([identity profile] wrote in [community profile] cuddys_house2009-07-23 10:10 pm

Saturday, 21 April

Cuddy turned off the light in the kitchen and headed for the front door. She grabbed her purse and a light jacket, then stopped, looking around and feeling as if she'd forgotten something.

The past week had been very long and very hard and very lonely. The only reason she'd been able to cope with it was because she knew House was where he needed to be to get the help he needed to have. Whenever she got down thinking about him confined to a psychiatric hospital and worried about what their future really held, she reminded herself that this was for the best. It didn't make her feel any less lonely but at least the loneliness had a purpose and she could live with that.

She gave herself a shake to clear the cobwebs collecting in her mind and strode to the door. She pulled the door open, and nearly got a fist in the face.

"Oh, God." Wilson jerked back, pulling his hand away just before he hit her instead of the door. "I.... Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Cuddy said, puzzled but amused. "You missed. The question is--why were you about to knock on my door?"

"I think you should let me drive." Wilson put his hand up before she argue with him, again, that she was perfectly capable of driving herself to Mayfield. "I know what you said but what if something happened? What if you go into labor?"

"For heaven's sake, Wilson," Cuddy said, stepping out onto the porch and locking her front door behind her. She turned to face him. "I'm not hiking off into the wilderness. And I have my cell phone," she added, waving phone at him before tucking it away in her purse.

"I know. And I don't care," he said with vaguely apologetic shrug. "You alone and being this pregnant makes me nervous. Please--let me drive."

She stared at him for a moment. She hadn't been looking forward to making the drive alone with nothing to distract her from her thoughts. In some ways, she wasn't looking forward to seeing House because she was worried about what she might see. If he was having a bad time of it, she would have a hard time staying optimistic. And then she'd have the long drive home again, alone.

"Okay, you win," she said finally. "But you have to let me buy you lunch."

Wilson gave a relieved nod of his head. Then he gave her a quirky little grin. "Well, this will be different. Normally on a road trip, I have to pay for all the food."


Cuddy was actually glad she'd let Wilson drive. He was, as always, enjoyable company. More than that, though, he knew the situation. She didn't have to pretend with him. He understood some of what she was feeling--he was probably the only other person who could--so she didn't have to explain herself. They took turns reassuring each other that everything was going to be just fine. Even if neither of them was completely convinced, it was still nice to hear it.

She found herself getting almost unbearably nervous as they went through the visiting procedure in the reception area. After signing in, her bag was searched and they had to turn over anything that could potentially be used to cause injury. It was a horrible feeling to have to look at ordinary, everyday things like nail clippers and calculate how much damage it could do. And she was only visiting. House must feel like he was in prison.

"It's okay," Wilson said quietly, placing his hand on her back as an orderly led them to House's room. She answered him with a terse nod, then stopped in her tracks when the orderly went to knock on one of the doors.

"Do you...?" Wilson stepped back and nodded down the hall. "I'll just wait over here. Yell when--if--House is ready to see me."

"Thank you." Cuddy walked to the door just as the orderly called through the door to announce House had a visitor. He opened the door for Cuddy then, and headed back down the hall. Cuddy took a deep breath and stepped through the door. That first moment of seeing House churned up a whole bunch of emotions but she pushed them down and smiled at him. "Hi. Okay if I come in?"

[identity profile] 2009-07-24 01:52 pm (UTC)(link)
"Don't forget, Greg," Justine, one of the inpatients called after House as he limped out of the common room. "You're on cleaning duty with me and Tom tonight."

He stopped at the door to look over his shoulder at her. "Do you tell me that every single time because you think I'm stupid or because the only bit of self-importance you get in here is by telling others what to do?"

He stepped out into the hall without waiting for her answer. Over the past week, he'd gotten to know some of the inpatients a little, and Justine was one of those people. He didn't actually mind her too much, except during her manic phases when she either became very hyperactive or uncontrollably talkative. Or when she got on his case about his cleaning duties, which he both hated with a passion and secretly was glad for. Hated because he couldn't stand having to work with others to do something as menial as cleaning. And secretly glad because it gave him something to do.

He wandered down the hall to his room and shut himself inside. He walked over to the bed and sank down on the edge with a sullen slump of his shoulders and glanced around his pale green room. His cell, he'd quickly grown to think this room. His prison and his sanctuary. He lifted a hand and ran it over his face, then stood up again and started to pace the room, restless and out of his mind with boredom.

Restless though he was, he was also a little drowsy from the medication he'd been started on earlier in the week. His doctor had put him on two types of medication to get his mood and his nightmares under control - amitriptyline for his PTSD, which the doctor had also diagnosed with a case of major depression, and a low dosage of prazosin for his nightmares. The first couple of days after starting the amitriptyline, he felt nauseous and dizzy, unable to really do much besides nap throughout the day. Those initial side effects were easing off considerably, giving way to the more common and longer lasting side effects: dry mouth, loss of appetite and drowsiness. However sleepy he felt, though, he never stopped being restless and he found himself looking forward to the routine activities of the psych ward's programme if only because it gave him something to do.

He wandered over to the barred window and peered out at the fields below and the treeline in the distance. It was a sunny day. He hadn't been outside since he'd arrived at the hospital, though. The heat of the sun felt almost soothing on his tired body and he closed his eyes to concentrate on it. A few moments later, his eyes flew back open when he heard someone knock on the door and announce he had a visitor.

He turned on the spot and his chest clenched when he saw Cuddy push the door open. He couldn't tell if he was glad as hell to see her or ashamed because of being in here, because of everything that had happened. One thing he did know was that he hardly looked his best - his scruff had grown to a fuller beard and his clothes were rumpled and made look every bit as pathetic as he felt. The very first thing he noticed once the initial surprise of seeing Cuddy passed was how much bigger she looked. She'd managed to somehow expand at the waistline even more in a mere week.

He hesitated at her question, then gave a nod. "Sure," he replied. He watched her step into the room and he added, "Wasn't expecting to see you."
Edited 2009-07-24 13:58 (UTC)

[identity profile] 2009-07-24 06:38 pm (UTC)(link)
He couldn't really describe the feeling that went through him when Cuddy patted her stomach and insinuated the idea of the baby coming early. If that had happened, if the baby did come early, he was pretty certain he'd be informed about it. But it cemented the huge divide he felt between Cuddy and himself. Even only being locked in this hospital for a week, no contact with anyone, made it seem like he was little more than a stranger to Cuddy now. Perhaps 'a sobering punch to the gut with reality' was the way to describe what he was feeling.

For that reason, he made no move to approach Cuddy, even as she approached him with her bag set on his bed and her hand reaching for him. The past week had been so surreal, such a huge jolt in his life. It was a completely different world in the psych hospital, detached from everything he'd ever known or owned. Combined with the way the drugs he'd put on had affected his mind, it was almost as though he'd been in some kind of dreamlike state for the past week, confronted with things about himself and thoughts about himself during the different therapy sessions he'd had to attend; things and thoughts that he couldn't escape no matter how much he tried.

"Shaving's a pain," he replied as she touched his cheek. "Can't even have your own razor in this place unless you schedule a date with one. And even then, you get perved on openly by some nurse while you get up close and personal with it."

He stooped his head slightly to let her kiss his cheek. He let his eyes close for a brief moment, then opened them again as Cuddy pulled away. Even something as personal as a kiss now felt... foreign to him, maybe because he was so hyper aware of the huge chasm between Cuddy and himself.

"Well, I haven't been lobotomised yet for trying to attack any of the Nurse Ratcheds on the ward," he answered her with a wry twist to his lips. "So, I guess you could say I'm just peachy."

The reality was, he felt pretty sedate as a result of the drowsiness his antidepressants caused. He sniffed and pulled a tissue out of his sweatpants pocket to quickly wipe his nose. One of the side effects of prazosin was nasal congestion, even on a low dose, which made it seem like he had a mild cold. "Side effect of medication," he explained before Cuddy could ask if he was sick, which he wasn't. Not contagiously, anyway. He sniffed again, then tentatively asked, "How about you? How've you been?" He motioned to her belly. "You look... explosive."

[identity profile] 2009-07-24 08:16 pm (UTC)(link)
It was just as well Junior wasn't in any hurry to arrive... though, House wasn't at all sure now where he stood with the fatherhood thing, or even the birth thing. He hadn't really discussed it much with his therapist, or anyone for that matter. In some ways, he hadn't really had the energy to think about it. Not just the emotional energy but the mental energy. His doctor had assured him that as the weeks progressed and his body got used to his new meds, he would adjust. He, too, of course had known this. But it was one thing to know something as a doctor and another thing to experience it as a patient.

He glanced towards the door when Cuddy mentioned Wilson was here, that he'd driven her in. He was glad to hear that, actually. Not just that Wilson was around but that Cuddy hadn't driven all the out here on her own. "He's just covering his own ass," House replied. "Because he knows that if anything happened, he'll be the first person to get the blame from me."

He thought about asking Cuddy to call Wilson in but then decided Wilson could wait a few more minutes. He wanted to be alone with Cuddy, even if he felt like he didn't fit in the room with her standing in it, too. Hearing Cuddy talk about 'the same old same old' and the fact that his team was getting on okay without him, though... it made him think about the fact that he was incredibly alone and lonely in here. Almost like he was forgotten in a way and everybody else was getting on with their lives without him, even Cuddy.

He reached out a hand and gently touched her stomach, then moved his other hand to her belly and pressed both his palms to it. He shuffled in a bit closer and caressed her stomach. He wished he could clear the sedated fog in his mind enough to enjoy having Cuddy with him.

The one thing he did know, however, was that he'd missed Cuddy. He'd missed the warmth of her body and the realness of having her around, her touch, her scent. The familiarity of her was triggering some of the thoughts and feelings he had about her that had been numbed over the last week from both medication and the sheer derealisation that came with being institutionalised.

Humiliated though he was about Cuddy seeing him in such a state, being close to her after a whole week of intense loneliness caused a small ache in his chest. "Well, you're not missing much, either," he said, almost murmuring. "Most interesting thing that happens around here is meal times and when I'm being forced to do my share of the cleaning roster."

[identity profile] 2009-07-25 12:04 am (UTC)(link)
Maybe he was just hopped up on mind-altering drugs and everything seemed slightly more exaggerated as a result, but Cuddy's touch - the simple rest of her hand on his - was almost anchoring. It was the first time he'd been touched by someone he wanted to be touched by. The nurses often touched his shoulder or his arm when they were talking to him, as though doing so would help keep his focus on them, but he hated it when they touched him.

Cuddy, though... Yeah, he'd missed her terribly, he realised. Amongst all the guilt and shame and other ugly emotions that came with ending up in this psych hospital, he'd missed her.

"Not really," he replied to her question about his doctor. "I'm not exactly the favourite on the ward."

He didn't want the focus to be on him and the fact that he was in here. He pulled away from Cuddy and wiped his nose with his tissue again before stuffing it back into his pocket. He sniffed and motioned to his bed. "Take a seat."

He then gestured in the direction of the door. "Unless you want grab some coffee or something from the common room. They might let me go outside while I've got visitors. How long are you and Wilson planning on staying?"

[identity profile] 2009-07-25 01:05 am (UTC)(link)
House let Cuddy pull him to the bed and he sat beside her with another sniff and a slouch of his shoulders. He studied his hands, twiddling his thumbs and fingers together by his lap as Cuddy talked, then leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. He resumed studying his hands and fingers then. He fidgeted a lot, his doctor had observed during one of their sessions in the week. Always fidgeting, be that with his leg jiggling or his fingers toying with something or the fact that he often couldn't sit still. Anxiety, she'd called it, coupled with classic learned addictive behaviour.

"Haven't really been in a visitor mood," he said. "This isn't exactly the kind of place you want to hang out with people in. And besides, these damn meds make me constipated. As if feeling constantly dizzy and nauseated while I get used to the medication isn't bad enough, I can't crap, either. Doesn't exactly make for the perkiest of moods on top of everything else that's happened this week."

He twisted his fingers together and then looked over at Cuddy. "Sorry I haven't called you since I got in here. Been having a bit of difficulty trying to work out what I'd say to you on the phone. 'The food's crap, I hate my doctor, I haven't taken a dump in four days and I'm sorry for how much I've fucked everything up'?"

He snorted humourlessly and looked back down to his hands. His doctor had encouraged him to call Cuddy but he'd refused to. In fact, the only person he'd called was Wilson and it was such a brief and pointless conversation. He'd been half doped out of his head at the time, anyway. Not the good kind of doped out, either.

"I've missed you, though," he admitted quietly after a short pause.

[identity profile] 2009-07-25 03:20 am (UTC)(link)
He watched Cuddy lift his hand to her cheek and though he wasn't one for sentimentality in any shape or form, Cuddy saying she always missed him when he was gone was the best thing she could've said right then. He'd had a lot of time to think over the past week - or to try and not think - and the future of his relatonship with Cuddy had been one of those things that had been on his mind. It had been such a crazy week, with a crazy turn of events and he and Cuddy hadn't really gotten a chance to really talk much since their weekend away. After all the hurt he'd caused her, he really didn't know what state he'd left her in. It was reassuring to know that, in spite of everything, she still loved him.

He lowered his eyes to her belly and managed the first almost smile since Cuddy had arrived. Probably the first almost smile since he'd arrived at the hospital a week ago. "You don't honestly believe that," he replied, giving Cuddy a skeptical look.

He eyed her stomach again, then untangled his hand from hers and placed it on her belly. He rubbed it as though he was caressing the baby. A month. This kid was going to be born in a month. And he was in here, classed as officially 'mentally ill'. He expected to feel panicked and anxious, typical feelings he got about the baby, especially so close to the due date and because of the current circumstance he was in.

But maybe his drugs really were deadening him because he felt strangely... empty more than anything. Empty. Silent. Dead. He slowed the caresses to a stop, then dropped his hand away and looked over at the window instead. He squinted at the mid-afternoon sunshine glaring through the glass. He felt so... lifeless.

"Maybe I'll be out of here by the time the kid's due to be born," he said a little distantly.
Edited 2009-07-25 03:20 (UTC)

[identity profile] 2009-07-25 09:41 am (UTC)(link)
The feel of Cuddy's hand on his thigh brought House's focus back to where he was and who he was sitting with. The lack of concentration he had bothered him - he wasn't sure if it was the effect of the antidepressants, the way they made him drowsy, or if he was so easily distracted because of his thoughts and the ways being in Mayfield affected him. This hospital was like bedrock - once you hit that place, there was little point in hiding behind problems anymore because every single patient was being forced to faced their issues in one way or another.

He remained peering out the window as Cuddy talked, though he listened and he heard every word she'd said. He reached a hand into his pocket to retrieve the tissue to wipe his nose again. "Of course I want to be there," he said, looking down at the tissue as he folded it ready to be used.

He quickly wiped his nose and sniffed, then turned his head to Cuddy. "Just not sure if you want me there. I mean, I'm not exactly..."

He turned to the rest of the room and waved the hand he was clutching the tissue in at his surroundings as if to say, 'I'm not exactly father material'. And he wasn't, either. No child deserved to be brought into the world with a mentally ill dad. He wanted to be there but he doubted his own self-worth to the situation and his own capabilities of being a father. So many changes had already happened, this particular change of making the drastic decision to come to Mayfield being one of the biggest changes of all. Adding a new child into the mix... Well, it was a big and messy subject that he knew his doctor was going to want to get stuck into sooner or later and he wasn't looking forward to it.

He quickly wiped his nose with the tissue and pocketed it again. He couldn't really handle thinking about it right now. Couldn't, not just because it was a topic he had no idea how to broach and deal with, but also because he was just so damn drained and numb. "I want that coffee," he said, changing the subject.

[identity profile] 2009-07-25 10:21 pm (UTC)(link)
House grabbed his cane, snorting mildly at what Cuddy said about Wilson. And sure enough, when he stepped out into the dim, lime green hall, Wilson was talking to Justine, the young woman in House's group therapy sessions and with whom he was rostered on cleaning duties. Well, at least something hadn't changed, House thought to himself as Wilson approached. If anything, he was relieved that something was familiar and he was quick to latch onto it.

"You just can't help yourself, can you?" House said. He gestured around the corridor with his hand. "I guess this kind of place is like one huge pantry for you to snack out of."

"It's good to see you haven't changed," Wilson replied, rolling his eyes as he stopped before House and Cuddy. But then he dropped into a more concerned expression as he regarded House and his tired, haggard face. "How've you been holding up?"

"With my cane. How else do you think?"

Wilson's lips twisted into a barely there smile as if to say he was glad House was doing okay. House's deflective answers were at the very least a reassurance that despite everything, he was surviving. Wilson then glanced at Cuddy with a slight questioning raise of his brows. He was interested to know what House had said while Cuddy was alone in the room with him. Now wasn't the time to ask about it, however, not while House was standing right here. Maybe later when he was back in the car with Cuddy and heading home.

"I was just heading into the common room for some coffee," House continued, not really noticing the small exchange between Wilson and Cuddy. He had his hand in his pocket and was fishing his tissue out of his pocket to wipe his nose again and he stepped around Wilson to lead the way to the common room. While he did, Wilson fell in step with Cuddy, his hands still bunched his pockets and he glanced at Cuddy again with another questioning, curious look.

[identity profile] 2009-07-26 12:37 am (UTC)(link)
When he entered the common room, House swiped a mug up from the drainer - the dishes he'd been forced to wash, as today was his rostered day of cleaning - and thumped it down onto the counter. He grabbed the jar of instant coffee just as Wilson and Cuddy entered the room. He watched Cuddy take a seat at the table, then turned to Wilson who'd joined his side.

"Hospital grade bad," he replied, sniffing as he grabbed a spoon to scoop up the coffee grounds with. "They can't make anything too enjoyable in here, just in case you start getting happy."

His stomach was still on the queasy side due to the meds, and the smell of the coffee as he poured hot water into the cup wasn't anywhere near as appetising as it normally would've been. The first several days of starting his medication, he could barely stomach anything at all, not even water. His stomach had settled a little in the last day or so, though (save for the constipation), and he'd been drinking a fair bit more coffee than normal ever since if only to attempt to make his mind more alert. It wasn't exactly working, however. The drugs had a greater say over how his mind behaved than caffeine overdose did.

He scooped two heaped spoons of sugar into his black coffee, stirred it and threw the spoon in the sink with a loud clatter. Then he grabbed a clean glass from the drainer and filled it with water. He hooked his cane over his forearm, gathered the cup and glass up and limped across to the table Cuddy was seated at. He thumped the glass of water down in front of her and slumped on the chair closest to her with a sigh.

A few other patients were in the room, as it was free time for everyone. One of them was watching TV on a low level, another patient was reading the paper on the couch by the window, and two patients were playing chess on one of the other tables. It was a depressingly quiet, stagnant atmosphere, indicative of just how quiet and lonely his days in here were.

"Gotta love how sedated this place is," he remarked dryly, watching the chess players. "It's like everyone's in a coma."

[identity profile] 2009-07-26 02:02 am (UTC)(link)
Well, he was definitely tired of all the drama in his life. The hurtful drama, that was. The painful drama. All the stuff that had led to him ending up in here. He didn't want sedation. He wanted... well, he wanted a better life than the one he had.

"Except bingo with House would probably turn into an underground organised crime ring," Wilson replied, also trying to keep the tone light. Wilson crossed his arms over his chest. "And the only karaoke I've ever seen House get involved in was under the influence of something that's no doubt heavily banned here. Alcohol, I mean."

"Everything's heavily banned here," House replied. "Including having a sense of humour."

Wilson cocked his head. "Depends on what you mean by 'sense of humour'. Most people don't really tend to appreciate yours."

"My sense of humour's just fine. It's everybody else with the problem."

Wilson shook his head slightly, deciding not to get into an argument with House over the subject. If anything was reassuringly familiar, it was that House was still blaming everyone else for his issues. Well, it was reassuringly familiar but it wasn't exactly reassuring. Wilson had to wonder just how much progress House was actually going to make with therapy, knowing how bristly House was towards psychotherapy and admitting his faults and struggles.

Meanwhile, House picked his coffee up and sipped it, then quickly put the cup back down to reach for the tissue in his pocket again. At the same time, he turned away just in time to sneeze. He sneezed a second time and then a third. "Damn medication," he muttered before blowing his nose. He wiped it a few times, sniffed and stuffed the tissue back into his pocket. "All I need now is something to gag my mouth with, then all orifices on my body would be officially blocked."

He lifted his hand to his head and gave it a rub before he dropped his hand on the table with a loud thump. "So, are either of you going to tell me anything interesting, or are you just going to sit there in awkward silence when you're not attempting to keep the mood light?" he demanded, getting quickly frustrated by the tension he could feel coming from both Cuddy and Wilson. More than that, though, he was frustrated with himself and the fact that he was in here, and how much of a failure he felt he was. That was the one thing the meds couldn't numb. "I'm still the same House, you know."
Edited 2009-07-26 02:19 (UTC)

[identity profile] 2009-07-26 03:21 am (UTC)(link)
The truth was, House wasn't sure who he was trying to reassure by announcing that he was the same House - Cuddy and Wilson, or himself. He sure as hell didn't feel like the same person this past week. There were plenty of factors he could find to blame for that: the meds, the unfamiliar setting, the huge change he'd made in his life, the fact that he was surrounded by other mentally ill patients. But external blame or not, that still didn't take away from how much he felt like an empty shell rather than a complete person.

He didn't look too impressed when Cuddy rested her hand on his, though he didn't pull his hand away. The exchange Wilson and Cuddy then had made House snort in spite of himself. He knew what they were trying to do and in a way, he did appreciate it. The conversation about Wilson and the nurses and life not being interesting without House around was, after all, familiar.

"You are not," House replied matter of factly to Wilson's claim he was over dating nurses. "The only time you'll ever get over dating nurses is when they stop coming to you with sob stories and a shoulder they need to cry on."

"Which always lands me in trouble in some way," Wilson admitted. "Which is why I'm over dating them."

"Oh, please," House retorted. "You're about as clever at learning new tricks as a senile dog when it comes to things like that." Cuddy mentioning Chase and Cameron reminded him of something, though. He turned to her. "I guess me being here means I missed the Chase and Cameron shenanigan smackdown. I was looking forward to being a spectator to that, too."

He had been, too, when he'd told Cuddy about Chase and Cameron over dinner in the b&b. But the sudden reminder of the b&b immediately drew his memory to what unfolded that night there, up in the bathroom. He suddenly wished he hadn't brought it up now. He reached for his coffee and took another sip.

"Chase and Cameron have been porning up Princeton-Plainsboro," he informed Wilson, seeing he knew Wilson would probably ask what he was talking about if Cuddy hadn't already told him. "I caught them in the janitor's closet last week." He sipped more of his coffee and added in a more sullen tone, "Seems like more than a week ago now."

[identity profile] 2009-07-26 12:00 pm (UTC)(link)
"Cuddy's not called a DOM for nothing," House agreed with Wilson.

That was about the extent of his contribution to the conversation at that point, however. His mind had slunk back to the events from the week previous that led to him being in here. Due to the anticholinergic activity of his medication, he was easily agitated and his concentrated easily distracted, and he started to toy restlessly with the handle of his cup while jiggling his good leg in an anxious manner.

"Oh, come off it," he replied to Cuddy a little absently. "She's not interested in who. Cameron knows who snitched on her. She's interested in reactions." He suddenly almost jumped out of his skin at the sound of a crash coming from behind him. He snapped his head in the direction of the noise and saw Justine, the patient Wilson had been talking to in the hallway, standing at the sink where she'd accidentally dropped a dish while washing it.

"House?" Wilson asked. He exchanged a confused frown with Cuddy, then turned back to House. "Is everything okay?"

House glared at Justine, who muttered an apology to everyone in the room, before he turned back to Wilson and Cuddy. He gave his forehead a fretful run with his fingers, then shook his head to dismiss Wilson's concern. He startled easily at sudden noises, yet another side effect of the antidepressants. It was a side effect that would ease with time as his body adjusted. It had only been a week so far, however; as with any strong medication, particularly antidepressants, he had to start on the lowest dosage and slowly increase over time, which meant the side effects were going to persist until he was stabilised on the correct dose.

[identity profile] 2009-07-26 10:52 pm (UTC)(link)
"I'm fine," House quickly snapped as Cuddy rubbed his shoulder and said about a walk possibly making him feel better. He felt stupid and helpless enough about his behaviour without Cuddy making any kind of fuss over him or drawing any attention to it. He didn't, however, refuse when Wilson added that he'd meet them at the entrance.

House, too, looked over his shoulder at Wilson and saw him make some comment to Justine, though for once he didn't make a comment. Instead, he turned back to Cuddy and shook his head. Wilson and Cuddy's presence was bothering him but not in the way Cuddy insinuated. It bothered him because of the situation. Hell, the whole situation bothered him.

"I'm fine," he said again after a pause, still dismissive but a little calmer this time. He grabbed his coffee and took another large gulp, then reached up and brushed Cuddy's hand from his shoulder. He gulped more coffee and rested his elbows against the table with his shoulders hunched while he peered down at what remained in his cup.

"I hate this," he murmured, and he wasn't talking about the coffee. "I wish that..."

He paused again, then was about to say more when he heard Wilson approach from behind. "We can head outside for about half an hour," he said. Wilson hesitated, realising maybe he'd just interrupted something, maybe a talk Cuddy and House had been having in his absence. "Uh. When you're ready to head out, that is," Wilson added.

House stared down at his cup for another moment, then nodded and pushed the cup away. "Now's fine," he said flatly, scooting the chair back.

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