A/N—Alas, this will be my last chapter. I've just taken on a very involved and time consuming writing project, which will take all my free time to complete on schedule. It's very exciting and I hope to let you in on more of it as it progresses. So this is it for now. Keep reading my House feature on Blogcritics, which will be updated throughout the summer and into season six. Thanks for reading!
Of Cabbages and Kings
Chapter the Last
Forty-eight hours had passed. Pauline removed the IV from House's lower leg, untying the loosely tied restraint from his ankle. His vitals were pretty good, and the nausea had subsided to a point where House wasn't reaching for the emesis bowl every 10 minutes. He still hadn't really slept, just drifted in and out of fitful sleep in between the bouts of the nausea, extreme restlessness, chills and severe muscle spasms. But all of these seemed to be abating.
House glanced over at the chair where Cuddy slept soundly. Copy of the New England Journal open on her lap. The restlessness was returning, despite his extreme exhaustion. "Hey!" Pauline looked up as she put away her supplies. "I really, really need a shower. Almost as much as I need to be out of this damn bed."
"I'll get Max." Just great. That's not what he meant.
"I don't need… I just want to go into the bathroom and take a goddam shower. I don't need the whole…" It almost didn't matter anymore. He just needed to be out of that bed. He needed to move; he wanted to be alone. At least in the shower there was that illusion at least. On the other hand, no doubt it would be only an illusion.
House glanced around. Pauline was gone; Cuddy was asleep. A voice emerged from behind his left shoulder. "Hey, we're alone. Sort of… Time to make our escape," her voice was sing-song, melodic, excited. "Chop-chop. Time's a-wastin'," Amber sang. When House didn't move from his perch on the bed, Amber appeared in front of him, examining him head to foot. "Right. You can't move, can you? No meds? No pain relief. You are pretty useless aren't you?" She glanced at Cuddy. "And what about her? What the hell were you thinking, bringing her here? You really are as pathetic as your father says you are. I don't even know why I bother. It's not like you listen to me, anyway." She sighed, moving off in a dramatic huff.
"Dr. House? You in there?" House hadn't noticed Max, standing in the exact spot Amber had just vacated. "Need some help standing?" House shook him off as he tested his balance gingerly, still semi-seated.
"Give me a minute," House gasped, warily glancing around Max, steadying himself. The aide backed off a bit as House stood shakily, woozily. The nausea threatened to stage another encore and House forced the bile back down his throat, refusing to succumb to it. A small victory as House stood, dizzy as hell, but unaided.
The pain was exquisite and everywhere. His ribs ached almost as bad as his leg; residual muscle spasms fought his every move. "Do you want a walker, Dr. House?" House looked up, glaring at Max for the mere suggestion.
"My cane," insisted House with as much arrogance and pride as he could muster. He would NOT use a walker.
Cuddy woke, yawning; confused at the flutter of activity around House. "You OK?" House nodded tightly. He felt anything but. The insipid smiles on Max and Pauline's faces made him nearly as queasy as the opioid withdrawal.
Max disappeared with House into the bathroom as Paula adjusted the bed linens. "He wanted a shower," she offered.
"Is he doing any better?"
"It's a process, as you know," explained the nurse apologetically, realizing she was explaining to a dean of medicine, not a typical family member. "After he get showered, Dr. Croft wants to see him. He seems to be through the worst of the detox. He's strong; no meds. I'm impressed."
"He's done it before. Detox. That's the easy part." Pauline nodded, acknowledging the truth of Cuddy's words.
House emerged some time later, looking slightly less haggard. He looked like he had dropped 15 pounds in the two days since he'd gotten to Mayfield and dark smudges beneath his eyes seemed to make the irises appear even more blue. He walked with difficulty, as if each step was an ordeal: he looked like he might keel over any moment.
Cuddy stood, offering the easy chair. It would be a nice change from the bed, she reckoned. She looked at Pauline. "Do you think it would be OK if you both…" Pauline glanced at Max, who shrugged his shoulders.
"Can you make sure he gets over to Dr. Croft's office in about 10 minutes?"
"Thank you. Both." Cuddy nodded, grateful for the time alone with House. She needed to know. A lot, but for now, she needed to know about the hallucinations.
She sat on the chair's footrest, nudging House's feet out of the way. "Hey," she said softly. House nodded in response. "Are you still…" Again House nodded, closing his eyes.
"Oh yeah. She's still there. As much of a bitch as ever."
"House, I'm...I don't know what to…" Cuddy crouched in front of him, taking his hand in hers, searching his face for answers. He always had the answers…
House shivered as a new wave of chills hit unexpectedly. She grabbed the blanket from his bed, wrapping it around his shoulders. He smiled wanly. "I'm sorry," he said suddenly.
"That covers a lot of territory," Cuddy offered, knowing where this was going and trying to keep things light.
"For falling apart in your office; for humiliating you… Hell…" He opened his eyes looking anywhere but into her eyes. "For getting you involved with this at all. I…"
"You're sick. You'll get better. This isn't your fault."
"I'll never practice medicine again," he said flatly. Matter-of-factly. "All the kings horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty in his place again."
"Lewis Carroll. Through the Looking Glass. The metaphor sure fits."
"You will come back to work again."
"Right. I don't need platitudes. Especially not from you. I'll get enough here to last a lifetime. You should go back to Princeton."
"I need to. Soon. I need to get back to Rachel. House. What you thought you experienced that night…"
"I said I was sorr…"
"No. Not what I'm looking for… I… what you wanted. What you thought you wanted. That you needed me. Wanted me. It's OK."
"It's not like I haven't thought about it. A lot. That desk you restored for me? How on earth…"
"Your mother was happy to get rid of it."
"Yeah, right. What you did was… I never got to thank you for it. When you're out of here and back at work…"
"You and I both know. Both can do the math. I'm still hallucinating. I've been off vicodin for more than two days, and the hallucinations haven't gotten better. I don't even know if you're really here. Maybe you're conferring with Croft and any minute you'll come through the door and ask me who I'm talking to. I can't tell. Amber's dead. Kutner's dead. I know they're not real. But you? Cuddy, it was so real. So fucking…
"At best they'll have me on anti-psych meds long-term; I won't be able to practice medicine. My pain will have to be treated, probably intrathecal morphine. Between that and the anti-psychotics, no way I'll be able to renew my license. You and I both know that. Don't give false hope to the clinically insane. And that's best case. Worst…this will become my permanent home, and Max will have to take Wilson's place as my best friend."
"House, you don't know that."
"Yeah? And what do you think is causing my psychosis?" Cuddy looked away, hiding the gathering tears.
"Hey, I need to get you to Croft. And then I need to hit the road." House continued to stare, waiting for her best guess, which she clearly was unwilling to share. She knew he was right. The prognosis sucked. At least as far as ever practicing medicine again was concerned.
Cuddy stood and handed House his cane. "C'mon."
And so I need to end it there. Sorry for the abrupt conclusion, but we know House will still be in Mayfield come September, so I didn't want to explore too much beyond the first few days with this concluding chapter.
I hope you enjoyed the ride!