Disclaimer: Not mine, etc.

My first House fic, so be nice. I hope I've got them in character, but really, I thought that Cuddy was so OOC during this episode already that there's not much further down to go. I'm definitely a Huddy fan, but I like strong Cuddy, not pathetic teenager Cuddy like in parts of S5.


"First, her lung starts to deflate like me after a cold shower; next, her liver starts to bleed like me after . . . "

The metaphor was never to be completed. House abruptly pitched forward and made a desperate and futile attempt to regain his balance for a step or two, careening into the office like a broken windmill, but could not recover without the help of his cane, which had flown out of his hand and landed on the carpet of the office in front of him. Without its aid and with his right thigh already annoyed even pre-stumble from the activities of the day, he never had a chance. He crashed down hard on the office floor, his head hitting the corner of his desk as he fell.

The team was frozen for a second in stunned amazement. Foreman was the first to move. The First Commandment of House was not ever to express any physical concern for him, but hopefully their boss would forgive a minor sin at the moment. "You okay?" He stepped into the office and knelt beside the prone diagnostician.

The practical-minded Taub stooped in the doorway. He'd seen House stumble at times because of his leg – they all had – but there had been nothing natural about that fall. "Someone set a trip wire," he stated in disbelief. Kutner and Thirteen stared down at the offending silver booby trap.

"Shit!" Foreman cut off their fall differential before it could go any further. His usually unflappable tone had a note of urgency, and the team immediately went to join him, stepping carefully over the wire in the doorway.

Foreman had rolled House over onto his back, revealing blood trickling down from a laceration surrounded by an already bruising area on his left temple. The diagnostician's piercing blue eyes were shut, but Foreman didn't need that confirmation that he was unconscious. The fact that House hadn't pulled away or snapped off a sarcastic deflection when Foreman first touched him had been proof enough. Kutner knelt down on House's other side, while Taub hurried around the desk to pick up the phone. "We need a team in Dr. House's office. He's fallen and been hurt."

A quick scramble through his pockets revealed a penlight, and Foreman pulled up one eyelid and then the other, checking the reaction of the pupils. "He's got a concussion. At least a concussion. He hit that desk pretty hard."

On House's other side, Kutner had taken his boss's pulse and respirations, verifying the ABCs of airway, breathing, and circulation, and was now looking for any other obvious injuries. His search stopped at the left wrist, which was already swelling. "Did he land with this wrist outstretched?" He probed it gently. "I'm pretty sure it's broken." They all noted that House didn't react to the examination. "We need to get x-rays. And an MRI." Kutner carefully removed House's watch from the injured extremity and pocketed it.

Taub suddenly moved away from the desk. "Better get that trip wire taken down before the team runs a gurney into it and we wind up with more patients." He knelt again at the doorway, studying how it had been attached. "Does anybody have pliers or something similar?"

Kutner immediately pulled out a fat Swiss Army knife. "26 functions," he said proudly, tossing it to Taub. The boyish grin faded as he looked back down at their boss, taking his pulse again to reassure himself it was strong and steady. He once again inspected the injured wrist, deliberately putting more pressure on it this time. House didn't move.

Thirteen hadn't said anything or assisted them since the fall, and Foreman glanced up at her. Her eyes were slightly wide as she looked down at her boss, and he could almost hear the thought. Not only were people dying before their time of incurable diseases, whether cancer or Huntington's, but life itself was uncertain and dangerous. No guarantees anywhere. No firm ground. "You okay?" he asked softly.

She blinked. "Fine," she said firmly. Kutner looked from one of them to the other in a movement that suddenly reminded both of them of a miniature version of House. .

The elevator down the hall dinged, and the team from the ER hurried out, pushing a gurney. "Wait a minute!" Taub ordered. "Okay, got it." He stood with the glistening silver wire in his hand, and the team pushed the gurney on into the office.

"What happened?"

"He fell into the office and hit his head on the corner of his desk. Seems to have broken his left wrist, too. Vitals stable, but he's not responding to pain." Foreman gave the report steadily, efficiently.

One of the men looked at the silver wire Taub was holding. "What's that?"

"It's a trip wire," Taub replied.

"Someone actually . . ." The words trailed off at Foreman's firm look. "Right, this isn't the time. Let's get him down to triage."

House always seemed larger than life, but he was surprisingly easy to lift onto the gurney with several people helping. Once he was strapped into place, the gurney was rolled back through the door through which he had tripped a few minutes ago, and they headed for the ER. Foreman and Kutner flanked the gurney, and Thirteen shook herself out of her daze and headed after them.

Taub was left alone. He stood by the office door, still holding the trip wire, looking at it, looking at the cane lying forgotten in the floor, and completing the differential in his mind. House was legendary for his biting sarcasm as well as his medical skill, and no doubt many at the hospital would have enjoyed taking him down a peg or two, literally, but they would have been too scared of the man himself to do it. No, the only possible answer Taub was coming up with was the one which he himself could not believe.

He left the office and turned away from the elevator, heading down to inform Wilson.


Cuddy sat at her desk, doing paperwork while glancing up at Rachel-cam regularly. The phone rang, and she picked it up smoothly, efficiently, the administrator who WAS going to be in perfect control of her hospital, and her new mother duties, and her life in spite of her jerk of an employee.

"Dr. Cuddy, Dr. House has just been brought into the ER."

She straightened abruptly, nearly knocking her current file in the floor. "Is he okay? What happened?"

"He fell in his office, hit his head pretty hard, broke his wrist. We're still evaluating the head injury, but he's totally unresponsive. He's about to go for an MRI. Would you believe somebody set a trip wire in his office? Dr. Cuddy, are you there?"

Cuddy swallowed. "Yes, I am. Thank you for informing me. Please keep me posted and let me know what the MRI results show."

"Will do." The ER attendant hung up, but Cuddy didn't until the phone started to beep at her in annoyance. She replaced it in the cradle with stiff, wooden movements and then looked again from the files to Rachel on the monitor to the desk that House had given her and that she had never thanked him for. Yes, he was arrogant, annoying, childish at times, biting in his remarks, pushing far beyond accepted limits, but she realized suddenly that he hadn't in fact brought her down to his level. No, she had gone below his level all on her own. He never would have done what she just had, would never risk physically hurting someone unless medically needed to help in a diagnosis.

Cuddy buried her face in her hands. "Who have I become?" she asked herself. She took deep breaths until she felt back in at least fragile control, and then she pushed her chair back, stood, and left the office, heading for radiology.