A/N: This is not a postep for Help Me. It will not utilize the now-famous 2-minute "finale gimmick" Huddy scene wedged at the end of that episode, nor the absolutely howling, unbelievable error of the entire situation of that episode, having an administrator and a disabled diagnostician working triage at a disaster scene while able-bodied and currently in practice docs remain back at PPTH or are even sent away from the scene. However, it's an interesting little story. The core idea I've actually been tossing around for about a month. My muse tweaked it and modified it after Baggage, starting to tentatively toss it like House's thinking ball, although I couldn't say it was building into a story yet. The idea really took off after Help Me, I think in response to my objection to that whole disaster-scene concept. For time-line purposes, this story begins after Baggage, before Help Me, and we then enter AU. It's more than a one-parter, but nothing like as long as Onslaught. It will ultimately be Huddy, as despite my reaction to Help Me, with the disaster scenario being the last straw of the season, I do like Huddy and would like them to get together (just realistically, please, PTB, with infarcted legs and without superhero crane scene heroics?). This story has nothing at all to do with the Pranks series. Anyhow, here's the first short test chapter of Help Yourself.
Disclaimer: After the above and other comments of mine on season 6, it's clearly redundant to say I don't own House. Nevertheless, I'll say it for form's sake. They aren't mine.
House rolled over with a groan as the sunlight through the window assaulted his eyes. He made a quick look around, verifying that he was actually in the bed he was supposed to be in. It was almost too quick a look around, and his stomach churned in protest. He let his head fall back into the pillow, eyes closing. Maybe if he ignored everything, the world and the hangover both would just go away. No Sam. No Lucas. No Nolan preaching about his real problems. Screw this, he thought again, tossing the thought toward the psychiatrist. I tried. It failed anyway. Happiness was only the reality for other people. The best he could do was escape, which unlike happiness could be purchased at the store. If he ran out, he could go back to buy more. If he broke it, he could replace it with another just as good. Part of him deep inside still suggested that liquor might not be the answer, but it was at least getting him through the last few hellacious weeks, which was more than sessions with Nolan could say.
The phone rang, and he cringed as it reverberated in his head. Fumbling toward the nightstand without opening his eyes, he found the offending instrument, resisted temptation to throw it across the room, and answered. "What?" he snapped, eyes still tightly closed.
He hadn't opened his eyes to look at caller ID, figuring that the light assault would be worse than 2 seconds of notice as to whether he was about to be judged and criticized by Cuddy or Wilson.
"House! Where are you?"
Ah, Cuddy. Should have known. Wilson was probably still wrapped up in morning exercise routine with Sam.
"Princeton, New Jersey," he replied, moving the phone a bit away in consideration for his head. He could still hear her perfectly well.
"I mean, why aren't you here?"
"Oh, should have said so, then. I can't help it if you ask the wrong questions." He cracked an eye again to look at his watch. Shit. 10:30.
"House, get in here. You have a case. An 12-year-old had a stroke."
Both eyes came open at that, the curiosity which was about the only emotion he let himself feel these days pushing his hangover aside. "A 12-year-old?"
"Yes. And tox screen was clean. Now get in here and do your job." She put the receiver down too hard for his aching head, and he flinched.
Okay, first step, he had to sit up. He slowly moved the leg over. It wasn't at all happy, but at least it wasn't in one of its wild animal chewing it fits this morning. Could be worse. Its relative tameness for once left him that much more able to focus on his churning stomach and his throbbing head. How much had he had to drink last night? He was still clothed and had been lying on top of the covers, and he took a quick sniff of his T-shirt. Stale cigarette smoke and whiskey, the smell of any bar. He vaguely remembered staggering out of the apartment to finish filling up with alcohol after he ran out here. He wished Nolan had given him some advance notice of what a jerk the psychiatrist was going to be at that session; if he'd known, House would have stopped to buy more alcoholic supplies while driving to Middletown. Afterward, he'd been too annoyed on the way back. Fake healer, indeed. Sitting there no doubt getting a vicarious thrill from listening to other people's screw-ups and pointing out how far they still had to go to the unattainable goal. Why couldn't Nolan realize that some people just weren't meant to be happy?
With a groan, House stood up. The room wavered briefly but didn't start spinning. Good, he was well past drunk and into hangover. Not that hangover felt better, but at least it was easier to work through. House patted his pocket, verifying that his wallet and his keys were both there. He must have taken a cab both ways last night. With a sigh, he limped heavily toward the bathroom to try to wash away the rest of the alcohol. He barely made it into the bathroom before dropping to his knees - OUCH - in front of the toilet instead.
All this after a year's worth of genuine effort in therapy, too. Straightening up after a few minutes, House rinsed out his mouth and limped over to the shower. Yes, this day was off to a rip-roaring start. Hopefully the case would at least be an interesting one.
The case actually was an interesting one, absorbing House's attention enough that he could almost forget about how much life in general sucked right now. He spent the day chasing down directions with the team, finally solving it himself late that afternoon, and he was almost feeling in a good mood as he packed up his things to leave for the day. He looked up curiously as Cuddy entered the office briskly, holding a sheet of paper in her hands. "Nope, I've already saved one life today. Whoever you have will have to wait until tomorrow."
Cuddy looked at him silently, that reproachful, how much House lets everybody down look that he hated. "What?" he asked.
"I'm sure you know already." She walked a few steps closer to the desk.
"Know what? Lucas is out of the picture?" He tossed it out as a hopeful joke, a rewind mentally to the espresso machine, but she reacted as if he'd hit her verbally, anger replacing disappointment in her eyes.
"You son-of-a-bitch, leave my personal life out of your failures. You have enough yourself to be dealing with right now."
"Once again, what exactly is the topic of discussion here?"
"The hospital did one of the random drug tests after you finally got here this morning."
"I know. I was there. I seem to remember that I even participated." He'd been wrapped up in the case by then and hadn't even produced his usual resigned quip at having to fill the cup. He was used to the tests by now, a condition of his return to practice.
Cuddy stared at him, part of her forced to admire how genuinely confused he looked. Damn, he was good. She slapped the lab report down on his desk. "Your test came back positive for Vicodin."