(Revised) Post Bombshell
Readers, my apologies for posting the wrong version of Aftermath's Ch. 1 Shell-shocked. In my hurry, I posted an incomplete version. The version below was revised and completed. Please re-read for slightly different directions in the story. Thanks for your patience and I apologize for the inconvenience.
She rolled over in her bed and stared through bleary eyes swollen from crying. The clock's time slowly came into focus. 3:38 am. Cuddy laid back against her pillow and allowed her left arm to slide over his side of the bed, remembering what he looked like asleep between her sheets. Her eyes filled with tears as a large, hard knot rose inside her throat. It hurt so much. The void. Knowing he wasn't ever going to lay beside her again.
She felt the bile rising in her chest as she raced for the bathroom and nicked her shoulder against the edge of the door frame. It would most certainly leave a bruise. She could barely see straight but made it to the bathroom sink before heaving the entire contents of her stomach. Mostly liquid bile. She felt empty in every possible way.
Turning the warm water knob, Cuddy filled her hand with enough water to wash her bitter lips. She stared at her reflection in the mirror above the sink and was shocked at what she saw. A lifeless woman stared back with the saddest grey eyes she'd ever seen. Was it possible to look as bad as she felt? Yes. She turned the water off after rinsing out her sink and headed back to bed. She took comfort in knowing she wouldn't have to see him today. Her kidney surgery allowed her time off to heal at home. Still, In less than a few hours she'd either hear from Wilson about the break-up or from House if he tried to change her mind. She knew she'd have to see him at the hospital and the thought of it made her curl up into a fetal position.
How did this happen? Why couldn't they just be happy together? Why did he have to negate everything? He wasn't there for her in the good times and the bad. He missed the award event last week, he avoided her when she was terrified of possibly having cancer. He let her down again and again. He was a nightmare and it took nightmares for her to see that clearly, that House would always leave her alone to fend for herself.
She wanted to hate him but Cuddy was too hurt to do anything more than mourn the loss of what could have been. She would eventually have to deal with him and the disappointment. It would hurt like hell to see him, now more than ever if he was back on vicodin. She hoped he would avoid her today and her office when she returned, let her have the space she needed to heal her raw emotions.
She closed her eyes and bit her lip hoping to distract herself for a microsecond of the internal misery coursing through her heart and mind. She'd get through this. She had too, for Rachel's sake. Cuddy was strong. That's what everyone said and most times they were right. But, right now, Cuddy was devastated and no one and nothing could fix this. The pain of the break-up overrode any relief to celebrate the good news of a benign tumor. The surgery incision in her back was tender and she'd need to change the bandages and Julia or the nanny would help her with that. She wanted it to be House but ….. She felt hot tears sliding down her face. She tried to force herself to not think about him but it was impossible.
Instead, her mind's eye wandered over to House's apartment. She let herself in mentally and closed his front door. She could see herself there as she'd glanced throughout his place and likely see the empty bottle of scotch on the coffee table and the hole in the wall between his two guitars. Knowing House, he would have punched the wall. Maybe to find a hidden stash of vicodin, or to vent his anger at her or at himself for sliding back into drugs. She simply couldn't stop crying. The pain she felt inside was too intense. She visualized what he might be doing. Then she saw him.
House was stretched out on his bed, bare chested and lying on his back, eyes wide open as if in shock. She could imagine him catatonic. Unanswered voicemails on his cell phone causing the message light to flash green in a steady pulse. He'd ignore it. That was how he dealt with things. Avoidance.
Cuddy didn't know what hurt more. The disappointment she felt in House ruining everything or the knowledge she had caused him so much pain after he begged her not to break up with him? She grieved for both reasons and for the realization he'd be an absence in her life and in her bed. She felt insignificant, miserable and dead inside.
She closed her eyes and prayed for sleep. She need to escape this new dismal reality without him in her life. "Please just don't let me dream," she whispered aloud.
The phone rang loudly beside her bed at 7:30 am sharp. Cuddy stared at the phone and couldn't bring herself to answer it. It could be House. It could be Wilson. But it could also be Julia. Cuddy realized the phone had stopped ringing and had been answered. Cuddy lifted the receiver carefully and listened. It was Julia and Wilson!
"...he's not answering his cellphone so I figured he was at Cuddy's place." Wilson said.
"House isn't here...anymore," Julia replied.
"What? Anymore?" Wilson was caught offguard.
"Cuddy's asleep right now." Julia added quickly.
"Good. She needs to take care of herself and rest. I'll stop by later today to check up on her and make sure everything's healing properly," Wilson said. "Uh...about House….did you say 'anymore'?"
Julia stalled, unsure of what to say knowing Cuddy's penchant for personal privacy but this was James Wilson she was talking to.
"Julia?" Wilson prompted. "Are you still there?"
"Yes, I'm still here. You really need to talk with House after last night," Julia blurted out.
Cuddy held her breath as she held her hand over the receiver. The pauses in their conversation felt like an eternity.
"Did something happen last night?" Wilson sounded alarmed.
"Something pretty bad." Julia admitted.
Wilson felt fear in his stomach. "To Cuddy or House?"
"Both. They broke up." Julia sounded angry. "She's a wreck and God knows what that idiot will do!"
"Oh God! Why? What the hell happened?"
"James, I've told you too much. Maybe Cuddy should tell you. Why don't you …."
"Julia, please just tell me what happened!" Wilson was pleading.
"All I know is that House is using drugs again and Cuddy found out and broke it off with him."
Wilson was speechless. He knew Cuddy had to be devastated. He knew House was either insane or a train wreck himself over the split. He had to find him now.
"Julia, Julia...I'm going to find House and make sure he's okay and after that, I'll come see Cuddy, okay?
"Fine," Julia mumbled. "I just don't know why House had to screw up everything. He's hurt my sister so much that I don't really want to see him back in her life. I want her to be happy."
"I understand you. I'm just as confused as you are but these two are ruined by each other for anyone else. You know that don't you?" Wilson defended his friend despite House's undeserving behaviors. "You take care of Cuddy, I'll take care of House."
Julia felt little sympathy for House. "Whatever, just don't let him come over here." With that she hung up.
Cuddy quietly returned the phone to its cradle and lay back in bed wondering what Wilson would find when he finds House. She closed her eyes and waited for Julia to come check on her.
Wilson sat stunned. Julia could have gotten it wrong. Maybe House and Cuddy just had a fight and Julia thought it was over. He knew better. If House had a relapse and was back on drugs, it would crush Cuddy. He knew what that felt like. This had to be about Cuddy's surgery and House screwing it up by leaving her all alone to face it by herself. If anything, Wilson recognized a pattern, especially House's patter of shitty behavior.
Wilson grabbed his keys, briefcase and coat before heading out the door in a hurry. He had to find House before House did something stupid.
Wilson parked his car outside House's apartment building and scanned the street looking for House's car and motorcycle. The car was there. The bike was not. Not a good sign. Wilson knew House wasn't home but he figured he had to check the apartment. Maybe he could find out where House went.
It took a few minutes of high pressure discussions with the building's super to get the elderly man to open House's apartment and let Wilson in. Wilson glanced around and did a quick tour through the place. House was definitely not there. Wilson sat on the couch and thought. If I were an idiot drug addict where would I go after my girlfriend dumped me?
Wilson reasoned through several ideas and realized House would not go to the hospital. He would not go to Cuddy's home - to much humiliation. He would not go see Wilson for the same reason. Where the hell would he go? Where the hell did he get the drugs? Wilson got up and processed the room. There was alcohol - scotch in the bottom of a glass on the coffee table. The bottle was empty, on its side on the floor under the table. Shit.
Wilson checked the kitchen. Nothing. He checked the bedroom. The bed was unmade. Good. At least he slept here. Checking the bathroom Wilson found it undamaged. If House was back on vicodin, he'd likely have the pills with him. Useless to search for it here. Wilson wrote a note and propped it up on the flat-screen TV. It read:
House, I know about the drugs and Cuddy leaving you. Call me. Don't do anything stupid. Wilson.
Wilson locked the door behind him and left. Where would House go? The bars are closed. Wilson would drive around for a while knowing it was pointless but he had to look for his friend. House had to be somewhere.
Julia peeked in on Cuddy who was lying motionless in bed, eyes still closed. "Are you awake?" Julia asked softly. Cuddy's eyes fluttered.
"The phone woke me," Cuddy replied with her eyes still closed.
Julia walked in and sat on the bed, reaching for her sister's hand.
"Is Rachel…." Cuddy began.
"She's fine," Julia reassured her. "Marina's here. She's got her."
Cuddy relaxed a little as her sister stroked her hand. "How's your back?"
Cuddy rolled toward Julia and felt a small pain over her kidney from the surgical incision. "Not too bad...still sore."
"That's normal, right?" Julia wasn't a doctor but knew Cuddy would tell her if something was wrong. Cuddy nodded. Julia took stock of her sister's swollen, sad eyes.
"That was Wilson on the phone," Julia said gently.
"I know. I heard the whole thing," Cuddy interjected.
"Are you mad at me?" Julia held her breath.
"I told Wilson what happened, about House and the drugs and…."
Cuddy felt tears welling up and was powerless to stop them. "I heard."
"Wilson is going to come over soon after he finds him," Julia tried to comfort her sister but knew nothing could.
"He's not going to find him," Cuddy said bluntly. "Not at the apartment or the hospital."
"How do you know?" Julia said out of curiosity but aware too late of the sting in the words.
"I just do, I always …" Cuddy's face crumpled and she began to cry. Julia tried to hug her and ended up stroking her hair.
"I'm staying here with you, today, okay?" Julia whispered. Cuddy nodded and squeezed her sister's hand.
Dear Readers, again, please accept my apology for publishing the wrong and incomplete version earlier of Aftermath's first chapter. I will update this soon and I appreciate all the wonderful reviews and comments so far. Hope you stick with the story!