By Eekz (Nackety)
Disclaimer: House M.D., its characters, and its hospitals are not mine, and fanfiction is a profitless hobby.
Spoilers: Set during the final scenes of 5x10 "Let Them Eat Cake," but refers to earlier seasons.
A/N: This was an experiment with style, based on the premise that a man can think many things in a moment, and I've withheld it since it was written (immediately after the episode aired) because I'm fairly certain it's a miserable failure. Please don't judge too harshly.
A/N (May 12, 2013): Corrected Thirteen's speech, changed 'Mercyherst' to 'New York Mercy,' and uploaded new cover art featuring a stock arch by DeviantArt's HBKerr.
Intrados –(noun) the inner curve of an arch or vault.
"I… lied to you the other night," Thirteen says as she leans against the spare desk, staring studiously at the wooden floor beneath her feet. It does not sound like a confession. "She doesn't freak me out about my future, she—she freaks me out about my past."
Her expression is less guarded than he is accustomed to, too weary and exhausted to be incomprehensible, and he feels his own softening in turn. She is here as his patient, not his colleague, and sympathy is the worst part of his job.
(There was a time, he thinks, years ago, when the compassion was real and a diagnosis was less important than the person, but he is more phlegmatic these days.)
"Your mother," he replies carefully, tepidly, adjusting his scarf. "Must've been horrible watching her die."
She looks up at him finally, wide brown eyes and a weary frown. "I wanted her to die."
Foreman defines himself by his accomplishments, his knowledge, his strength, his triumphs. Everything he is—from the starched suits to the framed diplomas mounted above his stone fireplace—is proof of what he made himself, of the product of drive and weakness of sentiment.
But sometimes—and only sometimes, always at peculiar moments, when tightening his tie or striding past a mirror—he glimpses his reflection and sees nothing in place of a man.
He does not remember Johns Hopkins fondly.
He remembers feeling lost and cowering behind bravado; remembers sitting alone in the dining hall, pretending like he wasn't garbed in his father's pretentious old suits or working out of secondhand books. He learned in the first day that heavy black kids from the slums were not supposed to do well. He learned in the first month that he would only be accepted by his classmates if he could make a hook shot.
And he remembers deciding it wasn't worth it.
Seventeen years later, a woman he once stabbed with an infected needle is the closest thing he has to a friend.
It is easier to be a doctor if you can't feel anything more than responsibility for your patients—if you can't befriend them, love them, hate them. House frequently makes similar claims but Foreman is better at disassociating.
He should probably be horrified.
He had been the Head of Diagnostics at New York Mercy Hospital for almost a week when Cameron called to congratulate him. The conversation was mostly one-sided, filled with the earnest enthusiasm he would have doubted had it come from anyone else; she asked questions and he responded in kind, careful to keep his answers short and concise. He gave no indication that her greeting had thrown him off guard, had mangled his armor and splintered the marble beneath.
Hi Eric, it's Allison.
It occurred to him later, as he microwaved spaghetti left over from the night before, that the only other person who had ever called to acknowledge him—and meant it—was his mother.
Cameron called again, several days after he was fired. He watched the phone ring and didn't answer.
Johns Hopkins is one of the best medical schools in the country. Foreman maintains that it is also the most competitive.
He graduated top of his class, smugly aware that second was miles behind.
He chose neuropathology for its complexity. He chose it because the human brain is too powerful and magnificent to be quantified by soft sciences alone. He chose it because medicine should not end with autoimmune diseases and cancer. He chose it because the field excludes all but the best, the most intelligent, the strongest, and he cannot tolerate being anything less.
He is almost grateful that no one cares enough to ask why.
Foreman has never liked Thirteen.
Taub is just predictable enough to be dull—a middle-aged man with neatly pressed shirts and a shambles-bound marriage—and Kutner is little more than a frat boy with a stethoscope, but they balance one another well and Foreman finds himself equitably indifferent to both of them.
But Thirteen is deliberately inscrutable, a puzzle in abstract—a combination of fortitude and hopelessness that is too incongruous to understand. So he defines her by what she isn't rather than by what she is and sometimes he hates her for it.
"She just… yelled, so much, and for no reason," she explains tiredly, nearly twenty years of silence weighing down her words. "Just screamed at me in front of my friends. My father tried to explain to me that her brain was literally shrinking, that she didn't mean it. That it was the disease. But I didn't care. I hated her. I never said goodbye, and she died with me hating her."
She stares dry-eyed at the floor, shoulders slumped and head hung, and a moment passes before the gravity finally hits him—before he realizes that she is far past crying, that the guilt has been eating away at her nerves for so long that she might have nothing else inside, that Huntington's was never the secret she was fighting to hide.
He wavers uncertainly for a second before closing the space between them in two quiet strides and carefully embracing her. She doesn't shove him away, doesn't scoff and flee as he half-anticipates; she rests her head against his stomach and wraps her arms around his waist, and he has never felt so useless.