A/N – I'm a confirmed Huddy shipper, despite what you may think after you read this. Since I found the last few minutes of the Season 6 finale difficult to believe, especially given the fact that Cuddy blatantly told House she didn't love him, I just decided to add an odd twist on to what happened after the crane collapse. I wanted to explore what would happen if Cuddy didn't step in when she did, House didn't have a Vicodin stash and he came to work the next day. Since the show is on Monday evenings here in the US, my story starts on the following morning (Tuesday).
10 AM Tuesday morning
Leaning on the everlasting cane a lot more than usual, House lurched his way in through the automatic doors at PPTH to be met by his usual nemesis, the Dean of Medicine.
"You're late!" Cuddy yelled, a little more loudly than she normally would. Patients and staff members looked up in irritation at the loud yelling. The clinic was full to bursting with patients from the crane collapse suffering from minor injuries, and other patients suffering from summer-related conditions like swimmers' ear, acute sunburn, and poison ivy. The mood in the clinic reflected just how overworked and stressed out the staff members were. Cuddy herself was moving with noticeable stiffness. House noticed the powerful, pungent odor of Ben Gay or whatever pain relieving lotion Cuddy had used on herself, which seemed to emanate from every pore of her body. As he tried to make his way past her to get to the elevator, he was blocked by Cuddy and a throng of angry clinic patients waiting for a doctor. House was forced to a wobbly, unsteady standstill. "Yeah, well, my leg is kinda dictating my schedule today. Guess you can't see I'm about to fall over." House shot back at her with an angry scowl and moved past her as quickly as he was able. Trying to dodge Cuddy and a stream of clinic patients who were trying to follow him, Cuddy turned to watch him attempting to make it to the elevator and noticed that something was wrong with his gait. Anger turned to a questioning look as she saw that for every three or four "normal" steps (normal for House anyway), his left leg appeared to buckle and he would lean all of his weight onto the cane. The only thing apparently keeping him upright at all was the cane.
"House, what's wrong?" Cuddy shouted behind his back. The sudden movement of turning around to answer Cuddy upset his already precarious balance and suddenly he was a 6 foot 2 heap of sprawling arms, legs, and cane on the floor.
"Just shut up and leave me alone," he muttered to Cuddy and the crowd of clinic patients, whose looks of frustration at having to wait so long for a doctor melted as they rushed toward him and smothered him with attempts to help.
"Get the hell away from me and leave me alone!" he screamed.
Their looks of pity turned back to looks of irritation again as the nurses and clinic patients walked away. Cuddy rolled her eyes at him and walked away too, as if this were something that happened every day or else maybe he was faking it to avoid clinic duty. Someone could have recognized that he was legitimately in pain, reacting out of embarrassment and silently offered him a hand anyway, but suddenly Cuddy and all the rest of these "concerned" people just ambled away from him indifferently and left him on the floor, to fend for himself.
Embarrassed and humiliated at his predicament, House tried to figure out how he was going to get back up. Normally when a patient gets physical therapy after a disabling injury, one of the goals of physical therapy is to teach the patient how to get back up when they fall (or how to get back in a wheel chair if they use a wheel chair). House, having ditched most of his outpatient physical therapy sessions, never learned the ways physical therapists teach patients with new disabilities to properly get up after a fall so they don't injure some other part of their body in the attempt to get up. He'd developed the bad habit of hopping back up on one leg. Now, that other leg was acting up, and he had no clue how he was going to get off the floor. The cane was fine, and he could reach it thankfully. He put his left leg through some gentle range of motion movements on the floor trying to judge how reliable it would be, and also trying to buy time while he figured out how he was going to get up unaided. Eventually he dragged himself over to the wall and used it for support as he awkwardly made his way up to a vertical position again, back on two feet between the cane and the wall.
Cuddy, and everyone else who just left him to his own devices, were still staring at him, albeit from a distance. The difference is they were no longer staring at him with pity.
Cuddy, standing at the clinic doors, had a look of exasperation on her face, as if House faked the whole scene. Everyone else was staring at him with anger, as if they felt HE was in the wrong for yelling at THEM. Even though there was nobody between him and the elevator, as he made his way alone toward the elevator, he still felt as though he was on stage being heckled by a crowd of angry idiots. Try as he might, he felt like he couldn't get away from them fast enough. Their stares were still burning holes in his back as the elevator doors finally closed.
Hunched over his cane gripping it with both hands and shaking, he thought thank God I'm in here by myself. He hoped that the elevator wouldn't stop on its way to the fourth floor. He was fine as long as the ride was smooth, but with every sudden jerk of the elevator, he was reminded exactly how bad an idea it was for him to get involved in the crane collapse disaster yesterday.
As the elevator doors opened on the fourth floor, House had a nasty suspicion that he was in trouble again. Sure enough, two or three normal lurching steps later, that electrifying pain shot up the back of his left leg again and stabbed him in his left buttock and he went down on the floor again. Foreman and Chase heard the crash and came out to investigate, more with a look of curiosity than anything else. Both being accustomed to their boss' typical refusal of any kind of help, neither of them offered him a hand in getting up. The weird thing about all of this, in House's mind, was that every time he fell, the pain in his left leg stopped. Something about lying balled up on the floor made the stabbing pain in the back of his left leg stop. Well, this was going to be a hell of a day. Foreman and Chase just kept talking about their newest case. They'd seen him like this plenty of times, and thought nothing of conducting a differential with their boss while he was lying horizontal and curled up in a fetal position on the floor. The difference, as Foreman and Chase failed to notice, was that every other time their boss was on the floor, it was in the privacy of the Diagnostics Department offices. This time he was on public display, again, just as he was on the first floor. House had thought Foreman and Chase might be just a tad bit smarter than the idiots (Cuddy included) who ignored his plight on the first floor, but as he looked up at them with a grim-faced silence, he realized his judgment of them was off today. Should I say something or not? he thought. His pride was wounded, and the embarrassment from his earlier fall that had worn off just came crashing down all around him again. He was too embarrassed to ask for help, and they were too used to his refusals of help any other time in the past six years to even think about offering help now. So the awkward and embarrassing differential diagnosis scene just played itself out in front of the fourth floor elevator doors, with House saying nothing but shooting them wicked looks. Chase and Foreman discussed the patient, oblivious to HIPAA regulations prohibiting public discussion of confidential patient information, and even more oblivious to their boss' silent stares. Chase and Foreman walked away with their self-assigned patient-related tasks for the day and House was left on the floor in embarrassed silence, trying to figure out how he was going to get back to his office safely and salvage what was left of his pride.
House had a simple case of sciatic nerve irritation brought on by relying mostly on his left leg to crawl through tons of rubble yesterday and having some of it collapse on him. The sciatic nerve runs up the back of the hip, through the back of the buttocks. For able bodied people, this would typically mean a few days of occasional stabbing pain in the back of one hip while walking, and occasionally having to rely on the other leg until the affected leg heals. It can cause the leg to give out, but it's temporary and goes away on its own. An ordinary disabled person wouldn't even be involved in something like crawling through rubble at the site of a crane collapse. House was no ordinary disabled person, though and now he had a unique problem. Depression, probably even PTSD, kept him from admitting that he was suffering from the after effects of crawling through a collapsed building in an attempt to save Hannah and that he might need crutches or (more likely) a wheel chair for a few days while the temporary injury healed. Never mind the fact that he'd just fallen, right smack in the middle of a public area with everyone gawking at him, twice in the last few minutes. He was even more depressed and embarrassed by the thought that more people would gawk at him if he had to use a wheel chair or crutches. Irrational, yes, but untreated or undertreated depression especially combined with PTSD can make you act or think irrationally. For all his normal bravado, claiming that he didn't care what people thought of him, he had this self-perceived notion that other peoples' interactions with him were influenced by his disability. He always said that he wouldn't be defined by his disability, but deep down, he was defined by how he thought other people reacted to his disability. Some would argue that he had a longstanding depression inadequately treated by Dr. Nolan, and if he didn't have PTSD after the infarction or the bus crash, he certainly had it now, after the crane disaster.
Every time someone ever expressed an interest in him, his walls went up even higher. He was convinced that they weren't really interested in him so much as they pitied him or had some type of ulterior motive; some dishonest or unwholesome reason for wanting to be around him. Most people learn to accept altered body image as they learn to deal with disability; obviously this was still a hurdle for House. All these years later, he still couldn't come to grips with his altered body image, so whenever someone (especially a stranger) expressed any kind of interest in him, even just in passing, he interpreted it as pity or as an attempt to take advantage of him, and shot them down before they could get too close. Even during his stint at Mayfield, none of those so-called mental health professionals picked up on the obvious signs of untreated body image problems and/orPTSD that probably first manifested themselves after the infarction. His hallucinations last year could just as easily have been due to depression or PTSD rather than Vicodin use. He could have continued on a monitored narcotic regimen while in Mayfield, while treating his depression and PTSD at the same time. The Vicodin was now gone, and now after having had a building collapse on him, the only pain medication he allowed himself was a woefully inadequate dose of Ibuprofen. Any other person who'd had part of a building collapse on them while they were digging through rubble to rescue someone else, would be justified in taking adequate pain relief afterward (even if it came in the form of prescribed narcotics) without fear of having other people misjudge them.
Ergo, what should have been just a few days' worth of minor inconvenience for House having to deal with a wheel chair or crutches while the sciatic nerve irritation in his left hip healed, became a complete nightmare.
The nightmare continued Tuesday afternoon when he fell for the third time in one day. After the second fall in front of the fourth floor elevator doors, when Foreman and Chase ignored him, he again dragged his body over to the wall with the intention of trying to get up under his own power. Wilson's assistant, Sandy, saw him in time and silently offered him a hand. House accepted her help. Practically, he knew he probably wasn't going to be able to get up on his own no matter how hard he leaned against the wall.
Having made his way back to his office, he ate some ibuprofen and shut his door and the blinds. Sitting in a certain position took all the strain off the irritated nerve, he noticed, and once he found his comfortable spot in the Eames chair, he wasn't getting up for any reason. He didn't realize that he'd lost his cell phone down the elevator shaft. It popped out of its leather holster and dropped down the crack between the elevator door and the floor when he fell exiting the elevator.
So after calling him about 15 times on his cell phone and getting no reply, Cuddy called his office phone incessantly. The office phone wasn't close enough to his Eames chair for him to be able to answer it in time. Cuddy thought he was being his typical asinine self, avoiding clinic duty at all costs and irritating her in the process. House was simply trying to avoid falling again trying to get to the phone in time to answer it. Cuddy gave up trying to call him and stormed up to his office. She saw the darkened room, the closed blinds and the closed door, and stormed in through the door expecting to find him naked on a massage table surrounded by candles and hookers.
What she found was even less surprising to her. House was sound asleep in his Eames chair with both legs propped up. The only thing out of the ordinary was a heating pad under his left hip.
"House, get up!" she shouted. "Answer your damn phone! I need you in the clinic now!" she shouted again. He looked at her with a cynical snarl, pointed to the heating pad, and said "I told you, my leg is dictating what I can and can't do today. I guess I should have specified WHICH leg. Apparently, the facts that I crawled around in rubble yesterday, had a ton of it fall on my shoulder, that I'm walking like a drunken Frankenstein today, that I fell twice on my ass and that I have a heating pad under my LEFT butt cheek aren't obvious enough for you. Go away."
"House, what's wrong with you?" Cuddy asked with a sudden show of concern. Is she freaking kidding? House thought. She can't be that ignorant. Whether her look of concern was sincere or not, House couldn't tell. He said "Go ask Sandy. Apparently she's the only one with enough functioning neurons in her brain to figure out that someone with a disability who crawled through tons of rubble yesterday, had part of a building collapse on him while trying to rescue a patient who died anyway, came to work the next day in spite of everything else, and fell on his ass twice within a few minutes, needs a helping hand. What I don't need is for you to feel guilty like you always do. You can wipe that fake look of concern off your face. Please move my phone over here where I can reach it and leave." Cuddy wheeled around and stormed back out again. House got up to move his office phone closer to the Eames chair when the electric pain shot up his left buttock again and his left leg gave out. For the third time in the same day, House was sprawled out on the floor. This time he was alone in his office with the blinds and the door closed, the lights off, and no way to reach the phone or get help.