid thing away from you. How did you get it back?"
"Don't call it that. You're going to hurt its feelings. And if you must know it followed me home. Can I keep him? I'll take real good care of him."
"Wait a minute, Audrey was in my office yesterday…" she trailed off realizing what had occurred. "She gave it to you!"
"Shouldn't you be shouting at her?"
"Fine," she said calming herself down with a sharp exhale. "Since this isn't working, here's what we're going to do. Audrey for every hour House is in the clinic, you will be helping me. If I need filing done, you'll be filling. If I need paperwork done or phones answered, that's what you'll do."
"And if she gets any hits on that dating website, get ready to sort through the freaks."
At the following silence, House looked up innocently at Cuddy's disgusted face.
"Was I not supposed to know about that? Oops."
Cuddy glared at him and went on to preempt Audrey's protests.
"You will be compensated, if you do a good job. I'll see both of you tomorrow afternoon."
She left sharply closing the door behind her.
"Huh. You done yet?"
"Almost." The electronic fanfare sounded and House relinquished the console. He leaned back in his chair, stretching his leg. "How are you fine with being Cuddy's minion?"
"Simple. She said I have to work every hour you're in the clinic. If you're not in the clinic, I don't have to work. I hope you know some good hiding places."
"Here, this came for you." House flicked an envelope in Audrey's direction, hitting her squarely in the temple. "I think it's from that moron of a lawyer your dad hired."
Audrey bit back a grin and ripped open the envelope. For the next few minutes she was silent, so much so, that House looked over the refrigerator door to see what was up. She covered her mouth with her hand. Intrigued, House casually limped over and peered over her shoulder. Mechanically, she handed the letter to him and slumped back into the couch.
House sat next to her perusing the letter and read out the interesting parts.
"You may wonder why I chose Dr. House as your guardian. Sure, he's a jerk, but he's the kind of person I wish I could have been. I've been scared all my life, especially since your mother died. Now I guess it's catching up with me. I want you to be like Dr. House, be what I wasn't. Be fearless, don't care what anyone thinks. I love you so much, Audrey.
House lowered the note.
"What is it with the dead always leaving letters?"
Audrey didn't answer, only sniffled and wiped her eyes with her palm. Uncomfortable, House shifted in his seat, trying to fill the silence.
"He's still an idiot. Who in their right mind would want their kid to turn out like me?"
Instead of answering his question, Audrey started sniveling in to his shoulder.
"He's really gone isn't he?"
Despite his initial abhorrence of her reaction, he awkwardly reached around her and pulled her into his version of a comforting hug. As she cried on his shoulder, he grinned ignoring the fact that she was dampening one of his favourite t-shirts and that what they were doing was horribly clichéd. All of that paled in comparison to the fact that he had been right about her.