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Gentle Knock - Part 22

Title: A Gentle Knock at the Door, Part 22
Author:
z
eppomarx
Characters
: House (of course - duh), Wilson, Cuddy, Chase and Foreman, and new folks.
Warnings and So On:
NC-17 for concepts. H/W friendship (perhaps slash if you wear slash goggles)
Summary: A sequel to Priority's Exigencies, which is a sequel to DIY Sheep's The Contract, which has now spawned an incredible number of offshoots. The short version: House is a physical an
d emotional mess, having been wrongly imprisoned and tortured and all sorts of nasty stuff. It's about what happens next, and how House deals with it.
Timeline: Set nearly a year after the beginning of Exigencies.
Earlier parts here: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 , 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21,
Comments
: Be gentle. Flamers begone. Thanks to AW, GM and my medical guru TD, who tells me the medicine is okay, but the procedure is all messed up. Drama trumps medicine, or so I've heard.
Oh, Yeah, the Disclaimer: I certainly don't own House or any of the characters therein, although it would be nice if I did. They belong to David Shore & company. It's just that they waltzed into my head and wouldn't leave until I told their story.

TEASER: Wilson waits by the bedside...

___________________________________________
A Gentle Knock at the Door
Part 22

Wilson headed back down to House’s room in the hope that there had been some improvement. There was none. Under the noise of machines, he could hear House moaning, a low rumble of pain.

An hour later, he woke up in the chair next to House’s bed. He looked at the monitors. Still stable.  Still moaning.

* * * *

S
omebody needed to shut that guy up. He was making too much noise; he sounded like a walrus in heat or a sick basset hound. It wouldn’t be so annoying, except for the headache. The room was too bright, the light hurt his head and that idiot was too damn loud.

What did he have to drink last night, anyway? This must be one hell of a hangover. In addition to the headache, he was just plain uncomfortable. He couldn’t remember last night, not really. Maybe if he just turned his head… no, no… ouch! That wasn’t such a good idea. He didn’t seem to be able to move around or get more comfortable. Well, this was a bitch.

He started to feel sleepy, and decided to just lie still. Maybe that would help his headache. If that guy would just shut up. The one who was moaning.

* * * *

W
ilson’s eyelids drooped again, and he felt himself slide into that halfway place between sleep and stirring.

“`Ilson.”

Wilson opened his eyes. House still lay propped up and unconscious in the hospital bed. Shaking his head slightly, Wilson allowed his eyelids to close again.

“`Ilson.”

Wilson nodded off.

“`Ilson. Wahe up.”

Suddenly, Wilson was very awake. He stared at House, whose eyes were still closed.

“House?”

“`Ilson.”

Wilson saw House’s swollen mouth move slightly as the garbled name came out. It wasn’t possible, but he was awake… and able to speak. Wilson took in a gulp of air, feeling as if he hadn’t breathed in hours. He pressed the call bell for a nurse.

“House? Is that you? I’m right here.”

“`Es, id’s ee, oo idiot. Oo o oo ink id is—de oice uh god?” said the mouth. Somehow, Wilson managed to correctly interpret the mumble as “Yes, it’s me, you idiot. Who do you think it is—the voice of god?”

Wilson was so relieved, he started to cry.

House’s left eye opened and squinted at him.

“Oo’re a `oron,” said the distorted mouth.

* * * *

B
y the end of the day, it was all over the hospital that Dr. House had regained consciousness and seemed to have at least some brain function.

After calling Wilson a moron, House had stayed conscious long enough for Karen Langley and a couple of ICU doctors to check him out, during which time he complained that there was no TV in his room and leeringly admired Langley’s breasts.

“I-I don’t know what to say,” said Langley to Wilson following the examination. “If I’d placed a bet, it would have been a large one that he wouldn’t ever regain consciousness. Or that even if he did, he’d have severely compromised brain function—but that he probably wasn’t going to survive the night anyway. Of course, the long-term prognosis is still uncertain, but this is good. Very good.”

Then, after a pause, she added, “I’m so glad I was wrong. Sometimes, thank goodness, things don’t go the way statistics say they should. You could be the one walking down the street who gets hit on the head by a falling brick and dies, or the one who survives nine days in an earthquake. I guess House is the earthquake guy. At least for now.”

* * * *

F
or the next three days, House continued to surprise his doctors, his friends and colleagues.

His mouth and tongue were so swollen he was almost unintelligible, but that didn’t keep him from talking, despite the swelling and the bruises. Although he slept a lot, he was also awake a fair amount and consistently verbal, which was a relief to all, even if his verbosity tended toward the offensive and the profane. Which, for House, was actually not that unusual.

He was in a lot of pain, but then, that wasn’t unusual, either.

Early Monday morning, he asked to speak to Cuddy and Wilson together. He made them a proposition. As the two stood next to his bed discussing it in disbelief, he fell asleep.

* * * *

W
ith apprehension, Evan Schuster arrived at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital at 9 a.m. Monday to meet with Rainie’s medical staff. When Devi Rajghatta called him about setting up a meeting with all of Rainie’s friends and co-workers, he had made a counter-offer. He’d come alone and pass the word along to everyone else. Secretly, he was hoping that if he came alone, he might have a better chance of getting to see Rainie.

The two had been in the same journalism program at Northwestern, and had been good friends ever since, often having lunch together a couple times a week until the trouble started, when she inexplicably picked a fight with him and refused to talk to him again. Rainie had even named her daughter Evan after him, calling her Evie for short.

As he entered the reception area, two policemen greeted him, asking to see his ID. They passed him on to another security person, who escorted him upstairs to a walnut-paneled conference room lined with, to his untrained eye anyway, original and expensive paintings.

The panel on one wall slid down a little way to reveal behind it a whiteboard that seemed to be covered with colored writing from Dry-Erase markers. All he could read were a few partial phrases and words: “Trust issues Rai...” “…chological recovery.” “…uled surgeries.”

He helped himself to a cup of coffee and then eased himself into one of the plush chairs and waited.

“Hi, Mr. Schuster? I’m Dr. Ajunta. We spoke on the phone.”

They shook hands and Dr. Ajunta sat down. “I’ve asked a few of the others from Ms. Adler’s medical team to join us. We’ll try to answer all your questions.”

He was soon joined by Yuen and DuBois, the physical therapists, Dr. Langley, Dr. Liu and other members of Rainie’s team.

They methodically described her treatment to date, outlining the extent of her injuries.

He asked how Dr. House’s condition was affecting treatment.

“To be honest,” said Ajunta, bluntly, “his absence is setting her back.”

So far, they said, she was not responding well to any of the other people who came in contact with her. She had developed a level of trust with Dr. House that had been impossible to replicate. And they were fearful about how she would react if he never came back or if she found out what had happened to him, a situation that could shake her fragile sense of security.

Then they asked Evan if he would be willing to see her, hoping that, perhaps, if she saw a familiar face, it might help.

This was just what he wanted.

* * * *

“H
e can’t be serious,” Wilson said to Cuddy after they had left House’s room. “He’s in worse shape than she is… and he thinks he can help her?”

“It sounds insane, doesn’t it? But House has been saying insane things to me for years now, and he’s almost always right.”

“But this is different. He’s in critical condition, he’s on even higher doses of meds than usual and the downside is… he could kill himself,” said Wilson, his voice rising. “He’s risking his own life for a patient.”

Cuddy thought for a moment before responding. The question was, did the dangers outweigh House’s desires? Although she didn’t care for House’s plan, she also believed that anything he felt this strongly about might be worth trying, if at all possible. He’d gone through—well, it didn’t bear thinking about what he’d gone through—and she wanted to support him, even if she had her doubts. Besides, making House’s decisions for him generally had bad consequences, as she and Wilson both knew well.

“James, how is this different—I mean, fundamentally different—from what he did for us? He not only risked his life for us, he chose to hold onto that life, knowing it would be filled from that point on with excruciating pain, so that you and I could be sitting here right now. How is that different from this? He sacrificed himself for us, and he’s willing to sacrifice himself for her.”

She was right and he knew it. But even though House’s life seemed to mean little to him, it meant a great deal to Wilson. He’d come close to losing his friend again, and didn’t want anything to jeopardize House’s recovery. Wilson found himself feeling protective, very much as he’d felt when House was first released.

Cuddy watched Wilson wrestle with himself.
 
“Tell you what,” she countered. “Just because we both have qualms about this, and we don’t know how much of House’s decision might be based on—I don’t know—trauma or medication or something else, let’s do this on a trial basis. We tell him we take it day by day. As long as it doesn’t seem to compromise his own recovery too much, he gets to continue. But we keep monitoring on a regular basis, which we’d be doing anyway. How’s that?”

That worked for Wilson.

Together, they told the rest of Rainie’s team.

* * * *

W
hen Dr. Liu slid opened the glass door to room 304 for him, the first thing Evan saw was a bed. On it was a very small figure, curled up tight.

As they got closer, he held his breath as he began to see the damage. Before, Rainie Adler had one of those perfect complexions—smooth, pink, clear. Now, her face was mottled and scarred. He could some of the scars extending down her neck.

One arm was lying on top of the blanket, and it too was riddled with scars. Her hand was warped and distorted, fingers askew and the hand itself seemingly without bones. He’d only seen hands like that once before—on Gregory House.

Emotions bubbled up in him—rage, sadness, anxiety. He tried to compose his face and his feelings. When Rainie woke up—if she woke up—she didn’t need to see him looking shocked.

Dr. Liu offered him a seat in a small armchair next to the bed. He sat and waited. Dr. Liu took another seat on the far side of the room.

About 10 minutes later, Rainie woke up.

As she had done for the last couple of days, she looked around the room for her doctor. When she didn’t see him yet again, she let out an unhappy sigh. It was only then that she saw Evan.

Evan saw her scan the room. She seemed to see right through him. She was clearly searching for something or someone. Not finding what she was after, she settled back sadly. Then she saw a face she recognized.

“Rainie, hi,” he said. “It’s me, Evan.”

Her mouth opened slightly and she stared at him.

“Evan?”

“Yes, it’s me.”

He wasn’t able to read her expression. Rather than being glad, she seemed distressed to see him.

For Rainie, because she’d been sleeping or sedated, the last few days seemed like only a few hours. Despite House’s reassurance that it was all in the past, without him present—and because of the mystery of his absence—she was slipping back into fear.

What Evan couldn’t realize was how terrified she was. If Evan was here, was he in danger? Was he a tool to torment her? What was going on?

Jeff was gone. Evie was gone. Now, her doctor was gone. She was afraid that anyone she cared for would soon be gone. And now, Evan. Would he soon be gone, too?

Jacey Liu looked up, realizing Rainie was headed into another panic attack. She ran over, slowing herself down as she got close, and prepared another sedative, slowly injecting it into her IV. This was not getting any easier. Without House here, she wasn’t sure how much they’d be able to help Rainie. And keeping her drugged all the time was not going to solve anything.

Evan looked dismayed.

“She’s disoriented,” said Jacey. “I’m not sure why, but she seems to feel uncomfortable with you here. Perhaps it’s time to go. I’ll stay with her. We’ll try again another time.”

Disturbed, Evan stood up to leave. Behind him, he heard an odd squeaking noise. As he turned toward the door, he was startled to see a hospital bed rolling through the entrance, pushed by an orderly and followed by several people wearing multi-colored scrubs. Lying on the bed, seemingly unconscious, was a tall, gaunt man, covered in bruises and wrapped in what seemed like yards of bandaging. Evan recognized the face. Well, half of it, anyway.



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Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
chaoskir
Apr. 7th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
OMG! Do you know what such a good job you've done? No, you don't know I guess. It's such a great pleasure to read this fic. It's completely in the characters, it's so grandious written that it could be real. It's so moving and captivating and sooo much wonderful I can't describe. And the best is: You, yep, exactly you, you wonderful, awesome and great author stopp my detox always early. *takeathankfullybowforyou*. So when I read your story and when I see how fast you do the updates than I know, you have a big heart for reading-your-fic-addicts. Thank you and say thank you for me to the people who let you grow up, please, would you?

zeppomarx
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:19 pm (UTC)
Thank YOU for your constantly adorable responses.

--zep
lz1982
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC)
*sigh of relief*

I didn't really think you'd kill House, but I was kind of worried you'd turn him into a vegetable.

Thanks for the steady updates!
zeppomarx
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
But I don't like vegetables. Except peas. I'm kind of fond of peas. And mashed potatoes. But I don't think House would work well as mashed potatoes, do you?

--zep
romeo46
Apr. 7th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
Mashed potatoes ha, I love it.

I love how this strats with House seeming to think that he is hungover. Does he know what happened to him??? We will find out. I really like how Rainies interaction wuth Evan mimics House's first interaction with Wilson except House was just slightly able to accept Wilson was really there and safe whereas Rainie has had everyone she trusts taken from her. It will be interesting to see how she and House deal with the attack.

Umm...more please....I know you got the story written, this waiting stuff is killing me.

zeppomarx
Apr. 8th, 2008 12:40 am (UTC)
"I really like how Rainie's interaction with Evan mimics House's first interaction with Wilson, except House was just slightly able to accept Wilson was really there and safe, whereas Rainie has had everyone she trusts taken from her."

Hey -- thanks for noticing this. I did create the parallel intentionally, but did it for my own amusement, never suspecting that a) anyone would ever read it or b) if anyone did read it they would catch on to what I was doing. How clever of you...

Oh, and please don't think I'm purposely tormenting all of you -- I really am still tweaking things here and there. Plus, one of my betas -- who read the entire opus at nearly one sitting -- has been following along and says she likes it even better divvied up this way. She made a good case for continuing to post it in chapters, so chapters it is.

Just think how much harder this would have been 100 years ago. You'd have had to wait a month between installments!

--zep
jessiek1119
Apr. 8th, 2008 01:02 am (UTC)
Thank god its not months, I would DIE in anticipation. To say I check for this update complusivly is an understatement. I'm going to have to reread Contract so I can see all the other little paralles between House and Rainie. Much love to you and this fic.
zeppomarx
Apr. 8th, 2008 01:09 am (UTC)
Thank you, jessiek1119. I was far from obsessive with parallels, but there will be some now and then.

--zep
angelcat2865
Apr. 8th, 2008 01:11 am (UTC)
Glad to see House awake.
ghouse
Apr. 8th, 2008 02:10 am (UTC)
I'm glad to see that House is awake. The team needs him to help with Rainie. Rainie's reaction to seeing Evan was the same as House's when he first saw Wilson. But now House is there to help her with her recovery.
I'll be looking forward to the next chapter.
bookfan85
Apr. 8th, 2008 05:36 am (UTC)
YAY House is awake and coherent. I can totally see House wanting to take care of Rainie. He's selfihs, yet selfless all at the same time canonly, IMO.
bukabe16
Apr. 8th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC)
wow, you made house sound... cheerful xD good job!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )