Note: Set just at the end of Autopsy, Season 2. I've always wondered what House was thinking at the end of that episode, what happened after Andie left the hospital. Here is my take on things.

Many, many thanks to maineac for beta-ing, encouragement and gentle nagging!


"It's sunny outside, you should go for a walk" - Andie

The kid had got to him.

He would deny it if pressed but there was no point keeping it from himself because he couldn't fool himself. The master deflector was all out of deflections. She had got to him.

While they were treating her he had told himself it was because of that damn cold he had caught in that cesspool of a clinic. Idly he wondered whether threatening Cuddy to sue for damages could net him relief from clinic duty for the foreseeable future. Definitely worth a try.

But for now he was sitting outside on the bench furthest from the hospital entrance. He would deal with Cuddy tomorrow; he wasn't going back into the building today, no way. People would still be milling around in the lobby, talking about the kid's departure.

He had tried to avoid the big brouhaha of a party for her release from hospital. All they were doing was letting her go home to maybe another year of pills, pain and the knowledge of things she'd never have or see or do. Like falling in love. Like driving a car.

But, strangely, she seemed ok with that. Had actually asked him for it. Like a sap he had gone to her room and given her the choice of life or death. As if she knew what that entailed. As if that was a choice a nine-year-old could make. Yet, she had made it. Seemingly not for herself but for her mother. He still wasn't over that completely. Maybe a nine-year old who could con Chase out of a kiss was strong enough to keep living for someone else.

And maybe Wilson was right. Maybe some people were just that brave. Because, if he followed that line of thought, it might turn out that he was doing exactly the same thing. Why was he still hanging around? Surely not because his life was just a big barrel of laughs. And it wasn't like he hadn't checked out all the exits over the last five years. He knew exactly where they were located and how the door mechanism worked. And in the case of - of what? An emergency? A fire? - he would easily be able to use the closest and most appropriate exit.

No, he was still hanging around because he had the one thing he denied so vehemently.

Hope.

Hope was for sissies. And people actually believed him when he said that. He had gotten that good at being House that people actually believed him. Maybe not all people, though. He knew that Wilson, at least occasionally, was able to get through that otherwise bullet- and shatter-proof glass wall he had erected around himself. Because he let him. Nothing like giving someone the illusion they really know you by letting them get a little controlled glimpse of the real you every now and again.

(...)

Taking the bus had always been his least favorite way of getting home. Problem was, he had gotten a ride off Wilson this morning and he sure wasn't in the mood for more gushing about Andie from his friend. Or from anyone else for that matter, so the bus was his best option - full of strangers he could pass his delightful germs on to. With the music on his iPod at full blast the ride was almost bearable, especially since that extra wide handicapped seat was free when he got on. He actually had more space than in Wilson's car; maybe he should take the bus more often. At least here he could stretch his legs, listen to the music he liked and not some stupid Broadway crap; and there was no nagging. Having to pay the bus fare was a small price to pay, indeed.

Once he had reached his stop he remembered, though, why he didn't actually like taking the bus. He had to walk two blocks back to his apartment. The kid had told him to take a walk in the sun, and here he was, taking advice from a nine-year-old.

And then she caught his eye. The sun reflected off the shiny black surface and the chrome handlebars. She was just standing there in the late afternoon sun, cold and gleaming. Several others were lined up next to her but none looked as enticing as this one.

The sales guy came out to talk to him, giving off his spiel, pointing at his leg and asking questions, but he ignored him, just reveling in the beauty, her sleek black body and the red detailing.

He couldn't; he would never be able to balance the bike properly with his right leg being what it was. He shook his head at the salesman and moved on.

'You are beautiful' is what Elvis Costello chose to drawl into his ears at that exact moment. Oh hell yes, Elvis was right as always, she was beautiful.

"Can I test drive one of these things?" It was out of his mouth before he could stop himself.

Fifteen minutes later, minus his house keys and wallet left as security at the bike store, and out of Princeton, he opened the throttle and laughed.

Andie was right - but being a nine-year-old she had one thing just slightly wrong. He shouldn't have gone for a walk.

A ride, Andie, a ride.


We're the song inside the tune

Full of beautiful mistakes

Christina Aguilera (Elvis Costello in my favorite version but hey, that's just me)