The Queen Of Hearts
House Through The Looking Glass Series
(For the purpose of this story Valentine's Day falls on a Monday.)
House rolled over and opened his eyes. What was it that was so lousy about today? Oh, right. It was Valentine's Day. God. He slowly rose from the bed and ran his hands over his face. Normally this date didn't really bother him. Well maybe a little. He had just had a dream about he and Stacy having a picnic on a blanket in front of their fireplace. It had been very romantic and the sex was incredible. That was years ago now when they were younger and he was whole.
House shook off the memory and the dream that had been better than the memory could have been. In the dream Stacy had left her husband and returned to him and the infarction had never happened. He had never been hooked on Vicodin and he had never gone to Mayfield. He tried to recall what woke him. Then his leg reminded him. It was February and snowing in New Jersey. His leg hurt. House rubbed it and thought of taking a dip in Wilson's tub.
House limped to Wilson's room and heard the water running. Damn. Wilson was already in there. He would have to settle for a shower and that sucked because his leg really hurt this morning. House limped back to his room and pulled out a heating pad. He plugged it in and sat on the bed with the pad on his thigh and waited for it to heat up. Un-beckoned snatches of the dream returned to him like the memory of a bad accident. He tried to focus on something else. His latest patient was recovering. House had made a brilliant diagnosis of 'Little's Disease' a form of cerebral palsy. It was odd finding it in a patient in their forties. The case was solved however. There was nothing more for him to do now, nothing more to occupy his thoughts.
The pad was warming the muscle and the pain was subsiding. House reached for a bottle and took 800 mg of ibuprofen wishing again for the hundredth time they were Vicodin. He swallowed them and closed his eyes. He could hear Wilson in his bathroom now blowing dry his hair. He wondered if he would have time to sneak in and take a bath. Probably not since he was riding in with Wilson. Motorcycle, sore stiff leg and snow definitely did not mix well.
House kneaded the muscle and thought. He decided to skip the shower now and try to get a bath later tonight. Shouldn't be a problem. Wilson had a date damn him. Now House was stuck at home alone with the TV. The least he should get out of the evening is a bath. He thought for a moment about calling a 'personal masseuse' to come over. Maybe.
"House are you up?" Wilson's voice came from outside the door.
"Hurry up or we'll be late to work."
"My leg hurts."
There was a beat before a "sorry" came through the door. It was followed by, "I'll make coffee."
The sound of footsteps retreating to the kitchen was heard.
House gritted his teeth and counted, one, two, and three. On three he got to his feet and stood for a moment. The heating pad had helped. He limped to his closet and grabbed a pair of jeans. He took a shirt off the hanger and got himself a T-shirt and a pair of socks.
Wilson filled the coffee carafe with water. He looked out the window at the snow. It had been quite a storm last night and the roads were a mess. He shook his head. House had to be miserable with his leg hurting combined with the cold. He poured the water into the machine and placed the carafe under it to catch the dark rich liquid. He wondered if his studded tires would be good enough on the roads. He was pouring the first two mugs when the plow went by.
House was tying his shoe when he heard a snow plow. Had the storm been that bad? He rubbed his leg again as the previous warmth was now gone. Hauling himself to his feet he grabbed his cane and followed the smell of coffee into the kitchen.
Wilson indicated the mug on the counter.
"How's the leg."
"Still attached, thank you."
House picked up the mug. "Any sugar in this?"
"No, sorry." Wilson handed House the sugar.
House added it. "You seem preoccupied."
"Just wondering if going out tonight is such a good idea. We have more snow coming."
"Great." He took a sip. "Don't you have a date tonight? I thought you and Nora had dinner plans."
"We do but the snow is bad and you're…"
"I don't need a sympathy date from you thanks."
"I wasn't offering."
"Good because you're not my type."
"Who is?" Wilson felt badly when he asked but it was a legitimate question.
"No one you'd know," came the biting reply. House didn't know why he had said that. Wilson knew everyone he knew.
"Anyway if the storm is bad we won't be able to leave the building. We may be lucky to get home tonight."
"We'll make it home and then you will have dinner here with Nora and I'll grab a cab to a strip bar somewhere."
Wilson winced. Happy Valentine's Day House, he thought. Instead he changed the subject.
"Let's try and get out of here and I'll buy you breakfast on the way."
"No pancakes at PJ's."
"Lead on McWilson."
They grabbed coats; scarves, gloves and House took his hat. He went out the door. Wilson set the alarm they purchased since Lucas had broken in so often to sabotage them. They made their way to the car and Wilson opened the passenger door so House could get in and off his leg. Wilson got in and started the car turning on the seat warmer and heater. It took a while but when the warmth came it was delicious.
They drove to PJ's the Princeton home of the best pancakes this side of the celestial plain. Nassau Street was cleared of snow and Wilson drove into the parking lot. House reached in the glove box and took out the handicap placard and hung it on the mirror. Wilson parked and House got carefully out of the car. It was slippery but he managed to reach the restaurant in an upright position. That was good. So were his chocolate chip pancakes. Wilson got the raspberry ones.
They left the restaurant and drove to Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. Since Wilson drove House he parked in House's parking spot and House again hung the placard on the mirror.
They both walked carefully from the car to the doors of the hospital. They stamped the snow from their shoes and entered into the warmth and chaos. The clinic was full and people who had slipped in the snow were waiting along with the runny noses and the flu sufferers. There were full beds in the ER and a tragic death due to hypothermia.
Cuddy looked up from a clinic file.
"Happy Valentine's Day. Grab a file and a tongue depressor."
Wilson said he would be right back as soon as he got out of his coat and rubber boots. House followed him away from the clinic.
He stopped and Cuddy almost ran right into him.
"You shouldn't be following so close. Tailgating is illegal you know."
"Where are you going?"
"You heard Wilson. Got to get out of this coat and rubbers or get some. I'm not really sure what he said."
She gave him a tight-lipped look. I'll give you five minutes," she said.
"Five! For a cripple?"
"I'll send security with you."
"I may be able to do ten."
House wasn't aware that his hand began rubbing his leg.
Cuddy saw House rub his leg and noticed his eyes weren't focused on her. It wasn't a ploy. He really hurt.
"Ten then. See you back here at 9:20."
House refocused on her face and nodded. The pain in his leg had ramped up and he was miserable. When he turned to go he limped with more difficulty.
Cuddy watched him go and thought about the snow and cold and what this cost House. Yet here he was at the hospital and willing to work. He showed up. He always showed up. Now what he did while at the hospital was a bit more difficult to define. But he always showed up.
Cuddy shook her head and then moved on to the next patient.
House arrived at his office and was a little surprised to find Wilson waiting for him.
"Clinic duty?" He asked with a bit of sympathy in his voice.
"I have ten minutes in which to drop of my coat and return to the fray."
"Does she know?"
"Does she know…the price of tomatoes…the name of the Governor of Rhode Island… the medium price of a home in Iowa?"
"Does she know your leg hurts?"
"Well I suppose so being that it hurts everyday."
"That it hurts more than usual today?"
"I didn't share it with her."
Wilson studied House's face a moment. "Why? You could have got off clinic duty today."
"I don't want her feeling sorry for me. I don't want anyone feeling sorry for me."
"No one is going to make you feel like you're a cripple; except you of course. If you need help, ask."
"I don't need help and you're taking up the time I have to grab coffee before I have to report back."
Wilson held up his hands. "Okay, my bad. I know how dedicated you are to aiding those who suffer without a single thought for yourself."
House made for the conference room and coffee. Wilson put his hands on his hips and called after the retreating back.
"She's wearing the push-up bra today isn't she?"
"Oh yeah!" House answered.
"See you at the clinic."
"Coffee and drool cup in hand."
Wilson left the office and House went to pour himself coffee in his red mug.
He looked at the clock on the wall. It was 9:33 and he was 13 minutes late getting back to the clinic. He was also two hours into the ibuprofen he took. He had hoped for more pain relief than he was getting. What he wanted was a dip in the whirlpool. His next best answer was a massage or the heating pad again. Barring those three options he wanted Vicodin.
It disturbed him how often he wanted it. His detox at Mayfield from the addictive drug had been terrible. He sometimes dreamt of being locked in a room, tied to a bed screaming as the opiate left his body and the pain increased ten fold. Why would he ever want to experience that again?
House shook himself. He did not want to become addicted to anything ever again. It wasn't worth losing his mind or worth the brutal pain. He would try to get away to the physical therapy department and soak his leg in hot water.
House limped out of the room with his coffee in his left hand.
He arrived at the clinic.
"You're late," Cuddy said handing him a file that he trapped under his arm. Patient in room two has a headache.
House rolled his eyes,
"Do I have to Mom?" he whined at her.
"Yes you do. Room two Doctor House."
"Okay I'm going just turn around and look at me one more time." House begged.
"Yes I'm wearing the push-up and no the 'girls' don't need you today or any day."
"You used to be more fun before you started seeing Lucas."
"I am more fun. You just don't get to see it." She turned on her feet and walked away.
House enjoyed her retreating backside and then limped off for room two.
By lunchtime he had treated three cases of flu, four allergies, one rash, one chronic cough, one hypertension and a bite on the finger of a seven year old from a classmate. The mother didn't appreciate House giving her son the advice that he should have bit the kid back. Parents, jeez.
House checked out and limped off to find Wilson. The pain in his leg made him hold up and lean against the wall. This pain was worse than this morning. This pain scared him. He could imagine the infarction. It couldn't have returned. He knew that but it frightened him anyway. The hallway was too public a place for his agony so he chose the most convenient place to go hide. Cuddy's office was empty and House dropped onto her sofa and massaged his thigh frantically.
It's just a cramp. It's just a cramp. He kept telling himself.
House worked the muscle kneading it and rubbing. He could feel how hard his heart was beating. As soon as he could get it manageable he was going to get into a whirlpool and the rest of the world could go on spinning without Gregory House for a while.
House needed something else to focus on. He looked around Cuddy's office and spotted a stuffed animal on the desk. It was a pink and red teddy bear. That was cute enough to make you sick. It must be for Rachel, House thought. No way would Lucas gives that to Cuddy. Then House spotted the usual heart-shaped box of chocolates on the desk. Nice. She will have a few and then work out extra hard at the gym and swear off candy forever.
House was just thinking that he would have sent flowers instead when the thigh cramped hard making his eyes water and his teeth clench. He lifted his leg onto the couch and rubbed if vigorously trying to warm it and increase the blood flow. The tears ran down his face. God please make it stop.
House raised his hand and rubbed it across his face to wipe away the tears. He was looking down when he saw it amber and white between the cushion and the back of the sofa. What the hell?
House reached down and pulled out a prescription bottle. It wasn't possible no one had found it. People sat on this couch all the time. He sat on it, as did Wilson and Cuddy herself. No one had dislodged it until this moment?
House flipped it over in his hand. The bottle had his name on it and there had to be fifteen pills left in it. House couldn't believe that just when the pain was the worst he had experienced in a very long time he would find a forgotten portion of his stash. He was both thrilled and terrified in equal measure. He held salvation in his hand, a salvation that would damn him to hell. He'd been to hell and had no desire to return. But this pain was its own hell.
For one of the few times in his life House was lost. He didn't know what to do. He needed the pain to recede but he needed his mind as well.
Cuddy came into her office and didn't notice him at first. She walked by him and went to her desk. She picked up the teddy bear and adjusted the ribbon around its neck. She set it on the desk and then turned quickly when she heard a soft moan.
"House!" She cried out startled.
Cuddy was ready to berate him and then toss him out of her office when she saw his red eyes and wet face. He was kneading his thigh and looking retched.
"House," she said again in a much softer tone.
"Still here," he answered quietly.
Cuddy went to him and sat on the coffee table. She knew everything with a glance. This wasn't the first time she had seen his eyes red and puffy, his face wet with tears. What she wanted to do was cradle his head in her arms. What she did was place a hand on top of the hand rubbing his thigh.
"How bad is it?" she asked him knowing the answer.
"The judges give it 9.5 out of 10." He tried to quip but it was hard.
"I can admit you."
House thought of that option. His pain could be monitored, controlled for a while. It sounded appealing.
The remaining muscle in his thigh cramped hard and House seized it with both hands. He let the amber bottle slip from his fingers to the floor at Cuddy's feet.
She picked it up.
He felt his stomach turn over. The pain was horrible. The guilt was worse as was the knowledge that he missed any opportunity to control the pain on his own.
He needed her.
She looked at him and her heart nearly broke. He was holding his leg and trying not to lose himself in the pain. She had no idea where he got the pills but she believed that he hadn't taken any. He was struggling but he hadn't succumbed to the temptation. He deserved her support not a chiding comment.
She looked into his eyes.
"Let me help you. I'll have you admitted. We'll work through this. I know you won't go back on the pills."
"I almost took them," he admitted. "I was so close."
"But you didn't. You held on,"
"Yeah that's me, strength of character. Too bad my character is Scooby-Doo. Ripe!"
He still had his self-deprecating humor. He wasn't about to surrender completely, not ever.
Cuddy got to her feet and walked to her desk. She made a quick call to admitting and requested a private room. She made a second call home. She spoke softly to the party on the other end.
"Can you stay with Rachel tonight? I'm going to be here fairly late. No, I'm not sure when I will be home. I know it is. This is important. Yes. It's House. He's in a lot of pain and I'm admitting him into the hospital. No. This is a critical time for him. He needs support from his friends. Yes Wilson is his best friend. He doesn't know about it. I know. Of course I do. We'll do it tomorrow. Please trust me. You too. Bye."
"That sounded like you were breaking a date."
"No. We were just…"
"…Going to have an intimate dinner at home. Then you were going to put on that new red teddy you bought."
"How did you know…?"
"I didn't. I was letting my imagination run wild. You look amazing by the way."
She smiled at him.
"It's a black teddy."
"Oh so close!" He closed his eyes. "Need to do a whole new image now."
Cuddy called Wilson. She knew House wouldn't like the next part where they took him to his room in a wheelchair in front of patients and colleagues. He had his pride and this was going to place it in tatters.
House wasn't aware that he was rocking back and forth as he rubbed his leg. It hurt so badly. If Cuddy hadn't picked up the bottle of Vicodin House was certain he would have taken a few. Maybe he could control it. Maybe he could have stopped after his leg was back to 'normal'.
Who was he lying to? His leg would never be 'normal'. Normal for him was about a six or seven on the pain scale. He was an addict. House was 'clean' of the drug but if he was honest with himself he still craved it every day. He was tempered by the memory of the excruciating detox he endured at Mayfield. The thought of reliving that experience terrified him straight.
Cuddy returned to the coffee table.
"Wilson will be here with a wheelchair."
"I didn't know he needed one. What a coincidence," House tried to snarl.
"Can you walk to the room?"
"Is there another alternative?"
"Not unless you can teleport yourself."
Wilson appeared outside in the lobby with the wheelchair.
"Your ride is here," Wilson announced.
House scowled. He needed the help but didn't want to be stared at. He could see no possibility of getting through the hospital to the room and keep his dignity.
"I'll walk," he said and managed to get to his feet.
The moment didn't last. He was back down on the couch in a heartbeat gritting his teeth.
Cuddy pursed her lips. Wilson brought the wheelchair closer.
"Don't be an ass. If you could walk you wouldn't be allowing yourself to be hospitalized."
House looked up.
"I love the way you both fuss over me so."
He had difficulty getting the words out between staggered breaths.
Wilson looked at House with warm brown eyes.
"You won't be embarrassed I promise. Trust me."
"I'll be stared at," he huffed.
"Yes but for reasons you will approve of."
"Trust me," Wilson repeated with all the sincerity he reserved for his patients.
Cuddy smiled at House and spoke softly.
"What choice do you have?"
House looked around him.
"I was thinking that your office is comfortable. You'd need to move in a bed and a flat screen TV though."
"You can't hide in here forever."
"I can if you keep having food delivered."
Wilson smiled at this. "If you get in the chair and go to your room like a good boy I'll be sure that you get the best deli sandwiches in Princeton. I'll even have them bring you ice cream."
"You hate pistachio."
"I know. Just checking to see if you remembered."
"In fifteen years do you think I've forgotten a single quirk?"
House would have answered but the leg was cramping fiercely again.
Wilson looked at Cuddy. "Can you help me get him into the chair?"
She nodded and took her place at House's left side while Wilson took the right. They gave him a minute to compose himself but it was so hard. He looked up at Cuddy.
"You're sure I can do this without the pills?"
"Well that's one of us."
Wilson looked at Cuddy questioningly. She gave him a signal with her eyes that said, 'later'.
House got a second wind as the cramp eased off a bit. He got to his feet with Cuddy and Wilson's help and hopped on his left foot until he could get into the chair. He looked up at Wilson.
"You promise I won't look like a helpless invalid as you wheel me through the halls?"
"Oh yes. The only person that will look stupid is me."
"I can live with that."
"Which room?" Wilson asked Cuddy.
"Four-fifty-two," she answered.
House looked at Cuddy with as much of a smile as he could master.
"One of the newly redecorated private rooms with the Ikea style furniture and the flat screen TV? Any chance I could have cable?"
"Yes if you're a good boy."
"Well my mother says I'm a boy and I am good!"
"Yes House, you're a legend in your own mind," she sniped.
House winced but if it were at the remark or due to his leg she would never know.
"Ready?" Wilson asked.
"Not really," House replied.
"You can do this. Just play along with me and hold on."
Wilson turned the wheelchair. Cuddy held the door open and Wilson maneuvered it out of her office.
The moment they were in the lobby House began to feel self-conscious. He tried not meeting anyone's eyes but couldn't close his ears to what people were saying.
"What happened to Dr. House?"
Wilson took over and announced in a loud voice, "I James Wilson have lost a bet to Dr. Greg House who is a god and this is my penance."
House smiled with his head lowered. He pulled himself up straight in the chair.
"Yes once again Dr. Wilson has doubted my superior powers and must make this sacrament to me because I am a…" House looked pointedly at Wilson.
"House is a god," Wilson answered dutifully.
"That's right. Never doubt me again."
Wilson lowered his eyes.
"I won't master."
House put a satisfied look on his face and used his cane to point ahead of him.
Wilson pushed the wheelchair out of the lobby and down the hall toward the elevators. The witnesses of this little show giggled and talked among themselves about the scene they had just witnessed. Leave it to Drs. House and Wilson to enliven the day.
Cuddy was watching from her office. She smiled and shook her head.
Those two. She thought to herself.
She reflected on their friendship and shook her head again. Wilson would do almost anything for House. House would deny that he was as true a friend as Wilson. Many would agree except House stayed at Wilson's side when Wilson stupidly gave part of his liver to save one of his patients who never even called him by his correct name. House also delivered Wilson's paper on euthanasia that might have meant the end of his career.
If there was one inflexible rule at Princeton-Plainsboro it was House is House. He did what he did and seldom let emotion get in his way. He was brilliant and socially gauche and didn't give a damn either way. He never tried to be something he wasn't unless it was fun for him. He was an exceptional diagnostician and an asset to the hospital in that way. But he was also very aware of the fact and it gave him leverage. The worst thing about House was that he was almost always right.
She watched Wilson push the wheelchair up the hall. She thought that House looked like a king with his faithful servant. Wilson had found a way to keep the stares focused on himself and away from House. That was a good friend.
Cuddy walked out of her office she was stopped by Brenda.
"What bet did Dr. Wilson lose?" She asked her eyes as bright as her smile.
Cuddy thought fast.
"He bet Wilson that I was wearing a red bra and thong set for today."
Yes, that sounded like a bet the boys would make.
"What did Dr. Wilson bet?"
"That is was pink. House won." Cuddy shrugged. "It was a present from Lucas." She smiled in that way that says, 'what are you going to do?'
Brenda nodded with the understanding women have about guys and their fantasies.
Cuddy walked up the hall toward the elevators.
When the elevator doors opened Wilson pushed the wheelchair to room 452. House was rubbing the thigh again. He was grateful to Wilson for saving him the humiliation of being gawked at. He really had enough on his plate at the moment.
Wilson got House inside the room. There was already a gown on the bed just waiting to wrap itself around House's tall frame. Wilson put the brakes on the chair to hold it steady.
"Do you need help getting up?"
Wilson knew the cripple's code. Always ask and never assume help is needed or wanted.
House just nodded once.
Wilson reached for House and secured him under the arms. He let House dictate how much help was needed. House struggled to his feet and Wilson got him to the edge of the bed which House sank onto quickly.
Wilson shut the door and pulled the blinds closed.
"Thanks," House muttered.
"No problem. Do you need help with the gown?"
"Just the shoes and pants."
Wilson nodded and as House removed his shirt, Wilson untied and removed his shoes and socks.
House only needed Wilson to steady him as he undid his jeans and got them down so he could step out of them. Wilson handed House the gown, which House put on. Then Wilson helped House into the bed.
House settled himself as comfortably as he could.
There was a soft knock at the door.
"Is he decent?" Cuddy's voice asked.
"No," House answered. "Get your bodacious bod in here and help me undress."
"He's in bed," Wilson called to her.
"Again a good reason for her to come in and make me feel all better."
The door slid open and Cuddy came in with a small cup in her hand.
House looked at her questioningly.
"Darvon and Flexeril," she said. She handed him the cup and poured him some water.
House looked at the pills.
"For a moment I thought you were going to give me something in the opiate family."
Cuddy shook her head.
"You don't want that."
House looked at her seriously. "Yes I do. You know that's the trouble."
Wilson looked between them, his eyes scrunched up.
House answered his unasked question.
"I nearly fell of the wagon today. Well jumped off actually."
"How? All your pills are gone."
"I found one more bottle I forgot about."
"Where? I thought we had gone through your home, office, car and your bike."
"The couch in Cuddy's office."
Wilson put his hands on his hips in exasperation.
"You hid Vicodin in your boss's couch?"
"It is the location of my biggest pain."
"Let me return the favor," Cuddy said filling a syringe. "This will help you sleep."
"How do I know you won't have your way with me?"
"I thought you were cured of the crazy delusions?"
"Nice," House replied rolling to his side to give her access to his hip.
She injected him.
"You'll be feeling it in a few minutes."
House looked at Wilson.
"Why is it that when a doctor becomes the patient the doctors treating him believe he has forgotten medicine?" He looked at Cuddy. "I know I'll be feeling it in a few minutes."
"Sorry. I was just doing my 'be reassuring to the patient' thing."
"Right. I forgot that you barely practice medicine anymore. Go ahead. What do you do now that you've given the injection and 'reassured' the patient?"
"I tell him to shut up and go to sleep."
House thought a moment.
"Yup. You do remember how it's done. Very good," he yawned.
Wilson gave Cuddy a half smile.
"That tranquilizer dart seems to be doing its job. The bear is going into hibernation."
"I knew that film on the Discovery channel was worth watching."
House was trying to come up with a snarky reply but he was too tired. He stuck his tongue out at her before sleep took him to a kinder place.