It was a calm Wednesday morning.
Just not for long.
House came by Wilson in the hall and stopped ten feet away, like a Mexican standoff, House leaning on his cane like any moment he might draw. And then, with as much speed as he could muster, House began walking right past Wilson in an effort to avoid whatever was on the table for today. Wilson held out three separate folders, already protesting, even though House had yet to pass him. “House,” Wilson said sternly, joining him at his side. “You can’t avoid it this month. On the orders of Cuddy herself.”
“I’ve avoided it for six months,” House retorted. “Watch me avoid it again.”
“That’s exactly why you can’t run from it this time, I mean, come on…” Wilson held out the folders again. “Not only have you neglected this, but you never even gave Foreman his primary consult when he was hired! You know it’s hospital policy.”
“Hospital policy sucks,” House retorted, finally stopping long enough to pop two pills into his mouth and taking the folders. “Do I really have to send them? I’ve got four patients and there’s a chance they won’t be available to take my clinic duty and I really doubt you’d do the duty for me.”
“You’re right about that,” Wilson said evenly.
House narrowed his eyes. “Not even for a kiss?”
“You ate garlic for lunch,” Wilson wrinkled his nose. “Take the damn charts, send them to the psychiatrists, psychologists, whatever we’re calling them today, and get them back to work. It’s an hour-long session, what can go wrong in an hour?”
House glared, snatching up the folders. “Great, now you jinxed it.” He walked away from Wilson without waiting for a retort, but he could feel Wilson biting at his heels and when he glanced over his shoulders, sure enough, there he was. He glowered and pushed open the door to the diagnostics office to find all three of his fellows eager in their chairs, presumably to introduce the new patients to House.
“So?” Foreman demanded. “What first? Blood tests…protein markers…?”
“Psychiatric consults,” House announced, tossing the folders down onto the glass table. Cameron leaned forward, adjusting her glasses as she took all three folders into her hands. “One for each of you.”
“And the fourth patient?” Cameron asked with concern.
“What? Give the patients a psychiatric consult?” House scoffed, popping a Vicodin as he hung his cane on the whiteboard and plucked up a marker, scribbling down the time. “I expect you to only take an hour a piece. By the end of the day, you will have fulfilled the requirement that you each attend a session with a quack.” They were leaning forward, all three of them, and staring at him like he’d gone insane. “And we might even learn some interesting secrets. Chase, ever thought about a straightjacket? It’d match better than those clothes.”
He just received a glare in return.
“Hour-long sessions. Go,” House said, brooking no argument with the tone of voice he was using.
Chase took his folder and was the first to leave the room, brushing past Wilson and glaring at him, as though for good measure. Foreman just laughed, like he found something funny about the whole thing and took his folder as well, following in Chase’s footsteps.
It was Cameron who lingered, clasping her folder with a too-tight grasp – ah, that good old anal-retentive need to have control over everything. “What about you? Don’t you have an appointment?” she asked, tipping her head to one side. Her voice had that sweet and subtle defensive quality to it that told House he was driving down the right street, heading towards the good kingdom of ‘Annoyed-Cameron-Land’.
“Why?” House immediately bit back. “Think I’m crazy or something?”
She just rolled her eyes and left the room, joining the others.
House rolled back his shoulders, listening to the good crack of bones that produced, before he sat down in what had been Foreman’s seat. Excellent. It was pre-warmed. Wilson just arched an eyebrow at him. “So many patients,” House sighed with put-upon melodrama in his voice.
“Yeah.” Wilson sounded far too amused than was necessarily good for him. “Too bad they’re all in your hands now.”
“What do you think they invented pagers for, Jimmy? Now, are you fetching me a bag of chips or am I going to have to yank that leash of yours?” House inquired with a smirk, picking up the newspaper and opening it to the sports pages.
“So,” the psychiatrist spoke with a gentle tone, as though afraid of offending any of his patients. He smiled softly, everything muted down by Freudian ideals and Jungian beliefs and diplomas aligning the walls as though they lent a degree of respect to the whole process of ‘and what’s been scarring you for your whole life?’ “Dr. Eric Foreman, was it?”
Foreman had his legs crossed, hands clasped around one knee. He was cool as a cucumber and smiling just as pleasantly as Dr. Richards was. The psychiatrist was a balding man in his mid-40’s with a bit of a beard on him, his hair still fighting that eternal battle between its natural color and going gray.
“Most people around here just call me Foreman,” he said warmly. “Look, I don’t want to be any trouble, but how long do you expect this to take?”
Dr. Richards just laughed, seemingly amused by the upfront nature of the question.
“Something I said funny?” Foreman inquired.
Dr. Richards sat himself down in the big leather chair behind his desk as Foreman set out his pager in front of him. “Dr. Foreman, I’m here with you to discuss some issues that Dr. Cuddy has expressed concern about and that I myself feel could present problems. Tell me, what are your thoughts on intra-team trust?”
Foreman paused, some of the easiness slowly dissipating from his body. “Trust?”
“Yes,” Dr. Richards encouraged. “Would you trust your life in the hands of Drs. Cameron or Chase?”
Foreman’s smile grew a little as he laughed. “Not House? He put you up to this, some stupid game of who do I like better?” He laughed without interruption, the sound warm and echoing off the walls of the tidy office.
“It’s a very serious question, I assure you,” Richards assured.
Foreman just arched an eyebrow. “Yeah? How about not cornering me the minute I walk in here? What’s the real point of this?”
Richards’ smile never left his face, as though it was permanently set there. “You’re looking at your pager as though it’s going to rescue you.” Foreman glanced up, almost unaware that he’d even been staring at the thing to begin with. “I promise you, we’re just going to talk, it’ll go in your file and we’ll be done.”
“Yeah,” Foreman said, but he sounded uneasy. “Yeah.”
“Now, would you like to indulge me by answering my question?”
“Dr. Chase!” Richards said pleasantly, gesturing to the chair opposite of the desk. “It’s good to see you again, though I’m sorry it had to be so soon after…”
“I’m not here to talk about my family,” Chase interrupted curtly, sitting himself down and pushing the lab coat out of the way. He wore the face of mistrust as he kept a wary eye on Dr. Richards, as though he might try something at any moment. The pager was set out on the desk along with the cell phone, set in a neat little line as though it might protect him from probing questions.
Richards just sat down, pressing his palms out on the desk, as though to assure Chase that he wouldn’t attack. “Of course,” he said with a nod. “It’s not even on the agenda today.”
Chase arched an eyebrow. “And what is? Look, I know these are department mandated or whatever, but we’ve got four patients to diagnose and I know House doesn’t want…”
“Do you always do things according to what Dr. House wants?”
Chase leaned back, crossing his arms – yet another tangible defense against the questions – and set his jaw. “Depends on the issue, but yeah, usually he knows best.” He lifted his chin, as though he’d just proved a point and gained a small win for himself – always winning the small battles and never focusing on the long run; that was in Dr. Richards’ notes from a separate talk about Chase Senior.
“You don’t give the same degree of lenience in matters with Dr. Foreman, though,” Richards remarked. “During his stint as your boss, there were some…incidents?”
“Mostly provoked by House,” Chase replied simply. “Look, we’ve had about five appointments in the last six months. Do I really need to…”
“We’re talking about your coworkers today, Chase, not you.” Richards gave him a small smile, leaning forward slightly to catch his gaze. “I promise, it won’t hurt.”
“How much of this gets written down?” Cameron inquired curiously, tapping her fingers in a rhythmic pattern against her leg. “I mean, I know this is our third appointment, but I don’t think I ever asked. Does it all go in my file?” Her voice had a very clear, very anxious tone to it, as though she had been called in for a fault of hers.
Dr. Richards just scribbled down a notation in the border of a page. “Dr. Cameron, there is strict doctor-patient confidentiality, I assure you.”
“Right,” she said, closing her eyes and laughing in disbelief, like she couldn’t believe she had just asked a question like that. “So, what did you want to talk about?” She was leaning forward, her body language communicating complete openness on the subject of sharing things.
She did, however, fiddle with her pager. It appeared that no doctor was immune.
“I’d like to go through an exercise with you,” Richards said. “I’ve gone through the exact same process with Dr. Foreman and Dr. Chase in the hours before you and I think I’ve found that it’s been an effective tool in realizing some things about yourself and your coworkers.”
“Right,” Cameron nodded, sounding accepting and yet cautious.
“Think of it as a hypothetical. I’d like you to close your eyes and simply relax and remember that this is not to test you, nor is it to malign your coworkers,” Richards said, his voice soothing.
Cameron closed her eyes and exhaled a long breath. “Right,” she said, immediately sounding more relaxed.
“Excellent,” Richards replied, pleased. “Now…”
Before his sentence could continue, Cameron’s pager sounded, the noise shrill compared to the silence that had filled the room mere minutes ago. Cameron frowned, eyes flying open as she checked her pager. ‘TIME’S UP’, it read. Cameron sighed, pushing herself up from the chair and already on her way to the door, her labcoat flaring out behind her like a superhero’s cape.
“I have a patient.”
“And you’re sure nothing caused this?” Chase winced. He’d had his pager go off in the middle of the appointment and was now standing beside the hospital bed with a nurse, trying to get the man in the bed to stop seizing. He was a man in his early twenties – couldn’t have been more than twenty-three – and behind him, there was a woman who looked to be around the same age, biting at her nails and standing with her back pressed to the wall. “Did he eat anything he was allergic to, did he have an accident with some chemicals? Was he working on anything that might have given him a blunt knock to the head?”
“Dr. Chase, I’ve got him restrained,” the nurse said, heading back out to her station. Chase had slipped in a protective piece of plastic so that the man wouldn’t swallow his tongue.
Chase turned to the woman, keeping his hands on the seizing man in case anything went wrong before the ativan kicked in. “Mrs. Douglas, I need you to tell me more about your husband’s condition,” he said bluntly, exhaling slowly as the man slowly calmed himself, the tremors lightening.
“David and I…” she began softly, stepping forward to take one of David’s hands, clasping on tight. “We just got married the other week,” she said with a tiny smile lurking around the corner of her lips. “And his condition…well, it got worse.”
The door slid open and Chase glanced over his shoulder.
“Annie?” The man – a tall, built blonde man – rushed into the room, heading to the wife and hugging her close. “Hey, Annie,” he exhaled. “Are you okay? Is David all right?” The wife seemed very relieved to see the man – almost too relieved – and turned to Chase, who the other man seemed to finally see. “Sorry, Doc. I’m John. I’m David’s best friend. Is he okay?”
Chase just looked between the wife and the best friend, turning his gaze to the patient – he always felt more comfortable with the patient. After all, it wasn’t the patient’s significant others that he was trying to cure.
“We’ll see,” he finally said, mustering up a Dr. Chase Smile, the kind that made little kids beam back up at him and the kind that got him women’s phone numbers scribbled on cocktail napkins in lipstick.
He excused himself politely, watching outside the patient’s room for a moment as both the wife and the best friend descended on the patient like nurturing mother-birds.
“Disgusting, isn’t it?” House remarked, the incessant beeping of his Gameboy alerting Chase to his presence. He turned and glanced over his shoulder, smiling with faint amusement. “What I want to know is when the guy started banging his best friend.”
“It’s not like that. He’s married,” Chase pointed out, albeit weakly. “I’ll bet he’s faithful.”
“Yeah,” House said, rolling his eyes. “Just like you’d bet your Dad was faithful, huh?”
Chase set his jaw at that, clutching the chart a little tighter. “Patient presents with seizing, but according to the paramedics that brought him in, there’s no history of epilepsy in the family. He’s…also got cancer.”
“One, don’t trust paramedics,” House said, not even bothering to look up from his game. “And two, go get Wilson for a consult.”
Chase just flipped the chart open and shut as he walked away from the room and House without another word; always obeying his orders.
Foreman’s pager had gone off twenty minutes into his appointment – thank you God and Buddha, and hell, thanks to Zeus while he was at it. There was a patient; Foreman’s bread and butter. What he walked into, however, was broaching House levels of pure domineering bullshit. There was a tall man with thick wavy hair standing above a small blonde boy – looked weak, thin – and the man was intubating him. “What the hell are you doing?” Foreman snapped, yanking open the drawer for his stethoscope.
“Bag!” the man demanded, hand out and fingers snapping. He had a Presence, capital ‘P’. Foreman hesitated, but handed it over, watching as the boy’s breathing stabilized.
Foreman was not pleased. “You and I,” he told the man firmly, “are going to have a talk.”
The man simply kept pumping the bag. “I’m Dr. Gordon,” he introduced himself in a strong British accent, clapping a protective hand on the boy’s shoulder. “And this is my son, Bobby.”
“I don’t exactly know how it works in…”
“He wasn’t breathing,” was the clipped response, “and the paged nurse didn’t arrive soon enough, so I did it myself and sent her off. I’m a rheumatologist based out of London and working to achieve tenure at Princeton. You’ll find my references are in perfect order.”
The click of Foreman’s jaw was audible as he ground his teeth together. Maybe it was just that fancy accent, but the man was being condescending and Foreman didn’t spend ten years specializing just to be condescended to. “I don’t care how renowned you are back home. This is our hospital and your son is my patient,” he explained,very calmly. “And we’re going to do the best we can to get him better. Now, what happened when his symptoms presented? I’d like to get a thorough…”
“I’ve already diagnosed. Lupus, likely. Possibly--” The word was drawn out thoughtfully. “--scleroderma.”
This was going to be a challenging case, Foreman decided. He took the annotated history handed to him by the father – who claimed that Bobby had collapsed during recess at his school, according to the history. He gave Dr. Gordon a faked pleasant smile. “I’ll run some tests,” he commented and scribbled down some orders before he could get usurped in that aspect as well.
He slid open the glass door and exhaled as he slid it shut behind him, starting slightly when he was immediately faced with House.
“Dr. Rich Gordon,” he said, sounding impressed. “Renowned rheumatologist.”
Foreman snorted. “Someone page Chase. His Dad isn’t the only rheumatologist in the world. He’ll be devastated.”
“Heard he intubated his own son,” House said casually, like he was gossiping. His gaze drifted from inside the room and landed on Foreman, accusingly. “You idiot. Were you intending to get us sued? I don’t care where he’s a practicing doctor. Next time, get here first. Wrestle him for it. Your people are good at that, right?”
Foreman rolled his eyes. “My people,” he echoed incredulously – wondering still why he didn’t sue for having a racist boss. He turned the history towards House. “He scraped himself somewhere on the playground. Infection. Easy.” Foreman shrugged. “I’ve ordered some tests. Bet you twenty bucks that his white count is way up,” he challenged, wanting to see if House would put some money where his mouth was.
House studied the chart for a minute before glancing inside the room. “Fifty bucks. And you’re on.”
Cameron’s pager had turned out to be a discharge for one of their patients – what had been suspected lymphoma was only a tricky case of Epstein-Barr. She didn’t mind being pulled from her appointment, not for this. “Take care now,” she ordered sternly, waving as a nurse wheeled away the young woman towards the exit. Cameron stood there for a moment, smiling privately, pleased to have helped one more patient.
The content didn’t last long.
The front doors were shoved open and two young black men stumbled inside. They were both covered in blood and one was holding a blood-stained knife. Cameron gaped for all of a nanosecond before she kicked into action, signaling a nurse and already grabbing admitting papers. “I’m Dr. Cameron,” she introduced herself as she hurried to the men’s side. “What happened?”
“We were at a party,” the taller of the men told her. “Went all night. Morning came and a bunch of the guys were still drunk. Kevin, here, he got stabbed. It was a mistake, they were just playing around…joking. My name’s Matt. He’s Kevin,” he said again, like Cameron would suddenly forget.
Cameron’s mind was already cataloguing the various effects of alcohol and any adverse reactions that the drugs she was about to use might have. She yanked out her pager to get Chase – an intensivist for backup really wouldn’t hurt – while the nurses got the man up on a gurney. She snapped on a pair of gloves, not trusting the blood since she didn’t have a history yet. “Kevin, right?” she spoke to the bleeding man to get his attention while a nurse cleared his friend out of the way.
“Kevin, I’m Dr. Cameron. Just hold on. You’ll be all right,” she promised, stabilizing Kevin’s pulse as she got the bleeding to stop, all before anyone else arrived to help her.
She slowly peeled off her bloodstained gloves and spent a good few minutes washing her hands. After she was through, she slid the door closed behind herself and approached the friend.
“Is he okay?” was the first question.
Cameron nodded. “He’ll be fine. We’re going to keep him overnight because he lost a lot of blood. I’ll need his history, in case of complications.” The man looked worried, standing there with his arms crossed around his torso, giving Cameron a good look at a fresh tattoo on the man’s wrist – while suspicion slowly crept into her mind; wondering just how much of an accident the stabbing had been. Foreman had told her stories about the various pieces of artwork that represented certain gangs. He’d even gone into that whole prose description of them.
The knife was drawing her attention like a magnet, even though the man was speaking directly to her.
Cameron snapped back to attention at the almost rude shout. “I’m sorry. Yes?”
“Is he going to be all right?” The friend sounded deeply frustrated and annoyed all at once. Cameron immediately felt a flash of guilt and she made a concerted effort to turn off the analytical side of her brain – the knife would still be there later – and she needed to lay the bedside charm on. Fast.
Cameron smiled winningly. “Just give us a little bit of time and we’ll have him all fixed up.” For better or worse, that wound would definitely be cleaned up soon enough. She pried herself away, the sound of her heels on the floor distracting her as she nearly walked right into House.
She jumped slightly, hand on her chest. “Where’s Chase?” she demanded with a furrowed brow. “I paged…”
“Dealing with something else.” House was peering curiously inside the hospital room. “You found a new one already? New record.”
Cameron pursed her lips. “He’s just a stab victim.”
“And my leg just tingles,” House retorted simply enough. “Have your differential diagnosis ready in twenty.”
“So, what’s the issue?”
Chase was pouring coffee into a mug, stir-stick firmly in his mouth. “The guy’s got cancer. It’s getting worse. Problem is, I can’t talk to them without the best friend getting involved.” He stared into the coffee. “Wilson’s running tests now and,” he checked his watch, “I’m due to help.” He managed a terse smile, leaving with his cup of coffee solidly in hand.
House turned to Foreman. “What’s your guy’s trauma?”
“Kid’s getting weaker. I still think it’s an infection. I’ve got a prednisone drip going.” Foreman smirked. “Shame the Dad’s an overbearing egomaniac, because the kid seems nice enough.” He took up a pile of folders. “Bet’s still on.” He checked his pager, which sounded with a musical ring. “Tests are in.” He flashed the message to House before leaving the room with a sureness to his step.
“Cameron, what have you got?”
She sighed, pressing her fingers to her lips. “Stab victim. It’s cleaned up, but we’re keeping him overnight for observation. I don’t know,” she said considerately, taking a moment to think. “The friend is lying about something.” She looked up to House, almost unsure. “I’ll find out what.” And she left too.
And then, there were none.
Foreman had the tests back in his hands, trying not to frown at the results. He wondered, at times, whether House had some in with the guys down in the lab and if they worked on a system of forwarding the results to him before Foreman could get a look. The issue at hand was, of course, that House had won the bet. The kid’s white count was slightly down, which ruled out infection.
Foreman sighed and opened the door, rolling his eyes slightly when he saw that Dr. Gordon was still in there, hovering about his boy.
“Are those Bobby’s tests?” Dr. Gordon inquired bluntly, pointing to the papers in Foreman’s hands.
Foreman forced a smile – come on, he told himself, you deal with House, you can deal with this guy – and gave a nod. “Hot off the presses.” He set them down as far from Dr. Gordon as he could, picking up his stethoscope. “Bobby, can you take a deep breath for me?”
The boy nodded, his hair falling into his eyes – if the kid had a mother around, she probably would have been insisting he cut it. “Like this?” he asked in a small voice, taking a very deep breath.
“Just like that,” Foreman said with a warm smile. He eased the stethoscope out of his ears. “You a swimmer? Lungs like those?”
“I want to…”
“No, he isn’t,” Dr. Gordon interrupted brusquely.
Foreman gave the man a stern look. “I was actually talking to your son.”
“And not healing him,” Dr. Gordon’s reply was swift and cold. “You might want to look into that.” He met Foreman’s gaze over the bed and the two doctors were locked in a staring contest, just until Bobby starting coughing, chest heaving desperately. Foreman pulled his gaze away first.
He was gasping for air. “I can’t…” he whimpered. “Dad!”
His throat was closing up by the choking sounds.
Dr. Gordon softened for the first time since he had been admitted with his son and he looked up to meet Foreman’s gaze. “Please,” he exhaled. “Help my son.” And he took a step back and let Foreman go about his work to intubate Bobby one more time, working quickly and avoiding having to give him a trach scar. He had been stable just hours earlier. What the hell had happened in the time between?
Foreman left the father with his son and watched the sudden shift in his demeanor. It was like the cold man from before was completely gone.
He flipped back to the history. What was the patient doing when symptoms presented? His old professor’s voice chimed into his head, an old and brittle voice. According to the history, he was on a playground and he scraped his knee. But then, the history didn’t match the symptoms.
Unless the kid had an underlying condition.
Foreman flipped shut the chart and headed in the direction of the lab to test the blood for some infections. One in a million chances were their specialty and if this kid had something that caused his white cell count to dip instead of soar, he’d figure it out.
Chase walked in on something like scrapbooking. The patient was in his bed with his wife and best friend flanking him and laughing over something that looked like a half-finished wedding album. He cleared his throat at the door, holding the history in his hands. Time to get the true story. “Hey guys,” he greeted. “Sounds like a real party.”
Annie laughed. “Dr. Chase,” she greeted warmly. “We’re putting together our wedding album.” She held up the thick, white-bound book. “John took the pictures at our wedding and we didn’t really want to waste money on a professional to assemble them.” She held up a picture of her and David eating mouthfuls of wedding cake without a fork. “What do you think?”
“It’s…nice,” he concluded. “Think you can spare a minute?”
“Sure,” John agreed, putting aside the box of pictures. “What’s up, doc?”
Chase's eyes tracked the wedding book as though that might hold all the secrets he was looking for, but he pressed on, finding the patient's gaze and only the patient. "Our tests show that your cancer is progressing exactly as it was diagnosed. I'm...sorry, but there's been no improvement, but there's no degeneration either."
The wife and the best friend seemed more affected than David. "What caused the seizures?" Annie asked after a long moment of awkward silence and when she spoke, her voice was hoarse. "Pain management treatments? I...anything to extend the prognosis?"
Chase glanced between the three, noting the almost chipped set to David. "Hey," he assured Annie, clasping her hand. "It's okay. We'll figure it out, huh?" He turned to Chase. "How long?"
What? "You've already heard your prognosis. As for the seizures, we'll get you out when we figure out what's wrong," Chase said slowly, not wanting to give false hope.
Annie appeared to be crying and John was comforting her, shooting daggers at Chase with his gaze, like he was withholding a cure from them or something. David smiled, though -- pretty brave for a guy who was twenty-two years old and dying.
"We'll know if this is a new symptom of the cancer soon enough." And if it's metastasized in your brain yet. Chase offered them a reassuring smile, scribbling down orders for more tests before leaving the room and almost walking straight into House's chest. "Jesus..."
"Just House, but I can understand your confusion," House replied magnanimously, staring inside the room. "Have you seen the healthy two leave his side? At all?"
Chase snorted. "Yeah, right. They might as well be glued together."
House nodded knowingly, as though he'd figured as much. "I want the Three Musketeers split up. Suggest divorce or something." With his cane, he pointed straight at David. "That one. Divide and conquer the puzzle."
Chase gave House a wary glance. "You think someone's lying."
House gasped, as though affronted. "Lying's such an ugly word, apt as it is. Obfuscating the truth sounds neater." He handed the cane to Chase while he popped a Vicodin. "Get the patient alone. Figure out what he's taking."
"Tox screen was clear," Chase reminded House.
House's eyes were still on the room, though he afforded a brief glance back to Chase. "Sweet, sweet overbearing love isn't a drug? Talk to him," House ordered. "Alone."
Cameron was having a difficult time getting answers to any of her questions. The shouts of pain were almost inhuman as her patient shouted and screamed, writhing. "Make it stop!" he barked, nails clawing at his stitches while the nurses fought to restrain him. "My stomach. God!"
It didn't look like a stomach problem. It was lower, likely intestinal, something much worse. And even worse than that, he had gotten at the stitches. He was bleeding again. Cameron lunged for the restraints, tightening them around his wrists. "Kevin," she said firmly, eyes skirting to his friend in the corner. "Kevin, I need you to take a deep breath. You have to relax."
He seemed to calm, but it was just long enough for yet another problem to introduce itself.
"He's shaking," his friend shouted. "What the hell, why's he...?"
"He's seizing," Cameron told him without turning. "Push fifteen milligrams of Ativan. Stat!" She yanked the pillow out from under his head while ripping off the restraints, all the while lowering the hospital bed and slipping a plastic disc into his mouth, getting him on his side and nearly leaning half of her body over to try and steady Kevin. Finally, he stilled and Cameron sighed wearily, hair mussed from her neat ponytail.
She caught sight of House lurking at the nurse's station and tucked her stethoscope around her neck, trying to gain some composure. "We'll monitor him," she promised Matt, slipping out of the room and glaring at House as she approached him.
"So," he drew out the word. "Just a flesh wound, huh?"
"Maybe," she admitted begrudgingly, "there's something else. Maybe."
"Is that 'I'm sorry' in Woman?" House clarified, a hand cupping his ear. "So, what's the issue now?"
"Allergic reaction to the knife, maybe. Infection," she suggested helplessly. "I cleaned the wound. There was nothing there that could have gotten infected."
"Double check. Check his white count, run a tox-screen, and then see if the friend is poisoning him," House listed casually, limping off before Cameron could snap at him that not all patients were being murdered by their friends and loved ones.
Idly, she wondered just what kind of childhood home House had grown up in, if that was the norm.
Foreman watched Bobby carefully, noting that rather than improving with the prednisone they'd given him, he was looking worse. His father kept hold of his hand as Foreman inspected his throat and noted the pale pallor of his skin. "Bobby," Foreman began gently. "Can you tell me how many fingers I'm holding up?" he asked, index finger and thumb raised.
"One and a thumb," Bobby answered very seriously, but his voice had the echo of fear in it.
Foreman laughed at that. "Very clever," he praised and went through about fifteen minutes of tests to evaluate Bobby's cognitive functions and neurological state. He wrote down a few neat notes in the chart. "There's no sign of neurological damage," he said optimistically. "But we're still not sure what it is."
"Still," Dr. Gordon scoffed in disbelief.
"Sir," Foreman swallowed his pride and turned his attention to the older man. "Are you sure this is from the incident on the playground? His white count is a little below normal, not up. I realize you had suggestions, but they make no sense. He cut up his knee. Infection comes from that, not scleroderma."
Bobby was staring up at the two of them with widened eyes.
"Dr. Foreman, may we speak privately?" That definitely wasn't a happy request. Foreman led the way, noting House lurking in the hallway, which could only make a bad situation much, much worse. "What," the man hissed, "are you accusing us of?"
Foreman held up his hands to gently protest. "I'm only saying that I don't think your son is sick because of a schoolyard accident."
"What about lupus, what about..."
"I ran a test for ANA levels, just in case. It's not lupus." Foreman leveled the older doctor with a harsh glare. "If you want your son to live, you've got to be on the level with me."
Dr. Gordon glanced fearfully into the room. "Bobby came by the hospital while I was finishing my shift. There was a nurse watching him, but she took a phone call. He...could have wandered."
"Could have?" House piped up. "He's six. He probably drew all over the walls, ate all the fun candy, and then got himself in a tricky pickle of a situation." Dr. Gordon glared at House. "I'm Dr. House. Big fan."
"Just heal my son," Dr. Gordon muttered with disgust, storming back into the room and ignoring both House and Foreman.
"Nice work fostering trust," House leaned close to confide in Foreman, giving him an 'OK' with his fingers. Foreman rolled his eyes, heading off to run a tox-screen for some legal drugs.
Even though quitting time for the rest of the world was hours past, Princeton-Plainsboro was still busy as ever. Chase was in the lab with Wilson, going over the blood samples to see if maybe there was a cause for the seizures within them. "How'd your thing with the psych go?" Wilson absently asked, still peering into the microscope while Chase glanced up. "I mean, productive?" Chase scoffed, and then Wilson raised his gaze from the microscope. "Or not. What’d he do, try and have you meditate? Talk about your feelings?" Wilson paused, sliding another sample under the scope. "Although, House could probably use that, much as he would never commit to it."
Chase took the used slide. "Anything?"
Wilson sighed. "It wasn't the cancer. But I think maybe it's the treatment. It's not common, but it does happen."
"The chemo?" Chase scoffed. He contemplated that for a moment. Either the body was rejecting it, or..."Allergic reaction?" Which meant that the previous doctor's prognosis just got curtailed. "Damn it."
"You want me to break the news?" Wilson asked, easing away from the microscope and resting his hands on his hips, like he really was some kind of superhero. Chase sighed, turning back to the samples. They'd still have to confirm it, but Annie deserved to know what might be going on.
"No. No, I'll do it. We'll do the test in the morning," he sighed wearily. He still hated the cancer cases, because every one just made him wonder about his father. Had he undergone chemo? Radiation? Had his father suffered?
"Hits close to home, doesn't it?" Wilson remarked quietly, interrupting Chase's train of thought. Chase glanced up, giving Wilson a dubious look. "You, your Dad..."
"I'm going to go tell our current patient about this," Chase announced suddenly, pushing himself up from the stool and leaving Wilson behind in a hurry, not looking him in the eyes.
He found Annie first in his exodus from the lab, standing outside David's room. Chase slowed his pace, but she still saw him coming, turning to give him a weak smile. She wiped away the tears from her eyes with her thumbs. "Dr. Chase. Hi."
Chase reached a stop beside her, glancing inside the room to find David asleep.
"John went to get dinner," she explained with a rueful grin. "Real food. I think he's sick of the hospital stuff." Annie had her arms crossed around her torso, like a shield, and she sighed wearily. "I'm just glad David lasted to the wedding. We hoped, but we didn't know if he would."
Chase wasn't sure if there were even any words of comfort that were adequate at this point. He just rested a hand on Annie's shoulder. "In the morning," he began, as gently as possible, "we're going to see if he's become allergic to the chemo. We'll know more then."
Maybe this was why his father never told him. He didn't have to listen to doctors awkwardly trying to rephrase, 'he's dying,' a dozen times or more and never succeeding in cushioning the words.
Cameron was perplexed.
Kevin was still experiencing violent intestinal cramps and had seized two more times since morning. She had managed to stitch up the wound again, but the amount of blood he had lost had surprised her. It just didn't add up. She was in Cuddy's office, having been summoned to deal with the potential assault charges. The hospital's lawyer sat in the corner, taking notes silently.
"I'm really not sure he'd charge assault, considering what we found on the knife," Cuddy said in disbelief, but she still sounded as though she were trying convince Cameron, the lawyer, herself, and the Western hemisphere with her words. Cameron was staring at Kevin's chart, ignoring Cuddy's legal worries and focusing on the problem; the problem that she hadn't solved.
"He's getting worse," Cameron sighed in frustration. "It was just a stabbing, but it's like something got embedded there with the knife."
"Complications?" Cuddy frowned. "Did you talk to the friend?"
"Not in depth," Cameron answered, leaning forward and clasping her palms together, as if some modern-day update of The Thinker. "But trust me. I will." She nodded to both Cuddy and the lawyer and excused herself from the room, taking the stairs in order to see to Kevin and have a little chat with his friend.
With every step up the stairs, she thought of her husband and how she'd been just as devoted to him at his bedside as Matt was being with his friend. But then, Cameron's husband had been dying and Matt's friend was hopefully not. But to watch with such puzzled concern didn't fit with the idea that he was the one poisoning Kevin.
Cameron cleared her throat to get Matt's attention. He was sitting nearby the room, on one of the benches. "Hey," she greeted casually, her hands in the pockets of her labcoat. "How're you holding up?"
"He's the patient," Matt reminded her, almost chastising. "I was the guy in the right place and at the right time to make sure Kevin didn't bleed to death on a crappy street." Matt rested his head in his hands. "I been clean for a year. No drugs, no gang crap. He asked me to come to the party for a girl. Next thing I know, they're doing E off some warehouse floor and pumping music loud enough to catch the cop's attention and then it's morning and those braintrusts try and jack a car and Kevin's hurt."
"And you were there?" Cameron clarified. "Did you see anything weird? Something that might have looked like poison?"
Matt scoffed, looking at her like she was crazy. "Poison? What? Hell, no. They're friends."
"Friends who stab each other," Cameron reminded him in a dubious tone, wondering at what kind of world out there she was missing and wondering what sort of person kept friends and just let things like assault slide by. "These reactions are pretty common with heavy metal poisoning." Matt seemed to pause and he looked at Cameron and for a millisecond, something like knowledge flashed over his features. "What is it? Do you know?"
"Maybe," Matt said considerately. "I can get you a sample."
Cameron went through a wide chain of reactions. Did she trust the guy not to run? Would he abandon her and leave her without a sample and a theory? She had to have faith, didn't she? With a long, deep breath, she nodded. "Hurry. The sooner we know, the sooner we can treat him."
Matt nodded once and didn't say a word as he went, brushing right past House in the hallway. House watched him go, slowly approaching -- every step heavy as he seemed to lean on his cane more than usual for support. Cameron furrowed her brow and turned away, ready to make her own quick escape.
"And where's he going?" House asked, mock-politely. Cameron stopped and sighed, her escape thwarted. She turned, watching House pop two Vicodin pills in one fell swoop. "Field trip? I hope you told him to bring us pack a souvenir." Cameron rolled her eyes. "He is a suspect, you realize. For assault. That's not a crime that gets you a slap on the wrist."
"I'm sure you know all about assault charges," she muttered under her breath.
House gave her a conspiratorial smirk. "Oh-ho. A burn."
Despite herself, Cameron stifled a proud smile and managed to steel herself to look at House again. "No one's been charged yet. And he may be able to help us."
"You have way too much faith in humanity," House accused her.
Cameron raised a hand in the air. "Guilty. Can I go run tests now?"
"What, need permission? Like I'm some kind of boss? Oh, wait..."
But Cameron was already walking away, House's diatribe fading away into the distance with every step she took.
Foreman stared at the latest test results. Bobby's organs were shutting down. Some infection. His white count was completely normal, but his organs looked to be closing off due to sepsis. This kid was going to need a donor within days at that point. Foreman had stopped the treatments in a vain attempt to keep his kidneys from getting boxed.
"How are his stats?" House's grim voice pierced Foreman's reverie.
"Not good. Blood pressure is way down," Foreman said, tone dire. "He's a kid who scraped up his knee. This shouldn't be happening."
They sat in silence for a long moment. "What's the scrape look like?" House finally asked. "And is there a puncture?"
Foreman paused. "You think he scraped himself at the hospital, not the playground." He considered that for a second, wondering if someone might have left old medical debris lying around a sandbox. It was possible. "Father's always been in the room when I ask questions. The kid might be lying out of fear."
"Isn't everyone terrified of Daddy?" House said after a moment. "Find out. Check for a puncture from a needle or any kind of contact with medical substances."
Foreman nodded, excusing himself and heading to Bobby's room, only to find it to be his lucky day. Bobby was lying in bed, looking at a children's book while his father dozed in a chair in the corner. Foreman worked to keep very quiet as he approached Bobby and noted that the book was an explanation in child's terms of why people got sick. Bobby glanced up at Foreman, lanky hair in his eyes. "I don't feel better," he admitted. "I'm trying, for Daddy, but I don't feel better."
Foreman felt a slight pang of sympathy and guilt. "Getting you better is my job, not yours."
Bobby didn't smile at that; just kept reading.
Foreman grasped the stool by the bedside and sat down slowly, keeping careful not to wake Dr. Gordon. "Bobby. When you went to wait for your Dad, did you touch anything you weren't supposed to?"
Bobby continued looking at the pictures, flipping the page and shaking his head slowly. "No," he whispered.
"Was there an accident? It's very, very important Bobby, it might save your life." Foreman watched Bobby glance from his father, then back to Foreman, fear expressed on every one of his diminutive features. "Your Dad's asleep, he doesn't have to know."
Bobby reached down, fighting and swatting away at the blankets, his eyes cloudy and filled with tears. His breathing sounded pretty bad and Foreman worried about needing to intubate again. "I pricked myself," he admitted in a tiny whisper, staring at the scrape. "There were needles and p-pills and...and blood," he continued, chin lifted high as he spoke with trembling words. "But I tripped and the needle got...it got stuck and I got bumped 'gainst the wall."
They were getting somewhere. "Bobby, how much?"
The boy made a measurement with shaking fingers. Looked to be about 30 milligrams. "Didn't mean to," Bobby promised, crying now, eyes worriedly tracking to his father. "I didn't mean to," he sobbed, voice returning to the normal volume.
"Bobby, this is very important." Foreman's nerves were on edge. He was so close. "What did the label look like?"
"Robert!" Dr. Gordon's voice seemed to boom and echo in the room, though, it was merely concerned and not angry in the least. Bobby promptly rolled on his side, away from his father, rocking back and forth. Dr. Gordon hurried over and brushed his hand over Bobby's hair. "What's the matter?"
"I'm sorry, Dad, I'm s-so-sorry."
Dr. Gordon raised his gaze to Foreman. "He accidentally came into contact with a medical solution," Foreman explained hurriedly. "But we need to know which one."
They both turned their attention to Bobby, but his labored breaths had become worse and he needed to be intubated again.
They wouldn't be getting an answer just yet, then.
Chase had prepped a team at nine in the morning, prepared to see if David really was allergic to the chemo treatments. And if he was, well, then there'd just be more bad news on the way. He gave a nod to the nurses, making sure one was standing outside with Annie and John to prevent them from storming in. "Okay, David, if you are allergic, you're going to go into anaphylactic shock, which is why this room is so crowded. We're here to prevent anything too bad from happening."
David nodded. "Haven't led me wrong yet, Dr. Chase."
Chase eased closer, withdrawing the pillow from under David's head, readying the equipment and taking David's arm into his hand, the free hand wielding the injection. David just glanced up at Chase and nodded once, signaling that he was ready for anything. Chase stuck David's arm with the specially made compound and released it gently, stepping back to watch and wait.
And sure enough, the wheezing began within seconds. "Help," David shouted hoarsely. "I can't..."
Chase knew what he had to do.
"Pushing one shot of epinephrine," Chase narrated his actions as he injected the shot into David's IV, grasping the tools required to intubate and going about his work without a hitch, keeping David's airways open. When the man had settled, Chase turned to the glass partition for the briefest of seconds, immediately turning away.
He'd just arrived at that damn bridge he had dreaded crossing.
Cameron arrived into work, barely taking one sip of coffee before Matt caught her in the hallway with a small satchel of...something. "Here. This was where they had the knives out for show, right with the drugs. I'm not sure what the E was cut with...so, I brought you a sample."
Vindication flooded Cameron as she took the small bag. "I'll get the lab to run trace tests for anything unusual." She was smiling, glad that her belief in humanity had actually paid off. Matt gave a nod of understanding, heading towards Kevin's room while Cameron went towards the lab, glimpsing Chase in one of the patient's rooms, talking with another man. Figures he'd turn up after she could have used his help.
Cameron handed off the sample to the lab tech and made the usual begging requests. It seemed to pay off, because she was given a promise of two hours or her sample was free. Two more hours of a puzzle. She could do that.
Foreman and Dr. Gordon had taken over the conference room of diagnostics, pacing back and forth, scribbling symptoms on the whiteboard -- currently, it displayed 'Sepsis', 'Low Blood Pressure' and 'Lethargy'. Foreman had six textbooks out, trying to figure out what the hell would cause those things. "Antibiotics?" he suggested.
"Broad spectrum or targeted?" Dr. Gordon clarified.
"Specific. Penicillin, maybe. Is Bobby allergic?" Foreman said, weakly. He'd never seen antibiotics do this before. He hated the stage of ignorance. He'd become a doctor to have stores upon stores of knowledge to trump any problem and now he was stymied by a nameless injection.
Dr. Gordon shook his head. "Only allergic to pineapple. Perhaps a cocktail of amphetamines?"
"It would wreak havoc on his system," Foreman countered thoughtfully. "Except blood pressure would go up, not down." It was an obvious fact and they both knew it, but they were grasping at straws. Foreman didn't fault Dr. Gordon in the least for having clouded judgment. This was his son.
Foreman rubbed at his temples, trying to encourage thoughts that would be some kind of helpful. As he stared at the whiteboard, his mind finally took a turn towards the useful.
"Where's your office?" Foreman asked bluntly.
"My office?" Dr. Gordon stared at Foreman. "What does it matter! Bobby is..."
"At your hospital," Foreman cut in loudly. "Where's your office? By the ICU? Pediatrics? Geriatrics? Where!"
Dr. Gordon paled slightly. "They moved me into the surgery wing until they found more space. They perform transplants in the wing."
It clicked for the both of them at seemingly the exact same moment. "He does have an infection," Foreman realized. "Fever and white count didn't go up because..."
"Exactly," Dr. Gordon finished the thought. "There were two surgeries on the board. Bobby must have stumbled upon one and injected himself with an immunosuppressant."
"He needs antibiotics and a clean room, then," Dr. Gordon finished, leaving the room in a rush.
Foreman, however, was reveling in the knowledge that he'd been right about the white count after all. Technically. He wondered if that would be enough to get his bet-money back.
Two hours later, Cameron was holding the lab results in her hands, almost in disbelief at what the tests had confirmed. She must have been staring slack-jawed for quite a while because she never even saw House coming, let alone poking her in the shoulder gently with his cane.
"Good read?" He leaned over Cameron's shoulder to peer at the text. "Any lesbians in it?"
Cameron pointed to the bottom line. "They cut the E with an arsenic compound." It was insane, who did that sort of thing? Sure, maybe it gave them sort kind of crazy buzz, but too much of it was deadly and dangerous. "The knife was lying in tons of the stuff. They might snort a twentieth of what got on the edge of the blade."
"Warehouse was damp?" House asked.
"Damp enough to get powder to stick to the knife, yeah," Cameron confirmed, following his train of thought. "He gets stabbed and then the knife embedded E and arsenic into the system. So, with some palliatives and avoiding a repeat of the stabbing, he'll be fine. After a good long bout of suffering," she scoffed. She was pleased though, that it was an easy fix with little pain.
"So you get him away from that hard knock life," House summarized.
Arsenic and E, delivered to the gut by a knife-delivery system. Well, it was unique, Cameron would give them that. "I'll tell the patient," she said, loving when she got to deliver the good news. She gave House the glimmer of an optimistic grin before heading towards Kevin's room, charts in hand.
Matt was waiting outside the room, mainlining coffee and looking far worse for the wear than the day before. He was wearing nice clothes, the sort you wore to job interviews and funerals.
"Hey," Cameron said softly to get his attention. "I've got good news."
Matt turned, gesturing inside the room, which was now empty. "Yeah? For me or for him?"
Cameron gaped at the messy bed, then at Matt. "Is he still in the hospital?" she demanded.
Matt chuckled. "Relax. Yeah, he went outside for some air. One of the other doctors gave him the go-ahead." Cameron relaxed slowly, exhaling a held breath she hadn't even realized she'd been keeping in. "Said he was getting stir-crazy." Matt turned his full attention to Cameron, fidgeting with his tie like it was some kind of punishment. "I know the feeling."
"The lab results came back," Cameron offered. "The E had traces of arsenic in it. They got along the serrated edges of the knife and wound up being transferred to Kevin's body when he was stabbed."
Matt seemed to think a good while about that. "Arsenic poisoning?"
"So, what happens now?" he asked in disbelief.
"We treat the pain, keep him away from arsenic, and he'll be free to go in two to three days. Simple as that," Cameron promise, her whole demeanor far more pleased now that she had both solved the puzzle and been able to lift a weight off the chest of the family and friends of the patient. "Sound good?"
Matt's laugh was warm. "Sounds great."
Cameron flipped the charts shut and gave him a curious look. "Can I ask...the clothes?"
Matt fidgeted with the cuffs of his shirt. "Court," he explained. "I advised Kevin to press charges."
Cameron's smile softened, a little more genuine than before. "Good," she said firmly. "It's the right thing to do."
"Yeah," but Matt sounded uneasy. "I just hope Kevin realizes that one day."
Chase closed the curtains of the room while Annie opened the curtains of the window, an exchange of light. Chase hated doing this and he already felt heavy with grief that he'd have to give to these people. He drew a chair opposite the side of the bed, Annie and John both holding David's hand on the other side. Chase met each of their gazes for a brief moment, each of them looking daunted and worried. They'd won the battle, but the war was about to kick their collective ass.
"So, the reaction..." Annie began, her expression puzzled, as though she were muddling through the various medical jargon she had been told over the many months.
"It confirmed what we thought," Chase picked up her sentence, his tone apologetic. "It appears that David has become very allergic to the chemo, which means that he'll need to be switched to radiation as soon as possible."
"Okay," David agreed. "No problem."
"Unfortunately," Chase sighed wearily, because there was a problem, "There's some bad news attached to that. Because of the tendency of this cancer to metastasize in the brain, doctors use chemo to slow that. It's a body-wide attack and more effective. Radiation is specific. And less effective." He turned his gaze to Annie. "Whatever your old doctor said..." His attention turned to John. "What I assume was eight to twelve months." Finally, he let his gaze settle on David. "It's likely more like four to six months now." It hit almost immediately and the grief flashed over their faces. "I'm sorry," Chase offered quietly. Annie crumpled silently against the bed, head resting on David's shoulder. John appeared numb and David was simply in what appeared to be a state of unhappy shock. "You'll be able to leave in twenty-four hours."
Surprisingly, it was John who spoke up. "Thank you, Dr. Chase." He rose to his feet, wiping his palms on his jeans. "I'll uh, give you two a moment." He smiled wanly as he left the room.
"We have an excellent oncologist on staff," Chase assured. "You'll have a large pool of resources to use."
"I think we just need a moment," David said in a whisper, the news finally sinking in. Chase glanced to Annie once more before leaving the room, watching from beyond the glass as the realization fully struck them and they fell apart as two people bound to the same inevitable facts of the future.
Bobby was already looking better, brighter, and like a bright, young boy should. He was in the process of charming the attending nurse by regaling her with stories about a puppy the family had just bought. Kid was going to have his pick of women when he grew up. Foreman entered the room, slipping on a mask and completing the last of the clean room procedures and Bobby lit up when he caught sight of him. "Dr. Foreman!" he announced cheerfully. "My Dad's getting lunch and balloons."
"Balloons, huh? You'd better save me one," Foreman joked. He checked Bobby's breathing, pulse, and stats; each result more optimistic than they had been twenty-four hours ago. The treatment was working. They'd moved him into a clean room to monitor his progress and it was looking good. Antibiotics for the infections and some time away from dangerous medical substances for the rest.
A knock on the glass drew a pleased gasp from Bobby and Foreman glanced over his shoulder to find Dr. Gordon at the glass with a handful of helium balloons.
"My Dad's great," Bobby announced.
"Yeah," Foreman chuckled. "He's a pretty great guy."
It was going to be a good heal, no bone marrow transplant would even be needed. Bobby was going to be just fine.
"Thanks," Bobby told Foreman gratefully. "You know, when I grow up? M'gonna be just like Dad. A doctor."
Affording another look to Dr. Gordon, Foreman smiled and turned his attention back to Bobby. "I think he'd be proud of that." What father wouldn't be, after all?
Cameron waved off Matt and Kevin from the hospital, having given them both a stern warning about drugs and violence and receiving a promise from Matt that they would shape up just fine. She leaned against the nurse's station as she finalized the discharge papers. "I saw you coming," she remarked to her side, not even glancing up from her chart to talk to her companion.
"Confounded luck," House said, snapping his fingers. "How's our delinquent?"
"Healing and reforming," Cameron said proudly.
House did a double take. "In the same twenty-four hour period? Not bad." He gave Cameron a nod. "Good work."
"Thanks," she said gratefully, happily signing the discharge form and basking in the pride of a job well done.
Chase spoke quietly with Annie, giving her the appropriate pamphlets and handing her his business card. "Just call, okay?" he relayed quietly. John was wheeling David out slowly, neither of them saying much at all. Annie's eyes were red-rimmed and she looked weary and defeated.
"We will," she promised listlessly, taking the papers and tucking them into her purse before she joined David and John. Annie gave a shaky smile, slipping an old baseball cap atop David's head.
Chase lingered by the stairs, still feeling weighed down. House drew up beside him without saying a word, having just exited the elevator.
"They'll stay together," Chase remarked.
"Until he dies," House reminded him. "Go upstairs. There's probably something for you to comment on there."
Chase just nodded, not in the mood to argue, watching David go. When they were out of sight, he used the stairs to get back to the office, just so House couldn't follow him.
It took them forty-eight hours to safely decide that Bobby could be released from the clean room and the hospital both and as patient as he had been, he was still a young boy and keeping one of those cooped up never ended well. Bobby was nearly bouncing, holding onto his father's hand as they led him from the hospital.
"And I want to play with Penny and see Mum and talk to my friends," Bobby narrated rapid-fire, all the while, Dr. Gordon smiled proudly, scooping Bobby up in his arms and carrying him towards the exit.
"Thank you very much for your aid," Dr. Gordon said with deep sincerity to Foreman. "I honestly would not have solved it this quickly without you." He was carrying Bobby a little bit like a puppy and from his father's arms, Bobby made faces at every passing person.
Foreman just nodded his appreciation. "The same goes for you," he assured. "Take care of him."
"Will do," Dr. Gordon assured, carrying Bobby the rest of the way to the exit, the little boy chatting on about ice cream. Foreman's grin lingered on his face, even when House sidled up beside him.
"My favorite kind of case. The kind where you do all the work," House remarked, sounding very pleased with himself. "Nice work on the diagnosis. If I were you, I'd have gone to the hospital to check."
"You're not me," Foreman replied easily. "Every day, I thank God for that." Foreman's grin widened and he watched until Dr. Gordon and Bobby drove away. Only then did he leave.
Cameron snapped to attention. "What? I'm sorry. I was..." She rubbed at her eyes. Her gaze was blurred, but she quickly realized that she was sitting with Dr. Richards. Shaking off her confusion, she settled and pocketed her pager.
"Sometimes," Dr. Richards assured her, "Suggestive states can be disorienting." He slid a slim folder across the table. "Congratulations," he offered. "You offered a perfect diagnosis."
Looking suspiciously at Dr. Richards, she took the chart and glanced at the patient's name -- Trevor Gray -- and then at the name of the person who had brought him in. "Eric Foreman?" she asked, confused.
"Dr. House approved the release of these files."
"That case...that was Foreman's friend? Foreman was..." she trailed off, trying to absorb all the implications.
"So," Dr. Richards seemed far more interested in continuing his own poking and prodding. "Given your excellent handling of this hypothetical, would you say that you trust your colleagues? Maybe more pertinent. Do you think they trust you?"
"Cameron's husband?" Chase reacted in disbelief. He stared at the folder of facts, almost in denial. "He was dying the whole marriage and she never left him," he realized. All that sympathy and grief. How had Cameron not closed herself off forever?
"Yeah," Chase admitted. "Yeah, I'd trust them with my life." Because if House had approved all their files to be shared, then...
"Dr. Foreman, we may discuss that case now," Dr. Richards spoke loudly, managing to get Foreman out of his reverie. He shifted in his chair, folding his palms in his lap. "So, what did you think?"
"I thought," Foreman said slowly, "That we were going to talk about my colleagues." Dr. Richards was still feverishly writing down notes.
"We have been," he assured, showing Foreman a folder. "The case you so expertly solved was that of your colleague, Robert Chase." Foreman reached forward, taking the file into his hand. "Cleared by Dr. House to use. Excellent diagnosis, really. A few hours quicker than the actual doctor on the case."
Foreman leaned back, looking slightly off-kilter. "That whole thing. That was Chase."
"I'm afraid so," Dr. Richards said with an enigmatic smile. "Next session, we can speak to the ramifications of trust in colleagues, hm?" Foreman opened his mouth to protest that 'next session' bit, but Dr. Richards was already penciling it in. "Thank you for your time," he said, checking his watch. "Not a minute past a full hour. Send Dr. Chase in, please, and for the sake of the experiment, please don't say anything."
Foreman nodded, still a little dazed. "Uh...thanks," he offered awkwardly, leaving the room and nodding to Chase across the waiting area. "Your turn," he said, evenly.
"How was it?"
Foreman just shrugged, not sure why he was keeping Chase in the dark. "It was a psych appointment." As if it had been dull down to the bones.
They shared a nod of understanding and Foreman kept walking before Chase could ask anything else.
Late in the night, near to the witching hour, the hospital was as quiet as coffins -- the patients asleep, the night staff seemingly mute. Even House was quiet, his iPod on low volume as he lurked through the halls, his player firmly ensconced in his palm as he slowly picked the lock on Dr. Richards' door, all the while, he listened to the shallow strains of a new song.
The folders were sitting atop the desk in plain view, in order of their appointments: Foreman, Chase, Cameron. Each was replete with notes from their sessions and just sitting there, like candy in the hands of a baby. Locking the door behind him, House picked up the first, kicking his feet up on the desk and settling in for a good read.
Bestsellers had nothing on this.