IN THE HOUR OF MY DEATH
Disclaimer: The standard. I do not own Law & Order: Criminal Intent, House, or any characters hereby associated with either syndicated show. I only wish I do. I am not making any money from this. Don't sue me. I'm broke.
With thanks to Franta...
Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital
Dr Gregory House made his way into the clinic, feeling in a particularly sour mood. After nearly three weeks of avoiding clinic work (his personal best for that particular feat was something like five years), the Medical Chief of Staff, Dr Lisa Cuddy, had finally cornered him – literally – and threatened to up his hours at the clinic to two per day instead of four per week. In the end, he’d taken the only reasonable course left to him. He’d caved.
Oh, he’d let her know in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t happy about it, but in the end he’d folded like a paper plane, and he hated himself for it.
As a consequence, he was determined to take his aggravation out on the very first loser who was unfortunate enough to be allocated to him.
He made no attempt to hide his scowl as the duty nurse handed him a thin file. Without so much as glancing at the name on the folder, House made his way down to Exam Room Three.
“So which is it?” House asked brusquely, without sparing his new patient so much as a glance as he walked into and dropped into the doctor’s chair with a thud. “Broken bones, unexpected pregnancy, or the standard ‘I’m not sick, I just don’t want to go back to work’ excuse?”
There was a distinct silence from the exam table. House was about to speak again, even more impatiently, when his patient finally responded, sounding more than a little bemused.
“Well… I might just be guessing, but I’m pretty sure that I’m not pregnant.”
House finally looked up at the big man that sat on the edge of the exam table.
“Are you absolutely positive about that?” he asked, completely poker-faced. “I hear they’re doing miraculous things with medicine these days.”
A small grin passed fleetingly over the man’s face.
“Wouldn’t my partner love that irony.”
House swung around in the chair to face the man properly, feeling his bad mood lessen somewhat. Most patients he encountered normally sat either stone-faced or completely confused by his snarky comments. It was a pleasant change to come across someone who appreciated a more scathing sense of humour.
“So what is the trouble…” He paused to glance at the name on the folder the nurse had handed him. “Detective Robert Goren, of the New York City Police?”
“You mean, aside from the fact that I feel lousy?”
“Uh, yeah,” House retorted. “I do generally need just a little bit more information than that when I make a diagnosis.”
Bobby swallowed the urge to smirk. Despite the obvious look of sympathy he’d seen the nurse give him when she had sent him to the exam room, he found himself already starting to like this abrasive doctor. The guy had a caustic wit, just like his partner. Bobby also guessed, though, that he was probably not the type for small talk. Well, that was fine. Neither was he.
“Sore throat,” he said bluntly, “a fever that comes and goes, chest pains when I cough... nausea and dizziness.”
House looked at Bobby in visible surprise, barely able to conceal his pleasure at encountering a patient who didn’t get hung up on pointless details.
“Take your shirt off,” House instructed him as he swung around to grab his stethoscope. When he turned back, though, Bobby hadn’t moved.
“What’s the matter?” he asked cuttingly. “Shy? You want me to tell you what’s wrong with you? You need to take that shirt off.”
Looking less than happy, Bobby unbuttoned his shirt and slipped it off. A moment later, House thought he understood why Bobby was so reluctant to strip off. His upper body was peppered with scars, some minor and others not so minor. Many looked recent, as in having happened within the last twelve to eighteen months. House looked away as he turned back to the desk to look for other items necessary to a proper examination. Sure, he was curious, but knowing what had caused those scars wasn’t relevant to making a diagnosis. Yet.
He paused, though, as he began to turn back the detective. Lying previously unnoticed on the floor underneath the exam table was a full length leg brace and a sturdy, comfortable-looking walking stick. House looked back up at Bobby, mildly puzzled and increasingly curious.
“Those are yours?”
A guilty look flashed across Bobby’s face as he glanced down at the items in question.
“And a leg brace like that would suggest it should be worn all the time.”
The guilty look switched to one of annoyance.
“I know, I’m supposed to wear it all the time, but it feels so damned heavy sometimes. I figured leaving it off for a few minutes while I sat here wouldn’t hurt.”
House shook his head dismissively.
“Don’t worry. I won’t tell on you. You’ve got me curious now, though. What’s a New York detective doing with a leg brace? You get shot?”
Bobby shook his head.
“No, not shot. My leg was broken… really badly.”
“Take three deep breaths. How badly?”
Bobby drew in one long, deep breath, wincing at the pain in his chest.
“The first time it was broken in eight places. The second time, it was broken in two crucial spots. The third time, the femur splintered, and they had to remove an entire section of bone. Now I’ll never be able to walk without a brace or a cane.”
He drew in a second deep breath, only to have it end in a painful coughing fit.
“Here,” House said, pushing a glass of water into Bobby’s hand. “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you in Jersey? Vacation?”
“No,” Bobby said ruefully. “I got bullied into giving a string of lectures on the uses of profiling in interrogation for the police science faculty. I argued it over pretty hard with my captain, but he never gave me a choice. I guess I must have tried a few too many stunts to get out of it, though. When I said last night that I thought I was getting sick, the other detective that came as well didn’t believe me. Told me to suck it up and get on with it.”
House watched Bobby piercingly. The detective’s words were interspersed with brutal, hacking coughs. He was definitely sick, there was no doubt about that.
“So,” House said as he sat back and indicated for Bobby to put his shirt back on, “do you want the good news first, or the bad news?”
Bobby regarded him suspiciously.
“The good news.”
“Interesting,” House mused to himself. “Most people want the bad news first.”
Bobby snorted derisively.
“Yeah, like the ‘good news’ is somehow going to outshine whatever the ‘bad news’ is. That’s just bullshit.”
It was all House could do not to smirk. He was actually starting to like this guy.
“Okay. The good news is, I think I can get you out of having to give those lectures.”
Bobby didn’t so much as crack a hint of a smile at the news.
“So what’s the bad news?”
“The bad news is, you have bronchial pneumonia. Mandatory three weeks’ complete bed rest, and a heavy course of antibiotics.”
Bobby groaned softly.
“Great. My captain’s going to kill me.”
“You want me to write you a sick note?” House asked sarcastically. “Tell him you can’t possibly give those lectures because you’re sick?”
Bobby shook his head, oblivious to the attitude.
“No. I just have to do them.”
“I really, really wouldn’t recommend it,” House advised him. “You see, you really are sick… which is actually kind of unusual, considering the number of hypochondriac idiots that I normally have to put up with.”
Bobby shook his head again and slid off the table, bending down to grab his brace and cane.
“Just prescribe me something to hold off the symptoms, just for a day or two. Then it won’t matter.”
House didn’t move.
“No, it probably won’t,” he agreed, “because you’ll probably be dead.”
“Lay off the scare tactics,” Bobby snapped. “I don’t spook easily.
“I don’t try to spook my patients,” House snapped right back. He paused, and then added wryly, “At least, not intentionally. But I’m not kidding, and I’m not exaggerating. I’ll need to x-ray your lungs to confirm it, but I think you have a highly aggressive form of pneumonia and unless you get complete rest straight away… preferably in a hospital… then you’re not going to have to worry about anything anymore. Comprende?”
Bobby didn’t flinch in the face of House’s warning.
“One lecture. That’s all. I have to give at least one lecture, and then I might have a chance at convincing my captain that I really am sick.”
House nodded in apparent concession.
“When’s your first lecture?”
“Okay, fine. Give it, but on one condition. I want to be there for it.”
“Why?” Bobby asked suspiciously. House shrugged.
“So I can say I told you so to your face when you don’t get through it. Why else?”
New determination flared in Bobby’s eyes at the challenge issued by House.
“Okay, come along. Be my guest. But I’m going to be fine.”
“Sure you are,” House retorted. “Mind if I bring along a few of my colleagues? I’d like to have someone to gloat to when I’m proven right.”
“Bring whoever you like,” Bobby snapped as he left the exam room. House grinned humourlessly as he watched Bobby go.
“Oh, I will.”
“So, what did the doctor say?” Carolyn Barek asked as Bobby limped into their shared, two bedroom suite.
“Bronchial pneumonia,” Bobby grumbled. Carolyn gave a disbelieving snort.
“Yeah, sure. Nice try, Goren, but you still have to give that first lecture tomorrow morning.”
Bobby opened his mouth to retort, but never got a word out. His attempt ended in a fit of painful, hacking coughs that had him almost doubled over. Carolyn grabbed a bottle of water, and hurried to his side. When he finally was able to look up again, she was horrified to see his lips were red with his own blood.
“Oh my god… You really are sick.”
She ushered him over to the nearest chair, and bade him sit down.
“Bobby, you’re not going to be able to give any of those lectures, are you?”
He looked up at her in visible distress.
“I have to. Deakins… He’ll be angry…”
She rubbed his arms gently, reassuringly.
“He’ll understand. If you really do have bronchial pneumonia, then you have to rest. Any sort of effort is going to make it so much worse.”
“You didn’t believe I was sick when I said it last night,” Bobby pointed out hoarsely, “and you’re here. Deakins won’t… won’t believe it over the phone.”
A sharp pang of guilt went through Carolyn at the memory of her scornful attitude towards Bobby both the previous evening and just a few minutes ago.
“I’m sorry I didn’t believe you, Bobby, but you have to admit that you were pulling every trick in the book to get out of it.”
Bobby grimaced. She was right about that, whether he was willing to admit it or not.
“I just don’t like being forced into things like that. I’m not a lecturer.”
Carolyn closed her hand gently over his shoulder, and was quietly dismayed at the heat she felt coming through his shirt. He had a fever, and an intense one at that.
“Let me call Deakins right now. I’ll tell him.”
Once more, Bobby shook his head.
“No. I’ll do it… I’ll give the lecture tomorrow morning. I’ll be okay.”
“Are you kidding me?” Carolyn retorted. “A minute ago you were coughing up blood! What on earth makes you think you’ll be fine standing up on a stage for two hours?”
“I’ll do it,” Bobby insisted. “I will… But after tomorrow…”
“After tomorrow, you’ll be lucky if you don’t land yourself in the hospital,” Carolyn growled, although there was clear resignation in her voice. She knew damned well that she couldn’t make him change his mind, once he’d decided categorically to do something. “Eames is going to have your hide, you realise.”
Bobby answered that with a grimace.
“I’ll deal with that when I have to.”
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