Author's Notes: I have had this running through my brain for a while now, and so with the advent of summer (and therefore, more free time) I thought to run it up the flag pole and see who salutes, as it were. An alternate take on Simple Explanation, based on House's murder speculation in that episode - and I honestly do not know at this point if Kutner will live or die in this. So YOUR reviews may determine his fate! Mwahahaha! Yeah, but on a serious note, I do not own any of these characters, which is very sad; House and Co. are all property of David Shore.
"Oh, look at the time! It's half past 'Taub WAS lying about Kutner.'" House looked pointedly at Taub as he spoke. The jig was up, apparently. Taub grasped at the few straws he had left. "He probably went to a comic book convention, spent the night at some Wonder Woman's lair, I'm sure-"
"Find out what or who he's doing." House cut him off. "Either way, Cuddy's going to want a reason for termination." He started to hobble away. "Taub, go to his apartment. Since you tried to cover for him, you can go uncover the truth. And it better be good; any more unimaginative excuses and you can both be in the unemployment line."
Secretly, he was a bit glad of the opportunity to go see Kutner alone. After the last case, when he had unceremoniously stolen credit for Kutner's leptospirosis idea, he had ducked out of the locker room quickly before House could question him further. He was also ashamed to face Kutner, who had glanced at him with momentary surprise when he claimed the idea, then had nodded subtly. Taub had not been able to sleep the night before, thinking about Kutner. He had come through for him, not calling him out on his lie. How could Taub possibly make it up to him? He felt a more than a bit guilty for what he had done, especially upon finding out this morning that House had known he was lying the whole time, and let him get away with it. So when Kutner had been late that morning, Taub had jumped at the chance to cover for him. Anything to make up for the previous night. But he definitely would need to do something more, something grander than a feeble and basically transparent excuse about a sick dog (he hadn't had much time to come up with something better).
Maybe a nice dinner? Taub thought, as he drove towards Kutner's building in the gray morning drizzle . Maybe I can find something nice for his birthday. It's in a couple of weeks. Some rare Star Wars something or other, he'd like that. I just need to see him and explain why I did it. He won't hold it against me. He'll understand. As Taub parked his car, he sincerely hoped that would be the case. He realized how much Kutner's friendship meant to him, despite his recent efforts to push the young man away. Taub knew, deep down, that if he were to lose Kutner's respect, it would be a devastating blow. Kutner was the first actual friend he had had in close to twenty years. Apparently he was a bit out of practice when it came to friendships. Taub resolved to do all he could to regain that trust.
He made his way through the brisk New England air to the front stoop and buzzed Kutner's apartment. No answer. He buzzed again, pulling his coat closer to him against the early April chill. Luckily, a tenant exited at that moment and let him into the warmth of the building. Buzzer's probably broken, he thought.
Five flights of stairs later, Taub knocked on the apartment door. "Kutner!" he called. "It's Taub! Open up!" No answer. He briefly wondered if Kutner had already hurried to work, and he had just missed him. No, he would have called my cell in a panic, and asked me to stall. Or, if not me, then Hadley at least, Taub thought to himself, realizing guiltily that Kutner could actually be angry at his betrayal. He hadn't seemed mad the night before, but maybe he just didn't want to express it with House in the room. Taub decided it would be better to go inside and see what was what. At least, if Kutner was still home, he could get a few minutes to talk with him alone, without House butting in to add fuel to the fire. He pulled out the spare key House had made, and inserted it into the lock.
It was dark inside the apartment. And it was freezing. Taub was surprised to find it was almost as cold inside as it was outside. His heat broke, and he went to stay at a hotel, or at a friend's place, Taub hypothesized. Regrettably, Kutner hadn't called him – further indication that the young doctor was pissed at him, because he likely would have under normal circumstances. Taub scanned the interior of the living room, taking in all the toys and sci-fi memorabilia. He couldn't help but smile at how the room reflected his colleague's personality so fully. Then his eyes lighted on Kutner's keys and pager, which were on the desk by his laptop. His smile faded. Why would he have left those, even in a big hurry?
Something wasn't right. If Kutner wasn't home, and his keys were still here, how had the door been locked? Taub felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and it was only partly due to the cold air. He thought he heard a weird noise, a faint, high-pitched electronic buzz. Was it coming from the computer? Or ambient noise from another apartment? Taub suddenly really wanted to leave this place. But he couldn't, not until he found out what was going on. He forced himself to venture further into the apartment. He tried to ignore the little voice in his head that was screaming that something was wrong, and looked down the hallway to where the bedroom was located.
His stomach turned to ice.
Framed by the doorway, he only saw two jean-clad legs sprawled on the wood floor. The floor that was streaked with dark stains. Dark red. Blood.
"Oh my God…" Taub choked out, hardly realizing he had spoken out loud. He forced his legs, which suddenly felt like lead, to carry him to the bedroom. Kutner was face down on the bloody floor, his hand limply wrapped around a portable phone. The phone was on, beeping that annoying disconnection tone. That was the distant noise he thought he heard. "Kutner? Kutner! Can you hear me? Kutner, wake up!" Taub struggled to turn Kutner over as he grabbed the phone out of his limp hand. He clumsily tapped the three slick buttons that Kutner had failed to dial completely before blood loss and shock had overtaken him. When the 911 dispatcher came on the line, Taub realized how foreign his own voice sounded, loud and frantic.
"I need an ambulance! 410 Willis, apartment 5C. My friend, he – he's been shot. Uh, two, no, three gunshot wounds to the chest…He's lost a lot of blood... unresponsive, shocky. Alert Princeton-Plainsboro, tell them to have a trauma unit ready…God..." he began to stutter with panic as he tried to remember the relevant information to give. He was too preoccupied feeling for a pulse to speak coherently to the operator. "Please, just…Hurry, please, I don't know if he's…God, just hurry and send someone!" He hung up the phone and tossed it aside, and focused his full attention on his friend.
Kutner's face was ashen, and his skin cold and clammy. Blood saturated his dark blue T-shirt, pouring from the three small round holes in his torso. "Come on, give me a pulse, Kutner," Taub murmured. "I'm here, the ambulance is coming, just give me a pulse!" He found it finally, pressing his fingers to the artery in Kutner's neck. It was faint and erratic, like the fluttering of a dying butterfly. But it was there. Taub leaned down with his ear near Kutner's mouth, listening for respiration. The breaths were silent and shallow, but he could feel them. Ok, he's breathing and he's got a pulse. We're in business.
He fumbled for something he could use to stop the profuse bleeding, and his hands grabbed onto a hooded gray jacket on the floor. Kutner wore that thing all the time. "Sorry, Kutner, I'll buy you a new one, I swear," he muttered as he spread the jacket over the ghastly injuries. Taub felt like he was moving far too slowly, as though he was underwater. Even his thoughts weren't moving as swiftly as he believed they should be. The only thing that seemed to be hyperfunctional was his mouth, as words just poured out with little or no cohesion. "I need to put pressure here, ok? It's going to hurt, I'm sorry, but I need to do it, so just…just bear with me ok, buddy? I don't want to hurt you, but it's not something I can help right now. We can get you something for pain later, how does that sound? I know House will be able to get you the good stuff. It's gonna be alright," Taub wasn't entirely sure when he had lost control of the power of speech. He knew he was babbling, but he needed to reassure Kutner that everything would be fine. Even if Kutner couldn't hear him right then, he needed to keep talking, regardless of whether he sounded like a blithering fool.
"You need to stay with me, Kutner. I'm not going to let you leave me like this. I'm right here with you. God, your hands are cold. Damn it, this is a nightmare. No, no, we're going to think positive. Don't worry. It's ok, it's gonna be ok, we'll get the police here, and they'll find the bastard who did this to you and put him away, and we'll clean up the floor in here. And I'll get you a new jacket. You're going to get well, and then everything will be fine. You'll see. You - geez, your hands are so cold, buddy. We'll get you out of here and warmed up real soon. I just need you to stay with me. Please..."
Taub muttered something between a curse and a prayer of relief when the wail of sirens finally reached his ears. "You hear them Kutner? The ambulance is here, they'll be up in a second. You hear the sirens? We're gonna take you to the hospital, fix you right up. I'm right here, I swear, I'm not going anywhere. Hold on, Kutner!"
The EMTs arrived in a flurry of activity, evaluating Kutner's condition and being apprised of the situation by Taub. The group quickly began the movement of the victim to the ambulance. As he was hurrying out the door alongside the stretcher, Taub finally noticed the door to the fire escape standing wide open.