Summary: A short one-shot based off 5-to-9 in a desperate effort to make something arising from that episode interesting to me. Lucas does not appear in this one other than one brief mention in passing, in another effort to make something arising from that episode interesting to me. Last week really changed my picture of Lucas, and this week wasn't much better. Interfering in communication between Cuddy and babysitter over sick kid? To paraphrase from Lady Macbeth, "Out, damn Lucas, OUT, I say. One, two, why then, 'tis time to do it!"
It is a one-shot. Everything is a one-shot right now. Sorry for potential to go on; I, too, agree that it could have. But it won't.
Starts from one line and then radically diverts from the rest of the episode, so after the first few sentences, we are now in fanfiction land, not in the episode. House/Cuddy had no subsequent interaction during the day's events.
Sorry for any errors.
"Were all the meds doubled?"
The pharmacy chief looked up, considering the oddness of that fact for the first time. "No, just one."
Cuddy gave a mental sigh. "Vicodin?"
"Right. How'd you guess?"
She straightened up. "Never mind. I'll deal with it. Thanks." She turned and marched out of the pharmacy, and the pharmacist returned to surveying his paperwork. Belatedly, he realized she probably was thinking of House, the hospital's most infamous Vicodin bloodhound, but he actually hadn't seen House around the pharmacy much lately. The man really was obviously trying to stay clean. Oh, well, she'd figure that out. Still, maybe he'd better do more audits while waiting for her return, in a belated CYA effort on his own behalf. Whoever had done this, he needed to prove it wasn't him.
Cuddy burst through the door of the conference room. Anger, in fact fury had propelled her all the way up the stairs, ignoring the elevator. After all the breaks she had cut him, she couldn't believe it. If he wanted to slip, the least he could have done is score off the street or from his old stashes, not implicate her hospital. She only hoped the thefts had been low-grade so far. Pharmacy records could be audited, after all, and JCAH was coming in three weeks. She didn't need this right now.
Damn him. And damn her for thinking he really might have meant the rehab this time.
The conference room door hit the far wall, and the team and House all jumped, startled. They had been deep in a differential, House at the whiteboard, the team in deep thought around the table. House looked at her face and was seared by the heat of that forest fire of anger. "Dr. Cuddy. What brings you to the fourth floor so early in the day? I haven't even had a chance to avoid clinic duty yet today; we've got a patient."
Cuddy opened her hand, displaying the specimen cup. "YOU go to the bathroom right now and give me a specimen. And YOU" - indicating Foreman with a nod as the least House-corruptible - "go in with him and make sure he personally fills it. I want you to watch, and I do mean watch, the entire performance."
Of all the reasons House had expected for her tempestuous entrance, that didn't even make the list. Cuddy saw the sudden comprehension and then the hurt in those gorgeous blue eyes. Oddly, she didn't see guilt. Was he truly without a conscience? Didn't he realize the consequences of his actions, toward her in addition to himself? After a minute, he lowered his head, looking at the floor. "If you wanted to know how I was doing on the rehab, you could have asked," he said pointedly, but there was no fire in his tone. "Come on, Foreman. Or actually, don't come on. The patient doesn't have time for this pointless demonstration. We need to get back to the differential. Come around here."
As he had that morning months ago at Wilson's apartment, House turned his back, and the clear sound of a zipper seemed shockingly loud in the frozen room. No fellow, Foreman included, had moved or made a sound since Cuddy's entrance. House looked over his shoulder, speaking again. "Foreman, come here. I don't want her to think I carry a specimen bag around under my belt just in case. If she insists on an eyewitness, let her have one."
Foreman opened his mouth, then shut it. He stood up, his features impassive as ever, but the look he shot to Cuddy was mixed disbelief and disappointment, with as much emotion as he ever showed in his eyes. "Cuddy, I have been watching him, and I haven't seen him take a Vicodin since he's been back."
"Get over here and stop trying to talk. She won't listen to anything but her presumptions right now," House said. With a sigh, Foreman stepped up beside the whiteboard, looking reluctant, but he obediently focused at waist level, and everyone in the room heard the stream. House handed the cup to Foreman, rezipped, and turned back around, taking the cup. "Your evidence," he said, extending it to Cuddy. "Maybe at some point when you're rational, we could discuss why this came up right now, but first, we've got a patient to diagnose." He abruptly froze, head tilting, eyes focusing into the distance. "Why this came up right now . . . Taub, when you checked the patient's home . . ."
House dove straight back into differential, and Cuddy took the cup and simply walked out, feeling confusion warring with the still-present anger. He wasn't acting like she'd expected. On the other hand, who knew what to expect with House?
"And we've renegotiated the contract at 12%," Cuddy announced, and the room applauded. She saw the look of pride on House's face, as well as still-present hurt. As she stepped down from the podium, she moved through the congratulatory crowd toward him. "House, my office. I need to talk to you."
His blue eyes met hers. "Is that a request or an order?"
"Since when do you take orders?"
"I took one this morning," he said pointedly.
She flinched, but she knew she deserved it. "Did you diagnose the patient?"
"Yes. It took me going to his house myself to show the Scooby Gang what they'd missed, but he's on the correct treatment now. So my quota is filled for the week. Can I go home?"
"After we talk in my office." She started that way, and he followed along.
"Good job with that insurance company," he said. "Calling their bluff. I knew you could do it."
She warmed at the compliment, but his last words, although not accusatory, sent a pang through her. He had had confidence in her. She had had none in him, and she had left no possible doubt of that publicly in front of his team.
They arrived at the office, and she walked in and sat down at the desk, indicating one of the chairs in front. He sat down, flinching slightly as he stretched out his leg. The personal home search today had been hard on him. He was silent, though, waiting for her to start.
"House, I'm sorry," she said. "I jumped to conclusions. And even if I hadn't, I never should have shamed you in front of the team like that. I should have asked to talk about it privately."
His eyes told her that the apology did mean a lot, even as his words predictably dodged. "At least Foreman got the chance to compare notes, shall we say. Maybe he won't think he can fill my shoes or my any other article of clothing so easily in the future." She half smiled, acknowledging the quip. House dropped the joking tone. "What was going on?"
"I discovered this morning that orders on Vicodin alone had been doubled after being authorized, with the additional quantity dropping quietly out of inventory."
He got his differential look now. "That would have to be somebody who regularly had access to the paperwork as well as the meds."
"I know, I know. And the pharmacist continued the audit and discovered it's being going on for 6 years. I thought it was just a few recent shipments and rushed off to accuse you before I had all the information."
"Gayle, the pharm tech," he stated. Not a question, but a statement in the same tone in which he gave diagnoses.
Cuddy was almost startled out of her guilt. "HOW did you know that?"
"Easy. She's a sociopath. Of all the pharmacy staff, she is totally the best candidate to be dealing on the side. And NO, I haven't bought from her. Not recently, not in the past."
Cuddy shook her head, amazed again at how perceptive House was, at how much he knew about everyone in the hospital and their habits and personalities. "I believe you. I'm sorry, like I said. I just got a confession from Gayle, and I was heading for the elevator to go apologize to you when I found out about the insurance contract."
He shrugged, offering her a way out. He really didn't enjoy seeing her wallow in guilt. "It was a reasonable first diagnosis to rule out."
"Even so, it shouldn't have been ruled out like I did." She sighed. "What you said, though, that if I wanted to know how rehab was going, all I had to do was ask. You made me realize that I haven't been asking lately. I haven't been asking at all. I don't think I've ever told you since Mayfield how proud I am of the effort you're making, House." He looked down, fiddling with his cane. "I'm sorry, not just for this morning, but for the last months. I should have been a more supportive friend than I was." She leaned forward a bit over the desk. "Honestly, House. Please tell me how you're doing. I want to hear, not because I don't believe you, but because I care about you."
Before he could speak, her cell phone rang. She picked it up, looked at the display, then ignored it, and one Housian eyebrow raised. "It's Lucas," she said. "He'll wait. I need to be a friend right now a lot more than I need . . . Anyway, he can take a number. Please, House. How are you?"
His luminous blue eyes warmed her all over again. When had they lost the friendship they'd both valued so much? She realized with a twinge that it wasn't when he had gone to Mayfield but when he had come back, and it wasn't his actions but hers that had driven a wedge between them. His voice interrupted her thoughts. "I'm . . . managing. Some days are worse than others, but between nonnarcotic pain meds, hot soaks, and massages, I'm staying on top of it. I'm still attending therapy, and I am drug-tested by Nolan occasionally, by the way. When it gets tough, I try to distract myself, even try talking to somebody. Wilson, Chase, a janitor. They don't know why, but it helps. I'm . . . doing okay."
She smiled at him. "Thank you. And again, I'm sor. . ."
He held up a hand. "If you're starting to repeat yourself, time you went home. You've had a rough day."
She accepted his dodge. "We both have."
He waited just outside the office door as she switched off the lights. "Good job today," he repeated. "I'm proud of you."
"Thank you. And House, even though I haven't said it enough, I am proud of you, too." He turned away, but she saw the appreciation in his eyes and in the set of his shoulders.
Side by side, they left the hospital, a long and trying day now over.