House had lined his pills in tiny rows on his table, six thin lines which should have led to freedom. But his fall precipitated the worst pain he'd experienced since his surgery years ago. Lying on the couch, even breathing set his body on fire. Death, not for the first time, seemed a welcome respite.
A box on the table sat behind the lines of vicodin. They were a shield, silencing the strange song the morphine hummed in his ears, a sweet lullaby. He'd held out for so long, but his resolve was failing.
He took a deep breath and reached for the box, dragging it toward him and sending his vicodin flying off the table. They clicked sharply as they hit the floor. The process was simple: tying surgical tubing around his forearm, filling the syringe, finding a vein, inhaling sharply as the morphine flowed into his bloodstream. The burning receded, his mind falling into an endless darkness, where the faces of his friends and the agonies engulfing his body faded into nothing.
There was a ringing in his ears, shrill and repetitive. Emerging from his dense morphine fog, House realized his phone was ringing. He reached for it too late, but saw that he had a missed call from Cuddy at 10:35 PM. He'd been under his morphine's hypnotic spell for over ten hours. She didn't leave a message, but even in his relaxed state, House knew what Cuddy was calling about.
Creepy Girl wasn't Creepy Girl anymore. Jane Doe was probably sitting in her bed, talking and laughing with Cuddy and Nurse Barbie, eating ice cream from a thick plastic bowl. She had already told them her real name.
The image of a renewed Jane Doe materializing in his mind, House was able to stand and reach for his cane. Holding his cell phone against his ear, he called the cab company for a ride to work, the spilled vicodin crunching underneath his feet.
The lobby was quiet in the evening. The clinic was closed and the reception desk was unmanned, but lights were on in Cuddy's office. House entered the office quietly, but Cuddy was waiting for him.
"Where the hell have you been? I've been calling you for hours." Cuddy's unexpected anger sapped the strength from House's legs—he collapsed into a chair by her desk.
"You've got to pull yourself together, House. Or I can't keep you here. The board is clamoring for your immediate dismissal. Your treatment of Jane Doe goes beyond negligent. It's criminal. I really don't know how to get you out of this mess."
"What happened? She should be in recovery."
"You gave a young girl with no medical history over fifty milligrams of clozapine," Cuddy shouted. "What did you think would happen? Her heart failed. She's in the ICU in critical condition."
House stared at Cuddy, breath tight in his chest. "I can't believe you'd stoop this low just because I tried to mess up your relationship with Wilson." Once again, House had hit the right nerve.
"Don't you talk to me about him. Or your team. I know the sort of childish pranks you've been pulling lately. What's gotten into you?" Cuddy threw her hands in the air, but the sudden motion made her sway on her feet. She leaned against her desk for support.
"What was that all about?" House asked.
Cuddy's hands cradled her stomach as she took a few sharp breaths. "Don't change the subject. You're suspended until I can find a lawyer crazy enough to represent you."
"What's wrong with you? I'm not leaving until you tell me."
Cuddy's eyes wavered, as if searching for a way out of her situation. "House, I'm pregnant."
House sneered. "You're lying."
"No, I'm not. Wilson and I are having a baby."
They're eyes locked, each staring the other down as if the truth hidden within them could be revealed and the excess burned away by searing glances alone.
"Jesus Christ," House said, snatching his cane and walking out of the office. Cuddy didn't come after him until he'd entered the elevator.
"Don't go up there, House, or I'm calling security. You're suspended," she said.
"I'm not leaving until I talk to Wilson," House said as the doors slid shut. But he had no intention of being anywhere near Wilson.
Cuddy couldn't be right about Creepy Girl. Just couldn't. House knew he cured her. She was probably lying to him, exacting revenge for the tickets he'd switched out. It was a vicious trick, one he would have played himself. But Eudora would tell him the truth. She always would.
House had almost reached her door, but his team intercepted him first.
Foreman came forward, flanked by Cameron and Chase. "You poisoned that girl, House. She was your patient and you nearly killed her. How could you do something like that?" Foreman asked.
"She was dying because of you."
His team had matching awestruck expressions, but Foreman recovered first. "And why is that?"
"Because you couldn't take a risk. You were willing to let her die just so you didn't look bad. You're even worse than I am. You're the selfish bastard, not me."
Foreman's fist connected with House's jaw—it happened so fast House didn't realize he'd been hit until a new starburst of pain eclipsed the one radiating in his thigh. He slammed into Eudora's glass door, which shuddered but didn't shatter under his weight.
"Go fuck yourself, House. I hope you get fired—no, I hope you lose your license for this," Foreman said, shaking out the fist he'd punched House with. The trio stalked off, but not before Cameron shot him a look of pure disgust.
He leaned his head against the cool glass, but moved away as the door slid open. He walked in and closed the door behind him, then ended up in Eudora's waiting arms.
They held each other for a long time, House hiding his aching face in the crook of her soft neck. But House felt Eudora's body begin to tremble and he pulled away.
"Don't go," Eudora said.
"I won't. But you need to lie down, now."
Nodding, Eudora did as she was told. House sat in his chair, realizing what was wrong with his friend. Her cold, pale skin. Her shallow, swift breath. Her hacking cough.
"They stopped my chemotherapy today, but I'm not getting better. Doctor Wilson said I'm septic. He said I have an infection." Her voice was flat, but her eyes were locked onto House.
"You're organs are failing because your body cannot maintain homeostasis. Somehow, you contracted an infection because the chemotherapy destroyed your immune system. In any other case, this would be treatable." House sounded like he was giving a lecture, but they both knew what he really meant.
Eudora choked back a sob, hands knotted together. "How did I get an infection? The nurses said I was safe."
Even as she spoke, they realized where she must have contracted an infection. House's unscheduled visits were unorthodox and too frequent to go unnoticed.
"You have to help me." Eudora's voice, high and breathy, was laced with fear. "Doctor Wilson tried to sugarcoat his diagnosis, but we know the truth. This death, it's painful. It's ugly."
"Every death is ugly." But House couldn't meet Eudora's eyes.
"You know that's not true. Please." She reached out to House and he rose, leaning over the bedrail, taking her hands in his own. She was so cold, as if death had already leeched away her warmth before taking her life.
"There are...ways to make death painless."
"But you could lose your license if anyone catches you."
The thought of losing his license, which had scared him before, was nothing more than a quibble now. He had brought death to her doorstep; the least House could do now was lead him across the threshold.
House let Eudora go, once again raiding a medicine cart for something he shouldn't have. For something he'd taken only hours before to avoid the pain he knew Eudora would face if he didn't help her soon.
The vial of morphine held more than enough to do the job, and House filled a syringe with the innocuous liquid before turning back to Eudora. Her eyes widened as she stared at the needle, but she didn't look afraid as he walked to her IV.
"House, I want to help you, before I go. But you may not believe me," Eudora said.
House didn't know what sort of help a dying woman could give him, but he listened to her anyway.
"I want you to have this." Eudora pulled a thin, silver chain off her neck and handed it to House. "It was given to me by my father when I was young. It has certain gifts I want you to use."
House fingered the pendant hanging from the chain: a flat circle of silver with an arching dragon etched into its surface.
Eudora's face was shining with sweat now, her eyes glittering. "You won't believe me, but this necklace makes certain things come true. It hasn't worked for me in a long time."
House couldn't keep his disbelief from flitting across his face.
"I would never lie to you, House." Her face was grim. "It will work. I know it. Please, promise me you'll use it to make your life better."
It was completely crazy, but House nodded. The pendant was slick in his sweating palm.
"Good." Eudora leaned against her pillows, hands folded on her chest. "Goodbye, House."
"Goodbye, Eudora." House turned off the machine monitoring her vitals, then pumped the morphine into her IV tube. Her eyes closed as her breathing slackened. After a few moments, her breathing stopped altogether.
It was as if death had dragged House into a soundless fog, where this final moment continued into eternity. The syringe slipped from his fingers and hit the ground with a sharp clack, rolling across the floor underneath Eudora's bed.
The sound broke something inside House. Tears slid down his cheeks. The pendant dug into his palm, drawing blood as he made a fist. Whatever had happened here, between the two of them, was gone. Whatever had been between House and Wilson, House and Cuddy, House and his team, this too had faded into nothing. Whatever was to come for House, surely, it didn't matter. All he had left was a dead woman's necklace and her insane belief that its power could save him.
As House wept, he wondered if such miracles could exist in a world full of pain.