"Out of the Ashes"

Chapter Ten - "No Vacancy"

House was making his way to the elevators in a very good mood. He might even be able to put up with Kyle James at this point. Might being the operative word; but any illusion of that was quickly shattered by the sound of Foreman's voice.

“House!” House rolled his eyes, pushed the elevator button, then turned to face Foreman.

“I've already been taken out to the proverbial wood shed. I'm going to do my best impression of Pollyanna and make the husband think he's visiting Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.” The doors opened and House walked inside; he quickly realized that Foreman had entered the car with him. “What's the matter? Not sugary enough for you? Oops! I forgot our patient is a diabetic.” Foreman sighed.

“House, we have a problem. Potentially a big problem and I wanted to make you aware of it right away. Wilson and I were just in a meeting with some of the board members and the accountants; It turns out the hospital has been losing money over the last few years. We’re not sure how Cuddy kept that fact hidden from everyone, but it’s true. The expansion of the heart catheterization lab took millions, the clinic takes a lot of money… ”

“Maybe they should think about getting rid the damn clinic. It was Cuddy's baby more than her own kid was. It's nothing more than an ER light with kids coming in with marbles up their noses and old men using Poly-Grip where Preparation-H should go.” Foreman nodded in agreement.

“I know, but by keeping low level problems out of the ER we've kept and enhanced our level one trauma center rating; the entire hospital has a level one rating thanks to the way things are set up. And that attracts a lot of attention… the good kind,” said Foreman. “There are a couple of areas they want to initiate cut backs in. One, they want to eliminate the hospice program.” House looked at Foreman, then down at the floor.

“Wilson started the hospice center. How emotional did he get when he ripped the head honchos a new one?” The elevator doors opened and Foreman pulled House to the right, out of view of Bonnie's room so the James family and the team couldn't see them.

“He was clearly upset, but not nearly as upset as he was at one of the other topics.” House looked at Foreman. “They're questioning diagnostics; at the very least, the size of the department. When you were out on medical leave, Wilson and I were pulled right away into doing the administrative crap. The department essentially ran with three doctors. They want to know why that can't happen all the time. One even said, if House is that good, why does he need anyone else? The other departments could just run the tests, give you the results, and you'll solve the cases on your own.” House was agitated and began to pace back and forth, looking around the ward.

“Why go after diagnostics? They've never questioned the need for the team before. Who pissed in their Corn Flakes?”

“I don't know,” said Foreman. “In the past, Cuddy always spoke up in the department's defense and deflected the issue.” House stopped pacing and looked at him.

“So all this is happening just because Cuddy isn't here to play cheerleader for us? Maybe we can all take a field trip down to Garden State Rehab and visit so she can wave her pom-poms for everyone and remind them how much in donations diagnostics generates.”

“House, take it easy. Wilson did a great job of supporting the department. He pointed out to them that if they tried to get you to cut staff, they might wind up losing the whole department; that there are plenty of hospitals around who would love to get their hands on you and the team, not to mention the endowments that would walk away with you. Luckily, the accounts backed him up with numbers, and it seemed to quiet them down somewhat. Besides, there were only five of the board members at the meeting; three were for the cuts and two weren't.” House grimaced.

“It's still a majority,” he said disgustedly. Foreman nodded in concession to House's comment.

“It's not anything that's going to happen right away, but the subject has been brought up. I thought maybe we should mention this to the rest of the team so they know what's going on.”

“And by ‘we’ of course, you mean me.” Foreman rolled his eyes and spread his arms open, gesturing toward House.

“Yes, you. If you want we… or you to be more exact, can tell the others, and we can sit down and start talking about this. Maybe tonight. The sooner we address it, the more strongly we can make our arguments when the time comes.” House didn't answer. “So, do you think that's a good idea?” House stopped walking.

“No. I'm busy tonight.”

“You're busy?” asked Foreman. “With something more important than the department?” House looked into Bonnie's room and saw Kyle leaning over to give his wife a kiss. A smile slowly crept over House's face; for the first time in his life, he said the right answer.

“Yeah, I am.” House began walking again toward Bonnie's room with Foreman following close behind. House slid open the door.

“Greetings,” he said with a certain amount of false cheerfulness. “How is my unique and interesting patient doing?” Bonnie James gave him a dirty look.

“You know I hate those two words more than anything,” she said.

“Yeah, but I just wanted to see if you were feisty and bubbly enough to complain.” Bonnie tried to smile.

“I'm always feisty,” she said. House walked over to where Kyle and Don were standing.

“Yeah, you kept bugging me to make you better.” He looked at Kyle and Don. “What a ridiculous request to make of a doctor.” He looked up at the monitor and frowned. “This thing must not be working right.”

“Why do you say that?” Chase asked. House squinted at the monitor.

“All her readings are normal,” remarked House.

“Where are your glasses?” House looked at Bonnie.

“What makes you think I wear glasses?”

“You were squinting at the monitor. As a doctor you ought to know that not using glasses when they've been prescribed for you, is the fastest way to further weaken your eyesight.” House looked at Kyle and Don.

“I take it her nickname at home is Mother Hen,” he said.

“Among others,” said Don. Kyle gave his son a nudge in the arm and a glaring look.

“Sorry, Mom.” House was doing his best not to smile.

“I thank you for your concern, Mama Cluck. But the monitor is fuzzy, not me.” Bonnie looked chagrined.

“Oh… sorry.” House turned to Don.

“This,” he said gesturing to Bonnie. “Is a perfect example of be careful what you wish for. You got your mom back.” Don unconsciously assumed the demeanor of a shy little kid as he leaned over to hug his mother.

“I'll take her.” House noticed that Bonnie winced as her son hugged her.

“What hurts?” he asked. Don moved away as House moved in to the side of the bed.

“The bed sores. I'm feeling more alert than I have in a while and I guess I'm just taking note of them.” House nodded and handed Don his cane. Grabbing him by the shoulders, he spun him around to face the wall away from his mother's bed.

“Stay like that. At least until I tell you to move.” House looked at Bonnie. “Think you can help me roll over this time without the use of a crane? I hope so, 'cause a crane is my least favorite thing at this point in my life.” House's team couldn't help but smile.

“I think I can grab the bed rail… ” She did, but Bonnie's hand slipped off. “I'm sorry. I still feel so weak.”

“Honey, you haven't eaten right in weeks. You need time to get back to normal,” Kyle said. House turned to Kyle.

“Go around to the other side and let her grab on to you. I'm sure you're more of an incentive to hold on to than the bed rail.” Kyle walked around the bed. Bonnie reached over and grabbed his arm. “On the count of three. One, two, seven.” House pulled the draw sheet and easily rolled Bonnie over. He pulled up her gown and took a look at the sores. “This is not a pretty sight.” Thirteen, Chase and Taub all moved over to the bed to take a look.

“She's at stage two,” commented Thirteen.

“Borderline three on some of them,” noted Chase. House nodded.

“Considering she’s a diabetic, arrange for a consult with Wound Care. Do not let them change her meds. Only topical treatment allowed. If they have a problem with it, tell them to talk to Foreman or Wilson. Ready to turn back to the dark side?” House said addressing Bonnie.

“Yes, Lord Vader,” she replied. Bonnie gently rolled onto her back with her husband's help. She could see House was giving her a strange look.

“‘Star Wars’ fan big time are you,” he said doing his best Yoda.

“My first date with my first boyfriend was seeing that movie. It's always been a favorite of mine.” House nodded as he pulled the covers up. He turned to Don and took his cane out of Don's hands. House looked at Taub.

“Where does she stand with nutrition?”

"I ordered solid foods for her dinner. Thirteen got her a little something from the cafeteria, since she did well with the clear liquids at lunch, and was still hungry. Her blood sugars were stable, so it seemed the best approach.” House turned and looked at Thirteen disapprovingly.

“How many times have I told you not to get the patients anything from the cafeteria? We're trying to cure them, not kill them.” Thirteen smiled.

“I didn't think a container of strawberry yogurt would be too deadly.” Bonnie nodded.

“Deadly or not, it tasted great. I’m getting my appetite back.”

“Good,” said House. “Because the nutrition supplements we're going to order for you aren't going to taste like that. Write an order to dietary to put a supplement on each tray she gets,” he said to Taub.

“And I’ll make sure to tell them it has to be sugar-free,” Taub replied. House rolled his eyes.

“No, you won’t tell them that. We’re doctors, not nutrition Gestapos. Besides, it should already be noted in her chart what her dietary restrictions are,” House said sounding annoyed.

“Um, can I turn around now?” It was Don who spoke; while he took his cane, House failed to give the at ease command.

“Why are you still standing there like that?” asked his mother.

“Because Dr. House told me not to move until he said it was OK.”

“And you listened?” said House as he spun Don around to face the room again. “Look me up when you get your medical license. As opposed to what I'm stuck with, I could use someone like you on my team.” House saw the disapproving looks from the team and chose to ignore them.

“Dr. House, I wanted to talk to you,” said Kyle.

“So I've been warned,” said House. Kyle put his head down and took a deep breath.

“To say I've been obnoxious and overbearing during all this is beyond an understatement,” he said picking up his head. He looked at House. “Very soon after I met Bonnie, I realized that I could never picture my life without her in it. I was not in a very good place in my life when we met; actually I was never in a very good place. If I hadn't met her, I wouldn't be here right now. She saved my life.” He reached over and took Bonnie's hand.

“I think she can say the same thing about you,” noted Thirteen. “How long have you been married now?”

“Twenty-three years. Believe me, no one thought it would last,” said Bonnie.

“Why?” asked Foreman. Kyle and Bonnie both laughed.

“Well, her record collection consisted of Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand and other pop artists. Mine were people like Iggy Pop and the Dead Kennedys. And that was only the start of topics on which we diverged.”

“Ouch,” said Taub.

“So, how… ” asked Chase.

“Someone once said that love isn't about looking at each other, but it’s looking outward in the same direction. We've basically been looking in the same direction for all these years. Having differences kept us on our toes,” Bonnie said.

“You're enough alike to be comfortable with each other and have enough differences to keep things interesting,” said House as he stared off into space, a slight smile coming over his face.

“Exactly,” said Bonnie with surprise. “I wouldn't have pegged you to think that way.”

“I never used to.” House realized the team and Foreman were staring at him and quickly regained his composure. “I think we'll be able to spring you from the good ship lollipop on Thursday or Friday. As long as your labs continue to improve, we get the mining expedition closed up,” he said pointing to the bed sores. “And you keep eating, you'll be dancing on top of bars once again.” Bonnie narrowed her eyes.

“You have no photographic proof of that,” she said defensively. House looked at Kyle.

“You're right about her… champagne would be redundant.” Don James looked a little confused, but even he had to laugh.

“Dr. House, Dr. Foreman gave me a great understanding of a differential diagnosis, but I have some questions about your development of it, and your approach to cases,” said Don. “Would I be able to talk to you about it?” House was about to answer when his phone vibrated; it was Lydia leaving a text.

“I should be done in half an hour. I'll stop by the hospital and see how you're doing. Dein Schatz." House smiled and shook his head at Lydia’s sign off to him. Dein Schatz translated to “your sweetheart.” He became aware that everyone was staring at him.

“My stock broker. I just made a killing in sheep intestines.”

"Good to know you didn’t get fleeced," said Bonnie. House gave her a disapproving look. Bonnie laughed, and House watched as her husband took her hand. It was then that he made a spur of the moment decision.

"I'm not going to be here the next few days. This was my first day back after the building collapse I was injured in; Dr. Wilson was afraid I was coming back too soon and I think he was right. My team and I will communicate via smoke signals so I get the most up-to-date info on you.” House could see out of the corner of his eye that the team was looking at each other in puzzlement. “As for information about the DDX development,” he said to Don. “Leave your e-mail address with one of the team. They'll send you some articles from journals that aren't for naked, untrained eyes; but I have feeling you'll have no problem with them.”

“Thanks, Dr. House,” the boy said with a smile. House now addressed Kyle.

“The team will give you a run down on home care instructions; I can tell you now, it involves a bottle of champagne.” Kyle laughed.

“And never will it be appreciated more,” he said. “Once again, please accept my apologies for my behavior. Words can't express how grateful I am.” House hesitated for a moment when Kyle extended his hand. But one glance at Bonnie's face reminded him of the comments they made about their relationship and how he related to his with Lydia. He grasped Kyle's hand and shook it.

“You're welcome,” House said. He started to make his way to the door, but paused at the end of Bonnie's bed.

“I think you've got everything you need to deal with the pain,” he said glancing toward Kyle.

“I hope you do, too. Thank you, Dr. House.” He nodded and walked out of the room. The team exchanged looks and stood in an awkward silence for a moment.

“We're going to go write the orders and call for the consult,” said Thirteen. “One of us will be back in a minute.” Foreman led the group out of the room. He quickly surveyed the area and saw that House was still waiting for the elevators.

“House!” the four of them called out at once. He turned to look at them with a mixture of shock and confusion.

“What's the matter?” he asked.

“That's what we want to know,” said Chase. House looked at him as if he were crazy.

“There's nothing wrong,” House said turning toward the elevator, “Besides, I wouldn't tell you if there was.” He reached over and banged on the call button with the side of his fist.

“House, you've been distracted through the entire case. In the patient's room you alternated between being your usual self and being… kinder to the patient and her family than you normally are, to say the least,” said Foreman.

“Honestly, there were times you were just staring off into space like you weren't even paying attention,” Taub noted. House quickly passed through being annoyed and went straight to pissed off.

“If you were paying attention, you'd know that I'm the one who solved the case.” He looked at the others. “You were all coming up with half-assed ideas about rodent droppings and other crap.”

“House, you've got something on your mind. You wouldn't even cancel whatever plans you have for tonight to discuss what's going on with the department.”

“What do you mean, what's going on with the department?” asked Chase. Thirteen and Taub spoke over him asking similar questions. House looked around and started to pace.

“Remind me to get the measurements of your mouth so I can have a cork custom made for it,” he said looking at Foreman. Foreman shook his head from side to side.

“I'm sorry. It's just that we can't function if you can't concentrate on your job.” Foreman's words cut into House. He wasn't concentrating well; he was easily distracted at the moment… with good reason. He decided it was time to put an end to their questions.

“I don't normally reveal anything personal and I don't want to start now, but you've left me no choice.” House looked at the group standing before him. “I'm back on Vicodin. I don't want any lectures... ” House looked at Thirteen and saw she was hiding a smile behind her upraised hand. He looked at Foreman, Chase and Taub, but they were avoiding his gaze at all costs. “What the hell is going on?”

“I told you! I told you he'd try to blame it on Vicodin.” House turned to look at the nurses' station, the direction that the disembodied voice came from. Wilson popped out with a huge grin on his face and walked over to the group. “I called it… I called it!”

“So did I,” said Thirteen. “By the way, the three of you each owe Wilson and me twenty dollars.” Wilson stood there just nodding his head. House looked upon the scene with utter disbelief.

“Have you people all lost your minds? ‘Cause I have first-hand experience with it and you sure look like it to me.”

“I won rock, paper, scissors, so I get to tell,” said Chase. House's eyes burned right through him, but Chase paid it no mind. “We all decided to step outside to get some air earlier today and saw your little PDA by your parking space.”

“Little? I thought he was going to throw his cane up in the air the way Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat at the beginning of her show,” Taub said. House rolled his eyes and looked all around, finally focusing on Wilson.

“Vengeance will be mine,” he said. Wilson spread his arms open and stood there slack jawed and shaking his head.

“Wilson didn't tell us to go looking for you,” Thirteen said. “He just thought it would be a good idea to take a walk.”

“Hey! Whose side are you on?” asked Wilson. She looked at House.

“Given the look on his face, my own.” House looked down at the floor.

“So you see me and came running to him like pigs to the slop trough. And he told you … ”

“Everything,” the team said in unison. House picked his head up and glared at Wilson.

“I'm impressed. You actually have fewer morals than Perez Hilton.”

“If you didn't want to be seen, you should have picked a more private place,” Wilson admonished. House let out a disgusted sigh.

“Look at it this way,” said Foreman. “At least we know your behavior isn't attributable to your head injury, which we were afraid it was. Oh, by the way, they already know about the budget issues.” House shot him a look.

“Actually I'm sort of the one who told them,” Wilson said. “I was… ranting about the meeting Foreman and I had with the board members; they were passing by the conference room and heard enough to figure it out. I just confirmed it for them.” House nodded.

“I assume dealing with it can wait until next week?”

“It can wait for a little while,” Wilson said.

“OK, then this concludes this discussion of the social, political and geometric possibilities of my personal life. Cherish it and hold it dear, because there will never be another one again. Text, I repeat, TEXT do not call me each day and let me know how the patient's doing. Get back in there and take care of things. You,” he said turning to Wilson: “Come upstairs with me. Your tongue has an appointment with a meat grinder I have stashed in my office.” The team said their collective good-byes and turned their attention back to the patient. Foreman had stayed with House and Wilson.

“I'm going to head back down and start calling up those files we spoke about,” he said.

“Good idea. I'll be down in a few minutes,”' said Wilson. Several elevator cars had come and gone while they all had been talking, so House's original call was long gone. Foreman reached over to push the down button, when House hooked his wrist with the curved end of his cane.

“This elevator is going up. Don't need to push too many buttons and confuse it. You have two good legs. Use the stairs.” House said. Foreman was about to say something, when Wilson caught his eye and gestured to the stairs with his head. Foreman let out a deep sigh.

“No problem. See you down there.” He turned and left House and Wilson standing a distance apart. House reached over and once again pushed the button with the side of his clenched fist. He wouldn't look at Wilson and he wouldn't speak.

“House, if you're not going to talk to me, then why am I going upstairs?” Wilson asked. No response. “Really I have more important things to do than to stand here to be ignored.” Still no response. “They came to me because they were worried about you. You have been acting strangely all day and I know why, but they were just concerned.” Silence. “What is the purpose of me standing here?”

“Me getting the satisfaction of knowing it’s driving you crazy. It’s bothering you even more than when I used to leave dirty dishes in the sink.” The doors to the elevator opened and the two stepped in.

“When are you meeting Lydia?” House looked at his phone.

“In a few minutes. I just have to grab my backpack. I need you to do something for me; there's something I need to give the patient before she leaves for greener pastures. The patient's husband described her in younger and healthier days by saying that getting her drunk on champagne would be redundant. I want you to take some of your ill-gotten gains that you won at my expense, and buy a bottle of champagne. Make sure she gets it the morning she's leaving; and make sure she knows it’s from me.” The doors opened and House exited the elevator. He realized that Wilson wasn't next to him and turned to see why Wilson wasn't moving.

“What's wrong?” House asked. Wilson moved forward slowly, looking at House with widened eyes.

“Who are you and what have you done with Gregory House?” House took his cane and rapped Wilson across both shins. “Ow! Never mind, he's still here.” House began walking to his office with Wilson following gingerly behind.

“Of course I'm still here. Falling in love doesn't make you a different person; it hopefully makes you a better one.” House entered his office and began to shut down his computer. He noticed that his red coffee mug was missing, and saw that it was still by the coffee pot. He stared to walk into the conference room.

“You know, I've read a lot of psychology books. You sort of have to dealing with cancer patients. And I read something by Carl Jung that I think you could appreciate right now. He said, ‘The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed.’” House thought about Jung's observation for a moment, then grabbed his mug and started back to his office. He stopped where Wilson was standing at the end of the conference table.

“I know there are a lot of things about me that could stand to change; but I don't know if even Lydia could do it.”

“Oh, I know she can.” House looked at him. “You just walked from your office to the coffee machine, back to here… without your cane.” House quickly looked down at his hands, over to the coffee machine and then into his office; there sat his piano keys cane, right next to his desk where he left it. He looked at Wilson who had a huge smile on his face. “House, fight for her. Do whatever you have to do to keep her. Don't let your fears and doubts cause you to lose her. I've known you for years and I have never seen you this happy. Not even with Stacy.” House slowly walked into his office and put his mug down on the desk. “If I told you right now, that the only way you could be sure that Lydia would be happy the rest of her life, was for you to walk away, what would you do?” House looked at Wilson.

“I'd walk; I'd run if I could. She's had too many people hurt her in her life; I won't add my name to the queue.” Wilson smiled and nodded.

“Congratulations, you just passed part one of the ‘Are You in Love?’ test. You care about her happiness more than your own.” House looked over at Wilson.

“What's the next part of the test?”

“Keeping that feeling going.” House was about to say something when his phone buzzed. He pulled it out and saw Lydia had texted him. He quickly dialed her number.

“Hi there!” House smiled at the sound of her voice.

“Hey. I'm finished and I'm trying to get down to you, but Wilson doesn't want to let me go.” Wilson gave House a look.

“Well, I don't blame him; I don't want to let go of you either.”

“I'll be right down.” He ended the call and put the phone in his pocket. He grabbed his backpack and cane, looked at Wilson and said, “I'm outta here.” He left his office and started to walk to the elevators. Wilson followed and House noticed he was unusually quiet. House called for the car when they got to the elevator bank.

“I gave your tongue a stay of execution since I'm in a really good mood. Why so quiet?” Wilson shook his head. The car arrived and they entered the elevator. Wilson continued his silence on the ride down. After the car stopped and the doors opened, they exited to the lobby. Wilson suddenly stopped. House could see he was getting really emotional.

“House, I don't want to sound like a mush… but I am just really, really happy for you.” House knew he meant it, but he could also hear the longing behind his words. Wilson hadn't been with anyone really, since Amber. Now seeing House, of all people, find love had to hurt.

“Thanks. I just wish she had a sister.” Wilson finally made eye contact with House.

“Me, too.”

“I told you… she does have a best friend. And I've found that if you hang onto them long enough, you'll find they're actually good for something.” Wilson smiled.

“I'll see you next Monday. I won't tell you to enjoy yourself, because I know you will.” House looked through the lobby window and saw Lydia sitting in her car happily singing along to some song on the radio.

“Yeah… I’m sure I will.”

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