There was a knock at the hotel door.

"Go away!" shouted House gleefully. "We don't want any."

Bambi and Tiffani giggled.

A pause. Then another knock.

"Will someone please make that annoying sound go away?" House said, putting Bambi's finger in his mouth and playfully biting it.

In unison: "Please go away!" the girls yelled, collapsing into another fit of giggles.

Instead, the door burst open.

A rather formidable-looking woman was standing there, wearing a business suit, high heels, and a scowl.

Cuddy.

House looked at her. Looked at the two naked girls that flanked him.

"Well, this is awkward," he said.

Unmoved, Cuddy marched toward them, reached down, grabbed a skimpy dress, a skimpier slip, two pairs of do-me heels, and threw them on the bed.

"Party's over, girls," she said. "Get up, get dressed, and get out."

Startled by the scary lady, both Bambi and Tiffani sat up straight.

"Wait a second," House said. "You're not going anywhere. This bitch doesn't get to tell me what to do anymore."

Now they were confused. They looked at each other.

"Get out, or I'm calling the cops," Cuddy said, pulling out her cell phone.

"Stay, or I'm calling . . .Carnell!" House countered, picking up the phone next to the bed.

"Sorry Brock," they said to House, each kissing him on the cheek and getting out of bed.

"Brock?" Cuddy snorted. "Really, House?"

"Wait! I'll go with you," House said, popping up after them. He deftly wrapped himself in a sheet. "We can take this party elsewhere."

"House, you're not going anywhere," Cuddy said.

"Like hell I'm not," House said.

"House. . .as your boss, I'm ordering you to stay."

"You're not my boss in this hotel. And—who are we trying to kid?" he gave a derisive chuckle. "You're barely my boss at the hospital, either."

Cuddy put her hands on her hips.

"It's 4 o clock in the afternoon on a Tuesday and you're high as a kite and screwing a couple of hookers in a hotel room. If you think that's not grounds for your immediate dismissal, you sorely underestimate how I serious I am right now."

House looked at her to see if she was bluffing. Her clear eyes met his glassy ones with a steely resolve.

He sighed.

"Ladies, it was truly magical. Help yourself to some lovely parting gifts on the way out"—he handed them both a wad of cash and gave Cuddy an impudent look. "And please know that this was the best 40 minutes of my adult life."

They left.

"Killjoy," he muttered.

But without an audience, he'd lost a bit of his gumption.

"Get dressed," she said.

"What? Suddenly you're modest? I have a better idea. Why don't you take off your clothes, too? I have about five thousand dollars left. Experience says you don't come cheap."

She continued to ignore him, much to his dismay. She sensed that if she remained calm—not overly sympathetic but not overly critical either—he would eventually break down his resistances. She just needed to be patient.

"Get dressed, House," she repeated.

"Whatever," he said. The sheet dropped to the floor. Totally naked, he reached down and slowly started picking up his clothes.

While he was getting dressed, Cuddy began searching the room. She found a bottle of vicodin in the night table, one on the balcony, and another in the mini bar.

She started toward the bathroom.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he asked, limping after her. He was wearing an unbuttoned shirt now, with boxers, still no pants.

She lifted the lid of the toilet bowl, started emptying the contents of the first bottle. As she went to open the second, he grabbed her arm roughly.

"House, let go," she said.

"I may be a pathetic cripple, but I'm still stronger than you," he said.

"I know," she said calmly.

"I need those," he said. He was still holding her arm, but his voice sounded a little desperate.

"No you don't," she said.

"You don't know what I need," he said.

"Not this," she repeated. "Not like this." She looked at her arm. "House, you're hurting me."

He dropped her arm reluctantly.

"You're a bitch, you know that?" he said. But his voice had a defeated quality.

"Yeah," she said. "I know." She emptied the second and third bottle of pills. Flushed the toilet.

House went back to the room, sat on the edge of the bed, put his head in his hands.

"And why are you acting like you care all of a sudden?" he asked.

"Who said I ever stopped caring?" she said, sitting next to him.

"I don't know, it was pretty fucking apparent when you came to my house and sucker punched me the other night," he said.

She looked at him.

"House, I'm sorry. I. ..I think I could've handled that better. In fact, I know I could've."

He met her gaze. "Oh no, you were great. A real champ. A gold medalist. Total decimation of your opponent. The Russian judges gave you a 10."

"You're not my opponent," she said. She put her hand on his shoulder. He flinched.

"Don't touch me," he hissed.

"Sorry," she said.

"And I don't want your pity," he said. "It's meaningless from a heartless bitch like you."

She sighed. His words stung. But she was going to remain steady, stick to the plan.

"House, what are you doing to yourself?" she said finally.

"Living the dream," he said.

"I'm being serious," she said. "A year ago, I found you sitting on the floor of your bathroom about to take vicodin. Are you telling me that our relationship was the only thing keeping you from using this whole time?"

"Jesus, you really do think highly of yourself," he said angrily.

"Well, then, don't give me a reason to think so highly of myself, House," she said back.

"You're forgetting one crucial factor here," he said.

"What's that?"

"Oh, just the tiny little detail of I thought you were going to die," he said self-righteously. "In the span of 24 hours, I thought my girlfriend—sorry, my ex-girlfriend—was going to die and THEN she dumped me. Addicts have fallen off the wagon for a lot less."

Cuddy looked at her feet. She had to admit that he had a point.

"So this is how you decide to handle it?" she said finally. "The full-on suicidal rockstar-on-a-bender routine?"

"I'm not suicidal," he said.

She looked around the room. The place was a mess and there were empty bottles of booze and pills everywhere, plus a very ominous bow and arrow.

"Could've fooled me," she said.

She got up, started collecting the bottles and folding the strewn clothing.

"You don't have to do that," House said. "They have this thing called maid service. Although if you wanted to go home and get that little French maid's outfit you wore last Halloween, I wouldn't object. . ."

Again, she didn't take the bait. She had expected this all—the insults, the self-pity, the come-ons. In fact, she expected a lot worse. House was too high to really be on top of his game.

"I know the maids will do it," Cuddy said, throwing the empty bottles into the trash and placing the bow and arrow in the closet. "But I can't stand looking at all this squalor. C'mon. Finish getting dressed. I'm taking you home."

"I don't want to go home," he said.

"Why not?"

"Because I like it here."

"What so great about this hotel room?"

"No bad memories," he said pointedly.

"Well, I'm not leaving you alone here."

"I wasn't alone. . .until you had to barge in and ruin everything."

"Yes, I'm sure the Silicone Twins were a great comfort to you," she said.

"They were," he sniffed.

"If you don't want to go back to your place, let me drop you off at Wilson's."

"Is he the one who sent you here?"

In fact, he had.

"He's worried about you, House," she said gently. "We both are."

"I'm a grown man, Cuddy. I get to make my own choices. I choose to stay here."

She didn't know what to do. She had cleaned the room, kicked out the hookers, flushed his vicodin. She couldn't force him to leave.

"Okay, suit yourself," she said. "Are you at least coming to work tomorrow?"

"My team is keeping me apprised of our little cowboy," House said. "They need my brain. They don't need my body."

"I want you back in the hospital tomorrow," she warned. "I've indulged your theatrics enough."

Again, he looked to see if she was bluffing. She clearly wasn't.

"Fine," he said.

"And when was the last time you slept?"

"I'll sleep when I'm dead," House said.

"Yeah, and that'll be a lot sooner than you think, if you keep going like this."

"Your concern for me is truly heartwarming, Cuddy."

"I am concerned," she said sincerely.

He was quiet. His shoulders slumped.

"Do me this one favor?" she said. She went to the windows, closed the blinds.

"Just put your head down on the pillow and close your eyes. Just for 10 minutes."

"You're not my mother," he said.

"I know, but it doesn't take a mother to see that you're running on empty."

It was true, he was exhausted. He was on the verge of passing out. And it was clear that her plan was beginning to work. He looked emotionally spent, defeated, this close to submitting to her every command.

"I don't want to be alone," he said finally, pitifully.

"I'll stay with you until you fall asleep," she said.

"You promise?" he asked, his eyes at half-mast.

"Yes," she said.

She pulled up a chair next to the bed, fluffed the pillow. He got back under the covers, closed his eyes.

Almost without thinking, she put her hand on his forehead, which was coated with a thin film of sweat, smoothed his hair.

"House, please promise me you won't let it get bad like this again," she said.

"I promise," he said wearily.

"Good," she said. "I'm holding you to that."

The feel of her hand on his forehead broke down the last of his defenses.

"Give me another chance, Cuddy," he pleaded in a sleepy voice. "I'll do better…"

"House, we'll talk about this tomorrow. When you're sober," she said.

"Tell me what to do Cuddy. Just tell me what to do and I'll do it . . ."

His voice was almost inaudible now, he was barely conscious.

She looked at him, watched as his breathing got deeper and his chest began to rise and fall. He was asleep.

She kissed his forehead and left.