Harper here. Originally, this story was intended to be a oneshot, ending with chapter one. However, do to popular demand in the reviews, I've decided to go ahead and add more to the story.
The next morning was Sunday, both their day off. Cuddy woke early, dismayed to see that House was not in bed next to her.
She listened hard, and realized she could hear the shower running. A quick glance at the clock revealed that it was barely even six.
Since when did House get up that early? Ever?
With a sick feeling of sadness, she came to the quick conclusion that he was now forcing himself to wake up before her to avoid her seeing him go through his morning process.
She sighed. She'd made the appointment as promised. It was today, that afternoon in fact. House hadn't said another word about it, and had come in late from work, falling into the bed beside her and falling asleep without so much as a hello.
She wasn't sure if he was upset with her, or nervous, or a combination of the two. She hadn't had a chance to talk to him and find out.
She was making breakfast by the time he got out of the shower, a towel around his neck. He was dressed in a faded pair of jeans and one of his ACDC t shirts.
As he sat down at the table, yawning, she carried Rachel over. Transferring her daughter from her hip to his open lap, she ran a hand through his hair affectionately.
He looked at her evenly but silently, bouncing Rachel up and down. She giggled, waving her chubby toddler arms around.
House looked worried, the little lines around his eyes even more pronounced than usual, but he didn't look upset with her. She couldn't help but sigh in relief. She'd known what she was risking, knocking on his walls yesterday, but she felt that the potential benefits outweighed the cons.
Cuddy returned to her cooking, choosing her words carefully. "Marina's coming by in an hour or so. The appointment's at one."
House grunted in response.
"I was thinking we could go out; eat some lunch, before that."
"Where do you want to eat?"
He was silent for a long moment. She turned to find him scrutinizing her, blue eyes narrowed thoughtfully.
He grinned suddenly. "You're afraid I'm mad at you, aren't you Cuddy?"
She turned around, hiding her red face. What was she, a high school girlfriend?
His voice was suddenly softer, more caring. "I'm not. We're okay."
She smiled softly, turning around to hug him. "I'm glad. It's just… you never open up about this kind of thing, Greg. I was afraid…"
"I'm glad you did what you did, I think," he replied softly, nuzzling Rachel with his stubble. She giggled and squirmed in his grip, batting inefficiently at his face. "I'm not sure how much longer I could have done that."
Cuddy shivered at the implications of his words.
"Well, we're going to change some things. I don't want you in pain, Greg."
"I know you don't," he affirmed, grabbing her with one arm and pulling her down for a quick kiss.
Though the lunch, House was silent. The diagnostition was fidgety and nervous, bouncing his leg up and down, tapping his fork on the side of his plate, biting his lower lip. He was just a bundle of nervous ticks.
Cuddy reached a hand over the table, placing it on his. He'd hardly eaten a bite of the pasta he'd ordered, but he had drank rather a lot of the water.
"Greg…" Cuddy began, watching him forcibly give her his attention. "You need to eat."
"I'm not really hungry."
Cuddy looked him up and down. He'd always been rather lean, but he'd lost more weight than was even close to healthy in the past year. "You're going to dry up and blow away," she murmured, only half joking.
He sighed and passive aggressively stabbed a noodle, eating it silently.
When Cuddy was finished, she watched House move his food around his plate for ten minutes more before she gave in, paying for the meal and exiting. They headed for the car, House, for once, sliding in the passenger seat without protest.
Cuddy let him fiddle with the radio as they drove to the Chronic Pain Center, relaxing in relief when he finally settled on a smooth jazz station. She tossed him a glance; he was staring out the passenger window, his hand methodically rubbing his leg in a unconscious motion.
"Does that help?" Cuddy couldn't help but ask.
House looked at her questioningly. "Hm?"
"Does rubbing your leg like that help?"
House glanced down, his brows arching as if he hadn't realized he was doing it. "It… sort of helps, I guess."
Cuddy blinked. She wasn't used to hearing House sound so unsure about anything. "Sort of?"
"Well, sometimes it helps. Sometimes it doesn't. I don't realize I'm doing it a lot of the time. Habit, I guess."
Cuddy winced. Developing a habit that had to do with easing pain wasn't something anyone should have to experience.
They made the rest of the trip in silence. Cuddy parked as close to the door as she could without grabbing a handicap spot; House refused to pull it out of the glove box.
"No," he'd said firmly, when she'd asked for it. "I'll walk."
"You didn't have an issue with a handicap spot at the hospital," she pointed out, remembering the wheelchair battle he'd had with her one week.
House grinned. "That, my dear Eleanor, was a matter of principle."
Cuddy suppressed a smile and shook her head, sliding out of the car and stretching out the kinks in her back. It'd been a long ride.
House took longer getting out of the car, testing his weight out on the pavement before gingerly standing, one hand on the hood of his vehicle to steady him. Cuddy's mouth twisted in sympathy; long drives were hard on his leg. However, she was careful to keep House from seeing such sympathy; he had a tendency to interpret such gestures of love and affection as pity. And House and pity did not mix well.
Together, they entered the doors of the pain clinic. Much like a child, House found a seat in one of the comfortably padded, red waiting chairs while Cuddy filled out forms at the desk.
Cuddy, when she was finished, took a seat next to her boyfriend. His blue eyes were fixed on a spot on the floor, his left leg jumping up and down in a frantic pattern.
"House, it's okay."
He rolled his eyes, but did not look at her. "I'm not scarred of the doctor, mommy. I'm a big boy."
Contrary to his words, House did look nervous. His eyes continued to roam around the room until his name was called.
"Dr. Gregory House?" A nurse in green scrubs questioned, her long, blonde hair swinging from her ponytail as she stuck her head out of the door.
Cuddy rose with his as he stood, taking his arm in her hand. "House. Do you mind if I go?"
House's eyes found hers, surprised by the question. He'd just assumed that she'd barge right along weather he wanted her to or not, but it seemed that she was genuinely waiting for an answer before following him.
Somehow, that made him want her to come along much more than before.
"By all means. Come watch the doctor poke me with sharp things; I wouldn't want you to miss out on that."
His words were harsh, but she could see in his eyes that he wasn't overly serious. She smiled slightly and took his hand, following him in the doors to a patient room.
The nurse smiled brilliantly at House, who did not return the gesture. To her credit, her expression didn't falter. She simply turned and motioned for them to follow them in.
"The doctor will be with you shortly," she informed them brightly, shutting the door to the exam room.
Cuddy sat in the lone chair on the side, leaving House to perch on the side of the bed. She could see his discomfort at being on the other side of the doctor-patient relationship for once.
"Let's hope this doctor doesn't have your clinic standards on the definition of 'shortly'," Cuddy joked, earning a small, strained smirk from House.
Fortunately, this doctor seemed to take his job seriously. Not five minutes later, the door was pushed open by a short, balding Asian man, with a kind smile and rectangular glasses that magnified his brown eyes. Unlike House, this doctor had apparently found time to don a lab coat.
"Dr. House. I'm Dr. Yung," he introduced himself, holding out his hand to shake. For once, House found it in him to shake the man's hand, as his cane was already leaning up against the bed and out of his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you in person. Your article on kidney failure last month was phenomenal."
House let out a startled blink, and Cuddy shook her head, grinning. House just didn't seem to grasp that every article he bothered to write was immediately turned to gold on its release. House was well respected, if not well liked, in the medical world.
Dr. Yung moved on quickly, shaking Cuddy's hand and turning back to House. "I'd welcome you to our CP center, but it's unlikely that you feel very happy about being here. Let's start with a basic history."
House and the doctor talked back and forth about any serious illnesses House had had up until the point of his infarction. At that point, Dr. Yung looked up.
"So, tell me about the infarction."
House sighed. "I had a clot in my right leg. The pain started off when I was golfing, and I thought I'd just pulled a muscle. Turns out it was an infarction."
"Says here that it was not diagnosed until three days after the initial symptoms."
House let a brief bit of anger pass over his eyes. "No, it wasn't. No one caught it until it was… too late."
"I'm sorry to hear that," the doctor said sympathetically. "You must have been in a lot of pain."
He pushed on. "So the muscled ended up being debrided That's quite a bit of missing thigh muscle there."
House's lip crept up into a snarl, but he visibly controlled himself. "I didn't want to amputate, and opted to be put into a medically induced coma while the blood worked it self out. However… it was decided after I was already out that they would go half way and remove the dead muscle from my leg before it potentially infected the rest of me."
Yung frowned. "You could very well have died had that not been done, Dr. House."
House shrugged angrily. "I knew the risks. I certainly didn't want to have to deal with… this…" he said, gesturing to his leg and trailing off.
Yung wisely did not press the issue. "Okay, so obviously that debridment is leaving you in a great deal of pain, especially since you seem to be walking on said leg. What medications are you on now?"
House answered without hesitation. "Ibuprofen."
Yung blinked, visibly startled. "You… that's all?"
House nodded, his gaze elsewhere."
"Well… ahem." Dr. Yung cleared his throat, trying to regain his composure. "How much, on average, do you take per day?"
House made eye contact for the first time in a while, twisting his mouth. "About twice the advised dose per day."
"Does it… work for you?"
House scoffed. "I'm here, aren't I? No, it doesn't work for me."
"I shouldn't have to tell you you're putting yourself at risk for stomach ulcers. Judging by your weight, I'm assuming you don't take them on a full stomach as advised."
House rolled his eyes. "If I ate a full meal every time I popped a pill, I'd be fat as a house. And no, that's not a pun."
A flicker of a smile passed over Yung's face.
"Okay. On average, what is your pain level. Scale of one to ten."
House sighed. He hated that question. "For the past year or so it's been at a consistent six to seven, baseline."
Yung didn't seem surprised by the answer, but his brow furrowed at the time constraint. "Why just the last year?"
House twitched. "I was previously…"
He trailed off, and took a deep breath. "I was previously on vicodin."
"Why did you stop?"
The question seemed to take House by surprise. Most people he'd encountered had expressed outrage at his medication.
"I… was addicted. Severely addicted. The side effects were strong enough to convince me I needed to get off."
Cuddy shuddered. That was the understatement of the year."
Yung nodded. "Vicodin. That worked for you?"
"It kept it base line about a four. Most of the time. And I could work through it, it didn't make my mind hazy, which is what I was going for."
Yung made a note on his chart. "Good to know. I'm assuming, though, that you don't want any morphine derivatives in your pain management program."
House shuddered visibly, his eyes clouding over for a moment. He never wanted to go through that hell again. "No. I don't."
"Okay, then. Can you tell me about any episodes of breakthrough pain you've experienced in the last year?"
A flicker of a sarcastic smile flashed over House's face. "Once or twice a month."
"Excuse me?" Yung exclaimed, thrown by the answer.
"I have an episode, on average, once or twice a month."
"What is the level of your pain on these episodes?"
Cuddy shivered at the memory of his pale, shaking features that night.
House glanced at her before answering, sighing and lowering his eyes. "About… a nine to ten. Easily."
Yung cringed in sympathy. It wasn't hard to imagine. "What do you do, during these episodes, and about how long do they last?"
House gave a mirthless laugh. "There isn't much I can do. Pretty much just… try not to scream. Try to massage it out. Put heat on it, if possible. And on average, it lasts about eight hours."
Yung shook his head. "You have no sort of emergency medication?"
Yung was starting to get vaguely angry at whoever was this man's usual doctor. "That's not acceptable. Pain like that could easily kill you, Dr. House."
House's eyes grew haunted. "I know."
And I end it here for today. The next chapter will pick up directly after this one, it was just getting a bit to long. Reviews make the world go 'round!