Chapter One - "From the Bottom Up"
“Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho … ”
The music and lyrics filled the space around him and found their way into House's mind.
“Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down.”
Yes, indeed they did tumble down and all around him, landing in shapeless heaps. They raised clouds of dust creating a fog that matched his brain. It all made no sense, the fleeting images playing out in his head: a frightened woman, Cuddy's office, firefighters, bright lights, “just do the LP.” Hannah, “dating a man-child” “help me… ”
“Help me!” Help who? The woman, Cuddy? The firefighters?
“Help me!” He was laying in his bed in his apartment, a woman next to him. None of his “girls” ever stayed the night. The woman rolled over; it was Cuddy. “I lobe you.”
“Help me!” Driving quickly, going around in circles, laughing. Uncommon. Dancing, Cuddy in a gown. Rachel snuggling up to him, Thirteen nowhere to be seen. Wilson chasing a chicken, Taub's face everywhere, Foreman's apartment, video games…
“Help me!” Toothbrushes, toilet seats, garbage. Kidneys, tumors… Vicodin. “Please don't… ” Hookers, booze, swimming pool. “My body is a cage… ,” Vicodin.
“Help me!" Mice in cages. More muscle? No, tumors. Dead mice in cages.
“Help me!” Get them out, a better leg, a better life. Bathtub butchery, unbearable pain, failed again…
“Help me!” House heard his voice echo, ringing in his ears, taunting him.
“Dr. House, what's wrong?” The voice was feminine, the touch on his arm, gentle. He slowly opened his eyes. They refused to focus right away, but after a moment conceded to his efforts to see. He was lying down; the woman standing to his right was in hospital scrubs. He became aware of a familiar sound; the rhythmic beeping of a vitals monitor. He looked up to his left; heart rate 83, blood pressure 118/ 79, O2 sats 98%. Whoever the monitor was connected to was still alive; he just hoped it was him. House turned to the woman in scrubs.
“Where… where am I?” His voice was hoarse, the words hesitant.
“Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.” His eyes widened, startled at what he was told. Better to be here than any other hospital, he thought. A thorough look around the room told him he was in ICU.
“Why am I here? What happened to me?” He struggled to sit up, but his efforts were to no avail; he was too weak. His hands dropped down to his right leg; it was still there. So was his left. “What the hell is going on?” House asked his voice louder and stronger than it was before. “Where's Cuddy? Where's Hannah?” His head fell back onto the bed, the effort of speaking too much for him.
“Dr. House, please calm down. Dr. Wilson told me to page him as soon as you were fully awake. I'll get him for you.” She straightened the bed linens around him and checked his IV. “I'll be right back.” She left the room and House could see through the door that she went to the nurses' station and picked up the phone. He looked around the room for something to trigger his brain to start firing on all cylinders again. A clue, a glimmer of something, anything to help his memory. His cane. Where was it? He looked around, left, right, but no sign of it. Why? He didn't walk well without it; he wouldn't be far from it, if it could be avoided. Why didn't he have it? His mind swirled in a jumble of images; blocks of stone, clouds of dust, a dark, jagged tunnel… Hannah. He put his head in his hands.
“Help me!” he said aloud.
“House?” Standing at the door to his room was Wilson. He was clearly concerned at House's outburst, yet at the same time, it brought a smile to his face. House couldn't respond at first, unable to shake the images from his head. He took a few deep breaths trying desperately to regain composure.
“Wilson, what the hell happened to me? Where's Hannah and Cuddy?” Wilson was taken aback at House's last question.
“House, just slow down and take it easy. You've been to Hell and back. Not the first time in your life it's happened, but… ” The door to the room slid open and in walked House's team. There they were; Foreman, Chase, Taub, Thirteen. But where the hell was Cuddy? “Okay, now that we're all here, let's help you try to make some sense of all this.” House cut him off.
“Where are Hannah and Cuddy?” he demanded. “Someone better tell me before… ” Before what he didn't know. His mind was still too dazed to come up with a smart-assed threat. Foreman spoke up.
“You were injured at the building collapse downtown.”
“House, please calm down,” said Thirteen. “Your BP and heart rate are spiking. Keep this up and you'll go back on Propofol.” He looked at her incredulously.
“You put me in a medical coma? Why?” He looked around at each of the team members accusingly. They all turned to look at Wilson. House followed their stares. “Why?”
“When you were brought in to the ER, you had all the signs of moderate head trauma; besides the wound on the back of your head, there was loss of consciousness, pupils fixed and dilated, loss of bladder function… ”
“So, I pee on myself and you decide to put me in a coma? It's a good thing you never had a kid. Or a dog.” Chase and Thirteen exchanged smiles; he was beginning to sound like House again. Wilson continued.
“It was decided, given your previous tolerance for strong medication, you could tolerate the Propofol. MRI revealed a little bruising on the brain, but given the depth of the wound on your head, it was best to just let your body rest and heal slowly. By some miracle, other than a few broken ribs, a partially collapsed lung, some wounds on your back that needed stiches, the head wound, and a bunch of bruises, you're OK. You are unbelievably lucky,” Wilson said ruefully.
“Lucky I didn't pull the stiches out of my leg,” House said conceding to Wilson. “But guess that's healed enough by now.” No one answered. He looked at them. “The surgery I did on my leg has healed, I assume.” It was as much a question as it was a statement.
“What surgery?” asked Taub.
“The surgery I did on my leg after the tumors developed.” They all stared at him as if he were quite insane. “I took some medication from the research lab where they were re-growing muscle in mice,” he said condescendingly, expecting them to know what he was talking about. “The medicine grew tumors, not muscle. The mice all died.” Still no response. “I had three tumors in my leg. I had to get them out before I wound up pinned down on a board for some high schooler's ultimate science fair project. I operated on myself in my bathtub.” He looked around the room, the silence weighing more and more heavily on him by the second.
“House,” said Foreman. “That never happened.” Foreman's words hung in the air like a death knell. What the hell was going on? There was no reason, no logic to them denying the events had happened. House knew he had been in the coma for a while, but he hadn't lost his mind; he… couldn't… lose… He looked at Thirteen.
“You helped kill your brother when his Huntington's became too much. You pleaded down to a lesser charge. You went to jail for overprescribing.” The team and Wilson looked at him, slack-jawed.
“House, I don't have a brother. And I've never gone to jail,” Thirteen replied. He turned to Wilson.
“You hooked up with your first wife again… big time. You proposed to her at the wedding we went to.”
“My… my first wife, Sam? Why in God's name would I propose? Hook up… yeah, but propose? And what wedding?” House shook his head; none of this was real? He looked at Taub and Foreman
“You two bunkmates?”
“Excuse me?” asked Taub. House continued to look back and forth between the two. “No,” said Taub, “Foreman and I do not live together. I live with my wife Rachel. We are still having some problems, but we haven't separated. Yet.” House became more and more unsure of everything as the minutes went by. Those things happened. He knew they did, he could see it all clearly in his mind; the dress Cuddy wore to the wedding, picking up Thirteen at the prison.
“Cuddy and I started dating.” He looked at Wilson. “You and I babysat Rachel. The kid swallowed a dime and we had to bring her here to do an ultrasound without Cuddy finding out.” All in the room were stunned to hear House's words. “Cuddy got sick,” House said quietly. “She had a tumor in her kidney we thought had metastasized to her lungs. She broke up with me because I wasn't there for her.” He looked at them all for confirmation. There was none coming. Thirteen sat down on the end of the bed.
“You know that medically induced comas frequently have the side effect on a patient of vivid images… hallucinations… especially when they've been in the coma for a while. Psychologists believe they come from the subconscious, that they're not anything we have control over. It's not surprising that you believe all these things to be real. But, they're not.” Foreman stepped forward.
“House, nothing here has radically changed since you've been sedated. We're all still here; the cases we've taken on haven't been too extensive. Everything's been the same in the past couple of weeks.” House looked at him with a mixture of disbelief and confusion.
“Couple of weeks?” he asked. He looked to Wilson for help to explain it all.
“You do remember the building collapse downtown, right? You, Cuddy and Foreman went down there. You were treating patients and when the crane operator was pulled out, you sent Foreman back here with him.” House nodded his head.
"Yeah, I went down there after I gave Cuddy her great-grandfather's book.” He stopped. “Cuddy and Lucas are engaged… ”
“Yes,” Wilson said as he looked at House's team. “Cuddy and Lucas got engaged.” House nodded his head and smirked.
“So that's why she's not here. She's on her honeymoon already, enjoying all the confines of dreaded bliss.” Wilson cleared his throat.
“House, you obviously since you’ve been asking about her, you remember a woman you were treating named Hannah.”
“Yeah, that's the one I've been asking about. Where is she?” House was getting agitated. Chase moved forward to House's bedside. An alarm was sounding from one of the monitors.
“House, you've loosened one of your leads. Let me... ” House grabbed him by his tie and pulled him down to him.
“Get away from me and tell me where my patient is.” Chase looked uncomfortable as he replied.
“She's dead.” House loosened his grip on him and Chase straightened up. “I'm sorry.” House sat expressionless as he processed the information. Wilson finally spoke up again.
“There was a secondary collapse. You, Hannah and some of the rescue workers were down in this … space… ”
“It was a pocket of air, with a tunnel of sorts leading to it. It was her husband's birthday. She was picking up his present.” House tried to pull bits and pieces of information out of his brain. Eyes transfixed on the wall in front of him, House said, “Cuddy wanted to amputate the leg that was caught under debris. Hannah didn't want that. Neither did I. They were trying to lift the debris off her leg… I don't remember… I can't… ” He looked at Wilson desperately.
“The secondary collapse happened. You were trapped down there. So were some of the firemen. They managed to rescue all of you. Hannah was killed, probably instantly. She was still down there after they got you and the others to safety, the living being the priority. The EMTs knew she was dead, but somehow,” Wilson drew a deep breath, “Somehow that information didn't get to Cuddy.” House tore his gaze away from the wall and his eyes bore into Wilson.
“Where is she?”
“I know my name, damn it, where is she?” House threw the covers off, and with a great effort, swung his feet to the floor. He tried to stand, but stumbled, his knees buckling. Foreman and Thirteen caught him, and prevented him from hitting the floor.
“Get back in bed… ”
“Don't be crazy… ”
“You're in no shape… ”
“Tell me where she is!” demanded House.
“Rehab. She left yesterday. She's at Garden State Rehab and Nursing facility in south Jersey.” It was Taub who broke through the babble with the information House wanted. He saw the look on House's face, and wished he hadn't.
“Please get back in bed.” It was Thirteen speaking, gently easing him backward, with a firm hand on his chest. He complied, too stunned to fight. He leaned his head back and for the first time was aware of the acute pain coming from the back of his head, shoulders and lower back. The only thing that didn't seem to hurt, ironically, were his legs. He closed his eyes, and checked once again to make sure both were still there. He wasn't sure about anything anymore. Wilson, Taub, and Chase moved about the room nervously, not wanting to speak. Foreman sat in a chair by the window. Thirteen stood by House's bed, readjusting the medical equipment he was still attached to. He looked up at her, his eyes searching hers for anything that might lead him to believe that what he heard was a lie. But instead of redemption, he found damnation.
“Cuddy wasn't even down there with me, not when they were trying to lift up the concrete.” Wilson walked to House's bedside.
“Cuddy didn't know Hannah had been killed. She went down into the rubble to see if she could do something to help her. There was a third collapse. The rescue workers got to her right away, but the damage had already been done. Both lungs collapsed; she was without oxygen for a minimum of two to four minutes. Cardiac arrest, L1 through S1 vertebrae shattered, head injuries. It's a miracle she even survived. She can't walk, she can't feed herself, and she can't talk. She's not aware of anyone or anything going on around her.” Wilson choked up and stared down at the floor; he couldn't look at his friend. “I'm sorry, House.” House looked at him, full comprehension of what Wilson just told him rolling over him like shock waves. Too many thoughts, too many questions invading his thought processes for him to focus on any one of them.
"How long has it been since the collapse?”
"A little over two weeks. First, you were under sedation for a while. The breathing tube was taken out about a week ago; you were doing well on smaller and smaller amounts of oxygen, so we started weaning you off the sedation about three days ago. It seemed like you were aware of things going on in the room a few times. I brought in some music, some of your CDs, hoping they would stimulate something once you were weaned off the meds." Nodding, House raised his head up so his gaze met Wilson's.
“Take me to her.”
“House, you're not ready to go anywhere right now. Besides, there's nothing you can do.”
“The hell I can't. Let me see her chart, let me see the x-rays, the Cat scans, the MRI. I'll figure something out.”
“There’s nothing to figure out. This isn't curable, this isn't going away… there’s no mystery to solve. No one can save her… not even you.” House looked away at Wilson's words. He wasn't used to being trumped and this time, it stung all the more. There were no hidden clues, no buried nuances in a medical history… Cuddy was a vegetable; brain dead and paralyzed and he was powerless to do a damn thing about it.
“Get out. All of you get out,” House said intently. The team and Wilson exchanged looks, not sure what to do. “Get out!" he shouted, seeing that no one moved. “I recognize my voice, I know what I just said and so do you. Leave!” They all nodded and turned toward the door.
“Glad to have you back, House,” said Foreman turning back for a second.
“Yeah, me too.” Taub said. Chase walked over to the bed and held his fist up for a fist bump. House refused to look at him or return the gesture. Chase put his hand down.
“See you later, House,” he said as he left. Thirteen watched them walk away, and then leaned down to House.
"Later,” she said softly. Again no response. She left the room without looking back. Wilson stood alone by House's bed side.
“That 'get out' was meant for you, too,” House said as he stared off away from his friend. Wilson acknowledged the command.
“I know. I'm leaving. I'm going to order clear liquids for you, maybe by tomorrow we can get you on solid foods.” House continued to ignore Wilson. “Perhaps in a week we can get you out of here and resting at home.” No response. “I'll go write the orders.”
“Good God, you're my doctor? No wonder you kept me knocked out for so long. You knew if I could talk, I'd run circles around you. Make people wonder which village was missing their idiot.” Wilson smiled.
“Glad to see you're still you, House." He started to walk out of the room.
“I've got a lot to talk about.” Wilson nodded his head.
“Yeah, I know.”