A/N: I know that "sorry" doesn't even BEGIN to cover the delay here, but know that I really am sorry for leaving this story for (oh my GOD) almost a year. I feel so guilty. The reasons for the delay are as follows: 1) I graduated, started living by myself and was working two jobs, 2) I began a FANTASTIC and AWESOMELY FUN series titled Expect the Unexpected, 3) I found out that Season 7 of House SUCKS, 4) I had a stint in the hospital. Again, I'm very very sorry I left it for this long and I feel terrible. Hope you enjoy.
An hour and a half later, House stood in the observation booth overseeing Chase as he worked. Artie lay facedown on the operating table, out cold from the anesthetic, with his lower back sliced down the spine and held open by the surgeon's assistants. House's attention continually alternated between the view through the booth's window and the TV monitor mounted on the wall showing close-ups of Artie's exposed flesh.
"Hurry it up," House ordered.
"House, I am doing this as fast as I can," Chase said irritably. "I know you think Aussie time runs slower than American time, but it doesn't."
"Yes, it does," House insisted. "There's nothing between the sacrum and the lumber vertebrae?"
"Shut up and watch the monitors, will you?" Chase asked. "I haven't gotten there yet."
House grumbled and rested his chin on his cane as the door opened behind him. Wilson poked his head in and stated, "Cuddy's looking for you."
"Don't tell me you're doing another unauthorized surgery," Wilson said, coming to stand by House at the window.
"Exploratory," House said.
Wilson frowned in surprise and glanced at the LCD screens. "On his spine? I thought he was paralyzed!"
"Then don't you think you should leave his spinal cord alone and let him keep what movement he has left?"
"What person who is nothing like me are you talking to?"
"What are you looking for?"
Wilson's jaw dropped a little. "You think his paralysis is caused by a tumor? House, he was crushed by car!"
"Pure coincidence. Now shut up, this is the good part," House said, gesturing down to where Chase was working. "Anything?" he asked through the microphone.
"Not yet," the Aussie replied.
"Satisfied?" Wilson asked.
"It's there," House insisted.
The door slammed open behind them (Wilson jumped) and Cuddy stormed in. "Did I not specifically state that you weren't to go anywhere near that kid with a scalpel?" she demanded, enunciating each syllable.
"Oh, was that what you said? My bad. Technically, though, it's Chase doing the cutting, so I guess I'm off the hook."
Cuddy scoffed, rolling her eyes as she smacked the switch for the microphone and practically shouted into the OR, "Chase, close him up now."
The Aussie looked confusedly between House and Cuddy several times and finally shook his head in resignation and set about doing as he was told.
Cuddy turned to House, staring at him sternly in the eye and spoke through gritted teeth. "House, you are on a very short leash here. You pull another stunt like this, I'll pull your authorization."
"Chase, stop!" The order came from Wilson, who had relocated closer to the video monitors during Cuddy and House's dispute. "Don't close him up."
Cuddy strode up behind her star oncologist, squinting over his shoulder at the footage of Artie's vertebrae (which was quite a feat, considering how short she was compared to the Boy Wonder). Chase had stopped and was bending closer to the vulnerable spine, trying to see what Wilson saw.
"It's really small, right between the two lowest lumbar vertebrae," Wilson directed. "You see it?"
Chase snatched his tools back from the assistant. "Yeah, I see it." With steady hands, the surgeon pulled back delicate layers of muscle and nerve endings, until, wormed through four of Artie's lumbar vertebrae, was the mass that House had been betting on.
"Somehow, 'I told you so' just doesn't quite cover it," House said to Cuddy.
"You got lucky," she told him.
"I seem to get lucky a lot, you know."
When Artie came around, his head aching slightly, the television was on and the doctor who had so brazenly discovered the tick sat next to Artie's bed. "Dr. House?" Artie said.
"Shh!" the doctor said, not moving his eyes from the TV. "Brooke's about to find out that her dad's not her dad!"
Artie gave him a strange look, but resigned to watching the soap opera in silence. Several minutes later, the show went on commercial break, and Dr. House muted the TV. "So how'd the surgery go?" Artie ventured. "You find anything?"
"Move your toes," Dr. House said.
Artie gave him a strange look. "Dr. House, I'm a paraplegic—"
"Correction: you were a paraplegic," the doctor interrupted. Artie's eyes widened slightly. "We found a tumor growing in your spine. The car accident left your spinal cord intact, but the tumor was pressing on it and your brain lost connection with your legs. The tumor, however, was invisible because of the metal holding your pelvis and lower vertebrae together, and they never thought to look for one. When we gave you the steroids for the Lyme disease, they gave the tumor a growth spurt, and your paralysis moved up as the mass grew." Dr. House stood up and went to the foot of the bed, pulling back the covers to reveal Artie's feet. "We removed the tumor completely. So, once again: move your toes."
Artie's jaw had dropped and he was staring at Dr. House in shock, but he did as he was told. Concentrating, he tried to find that connection that he hadn't felt since he was eight years old, and drew a sharp intake of breath when his toes curled. "Oh, my God…" he whispered. "You – you…"
"Yes, I gave you back your legs," Dr. House said. "No biggie."
The first person Artie called after getting the news is Tina (his parents were told right after he was). He was practically hysterical, speaking in half-sentences and tripping over his words as he tried to tell her that for the first time since he was eight years old, he could feel below his waist. Tina completely freaked out, jumping up and down in the middle of the school hallway (it was between class periods when he called her) and appearing so crazy that Mercedes rushed over from fifty feet away to cry, "What the hell are you going nuts over, girl?"
The news spread like wildfire and within five minutes, the entire club (including Mr. Schue) was gathered in the corridor, crowding around Tina with her phone on speaker as Artie ecstatically answered the hundreds of questions they were firing at him. Eventually Puck snatched the phone and said, "So, can you, like, walk now?"
Artie laughed on the other end. "No, I have to relearn that. But I'm getting set up with a new physiotherapist in Lima now, so I should be able to in a few months."
And even Puck didn't pretend to think that wasn't awesome.