Author's Note: Thank you for your reviews and your patience, everyone! School has been absolutely insane and the next couple of weeks are going to worse, so I worked hard to get this out to you tonight. Enjoy!
Yeah, David Shore still owns everything.
Cuddy's heart was in her throat as she drove to the hospital. She stayed on the line with House until she could hear the response team arrive in his office. Now she called up Wilson and heard a sleepy groan, "Hello?"
"Wilson, it's Cuddy. House was attacked in his office."
"Wh-what? Is he okay?"
"I sent a team up to get him, but I'm not sure. He stopped responding to me about a minute into the phone call."
Cuddy heard Wilson give a prolonged groan and then he said, "What do you want to bet the attacker is my newest cancer patient?"
She had been thinking on that, too, and despite the ice nestled in the pit of her stomach, she said, "We'll see when we get there."
"Right. I'll be there."
Cuddy hung up her phone just as she was pulling into her hospital's parking lot. Rachel was, thankfully, still asleep in her car seat and although she was getting big, Cuddy transferred her into a stroller and rushed into the hospital as quickly as she dared to go. The night time receptionist saw her coming in and said, "Dr. Cuddy, he's on floor 2 in OR room 3."
"Thank you." Cuddy considered asking her how House was doing, but she figured if he was rushed into the OR it must be serious enough. She set Rachel down at the back of the observation room and stepped up to stare down at him, trying to conceal her shock. The tension had been more palpable when House was shot, but he looked far worse this time around. Even from up here she could see the footprint on his forehead A good deal of blood was encrusted down one side of his face, she could see the surgeon stitching up his side, and his left arm was already wrapped from wrist to elbow.
Cuddy would keep her reservations to herself until she got a full report, but just the cursory glance at his injuries made her sigh in relief. He appeared far worse than he was and she was confident House would make his usual full recovery. She could not, however, get over his silence over the phone. He had sounded weak and the strange quality of his voice made her believe for a moment that their phone conversation was going to be their last.
Wilson took that time to walk in and though he decided to forgo a suit for a fleece pullover and jeans, his hair was as perfect as usual. "How is he?"
"I haven't had a full report, but I think he's going to be okay," Cuddy replied.
Wilson's eyebrows shot up. "You sounded pretty worried over the phone"
"You weren't talking to him," she said in a soft voice. Tears weren't filming her eyes, but there was a defeated expression and her shoulders were slumped. "Wilson, he finally got his life together and he was opening up to me and accepting Rachel I thought he was going to be dead when I got here." Cuddy wanted to say more but she couldn't find the words. For once, Wilson didn't pressure her but simply laid a hand on her shoulder in comfort. She gratefully grasped the hand, keeping it where it was as they looked on. A few minutes later, the surgeon below turned on the intercom and said, "Dr. Cuddy, we're finished here."
"Thank you. Where will you be taking him?"
"I thought we would wheel him back into the ICU."
"Give me a minute and I'll get him a private room," Cuddy replied. "Could you watch Rachel? I should've done this when I arrived."
"You were worried and wanted to see your friend." She ignored the strange way Wilson said friend, as though he were waiting to be corrected, but then he said, "Go on. Rachel's safe with me."
"I don't doubt that for an instant," Cuddy said the hint of a smile. It hardly took more than thirty seconds for Cuddy to get a room and they stepped out to follow House's bed down the hall.
Dr. Howard, the surgeon, was waiting just inside the door when they arrived. Wilson carefully set Rachel down and then he stepped over next to Cuddy to listen to the conversation.
"How is he Dr. Howard?"
"He'll make a full recovery. He didn't lose too much blood and the wound on his head did not need more than super glue. He was actually conscious when he arrived for surgery, willfully unresponsive or not, I'm not sure. I think he may have a touch of shock, but it's difficult to say. We've taken him off the sedative so he should be awake in a few minutes."
"Thank you, doctor," Cuddy replied. She turned to look at House and breathed a sigh, of relief and exasperation. After Dr. Howard left, she moved to stand over him and muttered, "How do these things always happen to you?" Staring down at him, she tilted her head a little better to see the cut just barely hidden beneath his now short hair and winced. After a moment of silence she said, "Wilson, the police should be here and I need to look at House's office. I know I've asked this already, but would you continue to watch Rachel, please?"
"You don't even need to ask. Do you want to be paged when House wakes up?"
She hesitated. With any other person, she would simply say no, but his was House. He was quick to notice small details and gestures and jump to rapid and occasionally inaccurate conclusions. "Yes, if you don't mind. I imagine I'll be about half an hour."
He nodded. She was just stepping out of the doorway when Wilson abruptly said, "I'll go check on the other patient when you get back." She stiffened at the mere thought of the person, but although she did not turn around, she nodded slightly and started off, grateful of Wilson to take that responsibility off her shoulders.
Upon reaching the fourth floor, Cuddy took slow and measured steps towards House's office. She could see the police and crime scene investigators moving through the glass windows but she could not keep her stomach from clenching at what she imagined she would find there: blood everywhere, dripping off the books and staining large patches into the floor, House's medical references torn out and littering the floor, and undoubtedly his cane split in half. She was surprised once she reached the door and found hardly any of it was true.
There were dried patches of blood on the floor, and one particularly large one under his desk with the phone right next to it. Now she could see him lying on the floor with his phone nearby trying his best to speak to her even as his blood drained out of his body. The top half of House's cane had indeed been shattered and she could just see there was a spot of blood on the corner of his desk where he hit his head she imagined. His chair in the corner had been overturned and her eyes nearly popped out of her skull when she saw the three inch switch knife with a film of dried blood covering its edge.
"Excuse me, ma'am, we'd appreciate it if you stayed right there. You don't want to contaminate the scene just yet," an officer said, walking up to her slowly so as not to startle her.
She locked eyes with him and let a breath out that she hadn't realized she was holding. Thank God it isn't Detective Tritter, she soothed herself and immediately clamped a hold of her emotions and held her hand out.
"Officer, I am Dr. Lisa Cuddy, Dean of Medicine here at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital."
"Lieutenant Fredrickson, Dr. Cuddy. May I ask you a few questions about this incident?"
"Certainly. Go ahead."
"Where were you when the attack occurred?"
"I was at home sleeping," Cuddy replied and she smiled slightly to herself. She had immediately suspected House was calling to fill his Nightly Cuddy Annoyance Quota. She would rather have endured that annoyance than the paralyzing shock that had splashed over her like ice cold water instead.
"Who called you?"
"What did he say?"
"He asked for help. Said he had a wound in his side."
"What did you do?"
"I called the hospital through my house phone and ordered security to pick up Dr. House. I continued to stay on the line with him."
"Did he say anything else?"
Cuddy almost flinched, thinking back on the conversation with House if the two meager sentences he'd managed could be called a conversation. "N-no. I thought he was going to be dead before I even got here?"
Officer Fredrickson's eyes softened and he asked, "How is Dr. House now?"
As if on cue her pager blipped and she immediately grabbed for it to see the message and a small smile tugged at her lips. "He's awake now and he will make a full recovery. His injuries were not as severe since he was retrieved relatively quickly."
"Right," he said with a nod and then asked, "Do you know of the circumstances that led to this attack?"
She hesitated for a moment. Simply because she was certain who the attacker was did not necessarily mean she knew anything and she decided on that, "No."
"Are you certain there was nothing to suspect?"
"Who was the attacker?"
The officer peered down at his notepad and said, "I believe he was one Anthony Marcino, a cancer patient who was admitted here earlier in the week. Did you notice anything odd?"
Her eyes hardened and she gazed at the officer. "Yes. It was rather clear that Mr. Marcino and Dr. House did not like each other."
"How did this behavior manifest?"
She drew her lips into a line and she was certain the officer got the message, but she continued to answer his questions in a clipped tone, "Mostly avoidance although there was one encounter with the patient that was, from what I heard, little more than name-calling. Dr. House was permanently removed from the case the day he received it and was not working on it since."
"Thank you, Dr. Cuddy. If you do not mind, I would like to take a statement from the victim. Do you think he would be up to it tonight?"
Cuddy raised her eyebrows in surprise and asked, "How important is that statement? I am already well aware that a conviction, or even a trial, is highly unlikely."
Fredrickson sighed and folded up his notepad to put it in the front pocket of his uniform. "It is true, Dr. Cuddy that this will more than likely be thrown out before it can even be considered for court. With the assailant in advanced stages of cancer and obviously sick, there would certainly be a question of delirium and whether he was of sound enough mind to realize what he was doing."
She bristled at his statement even though it didn't surprise her at all to hear that was the case. "I think this is much deeper than that."
"Even if it is, Dr. Cuddy," Fredrickson gave her an annoyed expression, "Even if it is, he is still a severely ill patient with little life left to begin with. You will certainly be granted an order to transport him to a different hospital to keep the environment of yours safe, but that is all that is likely to happen."
"Right," she muttered and sighed to herself.
It was only ten minutes or so after Cuddy left that House started showing signs of waking up. Wilson was still standing at his bedside, too wired with nerves and energy to sit down for long. He was admiring the tiny little gash in House's short hair when he saw his friend's eyes twitch and flutter.
He inhaled deeply and opened his eyes. Wilson watched them sweep around the room until they settled on him, and then he said, "I'm starting to wonder if you broke the world's largest mirror – possibly with your ego – or if all these incidents are some plea for a attention, because they certainly work." He made a show of taking out his pager and sending Cuddy a message.
House snorted at his comment and said, "A black cat crossed my just as I walked under a latter. I should have known better." He rubbed one hand over his scruff and then abruptly opened his eyes and asked, "Where's Cuddy?" He had seen Rachel's stroller nearby so she could not be far.
"Being the Dean. After your attack the police did need to be called. I imagine Tony's hand-cuffed to his hospital bed right about now."
House sighed in impatience and picked at invisible lint on his bed sheet before he said, "Before you can get any further, I am not going to say anything with regards to him. So stop fishing for your lighter to that cigar, I'm not doing another session with you, Freud."
"No cigar in the hospital, so I thought I would stick to pencils," Wilson replied. "I don't suppose I can ask what you were doing here so late at night?"
"Trying your damndest to play every significant historical figure, Einstein? Why do you think I refused to arrive at a reasonable hour considering your constant badgering all day?"
"I would hardly say it was constant since I only sat with you for lunch and talked to you for a few minutes later."
House sighed again and gave Wilson an irate look, "I could easily twist this situation around to make it your fault I was here when he attacked!"
"Sorry, my perverse sense of guilt withered and died with constant exposure to your glowing personality and ego."
House opened his mouth for another retort when they heard a keening cry and they both shifted to Rachel. From the way she was squirming in her seat, she was waking up. House tensed, ready to get her himself, but Wilson had already swooped to the rescue with such easy grace, House eyed him coldly before he caught himself and smoothed his expression again. It was still obscenely early in the morning though and it took only a little bit of soothing mutterings from Wilson to get her eyes drooping again before she dozed off.
"Why don't you set her down here? Bound to be more comfortable than your skinny shoulder," House said and Wilson raised his eyebrows at him.
"Hmm, I'm sensing a disguised plea to hold Rachel yourself…to gain Cuddy's attention for when she first walks in."
House's answering glare was so severe, Wilson immediately shut his mouth. "Lay off the psycho-analysis now or I'm throwing you out."
"Even if you did, you'd be begging me to come back in and take care of you after the nurses got sick of waiting on you hand-in-foot."
"No, because there's still Cuddy with her extraordinary guilt complex."
Wilson was just about to give him another reply when the whoosh of the door drew their attention and Cuddy came in with a resigned yet grim smile. Behind her was an officer, who was not exactly trim but certainly nothing like the heavyweights munching on donuts. "House, glad to see you're awake. This is Officer Fredrickson and he would like to ask you some questions."
House frowned severely at the police officer and inwardly groaned. "I don't see why it matters. The likelihood he will go to prison let alone stand trial are nil since he's terminally ill."
"With your full cooperation, Dr. House, we will attempt to reach a solution for this matter to the best of our ability," Fredrickson replied and there was no denying the officer's obvious hostility.
Cuddy stepped between them, giving the officer a long measured glare before she said to House, "Please cooperate just this once, House. If it is as you say, then they will not be back to ask you anything else."
House curtly nodded. "Fine, I want you to leave the room though."
She flinched slightly at his words and felt a pang in her heart. For a brief moment, House himself looked pained at what he had just said, but as he was so good at, the mask was hitched back onto his face and he nodded at her stolidly. All right. I'll leave you alone, but don't try to bottle everything up all the time, House, she mused and grabbed Rachel's stroller to wheel it out. Wilson promptly followed.
When the door was slid shut, House turned back to the officer to hear his line of questioning, all the while privately wondering just how he was going to tell Cuddy any of reasons that led to the attack.