Disclaimer: Don't own, don't profit.

AN: So, re-cap from last chapter:

Rachel may or may not be sick, but Cuddy's worried.

Cuddy's managed to get House's location from Thirteen. Exactly how Thirteen knows where House is is unknown.

The police have good reason to believe Arianne Credin is responsible for House's disappearance. We know that Nalo's the one who helped House disappear. Nalo's connection to Credin is unknown.

Cuddy is currently dating Brad, a lawyer and a pretty nice guy.

Thorne may have a criminal background.

Ashley is Krystal, who looks to some degree similar to Lisa Cuddy.

Oh, and if you're not an Linux or a Mac, don't worry about what a workspace is. Windows doesn't do them well.

Chapter 2: Eye of the Storm

On a Thursday about six months after the incident, House catches Thorne walking into the hospital at roughly eight fifteen in the morning. It's not a normal thing – House's usually still asleep at this time, and Thorne doesn't usually come back from running for at least another hour. But last night some damned punk hadn't quit with the obnoxious dub-step until six in the morning and the couch in his office is quite nice and the patient du jour apparently has multi-organ-system problems the way they all do.

So he's there early and so is she so House definitely can't pass up the chance to snark at her. For starters, she has the most ridiculously oversized pair of sunglasses plastered across her face. "Looks like Ms. Goody-Two-Shoes finally took a walk to the dark side." He gestures towards Thorne's sunglasses. "Fun night?" He remembers times ago when he'd be the type to stay up until dawn partying, but sadly employment and a fifty-year-old body disagree with such things nowadays. "You should have called me, I'd show you what a real good time is."

"Fuck off," Thorne mutters harshly, accompanying her words with a finger, and House is immediately suspicious. Thorne's not usually prone to profanity or displays of...well, any emotion. He watches as she collects a stack of pink slips from the receptionist and heads toward the elevators, analyzing her gait for any changes, her features for any symptoms.

"And no, it wasn't a fun night," Thorne continues as she presses the buttons for third floor and close. "Couldn't get D16 to cross the blood-brain barrier, and then, well..." She makes a dismissive move with her hand. "Shit happens."

House stops the door from closing and follows her in. "Oh...drinking alone at home? Doesn't seem like something you'd do, Missy." For the lack of a cane to play with, he tucks his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "Guess you can stop with your lectures now."

She sighs, and he knows that she's rolling her eyes from behind those dark glasses. "One: I don't lecture you – Ashley does. Two: You know for fucks sake that I don't drink. LS, remember? Alcohol, Tylenol, adrafinil all not a good idea."

He tilts his head, studying her. In the last five minutes, he's gotten more expressions out of her than he's ever seen in the months that he's known her. After months of nothing but Poker-Face Thorne, it's not a relief to finally meet Sarcastic Thorne, Pissed-Off Thorne, and what's probably Scared Thorne. He runs through a quick ddx in his head but nothing makes sense. Aggravation, irritability, perhaps photophobia, which points to, well, hangover, but she's not the type to drink and that doesn't account for why she's afraid. There are other diagnoses, of course, but each raises more questions than it answers.

"Oh, come on, use that giant diagnostician brain of yours to figure it out. 'S not that complicated." She unlocks Richmond's office and practically storms in, throwing her stack of pink slips on his desk. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to be in the ER." And then he sees it, the slight sloppiness in how those slips land on Richmond's desk, the fact that she doesn't straighten them. Her coordination is off. Not by much, and really it's still much better than average, but he's seen the razor-sharp preciseness she operates with and she's usually OCD and perfectly exact.

He grabs her arm as she stalks by. "You're in no shape to be operating right now." Her precision is why her patients come to her. Even when she's dead tired, when she hasn't slept for two days, she's beautifully precise. But not now. Maybe that's why she's afraid – he knows that Mary Hawthorne would be lost without her career.

She lowers her sunglasses a bit and gives him a look, and he can see that her sclera, the part of her eye that's supposed to be white, is now bright yellow. "Exactly. I'm the patient," she replies, before walking away. "It's in about forty minutes."

But he catches up with her and stops her with a hand on her arm. "It's been, like, what, only three years since last time?"

"Yeah, so?" she replies, the words bitterly sarcastic. She doesn't seem surprised that he's read her medical files.

"You take care of yourself. You're not even diabetic anymore and you want me to believe that LS's causing your liver to fail three years after you got a shiny new one?" Of course, liver failure explains everything, but nothing explains liver failure.

"Well, yes," she replies, turning away from him, wrenching her arm out of his grasp.

He watches her walk away, and then turns around, wishing for a cane to play with. Precision. Thorne's precise, and so is the body, most of the time. Antibodies are precise...unless they aren't and of course, exactly that has to be it.

The patient's not particularly happy about being woken this early, but hey, at least he as a diagnosis.

Wilson takes care of the car rental, and while he's in the little office, signing papers, Cuddy and Brad sit together in the small car, Rachel between them.

"He crashed his car into your house," Brad says. He's still trying to convince her that this is a bad idea.

"He's the best doctor I know," she replies, holding onto Rachel's small little hand.

Brad opens his mouth to speak, but he's interrupted by Rachel. "Mummy, why are we here?" she asks.

"We're going to see an old friend of mine, House," Cuddy says, and Brad sighs. "He's a good doctor. He'll be able to tell why you're sick."

Rachel coughs. "House?" she asks. She can pronounce his name correctly now.

"Yes. Dr. House. Do you remember him?"

Rachel shakes her head no. Of course she didn't.

"I still don't think this is a good idea," Brad says. "Didn't you say he relapsed, on Vicodin?"

Yes, House had relapsed, but she knows that he's still by far the best doctor she's ever known. "He was on Vicodin for years while he worked for me," she says, "and his department was still the best of the East Coast."

Brad sighs again. "I guess, if you trust him," he says, and she can extrapolate the words he didn't say: but I don't.

Wilson returns, and he takes the first shift driving, and Cuddy sits in the back, holding onto her daughter.

The last person Foreman expects to see is a certain good-looking blonde surgeon, but Chase is here, standing in the DDX room, shifting slightly between one foot and the other. "I'm ready to come back to work, now," he says.

"Welcome back," Foreman says, simply. Chase has worked for House for longer than he has, and he knows they both share the same fear – that they'll become Gregory House, with all his misanthropy, all his arrogance.

And sometimes he sees the similarities between the surgeon and the diagnostician.

And he always sees the similarities between the diagnostician and himself.

But he knows that neither of them would ever crash a car into someone's house on purpose. Sure, Chase might have killed Dibala, but he was no House.

And Foreman knows, knows that Chase had to take time off to convince himself of that fact.

But there's nothing more he can say to the other man, other than, "New case."

The team's on edge – Ashley and Michaels are exchanging glances every five seconds and Dr. Young obviously has no clue what's going on but he knows enough to not ask questions. House drops the case file on the conference room's table and picks up a dry erase marker. "New case. Sudden kidney failure, vague claims of back pain, and fatigue. Go."

If he'd given this case to Foreman and Chase, he'd probably get a reply somewhat along the lines of that's a case? The janitor could solve that one. But Ashley, Michaels, and Young aren't that type of forward with him, and although he can tell that all of them would much rather be elsewhere, they give him a pretty decent ddx. In five minutes, he's got a whiteboard covered in ideas, some of them plausible (from Young), most of them crap (from Ashley and Michaels).

He tells Young to run another blood panel and waits for him to head off. Then House turns to Ashley and Michaels. "Forty-year old woman, with Lawrence-Seip's, presents with total liver failure three years post-transplant."

"I'm not diagnosing Thorne," Ashley says. Michaels bites his lower lip in an half-assed attempt at a proper poker face. They're both worried – he can see it in their eyes. None of them believe that Thorne's LS is the reason why she suddenly lacks a functional liver. It's about four years too soon, for one, and for the second, Thorne's been better about managing her condition, eating the right things at the right times, working out often, not letting herself run ragged as much.

It's also perfectly clear that they both have information they aren't willing to share.

House makes a couple more attempts at getting information out of the pair, but when he's unsuccessful, House orders Ashley to biopsy Mr. Needs New Kidney's current pair of kidneys and tells Michaels to keep an eye on his wife "since I need those skilled hands of hers."

Michaels glares a bit at that comment – he's a bit sensitive when it comes to comments about his "wife" – but he leaves without a word.

Sighing, House pulls out an oversized tennis ball – his new oversized tennis ball that he bought with Thorne's money – and tosses it against the wall a few times. It usually helps him think, but this time he knows that he doesn't have enough information. House pulls out his laptop and opens up some porn in one workspace before quickly switching to another and vpn'ing through a private server he'd set up, hidden in the walls of his old apartment. Thank Steve Jobs for keyboard shortcuts, makes workspace switching really fast and snooping on your secretive boss and coworkers just a tad bit easier. Turning the speakers up just enough so someone standing nearby could overhear, he sets about trawling for more information about Thorne.

It doesn't take long for Ashley to return. "Vitamin C overdose, it probably crystallized oxalate in his kidneys," she says from the doorway.

House quickly switches to the porn and pauses it. "There's no way the results from that biopsy are back that quickly."

She holds up the small timer she's carrying. "Waiting for stains to wash out, but he had firecupping scars all over his back, and he kept on blabbing about homeopathy and coffee enemas and shit like that. I know this type – thinks that supplements are everything and modern medicine is poison, and totally things that downing insane amounts of vitC is a good idea."

House just stares at her. "You do realize that you'd need something like sixteen grams of Vitamin C to overdose, right? It's water-soluble."

Ashley's saved by the timer, and House goes back to trying to hack into Thorne's affairs.

There's a bank account he knows about, of course, and there's plenty of money in that one (of course, Thorne draws a surgeon's salary and practically has no expenses outside of food and her apartment) but he's pretty sure there are bank accounts he doesn't know about. He peeks through Thorne's investments and they look legit – mostly mutual funds, some bonds, low-maintenance stuff. Really nothing strange or interesting.

Thorne has a resume publicly available, but he's already checked that out completely and of course it checks out. There was someone by the name of Mary Hawthorne at UCLA and at Stanford and at Columbia, all at the right times, but then again he's checked and there was someone by the name of Charles Walker at MIT and Johns Hopkins too, or at least that's what the records show.

He does manage to find some pictures though, of what might be a pre-LS Thorne, although the purple-and-blue streaked hair makes him doubt it. The Thorne he knows might be a ex-con, but she's also straight-laced and...well, downright boring and definitely not the type to have tricolor hair and metal all over her ears. He'll have to sneak down while Thorne's still out and check for piercings.

Absentmindedly, he searches through Thorne's life, wondering if there was even a point since Nalo probably could have scrubbed Thorne's online existence the way she created Walker's, Thorne keeps the crazy hair and the piercings until her last year of college, and then suddenly she's all business, hair dyed back to its natural black and no more earrings. Even before the LS, she's pretty thin, skin-and-bone-and-muscle. She goes to graduate school – Columbia – and by Jehovah her life is boring.

He's just about decided that this is pointless when he comes across the article. "Hypersens: the End of Addiction?" the title declares in garish 48pt font. And then the journalist tries to summarize the science and probably gets most of it wrong, and there's a couple of mangled quotes from Thorne: "...idea is to use someone's own immune system against...their addiction" and "the blood-brain barrier is notoriously hard to cross" which really could mean anything.

This is where he gets when Ashley returns. "There's oxalate crystallized in his kidneys but I asked him what supplements he took and it only adds up to like a gram, max, per day," she blurts out as soon as she's in the door. "Something else had to compromise his kidney function first."

"Go do an MRI," he snaps at her.

Ashley raises an eyebrow and gives him a stare that reminds him way too much of Lisa Cuddy. "Wait, what?"

"Go do an MRI," he repeats, slowly, as if she's an idiot.

"I'm assuming by that you actually mean 'Go get lost so I can continue snooping around.'" she snipes back. "And before you ask, yes we can tell you're vpning somewhere, and Nalo will have your key decrypted some time in the next twenty minutes or so. If all you're doing is googling 'Mary Jillian Hawthorne', you're better off doing it openly. And before you ask – you're using our routers and shit and I actually graduated from the school your resume claims you went to."

He should have figured he would get caught. "You know as well as I do that she's not giving us the whole picture," House replies. "She's sicker than she's letting on."

Ashley closes her eyes before replying. "Have you considered, Dr. Walker, that she just might be keeping stuff from you?"

"So." He stands up, towering over her. "You would rather let her die than tell me the truth."

Tucking her hands into her pockets, she looks down. "It's what she wants," she says. "Richmond's slowly killing her, but she won't leave here." Ashley bites the inside of her cheek. "Listen, Dr. House," she begins, "Thorne and Richmond and I...well, we're mixed up in a world you really don't want to get mixed up in. Michaels, well, I'm not quite sure why he hasn't left Thorne yet, but he's an innocent in this game, House." She pauses, and he waits, patiently. She's talking now, that's good. "Thorne...well, it's thanks to Thorne I'm still alive right now, but Thorne..." A sigh. "Don't get into Thorne's case, if you don't want to end up like her," Ashley blurts out. She tucks her hands into her pockets, shifting uncomfortably in the silence.

He lets the silence drag on, lets the awkwardness compel the young medical student into speech again.

"I don't know how Thorne fell into this game, but I do know that the game's...that the game's broken her." Ashley's words come out in a rush – it's obvious that she's saying something she's not supposed to. "The Thorne I knew ten, fifteen years ago wouldn't let herself die like this...but now, I don't know, I think...maybe, I'm not sure, I really don't know, Ithinkshewantstodie." A pause. Ashley nervously sweeps her bangs back behind an ear. "It can't be the LS – it's too early for the LS," she mutters quietly, "and I know – know – she's hiding what it is from me." She sighs. "Don't cross Richmond – he doesn't want us treating Thorne, I think, he won't let me have her real file, and I'm practically her daughter."

The omnipresent timer goes off again, and Ashley curses loudly, muttering something along the lines of gotta take the Western off the rotator and she takes off and he doesn't follow. She's already given him another lead.

Thorne does indeed have heavily pierced ears.

She's still out from the anesthesia and she looks younger than she usually does, now that her brow's unfurrowed and her intense eyes are closed. Despite the crows feet developing at the corners of her eyes and the light strands of gray at her temples, she looks really young, her frail frame and large eyes, slightly defined by tattooed-on eyeliner and framed by L-shaped scars, making her look like a worn-down thirty-year-old and not the forty-ish she's supposed to be.

Thorne's a small woman – a very small woman. She can't be more than five-two, can't weigh more than eighty pounds soaking wet; her collarbones are very visible through a gap in the patient gown, the veins on the back of her hands visible too. It's easy to forget how tiny she is when she's awake, when she can wield her strong personality against the world.

House sighs. She might seem delicate when unconscious, but he knows she's far more dangerous than she lets on. He's seen little glimpses of that, from the way she effortlessly picks a lock to the way she just seems to know even when she shouldn't.

It's not going to be an easy case. He expects Thorne to fight him, every step of the way, but he's not going to let the surgeon die without a diagnosis.

Thorne hates anesthesia, for a reason. It makes her weak, vulnerable, open, it confuses her mind, it releases memories she'd rather not remember.

She vaguely remembers asking them to use as little as possible, but still she feels like she's floating in the middle of nowhere. She tries to focus on faces, but she can't.

"You're no fun anymore, Jillian."

Go the fuck away, she thinks. Go the fuck away.

She concentrates on glycolysis in her mind, and then the citric acid cycle, and then "You're not the daughter I raised, Mary" and "You do know that you need help, right?" and "If you continue down this path, Mary, you'll die" verses "You never want to do anything anymore, Jillian. You just stay at home all day and read that fucking biochemistry book."

...and then she's floating in a world of memories and they're taking over and she's trying her best to run from them, run away from them and the wind's in her hair and her sneakers are on her feet and she's running, running away.

And maybe this time she'll successfully escape her demons.

It's lunchtime, House realizes, as he heads out of the ICU. He heads off towards the cafeteria, buys himself a nice plate of Indian food with Thorne's credit card, and eats. His current patient, the guy with crystals in his kidneys, isn't that particularly interesting. Ashley's probably right about him – a simple case of vitamin C overdose on top of already weak kidneys, nothing more.

He eats, quickly, without the distraction of his GameBoy, his intellect happily occupied with a new case who's name happened to be Mary Jillian Hawthrone. After lunch, House crosses the hospital again, intent on getting into the records. Ashley had let slip that Thorne apparently had a "real" patient file that probably didn't bear her real name, and he's probably best off trying to find that first.

Of course, he has to cross the damned lobby of the hospital in order to access the record room in the basement. He doesn't like it on a good day – it's usually filled with obnoxious patients and crying children. There's the information desk, of course, with its line of idiots and hypochondriacs, and standing next to it is a thin woman with brown curly hair. He can't really see much of her – just a glimpse of that hair and a bit of brown leather jacket, but he'd recognize his med student anywhere.

"Ashley," he yells, and he doesn't get any further before the woman turns around, and he can see the toddler perched on her hip.

The hospital tries to be pleasant in the way that all hospitals do, with potted plants, blue wall paint, wood paneling, but it's a hospital so she can still feel the sickness and death looming, the worry and the stress thick enough to be cut with a knife. The air is both sterile and clammy, and Cuddy wonders how she's managed to work in such an atmosphere for so long.

Maybe it's different when you weren't the doctor.

(House would say that she hasn't been a doctor for a long time. She's an administrator.)

Brad insisted on holding her hand, and she's got Rachel propped up on a hip. Her adopted daughter's getting heavy – she doesn't know how long she can continue to carry her in this way. Rachel sniffles a bit, coughs, looks nervously around the hospital.

"Mommy, why are we here?"

"We're visiting House, remember, dear," she replies, squeezing Brad's hand, partially for comfort, partially to tell him to keep his mouth shut.

The line inches forward a bit.

"Who's House?" Rachel asks.

"He's an old friend of mine," Cuddy repeats. "He's a doctor, he's one of the best doctors I know."

Behind her, Wilson clears his throat. She knows he doesn't think that coming here was a good idea, either, but at least he's keeping his mouth shut about that.

And then the line inches forward a bit more, and a bit more, and they wait, silent, with the exception of a couple of coughs and sniffles from Rachel. Family member after family member walk up to the information desk, where they're told where to go in order to find their sick loved ones by a tired-looking nurse.

And then suddenly she's face to face with this nurse. "I'm here to see Dr. Walker," Cuddy says.

"Dr. Walker isn't seeing any new patients," the nurse replies, tiredly. "Next!"

She's about to raise her voice, about to ask again when she hears his voice, calling a name that's not her own, but she turns around anyways. First thing she sees is a potted plant, and then she sees the hem of a crumpled blue dress shirt and a bit of black t-shirt, and she's looking at House's bright blue eyes through that potted plant.

"House," she says, instinctively.

And then he bolts.

She follows.

First thing she notices is that he's not using the cane. He's walking, almost running, as smoothly as he did right after the ketamine treatment, and with Rachel on her hip she can barely keep up. Brad taps her on the shoulder and she gratefully hands over Rachel and tries to keep up with House's long-limbed pace as best as she can in five inch heels. He turns, she follows, he heads up the stairs, she tries to run up them, tries to avoid spraining an ankle.

She's somewhat surprised when he suddenly turns into a corridor that's nothing but labs, and then left turn and she's staring into the face of a woman who could almost be her doppelgänger. Same hair, same eyes, wearing unstylish puke-green scrubs, off-white lab coat and beat-up gray sneakers.

"Walker?" the doppelgänger asks with a raised eyebrow. "What are you doing here?"

"Cuddy, this is Ashley Marshall, my resident. Ashley, Lisa Cuddy, my ex." House introduces them as if he hasn't just spent the last five minutes running from Cuddy. (As if he never crashed his car into her house.)

Strange as this situation is, Cuddy's never without her manners, so she extends her hand to Ashley with a "Nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you, too," Ashley replies, raising her hands in the universal I'd like to shake your hand, but I'm kind of wearing gloves right now gesture. She caps the tube she's holding and puts it down. "What do you want, Dr. Walker?" she practically hisses, and Cuddy catches the slight emphasis on the last word.

"Just a bit of your unfailingly cherry company," House replies. "Kidney Guy number five at the least is still dying and you choose to hang around here moving microvolumes water around?"

"Look, Walker," Ashley says, "I kind of have work to do right now since Thorne will be out of commission for a while and I need to keep her lab running."

"Thorne has other post-docs, Ashley."

Listening to their conversation, Cuddy gets the impression that Ashley is House's handler, that he's here because they – Arianne Credin and her lackeys – won't let him talk to her without one of them present. Ashley's not Arianne, that she can tell, since the former banker's nearly six feet tall and Ashley's about five-five, five-six, maybe.

"You have fellows, and Kidney Guy needs a surgeon, not an immunologist."

There's something strange about the bickering, yes, something rehearsed. A code, maybe, she didn't know. "Where's your cane, House?" she interrupts.

Cuddy doesn't miss the glance Ashley and House shoot each other before House answers, "Doctors here don't deny pain patients the pills they need."

"Methadone?" It was not really a question.

House opens his mouth to answer, but he's interrupted by the door opening, and a middle-aged man in a charcoal suit enters, pushing a wheelchair that seems, at first, to contain nothing but blankets. But then Cuddy seems the small frame wrapped in those blankets, a tiny pale woman with dark hair. There's an IV pole attached to the wheelchair.

"No," the woman replies. "He's not on methadone."

"Thorne!" Ashley says, "aren't you supposed to be in the ICU?"

"This is more important," the woman in the wheelchair – Thorne – replies, and then she says something else, something that's clearly not English.

Ashley replies, quietly, in the same language, and the two women converse for a while. Cuddy looks over at the middle-aged man, who doesn't seem surprised, and at House, who doesn't seem to comprehend the conversation either, but he's just standing there, silently, waiting for them to finish, almost as if he's used to things like this.

Cuddy knows that she's playing with fire, here, and these two women are part of the flames. She has no doubt that they're part of the group that's managed to successfully hide House from the police, that's managed to make Arianne Credin disappear. She doesn't really care, though, she just wants to know what's wrong with her daughter, and there's only one man alive who can tell her that.

"Take her to the basement," Thorne finally says. "Find the two men who were with her, take them down there, too. Scan them." Her pale blue eyes are cold, calculating. "Make sure they don't have any bugs on them."

"Are you sure?" the man asks, as he begins to wheel Thorne out.

"Yes," she replies, "and I can wheel myself."

Cuddy wasn't supposed to be able to find him. Cuddy wasn't supposed to be here.

House leads the way, not quite sure where's he's going, and Cuddy's following him, her heals loud against the cheap linoleum. Ashley follows behind her with silent footsteps, occasionally calling out directions, "left" or "right" in curt words.

They had promised him a new identity, one away from his old life, but now Cuddy's here, standing in front of him with her long curly hair and excellent breasts and five-inche heels and she's still as beautiful as he remembered.

House knows two things. One: he still loves Lisa Cuddy, and two: loving her had brought out sides of him he didn't really want to acknowledge, didn't want to be part of him.

Vaguely, he can hear Cuddy trying to ask Ashley questions, and Ashley curtly brushing off those questions.

What House remembers most is crashing his car into Cuddy's home.

And he's managed to build up a life here, build up a fantasy life that both is away from her and includes her, in a way, in the form of Krystal pretending to be her, a stripped-down less demanding version of her. But now she's here, and he can feel that fantasy life shattering.

And now they're headed to a place he's never been before, deep in the hospital and Ashley's face is grim and serious as she directs their way and House has no clue what's going on, only that he's pretty sure they won't do Cuddy any harm, no from the little he's seen that's not their style. Two right turns and they end up in a small room somewhere in the subbasements. Ashley closes the door, locks it, says something that sounds like "niche" but probably wasn't. And then a piece of stainless steel closes over the wall with the door and the room moves.

"I need you to hand over all of your electronics, Dr. Cuddy," Ashley says, quietly.

Cuddy looks over at him, and he shrugs a bit. He doesn't have any clue what's going on, didn't know about the existence of this strange moving room deep in the bowels of the hospital, but he's learned to expect the unexpected here. These people here, these people he now works with, they've managed to clone entire organs, this mobile room is nothing.

She hands over her electronics: her iPhone, her iPad, and at Ashley's insistence, the pen with the MP3 recorder.

When the room docks and the stainless steel sinks back into the floor, he's not surprised to see Michaels, standing there on the other side, but he's surprised to see Wilson. There's another man, too, a man who House doesn't recognize. Ashley steps out of the room; House and Cuddy follow, and the stainless steel plate slides up again and he can hear the sounds of the room leaving behind it. The room they're standing is sparely decorated, with plain white walls, cheap linoleum flooring, some industrial shelving over black tables.

"Lisa?" the strange man asks. "What are you doing here?"

"Brad!" Cuddy replies. "Where's Rachel? What are you doing here?"

"This doesn't concern the kid, Dr. Cuddy," Michaels says, quietly. "She's being watched by Jonathan."

At Cuddy's questioning glance, he fills in, "One of Thorne's grad students." As far as he knew, the young man was trustworthy, good with children, and not involved with this mess.

"He's not one of us, Dr. Cuddy," Ashley says. "Your daughter is safe. No harm will come to any of you." She exchanges a glance with Michaels – this is a side of them House has never seen before but has always somewhat suspected. They are, after all, close to Thorne.

The stainless steel panel slides down again, revealing Thorne, in her wheelchair. Michaels gets into the moving room as Thorne rolls herself out, and then the stainless steel panel rolls back up and the room leaves again.

Thorne smiles; it's pretty much one of the first smiles House's seen on Thorne. "Welcome to my lair," she says.

"I don't think I've introduced myself properly," Thorne says, holding her hand out to Cuddy. "My name is Mary Hawthorne, most people call me Thorne."

"Lisa," Cuddy replies, shaking Thorne's hand. "Nice to meet you," she says.

"Nice to meet you, too." Thorne wheels herself backwards, "Would you like any cookies? Pretzels? Water?"

And surely enough Cuddy can hear engines moving, can see a table and some stools rise out of the floor, and small six-legged robots carrying water and snacks on their backs appear, carefully fly their way onto the table, and set things down. She cautiously sits down on a stool but doesn't eat anything, and after a moment House does too, on Cuddy's right, followed by Ashley, who grabs a cup of water and takes a large gulp. Thorne leans forward slightly, still smiling, and only then do Brad and Wilson gingerly take a seat each, Brad to her left, Wilson to House's right.

"What's this all about, Thorne?" House asks, gesturing to the robots and the table and everything. "What's with all the theatrics?"

"She's not stupid, Dr. House," Thorne replies. "She'd figure it out, eventually. If we tell her, we can make sure she keeps her silence."

"Tell me what?" Cuddy asks. "About Arianne?"

Thorne laughs; it's not a pleasant laugh. "No. About how we fixed his leg."

AN: Apparently Random (the dorm at MIT) does indeed have a computer server hidden in one of the walls, and it used to work.

I'm basing Ashley's labwork off of my own, which probably doesn't resemble most people's labwork, but meh I picture Ashley to be as much of a workaholic as myself and the omnipresent timer is something I definitely did.

Although, really, the Western could probably have hung around on the rotator for the next hour and everything probably would have been fine.

[And next chapter will be up...um...when I have time to write it. Which might take a while...sorry!]