A/N: Hi guys, to say it has been a while would be an understatement. A bit of an update on me- I'm in nursing school and live/work in a major city, so life is quite a bit busier- and more adult- than it was when I began this story. I'd like to update a bit more consistently as a creative outlet from this point forwards, but I'll be honest in that I'm not making any promises.
This chapter is sort of the return to present of the flashback that was the last chapter- ie, chapter 47 began with the same block of text as this one does, then jumped back to a different situation with a phone ringing, Rose and House were reunited, and now she's getting a call in the middle of that night. Please take a moment to reorient yourself, as even I had to.
Above all, read, review, enjoy!
RRRRIIIiiiiing RRRriiiiiiiiiiinnnng Rrrriiiinnnngggggggg
Rose gasps, shooting upright and looking around rapidly. In her dazed state, it takes a moment to register where she is. The room swims into focus under the moonlight seeping through the curtains and she glances around rapidly at the plain walls, her eyes eventually settling on the man sleeping peacefully next to her- a smile creeping onto her face as the tiredness is pushed away.
Startled back to reality, she grabs blindly for her cell phone on the nightstand, answering it frantically to avoid waking House.
"Rose. It's Foreman. The patient-"
"What part of 'don't call me under any circumstances' did you not understand?" She hisses, facing away from House on the bed.
"Look, I know, but… hear me out a second." He can practically feel Rose's angry glare as he talks, but she doesn't interrupt again. "The parents want to withdraw life support and you're the attending. You have to authorize it."
Rose sighs heavily and drops her head to her hands. She feels a hand on her back as she answers, "Stall. I'll call you back."
"What's going on?" House asks, his voice groggy as he blinks slowly, sitting up.
Shrugging and getting up to pace, Rose throws up her arms. "Work, what else? Foreman needs me to sign paperwork for pulling the plug on a kid."
House raises his eyebrows. "Do you know what's wrong with him?"
"Yeah, he's vent and bypass dependent with multi system failure and no detectable cause. Sounds pretty hopeless to me," she huffs, pulling on jeans and a sweatshirt and her shoes.
He frowns at having heard his own voice escape the woman in front of him. "You think you could solve it if you had more time?"
Her sour look is all the answer he needs as she walks out the door, keys in hand.
"But Mrs. Thompson, if you'd just give us another day or two I'm sure that-"
"What I really want to know," the woman quips, pointing Forcefully at Foreman's bewildered face, "is why Doctor House isn't here!"
"Ma'am we told you that-"
"Mrs. Thompson," Rose interrupts, just reaching the patient room, "Dr. House is on sabbatical. I'm the attending physician on all of his cases until he returns. You were informed of this when we accepted your son's case."
The woman whirls around to face Rose and Foreman scurries away. Rose leans against the door frame, dressed casually and not responding to the woman's obvious agitation.
"Ma'am," Rose starts, then holds up a hand when the woman opens her mouth to protest already. "I will sign the life support withdrawal form, if that's what you truly want. I don't want your son suffering, any more than you do. However-" she stops, gesturing slightly, "I also want to give him any chance at life he still has."
There's a moment of intense silence before the woman speaks again. "Do you have kids?"
Rose internally grimaces at the ever repeated and dreaded question, then shakes her head.
Her voice cracking, the woman replies. "This is the single most difficult decision I will ever make as a parent. But be honest, what quality of life will he have, even if you do figure it out? Can you guarantee me his brain function going to return? He's going to walk and talk again? He won't need machines the rest of his life?"
Rose sighs deeply, knowing she'd agree with the mother if she wasn't concerned with getting her answers. "Ma'am I really can't tell you that with any certainty."
She bites her lip hard before answering again, wrapping her arms around herself. "Then sign the damn paperwork."
Rose does so without another word, and heads immediately back to the ddx. Not even bothering to wake the fellows slumped in various positions around the room, Rose stares at the vague symptoms on the whiteboard, wishing for anything that House was about to walk in with that smirk on his face and a far off look and solve the case before the nurses could finish D/Cing the life support.
No epiphany comes as the night wears on, and Rose doesn't even hear the page that comes through when the boy expires. Autopsy would email her the next day. She dreams it's homicide- poison or abuse or trickery- dreams of having failed miserably at both things she's supposed to be good at.
All four doctors nearly jump out of their seats when Rose's phone rings, just as the sun begins to rise. They all look around, delirious and disheveled before she realizes it's hers, and clumsily picks it up. "Hello?" She answers, sounding more confused than anything.
House's tone is unlike any she's heard before and she immediately sits up- yanked back to reality- and begins putting her shoes on, holding the phone with her shoulder.
"It's happening… I don't… where are you?" He whimpers, trying to lay as still as possible on the bed.
She checks her watch- 5:43- and swears under her breath as she gathers her things frantically and turns away from the puzzled looks of the now awake fellows.
"I'm sorry. I'm coming. Hang on." She fishes her keys from her bag and dashes down the stairs, foregoing the elevator for the sake of speed and practically tripping over herself as she does.
"Don't hang up."
She inhales sharply, nodding fiercely as she starts her car. "Okay. Okay. I'm in the car now I'll be there in ten minutes."
"I'mmmmmm holy shit- I'm sorry."
Rose cringes at his moans. "No no, don't apologize. It's okay. It's okay."
She can hear his heavy breathing over the phone, and she mumbles as she counts his respirations, hoping this isn't as bad as she's expecting and knowing she has absolutely no way to curb it, medicinally. The ten minutes of driving are the slowest she's ever experienced, and she bangs on the steering wheel in frustration as she coos to House, hoping her vocal presence is at least something.
Not even locking her car door, she dashes to the hotel entrance, speaking through the phone in a hushed whisper. "Okay okay I'm here, I'm going to hang up now but I'm coming up the stairs."
She hangs up before he replies, and takes the stairs two at a time despite her short stature.
Opening the door, she sets her jaw to not react to whatever she sees next, but is relieved to find a mostly intact looking House still in bed.
"Hey," she breathes, sitting on the bed gently and kicking off her shoes.
He reaches out to her, grimacing as she scoots to him and pulls his head and shoulders into her lap. He wraps his arms around her waist and squeezes tight.
"No touching right?" She asks, stroking his hair and trying to slow her own breathing.
He hardly nods, squeezing his eyes shut, small noises escaping every few seconds and a fine tremble coursing through him.
She bites her tongue, nearly drawing blood against the sting in her eyes. He's not angry. He's not rebelling. He's not wearing a brave face. He's mush- a withering form clung to her body and putting up no fight. He's scared as hell, and in more pain than she expected.
"Did you figure it out?" House asks, through sharp inhales.
"Course not. I'm not you." Her teeth clack audibly at her own surprise of the quip, and House flinches some.
"I'm sorry I didn't mean-"
"No," she interrupts, dropping her hand from his face for a moment, "that was uncalled for. I'm sorry."
He doesn't say anything else, but the weight of her clear resentment hangs in the air for later. When he'd left for Mayfield, the department had been the last of House's worries and Rose knew he was counting on her to hold things together. She knew he had confidence in her to maintain the reputation of diagnostics, and she'd let him down more than she'd ever expected. Explaining that to him would be next to impossible, and it certainly wasn't going to happen in this moment.
What feels like hours goes by before House really relaxes his grip on Rose, and she peers down at him curiously, pleased to find relief in his face as she lets her own body relax.
She wiggles downwards in the bed, the sun peaking through the blinds as he starts to doze off, his head on her abdomen and his arms flung across her. She strokes his curls slowly, finally realizing how much she actually missed his presence.
Just as she thinks he's fallen asleep, House whispers another apology into Rose's shirt, sounding dejected as ever.
"House," she starts, shaking her head sadly, "It's okay. You don't need to apologize."
She feels him nod and shift some, relaxing into her and eventually beginning to snore. She tries to push this pain from her mind but fails, wondering how many times she would see this happen. Wondering how many times she wouldn't be there in time.
HWHWHWHWH THE NEXT MORNING HHWHWHWHWH
Rose stands at the counter of the kitchenette, measuring out instant hotel coffee with her back to House, who sits at the small table. She has to work today, but House's habits have been creeping up on her lately and she's not inclined to be early. Plus, with the pain episode the morning before and their spending most of the day in bed, she knows he isn't inclined to have her leave anytime soon.
"So how has work been? Anything really interesting?" House asks, honest innocence his only tone.
Rose inhales sharply. "Let's just say I'm looking forward to you coming back," she replies, shaking her head a bit before turning to him.
Looking away from her, House rubs his eyes and sighs. "Actually-"
Her eyes go wide as he talks, dreading every word. "I don't think I'm going back… at least not yet. Not… soon."
Not trusting her voice to be understanding, Rose simply looks wide eyed at House as she leans on the counter, until he has no choice but to continue.
"I can't… it's too much of old habits." He looks sheepishly at her as her stomach churns.
Logically, Rose knows that may be the most sound thing she's ever heard House say, but dread creeps up at the thought of continuing to work alone. Knowing she has no recourse but honesty, Rose whispers, nearly inaudibly, "I've only solved six."
House furrows his eyebrows and she continues, her voice strengthening only marginally. "In three months we had fifteen cases. All but six have died."
She picks at a seam on her leg as she speaks, not able to meet Houses eye, but when he doesn't answer after several moments, she looks up to meet his beaming face.
Taken aback by the genuine smile, she merely stares.
House is laughing now, with Rose nearly in tears before he explains.
He leans forward and grabs for her wrists and she lets him pull her towards him until she sits across from him at the small table, their knees brushing. There's a pride on his face that she doesn't recognize.
"In the first six months of diagnostics, I saved two patients. Two. The hospital almost shut me down three times."
He waits for a reaction but Rose merely sits, awkwardly avoiding his gaze.
"Rose where would those six be if you hadn't taken their cases?"
She furrows her brow and looks at him questioningly, expecting there to be criticism some place, and finding no hitch.
House holds her gaze in a sort of challenge. "What would you tell someone who had just started as a... a.. major case team leader in the FBI and wasn't keeping up with you?"
Her sheepish smile is answer enough and House finally winks, knowing there's no advice he can give that Rose doesn't already know herself.
After a quiet room service breakfast charged to Wilson's credit card, Rose begins to collect her bag and keys for work, her mind still on their conversation.
"Why did you hire me?" Rose asks, pausing near the table, the question uncharged despite its context. "If I'm not solving anymore cases than you would have yourself?"
"Haven't I already told you I only hired you to get into your pants?" He replies, giggling slightly.
She rolls her eyes before responding, trying not to give him the satisfaction of her laughter. "I believe there was more to that conversation, but maybe the ketamine wearing off screwed up your memory."
House brushes her hand as she passes, sitting on the bed to put on her shoes.
His tone turns serious again. "You'd be good to take some of your own advice from that day you know," he looks down, remembering, "something about love and want and worth not being the same as ability… I don't have to absolutely need you at work to value and want you there, or anywhere else. And what you mean to me doesn't have to be measurable to anyone else."
Rose, knowing better than to respond to that, sits silently behind him on the bed for a moment longer and merely gives House a quick kiss on her way out the door, smiling to herself in wonder once she's out of his line of sight. It would seem that something from his months of therapy actually got through to him, and she wonders what else he has up his sleeve.
She'd rather have spent another day lounging around the hotel but she's content with having left House and Wilson to catch up and hopefully discuss living arrangements, though she doubts they'll get to anything nearly that serious. In all the time she and Wilson spent together over the past few months, she knows better than anyone that he missed House just as much as she did.