Another morning washed over House's sleeping body, sprawled and twisted around his sheets. He opened his eyes and took a sharp breath. He'd been dreaming, but what fragmented images he could recall grew softer and hazier with each passing second.
He lay there for a while, trying to shake his lingering malaise. Nothing remained of his dreams but a mild discomfort he couldn't shake. With a sigh, House flung his legs over the side of his bed.
"Fuck," he shouted. A searing pain arced along his thigh, sinking deep claws into the muscle. His body crumpled over his leg, mind wiped clean in a sea of white agony.
Five minutes passed—House could do nothing but stay still, waiting for the pain to release it's stranglehold on his mind.
In an instant, the pain vanished. House's tee-shirt was soaked with sweat as a chill replaced the intense fever his pain had produced. Despite the cold, he stayed still for a while longer, taking deep breaths.
He had begun to shake and forced himself to stop. He stretched his ankle slowly, preparing to feel another flare of pain. But there was none.
He stood and his thigh had no reaction—not even a twinge this time.
House let out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding in. He reached for his nightstand drawer, rifling through its contents until he found an orange prescription bottle. On his way to the bathroom, House uncapped the bottle and dry-swallowed two vicodin.
"Nice of you to show up," Foreman said as House walked into the conference room at eleven that morning.
"Why does everyone keep saying that? It's not like I can't pick up on your veiled sarcasm, such as it is." He dropped his messenger bag on the floor. "So, where's Chase? Did you threaten to have your homies bust a cap up his ass if he told you I won?"
Foreman rolled his eyes. "Cuddy and Wilson are overseeing Chase's last test before he brings us the results."
"Wait, Cuddy and Wilson are in on the bet?" Cameron asked, setting a cup of coffee in front of House.
He eyed the cup, then sniffed the liquid inside it. "I don't smell berries or nuts."
"That's because someone hid her batch before she could brew it this morning," Chase said, entering the office with Cuddy and Wilson on his heels. The file he held on Creepy Girl had gotten much larger since yesterday. House was certain such extensive research was in his favor.
"Chase insisted that, before handing the file over to me for review, he show it to you," Cuddy said, hands on her hips. Wilson stood close beside her.
"As he should, seeing as it's my case," House said.
"Yeah, the one you so desperately avoided," Wilson said. Cuddy nodded her agreement.
"How many times do I have to tell you to stay out of this case? Seriously." House snapped at Wilson, who seemed unfazed by the outburst.
"Okay, enough," Foreman said. "I want to hear what Chase has to say."
"Don't worry House—Cuddy already knows," Chase said.
"You told?" Cameron asked.
"Of course he did. A few nurses were asking questions about the overflow of competitive spirit in this department." Cuddy shot a look in Wilson's direction. "Despite the fact that betting on a patient's welfare is completely callous and irresponsible, I've decided that, right now, the diagnosis is of prime importance."
"As long as someone's working the clinic, everybody wins, right?" Chase shoved Creepy Girl's file into Cuddy's arms.
"Just what do you think you're doing, Chase?" Cuddy asked.
"Taking the day off." He slammed the office door shut behind him, rattling the glass walls.
"What a drama queen," Cameron muttered.
House said nothing, still staring at the closed door as Cuddy opened the file.
"So, what's the verdict?" House asked.
Wilson read over Cuddy's shoulder, than whistled. "There's an extreme amount of dopamine in her brain. Whatever's wrong with her, it's definitely neurological." He moved to clap Foreman on the shoulder. "Looks like you're in charge now."
All the sudden smiles in the room made House feel very, very cold.
House spied Wilson in the cafeteria and moved with as much intensity as he could muster to where his so-called friend was seated.
"You just had to congratulate him, didn't you?"
"He was right." Wilson took a bite of a french-fry.
"He's been doing that a lot, lately."
Wilson slapped House's hand as he reached to steal a fry off Wilson's plate.
"You can't just be happy that Foreman has improved so much under your tutelage?"
"As if. He needs to be stopped." House reached again for Wilson's plate, but he shifted it just out of reach. "Can't I at least have the pickle? You don't even like them."
Wilson shook his head. "How's clinic duty going?"
"Horribly. Just like Cuddy planned. I think she paid Chase off, just to get me in there with those sick people."
"Well, Chase does have a history with bribes. And actually working with more than one patient a week? How horrible."
Wilson lifted his burger to take a bite, then House slid the whole plate to his side of the table.
Wilson rolled his eyes. "At least you let me keep my burger."
"This time." House grabbed a handful of fries and shoved them into his mouth. Wilson gaped at his display.
"You usually don't use your manners, but this is overkill, really."
"I'm starving. Cuddy shoved me out of the office before I could even get breakfast," House said, his mouth full of half-chewed French fry. "Why didn't you pick up when I called yesterday?"
"You do know what you sound like, right?"
"Don't try and change the subject. You're not very good at it."
"That's creative. Do you even try to come up with worthwhile excuses anymore, or have you given up?"
"It's hard to compete against you when it comes to fabricating information."
"What can I say? I'm a pro."
A sharp clacking sound against the tile floor announced Cuddy's presence as she walked to their table. House hid his face behind his hands. Wilson took his plate back.
"Very clever, House. I suppose I'll never find you in such an expert hiding place," Cuddy said.
House peeked out from between his spread fingers.
"Not one of your more inspired ploys," Wilson said.
"Didn't your parents ever teach you to use your imagination?" House dropped his hands.
"Yes, but I also learned the value of a hard day's work. Now it's your turn. Back to the clinic," Cuddy said.
"You weren't really serious about that bet, were you?"
Cuddy picked up House's cane and held it out toward him. "Very serious. Now get moving."
House yanked the cane from Cuddy's hands, then rose. As he walked out of the cafeteria, Cuddy called to him.
"Also, if you see any interesting cases, be sure to send them up to diagnostics. I've heard the new department head is a genius."
House restrained himself from using profanity concerning his extremely lucky duckling's intellectual status.
After another hour of clinic duty, House decided he couldn't stand one more vapid child with a stuffy nose and an overprotective, hypochondriac parent in tow. However, he had intercepted a stray interdepartmental memo from the nurses' station, issued by Cuddy earlier that morning, outlining the terms of House's indentured servitude. He noticed she conspicuously left out just how he had been wrangled into such an imposition. In such dire straits, House returned to the one hiding spot no one had yet found him in.
"I was wondering when you'd find your way back here," Eudora said, pushing herself into a seated position as House slid into her room, closing the door and drawing the blinds.
"Desperate times..." House said, moving to sit in the recliner beside her bed.
"That chair is always open for your avoidance needs." Eudora smiled, but she had thick, purple rings underneath her eyes.
"What, no visitors?"
Her smile vanished. "Lawyers rarely have many friends. Especially in the corporate sector."
An awkward silence reigned, as House reviewed Eudora's chart.
"The chemo is a bit rougher than I thought it would be," Eudora said. Any trace of her previous weakness had fallen away as she straightened her shoulders, leaning forward to get a look at her chart. "I always get the feeling that my nurse isn't telling me the whole truth."
"Nurse Barbie does like to sugarcoat things," House said.
"But you don't."
"No, I don't. But extreme fatigue and nausea are common during intensive chemotherapy."
Eudora's shoulders slumped but her smile returned. "So I hear the chief of medicine has you over a barrel for the next week."
"It's her turn next week, but the barrel won't be metaphorical. How did you hear that?"
"Nurse Barbie is an easy mark. Very smart, but not too bright, if you take my meaning. And too talkative for her own good. Someone should really teach her when to shut up."
Now it was House's turn to laugh. "I agree completely." He replaced Eudora's chart, hanging it off the edge of her bed. "There are quite a few people around here who could stand to learn that lesson."
House had a choice: he could tell Eudora a pack of lies, which she would most likely recognize, or he could tell her the truth. House, who had never cared for such defined options, picked his favorite choice: neither. And both.
"Chase may have had something to do with my current status." House could practically see Eudora connecting the dots in her mind; he just wasn't sure what sort of conclusion she would come to.
"Are the 'departmental dynamics' still changing?" she asked.
A refreshing, unexpected question deserved an answer in kind, in House's estimation. "This place is filled with subtext and I'm the best at deciphering it."
"Lucky for you."
"People never change, but they can reveal things they've kept hidden."
House stared at Eudora, but she was examining her palms, an abstracted expression on her face.
"You get that a lot, too?" House asked.
Eudora looked up. "The only reason lawyers have to lie so much is because no one tells us the truth in the first place." Eudora sighed. "In the courtroom, I can control them, deal with the liars in my own way. Here, I can't even keep track what my nurses say to me. Hell, I can't even trust my own body." She shook her right wrist viciously, shaking an IV line attached to it, calling attention to the bruising on her skin.
And how could House respond, other than to nod in agreement? The clinic was a hell filled with intentional and unintentional liars—at least in diagnostics he had time to parse apart the really interesting lies, instead of sifting through a sea of mediocre ones.
The silence between them felt raw, as if Eudora had shown House much more than the soft inside of her wrist.
"Foreman—he's taken over my department for the week. Because I lost a bet. Over a patient." He cleared his throat as Eudora raised an eyebrow. "Not you."
"Then it was that little girl, the missing kid." There was no malice, no judgment in her voice to put House on the defensive; Eudora stated the facts as she understood them.
"I've been wrong a lot lately. And—and I think things are just going to get worse." House felt a light pressure on his hand, then saw that Eudora had reached out to him, placing her palm over his knuckles. She couldn't meet his eyes, and House endured a secret relief. However, no insults came to his mind, no cutting remarks. He hadn't realized his hands were cold until she touched him.
After a moment, Eudora began to move away, then gripped House's fingers tightly.
"Jesus," House shouted, unable to extricate himself from her grasp. "Eudora! Eudora!"
His patient had fallen against her pillows, eyes twitching back and forth in their darkened sockets.
House struggled and pulled out of Eudora's vice grip. Snatching his cane, he rushed to her door and slid it open with a resounding crash. An insistent beeping trilled behind him from Eudora's stat monitor.
"Call a code," House shouted, getting the attention of every person in the Oncology lobby. "My patient's having a seizure."