A/N: I think I'm taking a great deal of liberty with some of the medical technology in this fic, but it's a fan fic, so get over it, okay?
Disclaimer: I do not own House M.D. If I did, Huddy would be so cannon it wouldn't even be funny.
It only took House 5 minutes and 9 seconds to assess and develop an opinion of Mayfield.
Mayfield, like most other facilities was really just a cross between a hospital and a prison. They were fully equipped with medical equipment, and they even had the cold, white-washed hospital décor down pat, but the rooms were small, contact with the outside world was limited and a patient was never left unsupervised for more than 2-3 minutes at a addition, the small windows had metal bars over them, and the furniture (as House discovered one evening when he attempted to move a chair out of his way) was bolted to the floor; all eerie reminders that it was a place meant to house the mentally unstable.
House's room was just like all the others, plain white walls, grey floors, two 'windows', a small chair and bureau for his clothes. The pièce de résistance was the sad excuse for a bed in the center a room; it was really more like a cot, with a flimsy, hard mattress that made his leg hurt. In his opinion, this whole place was a scam. They took in people with 'mental issues,' (and their money) saying they would take care of the 'ill' person and make them better. But how could anyone possibly get any better when living in a glorified prison with uncomfortable beds and an atmosphere that would make anyone suicidal?
Needless to say, his detoxification process was no better at Mayfield than it would have been had he attempted it on his own. Actually, it was worse, because now he had to be a miserable, shaking mess with staff members coming to observe him, instead of being miserable in the privacy of his own home. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, Amber/his-subconscious-in-woman's-clothing was still with him, making stinging comments and painfully true statements every now and then.
4 days, 1 hour, 54 minutes and 47 seconds into his detoxing, both his nausea and Amber were working full tilt. She seemed to take a particular and sick pleasure in watching him suffer.
"You know," Amber started as he finished off his first round of vomiting. "there is a bright side to all this." She paused for effect. "You don't have to pay rent, and you're never alone."
"How do I know that this place isn't just another hallucination?" He questioned half heartedly, not even bothering to lift his head from the toilet bowl.
"Because Cuddy isn't here."
"Ooh, that was a cheap shot." He felt he was surprisingly successful at sounding like he didn't care, but Amber was – unfortunately – a part of him, so any thoughts he had were also her thoughts.
"Yeah, I know. Those are always the most effective." Had he looked up at that moment, House would have seen her looking disgustingly pleased with herself for having caused his emotional distress. She had a twisted, sadistic grin on her face, like something that belonged on a serial killer in a horror movie.
But House did not look up. Instead, he retched again and emptied more of his stomach contents into the bowl. Secretly, he wished that Cuddy were there with her ginger tea (that had never really existed). At the very least he wished that she would call to see how he was doing, as Wilson often did.
But she never called.
She came to visit him instead. After, of course, he had finished going through his detoxification period. (Proving that if she had learned one thing after all these years it was that House was a bitch when detoxing.)
She stood in the doorway with a nurse just behind her, and when he finally glanced up from his Rubik's cube (He had finally convinced the nurses to let him have one, because if he didn't have something to do here he was really going to go crazy.) their eyes locked in a good long stare. It was probably supposed to be profound or something, her warm, kind eyes staring into his cold hard ones, but the message must have gotten lost in the space between them. Or maybe it didn't mean anything. Maybe it was just an impromptu staring contest. If so, Cuddy had lost by breaking eye contact and mumbling a 'thank you' to the nurse as she stepped across the threshold into the room.
"You look good." She said, quickly assessing him. Her words seemed lame after the possibly-profound/possibly-a-game staring match they had just shared, but he decided to roll with it.
He looked pointedly at her chest. "So do you. Have you and the twins been working out?" She rolls her eyes in response, but smiles inwardly because, if she squints, it looks like the same old song and dance they had been doing for years.
"How's your leg?" And then the dance was broken, replaced by an unusual awkwardness as she took a seat on his pathetic mattress.
He shrugged. "Still there. Still hurts."
"Wilson says they're thinking about releasing you." He doesn't look at her.
"Yeah." He tried to sneak a surreptitious glance at her then, but failed, and quickly diverted his eyes when they met hers.
"That's good. We've missed you at work. I-- your team really needs you." He didn't notice the slip; the way she almost said 'I need you'. Maybe he didn't want to.
"I'm not coming back."
"You heard me, I'm not coming back."
For a brief moment, she paused, confusion, disbelief, and shock warring across her features. Then a smile broke out of the conflict, and she started laughing.
"You," she began around the spontaneous laughter, "you're screwing with me, aren't you!"
House frowned. "Nooo, screwing with you would be this:" He looked up at her with suddenly serious eyes, "Lisa, darling, I- I'm pregnant."
Cuddy didn't seem to notice his attempt at a joke because she was too busy staring at him, disbelief apparently had one the final battle and now reigned as her expression.
"You can't just leave! The job is everything to you! It's-it's what you live for! I mean, how else are you going to pay for your hookers?"
"Guess I'll just have to get laid without hookers then." He answered, even though they both knew it was a rhetorical question.
"You know, sometimes I just can't believe you." She shook her head. "I really can't."
House rested his chin on her cane and studied her through narrowed eyes. "Why are you here, anyway? Did Wilson tell you to?"
"What? No, I…I came to see how you were doing."
"You could have just called. Believe it or not, pity works over the phone too. Actually, you shouldn't have bothered; I don't need your pity. "
Of course, he knew that she wasn't here to pity him, he knew that she cared. But he couldn't deal with this right now, he had already made up his mind about how the rest of his life was going to play out, and she wasn't part of it. Her being her only reminded him of what he would be losing. Thus, the natural solution was to get her to leave. And the most successful way to do that was to alienate her, something at which he excelled.
Then, for good measure he added: "Why don't you just go home and play mommy with what's-her-name, or is caring for one helpless person not enough to feed your ego?"
His plan was working too; he could see anger and hurt burning in her once-calm eyes.
"Fine, go ahead and quit. You can go to hell for all I care!" She spat, then abruptly stood up and made her way to the door.
5, 4, 3, 2…. And she was gone.
"I'm already there." He murmured to the empty space before him.
Once upon a time there was a little boy with brown hair and pretty blue eyes. His daddy was an evil monster, but his mommy didn't seem to notice. Sometimes his mommy would read him stories. They were fairytales about handsome princes who rescued princesses in distress. Then the prince and the princess got married and lived happily ever after.
The little boy hated fairytales. They weren't real. In real life, there were no pretty princesses waiting for handsome princes, and nobody lived happily ever after. They lived in misery.
Over time, the boy's pretty blue eyes grew cold.
He had exactly 10 minutes and 00 seconds to do it.
The phone felt unnaturally heavy in his hands, like it carried all the weight of his decision. He lifted it to his ear slowly, and dialed the number with calculated precision that one would expect from a surgeon in a life-or-death situation.
3 rings before the person on the other end answered.
"Wilson, it's me. I need you to do me a favor."
"If it involves hookers or vicodin, the answer is no." He cracked, only half joking.
"I want you to schedule me an appointment with the best surgeon you can find." House started, ignoring Wilson's comment. "I want my leg amputated."
There was a 1, 2 beat pause, then:
"W-what?!" The sudden pitch change of Wilson's voice would have been amusing under other circumstances. "Y-you're kidding, right?!"
"Oh my God, you're serious. House, are you – I want to talk to one of the doctors."
"I know what you're thinking, and I'm not crazy." House growled in response. "As a matter of fact, I think I'm the only sane person in this place. Now are you going to help me or not? Because if you don't, I'll just find a phone book and do it myself."
"You're sure about this?"
"Yeah." Actually, he wasn't really sure of anything anymore. He used to be very good at being sure of things, sure of his logic, sure of his diagnoses, sure of himself, but lately he hadn't been sure of anything anymore. He was not even sure he knew what it felt like to be sure of something.
House lost a total of 23 hours, 41 minutes and 16 seconds of sleep in the days leading up to the surgery. He was too busy thinking to really sleep. There were just so many things that could go wrong, so many things that would change, so many things that he would have to adjust to, so many things to think about. So many things to lose sleep over.
Eventually he resolved that even if something went wrong and he died on the operating table, it's not like he really had anything left to live for anyway.
5 minutes and 57 seconds before he was wheeled into the Princeton Plainsboro operating room for his amputation surgery, House found himself surround by both his new and old team. They all spoke to him as if he were headed off to the gallows.
Foreman wished him luck.
Cameron hugged him tightly.
Thirteen squeezed his arm in an attempt to comfort him.
Taub gave him what was intended to be a re-assuring nod.
(Chase was not present, as he would be assisting in the surgery.)
Wilson joined them then. He gave the team a nod of acknowledgement before turning to House, and awkwardly telling him that everything would be fine.
Even more awkward, however, was the fact that the group not-so-subtly took their leave a few seconds later after they saw Cuddy approaching. This simple action showed that they seemed to be coping well in his absence, they had apparently taken to following Foreman around instead of him.
Cuddy stopped beside his bed, took his hand and this time when their eyes locked, the profound message was received loud and clear. The care and glistening emotion in her eyes was overwhelming, and it hit him like a ton of bricks. (Actually, it was more like several tons of cement building blocks, but details, details.)
"You're doing the right thing, House." She whispered, gently squeezing his hand.
"I know." He replied, because he was too busy thinking – again – of all the things that could go wrong, and he can't exactly bring himself to tell her that he had just realized that she might really mean something to him
It was then that he changed his previous resolution and had his first epiphany in a long time: it would be a terrible shame if her were to die on the operating table, because he had so much to live for.
The O.R. looked considerably more formidable when one was lying on the table, watching everything out of the corner of one's anesthesia-affected eye, House decided a few moments later. Suddenly, as he felt the hands of the anesthetic pulling him down, all of this didn't seem like such a good idea after all.
When he woke 1 day, 5 hours, 31 minutes and 17 seconds later, House was struck by an odd combination of déjà vu, loss and liberation all at the same time. Déjà vu for all the times ha had laid in one of these beds, staring up at these ceilings, for various medical reasons. In a way, it had become comfortingly familiar, and it was certainly more welcome than Mayfield. The loss he felt was for the leg that he knew was gone; a part of him they had hacked off and carelessly tossed into a medical waste bin. The feeling of liberation was almost a direct contradiction to the loss, because removing that part of him had also rid his body of the source of nearly all his pain and suffering. The dead muscle that had weighed him down and been the main cause of his vicodin addiction was now gone.
And he wasn't sure how to feel.
For a good 2 minutes and 44 House eyed the plastic of his new prosthetic leg warily, as if it were a crazed animal that might rear up and attack him at any given moment. His stare-down of the object was interrupted, however, by his physical therapist instructing him to put the device on.
His physical therapist was a rather gruff man named Francis who didn't talk much and gave little encouragement. Actually, he was a prefect choice for House, as he would easily grow irritated with any other smiley upbeat therapist. (Though, he wouldn't exactly complain if it had been an attractive female assigned to him instead of Francis.)
"Okay, I'm going to get you started with some simple exercises just to get you used to moving your leg." Francis informed him.
House sighed. This was going to be a long and tedious process. He was really wishing for that attractive therapist right about now…
3 weeks, 4 days, 13 hours, 23 minutes and 34 seconds of boring exercises later, House was finally ready to attempt to walk on his new leg. Being House, he tried to do so on his own, standing shakily, using the edge of his hospital be for support. Once he was upright, he let go of the bedrail and held his breath.
And he was standing! But it was only half the battle. Wobbling a little, he took his first unsteady step forward, frowning at the tell-tale clunk of plastic hitting the floor. Aside from that, however, all seemed well, so he pressed on.
He got 5 more steps before he fell flat on his ass.
Of course, Cuddy just happened to choose that very moment to come visit him. It was the first time he had seen her since the surgery, and he had suspected that she had been avoiding him. (Not that he blamed her.)
"House!" She rushed over to him, brows knit together in concern, and started helping him up. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." He grumbled. He tried to shrug off her assistance, but she foiled his attempts by tightening her grip on him. "I don't need your help."
"I know you don't." She responded. But she helped him anyway.
Using Cuddy as a crutch, House made another, much more successful attempt at walking. This time he got across the room and back to his bed with minimal stumbling. And when he did stumble, Cuddy was there to keep him from falling.
It was an odd feeling, having someone there to catch him when he started to fall. He often forgot that people were actually capable of truly caring – even for someone like him. He discovered that he liked the feeling.
1 month, 2 weeks, 3 days, 11 hours 25 minutes and 4 seconds after the surgery, House was finally released from the hospital.
"House!" There was strange sort of pride and admiration glinting in Cuddy's eyes as she watched House walk out of the hospital on his new leg.
"Miss me already?"
"Yeah, right." She rolled her eyes. "So, how are you getting home?"
"Wilson's meeting me by his car in a few minutes. He had to finish up with a patient."
They walked to the car in silence, side by side. She really had no reason to still be walking with him, but they both had the sense to stay silent.
While silence may have been okay for walking, however, it was awkward for waiting by Wilson's car.
"So…" Cuddy started, clearing her throat. "I was thinking you could take the next three months, and –"
"I'm not coming back." He interjected.
"I know, but things – you might change your mind. Just take the time and think it over, okay?"
"I don't need the time. I'm not coming back. I-" He stopped, hating what he said next, because open-ness and vulnerability/ were so not his thing. "I just can't do the job anymore."
"But you're the best doctor we have. I'll never be able to find someone who can do what you do."
"Sure you will. Foreman can take over. Actually, you'll even save some money. That means you won't have to whore yourself out as much to get funding."
"House." Cuddy was not amused with his attempt to lighten the mood with one of his inappropriate comments. "Just take the time and see how you feel afterwards. Please."
Seeing the pleading and hurt in her eyes, he was suddenly hit by a wave of self-loathing. He was constantly hurting people, hurting her. Things like this were part of why he wasn't coming back. Yet, she wanted him to stay. Which left him with the question of which would hurt her more: staying or leaving? And yet, it didn't matter, because staying was out of the question. It was true, he had lost his touch; he couldn't do the job anymore. The last few cases had been solved either by someone else or pure luck, and not even he could rely on luck forever.
"Cu- Lisa. I can't do the job. I can't come back."
For a moment, she looked like she was going to cry but then her expression suddenly changed, and she looked as though she had just had en epiphany of her own.
"You don't have to come back." She said, and then she kissed him. Lisa Cuddy, dean of medicine, kissed him right there in the parking lot, pressing him back against Wilson's car, for anyone and everyone to see. She kissed him until they were both breathless, her tongue sliding against his briefly before they pulled away, panting softly.
"You're coming home with me, and I want you to stay." She whispered, "But not just for the night."
Gregory House was a successful doctor. He could diagnose patients better and faster than anyone else in the entire world. He was incredibly intelligent, and could talk his way into or out of almost anything.
Yet, somehow, it took him 29 years, 5 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 47 minutes and 53 seconds to realize that his story had a happy ending.
And she had been right in front of him all along.
(Maybe happily-ever-afters were real after all.)