Disclaimer: Nope.

A/N: I present to you a poemfic! If poetry is not your thing, you can skip the stanzas without losing anything as the story recaptures all the themes and the tone of the poem (or so I hope). I happen to be a fan of poetry and this is one of my favourites (well, a part of it since I didn't include the entire poem). It was written by Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the great Romantic poets.

Mmm, I guess I should warn you that this chapter is a bit different than others, but it's one of my favourites so far and I've really enjoyed writing it.

I dedicate it to all those who kept nagging me to include more of House's thoughts and feelings. Here's the chapter you've been waiting for. :)


Chapter 76 – Still Dost Thou Pine?
(Month 7, Week 2)

You sit behind your baby grand, running your fingers over an old photograph. Its smooth surface has not been roughened through the years, unlike a plethora of other things in your life – yourself included.

You've wondered – that day you came across Allison's photo albums – how a person can feel such an incessant need to document every little moment in their life.

The photo you hold in your hands is one of the few of your family. It is the only one you took with you when you moved out – for some sentimental reason or other. You are a slim boy of about 12, standing rigidly in front of your parents. Your dad, no . . . your father . . . is wearing his uniform; his hand is on your shoulder, holding it in a vice-like grip. Your mom is putting on a forced smile. Just another photo in the series, most of them simply a variation on the same theme. Not that there ever were all that many.

And as you ponder this, eyeing the empty glass with the brown residue attesting to its former contents, a morbid realisation washes over you. The worth of a life measured by the number of photos. Quality too, you suppose.

Allison has entire albums full of them, albums full of beaming people. Happy people. You have a series of militaristic photos. Not even a series anymore, just one.

Allison.

Your mind immediately jumps to your wedding photo. You're kipping it in your night stand drawer, though you haven't looked at it recently for fear of. . . . You don't want to think of these things – of the possibilities. Of you and her filling your own albums full of photos. The idea itself inconceivable to you.

Your thoughts drift back to the previous week and you clench the empty glass, tilting it slightly. You watch the remaining droplets as they gather in a small puddle.

. . .
And thou hast sought in starry eyes
Beams that were never meant for thine,
Another's wealth: tame sacrifice
To a fond faith ! still dost thou pine?
Still dost thou hope that greeting hands,
Voice, looks, or lips, may answer thy demands?
. . .

You can smell her perfume if you stand just close enough. Something floral. Lilies, you think. You've missed that scent – the vivid, live aroma, not the stale fragrance that still lingers in your apartment and on her pillow.

Something akin to reverence urges you closer. You blatantly invade her personal space as you reach up to open a cabinet – for some strange reason you crave tea. Your free hand rests on the counter, effectively trapping her as you blindly grasp the first box that comes within your reach. Your eyes are on her. Her brown locks.

You more than half expect her to start yelling at you or something. She doesn't. All she does is wait, her hands holding on to a steaming coffee mug. Eventually, you step away. Now holding your tea bag, you are unsure how to proceed. You never were a tea person.

Surprisingly, she comes to your help. She opens a cabinet to her left and pulls out your red mug before filling it with hot water and sliding it towards you. Afraid to look at her, you drop the tea bag inside, observing the dark rivulets as they taint the crystal liquid. You find it oddly beautiful.

The truth is, you are unsure about . . . well, everything. You haven't said a word to her since she's returned from her sabbatical – her little getaway. Neither did she, for that matter, which only makes it worse. If she were angry, you'd understand. If she were screaming at you, you'd know how to respond. God knows you've dealt with more than enough hysterical women in your life. But no. Nothing.

She had just strolled in, the morning light reflecting off of her soft auburn hair and pristine white blouse. The moment you saw her, you thought that the universe was playing some kind of sick joke on you because she looked positively radiant, angelic even.

The entire week you've been oddly drawn to her like a . . . (you stop yourself before you make that schmaltzy, over-the-top comparison) . . . fat guy to a burger. Or Wilson to an ugly tie.

You want to touch her, but you're determined not to cave in. Still, that doesn't stop you from gazing into her eyes like a love-sick puppy. You try to convince yourself that you're only staring her down – glaring at her – but you both know better. She never breaks eye-contact first; you wonder why. Is she just as desperate as you? Or perhaps . . .

You nearly chuckle as the ludicrous idea crosses your mind – perhaps it really is true that women's pain threshold is higher than men's.

. . .
Ah! wherefore didst thou build thine hope
On the false earth's inconstancy?
Did thine own mind afford no scope
Of love, or moving thoughts to thee?
That natural scenes or human smiles
Could steal the power to wind thee in their wiles?
. . .

It was on Tuesday . . . or was it Wednesday . . . that you stumbled upon what could best be described as Chase's mating dance.

You walk into the hospital, making a beeline towards the elevators when a snippet of a conversation drifts towards you. You immediately recognise that nauseating Aussie drawl.

"Did you know that kangaroos have two vaginas?"

"Really?" Your head snaps up at the sound of that voice. If it isn't your favourite Dean of Medicine. Just as you register that fact, an uncanny realisation strikes you – Chase is flirting with Cuddy. And rather poorly too, although . . . Cuddy really doesn't seem to mind.

"Oh yes. Actually, they have three, the third one is . . ."

"I bet you'd never thought you'd long to be a marsupial, huh, Cuddles?" you quip as you breeze by.

Just before the elevator doors close, you notice Wilson chatting up some blonde in a corner. You vaguely remember seeing her around the morgue a couple of times.

In the course of the day, your initial bad mood deteriorates even further. You wonder if there's something in the air, or why is the entire hospital so lo . . . ah, hormone-struck. It's not even spring. Contemplating the possibility of a biological attack with pheromones, your mind screeches to a halt when Allison walks into the conference room. She hasn't noticed you yet, so you take the opportunity to covertly observe her through the glass doors.

Your hand reflexively reaches into your jeans pocket to finger the cold metal of your wedding band. Somehow, you can't quite bring yourself to leave it at home just yet. It's a limbo, you know. Or is it hell – for the both of you? She thinks you've cast it away, you know you haven't.

Just then a cramp clutches your sorry excuse for a thigh muscle. Your hand abandons the ring in favour of the orange vile. You pour several pills out, resisting the urge to just down the entire vile, when the swish of the doors makes you look up. It's her. Of course it's her.

She walks over to the recliner on which you are perched, and replaces all but one pill back into the orange container. Before you get the chance to growl at her to mind her own damn business, she nudges your leg aside and gently mutters, "Move." For some reason you obey her. Perhaps it's because that's the first word she has spoken to you the entire week that has nothing to do with the case. You've missed her voice. You've missed her voice addressing you away from prying eyes.

She sits down next to you and starts working her magic. You're torn between closing your eyes in relief and keeping them focused on her. In the end, you decide to close them. Partly to enjoy her willing proximity – her warmth, her touch, her gentleness – and pretend that nothing has changed. Partly because the guarded expression on her face tells you that everything has changed. You've never thought you'd miss her carrying her heart on her sleeve.

Your lips part, but before any word could leave your mouth, her presence is gone. It's probably better that way. You have no idea what you were going to say.

Now you're back to observing her through the glass divide until, half an hour later, she gathers her things and leaves.

. . .
Yes, all the faithless smiles are fled
Whose falsehood left thee broken-hearted;
The glory of the moon is dead;
Night's ghosts and dreams have now departed;
Thine own soul still is true to thee,
But changed to a foul fiend through misery.
. . .

Thursday night, a waning moon and an irate Cuddy. You've been avoiding clinic duty ever since that day. You've had it with hormonal teenagers and snot-nosed kids and hypochondriacs of all shades and colours. Had it. Done. Finito. Except Cuddy doesn't seem to agree with you, so you turn off the lights and sneak onto your balcony. Carefully sliding the doors closed, you survey the surroundings. Wilson is observing you with a curios expression from his own balcony. Well, you had to run into him eventually. It's only so long you could avoid him after your little temper tantrum.

Suddenly, there's footsteps inside your office. Making a split-second decision, you climb onto Wilson's balcony and lower yourself to a sitting position next to the diving wall. Barely a couple of seconds later, the doors slide open and you hear Cuddy walk outside with a distinct click click click.

"Have you seen House?" she inquires impatiently.

With bated breath, you await Wilson's retaliation.

"Not for the past couple of hours."

An annoyed huff before, "If you see him, tell him he better get his ass down to the clinic tomorrow, or I'll personally make sure he'll be filling out his own paperwork from now on."

You wince.

"I'll tell him."

Four more clicks and she's gone, leaving the two of you alone again.

You drag yourself to your feet and join Wilson, leaning on the stone railing. For several minutes, both of you keep quiet, merely observing the distant city lights.

Then, "You're torturing her, you know."

You're about to object that Cuddy is too much of a masochist not to enjoy your little cat-and-mouse game, but Wilson continues before you get the chance.

"You're doing the exact same thing to her you did to Stacy. Pushing her away before pursuing her again. I don't think you need me to tell you anymore how that will end. Again."

Ah, he's talking about Allison. He seems to have noticed your inability to let her out of your reach. Not that you were particularly subtle.

"What do you want to achieve? Hurt her? Ruin her life?"

A pause before a quietly muttered, "This is your fault, not hers."

For a moment, a hot jealousy courses through your veins. You know they're friends. Your best – only – friend is friends with your girl. They must have talked about this, about you. He must have comforted her. Your nails dig into your palm, but just as quickly as the fire flared up, so does it extinguish itself. Wilson's offering you an olive branch, or . . . at least he's not holding your reaction against you. Besides . . .

"I know it's my fault," you say after a while and then add, "And I'm not trying to hurt her."

"Then why are you doing this?" he asks with honest interest.

You don't reply, but it seems there's no need for words.

"You love her," Wilson states.

Your lip twitches, but you remain silent, your head bent.

"And you're not denying it."

Still, you keep quiet.

Wilson sighs, and you see him shake his head out of the corner of your eye.

"You know she loves you, and if you feel the same, then why all the drama? Do you really enjoy being miserable that much?"

Without a glance at your friend, you slide over the divide and make your way towards the door. Your hand rests on the cool glass as you stop on the threshold. You feel a sudden need to be honest. With him and yourself.

"Because she deserves better than this," you confess and leave before you can hear Wilson's whispered reply.

"Yes, she does."

# # #

You abandon the empty glass and limp across the room, discarding the family photo along with a palpable lack of nostalgia into one of the cabinet drawers on your way to the bedroom. You mechanically change into your sleeping attire before you crawl under the covers. When you reach over to turn off the bedside lamp, your eyes briefly catch the glimmer of your wedding band resting on the dark-brown wood before darkness engulfs you.

. . .
This fiend, whose ghastly presence ever
Beside thee like thy shadow hangs,
Dream not to chase: the mad endeavour
Would scourge thee to severer pangs.
Be as thou art. Thy settled fate,
Dark as it is, all change would aggravate.
. . .


A/N: Yes, kangaroos really have multiple vaginas (thank you National Geographic Channel).

I've meant for this one to be entirely depressing, but some humour managed to sneak in.

Anyway, I have a vague idea about the next chapter, though, I don't know when I'll find the time to write it.