Finally! I know, I know. Excuse any typos and grammar mistakes, I was rushed when editing. Hope you guys enjoy it.
A week and a bit later, House woke up to a blaring alarm clock. Grumbling, his mind still foggy with sleep, he stretched out and arm and slammed down on the snooze button. He then lay motionless in bed, enjoying the silence as he collected his thoughts and prepared himself for the day. He listened to the rain patter on the windows. He really didn't feel like going to work today - well, he never felt like going to work any day – but especially not today. Stacy's test loomed in just under two weeks, and House dreaded facing the people that knew about it. He sighed, and off his alarm went again, announcing the start of the day.
House swung his legs over and onto the floor as he did every day. His leg screeched in pain at the sudden movement, and House clamped his teeth shut in agony. With a grimace, he turned his upper body, grabbing for the Vicodin bottle on the nightstand. Barely able to hold back his need, he forced himself to slow down his desperate movements as he stared hungrily at the white pill in his hand. He popped it into his mouth and swallowed it greedily, his breathing returning to normal as the pain dulled. He stood and hobbled slowly to the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. He relieved himself and then climbed into the awaiting shower, taking a long time as he relished the hot water. When he climbed out three-quarters if an hour later, he was late for work, but the hot water had managed to relieve most of the pain.
Shielding himself against the rain, he relied heavily on his cane as he ran out to his car. Tossing the cane on to the passenger seat, he took a moment to massage his leg. Shaking his head, he eagerly burned the tires and laughed like a maniac as the car squealed and reeled away from the sidewalk. He sped all the way to the hospital, skidding into his parking space and striding into the hospital, despite the fact his leg was slowly aching again, much more than usual. He shook it off, joining Cameron in the elevator.
"Morning." She greeted him, holding two coffees. He reached over and grabbed one. "Aw, thanks."
"That was Foreman's…" She muttered, but House ignored her, taking a sip.
"Shouldn't you have the black one running the chores? Isn't that what he's meant to do?" He took another gulp. "Then again, the kitchen is the women's domain." He trailed off thoughtfully, and Cameron glared at him. The doors clicked open, and the pair walked out of the elevator.
"Is your leg hurting? You seem to be heavily relying on your left side." Cameron commented, as this was the truth.
"It's fine. Nothing one of these babies can't fix." He snapped, sliding a pill into his mouth. Cameron made no attempt to hide her disapproval. They walked along the hallway until House stopped abruptly in front of a patient's room. Cameron walked a few more steps and then looked back at him in surprise. She walked back to him, curiosity sparkling in her eyes. House had never shown interest in any random patient before just by looking at them. He stiffened, trapped in some sort of thoughtful daze, and Cameron was left to stare on, wondering what on earth he was thinking of.
"What do you see?" She prodded tentatively turning back to the scene in the room. The patient was a young girl, maybe about 12 years old, and her family – her mother, father, and younger brother, who must've been no older than 8. She frowned, this was ordinary, and certainly not anything House would ever usually stop for.
Fear, pain, anger and longing each briefly flashed in House's eyes, paralyzing him for another minute. He lowered his voice. "That man is not that patient's biological father."
Cameron glanced at him, but his expression had turned unreadable again. "How can you tell?"
House took a distracted sip of coffee, helping to muffle his screaming thoughts. "Their eyes. His and her mother's eyes are blue, yet the patient's are brown. It's not possible they're related.
Cameron looked thoughtfully at each pair of eyes in the room. He was right. The father had light blue eyes and fluffy brown hair, and the daughter had deep brown eyes. On the other hand, the mother had deeper blue eyes.
"How do you know it's not the mother?" She demanded smugly. His interest lost, House shrugged and kept walking. "She and her mother both have blonde hair."
There was no flaw in his reasoning, she admitted. She checked over her shoulder at the room number. Surprised, she turned back to House.
"Looks like you'll be able to do a paternity test." Cameron said, catching up with him. "She's our patient."
House didn't miss a beat, and his reaction completely baffled Cameron. "I don't want the case."
"Wha-Nevermind. That's too bad; you're going to have to take it."
"According to who?" He asked as they approached the office.
"According to Cuddy." She shot back.
House paused before answering. "Damn." Smugly, Cameron opened the door and followed House into the office, where the team was waiting. Cameron slid into her seat, Foreman staring at her expectantly.
"What happened to my coffee?" He asked, irritation edging his voice. Cameron didn't even look at him as she gestured in House's direction.
"He happened." She replied shortly, and Foreman turned to his boss.
"That's my coffee!"
"Really? I didn't see your name on it." House sneered, settling into a chair, hiding a grimace as he massaged his leg. Annoyed, Foreman shook his head, giving up as he left to go get himself a coffee.
"You okay?" Chase asked, motioning to his leg.
"I'm fine!" House growled. "Can we please start focusing on the case?" He shifted grumpily. Cameron sighed; it was going to be a long day. Chase raised his eyebrows, unconvinced, but looked down at his papers, dropping the matter. He knew he wouldn't have gotten anywhere, anyway.
"Twelve year old girl presents with diagnosed angiokeratomas, as well acroparestesia and kidney complications." Chase read.
"Ouch." House commented. "Aaaaand differential diagnosis. Go!"
"Angiokeratomas is a distinct condition, not usually a symptom, are we sure that's what it is?" Cameron asked.
"The first thing they did when she was admitted was biopsy the legions." Chase said. "And because of that and the other symptoms, the case got to Cuddy and then got to here. Acroparestesia is usually caused by damage to the peripheral nerves."
"Could be something directly damaging the peripheral nerves, like a toxin."
"That also causes angiokeratomas? Nope."
"Useless." House coughed. "Tell me something I don't know?"
"These symptoms together are strange – maybe poisoning? A neurological problem?" Chase offered.
House stared at him. "Even more useless. It's angiokeratomas, not a rash or allergic reaction." Then he laughed. "You're both so blind."
Both Chase and Cameron looked at him, dumfounded.
"You know what it is!" Cameron accused.
"You knew it before you asked for a differential!"
"Well, it is obvious. And I clicked in with Chase's whole peripheral blah blah speech." House defended himself. "Especially since the angiokeratomas have been diagnosed."
"I thought you said my peripheral blah blah speech was useless?"
"I was referring to you in general." House clarified.
Silence filtered the room. "Really? I'm disappointed. It's Fabry disease." He said, leaning back with a arrogant expression. "Duh."
Both fellows exhaled in exasperation and understanding. "Damn, I should've gotten that!" Chase exclaimed.
"Damn right you should have. I bet Foreman would've." House scoffed just as Foreman entered to room with his coffee.
"You just missed the shortest diagnosis in the world. We're already certain what it is." Chase said smugly.
"I doubt it. So what are the symptoms?"
"It's Fabry disease." Cameron cut in. Foreman stopped and stared around the room.
"You're serious? You finished the diagnosis?" He asked, disbelief still burning in his eyes and tone. "No way."
"Uh, yes way." House said. "I actually got the answer in the matter of a couple of minutes."
"Of course you did." Foreman rolled his eyes. "I bet you a hundred bucks this was the wrong diagnosis."
"Oh, you're so on!" House immediately exclaimed, slamming a fist down onto the table for emphasis. "That was a stupid deal to make, considering you haven't even glanced at the symptoms."
Foreman paled, and then snatched away the papers from Chase. "Damn." He muttered after a minute. "Clearly Fabry disease."
House turned to Cameron and Chase with a smirk. "Told you he'd get it." He tilted his head back to Foreman. "Show me the moula!"
"No," Foreman said uneasily, "it still might be-"
House gave him a look. "We both know it isn't. Gimme!" He stretched out his hand, wiggling his fingers impatiently.
With a resigned sigh, Foreman pulled out his wallet and handed over the hundred dollars, which House flaunted gleefully.
"So, that's it? We're done? We confirm and giver her pain medication and release her?" Cameron asked.
"We can try offering an ERT…" Chase said.
"Those cost a fortune." Foreman said. "I doubt they can afford it, but you can try."
"I'll go confirm with an enzyme essay and then give the options." Cameron said. "Then we'll prescribe and release." She got up and (tried to) make her way to the door, but House thrust his cane in front of her and causing a barrier.
"Ah, ah, ah!" He scolded. "Nuh-uh, not so fast! Look at her family history, there's two parts we still have to discuss. First off, she has a little brother we should test, and secondly, there's no history of Fabry disease."
"So it's not Fabry?" Foreman said hopefully.
"No. It means that's not her biological father. So, you offer the drugs, test and examine the brother, and run a paternity test. You do not release her – make up a reason."
"You want to keep her hostage?" Chase asked doubtfully.
"No, I want to find her biological father." House replied firmly. "Go. All of you. Scat!"
After a gruelingly painful walk down to the Clinic, House was grateful when he reached Cuddy's office. His leg had been screaming in pain since he first got up, and it hadn't stopped. The Vicodin was barely keeping it bearable, and a fine shine of sweat covered his forehead. He was managing fairly well with masking the pain, but every so often he slipped, and it flashed in his eyes. He was struggling and he was losing. He opened the door to her office and stumble in, leaning heavily on his cane. If Cuddy had heard him come in, she didn't show it. She kept her back to him, leaning over her desk and apparently arranging something. House opened his mouth to say something, and then got distracted, tilting his head back to get a better view of her rear. She was, as usual, wearing a simple but tight-fitting skirt and a low-necked blouse. The truth was Cuddy had heard him come in and had also figured out he was probably enjoying the view, but she wasn't really in a mood for dealing with him. House shook his head and blinked a few times, dragging his gaze up to the back of her head.
He started. "I need-"
"No, you can't have time to go see The Cure live in Boston." She cut him off shortly.
Damn, though House. He'd come to ask Cuddy for more pills because lately she'd acted all strange – sympathetic and caring. Apparently, when House actually needed the sympathy, she had none. He loathed charity – but right now, the pain in his leg was making him delirious. He glanced at the calendar hanging in the wall and winced – she was menstruating, and this clearly was not the appropriate week to bug her.
He lowered his voice to an almost-human tone, a trick that usually got him what he wanted. "I need more pills. A stronger prescription or something."
Cuddy laughed coldly. "I can assure you that that is the one thing you don't need."
"Cuddy-" He pleaded, getting desperate. He stopped when a new wave of pain engulfed him, causing black spots in his vision. He let out a strangled breath, which Cuddy heard, and she wheeled around.
"Oh gosh," she inhaled, than helped him into a chair. "You don't look very good." She said.
"I wonder why?""He snapped, irritation and pain wheezing in his voice. "Please, give me something-"
"How bad does it hurt, one to ten?" She cut him off again, sliding into the seat across from him. He grimaced.
"Try a million." He pursed his lips. "Can we skip the pointless medical question and get on with the medication? I need morphine."
Cuddy looked at him, still hesitant.
"Give me the damn shot!" he yelled, eyes fluttering closed. Cuddy moved into action, closing the blinds and filing through her cabinets for the syringe. She slid it into his arm muscle, giving the injection before she could think twice about it.
House sighed. "Thank you."Cuddy didn't answer, discarding the syringe and washing her hands. House didn't move, instead lying back into the chair, breathing deeply. When she was finished, she joined him.
After awhile of studying him, she asked something that had been bugging her. "Why'd you ask me and not Wilson?"
House didn't answer right away, and kept his eyes closed, not so much out of relief then out of avoidance of her gaze. "'Cause he'd give me a whole lecture about how the pain reflects my mental state, mainly focusing on Stacy and related topics, before giving me the shot. I needed it immediately – with you, I knew your heart would give out and you'd give me the shot first and ask the questions later. Then I could leave for the questions or use the morphine to my advantage." He said softly, fidgeting his cane.
"Oh," Cuddy said as she absorbed this.
"And now the questions start." He sighed heavily, but made no attempt to leave. Cuddy's gaze softened. She had tons of questions she wanted to torture him with, but no words to phrase them.
"So how's your case going? Any ideas?" she decided to start simple.
"Solved. It's Fabry disease."
Cuddy looked rather shocked. "Oh… okay. I'll find you another case."
"No need, I'm not done with this one yet." He replied, voice sounding tired. "The father isn't the biological dad."
That was the clue Cuddy had been looking for. Suddenly this all made obvious sense – that case would undoubtedly have a huge effect on House. On top of that, it had been a case she'd assigned to him. Sympathy flashed in her pupils. "I can take you off it," she offered. He shook his head, finally opening his eyes.
"I don't need your sympathy." He stated, voice flat and rather rude. "Save it for your loser children." He waved a dismissing hand and exited the office abruptly, a little lighter on the cane. Cuddy watched him go, mouth slightly agape, with one hand placed firmly on her belly.
"Tested positive," Cameron announced, facing Foreman and Chase. "Let's go tell them."
The men nodded, and silently the team made their way through the bustling hospital hallways. Before they entered the patient's room, though, Chase took a firm step forward and planted himself in front of his colleagues.
"So how are we going to do this?" He asked, searching Cameron and Foreman's faces each in turn. "Are we going to do this secretly or just flat-out tell the patient that's not her real dad?"
"House would want this done in a sneaky way, though I have no idea how we're going to find out more information. The man has to consent to a paternity test and all." Cameron said.
"Sooner or later, the secret will be out. Nothing stays a secret here anyway." Foreman agreed. Chase raised his hands. "I personally don't want House on my back, so let's see if we can get the information out of the mother before asking for the test." The others nodded their agreement, and they slid open the door and stepped into the bright room.
"Did you figure out what's wrong?" the mother said hopefully, rising from her seat and looking expectantly at their faces. Cameron found it hard to meet her eyes.
"Yes, you have a condition called angiokeratoma corporis diffusium, or Fabry disease. It's not curable, but it's not fatal. We can offer some medication to help ease the pain." Foreman said, addressing Annie, the patient. The family sat quietly for a moment as they absorbed this news.
"Well, what are the meds?" The father, Mr Cathridge, asked.
"There are several options. There are a few pain management pills and anti-inflammatory pills to choose from. They'll all help dull and soothe the pain. There are also ERTs, or enzyme replacement treatments, that will make life easier and more comfortable."
Silence settled as the room's occupants considered the treatments and pills. With one glance at her husband, Mrs Cathridge looked back up at her daughter's doctors. "Can we talk to you outside?" She said quietly. Chase nodded, opening the doors the adults filtered out of the room.
"So there's no cure?" She asked quietly, and Mr Cathridge wrapped an arm reassuringly over her shoulders.
"We're sorry." Foreman said.
"How much are the medications? The ERTs?" Mr Cathridge asked as his wife buried her head in his shoulder.
"They're a new research, so about 200 000 dollars annually," Chase said, watching the man in front of him take in a sharp breath.
"There are other options, and ERT's aren't a cure." Cameron put in quickly. "She'll be fine with pain management pills."
They nodded, understanding. "I just don't get it – What caused this?" Mrs Cathridge demanded.
"I-uh… I-it's-" Cameron stuttered, having almost automatically said 'it's hereditary'.
"We don't, uh, know," Chase lied quickly, cutting in, "That's why we have to keep her here a little while longer." He shared a quick glance with Cameron, and her eyes flashed with uncertainty. The Cathridges stared suspiciously at the team, but soon dropped the subject.
"We need to draw blood from her as well as your son." When alarm flashed in the parents' eyes, Foreman added quickly, "We don't think he has it, it's just precautionary." The parents relaxed and consented, and Chase disappeared into the room to collect the blood along with the parents.
Agitation flared off of Foreman. "I hate always tip-toeing around for House. It' pointless; he's just trying to play games."
Cameron nodded, frowning. "Why can't we just tell them? We're going to have to sooner or later. He is just turning this into a game." All the same, she thought, this wasn't exactly the typical House behaviour. Maybe it was, but she still thought something was up. "I'm going to go ask him." She decided, and whirled away before Foreman could answer. Cameron's mind was spinning, and she didn't bother to shift through and sort her thoughts; she mainly focused on her concern and curiosity. She knew House well enough to know he'd be hiding, but Wilson's office, the exam rooms, and the nurse's lounge were empty. She wound up in the locker room, and, of course, he was there, listening to music. She didn't go in, preferring to stay at the door.
"I don't get it. Why are you making us dance around this case? Why can't we just tell them and get this paternity test over with?"
He hit the pause button and looked up at her. Sarcasm tinted his voice. "I thought you'd agree with me, Miss Care-a-lot. You know, that whole ripping-apart-people's-lives-apart-when-it's-not-n ecessary scheme."
"So why can't we just do it?" She ignored him.
"Many reasons. We'll have to see if the brother tests positive or not. I was hoping we wouldn't even have to test the dad. We just have to find a brown-eyed man with Fabry disease. It can't be too hard. Sleep with any lately? I know you have a fetish to fix the incurable." He paused for a moment. "Also, legally, it's not necessary for us to perform a paternity test as nothing medical can come out of it. And lastly, I didn't want to unnecessarily ruin their lives." At the last sentence his voice turned from sarcastic to almost sincere. It made Cameron uneasy, as she now had no idea how he actually felt.
"Bullshit." She snorted. "Since when do you care about your patients?"
Anger burned in House's eyes as he met her gaze. "Since when do you care about when I care about my patients?"
"Because I care about you! Is it a crime to care about someone yet not love them? I wasn't aware." She shot back defiantly. He stood up, his movements rigid with anger and eyes cold as he met her at the door. She could clearly see his eyes now; they burned with fury and pain, barely a few inches away from her own. She held his gaze, her face grimly determined.
"You're not better than everyone else because of your ethics," he growled. "Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone lies. And ethics can make you do both, as you're doing now." He warned, letting the words linger and scrutinizing her face, but Cameron didn't flinch. She didn't react, instead keeping the same look.
"And no one is always right about their assumptions." She answered coolly. He ignored her.
"If you want me to do something, I'll go do it now. Are you coming?" He changed the subject back to the case, glaring at her as he marched by. Cameron nodded, looking away as she trailed him. Too easily, she was lost in her own thoughts, and they continued in a taught silence. The anger eventually died inside of her boss, but he kept up the hard expression. They neared the patient's room and reality hit Cameron; she hesitantly worried of what House had in mind.
"Don't do something stupid." She muttered as he entered the room.
"When don't I?" he hissed back, putting on a fake grin as he turned back to the expectant family. Cameron silently slipped up to stand beside him.
"Good day," House said in that irritating fake tone he used around patients. Cameron managed a faint smile before nervously glancing at House, who ignored her and continued to speak. "Can we talk to Mrs Cathridge – alone – please?"
Immediately Mr Cathridge jumped up. "Why can't I know? If it's about Annie, I'd like to know!"
The smile vanished from House's face. "Because by alone I obviously meant the two of you. Nobody ever acknowledges the word 'alone' anymore. It's really quite a beautiful word." He ushered Mrs Cathridge in front of him and physically blocked her husband.
"Don't worry, honey, I'm sure you'll find out later." She smiled regretfully at her husband as House slammed shut the door and jammed it closed so the husband was trapped. Cameron stared in alarm at him.
"Did you just jam the door?"
House looked at her, seemingly surprised. "Did I? Well then." Cameron eyed him warily, still in the dark about what he planned to do and anxious about the door. He turned back to a confused Mrs Cathridge.
"How long have you two been married?" He asked pleasantly. She gave her husband, still trying to open the door frantically, a long look, before turning warily back to House. Cameron stared at him just as dumbfounded. He had to piss off a husband, and then go break hospital protocol; just to ask one spouse how long they were married?
"14 years… Why?" She watched distractedly as her husband dashed across and pressed the panic button.
"Thank you. You can go back now." He ignored the nurses as they rushed up behind him and tried to open the door, calling Cuddy frantically. He pulled a Cameron to the side, who was watching the going-on, "Walk," he said, "Before Cuddy gets here."
The led a startled but recovering Cameron away. "See, that is why we are not doing the paternity test. He clearly has no idea the kid's not his. She probably got bored after the first year of married life and screwed around. Everyone makes mistakes."
Cameron, still a little shocked, looked disgusted at this news. "And everybody pays the price." She sighed. "Fine, we'll play your game. But you realize he'll find out eventually, right?"
House nodded briefly before Cameron continued. "So what do you want us to do?"
"Call me when you get the results for the other kid. Tomorrow you can start rifling the mother for answers. I'm avoiding Cuddy, ergo going home." He said, and limped hurriedly away without a farewell.
Later in the evening, Cuddy unlocked the door and entered her home. Impatiently, she set the groceries she'd bought on the table and shrugged off her coat. After messily hanging up the latter and her scarf, she urgently beelined for her bedroom.
Urgency pulsed in her mind, pushing everything else away. Almost everything, at least- the scenes with House much earlier in the day poked at the edge of her concentration. Jesus, it seemed all she ever thought about was that man and his crazy pranks.
It was strange; the scene in her office had been replaying in her head all day. Although the whole jamming-the-door stunt had pissed her off to the extreme, as it had forced her to stay hours later than planned and House refused to pick up, the whole previous conversation before that annoyed and yet fascinated her. She shrugged it off; she was probably just concerned for his leg and well-being. There was just something about it that enticed her. It was irrational, but Cuddy did care for him, and she wouldn't deny herself that. After all, it wasn't every day he practically begged her for help instead of verbally abusing her. Heck, he hadn't even commented on her outfit.
She quickly changed into more comfortable clothing, having no plans for the night still stretching out before her. She decided on sweats and an old t-shirt. She then made herself a quick meal, uncertainty and hesitance circling her in the silence as she ate. For awhile, the thoughts on House were gone, but they made their way back like an unrelenting boomerang.
Maybe it unnerved her because he'd mentioned her personal life. She hadn't told him how far she'd gone with the in vitroimplantation, but it was like he knew. This made her uneasy, but not to this degree. After all, she'd gotten used to his comments.
The only other conclusion Cuddy could draw was that she felt uneasy about his personal life, but she thought that was ridiculous. It was probably just because, like Wilson said, the odds were his situation with Stacy would end with him getting hurt. This affected Cuddy because, of course, she would share the ghastly job of picking up the pieces alongside Wilson. Yes, this must be the reason, and any other possibilities Cuddy refused to acknowledge.
She washed her dishes and then returned to her bedroom. One bag from the store had remained untouched and was lying on her bed. She suddenly felt queasy looking at it, taking in a deep breath. She approached it, slowly sliding out its contents – a pregnancy test.
As if moving in a dream, she floated to the bathroom off her bedroom, refusing to look at the foreboding technology in her hands. She silently shut the door behind her, turning on the light.
When she was finished, she washed her hands slowly and dried hem with a towel. She didn't understand why she was so nervous – the last appointment had only been a few days ago, and the nurse had said there were some minor complications, but she hadn't seemed too concerned. With one steadying look at her reflection in the mirror, she glared down at the test.
Three red letters glared back: NEG. Disbelieving, she took a second look, tapping the screen. Nothing happened, and the cold reality sank in.
Tears flooded her eyes and her breathing hitched. Those three letters had made her world crash down. She squeezed her eyes shut, the action causing a few tears to escape and slide down her cheeks.
After awhile, she'd relaxed, but the sadness surrounded her like a black storm cloud. The lonely, silent house pressed down on her. She was in a sour mood – filled with depression, anger, grief, and longing. She changed again into a night gown and slid under the sheets, but it took an achingly long time before sleep relieved her.
The following morning greeted House with his phone incessantly ringing. He blinked his eyes open, majorly disoriented, then groaned. He flipped over, flailing for his cell. His leg voiced its protest, and he quickly detoured towards the Vicodin. He popped a pill, and enjoyed a moment of silence as his phone stopped ringing. He half-heartedly hoped whoever it was wouldn't call back, but he knew they would. Sure enough, off it went again, and House resumed his search. Finding it and tangled in his sheets, he checked the number. Five missed calls from Foreman – and counting.
"Great," he said sourly, flipping open the phone. "House."
"I know. Most people pick up after the first ring." Foreman's voice was flat and bland.
House grunted in response, sliding off the bed and reaching for his cane. He limped into the kitchen, putting a bagel into the toaster and pushing down the lever.
"The brother tested negative," Foreman informed.
"Well, that limits our search down to a blond, brown-eyed, Fabry-disease-suffering male who was only with the mother 9 to 12 years ago."
"Incredibly easy to find," Foreman said dryly. "What do you want to do now?"
"Ask the mother. Say it's medical, whatever."
"Alright; see you soon." He hung up, and House heard the line briefly go dead before he did the same. He flipped the phone in his hand before retrieving his newly toasted bagel.
Foreman slipped the cell back into his pocket. Cameron and Chase both turned their attention back to him in the busy hall where they stood.
"He said to go in. Who wants to?"
"I will." Cameron volunteered. She couldn't explain it, but with her last conversation with House a burning curiosity had started a fire, interlaced with concern among other feelings. Confusion squeezed around the flames, leaving her lost and tired.
Chase and Foreman stared at her dubiously.
"Last time you failed miserably," Chase said, and Cameron ignored him. "I personally vote Foreman."
"I vote Chase," Foreman said at the same time, staring at him. Cameron, amused, stepped back and watched.
"You're more likely to keep your cool and not reveal anything." Chase started.
"You're more likely to get the answers faster. People like you," Foreman argued.
"And you both nominated each other so that the other didn't have to do it." Cameron added. "I already said I'd do it."
Foreman whirled around to face her. "No matter what, a break is not worth sending you in there. I'd like to keep my job." Cameron looked offended and crossed her arms.
"Rock, paper, scissors?" Chase offered. Foreman stared at him to see if he was serious, and after deciding he was, agreed, albeit embarrassedly.
"Children," Cameron muttered, secretly curious to see how this would end. After beating Chase two out of three, Foreman grinned.
"Looks like you're up," Foreman said to an angry-looking Chase, waving a farewell over his shoulder.
"Damn," Chase swore, then without looking at Cameron, he walked into the patient's room, failing at a cheery face.
"Can I please talk to Mrs Cathridge?" He said bluntly, giving a warning glance at Mr Cathridge. The man looked troubled and frustrated but didn't object. After a fraction of a second of hesitation, Mrs Cathridge followed Chase out into the hall. He led the way through the familiar hospital hallways, and after walking a bit and assuring they were in a completely different part of the building. He motioned for her to sit, taking a seat himself. His mood had calmed and resignation at working had worn off, replaced by an actual curiosity he didn't concede.
"Have you ever had an affair? It's medically important…" He started, his voice soft yet abrupt. Mrs Cathridge was clearly not expecting this as surprise flashed across her face. Chase searched her eyes intently for any alarm or nervousness, but he found nothing he could work with.
"No! Why would you ask?" She replied, her voice tinted with a cold tone that held him at an arm's length, though it was not unfriendly.
"Research has shown that it might have a link to the case." Chase replied, frustrated.
"Well I haven't, and I wouldn't. I love him." She got up; gave him a brisk nod. Chase would have believed her too, if he hadn't known any better.
"Very well. We'll talk soon." He sighed – House wouldn't be happy with his results.
After Chase had fled to the patient's room, Cameron had aimlessly started to wander the halls. She had nowhere to go and nowhere to be, so she took the time to drift and lose herself in thought. First, her attention was drawn to the fact Foreman and chase didn't trust her with her emotions. She didn't know if this angered her or relieved her. Defiant, and upset, she shook her head, annoyed at them. She could keep calm and control herself! Frustration welled up inside her, but it was quickly lost in the torrential torment of her emotions. But maybe they were right? She could be insanely quick at medical tests, but she was hopeless when it came to feelings. Her morals, ethics, and rules defined her, and they kept her in place a lot of the time; on the other hand, she was forced to venture out and attack her feelings alone and exposed. On the outside of her mind, no one would guess any of this, and even the humans that knew her well – such as the two mentioned above – didn't know how complex this was for her. Nor did they ever bother intensely with it – of course they sometimes prodded the surface, but they never broke through. It was rare someone could even wield their way through, and they never went very deep. Except for one man – House. This was what amazed Cameron: how he could read off almost nothing and know everything perfectly. In a strange way, his acknowledgement and wisdom of her made Cameron feel more protected and comforted, though it annoyed and flustered her as well. It was this, in the end, where growing feelings for him had flourished – the need for protection and understanding, as well as the chance to turn him around. For House, all this was much simpler; Cameron and her feelings were a giant puzzle. Maybe the anomaly was unexplainable, but that didn't stop him from trying. After all, he'd diagnosed the 'undiagnosable' before.
With this trail of thought, Cameron lazily pondered about House. Her concern – and curiosity – hadn't worn away the past weeks in the least. If anything, it grew with each passing day. There was no doubt in her mind that something had changed, as it was clear House was off his game. Distracted from cases, tired, easily giving up, more popping of the pills, apparently 'easier' to aggravate, and now the increased leg pain. Obviously, something was up. But what?
Cameron persisted, pursuing the possibilities. But there were hundreds– if not thousands – and she couldn't narrow them all without further information.
She stopped in at the office, wanting to sort out what she planned to do. So concentrated was she that she didn't notice House was there.
"Shouldn't you be questioning a patient?" His sudden speech made her jump.
"Shouldn't you be playing foosball with Wilson?" She snapped back, recovering and in no mood for this type of argument. He rose from his seat and ambled over, stopping in front of her.
"I'm avoiding him." He shrugged; the usual, "Why so bitchy? Is it that time of the month again?" House made a fake pouting face, trying to copy her expression.
The pent-up tension and anger flared up again, and she whirled away from him.
"Sounds like somebody missed their mess-around-with-Cuddy play date." She spat back at him. "Go mess with someone else, I don't feel like dealing with you."
Realization dawned on his face, "Ah. I see what the problem is here."
"I'm not in love with you," she sighed, "But do you? Because I don't and I'd really like to know."
"But you are, and, anyway, my guess is you wanted to question the mother but Foreman and Chase doubted your control of emotion."
"Yes, they did." She admitted, plopping into a chair.
"They've worked here long enough; they should know when it's that time again?" He said, disgusted. "But you being all hormonal, you get offended and come complaining back to me. And then I have to waste my time. Yes, I'll have a word with them."
Too tired to answer or argue (or both), Cameron didn't respond. Smugly, House made his way over to the coffee, stumbling once again.
"I don't care what you say, you're not okay!" She said, getting up to help him. But he refused and shrugged her off, sliding a Vicodin into his mouth.
"I'm fine, and it's none of your business. For the last time." He growled, pouring himself coffee. Cameron shrugged indifferently, but she promised herself she'd find the answer, whatever it takes.
Just then Chase entered, and House turned his attention to him. Cameron sulked in the background, barely listening and paging Foreman.
"Please tell me you have something useful to say." House pleaded. "Oh, wait, that's too much to expect from you. How about something interesting, then?"
Chase didn't even bother reacting to the insult. "I have nothing." He reported flatly.
"Nothing?" echoed Cameron, now pleased House would get bored with her and focus all his annoying attention on Chase.
"Nothing!" Spat House. "I expect too much from the human race these days. Even a decapitated chicken is more useful then you! At least then I'd get a decent meal."
Chase rolled his eyes. "She denied and left before I could say much else."
"Useless." House snorted again. "Haven't I taught you anything? You could've pulled out a bunch of medical terms and lie to get a name!"
"I thought we were going about this in a non-destructive, semi-decent way?" Chase argued, and Foreman slipped in, sharing a glance with Cameron.
"Decent!" Roared House. "I don't care about them! And you apparently don't care about your job!" He glared furiously at Chase, and Chase met his gaze.
"You won't fire me." The young doctor stated, a hint of victory in his eyes.
"Not yet, at least." House snapped, turning to his other fellows. "Let me show you how this should be done."
"It should've been done by a paternity test ages ago!" Foreman spoke up.
"Listen up: to confirm Fabry disease completely we need an actual history of the real dad. We can avoid this mess if we simply test the biological father and not that annoying over-protective teddy bear of a husband." House explained. "And Cuddy most certainly won't let us treat without certainty."
This made sense, and House didn't wait before storming out of the office, his team scrambling behind him. Realization dawned on Cameron. "He's going soft," she whispered, meaning and understanding in her voice. A rush of affection flooded her – not so much romantic as it was proud that he was doing something right. She had to be the influence. As usual, they trailed him through the hospital corridor like ducklings, entering the patient's room.
"Mrs Cathridge, outside, now." He ordered, before facing Mr Cathridge. "And you don't say anything, because I have some very nasty secrets to share about you."
Surprise and fear flooded his face, and he opened his mouth to say something before clamping it shut. Distress, curiosity, and slight anger appeared on his wife's face, but it was unclear if the anger was directed at her husband or at the team. She was about to object when she realized the numbers: 4 doctors, demanding she come with them. This must be very serious. Sighing, she gave up and let herself be led outside.
House stopped abruptly, not even that far away. He rounded on his patient's mother, his team sliding into place beside him.
"Speak up." He barked. "Have you ever cheated on your husband? Slept with somebody else?"
Defiance and contempt flashed in her eyes. "Never."
House's eyes hardened and Cameron bristled at the lie. He continued.
"Really? Not even a decade or more ago? 12 years? So long ago it should be irrelevant?"
Alarm briefly flickered in her gaze. "No."
"You're lying." He hissed. "There will be grave consequences if you don't give us the truth."
"Are you threatening me?" She replied evenly.
"No. I'm telling the truth." He replied. "You don't have to answer if you, of course, want a dead daughter." Cameron flashed a surprised look at House. Fabry disease wasn't fatal!
Fear pulsed from the woman's being, choking her. It was a powerful tool, on the House knew could get him almost any answer.
"I thought you said it wasn't fatal?" She said, her voice strangled and wavering with uncertainty. She stared at the other team members, hopeful and expectant – filled with desperation. He's done it; he's broken her defenses, thought Cameron, keeping her face blank to avoid revealing her own confusion. Chase and Foreman did the same, and she caught Chase's eyes.
What's he doing? She thought, as if asking him the question. She could tell he was thinking the same. He held her gaze for a moment longer before glancing away.
"They lied. Your daughter has alpha-galactosidase A deficiency." Chase looked at him skeptically- that was just another name for Fabry disease. What game was e playing?
House ignored the questioning glances his team was shooting at him, focusing on the lady in front of him. He almost had her.
Her face paled, and she clearly didn't know it was the same disease worded differently. House dove in for the final blow.
"Are you going to kill your daughter to save your marriage? There's three other witnesses right here."
Still, Mrs Cathridge hesitated, glancing in between each doctor, searching for an escape. Trained well by House, the doctors in fellowship offered nothing, and she caved.
"Alright." She sighed. "The name's Steve Miller. Can you save Annie?" She added, sounding panicked. Cameron saw her chance to prove to everyone she could control herself. It was risky, but she'd take the chance.
"Of course," she replied, and Mrs Cathridge nodded gratefully before walking away from the group. If it was Fabry disease, Cameron's answer had been correct, but if House had diagnosed it was something else, her answer had a chance of being wrong. She looked at House for reassurance, but he gave none.
"You have your answer." He stated. "Go look him up."
"We got it through lies." Foreman muttered, loudly enough for House to hear.
"It wasn't all a lie – yes, she has Fabry disease; no, she won't die from it. I'm not that mean." House defended himself sarcastically. He grimaced and popped a pill, rattling the empty bottle.
"That must've been your tenth today!" Cameron exclaimed, exaggerating slightly.
"I wish," house replied dryly. "I would be much more stoned if that were so."
"You'd be in cardiac arrest," Chase pointed out. "It's barely even noon!"
"You have a pill problem." Foreman muttered.
"No, I have a pain problem." House answered. "Now go find this father and close this case."
The time, Cuddy was first at the café. She absentmindedly stirred her coffee, distracted. She had decided to not tell anyone about anything that had happened yesterday, pushing it to the furthest corner of her mind as she grieved. She could always do it again and start over, but for the time-being, she wallowed in her sorrow. In essence, she looked okay, only scrutinized by those who knew her well would notice her dark mood. Her normally perfectly curled, dark hair was still curled, but a little messy. Her shirt had the odd wrinkle, and despite the makeup, her eyes had bags under them. Not to mention her pretty eyes were also stormy and bleak. She was glad house hadn't bothered her yet today – out of all people, he'd be the first most likely to notice and then comment on her unusual appearance and mood. She just didn't feel like dealing with his direct, somehow unavoidable questions just yet.
She hadn't gone to see her doctor yet; her next appointment was in a few days and she hadn't bothered to reschedule it. She didn't see the point, and more importantly, dreaded the news the doctor would give her, whatever had went wrong.
Stacy entered the café, distracting Cuddy from her thoughts. She spotted her friend and made her way over, pulling out the chair in front of her.
"Hi." Cuddy offered a tired smile.
"Hello," Stacy sat down heavily, ordering a coffee. She turned back to her friend, noticing the wariness and exhaustion in Cuddy's tone and visibly in her face. She didn't ask, though, not wanting to mess around with her friend's personal issues – she had enough problems herself, as is. Besides, if it concerned House, Stacy was sure Cuddy would reveal it to her.
Stacy's coffee arrived quickly after, and she took a sip. This time, the liquid didn't burn her mouth. Satisfied, she sat her mug back down, noticing that Cuddy had also gotten coffee. She didn't break the silence, the air no longer awkward between the two women. Between her job, Mark, and House, she never got much silence or even quiet, so she relished the precious moments.
"So, it's in under a week," Cuddy started, referring to the test. "Are you nervous?"
Stacy fiddled with her spoon, shrugging, and stared at her mug. "Not really. More grateful."
Cuddy nodded quickly, transferring from friend to doctor, and offering the details and preparations. She grazed over the personal issues, making her explanations short, simple, and scientific.
"Do you have Hou-" Cuddy started, then reformulated her sentence, "-a possible biological father's blood?"
"Well, House did it, but right after this I'm off to the clinic with Mark to get his." Stacy replied, taking another sip.
Cuddy, surprised, looked at her. "You realize you only need one of their blood samples, right? Not both?" she asked gently, wondering when and how House had gotten the blood.
Stacy shrugged, making eye contact with the doctor. "I don't really trust House to give me his own blood. He most likely won't, considering the way he's been acting, pushing me away." She said, her voice straining to hide her misery.
Cuddy sat on this information, taking another sup of coffee. "He'll come around," she reassured, sounding like she was trying to convince herself.
"Then again, no one really knows anything about him," Stacy offered, showing a brief smile. "If 5 years taught me anything, it's not to dote too much on him. It's pointless worrying what he is going to do – it's when he's going to do it."
Cuddy rolled her eyes. "Try being his boss." Some of the dark moods hanging over the two had lifted, allowing them a brief time to be smiling at their own dilemmas in an ironic sort of way.
Stacy laughed. "Oh yeah? Try to be his pregnant ex-girlfriend."
Cuddy shivered. "No, thanks." She said, remembering the time she'd almost asked him to be a sperm donor, now forever grateful she hadn't. This reminded her of last night's events, and once again she fell starkly into a foul mood. Stacy felt Cuddy's sudden drop in spirits and felt hers slide down as well.
"When will you tell Mark?" Cuddy changed the subject, her voice strained. Pain ripped through Stacy's heart and she briefly closed her eyes. She longed for him; to tell him everything, because he would understand, he would know what to do. He'd comfort her- be everything House couldn't. But she couldn't dare mention that name; it was unspoken of between them. There were too many complicated feeling with that simple name, and these feelings were so strong they'd easily rip apart what was remaining of their relationship. Stacy sighed. Like everything he touched, House had left a permanent scar. Sometimes, she wondered if this was a curse or a gift. Either way, it was this that had started her and Mark's slow alienation. Now, it seemed with everything this rift grew longer and longer. There was only one thing that disabled her and Mark truly living happily and with trust, and it was that mark House had left. It's what Stacy loved about House – how nothing separated them but the cold, blunt truth. And though she admitted she'd never stop loving Mark, she couldn't get House off her mind. He really wasn't prominent there in a romantic way – more like a tick, an annoying invisible nuisance that took too much effort to remove and evaded your best efforts. Even though House was pushing her away, it truthfully made Stacy think of him more – and feel guilt-ridden every time she turned to Mark.
If it was Mark's baby, her path and future would be easier and simple. It would, of course, sting when she broke contact with House again – this time, probably forever – but she'd moved on. She could live without him; after all, she'd done it before. Life would be comforting and stress-free – and she'd be happy. A big part of her longed for this life, and the same part made her heart ache every time she was reminded of hiding the truth from her husband.
Yet one, small, nearly insignificant part of her screamed its protest; constantly nagging at her conscience. It was the result o house's mark on her – a big, flaring scar, probably the largest of them all. Tiny wrinkles spread from it – some, when probed, released memories of romance and pleasure; causing goosebumps to race down her spine. Others stung and released incredible amounts of painful memories. If House's blood tested positive – considering he gave her his blood – well, Stacy felt nauseous. That road would positively be bumpy, harsh, cruel, painful – and still, this little part of her wanted it. Admittedly, she loved House more, but this was drastic – this was doomed. Those three words made her shudder; their foreboding tone resonated in her thoughts.
Maybe, though, there was some light in that path. Once through the rough times, and after a lot of coaxing (and help by Wilson), he would come out of his shell, and accept his future responsibilities. This could maybe even change House for the better – that being very small chance - yet a chance nonetheless.
Among the strife, there would surely be some nice moments for her and House, Stacy hoped. She missed curious things about House – the way he always forgot about his toast in the toaster, or how he never had a coffee until after ten in the morning. There were more delicate and desired things she missed too: the prickle of his stubble against her lips, the ruffling of his hair with her hand, the grasp of his strong, steadying hands, but mostly, the vulnerability, certainty, and desire in those deep soulful blue eyes as he whispered 'I love you'.
Though Stacy seriously doubted she would hear those last three words anytime soon. With the way he ignored her, the hope of before seemed like a lost cause. Deep down, she knew it was him feebly trying to protect himself, and that it hurt him (yet she didn't know how much), but it still didn't soothe her own suffering.
Cuddy watched as Stacy contemplated each thought. Her reactions varied with her train of thought, and she studied each one thoroughly. They varied immensely, from bliss to ache and from longing to pain. She waited patiently for her friend and patient to answer, vaguely wondering if she'd asked too soon or too abruptly. What she'd pay to see Stacy's current thoughts, yet she respected her obviously private emotions and memories.
Now, for the actual matter, Stacy grimly thought. When would she tell Mark? More importantly, why was she so hesitant to? Undoubtedly, she'd tell him after the test. Whether or not it was gleefully telling him she was expecting of abruptly filing for a divorce was the only variable.
"After the test," Stay finally answered, and Cuddy nodded. They then sat again in silence, each surrounded in an invisible fog of thoughtfulness. Cuddy sipped absentmindedly at the last of her coffee, stressing over work. Stacy remained secluded and separated, still fighting in the raging war between her feelings for her husband and her feeling for her ex-boyfriend – not exactly sure what side she was fighting for. A lot of her now easily-escaping energy was spent demystifying this war.
Stacy finished her coffee and glanced at her watch. She should probably be going soon to meet Mark and go to the clinic with him (certainly not Princeton-Plainsboro's). It appeared nothing else had to be said here, anyway. She rose from her seat.
This stirred Cuddy from her thoughts and she smiled at Stacy.
"I better get going – have to go get blood work done with Mark," Stacy explained apologetically, though her voice was flat.
"I understand," Cuddy answered, also getting up and stretching her legs. "I should probably get back to work." And deal with House, she thought, but didn't mention it aloud. Once both women had struggled on their jackets and scarves (in Cuddy's case), they faced each other.
"Well, see you in a week," Cuddy bid her farewell, and Stacy nodded.
"Thank God," She added, but Cuddy didn't respond as she paid her bill and left. Stacy fished out her wallet and paid her own, before taking a deep breath and venturing outside.
It was a long drive, but Stacy didn't mind constantly going back and forth. Regretfully, she admitted it allowed her an escape, from both worlds. And Cuddy was always comforting and reassuring; Stacy looked forward to their meetings and conversations. Stacy pulled out of the parking lot, flipped on the radio, and sat back for the ride home.
A little later, Stacy pulled into the driveway of her and Mark's home. She'd taken time off work until the test – which her husband did not know. Guiltily, she added that to the list of lies spilling out of her mouth and into her husband's believing ears.
The door was open, and Stacy entered the warm household. Normally, she'd announce her arrival, but lately she didn't feel the need to. Ever since the affair, Mark had been on her like fleas to a dog (and to the same level of annoyance). Stacy was amazed he had still not found out about any of it yet.
"Hey babe," He greeted as he limped into the entrance way. Just like House after his operation, Stacy thought. Of course this brought up memories of her therefore leaving House. She quickly pushed the thoughts away, forcing herself to smile.
"Hi," She whispered, approaching him, feeling empty. Before, she had loved this reunion at the end of the day, but ever since the affair, there seemed to be something missing from it. She was now barely a finger away from him, and she studied his lips, playfully dancing around him. Something bloomed in her chest, and her smile wasn't forced anymore. "How was work?"
He smiled, avoiding her gaze, wrapping his arms around her. Stacy shuddered in content as he touched her, a sudden desire clouding her gaze. She closed her eyes in bliss. This was how she'd always felt around Mark, and she'd missed it. But once her eyes opened, she felt disappointed. She studied his smile – there was something missing. She couldn't put her finger on it, though. There was no doubt he still loved her, but his smile was reserved, and there was a forlorn look in his eyes. Her heart dove, filling with grief, and it was times like these Baltimore did seem like a mistake.
He shrugged. "It was okay," he said blandly. He had just gotten back to working again. "For you?"
Guilt engulfed Stacy. "Same," she lied before pressing closer to him, longing for his familiar warmth. He held her but offered nothing more. She took in a shaky lip and bit her lip, pain tearing at her heart.
"We better get going to that appointment," Mark said, breaking away. She nodded, turning around, her silence saying it all. She was opening the door when a strong hand grasped her wrist.
"Stacy?" Mark asked quietly. Tears threatened to overcome her if she spoke, so Stacy let him turn her around, feeling numb.
"Hey," he said softly, wiping a heavy thumb across her cheek. Her vision blurred as she put all her energy into holding back the tears. She stiffened as his lips met hers. Now that was not what she had been expecting. She relaxed and let him lead, blindly following him. He started gently, and then grew more fierce and intense. He explored her mouth like it was the first time, imploring her permission. Much familiar to the blossoming feeling of before, she felt her sense grow more attentive; she felt like she was walking out of hibernation. She felt alive.
It was the first kiss they'd shared in awhile that made her feel like this. She relished it, treasured it, let the moments tick by. She matched his level of intensity easily, occasionally sighing into his mouth.
When they finally broke apart, silence swirled around them for only a few seconds. Still stunned, Stacy felt him wrap around her.
"I love you," He breathed into her ear. She shuddered, grasping onto his arms like her life depended on it.
"I know," she answered, and it finally felt like after all these months, she'd finally been forgiven. But wasn't it maybe too late? She pushed the thought away.
'I know.' It echoed in her head, and, for some reason, she felt her heart slowly break.
They spent the car ride to the local clinic in silence. Stacy drove, Mark not yet well enough to (though he claimed he was). She trained her mind to go on auto-pilot, thinking of nothing except the road that lay in front of her.
The kiss greatly disturbed and unsettled Stacy – curiously, as it was all she'd ever wanted in the past months. The hours she had spent worrying and fretting over this apology, and now that she'd received it, it seemed like some kind of cruel ironic joke.
The waiting room remained silent between them still. Stacy crossed her legs; lips pressed in a firm line, and read a newspaper. She found herself rereading the same paragraph over and over, her concentration elsewhere. She was painfully aware of Mark next to her, sitting still and quietly fiddling with his thumbs. Blocking all thoughts from her mind and all feelings from her heart, she shifted so that their arms brushed. She gently slid a hand onto his knee, a gesture of acceptance and reassurance. After a second of surprise, he clasped his hand over hers. He rubbed his warm fingers across the back of her hand, toying gently with her wedding ring. Her heart sped up, and she forced herself to stay composed.
"Mr Warner?" A doctor called, and Stacy helped Mark up even though he refused. Together, they made their way over and followed their doctor into his exam room.
"So you're here for a check-up and a follow-up after an exploratory surgery," Dr Biller clarified once everyone had settled down into a chair.
"Yes," Mark clarified, and Stacy nodded absentmindedly. She'd gone to every single appointment with Mark so far.
"Alright, so, Mark Warner, age 45, let's check your height and weight..." He noted down the results.
"A few months ago you were diagnosed with acute intermittent porphyria after an exploratory surgery ordered by Dr Gregory House at Princeton-Plainsboro," The doctor read the file, oblivious to the wince the name Gregory House provoked in Stacy and the flash of pure hatred in Mark's eyes. "Can I see the incision please?"
Mark nodded silently, lifting himself onto the table with the help of Dr Biller and slightly of Stacy. He lifted his shirt to reveal a nasty scar stretching across his abdomen. Stacy winced again – the wound was a quick reminder of all that had happened in the past months.
Dr Biller, not knowing any of the personal issues behind the matter, prodded the mark carefully. After a few minutes of precarious studying, he announced, "looks like it's healing well. You'll feel fine in no time."Stacy exhaled in relief, not even realizing she'd been holding her breath. Mark brightened and grinned at her, and she didn't have trouble smiling back.
"Now just a few questions about the surgery and the rehabilitation afterwards. Are you having trouble sleeping?"
"No." Unlike me, Stacy remarked.
"Are you having trouble eating, or is there pain afterwards?"
Mark shrugged again. "Nope."
"Any bowel movement issues, bloody urine, or pain?"
The doctor nodded, absorbing this information. "Good. I'm going to check your breathing." He firmly placed his stethoscope on Mark's chest and listened as he inhaled and exhaled deeply. The doctor then pressed it against his upper back.
"Any pain or shortness of breath?"
"Only at physio."
"That's normal." He responded, unconcerned. "With a series of quick, fluid movements, Dr Biller had an arm cuff wrapped around Marks' arm and was checking his pulse.
"Normal. Is the pain medication effective?"
Mark shook his head. The doctor nodded. "You seem to be recovering just fine. Is physio going well?"
"Yes. Just started to wean off the cane."
"And back to work?"
"No recent drug use?"
"Of course not." Dr Biller nodded at his answer and observed the file before looking up at Mark and Stacy's expectant faces.
"Seems like everything's recovering well. Just going to take a blood sample and need a urine sample, and we're done."
Twenty minutes later found them outside, blinking in the sunlight. Happily, Mark stopped Stacy in the parking lot and gave her a short kiss. She grinned back.
"This is great news! Let's celebrate; a toast to tomorrow!" He joyfully exclaimed, pulling her close. Stacy searched his happy eyes, feeling relieved and gleeful herself.
"Sure. Let's go to a restaurant," she replied. "I just have to make one call – it's for work." Even her dirty work didn't get her too down right now. Mark nodded and headed towards their car, whistling. Stacy briefly watched him go before turning away and dialing Cuddy.
"Lisa Cuddy," Cuddy answered on the third ring. "How can I help you?" She sounded tired.
"Hey Lisa, it's Stacy."
"Oh, hi. How'd it go?" Her tone picked up a bit.
"Good. They took a blood sample, can you get it?"
Cuddy hesitated a second. "I'll try."
Gratitude flooded Stacy. "Thank you, I owe you one. I have to go though – thanks again – see you next week."
"My pleasure. Talk to you soon." Cuddy flipped the cell shut as House slid into her office.
Great, thought Cuddy. She'd been avoiding him all day – and had just been starting to hope he'd not come today. Apparently, the odds were never in her favor.
"My leg; I need another –" House stopped abruptly, staring at her. There was something off – he noticed this immediately. He squinted, trying to scrutinize her closer. Cuddy subconsciously tried to keep her eyes and mannerisms calm, allowing him to study her. She didn't know why, she'd been dreading this moment all day, but the thought of someone analyzing – caring – enough to notice what was wrong and incessantly demand an answer comforted her in a strange sense.
House noticed a few things right off the bat – the untidy hair and ruffled clothing for instance. The longer he stared at her, the more was revealed to him. The bags under her eyes were faintly noticeable under all the makeup she'd tried to hide it under. At first, House brushed it off, after all, she was the head of the hospital, and being Cuddy, he guessed she had more sleepless nights than he could count. The thing that set him off was the fact she was trying to hide them. Their eyes met and House dove further into the mystery, but Cuddy kept her gaze guarded. He raised a questioning eyebrow, but she pointedly ignored it.
During this time, Cuddy had observed him too – it didn't take her long to find out he was in pain. Much like yesterday, his eyes were slightly blood-shot and sweat shined off his glistening forehead. His movements were stiff, and every so often his gaze clouded with agony.
"I'll get the morphine," she said, breaking their eyes contact as she walked by him. He refused to let her pass though, forcing her to look at him briefly before looking away again. She knew he knew something was wrong, and she braced herself for the questions and comments.
"Red eyes... Suggests either you stayed up all night snorting cocaine, humping some lucky guy real hard, or crying into your pillow as you fell asleep."
She didn't answer, pain flashing briefly in her downcast eyes at the last few words.
He continued. "The bags under your eyes suggest a sleepless night, which means any of the above, but the fact I know you haven't been seeing anyone limits it to a drug crash or bawling out your eyes."
She closed her eyes, hating these long minutes, but thankful he hadn't mentioned that he knew because she was trying – tried – in vitro. She felt too lifeless and tired to bother arguing, and if she did say something, he'd probably find a way to psycho-analyze that.
"The slightly untidy hair still means either or," he rambled on, "but the wrinkled clothing is a sign you just didn't care enough this morning to iron it. So cried into your pillow all night long it is," He concluded indifferently.
Still Cuddy persisted in her silence, not giving House any leads.
"What's wrong?" He asked, a bit more softly.
"Nothing," She lied, once again trying to brush by him. He stood firmly before her, a towering giant of 6 foot 2.
"That's what they all say. But the symptoms say otherwise. Are you going to tell me, or will I have to find out?" He pressed.
"There's nothing to find out." She snapped. "Why do you care anyway?" Immediately, she regretted saying that.
"I don't really. It's an anomaly." Of course he doesn't care, Cuddy thought miserably, she'd been stupid to think he actually did. "Unless, of course, sympathy got me in your pants." He added.
"Well it won't. Do you want the morphine or not?" She quickly changed the subject. A weird expression overtook his face – indecisive if he should carry on or deal with his pain and let it be. After a moment's hesitation he nodded and allowed her to pass. Cuddy sighed in relief – she'd escaped this time. Pain always wins, she remarked darkly, pushing away the thought that maybe he was doing this for her sake more than his. Gregory House didn't care about anyone except himself, she reminded herself. How long will it take you to realize this?
Without speaking, she singled out morphine shot and gave it to him, watching as he slumped with relief. After a few long minutes sitting motionless on her couch, his eyes flickered open to meet hers. Not a word was spoken as Cuddy assured he wasn't going to get any more answers from her. With a slight acknowledging nod, he rose to his feet, and shuffled out of her office. Cuddy returned behind her desk and propped up her elbows, resting her head in both hands, her world going black as she closed her eyes and sighed.
Cameron took a quick glance around before sliding into the dark hallway. Blindly, she felt around on the left wall for a door. She knew it was here somewhere – her heart started to beat faster the more it took. Just a little farther, she thought, eyes blazing with determination as she pushed forward into the dark. Her fingers felt a slight indentation on the wall – she'd found her prize.
Fumbling with the key she had 'borrowed' from Wilson's office, Cameron slipped it into the lock and twisted. The mechanism unlocked with a satisfying sound, and she slid into the townhouse.
Unlike the original door, it didn't take her long at all to find the light switch. Light ripple through the air and illuminated the space House called home. She stared around, blinking, for a bit – she'd never been inside his apartment before. She noted the leather couch and the TV seemed to be the most used area – magazines, case files, and textbooks all mixed together were stranded on the coffee table, and a few neglected pieces of popcorn doted the couch.
She also spotted the guitars and grand piano in the corner. Their surfaces were shiny and spotless; House clearly cared for his music and his instruments. Steve Mc Queen sucked water loudly from the bottle in his cage, answering Cameron's questioning gaze with a few high pitched squeaks as he shot off, scrambling about.
She reminded herself of her business here, and that the faster it was finished, the better. She'd come to solve the mystery behind her boss' odd behaviour – and she wasn't going to leave without an answer.
But where should she look? Everything appeared normal ad House-like. If she wanted answers, it was evident she was going to have to dig deep for them.
The first thing she decided to do was skim through the papers piled around his couch. Finding a few interesting reads – but noting useful – she precariously replaced the sheets. Frowning, she contemplated her next move.
There wasn't going to be anything in the kitchen or the bathroom, and she seriously doubted the bedroom. She looked around the big space, her eyes falling onto his computer.
She hesitated, her morality screaming at her to stop. Going through his laptop was a huge violation of privacy. Then again, he never respected her privacy, and she hadn't come here to leave with nothing. She'd already broken into his house – why not go a bit further? Tentatively, she opened the laptop and blinked at the screen. Password needed – she scowled. Thinking for a minute, she typed in Myfavouritehooker. Denied. She ransacked her brain – maybe IloveSteveMcQueen? Then it came to her and she quickly typed in Cuddysassrules – she looked on smugly as the screen loaded.
Once in, she traced the mouse over the shortcuts. Where to? There was so much to cover – she'd have to pick and choose. Passing briefly through any files or documents that had rather interesting names, her impatience mounted when nothing turned up. Desperately, she went on the internet and manoeuvred over to his bookmarks. His messily organized bookmarks, she observed. How could he find anything? Medical research sites were tangled with porn sites, eBay among the tax returns and such. She scrolled down quickly, skimming over every odd site she found. She smiled slightly when she saw a few rat-pet-keeping files, conscious of the low rumbling sounds of Steve McQueen behind her. Nearly giving up, she saw something that caught her eye – biological testing information. She frowned – the last DNA testing case they'd had had been months ago, excluding this last one. On top of that, biological testing wasn't something House would need to research. She clicked on the file.
Her eyes widened in surprise at the folder's contents. A dozen or so pages of prenatal paternity testing flashed. Utterly confused, she manoeuvred over each one. Why on Earth would House have this? It didn't make sense. They'd never had a case like this. Cameron's eyes slowly widened even more as an idea crossed her mind. No... No way... She thought, pushing away the thought. But who? She wondered. Maybe it wasn't House, maybe it was Wilson? That made sense. Still, who's the mother then? She thought. Intrigued, she continued staring at the screen in deep thought.
Thus, when the phone rang, Cameron nearly shot through the roof. With wide eyes and a stampeding heart, she remained motionless. Taking deep breaths and calming down, she warily – but curiously – eyed the phone, tense, as if it would suddenly change into a snarling beast.
An anxious silence deadened as the ringing stopped. Then, with a promising tick, House's answering machine clicked on.
"House." The recording was gruff and unfriendly. "I don't care. If you're Wilson, I'm fine. If you're Cuddy... I still don't care. If you're the team, I still really don't care. Hence why I didn't pick up the phone the first time."
Cameron strained her ears, her very being there and disrupting his privacy – as she'd preached not to do so many times – causing her mind to nag that this was none of her business. That she shouldn't hear this phone call.
The beep sounded, and Cameron held her breath, as if whoever was calling could hear her. Terrified, she stared on. First the sounds of breathing were recorded. Cameron frowned – irregular breathing.
"It's me. Just wanted to talk. Like normal people do." Annoyance tinted the voice.
When Cameron got back to the hospital, her mind was brimming with questions. Stuck in her thoughts, she didn't notice when she nearly collided with someone.
"Oh, sorry," Cameron apologized, offering an arm to steady whoever it was. Recognition flooded her eyes as she met Mrs Cathridge's distraught face. The woman's eyes were disturbingly terrified.
"Please, Doctor Cameron, tell us what's wrong!" She murmured, still clutching Cameron's eyes. Shocked, Cameron let herself be led towards the elevator. Still in surprise, she soon after found herself standing in front of Annie Cathridge. Big brown eyes stared at her fearfully under the blond bangs. Her jaw characteristically dropped a few centimetres as she avoided panic and stared around, wondering what she should do.
"What's wrong with me?" The fear-stricken child quietly demanded of her. Cameron's heart wrenched as she met the kid's eyes.
"I... uh..." She stuttered, glancing frantically around. She found House staring at her. She took the time to analyze her boss. He stood ominously still, statue-like, watching her; challenging her. She searched his eyes for an answer, but they were masked. He kept his eyes trained on hers and didn't move, his body hunched over his cane and his head tilted downwards. She saw it then. It was either he suggested it was up to her or he was testing her.
"What the hell is wrong with her?" Frustrated tears met her eyes as she turned away from House. The voice was brimming with strained anger. "Why won't you just tell us?"
Cameron took another deep breath. "If you really want to know... Your daughter has Fabry disease." She looked at each pair of eyes, none of them recognizing the name for a minute or so.
"Wait... Isn't that what you first said she had?" A confused Mr Cathridge asked.
"Yes. It's what she had all along."
Even more puzzlement greeted her from this man. Out of the corner of her eye, Cameron saw Mrs Cathridge swallow uncomfortably.
"Alright. So what's the problem?" he demanded, getting rather anxious.
"Fabry disease is genetic."
"Neither of you tested positive." Cameron didn't say anything else as this news sank in. She eyed the husband's reaction, noticing his jaw set in denial and his pupils flare with disbelief and distrust.
"Maybe we should take this outside," Mrs Cathridge said quietly, her tone adding to the apocalyptic feel of the room. Her husband gave her a look, almost disagreeing for the sake of it. Cameron shot an awkward glance in House's direction, but the narcissistic doctor had left. She turned back to a hysterical pair of Cathridge's.
"Are you saying that's not my daughter?" He demanded of his wife, who had tears brimming in his eyes.
"I'm sorry, Nikolas, honestly..." She begged with him, but he was having none of it. Cameron watched on hopelessly.
"I can't believe this." He spat, eyes still wide, and wheeled around. The two women watched him stomp off. Mrs Cathridge turned desperately to Cameron.
"I... I'm sorry," a bewildered Cameron muttered, overwhelmed with a thousand thoughts. One managed to stand out, though, among the buzz: House... Talk to House. She whirled away and rushed off, still confused over what the hell she'd just done.
Finding pleasure in Cuddy's rear end as his boss made her way into her office, House followed her closely. She sighed in an exasperated fashion.
"Only threats uttered to you patient this time," She sat behind the paperwork piled on her desk. "But 30 complaints in the clinic in the past week?" She looked at him, eyes raised demanding an answer.
He limped up to the desk. "I think that's a new record." He gloated. She glared.
"House. You can't unleash al your anger about your personal life on your patients like that."
"I'm pretty sure it was their lives I was screwing with."
"I can't have you doing that."
"What are you going to do? Fire me?" He sneered.
"No, but I can stop the Vicodin."
House paused, seeing if she was serious. "You wouldn't, because I wouldn't be able to treat."
She shrugged. "I'd give you leave to stay at home." Cuddy had complete dominance now, as she put him in a vulnerable spot. She softened her voice a bit. "You have to clean up your act."
"No, I don't." Rage blinded him. A hate towards change, towards his delicateness, towards his fear found its way into his voice. "What's wrong with all of you? I'm fine, and I sure as hell don't need your pity! Leave me alone!" He stomped his cane angrily, outrage visible in his eyes.
"You're not fine." She stated. House rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner.
"Been gossiping with Wilson again?"
"We care about you!"
"Then stop pitying me and let me live my life!"
"What quality of life do you have?! You're depressed, addicted, constantly in pain... If you don't take advantage of an opportunity to make your life better, we'll have to!"
He turned on her, his movements stiff with frustration. "And how's your life, Cuddy? What ups do you have? No man, no kids..."
"This isn't about me! Stop deflecting." She brushed him off.
"You wake up every day and come to work to take your mind off of your non-existent personal life..." His voice was full of menace. She shot him a glance, demanding him to stop.
"And now you're desperately trying to believe your life at the hospital is good and fulfilling, so that if you fail at the other important things in life, you have something to fall back on, to believe has meaning..."
"Stop." She pleaded quietly. His rant was blind now, all his rage venting out. It felt so good.
"But you're starting to lose your grip because it turns out you're missing out on something you so badly need..."
She didn't speak, fearing what would come out of her mouth if she did. She was terrified she'd break down then, completely lose it.
"But a little part of you is terrified of what you so badly need. So don't you dare come tell me to change my life, when yours is just as bad as mine!" He panted, studying her face. Cuddy choked on her grief, avoiding his eyes. He felt powerful now, almighty, and dealing misery onto her had felt so emptily fulfilling. Salty tears had started running down Cuddy's cheeks, snapping house back to reality of what he'd just done. He'd opened up fresh wounds, unleashed her darkest fears, in an attempt to feel in control of something in his life. Shock registered in his eyes and he opened his mouth to say something, but his jaw locked as he watched his boss break down in front of him.
Somberly, Cuddy told her tale, remorse and resentment in her voice. "Fine. I had an implantation and lost the baby. Happy?"
His eyes fell. He really hadn't meant to do that. The irony of it all hit him, but he masked his eyes. "I'm sorry."
"No, you're not." She could taste the saltiness of her tears on her tongue. He didn't reply.
She dried her tears. "I just wanted to say to not hide yourself behind Vicodin and sarcasm and alcohol. Talk to someone, maybe not Wilson or me, but someone. If you even care anymore." She said sourly. He nodded, but it was false, as they both knew that wasn't going to happen. Silence swirled around them for a few minutes. He popped a Vicodin, messaging his leg.
"Anything else, mom?"
"Get out." She ordered, voice cold.
"House!" An exclamation sounded from down the hall, and House snapped his fingers.
Wilson ran up. "I've been looking for you all day!"
"Oh, my God," House flipped his wrist, making his voice mockingly high-pitched. "You know that nurse in hematology? Did you hear what she did? She's like, such a slut!"
Wilson sighed. "We need to talk."
"Nothing to talk about." He abruptly turned back to the glass walls to watch the patient. Tension sparked between husband and wife. She sat near her daughter, looking nervous and stressed. Her hair was ruffled, probably from anxiously combing through it every other moment. Her whole expression seemed like she just wanted to break down and cry but she forced herself to stay unhappily composed. Her husband was in the opposite corner and as far away as possible from his wife and who he thought had been his daughter. He seemed deep in thought and in shock, equally as wrecked, twisting his marriage ring as he stared off into space.
Wilson followed house's gaze to them, and he watched as well. "Cuddy called. What the hell did you say? She sounded heartbroken and wrecked."
House tilted his head back and popped a Vicodin. "I told her I thought she would look splendid with nothing on."
"I'm sure that's what made her burst into tears." Wilson replied sarcastically.
"...When she's not pregnant. I already know she went running to you sobbing afterwards and told you everything so you could come lecture me, and I'm here to say I will not listen to it because we have nothing to talk about."
"Because you being unnaturally cruel to one of a handful of people that actually give a crap about you isn't something worth discussing."" He shrugged.
"See, this is why I avoided you all day. Words hurt, you know."
"It's not like avoiding me is an issue, either."
They turned back to the scene. It appeared that an argument was broiling under the surface, as both Cathridges stared at each other, full of tension.
"I know your plan." Wilson started. "You've resorted to holding all of us at an arm's length and close off your connections so that nothing can ever affect you, and everything bad will go away."
"Here we go..." house sighed, still firmly watching the drama.
"And so you think that by assuring resentment from those who used to care about you will close off any possible way of anything hurting you that's unexpected because you can live with that misery you caused."
"He's going in for the final kill..." House responded.
"But your reasoning is flawed, House, because you're terrified of being alone. You need us, because you're not okay."
The door of the room flew open and out came a pissed off Mr Cathridge, his wife pleading desperately as she tried to reason with him.
"And the dreaded talk." House spun around to watch them go, before turning to Wilson. "Oh, sorry, were you saying something?" He asked innocently. Wilson sighed and turned back to look at the baffled children left behind, his soft heart reaching out for them.
"You have that look on your face. The sympathetic, signature you're-dying-I'm-so-sorry oncology look." House observed.
"The parents are trying to hide this from them, protect them, but they probably already know what's happening. They're' not invisible."
House rolled his eyes before turning solemn. "That's what happens when a paternity test goes wrong."
Wilson shook his head. "No, this is just a mistake gone wrong." He didn't say anything else as he casted House a meaningful glance before his pager went off and he left. House looked at the floor after Wilson had left, thinking about his advice. Pain flashed in his eyes and he took a steadying breath, his hand automatically reaching for his thigh. He hobbled to the nearest bench and collapsed on it. His breathing became intensely laboured and he tilted his head back. Hospital life bustled about obliviously. Closing his eyes, his hand slipped into his pocket and curled around the latest Vicodin bottle. He shook it gently; almost empty. He released a quiet, pained moan as he sneaked the narcotic between his lips. Stress and pain flashed across his face, forcing his eyes to open and blink wearily. Exhaustion flooded through his blood, causing his mind to cloud over. The Vicodin also helped dull everything to numbness, so he couldn't think nor react, and it was one of the most soothing moments of the day. He slumped forward and let his forehead rest on the wooden handle of his cane.
He felt the weight of the bench shift as someone sat down. Irritation pricked under his skin. He opened one slit eye to observe the intruder. He opened his mouth to make a snide comment when he noticed that it was Cameron.
"Oh God, not you too..."
She took a sip of coffee, staring at the patient's room.
"So how'd it go?"
"She did this thing with her hips-"
"I meant the patient." She glanced at him. He continued to gently massage his leg.
"Fallout. They stormed out."
Cameron nodded, wrapping her fingers pensively around her cup. "Do you think I did the right thing?"
"You totally destroyed their lives."
"But they were living a lie! Surely knowing the truth is better?"
"Ignorance is bliss." He said, grinding his teeth against a shot of pain. Despite his best efforts, though, a ragged little cry squeezed through. Cameron's eyes flickered with immediate concern. She shuffled closer to him. He eyed her warily through the pain, and she studied his eyes, asking for his trust. She then looked away and taking hold of his leg, gently.
House, startled, shied away from her touch. "Hey, what are you-"
"Stop squirming." She firmly demanded, and his eyebrows furrowed in confusion, but he remained still. She took his thigh in both hands, feeling his stiffen, and started to gently massage his leg. Still apprehensive, he watched her for a bit, before succumbing to her touch and starting to relax.
"I don't know. It felt like the right thing to do." She said abruptly as she worked.
"But if they could've lived happily without ever knowing the truth instead of miserably with the truth, wouldn't it have been better?" He closed his eyes in contentment.
"The truth would come out eventually. The only thing is that we all strive to find the truth and to do the right thing, but what's the point if we're not happy?"
"The point is that we found the right answer. It's fulfilling."
"You don't believe that. I mean, solving every little puzzle left you where? Miserable and alone."
"You have the same problem. Where do you think fixing the unfixable is going to get you?"
She ignored him. "How's that?" She referred to his leg.
"Better, but not fixed." He said pointedly.
She moved away from him. "You're welcome."
They sat in silence for awhile longer.
"I know you're not okay." She offered. His gaze turned cold; his movements stiff.
"I'm fine."He got up and walked out into the night.