Standard disclaimers apply, made for practice, not profit.
Constructive criticism welcome.
A House divided
A nurse, a janitor and a guard stare stupidly at House, their current chores pushed out of mind by curiosity and confusion as they can't quite pinpoint what about him is odd today. One by one, they realize he is just walking, without limp, cane spun around like a cheerleader's baton.
Unfazed by their attention, House bee-lines for the pharmacy, orange bottle flying from pocket to counter and landing in a slam.
"Hey, Apu!" House calls out, before throwing a glance at a toothy girl and her balding dad. "Such lousy service, these immigrants." He mock complains to the other man, who silently creeps away.
A Desi clerk appears from the maze of shelves. "Yes?"
House glares annoyance. "Guess, Sherlock." He shoves the pill bottle across, rapping a toneless tune as he waits. The second it is back House pops one, bouncing it between cheeks as the rest are filed away for later. "Excellent vintage."
"Not taking two?" Cuddy materializes behind him.
"I'm on a diet." He deadpans, wondering why he failed to recognize her footsteps.
"Yes, because the junky figure is so hard to maintain." She slams a few files against his chest. "Go play doctor."
"Awww…" House pouts. "I don't wannaaa…"
"Go, or I take away your candies." She shoots a parental, explanatory look from under raised brows.
"Yes mommy." He grumbles, ignoring taking the files in blatant refusal of paperwork, but ambling in the clinic's general direction none the less, his gait intentionally, deceptively lopsided.
Seconds later, House pauses in the frame of a half open opaque door, frowning at the forgotten sport's bag perched on the table of an empty exam room.
"There's no one in here!" He shouts over his shoulder to the crowded clinic waiting room.
"A teen just got in!" Brenda shouts back from the nurse's station.
"He forgot his gym bag." House huffs and hobbles in, prying open the unzipped bag out of juvenile curiosity. "Shit…" He mutters, quickly fishing out a tan blanket and braking into a mad run at the elevators.
"Outa my way!!!" He hollers, racing as fast as he can.
Cane thrusts through closing elevator doors and rapidly evading passengers to strike at the emergency pause button. House squeezes himself sideways inside through half closed sliding door and hooks the cane in the crook of the occupied arm. He rubs his knuckles at something in the bundle, than launches the pod in a lightning fast double poke at the controls.
Other people stand atiptoe to peer over his tall shoulders, their efforts annulled by him diving face down in the cloth. Just as he looks up a loud ping announces arrival.
"Hang in there." House takes off in a one-legged sprint, weaving through a sea of worried parents and soft-faced staff of a colorful pediatric wing. "Cyanotic preemie!" He declares, forcing his way into a sterile NICU unit, zeroing in on the first vacant basin. Dexterous hands rub clean a face the likes of a dried plum, infant intubated mere moments later.
"We'll take it from here." Chase elbows his way between House and the basin in a surprisingly harmless yet effective way, taping the pulse-ox on the preemie's palm even as he says it.
"I'm fine, thanks." He talks back, but a short Asian nurse with disturbingly blond hair takes him firmly by the forearms, gesture countered by a soft tone of voice. "We'll take good care of him."
The words seem to snap House from a spell. "Sure." He nods, oddly indifferent all of a sudden, and allows himself be lead out.
Still, he watches on as the staff swarm around the new arrival, cleaning the birth curd and dressing him in tiny diapers.
When Robert peeks out and waves him over, House waves his head 'No' and saunters off, limp pronounced from the pain of unexpected exertion.
House props on ER's double swing gates. "What's today's specialty?" He asks a graying woman with equally wrinkled face and lab coat.
"Diarrhea." The doctor deadpans. "Want some?"
"Depends." He saunters through teal tiled room, peeking round screens at disproving patients. "It's not your everyday ER material. What's it come with?"
"Let's see… fainting," She nods at a teenage girl. "…aaand… -fainting." An older man is pointed out.
"Fluid loss. Dehydration. Boring." He rattles.
"My thoughts exactly."
"I'll take it." He snatches both charts of their respective beds.
"She has arrhythmia..." He points at the girl's vitals monitor. "…and he… 's growing breasts."
"Not boring." She follows.
"Not at all."
"Two cases of severe sudden stomach ache, no apparent cause." House declares on entry of the diagnostic conference room. "She progressed from common cold to stomach flu to syncope." A file is tossed to Foreman. "He just fell over from all the shitting, but you might want to check out some grouse anatomy," The other lands on the glass table with a slide, stopping in Cameron's lap. "First one to get it right earns a point. First one to collect ten wins."
"What?" Forman asks sarcastically.
"After ten independently solved cases? Guess." Sauntering back to his office, House shrugs off the heavy gray coat. "Investigate alone. Ask me for help and you lose. You've got three consults allowed each. And don't try to smuggle an extra, it will cost you fifty." House looks up, mulling an idea over. "Bucks." He amends.
"Not if you don't find out." Cameron smirks.
"If you can do that, you've missed the profession." House remarks bluntly. "Now git."
Cobalt blues skim over some cyclist article, indulging a not-that interested mind, popsicle butt sticking out between teeth and spinning around.
Noise of door creaking open stirs House from ineffective reading of a vehicular magazine, and he snaps up annoyed. "No treshpashing!"
"Last time I checked this was my hospital." Cuddy retorts.
Frown on face, House is worried by the second surprise in one day, inquisitive eyes snapping to her feet. The half-stiletto shoes are an unusual choice, and he stores the fact for latter dissection. He looks up slowly, savoring the sight of long legs and smirks at noting the tight pull of fabric over her abdomen. The woman couldn't pick a fitting suit to save her life. And she's back at concealing the ominous twins.
"While sizing up your minions may be bad policy…" She begins with a threatening glare. "…sizing up your boss is occupational suicide."
Lolly is sucked dry straight from his mouth. "Than I'll better go back to this." He holds the magazine between them.
In a single stride Cuddy is above him, magazine pushed out of way. "You found the baby, right?" She asks in a tone of just-double-checking.
"Yes." He states blandly, leaning back in the desk chair, magazine pulled with him in triumph of their little tug of war.
"Any idea who brought it?"
"Brenda should be able to ID the perp." He points the lolly vaguely down and out. "Anything else?"
Cuddy tilts her head curiously. "Anything else I should know of?"
He shakes his head.
"Will you be doing follow ups?"
"Nope." He answers, already back to not-quite-reading the article. "Diagnosis obvious."
"Hey!" Wilson protests a hand snatching his plate of fries.
"Hey, to you too." House nonchalantly plops on the chair opposite and starts munching his crisp, gold plunder.
Wilson rolls his eyes and takes the burger securely with both hands. "Heard you breathed life back into a kid."
"Grapevine's going stale." House stuffs another fry, happy that the incident of non-limpness got pushed aside. "Surprised you haven't dropped in earlier."
"Elijah wouldn't have done it better."
"Yes, well we Jews always had a knack for medicine." Wilson takes a bite. "So?"
"So then what happened?" Wilson is eager.
"I gave it to Chase." House shoots a 'duh' look.
"You're not going to oversee the case?"
"No. Why would I?"
"You're kinda his admitting." Wilson speaks as if to a slow child.
"And Robert is now actually his attending." House waves a fry for emphasis before almost gulping it down whole. "And there's no point. That premature, it'll probably be dead soon."
"Wha-at?!" House one ups Wilson. "He's three months under." Diagnostician resumes in a normal tone. "Statistics says he's a goner, not like it's my divine judgment or something." He chides the overreaction.
Wilson steals back a few fries.
"And if it lives, it'll be slow." House appends.
"And yet I'm here." He gets up, taking the fries with him.
"Where are you going?"
"Clinic duty." He deadpans.
"I don't buy it."
"Cuddy threatened me with interest rates." House makes up an excuse and limps away, postponing interrogation for another day.
"You're really not handling it?" Wilson shouts after him across the cafeteria.
"For the last time, Wilson!" House shouts across the crowded space. "I won't do you!" He turns around and, at the sound of Wilson's embarrassed explanations, walks out with a pleased smirk.
Early winter dusk finds House lounging on the old leather sofa, dressed in the domestic winter attire of hoodie and sweats, flipping through the channels. A groan builds in his throat, and his head falls back, eyes wide and then shutting tight. His right hand slips to the aching muscle, kneading fiercely till the spasm lessens to sore stiffness. He glances impatiently at the watch, sighing with frustration at what he sees.
A bell rings through a darkened apartment so he gingerly maneuvers his bad leg from the coffee table. He limps heavly across the room, sparing a limb worn out by hours of unaided use.
Door opens to Wilson's amiable expression and a six-pack of local brew. "Game on?" Younger man sees himself in.
"Just about to." House shuts the door behind him, tone hiding recent pain as he fishes for meds, only taking a pill when the two are side by side on the sofa.
"Shots not working?" Wilson interrupts the silence with cautiously gauged sympathy, whilst staring at some sports drink commercial to avoid eye contact.
House hoped medication timed to Wilson's company would result in criticism he could shred with implications of injured feelings, and in burying the subject avoid yet another why-didn't-you-tell-me argument. So much for that. "They help." He takes a sip.
"But not enough to cut down on vicodin."
House deliberates on telling or not. "Not if I want to walk caneless." He admits.
"You can do that?" Wilson beams.
House winces from the enthusiasm. "Tried today."
Uncomfortable, House shrinks away from anything resembling praise. "Just watch the game."
Wilson shifts in the silence, battling some inner dilemma. "You should stay on top of his case."
"Not a pediatrician."
"Wouldn't be a precedent for you." Wilson taps the beer. "You said I can't get sick form my patients."
"I could mentally. If I connected with everyone."
"Did with the first three. Figured I had to choose between my quality of life or theirs."
House frowns. "If you're saying what I think you're saying, you're Oscar material."
"Thanks. I guess. The point is… I still connect with some. I can't help it. And the connection makes me try harder. More of those remiss than others."
House stares at his beer. "What about when they don't? I've got enough dead patients already."
"This is different. You know what's wrong; you know how it's treated. If he doesn't overcome the odds, it won't be anything you've done." Wilson sighs. "Not being invested is a great policy. But sometimes you should get involved. Just to remind yourself you're human."
House doesn't reply, and for once, Wilson doesn't push it.
Returning to Princeton-Plainsboro at eight in the evening, House tells himself it's for the CD he left in the player, and the spare set of clothes in his backpack is just to update the backup to with regards to the new season. Riding from the underground garage, he taps the cane against linoleum floor, second-guessing himself. Advancing on the first floor he punches the pertaining button and the doors slide open to a hectic crayon gallery stabbed to cork.
He opens NICU doors but stays out of coughing range of the basins, demanding expression affixed on his face.
"He's restless." Robert replies sadly, himself packing up for the day. "No more than a few hours the whole day."
"NASA spent millions developing a zero G pen." House flaunts trivia knowledge while dressing up in paper. "The Russians used a pencil." He snaps a pair of latex gloves and transforms the sky-blue blanket into a tight envelope around the twitchy preemie. "They had similar ideas on medicine."
In seconds the premie stills, unfocused baby blues searching House's face as they slowly slide closed.
"Shushing, warmth and pressure." House quietly explains. "Two out of three." He steps back cautiously, his balance precarious, while removing the gloves and mask. "I'll drop by tomorrow."
"I'll tell the nurses." Robert offers.
House nods confirmation and farewell, but instead of heading for his car, he takes a detour in the coma ward, sprawling on a vacant bed fully dressed, feet in boots sticking from under a flimsy blanket.
"'Night Maude." He gives a mock wish to a chubby white-trash looking woman and downs the evening pill, dozing off rather fast.
Annoying squeal of janitor cart rips House from what was becoming a moist dream, and he squints confusion at the unexpected sound. Looking around he recognizes the setting, memories of the last day coming back to him. House decides to make himself scarce before having to explain extra odd circumstances to Cuddy.
Wake-up dose consumed but not yet active, he ghosts through the halls as much as cane and limp allow, avoiding sleepy staff in wide berths.
In the shower room House helps himself to a set of teal scrubs and a pair of backup underwear from his locker. A blast of steaming water rouses him to a level sufficient for enduring the next hour or half without assaulting the achy thigh.
For a few coins he obtains miniscule amounts of food and drink from one out-of-way vending machine, and in seconds the candy bar is gone, washed down by what is best described as hot caffeine concentrate with a side order of mud. A spearmint gum replaces mouth hygiene and a vigorous ruffle affixes the signature, recently-electrocuted hairdo just in time for the unannounced NICU appointment.
The first detail to catch his eye is the screen above the brat. "Who's in charge here?" He shouts, three infants crying their lungs out in response to his obstruction of sleep.
"What on Earth are you doing?" A tall blonde nurse hisses incomprehension at him.
"His vitals are elevated." He berates undaunted. "All of them."
"Slightly." She leans in for a glare across the basin. "They're stabile."
"You mean they've been like this for hours." House glares back. "Not life threatening doesn't mean you get to ignore it. He d' be screaming his lungs out if they were any good." Cane-calloused fingertips move quickly over the kid, probing cautiously. He grits his teeth from the resistance he finds in the abdomen. "What do you mix the formula with? Water?"
"Milk." She replies.
"Give me your pro biotic yogurt." He nods in the general direction of the floor's nurse locker rooms.
"You look the type that shits daily." He snarks. "Go!"
The woman storms out with an angry frown on her freckled face, and House uses her absence to raid the shelves for necessary supplies. When she returns, he is loading a needle-less syringe with saline, its plastic cap between his teeth.
"Shayk ich." House demands, than spits the cap into the corner waste bin. "Strong. … C'mon, c'mon." He waves his fingers in demand of the item once she's done.
Small plastic bottle is unscrewed hastily, last quarter of syringe filled with its thick fluid. "What's the number one cause of colic?"
"Lactose intolerance." She answers watching him uncap the naso-gastric cath.
"And what do lactobacilli do?" He slips the syringe tip into preemie's feeding tube, than empties it a milliliter line at a time.
"Metabolize lactose." The nurse gets it. "Sorry."
"New to this?" He throws her a glance.
"Yeah. Still catching everything."
"What's going on?" Robert asks, still in civilian clothes.
"Incompetent staff. I thought I taught you not to trust nurses." House shares the criticism around like a good sport, before striding out in a protesting gait.
Behind House's back, Chase smiles to the squinting baby. "You're in good hands." His glance follows House down the hall.
TO BE CONTINUED