Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. Though I definitely wish they weren't Shore's either.
A/N: Written for Tammy (KoshIII) for the House_Cuddy LJ Community's Huddy Secret Santa. I apologize for the long wait, sweetie!
First of all, I would like to express my endless appreciation and gratitude to my betas/whiteboards for this long-ass fiction, the wonderful Penelope S Cartwright and Maya :) If ever I meet you guys in person, I shall buy you shitloads of coffee for putting up with the word count and my questions and doubts, et al! xD Also, a big warm thank you to the people who have helped with certain parts of this: Brittany aka ToledoGirl, Reena aka Katheryn Mae, Zosia The Incorrigible aka the infamous Oc7ober, and last but not the least, the awesomesauce vidder/writer Alessandra aka AleTheHouseWife (for advice on some stuff you will encounter later on in the story).
Without the help of these incredible and kind people, this fiction wouldn't be here for your reading pleasure! Read their stories, people! They are all amazing writers! Except for Zosia. We have yet to convince her to write her own Smut at least.
Happy new year to all my readers!
May each and every one of you have a happy and prosperous 2012!
Timeline & Synopsis: During "After Hours". No green-card marriage. Masters is still around. No smut, M-rating just to be safe. I apologize if there are errors with the medicine, I (sadly) rely mostly on online data.
This was supposedly a oneshot, a mini-novel of sorts, but I had to comply with the deadline. So I chose to cut it off at a part where it will work as a standalone fic with or without the next part.
19,ooo+ words for you to savor and enjoy! Happy New Year!
THE GREATEST UPHEAVAL
Everything was spinning before his eyes, rendering him unable to move an inch from where he was. Not only had his world tilted off its axis and drifted through nothingness the past few weeks, but he had also become desperate to search for whatever semblance of contentment and happiness he'd felt before his relationship with Cuddy fell apart.
He'd been so desperate, he thought to himself in disgust.
Once more he tried to get up on his feet, but he failed again, slumping against the wall beside him.
With a trembling arm he reached for his cell phone and speed-dialed multiple people.
In the end he'd had to resort to dialing 911—his last option.
He was already unconscious by the time the paramedics burst through the door.
"Where is he?" Cuddy urgently yet composedly inquired the front desk upon her entrance. She'd been able to enlist Marina's help to watch Rachel and get in touch with Wilson on her way to the hospital.
Being woken up at an ungodly hour by a phone call about her needing to make a decision about House… She couldn't recall being so terrified about anything.
"He's in surgery, Dr. Cuddy," the receptionist answered her and pointed her to which OR.
Cuddy's gratitude was barely heard since the Dean of Medicine quickly made her way towards the man who never failed to bring her a step closer to growing gray hair. She hadn't even heard the receptionist finish telling her the room number.
Her heart raced the closer she got to where he was. Her thoughts followed the pace her heart had set, leaving her even more breathless and dizzy from the emotions taking hold of her person.
If it came down to it, she would have to decide whether or not to allow the doctors to amputate his leg.
She would be handed the question of whether or not to change his life forever. Again.
And it didn't even matter whether or not the change would be—to her thinking—for the better, because if she did decide to have them amputate, he wouldn't think the same. If she did allow it, he would hate her forever. And as she practically ran to the observation room she thought that hate wouldn't even come close to the anger and hatred he would harbor for her from thereon.
She was going to have to be prepared to lose the most incredible man she had ever known, because if House's leg was amputated she would never, no matter how hard she'd try, get him back.
What she could only hope for was that amputation would not be needed and that, in the event of the amputation taking place, he'd somehow find himself once more and decide that a prosthetic would help make his life better. Yes, it would be very difficult at first, it would be challenging for him and his pride, but feeling less pain might be worth it somehow.
When she made it to the observation room, she felt her blood drain from her face and equilibrium left her body when she didn't see House in there. Two OR nurses were left with the task of cleaning everything up. The bloodied sheets ingrained themselves into her memory, the bloodied surgical tools as well.
Legs unable to sustain her weight, she practically fell onto one of the chairs in the room, eyes blankly staring off at a distance.
What she saw shook her to the core and winded her.
She had no decision to make because there wasn't one anymore.
House's amputated leg lying on the tray told her everything she needed to know.
It also shot her with an overwhelming sense of guilt for not reaching him in time.
She was unaware of the tears that had started rolling down her cheeks until she felt a warm hand on her shoulder. She turned her head and saw Wilson's guilt-ridden and depressed face forcing the smallest of smiles to comfort her. But it was pointless.
Wilson handed her his handkerchief then allowed her some privacy by stepping out of the room and leaving her to her thoughts.
It took her the span of fifteen minutes to go from terribly deflated and depressed to full-on enraged.
As she strode out into the hallways of Princeton Plainsboro, Cuddy had but one purpose: Get an explanation out of the doctor who had done the surgery. He should have waited for an authorization!
But Wilson was hot on her trail and before she even reached the elevators, he had gently yet firmly taken hold of her arm.
"Cuddy, I've talked to Stern," he told her, loosening his grip. "He had no choice but to amputate the leg. His decision was not made out of laziness. He knew House's… attachment. He respected it. I'm sorry, but it was the only option."
"Explain that to House when he wakes up," Cuddy pointedly instructed Wilson.
Wilson sighed, knowing she was only stressed out. "They scanned his leg before the surgery. Two more tumors came up. His leg wouldn't have recovered," he told her.
She turned and made her way to the elevators, opting to not let Stern bear the brunt of her ire but instead go down to her office.
Cuddy was torn between leaving and staying; to be there for him when he woke up or give him the space and privacy he would undoubtedly demand when he did.
For once, Lisa Cuddy listened to her heart and as the elevator stopped at her floor and the doors slid open, she turned and made her way to House who had been brought to Recovery.
She froze when her eyes caught sight of the bandage where a great part of his leg used to be. Her fingers trembled as she tentatively reached for the stump. The dreadful reality of House's state became more concrete to her and she found herself unable to fend off the impending tears from stinging her eyes.
House had lost the leg he'd fought so hard to keep.
Her eyes roamed the bandaged area, her fingers lightly feathering over the expanse of it. Her eyes closed as she took a deep breath before looking at his face. This would probably be the last time she'd see it peaceful; she told herself that his mind, numb in a haze, was still unaware of his fate.
After everything he'd gone through for and because of his leg, it still came down to this. She thought about how unfairhe was being treated by life. True, most of what he got he deserved, but truthfully, he didn't deserve most of the things that had happened to him. Alas, as he always used to say: people don't get what they deserve; they just get what they get.
A tear escaped her eyes as she moved closer, her hand coming to rest on top of his. Slender fingers moved to caress his much larger hand before she took hold of it and gave it a firm squeeze.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. She was. Sorry she hadn't been able to answer his call. So sorry she had been too late.
Despite knowing he wouldn't want anyone around when he woke up, she decided to stay by his side. Her decision didn't stem from pity, but from the knowledge that he would need someone. She was going to have to push back if he decided to push her or Wilson away.
Her hand hovered over the crown of his head for a brief period of time before she allowed herself to run her fingers lightly through his disheveled mane, trying to smooth the untamable hair. At the bloom that sprung forth from within her she let out the smallest of smiles, remembering how she had tried fixing his hair once too many times to no avail.
She had missed him so much. She hadn't spoken to him since the night he lashed out at her by trying to marry some woman in need of a green card and invited her to the wedding.
Recalling what had happened, she was thankful he chose to call it off after having seen her reaction. After Wilson had left her in House's bedroom, House had slipped in and apologized. That was all he had said.
Those were the last words he had spoken to her in weeks.
But that night, despite the tears he'd caused her, she'd been reminded of why she loved him and why she'd always harbored hope for him, championed him. Yes, he had intended to hurt her, to lash out at her for breaking up with him, hurting him. But even at the last minute, he chose not to. He loved her enough not to embarrass her in front of her her enough to not hurt her the way she hurt him.
The weeks after, he'd left her alone. He avoided her like she was The Plague—even did his clinic duty so she wouldn't approach him about it.
"I'm so sorry, House." Her lower lip quivered as she caressed his pale face. She stood by his side for a long while, holding his hand in hers. She had nowhere else to be.
She was going to stay with him until he woke up.
House was slowly waking up from what he assumed was drug-induced sleep when what had transpired returned to him. The feeling of both his legs still attached allowed him some space to breathe and recuperate.
Two legs; he still had two legs.
Exhaustion welcomed him back to consciousness. He felt so tired that he didn't bother moving just yet. Slowly, his eyes opened and the blue curtains greeted him.
Instinctively, his hand slithered down to his thigh. Had he the strength he would have shot up on the bed as he felt the absence of the rest of his right leg.
His eyes caught sight of what had once been his leg and he felt his heart stop.
No, no, no, no…
It wasn't happening. Surely he was dreaming. He could feel both his legs.
He had felt two fucking legs!
The air seemed to conspire against him, slowly, torturously restricting him from breathing. His anxiety mingled with the beginnings of anger bubbling inside him.
His hand detached from what he had felt was the bandaged stump as if he'd been burned. His head fell back against the pillow and he stared blankly at the curtain before him, eyes wide and afraid. His heart started thudding against his chest. His ears were ringing. His blood felt as if it had drained from his body. He felt a chill run down his spine. Anxiety and fear took hold of him fully like dogs whose jaws had locked.
Breathing raggedly, he reached for his leg once again and he gasped harshly as the unimaginable truth hit him.
His leg had been amputated.
He exhaled loudly, his body trembling with the strength of the emotions bubbling within him.
He had paid the ultimate price for his inability to accept his disability. He had paid the price for believing he could successfully operate on his leg on his own. He'd been a stubborn, arrogant, and ignorant middle-aged madman.
He wanted to hit himself, to punish himself for what had become of his leg. He wanted to hate everyone who had a hand in the decision to amputate. Most of all, he hated himself. For believing fixing his leg would bring his life back to some modicum of contentment and lack of misery.
In his search for betterment, he had nothing more than the absence of a great deal of his right leg to show for. Admittedly though, his purpose for his search of a solution to a non-problem (in his damaged point of view, his leg had always been the problem) had been tainted and driven by a wrong force. He'd been blind, too blind in fact, to the point that he'd caused himself to be reckless and desperate. Those two things had cost him his leg and he had no one to blame but himself.
He once again felt emotions he'd felt one too many times in his lifetime:
Misery and emptiness.
His breath was still a little ragged as he swallowed the lump that had seemed to form inside his throat. His body shook with anger he wanted to act out on, but didn't. He reclined on the bed and fixed his blank gaze on the ceiling, unable to think of anything but his lack of limb.
The limb that seemed to still be where it was but wasn't anymore.
She had expected him to be somewhat violent. Angry at what had happened to him; angry that it was his own fault. But he was just stoic. He was just lying there, staring at the ceiling. She'd only gone to the bathroom to relieve herself and then tend to some paperwork due that day. It had been the first time that day she'd left him.
She watched him, unmoving in his bed save for the slight tremors wracking his body.
"House?" She called out softly, slipping inside of the curtained room.
"Hi," she greeted, resisting the urge to hold his hand just yet. She held onto the bed's handrails, searching his face for any reaction to her words.
"How are you feeling?" she dared ask after a few minutes of her waiting and him remaining silent.
A few seconds later he spoke in a raspy, bitter yet melancholic voice, telling her, "Like I still have two legs."
Cuddy bit her lower lip, her brows drawing together and her eyes softening as she finally allowed herself to try and comfort him. She reached for his hand and held it in between her own. She was unaware of how he was truly feeling or what he was experiencing, but she knew how pained he was about feeling as if his leg had not been amputated at all. The phantom sensation would be haunting him for a while.
His eyes shut as he tried to savor the warmth she'd just extended. Even if it alleviated the coldness and anger taking up residence in him only a little, he did not pull away. He had yet to feel the onslaught of discomfort and pain as the painkillers were still serving their purpose.
A moment later, he retracted his hand from her warm grip, the reality of their situation coming back to him. He wouldn't allow himself to hold her hand. Not for her own good but for his. He wouldn't be able to take it if he lost her once more. He was all right with her wanting to comfort him as a friend. He didn't want it, but he'd rather that than not have her care at all. He still needed her. But he needed to stay away and not hope.
"House, I'm here," Cuddy whispered, reaching for his hand again.
"Just go," he mumbled, trying to sound gruff.
"Wilson will be—"
"I don't want him in here," he quickly cut her off, adding coldly, "I don't need you or him lecturing me about my life choices."
"I'm not here to—"
"Then why are you here?" he sniped at her impatiently, eyes shooting to meet hers.
"I'm still your friend," Cuddy defended in a calm voice, "Wilson and I care about you."
"Take your care elsewhere, I don't need it. Save it for your daughter," House snapped, making his eyes as steely as he could to reinforce his determination to not let her back in even if it was one of the things he'd give anything he possessed to attain once again.
Cuddy would have retaliated with something akin to remind him that they wouldn't give a damn had his life choices not included dangerous and self-destructive decisions, but she bit her tongue to keep herself from hurting him further by laying it on thick. She would scold him when he was better, but for now she just wanted to be able to be there for him.
She stood up and watched him withdraw stiffly, his beautiful eyes losing their extraordinary gleam.
"Do you really want me to go?" she asked him softly, trying to appeal to his innermost feelings somehow.
House looked at her for a second and looked away. He nodded in affirmation, not knowing whether she saw the hesitancy he was careful not to show.
Cuddy nodded and left the room, leaving him to… wallow in his newfound reason to recoil from them and be miserable once again. Deep inside, she knew she should stay, but she also knew he was going to need some time to himself. To think about how he would want his life to go on from there. And she respected that need.
She left Recovery somewhat hopeful that he did seem to want her to stay. At the same time though she was a bit suspicious of his silence because, unquestionably, he was harboring heavy emotions inside him right now that neededto be let out one way or another.
House watched as she left, sighing when she pulled the curtain close to give him privacy. He wanted her by his side, but he didn't think he deserved when he hadn't been able to stand by her side unaided by vicodin when she'd been was also wary of letting her too close again.
He adjusted himself on the bed, still haunted by the feel of his right amputated leg. Feeling something he knew he would never have again made his eyes sting both from anger and wretchedness. Something even a leg-prosthesis would never be able to replace had been lost to him. He'd fought so hard for his leg, fought so long for it that waking up with it gone made him question who he was supposed to be now; what kind of a man he would become. His leg had defined him for so long that he was lost without it.
He didn't know how long he lay in bed, his stare focused on the bandaged stump. But, at some point, exhaustion took hold of him and he fell into an agitated slumber.
Cuddy found Wilson in his office, reading over a patient's file.
"I half-expected you to be waiting for your turn outside his room," she said, a bit reproachfully, stepping into his office.
"I figured he would want time alone," Wilson said, setting aside the file and sighing.
Cuddy nodded in agreement. "He asked me to leave," she informed him.
Wilson shrugged. "Why would he want you to stay?"
Cuddy shrugged in return, sighing. Her hand swung to the side as she said, "I don't know. I wanted—want to be there for him. He shouldn't go through this alone."
A moment of silence took hold of them until Cuddy spoke again. "You think he could pull through this?" she suddenly asked, turning her head towards the oncologist, her eyes still red-rimmed from the weight of her emotions.
"I don't know," Wilson sighed, "We'll give him time. There are a lot of options for him. If and when he accepts this, with a prosthetic leg he would be able to do the things he hadn't done, couldn't do even, since the infarction. It's all up to him. If he ever accepts this, then I think he has a shot at happiness again."
"This is my fault," Cuddy whispered quietly, almost angry with herself.
"You had a right to break up with him," Wilson reasoned sternly.
"Yeah," Cuddy agreed, but shook her head as she added, "But I shouldn't have allowed him to continue on with his downward spiral."
Wilson didn't speak any further. He felt guilty as well. He was the man's best friend yet he hadn't even put his foot down and help. He squeezed Cuddy's shoulder and sat on his couch.
"When will you talk to him?" Cuddy asked, her voice sounding concerned.
"After lunch, maybe," Wilson told her.
Cuddy nodded. "Do me a favor, Wilson. Save judgmental for later, when he's regained his snark," Cuddy pursed her lips a bit as she watched him about to argue. She rolled her eyes at the oncologist who chose not to reply.
"He's shaken up. He won't admit it, but it's obvious," she told him.
"Why wouldn't he be? For a genius he could be inconceivably stupid," Wilson scoffed.
Cuddy shot him a dark look for which he defensively raised both hands.
"I'd love to give him an earful, but it's not the time, Wilson," Cuddy reminded him with a frown. "He has a long way to go. That is, if he even agrees to therapy, let alone a prosthesis."
"You're right," Wilson acquiesced. "I make no promises though," he added, raising a finger at her in warning.
Cuddy let out a small sneer, rolling her eyes at him. After a few minutes of companionable silence, Cuddy wistfully whispered, "I wish he would pull out of this rut he dug himself into, Wilson."
Wilson's bushy eyebrows furrowed as he studied Cuddy's face.
"What?" Cuddy asked, a bit perturbed by his gaze.
"You want to be here for House, I want to be here for him as well, I understand that. But as what?" he asked suspiciously, cautiously. It was already a big issue that House lost his leg. It would be another if House became too hopeful about Cuddy showing him concern when it could be just that and nothing else.
Cuddy licked her lips before looking Wilson in the eyes and honestly telling him that she truly didn't know what the answer to that question was.
A second later, Cuddy added, "I do… want him back, Wilson."
"Well, you better make your mind up soon, Cuddy. Because I won't let you string him along if you're undecided," Wilson warned her in a light tone.
"I know," she told him, fully understanding how serious the topic was.
"What happened to no moving backwards?" Wilson asked her in a low voice, reminding her of her own words.
"Lately, I've found Rachel and I unable to move forward without him," Cuddy admitted. "She keeps asking for him," she smiled slightly, Wilson returning it.
She was a strong woman. Given time she would be able to move on, but a part of her was reluctant to do so without the incredible, scruffy diagnostician with them. She would never be able to explain the feeling, but with House, even when they fought or argued, it felt right to be with him. It felt right being him she was fighting, arguing, flirting, and being happy with. Being with House made her feel at home—a feeling she never truly achieved with the other men she'd been with before. And Rachel adored him, quite to her surprise.
"Just be sure, Cuddy," Wilson told her, "Don't lead him on."
Another moment of silence passed when an important matter crossed Cuddy's mind.
"We can't leave him in his apartment, at least not until he agrees to a prosthesis and finishes physical therapy."
"He'll shoot the idea of staying with either of us down the moment we suggest it."
Wilson chuckled a bit. "Doctors are the worst patients," he reminded her, making Cuddy crack the smallest of smiles.
"If we do succeed in convincing him, would it be better to have him stay with me or would you rather have him in your apartment?" Cuddy inquired.
"I think it'd be best to let him decide. Give him the control over his life he undoubtedly wants."
Cuddy nodded, knowing that House would be holding on to any shrapnel of control he could. Her heart sank at how things had become. Her chest bloomed with the desire to be with him through yet another dark chapter in his life.
Wilson was about to speak when he was cut off by the sound of his pager beeping. He unclipped the pager from his belt and checked the message.
"Sorry, one of my patients has been rushed in," Wilson excused as he stood up and walked towards the door. "We'll talk more, later," he added as he exited the room in a hurry.
Cuddy sighed as she herself stood up and started to head towards her office. She had to go home for a bit to shower and get changed into actual work clothes.
House was not going to need her any time soon.
"How are you feeling, House?" a voice pulled House out of his thoughts.
House's head shot to the familiar voice, his eyes instantly threatening to melt the surgeon with his stare.
"A bit tempted to forcefully include you in my new amputee club," House snarled through gritted teeth, his eyes glaring at the doctor who felt it necessary to cut off his leg.
Stern brushed off the threat, knowing the man was only lashing out. He was almost used to being the bad guy in his patients' points of view until they'd fully recovered.
"I'm sorry, House, but—"
"Apologizing for your fucking indolence, Stern?" House mocked darkly, his voice slowly rising as his anger started simmering.
Stern was still unmoved but sympathetic, allowing House to let out his anger. He knew the story of House's infarction. "We ran a scan before I decided on the —"
"How kind of you," House commented mockingly.
"I would appreciate it if you let me discuss your case. After that you could give me an earful," Stern told House, still composed.
"I would appreciate it if you take your excuses for your idiocy and leave. Oh wait, no—I'll give you an earful!" House snapped loudly, eyes blazing.
"Ever heard of a consent form?" he asked Stern, body slowly shaking with anger. "Was it that bad that you had to just hack off at my leg like some fucking maniac? Did you enjoy it?" he snarled, sitting up on the bed.
Stern stood there, taking in what House was saying. In a way he understood what the man was going through. He had seen so many people lash out at their doctors because of something they had done.
When House stopped to take a breath, Stern cut in professionally. "It wasn't an easy decision to make," Stern raised a hand to let House know he still had something to say as House was about to cut him off yet again, having taken a much needed breath. "We didn't just decide to cut it off for our convenience, if that's what you're about to accuse me of. And Dr. Cuddy was not part of that decision. She would have exhausted other options. But as I've said, there were no other options."
"Why?" was the only word that escaped House's lips as his need for an answer tore at him. "Why did you think cutting off my leg was necessary? Because I've seen the tumors. You didn't need to chop off my leg because—"
"The new scan showed a couple more tumors in your leg," Stern cut him off yet again and his words made House freeze, "fortunately only in the right leg. We scanned both and the tumors were only present in the right wouldn't have been able to save it if we had wanted to. There was nothing to be done. It was a difficult decision to make, knowing you'd be against it, but it all came down to what would be best for the patient—you."
House looked away upon realizing the honesty in the older doctor's face and still incapable of accepting it.
"You should have waited for my consent!" House suddenly shouted, surprising Stern only a bit.
"And what? Wait for new tumors to grow? Maybe even on the left leg?" Stern inquired, knowing he needed to make the man see reason he knew he was capable of absorbing.
"Yes!" House yelled, his breathing harsh as his right hand gripped the bedrails tightly, his knuckles turning white with the force.
"If those tumors appeared only a few days after your first scan, do you really think we should have waited? If you gave your consent tomorrow or the next day, what if new tumors grew in other parts of your body? Do you think we should have waited?" Stern asked him unsympathetically, eyes daring House to negate what he was saying.
A while later, Stern sighed heavily upon seeing House's shoulders slump a bit.
"I don't care what you did or what you've taken to get those tumors, House. I don't. But you're my patient. I wouldn't have waited until we had to cut off other limbs while knowing what we're up against," Stern told him reasonably.
"I'm sorry if we went against what you would have wanted, but we had to," the older doctor added sincerely, making the man on the bed even more uncomfortable and angry with himself.
"House…" Stern started, his tone morphing into one of concern for a patient. He didn't wait for House to lift his head to look at him before he resumed speaking. "Prostheses have improved drastically the past few years. With the right prosthetic, you'll be able to run and do the things your limp would have prevented you from doing."
House huffed, forehead creasing and eyebrows drawing together, listening but not looking at the man extending his support.
"I don't want a prosthesis, I want my leg back," House stubbornly claimed, eyes hard as steel.
Stern didn't want to be harsh, but since the man wouldn't listen, he had to try being so at least once.
Quickly, he reminded the man, "Well, we both know that's not going to happen."
"No thanks to you," House scathingly remarked.
His voice leveling back down, Stern said, "Last time I checked, it wasn't me who was stupid enough to try an experimental drug to regrow muscle and instead grew tumors in my leg."
House's nostrils flared, biding his time before he lost it. His eyes and the power behind his glare would have killed Stern if it were feasible.
Not wanting to fight him though, Stern reasonably explained, "I know you'd prefer your leg to any artificial one. Everyone would prefer having the real thing rather than replace it with a fake. But think about it. No more addiction. No more pain—well, not like the pain you had before. And you'll be able to start again. Having two legs, of course I don't know how it feels like to be in your position, but—"
"That's just it! You wouldn't know!" House exclaimed as if it would change things.
Stern exhaled, telling him, "But wouldn't it be better to be open to change than closed off to it and miserable? It's a new beginning, House. One I hope would help you change for the better."
"People don't change," House declared darkly.
"That's your belief. It's not a fact," Stern shot back, almost smirking. "Just like how I think people can change. It's only a matter of whether they want to or not." He hoped he was getting through to the man though, for his own sake.
"You're not my shrink." House mumbled, swinging his head to look at Stern. His eyes were red, but he didn't cry.
"I'm not going to sugar coat your situation. I'm telling you now that it will be a very challenging few months for you. I'm sure you know that, still, I'm reminding you anyway. But, start now, and you'll be able to get your life back on track sooner."
Stern nodded at House who just nodded curtly in return. As there was nothing much he could add, the surgeon silently walked towards the door.
"Maybe even get Lisa Cuddy back," Stern threw in with a poker face as he glanced one last time at his stubborn patient before leaving the room to let him ponder on his words.
House huffed; he refused to think about the senile doctor'sparting words.
Diagnostics Conference room, the same morning, 8 AM
"Have you heard?" Chase asked Foreman who entered the office, backpack slung high on his shoulder and nursing a coffee cup in his free hand.
"Heard what?" Foreman asked, and adding as an afterthought, "You look like shit."
Chase rolled his eyes before standing up to refill his mug.
"Thanks," the Australian replied.
"House was rushed in last night—"
"Did the ER pump his stomach?" Foreman dryly inquired, sitting on one of the chairs. If his assumption were right, he wouldn't be surprised if one of these days his boss was rushed in for overdosing on his vicodin again.
Chase shot him a dark look as he replied. "No. But Stern amputated his leg," he enlightened his coworker, noting the shock registering on the man's face.
"Tumors," Chase said.
"Does Cuddy and Wilson know?" Foreman asked.
Truthfully, Foreman didn't know how to react. He trailed off, looking at the patient files stacked neatly in the center of the table.
"You think he would agree to a prosthetic?" Chase suddenly asked.
"Who knows with House?" Foreman shrugged.
"We could drop by his suite later," Chase added, eyes looking at Foreman, awaiting his answer.
"In a bit of trouble. He won't be coming in. Masters?"
"With the patient. She cried when we found out about House's leg." Chase told him, sipping his coffee. He was dumbfounded when he heard about House. Had he and Thirteen not been busy with Thirteen's jail BFF, they would have been with House—well, not exactly. If they'd solved Thirteen's friend's case earlier, they would have seen House's surgery.
"So… patient?" Foreman asked, knowing that there was nothing left for them to do but their jobs. They would see to House later, knowing that they would probably be asked to leave by the man anyway.
Chase took one of the patient files and slid it across the table towards Foreman.
It was lunchtime when Wilson made his way to the private room House had been wheeled into from Recovery. He carried with him two Reuben sandwiches, knowing House wouldn't touch the lunch rationed for the patients.
House was asleep when he got to the room, so he just placed the paper bag on the movable table and sat on one of the lounge chairs. His eyes moved from House's face to the elephant in the room. To House's new challenge.
Briefly he wondered if that could have been avoided if he'd been awake to answer his call. Unfortunately, based on Stern's statement, he knew the leg would still need to be cut off had he been able to come to House's aid. Even if he'd been asleep when House had called, Wilson felthe had an apology to make.
A little over ten minutes later House started to stir and Wilson got up from the chair to stand by House's bed. When House's eyes fluttered open, their eyes met.
"How are you feeling?" was Wilson's greeting, eyes dripping with concern.
House sighed, a little bit annoyed.
"Why is everybody asking that?" he inquired sarcastically.
"I don't know, maybe because you just underwent surgery?" Wilson replied, smirking at House.
"Because I lost my leg?" House offered drolly, eyes void of spark and playfulness.
"Stern already came to me."
Wilson wanted so much to scold him for taking those goddamned untested drugs, but he didn't. He recounted his earlier conversation with Cuddy. Besides, what good would that scolding do? House had already suffered from the risk he had made himself vulnerable to.
"You seem… nevermind."
"Now that you've seen me, you may go," House told Wilson, adding, "Leave the Reubens. Unless they have pickles."
"I already had lunch. It's still my lunch break. I'm staying," Wilson said, crossing his legs.
"You're leaving," House barked warningly, eyes challenging Wilson to stay.
"I'm really not, House."
"What do you want?"
"Nothing. I'm just here. We don't have to talk."
The way Wilson spoke awoke the anger inside House and the man sat up ready to speak his mind as to why Wilson was not acting the way Wilson would act. Even if lectures were the last thing he would want to hear, he'd rather Wilson got straight to it than put up this act that just seemed self-righteous to him.
"Your eyes say otherwise," House knowingly stated, his voice slowly rising with the anger he had yet to release, "You're dying to lecture me. Dying to make me hear the error of my ways, right? I'm sure you're pretty satisfied now, what with this," House gestured towards the stump, "as the perfect example!"
"I'm not saying anything, House," Wilson stated, his voice full yet tense.
"Why would you?" House spat, "I've already spoken for you! Anything you would like to add?"
"Just get out, Wilson," House warned him, eyes flashing with anger.
Of course, being Wilson, the oncologist didn't listen. He even made himself comfortable on the chair. Heads turned their way from outside the suite when the diagnostician shouted, "Get the hell out, Wilson!"
He was not expecting that. And as the people looked on and the man on the bed got more agitated, shouting at his best friend, Wilson gave in to House's wishes, realizing his approach was not the right one. He exited the room, knowing full well that House would stop at nothing to get him out, not with the mood he was in.
House tried to sink further into the mattress, hand caressing where his leg had once been. He could still feel it. He wondered grimly how long until he no longer could. He didn't even know whether he'd prefer having the haunting feeling or not.
Wilson spared one last glance at House before turning to head back to his office.
It was the infarction all over again. Only now, House had lost his leg entirely.
Diagnostic department conference room, 1:45 PM
Cuddy watched House's team from afar, discussing their current patient. She would have left them to do their jobs but she knew House's team. If and when they came across an impasse they would find him. And all she wanted was for House to heal first before he busied himself with cases again.
She knew that now more than ever House would need his distractions. To busy himself with something to at least lessen his time to dwell on his leg.
Cuddy took a deep breath before approaching the conference room and pushing the door to let herself inside.
The moment she stepped in, House's team quieted and looked at her, waiting for her to start speaking.
Hands folded against her stomach, she said, "I'm sure you've all heard about House."
"How is he?" Masters inquired with concern, brows furrowing as she awaited an answer.
Nobody was expecting him to be okay.
"Physically, he's on the mend. Other than that he's distressed and distraught, but he won't show it," Cuddy told them, her voice a little clipped.
"I suppose you came here to tell us to occupy his thoughts with a case rather than his situation?" Foreman offered, eyes on Cuddy.
Cuddy shook her head, "No. I want you to do the opposite. Don't come to him for anything other than wishing him well or convincing him to try a prosthetic."
"I don't understand—"
Masters was cut off by Cuddy justifying her request with the reason, "At least until he's out of the hospital. He needs to get better first. Keeping him from accepting his new…" Cuddy hated to say it, "disability will only make things worse for him. This is the one thing I don't want him to evade or deflect. It won't be healthy for him."
"If you need a consult, come to me or Wilson. If House asks, tell him I assigned you to other departments. We have that cleared?"
Cuddy waited for them to take her request in and after a few seconds, they nodded in compliance, making Cuddy let out a small smile in acknowledgement.
"Thank you," she told them sincerely before exiting the room.
"You think we should actually do what she tells us?" Masters asked the others.
"She assigns our patients," Foreman shrugged.
Masters' shoulders slumped a bit as she sighed, "It just feels… wrong."
"Cuddy has a point though," Thirteen pointed out. "Letting House hide behind something is not a good thing. Well, sometimes it is, but in the current circumstances, it would be better for him to get better first."
Masters studied Thirteen for a while before sighing in resignation.
"What are you doing here?" House gruffly asked Thirteen as she stepped inside his room, his leg now covered by a blanket.
Thirteen shrugged, leaning back against the glass wall, "Drew the short straw."
"How are you faring?"
"Don't know yet, still haven't tried walking with one leg—"House cut himself off, making a face, "Oh wait. Or should I say hopping instead?"
Thirteen rolled her eyes, "At least your sarcasm isn't lost to you."
"Well, I would have preferred losing my sarcasm over losing my leg," House bitterly grumbled.
"I'm sorry about your leg," the younger doctor sincerely spoke, looking at House.
House could only nod once before he looked away.
Turning serious and feeling for House, Thirteen warily told him, "I know it's your leg, House, but it's just a leg," she was unmoved by the sudden impact of House's icy gaze meeting hers, "Imagine being me."
"Who knows how many years I've got left?" she rhetorically asked, shrugging once again. "I know you most probably won't agree with me, but it really is just a leg. A prosthesis can take its place and give you what your damaged one couldn't have."
"It's not the same."
"It wasn't meant to be the same."
"What would you do?" House asked out of curiosity.
Thirteen gestured towards the lounge chair a few feet away from House's bed and said, "May I?"
She moved towards the chair and sat down when he nodded.
"I'd be thankful for prosthetics. Imagine them not having been invented—would have sucked for you," she smirked, House returning it.
Looking House straight in the eye, Thirteen boldly surmised, "Thing is, I think you're against it only because you're afraid it will actually do you good."
"It won't," House snorted in denial.
Thirteen rolled her eyes and stood up. "You know it will. That's what makes you afraid."
"You know me so well, don't you?" House scoffed. Truthfully though, he hadn't kicked her out of his room yet because if anyone would understand his situation, it would be her. And she did have a few good points—many, if he were being honest.
Sarcastically, Thirteen replied, "We're kindred spirits."
"Do we have a patient?" House asked before she could slip out of the room.
"No. Cuddy temporarily reassigned us to different departments," Thirteen lied expertly before exiting his room.
House sighed, pondering on the quick conversation.
The rest of the day couldn't have gone by slower for House.
All he did was act like a regular patient—suffice it to say, it was boring. He could recall the last few times he'd been confined, remembering how he could just simply up and leave, in a wheelchair, or limping across the halls with his IV pole.
He dared not venture outside his room. He had no limp anymore, but he didn't have a leg either. He shuddered at the pity people would practically throw at him. His spine tingled (in a terrible way) at the barbs and insults he would get from those he used to piss off, now that he wouldn't be able to use his height to his advantage in intimidating them.
He was a fucking freak show now.
So no, he would not dare take a step outside his room unless necessary.
He was still weak and tired even if he'd practically slept the day away. It was only seven in the evening but he felt like he'd been in bed for days. Other than eating, sleeping, and watching crappy shows, there was nothing else he could do. If he had his ball, he would have tired himself out throwing it against the wall or ceiling and catching it—that was, he thought grimly, until he was unable to catch it and it fell to the floor.
He had yet to stand. Had yet to feel what it was like to walk with one leg—hell, he wouldn't be able to walk at all without crutches, he thought deprecatingly. Correcting himself he thought, he had yet to hop.
The therapist had dropped by earlier, but was only able to go as far as two steps from the room's door before House was able to kick her out with his words and tone of voice. He was purposely being a difficult patient—more difficult than he usually was. He would ask for a bedpan instead of an orderly who would assist him to the bathroom. He knew he should at least do that instead of sitting or lying in bed all day, but he didn't really see the point. When his meals were brought in he would tell them to get him something else. If he was asked how he was feeling he would ask them in return what they would feel if their leg was hacked off without consent while they were unconscious.
Lashing out at people he didn't know seemed to alleviate some of the angst simmering within his blood. It did not help the anger and rage he felt, but it did help him breathe a little better.
He needed something to get his mind off the absence of his leg. Something to distract him from the hell he turned his life into in a matter of hours.
He shouldn't have hoped those drugs would make his leg better.
He shouldn't have trusted it too much.
He should have waited until it moved past the experimental trial for lab mice.
He should have known better!
As House traced the expanse of what had become of his leg, his own mind reminded him that it was his fault.
It was his goddamned fault.
A tear slipped past his eye and he forcefully wiped at it, gritting his teeth to keep from shouting out his anger at himself.
Three days later, 12 PM
House had made strict orders not to let anyone into his room except the nurses and orderlies. He would have had them kicked out as well, but he needed the painkillers.
Cuddy had come to Wilson the day before, discussing with him what they were to do. She herself had been disappointed to find out House did not want to see her. Disappointed, but not surprised.
It was lunchtime, three days later, when Wilson finally found the strength to visit House again.
Wilson came, armed with peace offerings, and a sincere desire to just be with his friend; to ride through the worst and lowest of lows with him. The nurse had warned him already, but he still took a chance.
The doors slid open, revealing House begrudgingly eating his lunch for the day.
House carried on, eating his lunch, pretending Wilson did not enter his room with a paper bag in his left hand, House's knapsack slung on one shoulder, and an Xbox box carried by his right hand.
"I know you're mad," Wilson started lamely. "You have a right to be."
Wilson sighed. "I'm sorry," he sincerely told him.
"What bribes have you brought?" House asked, making Wilson grin a bit upon knowing that was House's way of letting him know he was forgiven.
"Xbox, more Reuben and fries, PSP and Gameboy," Wilson said, setting the paper bag on the table and Xbox on the floor, and putting the knapsack down on the foot of House's bed.
Wilson took a quick glance at House's leg, but looked away when House followed his gaze.
"So," Wilson started, voice a bit chipper, "What's our itinerary?"
"They changed the bandage a few hours ago, again," House started in a low, informative voice, "It's healing okay so far. And they've removed the drain."
Wilson nodded. "That's good to hear."
"I won't get a prosthetic," House told him, meeting his surprised look.
House shrugged before shaking his head. "I don't know."
"House…" Wilson sighed. "You have a few more weeks to decide. Just… think about it more."
House could only nod once before he unzipped his backpack and sifted through the things Wilson had brought in.
Wilson stayed with him until he was paged. He left House with the promise of returning once he had done his job.
Once alone, House threw his PSP on top of the bed. He had fun, true, but it was hard to pretend that he was content.
Feeling ready to relieve himself once again, House looked around his room. He was tired of asking nurses to bring him a bedpan and calling them when he was done. He had lost a leg—he wasn't fucking bedridden. Another sear of anger shot through him upon thinking that he'd acted as such the past few days.
With the blinds closed and knowing he had privacy, he threw away the covers and moved so that his left leg was dangling off the edge of the bed.
He eyed the floor with something seemingly akin to fear and hesitance overtaking his sudden impulse to discover himself without his amputated leg.
Catching sight of the crutches by the table beside his bed, House inched himself higher on the bed and reached for them, grunting a little.
Carefully, he slid off the bed, left foot touching the cold floor first. He gasped at the feeling. Taking another deep breath, House positioned the crutches under his arms and took that first step towards the change he would no doubt be facing.
He took another step, squeezing his eyes shut upon feeling as if his right leg was reactingto the steps, feeling as if it was also taking one step after his left leg did.
It took him a few minutes to get to the toilet in his room, making sure every step he took was calculated. The hardest thing he could face with his leg was the inability to stand up if he ever fell to the floor. He turned the knob and pushed the door open, leaning back against the wall to catch his breath when he got inside.
His hand was shaking from the effort it took him as he pulled up his hospital gown.
He washed his hands after relieving himself, taking a few deep breaths to ready himself for his trek back to his bed.
He pulled the door open and started making his way back to the bed.
Halfway to the bed, he was taken by a sudden dizzy spell and he knew he had to sit or face nose-diving onto the cold hard floor.
He staggered towards the sofa in his suite, collapsing back first onto it and breathing deeply. His hands found his head and cradled it, riding out the dizziness he was feeling and warding off the nauseous sensation raising up in his throat.
"House?" Cuddy's voice suddenly called to him in that concerned tone he recoiled from most of the time. He hated being coddled, yet the soothing sound of her voice calmed him somehow.
He heard her heels click towards him and he felt the sofa dip as she sat down. He released a tired breath upon feeling her hand stroke up and down his back.
"You okay?" she asked him.
"Yeah," he said. "Dizzy spell."
He gathered the crutches and was about to situate them when he realized how much of an effort he would need in getting upright alone.
Cuddy bit her lip. She was ready to offer help, but wanted him to be the one to ask for it.
House gritted his teeth and held his breath as he pulled himself up, only to fall back down on the couch. His eyes screwed shut, embarrassed that Cuddy had to see that.
"It's okay," Cuddy crooned softly, running her hand across his back one last time before standing up.
"Come on, just try again," she encouraged in the same soft voice.
Wordlessly, Cuddy helped him and he allowed her. Together, they managed to get him upright again. He wouldn't be lounging on that sofa anytime soon. It was too low.
"Thanks," House mumbled awkwardly before ambling to his hospital bed and lifting himself up with his arms on it. He never thought he'd be so thankful to be able to recline against it again. He relaxed into the mattress, closing his eyes for a bit.
"I take it Wilson got you some stuff," Cuddy noted, seeing the various things scattered on top of the bed and on the table beside it.
"He knew I'd run crazy if I had to spend another day cooped up in here like a prisoner on death row," House snorted then corrected himself, "Go crazy. Suddenly realized I can't run with only one leg."
The hope that had slipped past Cuddy's defenses and made its way into her heart instantly drifted away from House's words.
"Why do you do that?" she asked him in a clipped hiss, eyes kindling a small spark of fire that threatened to combust at any moment. Her jaw clenched as she waited his answer. He was reminded of the moment before he kissed her for the first time in almost two decades.
House remained quiet and before she could say anything she might regret, Cuddy told him, "Have a nurse call for me or Wilson if you need anything," before turning around to leave.
However, before she could even take a step towards the sliding doors he spoke, telling her, "I won't."
As an addition, he said, "I don't need yours or Wilson's hovering. I'm perfectly capable—"
"You're not," Cuddy cut him off, not caring at all if that comment hurt him. He had to open his eyes and stop being caught up in denial and deflection.
"I have feelings, you know," he sarcastically announced, putting a hand to his heart in mock hurt.
"You could leave now," House sighed, pushing her away with his words.
Finally standing her ground after four days she adamantly told him, "I'm not leaving."
Sulking like a child, House told her, "I don't want you here."
"I know. You've made that as clear as day since you woke up," she said, hiding the hurt she felt from his earlier declaration.
"And yet, you're still here," he pointed out.
Cuddy sighed, shaking her head. "Now is not the time to be an ass."
"You think losing a part of my leg doesn't entitle me to be a little unhappy?"
Cuddy scoffed. "Sure, unhappy, yes, a bastard, no."
House sighed, "Could you please leave me alone? You were the one who wanted to get away from me."
"We've already talked about this, I—"
"I'm not some charity case, Cuddy!" he snapped at her irately.
Defensively, House stated, "I was trying to make my leg better."
"You were being reckless," Cuddy retorted, a hand on her hip.
"I… I wanted to be happy," he finally admitted, his head hanging low, avoiding her gaze. "Again," House added, looking away from her entirely
Cuddy sighed before looking at him, her eyes softening and her hand falling limp against her side.
"House…" she whispered, her head lolling to the side as she brushed her hair from the side of her face. Her hand then palmed her forehead, her infamous guilt complex running her current thoughts and emotions.
"Before you take credit, I don't blame you," House told her almost grumpily, knowing what she was thinking based on her expression.
"Have you decided about the prosthetic?" Cuddy asked him seriously. If he was truly searching for happiness, why was he refusing the leg?
House sighed, rubbing the stump out of habit. "Told Wilson I won't."
"Because it would change things!" he yelled in admission, eyes blazing, but Cuddy could see the fear that accompanied his anger.
"Of course it will," Cuddy's voice softened, her eyes soothing him somehow. "Isn't it what you wanted?" she asked him, "It may not have come to you in a way you accept, but it's still a change for the better, House."
"I've lost my leg, Cuddy," he growled, "After more than a decade of trying to keep it I still lost it."
"I know," she said sadly. "I'm sorry."
Finding the strength to confront him with his fear, she asked him, "Tell me, House. What are you really afraid of?"
"I'm not afraid of anything," he denied, shaking his head.
"Then why won't you agree to a prosthetic?" Cuddy asked demandingly.
"Because I don't want to!"
"That's not a reason."
"I don't need to explain myself to anyone, least of all you," House scoffed, challenging her to say more.
Provoked, Cuddy asked him impatiently, "I know you," she started, "Are you afraid of not knowing who you are anymore because your leg has defined you so much before? You'd rather not have a prosthetic because you're afraid of not being miserable, is that it? Or are you afraid that you actually have a chance to do what you previously couldn't? That the prosthetic would actually give you the power to do what you want now?" by the end of her litany, Cuddy's voice had become desperate and sad in tone.
"You don't know what you're talking about," House murmured.
Cuddy sighed. Unfortunately, she did. "Because honestly, I couldn't think of any other reason why you're so averse to getting a prosthetic," she stated, her hands falling to her sides in exhaustion.
"It won't be me," he whispered, recalling the time after the Ketamine treatment. He'd been insanely happy and free from the pain in his leg. He had both legs back then. Thinking of his situation now, happiness and contentment seemed far from his grasp with a leg and a fake one. He couldn't think of himself happily jogging in the morning for miles on end knowing he couldn't possibly have accomplished it without a prosthetic. Cuddy was right, he should be thankful that a prosthetic was applicable for him. But at the moment, all he could think about was his loss.
"I give up," Cuddy regretfully sighed, not knowing what to tell him to make him change his mind anymore.
"You always do," House muttered, watching as her eyes widened slightly upon hearing his words.
"I had a right to break up with you after what you did," she told him, wanting to leave already. But if they were ever going to talk about the fallout of their relationship she guessed that that moment was the best time to do so. They had never dared talk about it, too hurt to actually tread on those waters again.
House nodded, "Of course you did."
"You took Vicodin when I needed you," she said, not allowing the memory of the hurt she felt and the tears she cried upon her discovery, and the aftermath of her breaking up with him.
"You threw away almost two years of sobriety just because you couldn't… what? Accept that I may be dying?" she inquired in frustration, "Or did you take it because you were too screwed up? Was the concept of death too mature for you?"
House shook his head in denial, unable to find the words to explain why he had done what he did.
"Then what, House, tell me! Because until now I couldn't understand why you would do that to yourself—to me and to us!" she exclaimed, her voice wobbling a little and her cheeks getting flustered.
"I couldn't watch you die, Cuddy!" he cried out loudly, voice breaking slightly. His admission froze her on the spot.
With a barely audible voice, he miserably confessed, "I couldn'thave sat beside you, holding your hand and smiling when all I was seeing, all I was doing was watching you die."
"Every time something life-threatening happened to you, I was there," Cuddy began, tears slowly breaking through the dam and wrecking her walls. "Do you think it was easy for me? Do you think seeing you destroy yourself right in front of me was easy to take?" she asked him, her voice cracking as the tears started coming. It was true, watching him be hospitalized from one thing to another was traumatizing every single time it happened. What hurt her more was when it was caused by his own stupidity.
In a way she understood how he had felt, but she was still hurt by what had happened. She guessed she always would be. But her love for him overpowered that hurt still, challenging her pride and her heart to come down with a decision. To love him again and brave the waters and the hurt that would be inevitable in a relationship with him or to let go completely.
"I'm sorry if it was hard for you, it was hard for me too," she told him wearily. "I was leaving behind my daughter who barely even got a chance to know me, a job I worked hard to get, and a man I loved who couldn't even step up to the plate and be present at a time I needed him most. I just needed you there. You didn't have to smile, you didn't have to hold my hand or tell me anything. I just wanted you there. "
Given the times she'd been beside him when he woke up after whatever the hell he'd gotten himself into, remembering the one time she needed him to be beside her and he wasn't made him feel like an utter disappointment. She deserved so much better. It really was best for her to let go. He couldn't hold it against her anymore.
"I'm sorry," he whispered embarrassedly, their eyes meeting. "About everything after. I was hurt."
Cuddy only nodded, accepting his apology as she wiped the tears from her face with her hands.
"You can't go on like this, House," she whispered, looking into his eyes as she spoke.
"I know," he honestly acknowledged, sincerity pooling in his blue eyes. He knew things would have to change. But it was a question of whether or not he was ready to accept that.
"Have a nurse call or page for me or Wilson if you need us," she repeated quietly, leaving him with a small hopeful smile before she left the room.
House watched as Cuddy walked away, something in his chest wanting to call her back, ask her to give him another chance or at least wait until he got better. He wanted nothing more than the feel of her arms around him, the warmth and familiarity guiding him to a home, a happiness, and contentment he had sorely missed and wanted to feel again. But he didn't.
He closed his eyes for a short moment, the beautiful memory of her small yet hopeful smile vivid in his mind, taking away the negativity slowly shrouding him again.
He fell asleep almost immediately.
While she was walking from him, striding along in the hallway, Cuddy realized she somehow felt glad that they finally had a conversation about their break up, because it wouldn't be the dark cloud hanging above them anymore. But she had to leave him to think.
And truth be told, she needed to do the same. Collect her thoughts and assess where she was standing at in her life.
One too many times, they had come together, hurting, in search of solace. It had started with a kiss brought about by loss; then a hallucination brought him to her; and then an accident, which had allowed her to remember the reason she had always loved him, even from afar. They seemed to automatically gravitate towards each other whenever they were hurting. It was something they would never acknowledge—at least not to one another. It was just how and who they were meant to be in this lifetime. But whenever they came together hurting, it had always ended badly in the long run.
As she thought of that, Cuddy wondered if she should just go with what her heart wanted for once in her life and not wait for the next life to see whether or not she would meet him there and if things would be different. Because she didn't believe in another life other than the one she was living in now.
Four Days Later
Cuddy's house, 9:45 PM
House had been discharged earlier.
He had been more than ready to walk out in his hospital gown and ride the first cab that he was able to hail. But of course, doting Wilson had brought him a change of clothes (an awkward moment when he saw that the pants were uncut). He was practically manhandled to sit in the wheelchair. He allowed himself to be wheeled to the hospital entrance, crutches in his arms. Wilson had noted that he seemed like some serial killer picking out his next victim as he had glared at anyone who dared stare at him for more than three seconds with pity in his or her eyes.
He had refused to stay with either her or Wilson, claiming he could manage fine on his own. To House, it wasn't even a claim—it was a fact. He would think that he'd be fine without their hovering. He had lived his life alone in his apartment for years without needing their assistance. Losing a leg didn't change that.
He was fine, he had told her and Wilson.
She lay in bed staring at the ceiling longingly, remembering the times she'd lay with House doing and saying nothing but still wrapped in a thick, warm blanket of comfortable silence. She knew letting go would be the best thing to do but she didn't know how to let him go. She was almost absolutely certain she did not want to let go of him. She did not want to escape him. Not anymore and never again.
Everything reminded her of him. Her own home reminded her of him and how she missed seeing him in it. Her daughter missed his presence. She missed him so terribly much that her heart was already speeding at a dangerously fast pace that she felt it would explode.
The dormant embers of the love and passion she still and would always hold for him sprung forth from their depths within her and she swore she could cry from the onslaught of sensation.
Silently, a question left her thoughts and floated through the air around her.
Was he worth it? Were they worth another chance at being happy together?
It didn't take long for the answer to come to her.
With her question answered she smiled contentedly before allowing sleep to claim her.
The next day, 8 PM
It had been an hour after lunch when House had finally been able to get rid of Wilson who had yet again dropped by to check on him and have his apartment to himself.
House was already in bed, his TV switched on, waiting for the rerun of an episode of Brownbeard with Rachel's card on his lap. He picked it up and read it for the second time that day, telling himself he was only doing so to pass the time.
The right corner of his mouth tugged up as his eyes roamed every poorly drawn scribble of the get well soon card Rachel had made for him. The pirate ship that looked like a mangled crescent moon made him chuckle. The scraggly looking man sporting a blue scruff with the label "Hows" with the s written the other way around made him arch a brow in amusement. His cane looked like a twig. The sharks looked like some alien species of sharks—wide eyes, misplaced gills, long bodies and two dorsalwith misplaced pectoral and anal fins. What made him shake his head in amusement once more was that the tail was not that of a shark, but a whale's; a thick tailstock and flukes separated by a squiggly median notch.
He would have mocked it when it was given to him—admittedly, it was terrible— but the only thought that came to him was the hard work Rachel exerted just to say "Get well soon, you bloody scallywag!"
So he had told Cuddy to thank Rachel for him and tell her daughter that he sincerely thought that it was good—which it was, for a three year-old. For someone who rarely received sincere greetings, it really did mean a lot.
He settled the card on top of his bedside table and got settled in bed, folding his arms behind his head.
He didn't know how long he lay there, wondering how different things would have been had he not taken that Vicodin when he thought Cuddy might die. He wondered if he still would have had his right leg if they hadn't broken up. If he still would have taken those drugs and whether Cuddy would have stopped him had she known.
After what felt like half an hour of tormenting himself with thoughts of "What ifs" he sat up in bed and reached for his crutches. He had to stop thinking of how things would have been different because he would never be able to go backwards and change what had been done.
Not knowing exactly where to head to when he first stood up, House was a bit taken aback when his leg directed him to his most prized possession. The piano he hadn't played in months.
The fingers on his right hand caressed the witness to his deepest thoughts and the depths of his soul, brushing the sleek ebony black baby grand he had abandoned for quite a while as tenderly as he would an had yet to sit down on the bench, had yet to reveal the ivory keys to his presence, but his heart had already began formulating his melody.
The song of a man once more broken, seeking solace from the one thing that would ever understand him completely— music.
He uncovered the keys and he had not realized just how much he had missed ghosting his fingers over them until that moment. Without even thinking about it his eyelids curtained over his cerulean orbs and shrouded him in a cocoon of security and openness he could only obtain and express through playing his piano.
A part of his mind reminded him that aside from the lessened pain, there was another thing he should consider being thankful for.
He still had one leg. He would still be able to step on the pedals even without a prosthetic. Something in him bloomed at that—he could imagine how poor his music would've become with no legs to be able to step on his piano's pedals. He treated his music like a surgical operation: everything had to be perfect.
As his fingers glided along the keys, he thought of his miserable existence, scorning how he had become the person he was. It was a known fact that he made everyone worse just by being around. He affected people, influenced them somehow. In the deepest recesses of his soul he wished that he had, at least once, influenced them positively. But he doubted that. He almost always did more harm than good.
He squeezed his eyes shut tighter as he thought of Cuddy. He would never have her again. Besides, who would want to be with him? A selfish and miserable amputee whose only use in the world was to heal those with diseases ordinary doctors couldn't even diagnose.
She was the only one crazy enough to want to be with him. She had once accepted him as a cripple, she would have loved him and been with him despite his addiction.
He had been fortunate to have her for a while, but as he had predicted from the moment they agreed to give their relationship a shot, she would eventually get sick of him; get tired of him hurting her. She did. She told him she didn't want him to change, but it was exactly what she had demanded of him.
Having been too in love and frightened to lose her, of course he bent over backwards and tried to heed her wants and needs as best he can. But in the end, his efforts weren't enough and she told him that there was no space for him to improve. That he wouldn't ever be able to do better because he'd choose himself over anyone else time and time again.
What struck him most was that she might have been right.
That thought shook him and he missed a note. He banged at the keyboard with a fist, trembling as he tried to extinguish the anger inside him.
He stood from the bench, crutches immediately positioned uncomfortably under his arms. He moved as quickly as he could to his bedroom. He was taken by surprise when he suddenly lost balance and tripped on a cord lying on the floor haphazardly. He tried to find his equilibrium once again, gritting his teeth at the pity he was showering himself in.
Slowed down by a simple cord. One. Cord. What else would he have to deal with? What else did he have to look out for? His tub? The couch? He wouldn't be able to ride his bike. He would have to get used to using his left leg for the car pedals. He wouldn't be able to get up the stairs without any difficulty. He would have preferred his goddamned cane, limping around other than what had happened to him.
He couldn't stop the rage inside him then.
He growled as he threw one of his crutches against his glass computer table, breaking it upon impact. His things clattered loudly to the floor. He didn't care. With one foot and one crutch left, he painstakingly made his way to his closet, pulling the door open so he could pull out every right shoe he could get his hand on. He threw them against the wall, not caring how much noise he was making. He was mad at himself—mad that he had no one but himself to blame. Mad that he was such a screw up. He shouted, growling as he pulled out his canes—canes he wouldn't needany more—and threw them messily, furiously, around him.
The drugs had been the worst thing he had done to himself willingly. He knew the fucking risks! Why didn't he stop himself? Why was he so desperate that he trusted something that was still in its early stages?
He shoved the door close with a resounding bang, the force shaking the frame and the walls it was connected to.
A step back was all it took for him to fall.
He hit his back against shoes and hard canes, his head hitting the cold floor, which was as hard and cold as his heart had become.
His head was reeling from the shock, but all he could process was that it had only been one mistake, one slip, and before he knew it he was left without the woman he loved and the leg he had one too many times fought hard to keep. It had been a domino effect he couldn't recall having control over.
There seemed to be no way for him to be redeemed.
It was the last thing that crossed his blurring thoughts before he slipped into the realm of darkness.
"What are you doing here?" House grumbled as he woke up seeing her sitting on a chair a foot away from his bed.
Cuddy glanced at him once before focusing her attention on her Blackberry, fingers once again clicking away.
"You should be thankful, you know," she said plainly, eyes still on the device.
"For what? Losing a limb. Hardly something to be thankful for," the proud man gruffly stated.
"I repeat," he started on a faux-exhausted sigh, "What are you doing here?"
"Helping you," Cuddy stated, setting her phone down on her lap.
That moment, House really did sigh in exhaustion.
"How many times do I have to tell you that I don't need help?" he haughtily asked her, eyes flashing.
"Your chaotic living room begs to differ," she said indifferently. "Unless a storm literally came knocking on your door and wreaked havoc in your place," she smirked.
"Well, I'm awake now," House said, "You can show yourself out."
"You know what? If you're not going to lift a finger to help yourself, then fine. Be that way until you drown in your miserable existence and die," she told him angrily, storming out of his bedroom and slamming his front door shut behind her.
Once again he had pushed her away.
He sighed as he closed his eyes once more, hoping sleep would claim him. He was tired of it all.
But sleep did not come to him.
All thoughts lead to the words Cuddy had uttered. As he imagined himself walking that path and living it in his mind, he shuddered almost instantly. Having experienced being happy and content, he did not want to be miserable and alone again. At times, it was a welcome feeling, but it wasn't one he wanted permanently.
His eyes shot open to the banging permeating through the fog he was slowly wading through. House jerked back to the miserable reality surrounding him: there was mess everywhere, which seemed to be the only thing that defined his life now.
He groaned at the feel of a shoe wedged in between his back and the hard floor.
"House!" Cuddy's voice could be heard through the thick door.
Carefully, he shuffled closer to his shoe closet and. With great effort, he pulled himself up, reaching for the crutch closest to him. He sighed heavily upon hearing Cuddy's voice again and seeing the mess he'd made. His mind slightly clearer than earlier, he carefully circled the mess and made his way to his front door.
"What took you so long?" Cuddy asked him edgily, eyes a bit frantic as she observed him.
House scratched his scruff with a hand, irritably grumbling, "I never liked answering the door with my limp. What makes you think answering it with one leg has made it more appealing to me?"
"Why are you here?" House asked her, wanting to cut to the chase.
"Checking up on you," she told him with a shrug.
House exhaled, "There's a reason why I didn't answer your calls."
"Well, I wouldn't be here if you did answer my calls," Cuddy pointed out.
"You were hovering. Calling me every other hour must be illegal in some states. Maybe I should file a restraining order. I'm not on a suicide watch, am I?" House made a face at her. He didn't dare tell her that he didn't even hear the last few calls as he'd been lying on his floor, out cold.
"Stop it, Cuddy. I'm not going to kill myself, if that's what you and Wonder Boy are getting worked up about," House ran his fingers through his scalp, and as he did, he hit what seemed to be a bump and flinched, causing Cuddy to stare.
"But you have to talk to someone," she stated as, naturally, her face frowned in thought and concern as she stepped forward and asked him, "Did you hit your head?" while she pushed his hand away and gently searched his head for a bump.
He would have pushed or slapped her hand away, but he had missed her fingers carding through his hair. He flinched again when she found it and looked at her partly guiltily.
"What happened?" she asked softly, about to enter his apartment when he blocked her way.
That caught her attention—how could it not?
"What happened?" she asked again, her voice turning a bit more stern and suspicious.
"It's nothing—I just fell." He told her, his head throbbing a little.
"Right," Cuddy said before pushing him aside and letting herself in. She stopped in her tracks upon seeing the mess he'd made. "House, what the hell?" she asked him, her face a mixture of surprise, sadness and disbelief.
She turned and saw him hang his head in contemplation and embarrassment that she had to see this. That she had one more thing to add to the reasons why she could not be with him.
"I want a prosthetic," he quietly told her, hopping miserably towards the couch. He sat himself down despite knowing he would, again, have a hard time getting up.
His dream had been a wakeup call he couldn't ignore. He did not want to die alone. He knew he still had a chance, and despite his fears, and he had to grow up and face them like a man. He had a chance to be happy again. Cuddy had been right when she said that it was a chance all the same even if it had come in the form of something he didn't accept. Even if he couldn't have Cuddy back, he had to get on with his life like he always did. A prosthetic, he came to accept, would give him a new chance. Sure, there would be bad leg days, but they won't come close to the bad days he had had after his infarction.
For the first time since Ketamine, he would have a tangible chance at change and happiness. He hated change, but maybe the prosthetic would be a good change.
Besides, he missed running. Tennis. Bowling without having to go limping down the lane.
As he thought about the things he could start doing again, the prosthetic seemed to appeal to him more.
It would definitely be a new beginning.
His eyes left the carpet in favor of her captivating irises, surprised to find her smiling at him fondly.
"Stop smiling," he snapped half-embarrassed and half-annoyed.
Composing herself, Cuddy told him, "I'm sorry."
"I'm glad." She smiled again, moving to sit beside him.
She leaned back against the couch, sighing in relief.
House swung his head to the side, watching her. Something in him longed to reach for her, caress her soft skin with his fingers, embrace and kiss her, but he did not want to break the moment and he did not want to push her away.
So he only looked on, glad to see her face happy for the first time in weeks.
How could he have been so stupid as to hurt her and break her trust?
She looked at him, her smile that of an angel's.
"What?" she curiously asked him, smiling still.
House shook his head, saying, "Nothing."
Cuddy rolled her eyes before smirking. "That look is definitely something."
"Cuddy…" House started, before trailing off, not knowing where the sudden need to know if they could try again came from. He didn't want to hear her rejection, but if he didn't ask her now, he felt that he might never get the chance again.
"Yeah?" Cuddy asked him, her heart suddenly starting to beat faster at the look in his eyes.
House licked his lips, looking away before turning his head to look her in the eyes once more. Slightly stammering from his nervousness, he asked her quietly, "Do you think… What if—"
He paused and took a deep breath, his eyes looking so conscious and a bit terrified that Cuddy would have called him cute had she not been anticipating what he was about to ask.
"Do you think we could try… again?" House finally asked her, his eyes shining the brightest blue lined with almost innocent hesitance and fear.
She swore her heart skipped a beat at the question. Cuddy let out a small, sly smile.
"Are you trying to take advantage of my guilt, House?" she asked him playfully, her cheeks blushing at the sudden happiness filling her.
House looked down at his lap, his forehead creasing, as he was unable to answer, or repeat what he'd dared to say. His head slowly lifted to look at her the moment he felt her warm hand take hold of his.
"Yes," Cuddy said simply, the same small smile on her face. She reached forward and took his hand, squeezing it.
Despite her answer, House didn't crack even the slightest of smiles. He was sporting a hesitant frown instead. Tentatively, he told her, "I don't want you to be with me out of guilt. Despite not having anything to be guilty of, you—"
He was cut off by her lips on his.
"Shut up," she whispered tenderly as she pulled away just as quickly.
Kissing him never failed to shut him up. At least for a short while.
"I'm staying because I want to be with you. I'm done fighting…" she paused for a bit, squeezing his hand once more before continuing. "I'm done convincing myself that there's somebody else out there because I know there's none."
"I want to be here because I love you and not because of guilt. So just shut up and accept that."
"I thought you were just checking up on me?" House smirked.
"That, too," Cuddy whispered, leaning her head against his shoulder and sliding her hand over his midsection to embrace him. She sighed contentedly before whispering, "I'm sorry I became too controlling. It was a bitchy thing to do."
House chuckled throatily, his eyes containing a sparkle she hadn't seen for weeks when she looked up and met that gaze she'd fallen in love with the moment they first met.
Sliding her hand to his chest, she licked her lips before seriously telling him, "Just… let me know if I'm being too much and unreasonable. Although it is sometimes fun, I don't like seeing you bending over backwards too much again."
House nodded at her, pulling her closer when she lowered her head to the crook of his neck again.
"Okay?" she asked, wanting it to be clear.
"Yes, Ma'am," he whispered chivalrously, kissing her temple sweetly.
House smiled a smile he had never let out since their breakup. He closed his eyes, confident that the mess and misery was going to dissipate soon.
He frowned though when he thought about the real mess surrounding them that he had yet to clear out.
Never mind that, Wilson's voice interjected in his mind, live in the moment.
A corner of House's mouth tugged up in agreement.
He had time.
They sat in silence for an hour or so, completely content in being next to one another.
But they knew that someone had to break the silence eventually. House wasn't surprised it was Cuddy who did.
"If you want—if you're ready, we can go to the hospital tomorrow, ask what our next step could be," she said, not missing how she used the word 'our'. She smiled softly when he nodded.
Not wanting her to be alone in the planning, he added, "I could try out an IPOP," she gave him a look and he elaborated, "Immediate Post-op Prosthesis."
"Oh," Cuddy stated, "Benefits?"
"We could ask Stern or Rehab tomorrow,"House shrugged.
"Okay," Cuddy said before reluctantly pulling away from him and getting up on her feet.
"Stay there, I'll just tidy this trashed place up a bit and then we could head to my place," she stated, hands on her hips as she assessed what to do first.
"I'm not going anywhere," House stubbornly said, eyes shooting towards her.
Standing her ground, Cuddy replied, "You need someone with you. I'm putting my foot down on this one."
"You're being unreasonable," he whined, frowning almost petulantly.
Cuddy smirked, "Nice try."
"House. I want you to stay with me until at least after you're well enough on your own again. You could stay with Wilson if you want, but I'd rather you stayed with me because at least when I'm not home, you have Marina to torment, God forbid," she said, saying the last part jokingly. "And Rachel can keep you company."
"Marina is being paid, by you, to look after your daughter," House said.
"I just want you to be with someone in case something like this," she gestured towards the ransacked living room, "happens again. Or something hopefully tamer than this."
"It won't happen again," House mumbled, wanting to add that if he was indeed going to stay with her for a while, he wouldn't dare do something like that with Rachel surely to be only a few feet away from him.
"Just leave it," House told her as she moved towards the mess. "I'll have someone come over tomorrow and clean it up."
"Do you want me to pack for you or would you want to do it yourself?" Cuddy offered tentatively, still unsure what would set him off.
"You go," he softly told her, still feeling the pain and soreness from his fall. "Just don't take back all the thongs I've stolen from you," he added to assure her that he was fine with her helping.
"I've got more where those came from," she seductively crooned from the hallway, smiling to herself. There was no doubt that he was watching her, as he would so chivalrously say, "lovely backside", swaying as she walked.
House looked straight again when she disappeared into his bedroom, sighing. He truly didn't deserve her, but he wasn't going to let go anymore. He wanted and needed her. He was going to do his best to get better and make up for the shitty things he had done to her after their breakup.
He was going to try harder to be better. For himself and for her as well.
He was still nervous about the change, nervous about the looks he would again no doubt receive at the hospital, but he had someone, he had friends to draw strength from.
He was going to be okay.
"Need anything else?" he heard Cuddy ask a few minutes later, pulling him from his thoughts.
"My PSP," House said, making Cuddy smirk. "And toothbrush."
"I haven't thrown yours away," Cuddy revealed, smiling sheepishly as she carried his bag and placed it on the couch beside him. "And your PSP's already in there," she added.
He chuckled a bit before his face turned blank.
A second later, he looked at her, taking hold of her hand.
"Thank you," he said, squeezing her hand. "And I'm sorry."
"I know," she replied, smiling tenderly and running her fingers against his cheek with her free hand, "And I'm sorry too."
She bent forward, pressing a chaste kiss on his dry lips, wishing she could prolong it, but couldn't. They still had a long road ahead of them. And she didn't want to hurry things along the way they did the first time.
They had to take things slow, learning from their mistakes.
"Let's go," she told him, pulling her hand from him to retrieve the crutch that was on the floor near what used to be his computer table. She was careful to avoid the glass shards. She held the crutch as she helped stand him up, her eyes not at all containing a speck of pity when their eyes met while he thanked her.
"Here," she whispered, handing him the crutch.
"Is Rachel at home?" Cuddy nodded. House grinned mischievously.
An eyebrow arched, she suspiciously said, "I don't like that grin. What are you up to?"
"Oh nothing, just thought about catching up with her. There's a new Brownbeard episode tonight," he informed, grinning as he made his way toward his front door.
He caught sight of her sneer, suddenly realizing how much he'd missed that playful look on her face.
"I hate how you allowed her to watch that filthy cartoon in the first place," she scoffed as he stepped out of his apartment.
She took one last look around his living room, her chest blooming with hopeof a new tomorrow. It was most probably going to be a rocky road, but she was going to ride through it with him, knowing that that road will somehow, someday lead to a better one.
She let out a breath before following House out of the apartment, locked his door and followed him out of the building.
Ten minutes into the drive to her place, Cuddy glanced at House whose focus seemed to be fixed on the dashboard.
"Hey," she said softly, making him look at her. She focused her eyes back on the road ahead of her when he said, "Hm?"
"I was wondering if you'd like Chinese for dinner," she said, smiling a bit as she added, "Rachel's missed your unhealthy eating habits."
"Why wouldn't she?" House jabbed, playing along.
"She's going to be glad you're back," Cuddy stated, a smile touching her lips.
House's eyes once again focused on the road, smiling a little. He'd missed the little pirate as well.
The drive to her home was a quiet one for the remainder of it. It took them a little over fifteen minutes. House had fallen asleep by then and as she parked the car in her driveway, she didn't have the heart to wake him just yet.
Quietly, she pulled the key from the ignition and watched him.
His head had lolled to the side with his mouth slightly ajar. He was snoring lightly, tired from his earlier struggle with the loss of his leg. She wanted to reach out and touch him, but she didn't want to wake him just yet.
Carefully, she retracted the crutches from the backseat and held it in between her legs.
Not more than six minutes later, House stirred, eyes uncovering beacons of ice blue water. She smiled fondly, knowing her decision had been right because the heaviness that had burdened her chest for many weeks had vanished with their agreement to try again. Sure she had her doubts, but doubts were good as long as they weren't too much and too many. A relationship without even the slightest of doubts was inconceivable.
"Wrong t'stare," he mumbled, palming his face and scratching his scruff.
Cuddy only smiled, quietly handing him his crutch before getting out of the car. She rounded it and pulled his door open wider when he pushed it open.
He got out of the car a little self-consciously, careful in easing himself off his seat. His new image deducted a great deal of his left leg shook a bit, but he was able to support his heavy weight with the crutches.
"Are you sure about this?" he suddenly asked her, the vulnerability, uncertainty and embarrassment suddenly pervading his system. He looked down as she searched his eyes. Carefully, she lifted his chin up to make him look at her again. She was smiling, and despite his insecurity, all he could worry about was how her unearthly beauty could be the death of him.
"I'm sure," she whispered, caressing his cheek the way he had longed for her to do since the moment he had woken up. He had pushed her away then, but he was going to, slowly, let her back in again. He needed her in his life.
"Because I'd understand it if you—" She shut him up with her fingers, the ethereal smile never leaving her face.
"I love you," she declared tenderly yet her voice was laced with a firmness only Lisa Cuddy could express. "With or without your leg," she added.
House gently pulled her fingers off his lips, holding her hand in his.
"Because you deserve better," he mumbled. It would be the last time he would give her freedom to escape him, because he wouldn't let her go again. She shook her head in negation but he firmly said, "You do."
"I won't run away from you, House," she said adamantly. "Not anymore."
He studied her; eyes, posture, voice, face. Nothing but honesty described her visage. Sincerity swam through her captivating eyes. And though he was and would always be afraid of her losing faith in him again, he wanted that second chance. Because she was going to be the last woman he'd love. She was the only one out there for him. He resented ever hurting her with his horde of prostitutes. He resented wanting to hurt her with his attempt at willingly giving himself up to be used by some green-card opportunist just so she could see him get married to someone who wasn't her. Thinking of those things at that moment, it didn't help but back up his claims at her deserving more than him.
"I will hurt you again," he cautioned, something inside him wanting to shut up, but another part wanted to remind her of what she would inevitably go through again with being with him.
"We'll hurt each other time and time again," Cuddy stated in nonchalance, "It's just how things are between us. But we have a lot to work on."
House nodded in resignation.
"Face it, House," Cuddy chuckled, sliding her hand down to his chest, "You're stuck with me."
"I think it's you who's stuck with me," House smirked.
Cuddy chuckled, "Come on. Rachel will want to see who I came home with."
He watched as she started to walk ahead of him. Before she could take her third step away though, he called her name, making her turn to look at him and ask, "Yeah?"
"I love you, too," he said softly, almost inaudibly. The same way he had told her the night after they had first came together.
She smiled brightly, taking two steps toward him. She pulled him by the collar of his shirt so their lips could meet fiercely. Their lips meshed and moved together finely like sand in the desert. Eventually they had to pull away, never ones who liked public displays of affection beyond hand-holding.
She smiled at him once more, saying, "I know," almost smugly.
House watched her, obsessed by the energy surrounding her, giving him more hope than he could allow himself to carry.
He was glad she was resolved not to hover too much. He sighed internally as he followed her.
As it almost always was, it was going to be a long process, him getting better. But with her, with Wilson, and his determination to get better, he'd be able to do just about anything.
He hadn't even reached her doorstep when Rachel came barreling out from the front door and stopped an inch from him. Frankly, he worried about her running into him without care, because it would really be awkward for him to fall on his ass.
"Hi!" she greeted him, all happy and toothy and hopped up on sugary goodness.
It struck him, somewhat, that she'd greet him and not takeinventory of his limbs. Because, well, one leg was blatantly missing.
She was the curious type, always asking about this or that, why this does this or that, and everything else.
"I did tell you she's missed you, didn't I?" Cuddy grinned from the doorway, arms akimbo as she watched Rachel hug him, his hand awkwardly settling on the top of her head.
"Hi, kid," he greeted in that husky, soft voice he used with Rachel.
"Alright you two, inside," Cuddy said after a while of indulging herself with an image she had sorely missed.
Rachel ran to Cuddy, holding her hand and adding a skip to her step now that her bloody scallywag was back on deck.
House grinned as he trailed behind them, not quite believing how his day had gone from bad to better in the span of just a few hours.
After dinner, Rachel led House to the living room after having switched on the TV. Together they watched Tom & Jerry, a bucket of popcorn on between them.
Cuddy had left them to clear the table and wash the plates.
"You came to play," Rachel grinned victoriously, smiling at him brightly as she fed herself with a handful of popcorn she could barely shove into her mouth.
House smirked at her.
"Thank you for the letter," he suddenly told her with sincerity.
The mention of it made Rachel's grin widen, if that were possible.
"I drawed sharks," she breathily, proudly reminded him.
"Yes," House nodded, "But that's not how you draw sharks," he smirked. Rachel pouted, falsely crestfallen. He swore she could have been Cuddy's biological daughter.
"Yes, is!" Rachel argued petulantly.
"Yes, it is," House corrected.
"Yes, it is!" Rachel said.
"No," House smirked.
"Yes, it is!" she repeated.
Knowing he could win a battle of wills, he let her off, nodding.
"Okay, yes, it is," he acquiesced. Letting out the barest hint of a smile as the smile returned to grace her cherubic face again.
She held the popcorn bucket to him. House took it, watching as she shuffled closer to him, leaning against his arm.
House didn't say anything and neither did Rachel.
They sat together watching a cat and a mouse unsuccessfully one up each other, grinning in unison at some scenes.
Rachel, having kept from asking him for far too long, quietly, almost sadly, asked him, "What happened to your leg?"
House stiffened slightly before allowing himself a moment to relax and breathe.
Rachel remembered he had two legs before. She was not sure why and how he lost his leg—maybe the sharks ate it.
"Will you need a wood leg now?" she asked innocently, looking up at him.
"I hurt my leg," he explained, not sure how to go on explaining the involvement of drugs and an amputation. "It got sick," he added after a moment, "Then it had to go away," he finished, hoping that was enough.
"That okay," Rachel assured him after a while, her small, nearly chubby hand patting the upper part of his thigh, just above the stump. "You still Hows," she finished, her eyes shining with the honesty and innocent sympathy only a child can express. Her small voice made it seem like it was the only thing that mattered.
He smiled genuinely at her, a bit proud of how the little sponge was growing both intellectually and physically. Cuddy (and he, maybe) was going to run crazy with this one. That he was sure of.
"Would ye bilgerat want 'ole House ti get a wooden leg?" he suddenly said in his pirate voice, making the little Cuddy giggle and shake her head.
"Ye better give me a good reason, or I shall make ye walk the plank!"
"Woody leg scary," Rachel said, lips thinning as she thought about it.
"No wooden leg then," House said, offering her a handful of popcorn.
"Tha-nk you," Rachel sang, her head facing the TV once more.
"Last episode before bed time," Cuddy said as she walked into the living room, two heads turning to look at her, whining, "But Mooooom!" immediately after.
"No buts," Cuddy smirked though fighting the urge to smile. She was glad she put her foot down and told him to stay with her for a while—or longer.
"Story?" Rachel asked.
"I will read you a story after we get you cleaned up." Cuddy smiled when Rachel grinned.
As luck would have it, it was the last episode for the period. Rachel's shoulders slumped as she put another treat into her mouth. Cuddy smiled fondly at her daughter. Even if she'd missed seeing them together, she still had to follow their routine.
"Come on Rach, say goodnight to House so we can get you ready for bed," Cuddy instructed her daughter.
Rachel surprised House by kneeling beside him and slinging her arms around his neck in a hug. "Nighty, House," she whispered before pulling back and placing a loud smack on his cheek, giggling at the face he made.
Cuddy rolled her eyes at House's reaction.
"Night, kid," House said, watching a she gave him one last smile.
"As for you," Cuddy turned to point an index finger at him, "Take your meds."
House made a face.
"Now," Cuddy ordered sternly.
"Fine," he grumbled, standing up carefully with the crutches after retrieving his pillbox from his backpack. He made his way to the kitchen to get a glass of water for his meds.
He returned to the living room a moment later, sitting back down on the couch with a small grunt.
House got the remote from the coffee table and channel-surfed until he found a show that appealed to him. When he found nothing, he turned off the TV and stretched himself out on Cuddy's sofa.
He fastened his gaze to the ceiling, noticing a small trickle of fear enter his bloodstream. He mentally swatted at the 'what ifs' treacherously breaking through his mind and tried to think of something else.
Though he knew there was a potential that what he had decided on doing would only set him up for hurt, again, he allowed himself to think of the good things to come out of the months of therapy to come.
The freedom to jog, run, and play other sports.
Ride his bike more comfortably.
Golf without having to limp along the course.
No more wheelchairs on the way in and out of a plane.
Use stairs without difficulty like most people..
Sex Cuddy up against a wall— among other places.
A throaty chuckle tore past his lips.
Another one followed against his wishes.
He let out a breath, steeling himself for whatever tomorrow had to throw at him.
For once, he actually believed that that his future would not be as dark and cruel to him as before.
He was unaware that he'd fallen asleep on the couch until he felt fingers weaving through his unkempt hair. Their eyes met when his opened and Cuddy smiled. She was kneeling on the floor, her body pressed against the soft upholstery of the sofa.
She continued running her fingers through his hair. Her eyes never wavered from his. They were holding a conversation without words.
They didn't speak, both content in taking in the soothing sensation and calm they mutually felt just by looking at one another in comfortable silence.
Just with the quiet certainty of her gaze on him, House was once again reassured that everything was not lost and that, for the first time in years, he could finally dare to look his future in the eyes with less fear.
A/N: Loved, liked, think I'm evil, want MOAR? Let me know if I should continue!
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