And now, for something COMPLETELY different. This little one-shot was written (mentally) just after Lockdown aired, but I hadn't bothered to write it down, because I was totally wrapped up in Onslaught, and while I like this story, I thought the Vicodin trip scene it springs off of was easily the low-point of Lockdown, yes even lower than 13's plot. Totally unrealistic medically and totally OOC for Foreman and Taub. Yet while agreeing, my muse grabbed onto it anyway and refused to let go. Anyhow, here's that short one-shot, the only other House work I'd had at the moment mentally. No ships whatsoever of any sort, and I have never written a Foreman story in my life. Prior to this one, I would have bet I never would. But it did feel good to do a followup on that scene and smack fictionally that fake high smirk off Foreman's face. I'm forced for plot purposes to perpetuate briefly that episode's medical errors with Vicodin, but this high comes down very fast, as Foreman will discover. Many other characters seem OOC or near parodized, but read to the end before you condemn them.
To Get into His Head
Foreman opened his apartment door and walked in. His body was still almost thrumming with the remnants of unaccustomed euphoria, his tight muscles relaxed, his usual blank features still wearing a smile. Tonight had been - fun? Odd to think of it that way, since fun had not been allowed any part in his life since he determinedly left his early background behind. He didn't want to have fun; he wanted to be a success. He wanted people to respect him. He wanted them to see his accomplishments. Fun wasn't on the agenda.
But yes, tonight had been fun. He and Taub ought to -
Sufficient barriers remained to slam down across that opiate-influenced track. No, they shouldn't do it again, and if anybody ever found out about this, Foreman would deny it and would no doubt be believed. He thought he was safe with Taub, but nobody else ever could know. And no, he wouldn't do it again.
But it had been fun.
He pulled out a beer from his fridge, hesitating as the foolishness of mixing alcohol and residual opiates struck him, but then he thought how often House had done it. Tonight, and tonight only, he'd let himself go. He settled down in his recliner and fished up a movie on TIVO, not wanting to go to bed yet even after the extended day, wanting to enjoy this delicious numbness sweeping through his veins as long as he could. But his body wasn't any more used to this than his mind was, and long before the movie ended, before he had finished his third beer, Foreman was sound asleep, mouth dangling slackly, snoring in peaceful chemical bliss.
He didn't know how much later it was when he woke up abruptly with the feeling that he was being watched. Always image conscious, his first thought was to close his mouth, compose his features, and straighten his shirt before looking around to place the source of that feeling. When his eyes finally focused on his silent sentinel, he came straight up out of the chair.
Gregory House stood in the corner, looking at him, those blue eyes almost unnaturally bright, drilling through Foreman like lasers. "You want to get into my head?" he asked, and then he laughed, the sound of a mad scientist, a sound that made Foreman cringe as House approached. Foreman was hardly a small man, but House loomed far over him and more the closer he came. Foreman cowered, unable to help it, as House bore down on him. "You want to get into my head? Well, don't do it halfway. Here, homey." He shoved Foreman back down into the chair, pressed his cane into Foreman's hand, and then turned, suddenly not limping anymore. With a chuckle of half malice, half delight, he practically skipped his way to the door and left the apartment.
Foreman stayed in the chair until his ragged breathing and pounding heart came reluctantly under his control. Then he stood to go lock the door and prevent any further intrusions by his crazy boss.
At least he started to stand. A white lightning bolt of pain suddenly flared through his right thigh as he put pressure on it in his movements to rise. Foreman couldn't hold back a whimper of pure pain at the suddenness of it. What the holy hell was that? He fell back into the cushions, breathing accelerating again. Okay, okay, calm down. Probably a fluke. It was still aching, though, a deep, grinding ache. He once again started to rise, and the lightning bolt returned, striking twice in the same place. Foreman collapsed into the cushions again. Slowly, afraid of what he'd find, he reached for his right thigh and explored its contours with his hand.
It was gone. The symmetry, the correctness, the structure had been replaced by a gaping crater. With a gasp, Foreman fumbled urgently for his fly, unzipping his pants and working them off, gritting his teeth at the pressure required to even lift up his hips enough in the chair to slide the pants down. He stared in horror at the new topography of his thigh, a landscape of peaks and valleys. It was ruined. Utterly ruined. Forever.
"No," he whispered in protest, somehow moved beyond a shout. "No. It can't be. I'm still high. I'm dreaming. I'm -"
The phone rang just then, and he glared at it. Across the room, seven or eight easy steps, or should have been. He worked his pants back up over his hips, suddenly desperate to conceal that ugly scar from himself as well as from the world. He couldn't stand to look at it anymore. It was literally making him nauseous. The leg stabbed him like an electric cattle prod every time he shifted, and the phone continued to ring.
"I'm working on it, damn it!" he shouted suddenly. Pants back on, fly quickly zipped, he tried again to arise, this time bracing against the cane, trying to keep pressure off the right leg. He lurched up awkwardly, and the damn thing still hurt more at the motion, but at least he made it to his feet that time. Across the room, the phone went through to the answering machine.
"Foreman!" It was Cuddy, irritation dripping from her tone. "I know you're there. Pick up the phone. I don't care if you're hungover or not, pick it up."
"I'm trying," Foreman protested. The leg stabbed him every time he put that foot to the ground. He switched the cane from his right hand to his left, seeing if that would help. Surely something would help. It didn't, though. Finally, he reached the phone and snatched it up. "Dr. Cuddy, I'm . . ."
"What took you so long?" she snapped. "It doesn't take that long to answer a phone."
Except when it honestly did, between getting out of the chair and walking across the room. "I was trying," he protested.
"Try harder. Get your lazy ass in here, which you should have done two hours ago. You have a case."
"What about House?" he asked.
"House? You mean your house? Well, you will have to leave it to come to the hospital. That's why we call it a house and not work."
"No, I mean Dr. House. Why aren't you calling him?"
"Who's Dr. House?" Cuddy asked, sounding honestly confused.
"He's . . . wait a minute, you know him." Foreman reached up quickly, feeling his jaw, feeling the stubble, suddenly noticing his casual clothes. "Oh, God."
"Dr. Foreman, you have twenty minutes to sober up and get to the office, or your clinic duty is doubled for this week."
"But I . . ."
"See you here." Cuddy snapped the receiver down, and Foreman stood on his end holding the phone in shock. This couldn't be happening. This couldn't be happening. He couldn't have replaced House. Well, of course he wanted to replace House, but not actually to replace House.
Twenty minutes. He limped to the bathroom, still gritting his teeth every time his right leg touched down. No time to shower. He found a Vicodin bottle in the medicine cabinet and gulped down two urgently, needing something to take the edge off. He kept waiting for them to kick in the whole time he was getting ready, but they sat in his stomach like placebos, and his leg laughed at him. The final stage of getting ready, putting on his shoes, turned into its own major production. He wound up having to go back to the chair, sit down (the process of which made the thigh pulse almost as badly as standing up did), then carefully bend over to do each shoe. And then climb back up out of the chair laboriously again.
The phone rang just as he made it to his feet. He limp staggered across to pick it up. It was Cuddy again. "All right, your twenty minutes are up. What the hell are you still doing there?"
"I've been working on getting ready," he insisted, pleading for her to believe him
"It doesn't take that long. Get in here. I've got a case, and your clinic hours are doubled. If you aren't here in another twenty, they're tripled."
"But . . ."
"You're wasting time," she said, and hung up.
He turned too quickly toward the door and gasped as his leg tried to buckle. Stumbling, he caught himself on a piece of furniture. What on earth were the Vicodin doing? He took another two to remind the first two of their purpose in life, and he hobbled out, aware that he wasn't his usual pressed, neat self but without energy as well as time to care.
It took a few minutes just to get into the car, to work out the procedure that hurt least after concluding that no method at all would be painless. Once at PPTH, he was glad to see the handicapped spot waiting near the door. Even so, the distance between car and hospital loomed like a marathon. Cuddy stood waiting at the door, watching with pure unsympathy. "And twenty," she announced, looking at her watch as he struggled the last few feet. "Your clinic hours for this week are tripled."
"But I was . . ."
"Wasting time as usual, I'll bet. What were you doing since I called?"
"Getting ready," he insisted. "I was going as fast as I could."
"Then learn to go faster," she said. She slapped the blue folder into his hands. "The team is waiting upstairs. Get to work."
The team. He limped across the lobby to the elevator and took it up to the fourth floor, pausing outside the office to read the lettering on the glass. Eric Foreman, Department of Diagnostic Medicine. He'd dreamed of seeing those words there, but now, it was a nightmare.
Chase and Taub were around the conference room table, and they looked up as he limped in. "Cuddy's on your case," Taub said. "As usual. Can't blame her; you've been late every day this week."
Chase looked at him. "You look like you need some hair of the dog."
"No, I just need these damn pills to work." Foreman pulled out the Vicodin bottle, but a hand closed over his wrist from behind him. He turned to face Wilson.
"Foreman," the oncologist said, chocolate eyes brimming with sympathetic psychoanalysis, "you know what the real problem is. And it isn't your leg."
"Really?" Foreman snapped, feeling ready to do a self-amputation with a pocket knife by this point. "Then enlighten me. What the hell is it?"
"I know it's difficult facing the fact that one of your team members no longer wants an after-hours relationship with you. Just be aware that the worst pain is in your heart, not in your leg."
Foreman stared at him in disbelief. "You seriously think that THIS" - he indicated his thigh - "is because Thirteen broke up with me?"
"Oh, I know you've got legitimate medical history," Wilson continued, "but really, it isn't as bad as you make it out to be. You're feeling guilty, because you know you were wrong, but you can't admit it. So your leg hurts."
At that moment, Thirteen herself walked into the conference room. "Patient's crashing," she announced. "Oh, good. You finally decided to join us."
"I came as fast as I could," Foreman protested yet again.
Thirteen gave her silently condemning smirk and turned to lab results in the chart, rattling off the latest. Everyone in the room, Wilson included, looked at Foreman when she was done.
"So what's wrong with him?" Chase asked.
"I haven't even had a chance to look through the patient history and all the chart yet," Foreman objected.
"Not that that's ever stopped you before, but take your usual 10-second chart review, then," Taub suggested.
"I can't completely review a chart in 10 seconds," Foreman protested.
"Sure you can," Chase replied. "You do all the time. So what's wrong with him?"
"I don't know! Give me a few minutes." Foreman dropped into a chair, unable to keep standing. His leg felt like an electric cable, pulsing and arcing. He pulled out the Vicodin bottle. Immediately, Wilson shook his head, making a tsk tsk noise, Thirteen's silently condemning smirk widened, Taub looked overly matter-of-fact, and Chase gave a "didn't see anything here - or we'll just pretend that" Aussie smile.
Foreman's fist slammed down on the table. "I'm in PAIN, damn it. This isn't because of a bad break up or to make a point; I just want my damn leg to stop hurting!" He gulped down two, but there was no pleasant euphoria surging through him now. The beast gnawing at his leg continued its efforts with appetite unabated.
Pagers went off simultaneously, and everyone checked them. "Patient really crashing now," Taub noted. "So what's wrong with him?"
"I don't know!" Foreman objected.
Chase shook his head. "Breaking up with Thirteen has knocked you off your stride, Foreman."
"What stride?" Foreman blazed back at him. "I don't HAVE a damn stride anymore." He tried to control his breathing, tried to settle back into impassivity as usual, but it was hard with a pit bull locked into the muscles - or lack thereof - on his right thigh.
Wilson shook his head. "Irritability, too. You really need to take less Vicodin; the pills are affecting your personality."
"No, the pain is affecting my personality," Foreman snapped.
Pagers went off again. "Patient coding," Chase said, and the team bolted out of the room at a run. Foreman painfully lurched to his feet to limp after them. Wilson reached out to touch his arm.
"We aren't finished with this conversation," the oncologist said. "You really need to sort out your feelings about Thirteen and get over this."
"Wilson," Foreman snapped, "shut the hell up." He stagger-limped as quickly as he could to the patient's room, gritting his teeth every time the leg came down. He got there just in time to see Chase and Taub desperately performing CPR. Thirteen looked up at him.
"You have ten seconds to figure out what's wrong with him," she notified him. He gaped at her. "Too late," she concluded, still conversationally, and behind her the code was called.
Foreman shook his head. "I can't just come up with it like that. I'm not House!"
The whole team stared at him blankly. "Who's House?" Taub asked.
"I'm not House!" Foreman insisted. "I'm not House. I'm not House. I'm not House."
His eyes snapped open as his phone rang. He was in his own chair at his apartment. Almost in slow motion, waiting for the shark to bite, he stood up from the chair, then smiled, then smiled more widely. He sat down. He stood up again. He sat back down. He leaped vigorously out of the chair with a bound and took four easy running strides to the phone. "Good morning!" he answered. His hand was probing his leg, searching lovingly over the smooth contour of muscle and skin.
Dead silence on the other end of the line for a moment. "Foreman? Are you okay?" It was Chase.
"I'm fine," Foreman replied. He could feel the smile spreading across his face as a feeling of euphoria surged up that left yesterday's Vicodin trip in the dust. He walked a quick circle in the room. Two strong legs beneath him. Smooth, even strides. This was a rush.
Chase gave an Aussie shrug, clearly audible in his voice. "We've got a new case that just came in. I know it's early, but you'd better come on in if you can."
"Did you call House?" Foreman asked, testing the current reality.
"I did, but it went to the machine. He didn't pick up."
"We've got to make allowances for him. I'm sure it takes him longer to get to the phone," Foreman stated.
Chase was stunned into silence yet again. "Riiight," he said finally. Not that he doubted the fact; he just never expected to hear Foreman saying it.
"I'll be in soon," Foreman promised. He ended the call and walked down his hall, then ran down it. No pain. No limp. No struggle. He stopped as he jogged lightly back through his living room and stared at the beer cans, then pulled out the bottle of confiscated Vicodin. If the stuff had given him dreams like that, he never wanted to see it again. He threw away the bottle, followed by the cans, but his hand still kept creeping to his leg for reassurance of wholeness, and the pleasure at each uninhibited stride remained.
At the moment, he was absolutely delighted that he wasn't House. Not that he would tell him that, of course, but he felt a new sympathy toward the curmudgeon doctor. His dream had been bad enough with Vicodin. He couldn't imagine dealing with a disability and pain like that without it. He felt a new appreciation for House's efforts this past year.
Still smiling slightly, Foreman got ready for another day as House's least wanted subordinate in Diagnostic Medicine, and for once, he planned to enjoy every non limping step of it.