Chapter Fifteen: Safe?
House hated that phrase about someone's life flashing before their eyes before they died. The way he figured it, he had been close enough to death more than enough times that he would know if that were true or not.
His life hadn't flashed before his eyes during any of his near-suicide attempts or crazy near-death experiments.
The fact that it seemed to be flashing, or rather flickering like Christmas lights, now, was that he was bored. Not scared anymore, not panicked anymore, but completely and utterly bored.
They'd been basically sitting on their hands for a while now, trying to figure out whether to branch out and try to find Miranda or stay with Neely.
It felt like hours, though it may have been mere minutes.
House thought of Cuddy and Wilson. He replayed times – prank wars with Wilson and those early days with Cuddy where everything had seemed just a little brighter, like the world had gotten a shiny new coat of paint and he could even smell it. Good days. If he came back, if everything was somehow all right again, he'd want it to be like those days.
They kept Neely talking, kept her alert. Tritter kept her bickering.
"I wouldn't even be in this mess if it weren't for you," she murmured. "I hate being in your department."
"Yeah, well," Tritter fired back. "It's a real joy to deal with you every day, too, sunshine."
She laughed and gave him a weak slap on the shoulder.
"You don't even have a right side of the bed. You know that, right?"
"Oh, is that where all the men you sleep with get out? I hadn't realized."
Neely glared at him, before actually smiling.
"Y'know, Detective," she told him. "I could do worse than to die next to you and him." She gestured over to House. "A lot worse."
Tritter looked down, not wanting to reply to her insistence that she – and they, all of them – were going to die. They'd find Miranda. And they'd all get out, somehow.
When he found Miranda, he'd tell her how he felt. No matter how corny of an idea that seemed, no matter how pulled from every stupid cliché movie script, it was what he was going to do.
He was going to walk up to Miranda Bennett and he would tell her…
Tritter was sure he had hallucinated the word. It couldn't be her.
He turned and looked at House, who was surprisingly quiet. Probably exhausted. Maybe in shock. But House's head had turned, too. He'd heard it, too.
Miranda. She was alive.
And then she was wrapping her arms around him, and the fact that it hurt to stand didn't really matter anymore. All that mattered was that she was here. They were all here.
They were all safe.
Or were they?
House rolled his eyes at the two of them.
"Nice reunion," he snarked, "But what we need is a plan."
Tritter swallowed. He would not tear up. Not in front of House.
"Are we staying or going?" House continued. "I feel like a member of The Clash."
Ordinarily, Tritter would have wanted to thrash him, throttle him, punch him in the face. But Miranda had lived, so he felt charitable.
"Let's go," he replied, finally. "No time like the present."
Tritter's attempt for them to "go" turned out to be less than effective, considering there was no easy way to get to what they presumed was the surface.
House was getting fidgety. That was, as fidgety as he could get when he had to keep constantly supporting his bad leg with whatever he could grab a hold of.
He was slowly starting to give up hope. Everything ached. He couldn't concentrate on where he needed to go or what he needed to do. All he wanted to do was sink into sleep. He wanted the pain to go away.
For once, he was with three other people who were in the same boat; not that that helped at all, however. Everything was reds and oranges and eventually his legs, both of them, stopped simply protesting and gave up.
He fell. Collapsed. Crumpled. Found himself looking up at what he would call the ceiling if the building still had such a thing.
He gave up.
The first thought in House's mind was that the light was burning his eyes. That it was searing through them, like a badly done laser eye surgery that would blind him and leave him with another obstacle to overcome or stumble over.
Then he realized that the light was coming from somewhere. That that somewhere was a hospital.
He was in the hospital.
"What the hell happened?" he asked, looking around. Maybe this was a mirage. A hallucination. He was certainly far gone enough for one to make sense right about now.
He heard a voice answering, but he couldn't pinpoint whose voice it actually was for a long while.
Then it hit him. Cuddy.
Her voice was like some kind of rain, after the world's longest drought.
"You were trapped for ten hours." He couldn't quite see her, but her voice was a little hoarse, a little raspy, like she'd been crying.
Crying over him.
"None of us knew if you were going to make it."
House tried to sit up. The second he did, he thought better of it; his head was floating and sinking.
"What about the others?" he settled for asking, looking up at the ceiling that actually was a ceiling this time.
"They're all in the hospital, too," Cuddy explained. "You were all pretty bad off when the rescue team found you… But they said if you hadn't all been in the same place… Well, they didn't know what would have happened." He heard her swallow. He wished he could reach out – but the time had passed for that. Hadn't it?
Then again, he was alive. They were all alive. Maybe that meant that there was time left for a lot of things. A day and a half ago, he would have bristled at the idea of being trapped with Tritter of all people for ten hours.
But he'd survived. He was safe. They were all safe.
And he was home.