And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon...
The Tuesday before the Memorial Day weekend dawned bright and sunny, the first of a string of breezy but perfect days in Princeton, New Jersey. The wind carried a clean scent of dewy leaves with a sour note of car exhaust into House's open bedroom window, stirring House from a restless sleep.
House hated these perfect-weather days with a passion; indeed he had come to suspect them for their deceptive kindness. Lying on his back, he groaned and rolled over as the morning rays from the open window illuminated his face, trying to avoid the rising light and grimacing as his leg protested. What was that hideous song about springtime in New England?
No, that's Weekend in New England, a voice in his thoughts (remarkably like his mother's) corrected him as he squeezed his eyes shut against the insistent streaming sunshine. Who the hell forgot to pull the blinds shut yesterday? He might have to find a new cleaning lady by the time he was through with her, for making him suffer this morning. Pulling the covers up over his face he was almost instantly ready to drop off again--
Only to be startled awake by the jarring ring of his phone in the living room.
Dammit, who the hell would be calling him this early on his day off?
No, he wouldn't call, God forbid (and may He kill me if he did).
The song, dear. Barry Manilow sings Weekend in New England.
Oh God, save me from the schlock, he thought with a shudder. And what the hell time was it? He groaned again when he saw the angry red six-forty-five on the display. This did not bode well for the rest of the day.
Thankfully at that moment, the phone stopped ringing and cut to the answering machine. The greeting was curt, typically House. "You have two seconds to make your point. Go."
He had to grin when the voice in his head took form on the other end of the phone. Well, speak of the devil.
"Hello, dear, it's Mom."
Hi Mom, his mind responded dutifully.
"I know it's very early for you, but I was hoping to catch you before you went to work."
Off-guard, he thought as he stiffened, trying to swing his near-useless right leg over the edge of the bed. Good one. His mother was as devious as they came, not that she'd ever admit it.
"I'm calling to ask if you'll be free this weekend to come to Woodbridge. It's the long weekend and we haven't seen you for a while."
House was amazed at the perfect even tone in her voice. Perfect in instilling his filial sense of guilt that is, especially since he'd missed Mother's Day. Nice. He tamped that down quickly. If anything he respected how his mother manipulated with the best of them.
"Anyway, call back and let me know when you can. I'll be making peach-and-strawberry cobbler for dessert on Sunday."
His grin grew into a genuine smile. Like Wilson she was tempting him with food. And while Wilson was a fabulous cook, she was still the best bar none. He could almost taste the tart sweetness of the fruit, feel the smoothness of the cream and the crumbled texture of the pudding in his mouth. So sometimes plying him that way almost worked.
If it weren't for the fact he'd be sharing the table with his father and his Memorial day lectures on the weekend too. Of how good soldiers, his friends and colleagues, gave their lives over and over again so that Dr. Gregory House could sit smug and condescending on his ass in his glass office.
That thought always soured the anticipation. No thanks, I'll take the rain check, he thought.
"Have a good day, Greg, love you."
The voice finished just before the machine cut off. House shook his head on hearing the beep. By now he, and his leg, were fully awake, and his leg was demanding his attention in its usual manner. Damn, he needed a top-up. He grabbed the omnipresent bottle of Vicodin and hobbled unwillingly to the bathroom to start his day.
After calling Greg, Blythe House went outside and spent her morning pulling weeds in the front garden of their tidy two-story detached home in Woodbridge, Virginia. Early in the day was best, when the air was cool and soil was still damp with dew, which made plucking the errant plants that much easier. She preferred this time of day anyway, when one could catch the faintest traces of the ocean on the wind even here before the commuter traffic out of the city picked up.
Everywhere they'd traveled, (and they had indeed been everywhere it seemed) Blythe had had some sort of garden, even if it was only a window box of herbs in Cairo. It was something she just could not go without. When John had finally, reluctantly retired from the Marines and they moved to Woodbridge (only a few miles' drive from the Quantico base, where he still occasionally consulted in his capacity as a pilot) he had dug the front and back gardens for her. She had always needed the feel of green living things between her fingers, the balance of growing life in her hands.
It was something she hoped she had passed on to her only son in some capacity. Well, he'd become a doctor, a world-famous one at that, so she supposed it was successful, albeit only partially. She knew he tried his best to avoid that growing balance of life in his hands, preferring minimal contact with patients, practising medicine by distance.
After a few hours of weeding, her knees, back and chest were aching by the time she squatted back on her heels to survey her handiwork; and she felt a little breathless. Her hand holding the trowel shook slightly and she let it drop on the grass beside her. She wiped the sweat from her brow, leaving a smear of dirt on her skin.
It was nigh time to go in now, the sun was fully risen and already burning the front yard. Today was going to be hot. She rose, forgetting her trowel, and walked around to the mud room at the back of the house to hang up her sun hat and gloves.
When she passed into the kitchen, John was ensconced in his daily newspaper.
"Did you call Greg?" he greeted her from behind the front section.
"Yes dear, I left a message on his machine," she replied, heading towards the sink.
"A message. Again."
"Oh really, John, I don't mind," Blythe admonished as she washed her hands at the sink under the cool running water. "Greg is very busy--"
"He's always too busy whenever you ask him to be there for you. No matter what time of day."
Blythe pursed her lips shut. Sometimes she could sympathize with Greg at his father's unyielding bluntness. Not that she took sides, of course. She could never take sides.
At the same time she felt another twinge behind her breastbone. Her hand flew to her chest, rubbing it lightly. This was an odd time for heartburn to start, she thought in bemusement, this many hours after breakfast.
"Are you all right, Blythe?" John saw the flutter-like movement and he lowered his newspaper, brows furrowing with concern.
"Of course, dear, it's just indigestion," she replied absently, rummaging through the cupboard for antacid.
A wave of dizziness and nausea washed over her and she stilled, gripping the counter to steady herself until it passed. "I'll be fine after a couple of Tums and some rest," she added when she found her voice again.
John frowned. "You've been having heartburn and indigestion a lot lately," he commented. "Maybe you should make an appointment with Dr. Marsden?"
"Yes I will, dear, tomorrow after the ladies' auxiliary meeting." She shook out two Tums and chewed them, rolling the chalky tablets in her mouth; then she suddenly felt weak all over. She needed to rest a bit. She knew she had pushed herself this morning pulling weeds in the garden earlier. It was so hot under the brilliant sun even this early in the morning; she wasn't getting any younger, or perhaps there was something to global warming after all. Either way, the back garden could wait until the cooler breeze of the evening. "I'm going to lie down for a bit, John. I'll be up in a while." She stopped on her way out of the kitchen to kiss his forehead.
John smiled with the brush of her lips across his skin. After forty-eight years she knew her soft touch was still the best thing he'd ever felt, even if he would never admit it out loud. "Do you want me to come wake you when I leave?"
"No, that's all right," she said over her shoulder as she made her way to their bedroom. "You go to Quantico, I know you have meetings and training today."
"I won't be back until after dinner. I'll see you tonight."
"Have a good day, dear."
In the cool half-darkness of their room she slipped off her shoes and lay barefoot on top of the covers, folding her hands on her stomach and closing her eyes. The twinge behind her breastbone seemed to fade, leaving only a gently swirling light-headedness in its wake. It was not unpleasant—indeed it felt rather like floating. With a sigh, she felt the mattress rise up to embrace her. The breeze from the open window carried the rich smell of freshly turned soil and lilacs; she quickly drifted off, thinking of the feel of moist clumping earth under her fingers, and of the scents of lilies and roses that would bloom underneath their bedroom windows in June.
House's mood had not improved one iota since his mother's phone call the day before, despite his day off. He'd made sure to disconnect the phone after he got up but he'd still felt a vague niggling unease all day that still lingered this morning, despite the warm sun and mild temperature. Not even the drive to the hospital on his bike, speeding at ninety on the freeway, with the wind in his face and the feeling of hurtling through space, soothed him. If anything he'd become surlier the closer he got to Princeton-Plainsboro, and to top it all he had clinic duty this morning.
(And it was not that he hadn't tried to worm himself out of it, but Cuddy had threatened suspension of test ordering privileges for his fellows until he'd made up some of his backlog. To add insult to injury, she'd confiscated his pocket TV. His iPod and Gameboy had also somehow grown legs and walked out of his office. He was sure she was holding them hostage. One of his minions had to be in on it, he was certain. Probably Foreman. Revenge of course was to be forthcoming.)
As he lumbered past the nurses' kiosk in the clinic, bag and motorcycle jacket slung over his shoulder, Brenda thrust out a clipboard towards him without a word.
"Ja wohl, mein Fürhrer." House snapped to attention and saluted but Brenda didn't even look up from her computer screen. Mutual animosity had its benefits.
House dropped his bag and jacket onto Brenda's stack of charts sitting at the front desk with a cheerful wave. Cheerfully ignoring Brenda's glower of doom, he headed towards the clinic exam rooms. House glanced briefly at the chart as he opened the door to Exam Room Two, then steeled himself for the inevitable.
With a sigh he swung the door open, speaking as he entered. "So, Mr.--ah, Davis, what seems to be the problem today--?"
Then he looked up to see his patient.
Davis appeared to be in his mid-fifties, of average height, about thirty pounds overweight with short graying brown hair. He was dressed in the usual attire of a middle manager: white shirt rolled up at the sleeves, charcoal slacks, brown shoes, muted and loosened green striped tie.
And his skin was completely blue.
Well, perhaps more of a slate blue-gray.
House stopped short, face slack in utter astonishment for one split second before schooling it to his usual mask of amused indifference. The patient's dusky color was rather fetching really, even clashing as it did with his attire; House appreciated how it lent the man's face an unusual shade of purple when he blushed, as he did when he eyed House's cane. (House didn't even want to know what that meant.)
Well, at least this was going to be entertaining. "You're blue," he stated, not bothering to hide his smirk.
Davis swung his legs and blinked. "Ex--excuse me?" he asked stupidly.
House couldn't help rolling his eyes, automatically cataloging his never-ending list of reasons to despise clinic duty. "Mr. Davis. You are blue," House repeated, slower this time and enunciating every word, as if talking to a recalcitrant child.
Davis blinked. "Well, I suppose I've been feeling a little down lately, it's been stressful at work the last few weeks--"
House raised his eyebrows and briefly glanced up, shaking his head. "No. You. Are. Blue." To prove his point, House rummaged through a drawer and pulled out a small hand mirror. He came to stand beside him, holding it out so Davis could see both their reflections. "Your skin."
Davis stared at his reflection, then House's, back and forth in growing incredulity. His mouth gaped, and, stunned speechless, he raised a shaking hand up to touch his cheek.
"Don't tell me you've never noticed it before," House said in disbelief.
Davis shook his head mutely.
"You've got to be kidding me."
Davis only shook his head again.
House fastened his stethoscope to his ears. "OK then. Are you having any problems breathing?"
"No, not usually--" Davis stammered, finally recovering his voice.
"History of heart disease in you or close family relatives?" He tapped and listened to Davis' chest, frowning in concentration.
"None that I know of."
"Been drinking well water lately? Any blue Fugates in your family line?"
"Only bottled Aquafina. And what's a blue Fugate?"
House's mouth twitched as he reached over to grab a tongue depressor. "Never mind. Open your mouth," he ordered.
Davis opened dutifully to allow House to examine his oral cavity. Up close and personal, the cloying scent of infected mucus on Davis' breath assaulted House's nose and he turned away almost gagging. This was only reason number two hundred and six why he despised clinic duty. "You have a rampant sinus infection," he began, "so I will give you a prescription for an antibiotic."
Then House did a double-take and peered closer at his gums. A definite grayish line ran below his teeth on his lower gum. "Your gums are discolored, Mr. Davis. What medications are you taking?"
House raised a skeptical eyebrow. "They won't cause this type of discoloration. What else?"
They stared at each other; Davis sniffed, hemmed, hawed, then shrugged after about a minute, breaking eye contact first. "Drops," he said, looking a little guilty.
"What kind of drops?" House's exasperation grew louder. Recalcitrant patients were reasons number three hundred and forty-two through four hundred and five.
"Nose drops," Davis answered diffidently. "My nose gets extremely dry and then I get stuffed up a lot from allergies. These drops help."
Skeptical, House raised his eyebrows. "Do you have the bottle with you?"
Davis nodded slowly, reached over to his brown tweed jacket and withdrew a small bottle from the pocket. House snatched the bottle from his hand, studying it.
How long have you been taking this?" he asked, peering at the label. His eyes widened, then narrowed as he read.
"A few years."
House felt the hysterical laughter bubble up and just as quickly tamped it down. "Years? Oh good God."
"My sister, she recommended them for my stuffiness and post-nasal drip--"
"And your sister is a physician?" House did not even bother to try to hide his disbelief.
"Well no, she's a school librarian. She found this Internet site--"
House snorted. Internet diagnoses were reasons two hundred and thirteen through two hundred and fifty. "Your sister is an idiot."
Davis stared at him with an expression remarkably like that of a stunned cow.
"You need to stop taking these," House added tersely, his mouth twitching again. "Now. These are why you're blue."
"These drops contain silver."
"But—but that's a metal!" Davis blinked. "I don't eat metal for God's sake--"
"I hope not, I hear it's hard on the stomach." That earned House a blank stare. "Silver is also found in solutions like silver nitrate. That form of silver is absorbed into your body over a period of time. When you take it long enough your skin turns slate blue or gray. It's called argyria."
"Ar—arg—argyria?" Davis' tongue tripped over the unfamiliar word.
House nodded, amused.
"Is –is—is it dangerous?" Davis stammered, stunned. "Will—will the blue fade?"
"N—n--nope. It's not dangerous. But the skin discoloration is permanent." House hitched up against the side counter and scribbled out the antibiotic prescription. "Take these, see your own doctor in one week, and don't tarnish my doorstep again."
Davis stared at House, stricken. "I'm—I'm always going to be like this?" He stared at his hands. "I'm always going to be blue?"
"Afraid so." House didn't look up.
"What--what can I do about it? I don't want to be blue like this the rest of my life--"
"Aside from stopping the drops?" House thrust the scrip at Davis and smirked. "Damned if I know. But if you're any good at percussion you can start up your own Blue Man Group." He grabbed his cane and left the room, Davis staring in confusion at his retreating back.
Outside, House shook his head and chuckled under his breath. Stupid patients. Reasons number one through two hundred to hate clinic duty. And if this was how clinic duty was going to start, he dreaded what was going to come next.
Wilson looked up from the nursing station where he was filling out a chart. He set the chart down and moved to join House.
"Good morning, House."
Both stood at the nursing station observing Davis, who had left the exam room and was staring at his metallic reflection in the front window. "Your patient was quite a remarkable shade of blue. I hope that it wasn't serious?" Wilson inquired solicitously.
"Hardly." House could no longer hold back a snort. "Tin Man there has argyria. Self-medicating with silver drops. Librarian sister pretended to be a doctor and prescribed them to relieve nasal congestion. Probably spent all of two minutes researching it on the Internet."
He started walking off down the hall, maneuvering around various patients and staff, Wilson falling into perfect step beside him.
Wilson shrugged. "I don't think it would be only two minutes. There is a lot of information out there to sift through. It can be difficult--"
"And ninety percent of it is crap."
"Ah, well, that's Sturgeon's Law."
House did a double-take. "I'm impressed. Didn't take you to be a science-fiction nerd, Jimmy."
"Well, the Internet is the great liberator of information for the masses. It is our generation's equivalent of the printing press."
"Too bad the masses are too stupid to understand half the claptrap on there."
"Ninety percent of half."
"While the other half of the claptrap is porn."
"Ah, but everyone can understand porn."
"So the Internet is of use then."
"Only for the porn."
Wilson nodded sagely. "Because only five percent of the information on the Internet is truthful."
"Sounds about right."
By this time they had reached the elevators. When the door opened, Foreman stood in the centre brandishing a file folder.
"We have a case," Foreman stated, thrusting the purple folder towards him. "Admitted earlier this morning from the ER. I think you might be interested."
At the same time, House's pager beeped. House snapped the pager off his belt and gave it a cursory glance. Only Cuddy. She probably wanted to "discuss" the extra charges for coffee supplies in his budget. He planned to punt her over to Cameron for that anyway. The page could wait. At least this would get him out of clinic duty for the rest of the morning.
"Tell me," House ordered as they stepped into the elevator and the door closed again.
Cameron and Chase were already sitting at the conference room table, files and notes spread open in front of them when House charged into the office, Foreman almost running to keep up.
Wilson didn't enter, just stopped at the threshold. "I'll catch you later," he called through the door. House waved him off and bee-lined to the whiteboard as Foreman slid into the third empty chair.
"Six-day old male infant with drowsiness and feeding difficulties," he announced, writing the symptoms on the board in his large block script. "Charming. How I love these Disney cases." He could almost hear the tandem rolls of three pairs of eyes. "However, while Bippity here assures me that this is not boring, I don't believe him." He smirked at Foreman, who narrowed his eyes and shook his head. "So, Boppity and Boo, tell me why I should be wasting my time on this case."
"Patient was born full-term--" Chase began.
House scowled at him and nodded toward Cameron. "She's Boppity," he interrupted. "Wait your turn, Boo-boo."
Chase glared and fumed down at his copy of the file while Cameron spoke up. "The patient, Ethan Andrew Myers, was born at thirty-eight weeks' gestation. The mother, Tara Marie--"
"Wow, first name basis already. You going to move in and become their on-call nanny now?"
Cameron ignored him. "--is twenty-seven years old, gravida two para one. Pregnancy was unremarkable, mother attended all prenatal care visits, triple screen normal, no GD, eighteen-week ultrasound showed no gross malformations of the fetus. Weight gain of the mother was thirty-seven pounds--"
"Yes yes, mom's going to have problems fitting into her bikini for Memorial Day," House snapped. "Not important. Boo-boo, take over."
It was Cameron's turn to glare daggers at House while Chase picked up, having followed through the file with his index finger. "Born vaginally after forty-two hours' labor, mom required episiotomy for vacuum-assisted delivery due to mild shoulder dystocia and exhaustion. Baby weighed thirty-eight hundred grams, had Apgars of seven and eight at one and five minutes, and initial breastfeeding was successful. Mum and baby were discharged after forty-eight hours, everything looked fine."
"Textbook pregnancy and relatively few interventions at delivery," Foreman summarized. "Whatever it is, has to do with baby and not with mom."
House sidled over to the coffeepot to pour a mug of brew. "OK. Differential diagnosis, people. Did the patient present with jaundice?"
"Hyperbilirubinemia was ruled out in the ER," Cameron replied. "As was methemoglobinemia."
"Yeah, and we know how those morons operate down there. Re-test."
"Heart and lung function normal?" asked Foreman.
"Heart checked out," Chase confirmed, "but resps were depressed to twenty a minute. Otherwise normal breath sounds."
"If it's congenital heart disease it should've been picked up at the eighteen-week ultrasound," Cameron stated.
"Not if it's a subtle defect," House said over his shoulder. "Echo, EKG and chest MRI to rule out lung pathology."
"An in-born error of metabolism?" Chase asked.
"How long does it take for the heel-sticks to come back?"
"I dunno, probably within a week I think--"
"Get his expedited but it still may not catch all the culprits. Chase, go interview the parents and get a detailed family history, as far back as you can go. Cameron, what's the patient's current weight?"
Cameron slid her glasses on and scanned the chart. "Ummm... thirty-six hundred grams."
"It's normal for babies to lose weight the first few days of life--" Foreman said.
"They should start putting it back on by the end of the first week," Chase countered. "This baby's not gaining."
"Probably due to the drowsiness."
"So let's find out what it takes to wake the baby back up again." He glared at all three of his minions then dismissed them with a wave of his hand. "Now. Go forth and spread the magic."
They trooped out, and he headed straight to the bookshelf in his inner office to pull out a reference book. His pager beeped again and he plucked it off his belt. Cuddy again. Annoyed, he threw it in the general direction of the sink where Cameron had some mugs soaking. It landed with a satisfying splash in the suds, and a clunking thud at the bottom.
There. Perfect peace now.
He sat down at his desk, propped his legs up and began to read.
A couple of hours later, House and his minions were tossing the giant red-and-gray tennis ball back and forth across the conference table as they debated the findings of the tests.
"O2 sats are stable for now but they're still sinking," Chase said, puzzled.
"Not very, but it's steady. If I had to hazard a guess I'd say that baby's suffering from narcotic overdose."
"But there's no reason why," Cameron objected, catching the ball deftly in her turn. "The mother was clean at birth, no history of drug use, and no signs of neonatal withdrawal, so he's not getting any--"
They all looked up at the click of heels at the door, then fell silent as Cuddy entered the room, looking stricken, and accompanied by a sombre-looking Wilson one step behind.
"House, I need to talk to you right now," she announced, fingers trembling around the folder she clutched.
House didn't miss a beat. "Geez, Cuddy, we were having so much fun. Thanks for killing the party with that long face. What happened, your mom died?" He raised his eyebrows.
An odd look of anger, resignation and pity crossed her face. "Now, House. Privately."
"House, I really think you should--" Wilson began.
House stood his ground. "Whatever you two have to say to me you can say in front of my peeps. No secrets held back here." He smirked at Chase, Cameron and Foreman in turn. They all stared back in various degrees of bemusement.
Cuddy sighed, just barely able to keep her cool, and inhaled deeply. "House, your father called. He's been trying to reach you since yesterday but somehow your phone's disconnected?"
House shrugged. "Didn't pay the bill this month. Forgot. It happens."
Cuddy rolled her eyes, taking another deep breath. "And I've been trying to page you all morning since you skipped out of the clinic but you weren't answering."
House glanced towards the suds in the sink. "Misplaced it. Or maybe I stole the battery for my iPod. Either one works."
Cuddy glared at House, waves of anger visibly coursing over her; she was trembling with the effort to control it. "House--"
House smirked at her and turned back towards the board. "I have a patient, Cuddy, whatever you're going to say--"
Wilson rubbed his neck, muttering an almost inaudible "Here it comes," and tensing for the inevitable.
"Dammit, House!" she shouted, tossing the file on the table. The minions jumped at once. "Don't you have an ounce of curiosity as to why your father would even try to reach me? God, for a brilliant man you are so unbelievably dense! Your mother passed away yesterday! Your mother's dead! She's dead, House, and your father needs you to go home."
Silence dropped over the room like the proverbial lead weight, the only noise coming from the sparrows twittering outside on the balcony through the open screen. Chase, Cameron and Foreman exchanged shocked glances with each other, then stared at House, waiting for a reaction.
The man himself stood frozen in place, a statue except for the fine tremor in his hand that clutched the cane. He stared at Cuddy in open shock, mouth gaping for a full thirty seconds before recovering. "No, I don't believe you," he said flatly, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.
Wilson stepped around Cuddy to stand in front of House, reaching out for his shoulder. "It's true, House," he said sadly. "Yesterday morning, in her sleep. It was her heart. I'm sorry."
House turned his head to stare at Wilson, his eyes wide and confused, his mind working rapidly. It's not true, he thought, panic gnawing at the edges of his thoughts. They're pulling some sort of sick and twisted retribution for whatever he'd done last to piss them off. He so desperately wanted to cling to that explanation--But Wilson was at his side, his warm and steady hand now squeezing his shoulder, and House recognized Wilson's somber, empathetic, break-the-worst-news expression on his boyish features.
No joke, then.
House had never forgotten how the world had drained of color, of depth, of warmth, when he'd woken up from his drug-induced coma and first learned of the loss of use of his leg, and then of Stacy's betrayal that caused it. The world had remained dull, monochrome and joyless in its monotony for a long, long time afterwards; it was only recently, and oh so slowly, that the color had begun to return.
He heard it all drain again with a whoosh—oddly fitting, that it should feel like it was all flushing down a toilet—except the world wasn't gray again, it was dark, and the sound seeped out too, leaving nothing but a numb vacuum where his heart should have been.
Yet he still knew how to function despite that; he'd become a professional at denial after all, able to fiddle even as Rome burned around him. He threw Wilson's hand off with a violent shrug. "Yeah," he heard himself say. "Thanks." His voice sounded hollow though, even to him; even as the analytical, detached part of him snickered that he would now probably owe Wilson another ten bucks for someone thanking him for bad news. Maybe there was a joke in there somewhere after all.
"Your father asked me to tell you, your mom's funeral will be at two tomorrow afternoon in Woodbridge," Cuddy announced, her voice a tear-clogged whisper.
House nodded, hearing but not caring. He was going to miss it anyway, that much was certain. Even though Blythe (funny how it was "Blythe" now, no longer "Mom") was dead, he had no desire to attend if John was going to be there. At least that was one headache out of the way.
At some point, Cameron had risen from her spot at the table, and she now approached House and Wilson awkwardly. "House, I am so very sorry," she began, her voice trembling and her eyes shimmering with tears. She spread her hands apart, reaching out towards him. "If there's anything I can do--"
House felt a part of himself snap in anger. He lashed out, taking a menacing step towards her; she backed off, empathy transmuting to fear on her fine pale face.
"No Cameron, you don't get to hold me while I cry on your shoulder," House snarled, "or make sweet sweet love to me until I forget my misery and tumble into blessed oblivion. That's Wilson's job." He then turned away abruptly from the team to stare out the window.
Both Chase's and Foreman's mouths dropped in identical, ludicrous gapes as Cuddy blinked and Wilson snapped his shut. Cameron's face reddened and her eyes narrowed; she opened her mouth to form a reply but Wilson shook his head, staying whatever words she was about to utter.
"You'd all better go," he said quietly. "Go on, it's all right. I've got him."
Chase and Foreman rose as one with no argument; Foreman reached out and took Cameron's arm. The three filed out of House's office silently with identical looks of puzzlement, shock and relief on their faces, each stealing glances at House's rigid back.
Cuddy picked up the file she'd flung at House and stood uncertainly by the conference table across from Wilson.
"Do you need any help, Wilson?" she asked softly. House, by the window, didn't even seem to know they were there discussing him. "With House?"
"Are you sure? I—I can stay if--"
Wilson nodded and sighed heavily. "Yeah, I'm sure. Go back to work, Lisa."
Cuddy sighed and slumped a bit and her blue eyes shimmered with tears. House was a miserable bastard at the best of times, but she knew just how few people truly mattered in his life and he'd lost perhaps the most important of them all. Even House deserved sympathy right now. "Take all the time you'll need, House," she said quietly. "I'm—I'm so sorry." Not knowing what else to say, she fled the office too, leaving House to Wilson.
Wilson followed Cuddy to the door, where he closed and locked the door behind her, and then shut the blinds on the windows overlooking the hallway, trying to provide a measure of privacy in what he often thought of as a fishbowl of an office. He looked at the floor for a moment, rubbing his neck and trying to decide what to say.
"You know, I'm actually OK with the crying bit but I hope the sex part is optional--" he finally began in a purposely light tone as he turned around.
His voice died when he saw House.
In the interim House had moved from the window and over to one of the sleek conference room chairs, sliding down to sit with his chin on the handle of his cane. He stared at the far wall, blinking rapidly, face stricken; backlit from the midday sun, he looked every inch a lost little boy. As he most definitely was, Wilson thought with a pang. Not many people had a role in Gregory House's life, but Blythe had been a major player and he knew her death would leave a deep, if not bottomless, hole. Even if House would never openly admit it.
Wilson crossed the floor to squat in front of him and laid one hand on his good knee. "Oh God, Greg--" he implored, not caring that he was breaking one of the many cardinal rules of their friendship. No first names. "Greg--"
House rose his chin off his cane to look up at him, in what might have been a defiant gesture, but his eyes were impossibly bleak.
"Go away, Jimmy. Just—go. Go hold the hand of one of your cancer kids."
Wilson's own heart clenched at the curt dismissal as House lowered his chin back down to rest on the curved handle and squeezed his eyes shut, grimacing, retreating inwardly. One hand rubbed up and down his bad thigh.
But Wilson did not move. He stayed, kneeling in front of House, hand on his knee and his own head bowed, reciting a silent Kaddish that he remembered from his childhood, for Blythe and for House; only his lips moved. House seemed to pay him no attention though; so when he finished, Wilson simply sighed again wearily, squeezed House's knee and rose, leaving him finally alone in the remains of the glass office.